Vintage N Scale Rolling Stock
Early Atlas 40’ Vermont Railway PS-1 Box Cars
Sometime in the mid-late 1970s Atlas began manufacturing their own N scale rolling stock here in the U.S., New Jersey to be specific. The initial output of domestic production were sold as “kits” and they are commonly referred to as Atlas 1 ½ Generation or (A1.5G). Production continued in the U.S. for some time before moving to China and several of the A1.5G freight cars were available in more than one variation. That brings me to my topic of discussion today.
I have already pointed out that I am baffled by the choices made by early N scale manufacturers when it comes to roadnames and decorating. While locomotives and passenger equipment tended to be decorated for major Class I railroads, like Santa Fe and Union Pacific, freight cars could be had from every region and many obscure roads. While B&M and MEC were technically Class I railroads in the early days of N scale, and no locomotives were produced in those road names until the 1980s, there was however ample rolling stock available for those two famous north eastern roads. Vermont Railway (VTR), on the other hand, was a government owned spin-off railroad operating over former Rutland trackage. VTR was a relative newcomer and, at the time, was fairly small in comparison to other roads in the Maine-New Hampshire-Vermont region. Still Atlas found it in their hearts to produce a VTR boxcar during their very first U.S. production run.
Vermont Railway 305 is part of the Atlas 1 ½ Generation of freight cars (part number 5002-129). I am not sure how long kit production lasted but it cannot have been very long and, as an FYI for collectors, unfinished kits are few and far between these day. When looking at these cars on auction sites, or first hand, a good spotting feature for the A1.5G kits are the plastic wheel sets. Earlier cars imported by Atlas had metal wheel sets of various colors and it appears that later Atlas production featured bright metal wheel sets (as we shall see on the second VTR boxcar below). That doesn’t mean that a car which otherwise matches an A1.5G description might not have gained replacement metal wheel sets since being produced in the 1970s, but I think I would be more suspicious/cautious in that case. Otherwise, what we have is a fairly typical model of the Pullman Standard PS-1 boxcar which has always been available from several N scale manufacturers and in many roadnames (any number of which might be historically inappropriate). I am no expert on the early days of Vermont Railway but my assumption is that their PS-1 boxcars largely came from the Rutland RR and bore the numbers used by that bankrupt road.
Let us move on now to a subject which makes the Atlas VTR PS-1 even more interesting and collectable (at least to me). At some point, apparently while still manufacturing the model in New Jersey, Atlas produced their VTR PS-1 in a different road number. I am not sure when the practice of offering different road numbers began but this must have been an early example of it.
For some reason the part number on my example of VTR 289 is 3406-2.00, which might imply some sort of variation perhaps even within this road number… I really have no idea what that might be. The paint is a richer green and the lettering is much more crisp than that found on VTR 305 which makes me think Atlas had ironed out the bugs in their stamping process. As should be expected, wheel sets are of the bright metal variety and have deep flanges, which was common for the time. I didn’t pay enough attention when I decided to bid but this example is missing the brake wheel… oh well, that’s something to track down.
Both of these cars are common enough and prices aren’t likely to break the bank for any collector, expect to pay a bit more for a VTR 305 kit unbuilt and in the box. Although they are not B&M, these are still pretty early N scale models and will look just fine in any north eastern consist. If I am not careful these two cars might even spark an “Early N scale Vermont Railroads” collection, Rutland, Central Vermont, Vermont Railway… I can see it now.
As stated above, Vermont Railway got started in the early 1960s when the government decided to continue operating the tracks of the bankrupt Rutland Railroad. VTR continued to spread and now operates a system of railroads throughout Vermont and eastern New York known as Vermont Rail System. Presumably these PS-1 boxcars would have been previously owned by Rutland Railroad and would likely have carried their road numbers over from that time.