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Title: Review: Atlas RBL Boxcar

Database: N Scale Model Trains
Category: Product Reviews
Visibility: Public
Headline: Yes
Publication Date:
Last Modification Date: 2020-10-29
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Atlas 50’ General American Corporation RBL Boxcar

In August 2020, Atlas Model Railroad introduced the General American Transportation Corporation 50-foot RBL Boxcar into their Master Line Series. The Master Line Series offers greater attention to detail and frequently includes separately attached metal and plastic parts. This model is a newly tooled N Scale rolling stock product.

RBL is a an AAR code, but it roughly translates into "Refrigerated Bunkerless Loading"

Road Names and Pricing

The 1st production release includes five different paint schemes. The road names represented in this collection include:
  • Conrail - 1987 repaint with no roofwalk
  • Delaware & Hudson - 1977 repaint of Erie Lackawanna
  • Milwaukee Road - ‘As Delivered’ Paint Scheme
  • Missouri Pacific - ‘As Delivered’ Paint Scheme
  • Wabash - ‘As Delivered’ Paint Scheme
Two different road numbers are assigned for each rail line. The suggested retail price is $34.95 except the Conrail model with a suggested price of $31.95 (exclusion of a roofwalk).

My review includes observations of the Milwaukee Road #2819 (Atlas stock number 50 004 453).

Prototype History

In 1962, the General American Corporation introduced their 50-foot RBL insulated boxcar. The RBL designation is an Association of American Railroads (AAR) classification for an insulated bunkerless refrigerator car with movable loading devices. The RBL boxcar included internal lading restraints to prevent loads from shifting and minimize damage during transport. The insulated car was equipped with adjustable locking panels to inhibit the movement of merchandise. The Load Restraining Devices (LRD or LD) abbreviations are displayed prominently on the sides of rolling stock equipped with these shipping safeguards (i.e. Milwaukee Road and Wabash included in this series).

Furthermore, these fully body welded boxcars were designed to protect products from the extreme heat or cold WITHOUT the need of ice or fan systems. The advancements accomplished during the 1950’s with polystyrene foam allowed for a layer of insulation in the walls and roof that offered superior temperature control. The insulated car body and plug-door could maintain the temperature of the load within a few degrees for several days without ice or refrigeration.

The General American RBL was designed with an all-welded body construction (the roof was bolted into position after the boxcar was insulated) and a 20-inch cushioned underframe. These features, along with the ability to offer an assortment of load restraining devices made these insulated railcars attractive with shippers of perishables, beverages, canned goods and paper products.

A distinguished characteristic of the RBL boxcar is the smooth plug-door with a V-shaped bar locking control (represented in this Atlas release). These were eventually replaced with a horizontal brace-locking door in the 1970’s.

Lastly, these models represent boxcars built before the Federal ban of roofwalk running boards. In April of 1966 an AAR ban on running boards was placed on any new boxcars delivered after October 1st of that same year. Running boards were to be removed from all in service rolling stock by January 1st 1974. Once that date was deemed impractical, the date was extended to allow removal during scheduled maintenance to December 31st 1983. This fact may explain the exclusion of the roofwalk on the Conrail models.

The Model

The ready-to-run boxcar comes packaged in a clear plastic jewel case with a slip-off cover and a two-piece plastic cradle to cushion the model. The model information is clearly labeled on the end of the case for ease to locate when in storage. A thin plastic film was wrapped around the car to protect the print job from scuffmarks.

The paint job is crisp and even along the entire injection molded plastic model. The Milwaukee Road car is painted boxcar red with black ends and yellow plug-doors. Lettering is extremely sharp and clear, even when some magnification is needed for the smaller printing. But those small characters are neat and legible. All of the diminutive letters and numbers are fine and readable - even the plug-door measurements and directive to “Close & Lock Door Before Moving Car”. The color, placement and size of printing is very similar to that found on the prototype image - Milwaukee Road #2810 (RRPictureArchives.net) with two glaring distinctions. The font of the reporting marks and numbers do not match between the model and prototype image. Secondly, the phrase ‘20” Keystone Shock Control’ is centered under the Cushion Underframe marking on photograph but the text is left aligned on the model.

Neat and Sharp Diminutive Lettering

Each side features a 10’ 8” Youngstown plug-door, the proper 13-panel side configuration, stirrup steps (which are a little chunky in my opinion) and a separately applied half-ladder & full ladder at opposite ends - the prototype photograph in contrast displays two half-ladders. Extra fine detail is exhibited with raised panel lines, rivets and V-shaped locking mechanism.
4/4 Improved Dreadnaught Ends

Both ends feature a separately applied full & half height ladder, tack board and prototype correct 4/4 Improved Dreadnaught ends. A mounted high handbrake and platform is located on one end, the same placement as the prototype image. Etched metal end platforms and wire cut levers are applied. Again the lettering is neat and in proper arrangement with the road marker & road number at the top of each end.
Roof and Metal Running Board Detail

The panel roof features an etched metal running board, laterals and wire grab irons. The cushion underframe has an elaborate pipe arrangement with highly detailed separately applied features such as the brake cylinder, braking system components, stringers and cross bearers. The boxcar rides along newly tooled 100-ton roller-bearing trucks and metal wheels. While I do appreciate the inclusion of metal wheels, they are much too shiny and silver looking for my taste. This is probably the biggest negative I see in this otherwise stellar model. Finally the model is equipped with long shank body-mounted AccuMate couplers (which they shamelessly announce as Micro-Trains Line compatible).

Complex Underframe Detail

The car is 3 3/4 inches in length and weighs about 1.1 ounces, which is perfect according to the National Model Railroad Association (NMRA) recommendations (which are 1.1 - 1.2 ounces for this size car). I found it a good runner while testing the car on Kato Unitrack with no issues around curves or through turnouts at slow and medium speeds.

In conclusion, this is a fabulous release by Atlas - one of my top picks of 2020. A highly detailed model that is true to the prototype. The incorporation of several metal etched parts and the fantastic print job makes this model first rate. It’s also an excellent runner that needed no adjustments to perform smoothly. I was excited to order this piece and it has been a pleasure to add this car to my Milwaukee Road roster. I would highly recommend the Atlas General American RBL 50’ Insulated Boxcar to be featured on your layout.

About the Author

ScottAKoltz became enamored with trains while watching the ‘Green & Yellow’ double-decker cars clad with shiny green windows (C&NW) rumble by his childhood house in Chicago. His first train set was the Tyco Bicentennial model in 1976. Always a fan of the railroad, ScottAKoltz is newer to the hobby, active for the last four years (now that all the kids are grown-up!). Furthermore, he is also a collector of railroadiana focusing on lanterns, stock certificates and insulators.
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