Rivarossi (Italy) 4-6-2 USRA Light & Heavy Pacifics

Introduced: 1968 (light 4-6-2) and 1979 (heavy 4-6-2)

Design-wise, these models have much in common with Rivarossi's 2-8-2 Mikado and 0-8-0 Yard Goat models (not to mention a similar evolution and history). Atlas was the original importer for all of the Rivarossi steamers and continued to offer them up until 1977 (at which point they severed their relationship with Rivarossi). After that, Con-Cor took over as the primary importer and offered the trio (with minor modifications) for many years. Due to the bankruptcy and subsequent liquidation of the Rivarossi Company in February of 2006, these models have been discontinued.

In late 1976, Dimi-Trains announced that they would be selling their own version of the Rivarossi light 4-6-2 (supposedly with a "new" motor). The advertised paint schemes were B&O (blue and gray), Milwaukee Road (orange and brown), and Santa Fe (black). However, I've never actually seen any of these (not in "Dimi-Trains" packaging anyway), so it might have been a project that made it to the advertising stage but never actually materialized.

All of the Atlas versions (identified by their clear plastic boxes with blue plastic inserts) have somewhat iffy frames (constructed out of something called "Zamac"), which has a reputation for being quite brittle (especially where the motor screws to the chassis), as well as being prone to heat-related warping and out and out crumbling. No, they don't all have these problems, but enough of them do to merit the reputation (I've certainly run into plenty of warped/cracked frames on these myself over the years).

The Atlas versions also have a very poor quality can motor which was prone to melting down (depending on the year it was made, the motor housing might be black or silver, but regardless of the color the quality is suspect). Right-rail current comes from the right-side tender wheels (via axle wipers), and left-rail current comes from the pilot truck and the left-side drivers on the locomotive. All of the rest of the wheels are electrically neutral. Unfortunately, tender current is routed to the locomotive by way of a notoriously unreliable stiff metal wire on the tender drawbar -

All three driver axles are geared and all of the gearing is metal. Two of the right-side drivers are equipped with traction tires. A non-directional headlight is mounted inside the boiler shell. The pilot coupler is a dummy (fixed/non-opertational) knuckle. The tender coupler is a truck-mounted Rapido. The wheel flanges are oversized, so these models will not operate on Code-55 rails.

Unlike Rivarossi's earlier 0-8-0 model, the 4-6-2 uses plastic fork couplings to connect its motorshaft to its worm (as opposed to the Goat, where the worm was an integral part of the motorshaft). Said U-joints allow the motor armature a bit of lateral movement (and with the end result being smoother performance). Consequently, these Pacifics run a bit slower and smoother than that earlier model.

As noted above, Con-Cor became the new importer for all of the original Atlas/Rivarossi steamers (2-8-2, 0-8-0, 4-6-2 and 0-4-0) in 1977. These early Con-Cor imports made use of the same boxes (clear plastic with a blue plastic insert) that Atlas used - the only difference being a paper sticker slapped on one end identifying Con-Cor as the re-seller. The models themselves remained unchanged for at least several years after the switch. As pictured below, Con-Cor did eventually offer some of the "supposed" Dimi livery schemes -

Circa 1979, a new "Heavy Pacific" version of this model was released (pictured at the top of the page). Features included a new (larger) shell and a six-axle "long distance" tender (borrowed from the old MRC/Rowa 2-8-4). Internally, these models are the same as the light 4-6-2.

Starting in the 1980s, Con-Cor began packaging these models in large cardboard boxes with foam inserts. Circa 1989 these were advertised as having "new" motors, although they were still can jobs, so one wonders just how different they really were. Along with the motors, the composition of the chassis metal was also upgraded/improved around this time. The old brittle/crumbly/warpy stuff was replaced with a more reliable mixture - appearing a bit shinier than the old brew.

Circa the mid-1990's, Rivarossi started installing open-sided / three-pole / skew-wound Mabuchi motors in these models. Additionally, the wheels were blackened and the the worm carrier and bearings were changed. The old scheme with the brass housing held in the frame by a big brass screw through the top is gone. Instead, there are channels in the frame that are fitted with two plastic "diesel" style bearings (with the worm between them). The two-piece plastic fork between motor and worm is gone. Instead, the worm is linked to the motor by way of a short piece of stiff/clear rubber tubing. By removing two screws from the left side of the frame, the worm can be directly accessed for cleaning and lubrication (a big improvement over the old design).

With the rattling plastic forks gone, these do run quite a bit quieter. However, the rubber tubing makes for a very rigid connection between the motor armature and the worm, and with the end result being excessive load and current draw on the motor. A suggested modification is to remove a thrust washer from either end of the worm and replace them with much thinner ones (to allow some lateral play). Next, replace the rubber tube with a NWSL cup/dogbone universal. Thusly modified, the engine will run much smoother and will draw much less current (good for motor life).

The blackened running gear is easy enough to spot. As for the motor, just unscrew the shell, pull it off and take a look. If you can see the poles through the sides of the motor, you have one of the last (and best) versions. I've been told that the pilot wheels were also downsized in this era, but comparing a very new Con-Cor Pacific to a very old Atlas Pacific, I can't detect any actual difference in size. My guess is that any perceived differences are simply an optical illusion caused by the blackening.

Setting aside the early melty-motor/warpy-frame problems, this is not a bad performing locomotive at all. And the newer the version, the better the performance is going to be. The old Atlas imports can be a bit balky when it comes to pickup, whereas the newer Con-Cor releases with the better motors tend to be much smoother. Yes, the starting speed on all of them is a tad high, and the top-end speed is ridiculously high, but that's understandable given the age of the design. The only problem I've ever had on any kind of consistant basis with any of these is the front two-axle truck derailing. And I've been told that one solution to that particular problem is to replace the truck spring with a more robust (IE, stiffer) one. Another (more ambitious) solution is to add some heft to the front truck by sticking on some sort of moldable weight material. Overall though, these were (and remain) very respectable models, both in terms of looks and performance (age being the major determining factor as far as performance is concerned).

Trivia -

Back in the 1970s, a Detroit-area company called "Flint Models" produced brass shells for the Atlas/Riv C-Liner, 0-4-0, 0-8-0 and 4-6-2 models, along with Arnold's 0-6-0. The original concept was to improve traction/operation, what with the added weight allowing the engine to pull more and maintain better electrical contact. Rumor has it that these Flint shells were actually "lost plastic" castings, IE a plastic shell was destroyed for each brass mold produced. From what I've been told, the shells were actually made in Canada, and at some point the boys over at Flint actually got caught smuggling the brass across the border and went out of business rather suddenly.

More Trivia -

Sometime in the mid-to-late 80's, a large cache of these locomotives (along with Rivarossi Mikados and Yard Goats) was discovered in the Atlas warehouse in New Jersey. Presumed to be non-running, they were all sold with disclaimer stickers (pictured below) attached to the boxes -

From what I'm told, most (if not all) of them were purchased by Bob's Train Repair in PA. I guess the idea there was to tune them up and sell them and get rich. However, most of them wound up simply getting dumped on eBay during the early 2000's (with lots of ten or more locomotives going for practically nothing).

Grade: B (all versions)

Reviewed: 11/68 Model Railroader ("The Atlas N scale model is a close reproduction of the prototype and has a surprising amount of fine-quality detail. The principal deviation from prototype are in the wheel diameters. The pilot wheels scale 24" compared to 33" on the prototype. Drivers are 68" instead of 73", and trailer wheels are 38" instead of 48". Tender wheels scale 30" against 33" on the prototype. These particular undersize wheels are not too apparent unless the model is compared with an identical model fitted with correct wheels. The ready-to-run model comes painted and lettered for SF #2116; GTW #2117; or ACL #2118. It is also available unlettered #2115. The engine and tender superstructures are highly detailed plastic moldings with all detail cast in. The engine frame is metal. The same basic drive is used as in the Atlas N scale 0-8-0 switcher... A 3-pole 12-volt DC drives a metal worm and gear set which drives a group of spur gears connected to all three driving axles. Side rods are connected to the first and second drivers only; the spear gearing arrangement keeps all counterbalances in sync. Wheel flanges are .040" deep on our sample. This accounts for the underscale wheel diameters mentioned. The front and rear drivers come with friction tires... Our test sample has good control once the engine is in motion. Starting occurs with a lurch; otherwise performance is smooth and quiet. An important feature is the working headlight... Our sample handled eight average-friction passenger cars... Price: $27.98")

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