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Atlas Trains

History

Atlas GP38-2 Maine Central N scale Loco circa 2004 Atlas Model Railroad Company, Inc. makes scale models in N scale, HO scale, and 'O' gauge under several different product brand names. An American company based out of Hillside, NJ, they produce a wide variety of locomotives, rolling stock, track, and vehicles. They are known for their flex track and codes 55 and 80 N scale, and 83 and 100 HO scale track. Atlas also makes structures and bridges. Begining in the 1960's they also made HO gauge Slot Cars for racing in 1:32 and 1:24 scale and complete Slot Car track kits.

Atlas Two Truck Shay in N scale The company was originally founded in 1924 by Stephan Schaffan Sr. (1877-1948). It began as a general machine shop in a small garage at 330 Waverly Avenue in Newark, New Jersey. Stephan Schaffan Sr. had immigrated from Czechoslovakia around the turn of the century and brought his machine and toolmaking skills with him. In 1933, after graduating first in his class from Essex County Vocational School, Stephan Schaffan Jr. (1918-1983) joined his father in the business at age 16. Atlas Tool Company became a father and son team.

Atlas U23B Silver Penn Central #2723 in HO gauge Steve Jr. liked to build model airplanes as a hobby and frequently visited a local hobby shop. Being an enterprising young man, he would often ask the owner if there was anything he could do to earn some extra spending money. Tired of listening to his requests, the hobby-store owner threw some model railroad track parts his way and said, "Here, see if you can improve on this".

Atlas 1282-7 GP60 60M B Loco in 'O' gauge In those days, railroad modelers had to assemble and build everything from scratch. Stephan Jr. developed a fixture to solder model railroad turnouts together. Steve Jr. also created a "switch kit" which allowed the user to stop and start a locomotive by controlling the electrical current to the tracks. These kits sold so well, that the entire family worked on building them in the basement at night, while doing business as usual in the machine shop during the day.

Atlas 'O' #4127 Delaware & Hudson Trainman RS-3 for 2 Rail Subsequently, Steve Jr. engineered the stapling of rail to fiber track, along with inventing the first practical rail joiner and pre-assembled turnouts and flexible track. All of these products, and more, helped to popularize model railroading and assisted in the creation of a mass-market hobby. The budding entrepreneur quickly outgrew the limitations of a basement and small garage operation. Realizing they could actually make a living selling track and related products, Steve and his father had the first factory built in Hillside, New Jersey at 413 Florence Avenue in 1947. On September 30th, 1949, Atlas Tool Company Inc. was officially incorporated as a New Jersey company. Over time, the tool division was finally dwarfed by the model railroad side and eventually the company changed its name to Atlas Model Railroad, also known as Atlas Model Trains.

Atlas 40' Wood Reefer Car Classic Toy Trains Steve went on to be a worldwide leader and an innovator in the hobby. He created the Super-Flex® Track products, Snap-Switches®, and Custom-Line® Turnouts. Steve’s efforts in Europe, Asia and the United States brought model railroading to a new level, and hobbyists have him to thank for the reliability and durability they enjoy in the multitude of Atlas track products.

Atlas Code 100 HO track features black ties with nickel silver rail. Code 83 HO track has prototypical brown ties and nickel silver rail. Atlas 31152 WC 53' Evans Double Plug Door box car #1048 in N scaleCode 83 and Code 100 track can be used together with Atlas transition joiners. True-Track® is Atlas' line with true-to-prototype gray graveled roadbed. in HO, this track utilizes Code 83 track snapped into a grey base. Unlike the majority of tracks the True-Track doesn’t have to be secured, the roadbed base doesn’t have to be secured to the table or bench for a train to run properly. Code 80 N scale track has black ties and nickel silver rail. It is available in an extensive line that includes Snap-Track® and Super-Flex® Track brands. Code 55 N track is designed for the scale modeler. It has simulated brown ties and a lower rail profile than Code 80 track. There is also an N gauge True-Track® that uses a Code 65 roadbed with tie spacing matching the US prototype and simulated ballast roadbed in gray with mottled highlights and dark brown ties.

Atlas 49673 N Scale Central NJ SD35 #2506 In 1985, Steve was honored posthumously for his landmark inventions by the Model Railroad Industry Association and was inducted into the Model Railroad Industry Hall of Fame in Baltimore, Maryland. In addition, Steve was nominated and entered into the National Model Railroad Association Pioneers of Model Railroading in 1995. In 2000, Stephan Jr. was given a 'Special Honor Award' and inducted into the New Jersey Inventors Hall of Fame.

Over time Atlas has expanded their product line to include much more than just track. Atlas Tool Co. began offering a complete line of N scale trains in 1967. Early steam and Diesel models were made by Rivarossi (Italy) and Mehanotehnika (Yugoslavia). Freight cars were made Atlas #51930 Dash 8-40CW UP #9411 in N scale by Rivarossi and Roco (Austria). Some of the freight cars were painted in Yugoslavia. Passenger cars were made by Rivarossi. Atlas also had a line of structure kits made by Pola (Germany) and Faller. These trains became the backbone of N Scale layouts everywhere during the late 1960's and early 1970's. Locomotives included an 0-4-0 switcher, 4-6-2 Pacific, 2-8-2 Mikado, Alco RSC2, FM C-Liner, EMD E8, EMD GP40, and EMD SD45. An EMD SW1500 (cow and calf) was introduced in 1971. Among the Atlas freight cars were a 94' "whale belly" tank car with four trucks, 85' box cars, and 85' stock cars.

The early 1970's also brought HO scale EMD Diesel locomotives made by Roco that included a GP9, GP30, and F9A. To accompany these finely detailed locomotives in sets, Atlas initially included rolling stock it acquired from Athearn. Atlas eventually began the manufacture of their own freight cars at their factory in New Jersey. Alco FA1 and EMD E7A locomotives made by Roco were introduced in the late 1970's. These locos were considered to be trend-setters in the marketplace. They included scale-width hoods, flexible well detailed plastic handrails and plastic truckside frames with good depth and detail. These features of the mid '70s Atlas locos set them apart from the competition. In 1983, Atlas offered an Alco RS3 made by Kato (Japan). Other locomotives made by Kato would follow throughout the 1980's.

Atlas PRR H21a Circle Keystone Hopper Car-3R There are now Atlas products available for almost every aspect of HO and N scale model railroading. In N scale, Atlas developed a collection of 45 freight car types in more than 550 paint schemes, each with fine detailing and quality painting and printing. Atlas’ ready-to-run HO line is also very extensive and includes over 25 different freight car types, in more than 265 paint schemes.

Atlas HO and N scale locomotives are noted for their prototypical, fine details, printing, reliability, excellent throttle response, and smooth operation at slow speeds. To power layouts on which these locomotives run, Atlas produces a variety of electrical components.

Atlas 0-6-0 'O' USRA diecast steam loco circa 2006 In the 1970's, Atlas entered the 'O' scale world as well, introducing a line of cars and locomotives. Initial products were made by Roco Modellspielwaren in Austria. Market conditions at the time caused Atlas to cease 'O' Scale production until 1997. Since then Atlas has expanded its 'O' Scale line, offering three different types of highly-detailed track systems and complete sets. In 2006 the first 'O' scale steam locomotive was released in the form of a USRA 0-6-0 Switcher with versions available for both 3 and two rail operation.

Atlas O 3-Rail PRR Position Signal 4 #6926 Also in 2006 Atlas released a model RR Signal System in HO & N scales. Atlas’ signal systems allow modelers to add one, or a series of interlocking signals to their layouts, which turn red, green and yellow to mimic real railroad traffic control.

To complement its train products, Atlas offers a library of layout instruction books containing information on modeling techniques, technology, and layout designs. Atlas also offers free computer software for download on its website, that is used for designing track plans for layouts that use Atlas track products. Atlas 'O' DLW F-3 A-A for 2 rail

Atlas has partnered with QSI Industries, Inc., of Beaverton, Oregon, a manufacturer of model train sound technology to equip their high end HO locomotive products with the QSI® Quantum System™. Atlas equips their high end 3 rail 'O' scale locomotives with the Lionel® Train-Master® Command Control (TMCC) system. This permits operation of multiple trains on the same track without the need for complex wiring, and provides realistic digitized sounds including horn, bell, diesel-roar sounds, braking and Crew Talk.

In 2007 Atlas O, LLC, purchased the 'O' scale assets of Industrial Rail™, formerly owned by Atlas 'O' Industrial Rail San Diego Trolley Hobbico. The rolling stock line included freight cars, a trolley and handcar. Before Hobbico, Industrial Rail™ was owned by its creator, United Model Distributors.

On March 1, 2011 Atlas Model Railroad Co. Inc. announced that it had purchased all rolling stock assets, including molds, inventory and other items of Branchline Trains Inc., of East Hartford, CT. Branchline Trains began producing the HO Blueprint Series of freight car kits, passenger car kits detail parts, and Yardmaster freight car kits in 1998.

Atlas also produces injection-molded ready to run 1:87 scale plastic models of Ford protoype automobiles and trucks.

Atlas is actually two companies - Atlas Model Railroad Co. Inc., which includes all HO & N Scale products, and Atlas O, LLC, encompassing 'O' Scale and traditional O-27 products. Atlas states that its primary mission is to produce and offer to the public, multiple scale Atlas Signal Tower lines of high quality, model railroad products based on prototype information. Atlas products include a Traditional Sized Line, a high-end Master Line™ and mid-level, affordable Trainman™ line in 'O', HO and N gauges. Atlas’ philosophy is based on a dedicated commitment to prototype research, design and construction. The desired and demanded goal is to create, market and distribute durable operational scale models utilizing the full range of exacting detail which accurately depicts life-sized objects, while providing exceptional service to customers.

By keeping up the high standards set by Steve Schaffan over 60 years ago, Atlas strives to remain a leader in innovation and technology in the model railroading industry. Although many things have changed since incorporation in 1949, Atlas follows the tradition and values of its founders and remains a family run business. Steve Schaffan's only child, Diane, currently serves as president and her husband, Tom Haedrich, is CEO and oversees day-to-day company operations.

Link to Atlas Model Railroad Company, Inc. web site.

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