A trip to New Jersey in N Scale
The Atlas Model Railroad Company has finally released their N scale New Jersey Transit and AMT (Agence métropolitaine de transport Montreal) ALP-45 locomotives and the appropriate double deck coaches, as well as double deck cab cars.
This was quite some time in coming. I had pre-ordered my N scale set in early January of 2019. Back in 2017 Atlas had already released the HO scale version of the same equipment and, at the time, also announced that “N scalers” would get their NJ Transit and AMT sets also.
In 2017 I was still working with HO scale. Not surprisingly I got myself an HO New Jersey Transit train set as soon as they became available back then. Those HO sets had some flaws, but were basically quite nice. Certainly the price was right compared to some of the European train models. My review of the HO version can be read here.
Then in late 2018 I decided that N scale would be a better scale for me to work with. (Read my reasons here.) Thus the order for the Atlas Model Railroad Company New Jersey Transit set in N scale. The train set arrived yesterday.
The locomotive comes nicely packaged, nestled in a foam insert, which itself is in a plastic box. This is the “Gold” version of the model release, meaning that the locomotive has an ESU sound decoder installed ex factory.
As with the HO version, the very first impression is quite good. The colors and printing are ok at a normal viewing distance and certainly for watching this locomotive go around a layout. Upon a closer look there are some printing issues and color separation problems:
Look at the Bombardier printing. I wonder if this could have been done a little better. But then again this is N scale (1:160) so perhaps this is a bit on the nitpicky side.
The roof is fine. I am not crazy about the plastic pantograph however. It is pretty useless for using with model catenary. It may not be true to the original, but I might just replace it with a properly working, all metal pantograph from Sommerfeldt.
The front end:
Not bad, but those couplers…
The rear end of the locomotive. The ALP-45s have only one cab, since they are always used in push-pull service with a cab car at the other end of the train:
The double deck cars:
Front end of a cab control car:
Roof equipment on a cab car:
The locomotive lights change from white to red depending on the direction. The ditch lights can be turned off and on by using F6 on a DCC controller. Unfortunately this is not so with the cab control car. All the lights, ditch lights, head lights and red rear marker lights, are always illuminated together. The coaches have interior LED lighting already installed at the factory:
Personally I think the headlights and rear lights on the locomotive could be just a bit brighter. All the lights on the cab control car are also rather dim. I believe that is because instead of using separate micro LEDs for each lamp, Atlas used clear plastic light conduits from one lamp to imitate the front and rear lights on the models. Probably a bit cheaper that way.The clear plastic light conduits for the red marker lights and the head light are clearly visible.
Notice that all the lights are illuminated on the cab control car. Pity that. The HO version had a decoder built in, allowing one to switch from red marker to head/ditch lights depending on the direction of travel.
Now for the not so great things. The coaches are too light and need more weight. The couplers on the locomotive and the coaches seem way out of proportion. The distance between cars, once coupled together, is awful:I still do not understand why American model train manufacturers can not or will not use standard coupler pockets and close coupling mechanics on their model trains.
On some of the cab control cars the snow plow was not properly attached and got hung up on the track. I am not sure wether that is a design problem or a quality control issue. Same for some coupler pins: they were too long or installed too low and consequently got hung up on turn outs.
The locomotive runs well. However I can not get it to go beyond a crawl. At this point I am not sure what the issue may be. It could be my DCC system or I may have to change some of the speed configuration variables on the decoder. We will see.
The Atlas N scale ALP-45 locomotive (gold version) has an MSRP of $260.00. A three car New Jersey Transit coach set has an MSRP of $180.00. The gold versions of the New Jersey Transit ALP-45 have already been sold out at the factory. Quite a few dealers offer considerable discounts on these models. I got mine at Trainworld in Brooklyn, New York.
Here is a short video of my new train: NJTransit ALP-45.
All photos by Ralf Meier (iPhone X and Sony RX100 M7)