Atlas (China) Alco S-2

Introduced: 2015

These gorgeous looking and sweet running little switchers are available either DCC-Ready or with factory-installed DCC-Sound (making them the first sound-equipped N scale Atlas locomotives ever). Internally, these models are quite a departure from the typical Atlas "split-frame" design of the past several decades.

DCC-Sound Version -

The shell consists of two main pieces - a metal hood piece and a plastic cab piece. The chassis is one big hunk of metal (to which the plastic pilot/step, walkway and handrail pieces attach). The motor is a closed-sided can, so I can't really comment on its specificities (vis'a'vis poles and winding). Atlas lists two different part numbers for the motors in these models (#3504-B06 for the DCC-Ready version and #3504-B06A for the DCC-Sound version), although it's actually the motor saddles sold along with the motors that are different (the motors themselves are the same). The difference between the two boils down to the fact that the saddle on the DCC-Ready version attaches to the PC Board, whereas the saddle on the DCC-Sound version does not (probably due to the electronic components on the underside of the decoder board) -

DCC-Ready VersionDCC-Sound Version

Each driveshaft is equipped with its own brass flywheel/worm combo. Pickup is provided by all eight wheels (there are no traction tires). Current collection is of the low-friction ilk (pointy-ended axles inside of metal axle-cup sideframes). Since the chassis is not split-frame, current is transferred from the axle-cup sideframes to the PC board (or decoder) by way of wires (two wires per truck). Said wires are soldered to the metal truck sideframes and held to the PC board (on the DCC-Ready version) by plastic clips. The wires on the DCC-Sound version are soldered directly to the decoder board. Additional wiring from the PCB runs to the motor (and in the case of the DCC-Sound version, to the speaker).

The PC board (or decoder) is screwed to protrusions from the chassis on the front end, and to vertical brass tubes inside of the speaker enclosure on the cab end. Said boards provide bright white directional LED lighting on both ends. Note that the default behavior for the lighting on the DCC-Sound versions is that both ends are lit at all times (with one end being brighter than the other based on direction of travel). The DCC-Sound versions also have all sorts of prototypical performance features (for example, it takes a good long time for these things to rev up and start moving from a dead stop). But of course, this is all configurable within the decoder (IE, if you have no patience for prototypical Alco behavior, you can just turn all that stuff off).

Couplers are chassis-mounted Accumates. Wheels are blackened and low-profile (no problems on Code-55 rails). The truck bottomplates do not provide access to the gears. However, according to the parts diagram, it does appear that all four axles are geared (and with, one would assume, all-plastic gearing). Unfortunately, lubricating the gears looks to be a "disassemble the trucks" type of operation.

The PC board on the DCC-Ready version is equipped with a European-style six-pin NEM 651 DCC interface (underneath the board, down towards the cab end). Other than the motor saddle and the PC board (and the fact that there is no speaker inside of the cab enclosure), everything else is the same as the DCC-Sound version.

DCC-Ready Version -

Performance is outstanding in every way. Super smooth, whisper quiet, amazing slow-speed creep, and a very reasonable top-end speed. Pickup is flawless (even creeping through insulated-frog turnouts). Pulling power is very respectable, with mine comfortably able to haul 14-15 assorted 40' freight cars through curves on level track. The DCC-Sound feature is decent enough (although my devloping feeling is that, given the small speaker sizes, DCC-Sound in N scale is always going to be a bit underwhelming). That said, it's really quite impressive that Atlas was able to get sound into this tiny little thing at all. Overall, these are terrific looking models that run every bit as good as they look.

One note - some (or all) of the first-run models came from the factory with some sort of oily residue on the wheels (causing them to run a bit herky-jerky out of the box). My second run unit did not have this issue, but in any case, cleaning the wheels is the "duh" solution to the problem should you run into it.

Prototype -

Built by the American Locomotive Company (Alco) the low-hood S-2 was introduced in 1940 to replace Alco's earlier high-hood switchers. The 1000 horsepower S-2 was a turbocharged version of the S-1. There were 1,502 S-2s sold to North American Railroads. The versatility of the S-2s was evidenced by their service on mainline, shortline and industrial railroads.

Features -

- Scaled from actual prototype measurements
- Option for horizontal or vertical radiator shutters
- Fine scale handrails
- Separately-applied coupler cut levers, air hoses, piping, etc.
- Directional LED lighting (includes cab rear headlight)
- Die-cast hood & chassis for improved pulling performance
- Digital-ready chassis
- Dual-flywheels for maximum performance at all speeds
- Factory-equipped with AccuMate knuckle couplers
- Exceptional painting and printing
- MSRP $120 (DCC-Ready), $240 (DCC-Sound)

DCC Features -

- Supports all DCC-programming modes
- Flexible mapping of function keys F0 to F28.
- A total of 4 DCC function outputs are available
- Follows all NMRA DCC standards and recommended practices.

DCC-Sound Features

- Over 20 sound effects are available, including engine start-up and shutdown, prime mover sounds through all eight notches, bell, air horn, air compressor, dynamic brakes and more.
- There are 16 user-selectable horns, 2 user-selectable bells, and 2 user-selectable synchronized brake squeals.
- Manual and Automatic Notching modes with the ability to change modes "on the fly" are provided for true realism.

To remove the long hood, unscrew the two screws that hold it to the chassis (said screws are located on the underside of the chassis, just forward of the front truck). To remove the cab, first disconnect the cab handrails and end-railings (they may be glued, so be careful). Next, rock the cab back and forth (side to side) until it disengages from the chassis.

Grade: A

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