My frustration with the Atlas Master 4-4-0

tony22 Feb 28, 2014

  1. tony22

    tony22 TrainBoard Member

    446
    1
    13
    While I really don't model the era, I loved the idea of this finely detailed early steamer. Figured it would be a nice addition to be brought out only for occasional use. So I ordered one. Once I got it I tested it and it ran (runs) like a dream. Smooth, no jerkiness at all. Slow speed crawl is excellent. But I noticed the stack was a little "cocked". Some of you may guess what happened next. While I already read Spookshow's review and realized how delicate this engine was - and I tried to be careful - I snapped the piping stanchions around the smokebox. I was devastated. It just got worse when I tried to keep it from getting worse. The body has a number of bits of damage at this point. I decided to just order another one and keep the first for parts. Got the second one, and it ran horribly. There was a clear "stop point" as the drivers rotated through full circle. I checked the front for flash and could not find any. I sent it back for a replacement. The next one I got ran worse than that one! I'm now totally dejected about the whole thing. I'm not sure I can CA those tiny bits back together on the first one, and I don't want to hold on to the replacement. I'm glad the etalier has no issues with a second return, this time for a refund. What just put the capper on the whole thing is that Atlas has zero spare parts for this thing.

    It's my own fault, but I'm still not happy. :rats::rats::rats:
     
  2. Kevin M

    Kevin M TrainBoard Member

    1,227
    0
    32
    That's a bummer. I almost got one but read a couple reviews and realized it would only take one shot from the 6/4/2 year old or cat 1 or 2 or even the dog and it would be done. Mabey try for a third replacement and then give up if that does not work.
    Kevin
     
  3. Backshop

    Backshop TrainBoard Member

    355
    0
    10
    Some things are just too pretty to survive.
     
  4. mtntrainman

    mtntrainman TrainBoard Supporter

    7,238
    1,370
    97
    Maybe put the shell from a new one (that doesnt run all that well) on the older better running frame. Use the newer frame for spare parts. Just a thought.
     
  5. randgust

    randgust TrainBoard Member

    3,494
    494
    53
    There's an exploded parts diagram in the box. You'll need it.

    If you want to swap parts between the 'new mechanism' and the first one, that screw that holds the boiler on is inside the sand dome. Pry the top off.

    But don't feel bad here. This is one of the most fragile locomotives ever and I've been at this since '72. So far, on mine, I've broken off both flagstaffs, one of the handrail stanchions, the whistle, and the pilot truck has fallen off more times than I can count. Drive rod popped loose off the crosshead, too.

    Historically, manufacturers made stuff like this out of Delrin or nylon. Shiny black, high tolerance, tough as nails, nearly impossible to keep paint on. Will bend before it breaks. Think of the handrails on most diesels. But because it's so difficult to hold paint on, it either stays black or is molded in a color that approximates the right one, usually looks very plastic. So on this baby, to get the whistle and all those jewels paintable, they appear to have used conventional styrene just like the body. Looks fantastic. Has the survivability of a Chevy Corvair.

    The whistle was cut off and replaced with a piece of .020 brass wire. The stanchion was cut flush, drilled out with #80, and replaced with a bend over 'shepherds crook' shape of .010 wire and ACC'd in place, likely the rest will too. The pilot truck will simply fall out when it feels like it. The flagpoles could be replaced with wire by my prototype didn't have them anyway. I noticed my stack was a little off but as soon as I started to test it a bit I could tell it would snap off before bending, no, that's probably OK, we'll just leave that where it is for now...

    Once you get the boiler off you can twist the driveshaft with your fingers and probably feel any point of resistance. You really want to study the crosshead guides, the tiniest bit of flash or debris in there will certainly cause a lockup, as will any flash or debris on the piston rods. Doesn't take much here. You can use the tip of a #2 blade to trim it off if you do find anything. I could certainly see some mold lines where I didn't expect them.

    Mine runs very well but it's taking extreme measures to keep it from getting damaged. Don't feel devastated, you're not extraordinarily unlucky or clumsy. But you probably will find a need to learn to work with brass wire, ACC and tweezers. I do love it but yeah, its a new standard in not sustaining even moderate handling. The only thing that gets the same level of breath-holding is the Atlas Shay, but at least the driveline is delrin and while it pops off, it can be put right back together after heart and blood pressure come back into normal ranges.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Feb 28, 2014
  6. John Moore

    John Moore TrainBoard Supporter

    9,187
    3,528
    138
    The detail is exquisite but fragile. I knew that up front when I bought two and knew that I had some metal replacement parts in my steam parts boxes. Plus I had also decided to slightly modernize mine with a few added parts. That said a lot of the delicate parts probably would have been better if they had been cast out of delrin plastic. Both of mine ran exceptionally well out of the box and in fact exceeded my expectations on performance in grade and consist handling. But then again I have been messing with steam for years and in my book these are light years ahead of the Bmann 4-4-0 and my trouble with them are well documented. Maybe my luck was due to the manufacturing run that these were in. Both were New Haven versions. Anyway both now have oil bunk tenders which added weight to the tenders, front pilot modifications that gave them couplers plus some added detail parts that increased weight slightly. Finally a small amount of Tungsten putty in the cabs improved traction by a little bit more. They more than hold their own with my small 2-6-0s and 2-8-0s and have made a nice addition to my small loco fleet. I most importantly I handle them like a fine Swiss watch mechanism the same as I handle my Shays.
     
  7. tony22

    tony22 TrainBoard Member

    446
    1
    13
    Good ideas everybody. I did think about keeping the second for spare parts, and I may, but it irks me terribly that it means I've effectively paid twice the price for this thing.

    I haven't looked at the parts diagram yet but I did know about the screw under the sand dome. When I saw pictures for that it looked, though, like the smokebox doesn't come off with the boiler shell. Seems like there's some "tread with caution" there.

    Yes, I've been at this since I think 1970, and I will agree this must be the most frangile piece of anything ever made in N scale that has wheels.
     
  8. Spookshow

    Spookshow TrainBoard Member

    1,516
    3
    27
    I'd try returning the misbehaving one(s) directly to Atlas for warranty replacement. It will probably take longer, but I think your odds of getting a "good one" would be better that way (or so has been my experience).

    Good luck!
    -Mark
     
  9. tony22

    tony22 TrainBoard Member

    446
    1
    13
    Hey, I hadn't thought of that. Thanks Mark. Do you think they still have stock on this thing? Especially in PRR. Seems like they are nowhere to be found online.
     
  10. Spookshow

    Spookshow TrainBoard Member

    1,516
    3
    27
    I'd check with their service department first if you're concerned, but historically Atlas has been pretty good about keeping enough stock around to cover the warranty replacements.

    Cheers,
    -Mark
     
  11. randgust

    randgust TrainBoard Member

    3,494
    494
    53
    And Atlas is around here, particularly if Atlas is in the thread title.

    And although it's fragile, it's still a highly-evolved design. The gear reduction that's in the locomotive itself is significantly better than anything of its size. The tender design is leading edge, a step well beyond the 2-6-0. It's probably the best-proportioned 'pretty' locomotive ever done in N. Whether you realize it or not, the 2-6-0 is way oversize, an American narrow-gauge Porter sent to Japan, proportioned up to standard gauge and then in 1:150. The prototype was really small.

    Chances are they will also get at least some parts in, at some point, so the potential for you to do repairs or mods is still likely there. I'm pretty sure this is another deal with Micro-Ace; with the 2-6-0 it was a license, with this one I suggest this was Atlas' concept with Micro-Ace design and production, so they should be more in control of this one than the 2-6-0.

    While the Bachmann 4-4-0 is relatively robust, the tender wheels are such a disaster on most of them that that function alone makes them a poor alternative. Those Atlas tender wheels, wow, I wish I could get those separately. And I suspect the entire tender with the motor could repower Bachmann 4-4-0's as well as do a tender-drive on the Atlas 2-6-0 and get that ugly motor out of the cab.
     
  12. tony22

    tony22 TrainBoard Member

    446
    1
    13
    I called Atlas this afternoon. It'll be on its way back to them tomorrow. I have my fingers crossed.
     

Share This Page