Atlas/Samhongsa (Korea) USRA 2-8-8-2 Mallet

Introduced: 1994

This is one of the few gaffes in Atlas N scale locomotive history. And brother, it was a doozy (and probably explains why Atlas waited a full decade before releasing another steamer). First of all, a lot of these were cursed with a cute little factory defect whereby the running gear would simply fall off the drivers after a couple of minutes of operation. To their credit, Atlas did address this problem by offering a full-scale recall.

Factory defects aside, this is still a fairly pathetic locomotive. Pickup is derived solely from the drivers, and the chassis design doesn't allow for any rocking. The upshot of all that is that the drivers tend to come up off the rails (causing stalls) when faced with anything but perfectly flat track. My last layout had a lot of grades on it and I could barely get my 2-8-8-2 to make a simple lap around the track. On the other hand, my current layout has no grades, so stalling is not a big problem. Instead, it's the pilot and trailing trucks and their inability to hold the rails that once again renders it useless. IE, I can't run it for more than a few minutes without it derailing. Turnouts in particular are a big problem.

Sure, give this thing a nice circle of track without grades, turnouts or narrow radius curves and it isn't a bad locomotive at all. Throttle response is smooth, slow speed performance is excellent, and overall the mechanism runs smoothly and fairly quietly. But come on, this isn't a trainset locomotive, so to hell with that.

For some strange reason, the tender provides no pickup whatsoever. I guess Samhongsa figured the extra shot of current wasn't needed (oops). There are no traction tires, but pulling power seems adequate. Wheels are low-profile, so no problems on Code-55 rails.

To remove the shell from the locomotive, unscrew the screw inside the smokestack and the screw inside the cab. After that, the shell pulls right off.

Grade: D

Reviewed: 3/94 Model Railroader ("Atlas recently released a limited-run series of USRA 2-8-8-2 steam locomotives in N scale. Samhongsa, a Korean company known for its high-quality brass models, built these die-cast locomotives for Atlas... The model features a die-cast metal boiler, a metal frame, a plastic smoke-box front and cab, and metal and plastic detail parts. The tender is injection-molded plastic with a sheet-brass sub-floor. Both sets of drivers pivot, which enables the model to maneuver tight curves... The locomotive comes with MT couplers body-mounted on the rear of the tender and on the locomotive pilot. The model's dimensions are quite close to mechanical department drawings of the D&RGW locomotives. The combined locomotive and tender is a scale 108 feet long, and the locomotive itself is 68 feet long compared to the prototypes 66-foot length. The model is a scale 15'-9" tall to the top of the stack, the same as the prototype. A small enclosed motor mounted at the rear of the frame powers the locomotive... All of the drivers are powered. Four drivers on each side of the locomotive pick up electricity... Our model ran fairly smoothly, with a bit of a side-to-side wobble. Some wobbling is inevitable because both sets of drivers pivot. The minimum speed is good for an N scale steam locomotive... A second locomotive we looked at experienced a rather severe problem. After a brief bit of running, a rivet popped loose, leaving a rod dangling in the valve gear. We've heard reports of this happening on other locomotives as well. Atlas is aware of this defect and a Samhongsa engineer flew over to work with the company on repairs. If you have a problem with this engine, return it to Atlas and the company will take care of it. Our locomotive's tender rode down the track at an angle, as if the truck-mounting holes were not centered. Further inspection revealed that the hole for the rear truck-mounting screw was not drilled perpendicular to the floor. As it's tightened, the screw tips sideways and pushes the truck off-center... Overall this is a nice model that captures the look and proportions of the prototype. It's great to see some new big steam in N scale. Undec, ATSF, D&RGW, Clinchfield, N&W, NP, PRR, UP, Virginian. Price: $249.95")

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