Well Well, What Have We Here?Thrall 53' Articulated Well Car
is a three-unit uniuuarticulated intermodal rail system. This particular set is part of the Master Line
series, item 20 002 838
, Pacer Stack Train, Road number 5315.
Well cars have advantages over conventional freight cars: lower clearances; lower tare weight; lower center of gravity; less slack. Many sizes and tonnage capacities were tried and are still used.
When the domestic intermodal container market settled out in the late 90’s, the 53’ long container emerged the winner. Car builders responded with new wells of like size to accommodate the new standard. Introduced in series service in early 2000, Thrall’s triple 53’ articulated well car was certainly the best looking of the 53’ wells. Angular wheel cut-outs, three flared-bottom wide and eight narrow side posts give this intermodal age well car character. - Atlas
Well cars are ubiquitous across North America's rail network. There are probably few lines that do not see some well cars, and some transcons are dominated by them. Atlas' set should be very welcome for modelers of modern mainlines.
Master Line Thrall 53' Articulated Well Car
Atlas' model is three separate well cars. They are plastic with photo-etched walkways, knuckle couplers and metal wheels. Atlas advertises these specific features:
Each car consists of three wells--A,B & C.
Walkway variants specific to prototype
Etched metal detailing
Detailed air reservoirs
Detailed brake valves
Sharp hand grabs and stirrups
Runs on 18” radius
Recommended for 22” radius
Floor pin holes for Atlas and other brands of containers
The "A" well car is the "lead car' and has two trucks, air brake gear and a coupler. The "B" car has one truck and a coupler, plus air brake gear and a hand brake wheel. In between rides the "C" car, riding on a single truck. Cars B and C piggyback off the proceeding car's truck to create 156 HO feet of HO container carrying capacity. The B and C car lock onto the leading car with a female receptacle "cap" that snaps onto a male pin over the truck center plate, kind of a reverse enter-pin.
These models look good. However, they are very light according to the NMRA RP-20.1 Car Weight. Atlas does not specifically mention whether containers are intended to supply the required weight. That said, the cars rolled freely and tracked with no trouble over Atlas code 83 track and a No. 6 turnout, as well as over a Peco code 80 single-slip switch.
These models need careful handling because they have many very fine parts. And they need some screwdriver work to couple the cars as intended; I did not use a screwdriver and I think theyy went together without a hitch (pardon the pun). Atlas has a link on the car's page to HO 53' Articulated Well Car Assembly Instructions
. That link is offered below in the summary box.
While Atlas packs these cars securely in a top-bottom fitted plastic cradle, getting the cars out of it (and back into it) is a delicate task. When I removed the cars I did not note which car was packed where and with what orientation. I regret that slip of attention because each car fits into a specific slot.
First, the etched metal walkways. Photo-etch can't be beat! They have their own mounting brackets.
Next, several factory-applied individual pieces per car. These include railing and hand grabs, stirrups and ladders on the corners, and hand grabs on the ends. Triangular stops guard each well corner.
The air brake system includes the reservoirs and valves, but no actuators. Small wire pipes are mounted where trainline piping extends above the frame, too.
These parts are very fine and delicate. A couple of those parts were broken or loose when I unpacked the models, including an end walkway. Fortunately, Atlas includes a packet with a couple of spares.
Some of the equally impressive detail is painted on, as explained next.
Paint and finish
This is a very strong point for these models. The prototype is covered in stenciling and railroad reporting marks, and Atlas copied that on the models. All of the informational data is legible. It looks like the majority of the stenciling is on the A unit, with progressively less on the B and C cars. While you can read the printing from the photos, I will list some examples including dimensional data;
“125-T” for 125-ton capacity
Plate H loading gauge
Positioning markers for containers of 53' and shorter
Warning "REMOVE ALL DEBRIS FROM WELL FLOOR BEFORE LOADING CONTAINER"
"PULL RELEASE ROD ON UNITS A AND B TO RELEASE BRAKES"
Builder's plate and Pacer Train logo, to name a couple other markings, are included, too.
Again, there are no parts lists nor instructions included in the box. Atlas does have the instructions online.
PerformanceThrall 53' Articulated Well Car
rolled smoothing across Atlas code 83 track and a No. 6 turnout, and through a Peco code 80 single-slip switch. Factory mounted knuckle couplers were at the proper height.
Atlas' Thrall 53' Articulated Well Car
is a very impressive model. Joined together the 150 scale feet of rolling stock is hard to ignore, and the unit sliding serpent-like through turnouts is fun to watch. They have a high level of detail including photo-etched treadways.
These cars have excellent detail and superb printing. They roll without trouble although unloaded, they are very light and could experience "clotheslining" around sharp curves.
Very fine and delicate parts require very careful handling.
Atlas' 53' Thrall well cars are almost essential for modern railroads. They are wonderful models and one or more sets will certainly enhance one's freight fleet. Recommended.
Please remember to tell vendors and retailers that you saw this model here - on