TroveStar N-Scale Database Grows with Atlas 1st Generation Rolling Stock

Published: 2016-03-10 - By: gdm
Last updated on: 2021-02-16
visibility: Public
Atlas N-Gauge 1967-68 catalog

What’s that saying? “A woman’s work is never done.” Well, the same could be said for the work it takes to create an n-scale train database.

We are committed to creating a comprehensive listing of all n-scale trains (by road name / road number) and to say we have our work cut out for us is an understatement. After all, there are just so many (thousands upon thousands) different engines and rolling stock that have been produced since the introduction of this gauge in the 1960s.

Fully aware of the magnitude of this project, we are proceeding full steam ahead (pun intended) and have decided on a two-pronged approach. We will alternate between adding new releases and old / historical releases to our n-scale database (which already contains reference data on more than 10,000 items).

Adding new releases is pretty straightforward and usually involves monitoring a vendor’s website for New Release announcements. We look forward, for instance, to Micro-Train’s monthly Weathered car releases and add those to our database as they are made available.

The process behind adding reference data on old/historical releases is more involved but one that we took on with gusto. We started in a logical place -- the beginning and that means Atlas 1st Generation Rolling Stock. After lots of research, determination and, of course, data entry, I am proud to announce that TroveStar now features complete lists of the 1967 (75 items including major variations) and 1969 (102 items including major variations) Atlas Rolling Stock Catalogs.

Here’s some background information on n-scale and a snapshot of what’s involved in finding and adding reference data (vendor, road name, road number, type, body, release date etc.) on the Atlas 1st Generation Rolling Stock introduced more than 40 years ago.

First, Research.

As a model train enthusiast, (I have been collecting trains for almost 20 years, have more than 800 cars and rolling stock and regularly exhibit n-track and t-track modules at trains shows as a member of the Northeast NTRAK club) I knew some of the history behind the evolution of Atlas rolling stock series. To learn more, I did some digging and found a great resource, Introduction to A1G, the Atlas “1st Generation” by George Irwin of Irwins*.

Arrival of n-scale.

As many train enthusiasts know, n-scale is a ‘young’ gauge and was born in the 1960s (unlike HO and O, which go back over 100 years). The early 1960-63 n-scale releases from Arnold (Germany) were very popular in the United States but fairly expensive and hard to find. So, Atlas Tool jumped into the mix in the mid-1960s and produced an excellent variety of high-quality (for the time period), low-cost offerings, which built upon what Arnold started and made it available to more consumers.

Of course, Atlas could not reproduce a comprehensive selection that could compete with the older, larger established scales overnight. But it did succeed in developing a product line (featured in the 1967-1968 Atlas catalog) that had an extremely well-researched (or lucky) array of road names and body styles. In the span of two years, this one catalog single-handedly converted n-scale from niche to mainstream. TroveStar obtained a copy of the original catalog and used it as the basis for the new Atlas checklist.

Re-tooling: A new body style?

Creating this list was not exactly straightforward. The TroveStar n-scale database is driven by ‘body styles.’ Train enthusiasts know that body style typically denotes a sculpted plastic mold with associated detail parts (trucks, couplers, ladders etc.) that are made by one manufacturer. A body style will have multiple paint schemes, road names and reporting marks.

Sounds simple enough, right? But what do you do with a re-tooling? Is it a new body style? The manufacturer might argue they are different (as there are most likely obvious distinguishing characteristics) that clearly indicates the newer cars are NOT the same as older cars. But a collector might think otherwise. For example, if you collect Reefers by Atlas, you might lump several distinct body styles together for the purpose of ‘completeness.’ We did our best to find a common ground. If, at a casual glance, the re-tooling is not obvious, then TroveStar lumped the body styles together. For instance, all 1st gen ‘Chemical’ tank cars are lumped in with the modern 11K general service tank car. Forty foot (40’) wood single-sheath box cars (which appear in the 1969 catalog) are lumped in with their modern counterparts. Many of the early stuff (such as the helium tank cars) clearly have no modern heir so they receive their own specialized body styles.

In some cases, it was impossible to locate some of the rare road number variations. As a result, in a few cases, no picture exists. When there were variations on color scheme or lettering/logos, TroveStar notes the variations on the listing but did not create separate listings for each variation unless the variation included road number.

Some final notes. TroveStar categorizes items by release date. Many 1st generation rolling stock items appeared in the 1967-68 catalog, but the majority did not appear until the 1969 catalog. TroveStar lists each item by its initial release date. Re-issues are ignored unless they are offered with a new road number, in which case they appear as different listings.

The TroveStar contributors did their best to find example photos for all items but with mixed results. If you find something better, please feel free to log into the site and update the image. Good-quality images are always appreciated.

So, this is a snapshot of the process behind populating an online n-scale database. We are very proud that TroveStar features the complete lists of the 1967 and 1969 Atlas Rolling Stock Catalogs. We hope you find this information not only useful but might also consider becoming a TroveStar contributor and sharing your model train expertise.

Team TroveStar continually adds more items to the nscale database. Check back often!

* is well known for the UMTRR (Unofficial Micro-Trains Release Report), which reviews and researches every MTL release; his efforts over the last 15 years have been nothing short of Herculean. How fortunate for TroveStar that George applied his excellent researching skills and narrative to the Atlas Rolling Stock series. Thank you George!

About the Author

George has been collecting trains for more than two decades. He started writing about the models and the process of collecting more recently. As well as the TroveStar Blog, George's written work has appeared in the N Scale Enthusiast Magazine. He loves talking about collecting, models, manufacturing and modular railroading. His background in management of massive amounts of financial data made him interested in using some of that knowledge to benefit various collectors. He lives on Cape Cod in the state of Massachusetts with his wife and three cats.