In-Box Review
HO scale
50' Plug Door Box Car
50' Plug Door Box Car Fruit Growers Express [Monon] #90261
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by: Frederick Boucher [ JPTRR ]

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Atlas has released three series of 50' Postwar Plug Door Box Cars since 2011. Part of the Master Line series - their premier line of rolling stock - this model is item 20 004 639. There were six road names in this release, and 12 since 2011. This one wears the Monon livery of Fruit Growers Express.

Blocking the Box Car
    Sliding door box cars were basically the build standard prior to World War II. It wasn’t until after the war that many railroads experimented with the use of plug doors, similar to those used on many refrigerator cars, on their box cars. The tight seal of the plug door, accompanied by insulated sides, ends, floor and roof panels, allowed these new box cars to carry perishables where temperature control was important but refrigeration wasn’t necessary. This design, classified by the AAR (Association of American Railways) as “RB” or “RBL”, meaning bunkerless refrigerator cars, gained popularity in the mid 1950s and the following decade saw over 3,000 similar cars built for a number of different owners. - Atlas, 2011.

    A joint effort from General American and Evans Products, these AAR class bunkerless refrigerator cars were produced beginning in the early 1950s. Featuring two large horizontal panels flanking a 7’7” door, these cars had a very unique appearance due to the horizontal rivet strip that joined the panels. With fewer seams than a standard box car, these cars were supposed to be less prone to rust and leakage. By 1959, over 1,000 of these boxcars were produced. - Atlas 2017

Atlas 50' Plug Door Box Car
This model is a former Branchline "Blueprint Line" which Atlas acquired. Branchline models were well received by finicky modelers and upon release, they dominated the then-current models available from Athearn and MDC.

Atlas' model is assembled and ready to run. It includes a set of optional air hoses and lines, and cut bars. Injection-molding is crisp and I did not find any visible flash, mold seams, sink dimples nor ejector marks. What are the features of this model?
    * Highly detailed, ready-to-run model with accurate painting and printing
    * Late improved Dreadnaught ends
    * Overhanging diagonal panel roof with or without roofwalk as per the prototype
    * Straight-side sill body design
    * 8/8 panel, riveted sides
    * Highly detailed underframe
    * Separately-applied ladders, grab irons and latch bars
    * Blackened metal wheels
    * AccuMate® couplers

Branchline weighted their models with two 1/2 inch steel nuts. I will not break open the model to check verify if Atlas has changed this. While the models originally used pins to hold the trucks to the frame, Atlas wisely replaced these with screws.

Monon's 50' insulated box cars had 50 feet of internal length and were built in 1961. This model measures 51' from striker face to striker face, and 55' from coupler to coupler. It weights 4.6 ounces, which is .1-ounce heavy per NMRA RP-20.1 Car Weight. I found the couplers to be the correct height and this RBL rolled with no trouble through a code 83 No. 6 turnout and single-slip switch.

Most noticeable are the separately-applied ladders, grab irons and latch bars, and it does not end there. Individual tack boards are attached, as are free standing door latch details. The brake wheel end features an etched stand, pressure retaining valve and pipe, and brake rod. No roof walk was included.

Molded on detail includes clean rows of small rivets, door hanging channels, and door stops.

Underneath the car is an underframe full of detail. The model designers included rivets on the inside of the sill and along the stringers and other structural components. A single molded piece includes the frame and brake components, including the air pipes and brake rods. Those components hang down below the sill for a realistic silhouette. Included is a set of optional air hoses, brackets, lines, and cut bars.

The trucks look good. Casting detail is replicated on the sideframes. At first I thought the springs were separate metal parts yet they are molded on the side frames. Nice blackened metal wheels roll easily.

Paint and Markings
Branchline started out painting models for other model makers. Atlas continues the tradition of excellent painting. Coverage is thin yet opaque with sharp borders between colors, and stenciling sharp and legible, as is all the lettering. You can read return instructions, that the car was built in Alexandria, Virginia in May 1961 and returned for weighing in September 1971, that the car is equipped on 1-inch wrought steel wheels, spring travel, and more.

This release of the 50' Plug Door Box Car offers six liveries for five railroads, and an undecorated version. Each road name features three road numbers.

1. American Refrigerator Transit (MODX) (Yellow/Black)
2. Fruit Growers Express (Monon) (Yellow/Black)
3. Fruit Growers Express* (N&W) (Yellow/Black)
4. Georgia Pacific (CRDX) (Blue/White)
5. Great Northern (RBWX) (Yellow/Black)
6. Southern Pacific (Brown/White/Yellow)

Atlas' paint and finish is uniformly excellent to the point that I am beginning to take it for granted.

Atlas' HO Master Line model of the 50' Plug Door Box Car is an impressive model. According to the Monon Railroad Historical-Technical Society, this model is an accurate scale model of those cars leased by the Monon. All the separate factory-applied parts boost the model into a class above many RTR (ready-to-run) models. Sporting sharp molding and separately-applied ladders, grab irons, latch bars and other pieces, this model is a joy to inspect; in operation it should be trouble-free.

I appreciate the coupler cut levers and air hoses are included if the modeler wishes to increases the detail level another notch. Paint and printing is extraordinary and the blackened metal wheels are not shiny like in the past.

Modelers of the Monon, or Midwestern railways, during the Merger and Bankruptcy Era of the 1960s-1970 should want some of these plug door box cars. Recommended!

NEB&W Guide to Branchline Rolling Stock Models. [Web.] n.d.

Mont Switzer. Modeling Fruit Growers Express Insulated Boxcars. Monon Railroad Historical-Technical Society, Inc. February 2004.

AccuMate® couplers are made under license from AccuRail, Inc.
Highs: Lots of detail. Coupler cut levers and air hoses are included if the modeler wishes to increases the detail level another notch. Paint and printing is excellent!
Lows: De minimis.
Verdict: Modelers of the Monon, or Midwestern railways, during the Merger and Bankruptcy Era of the 1960s-1970 should want some of these plug door box cars.
  Scale: HO Scale
  Mfg. ID: 20 004 639
  Related Link: Atlas Archive
  PUBLISHED: Sep 07, 2019
  NATIONALITY: United States

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About Frederick Boucher (JPTRR)

I'm a professional pilot with a degree in art. My first model was an AMT semi dump truck. Then Monogram's Lunar Lander right after the lunar landing. Next, Revell's 1/32 Bf-109G...cried havoc and released the dogs of modeling! My interests--if built before 1900, or after 1955, then I proba...

Copyright ©2021 text by Frederick Boucher [ JPTRR ]. Images also by copyright holder unless otherwise noted. Opinions expressed are those of the author(s) and not necessarily those of ModelGeek. All rights reserved.


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