I'll start with the U23B today, with a bit of general history and specific model history.
The U23B is a 2,250 hp diesel-electric built by General Electric from 1968 to 1977, with the U standing for "Universal", 23 as the horsepower (which is obviously incorrect, but GE went by hundreds within their naming system, so 2,250 rounds up to 2,300), and the B signifying the trucks, as in having 2 axle/4 wheel trucks.
It was powered by a 12 cylinder FDL engine.
481 of this particular "U-Boat" (an often used nickname, though reportedly disliked by GE) model were constructed, with a handful still surviving, some preserved and some working.
Lehigh Valley purchased 12 of the U23B, which were financed by the USRA, (this was at the time that railroads of the northeast were struggling, and the USRA and other interested government divisions were doing their best to keep trains moving). LV 503 was built in November of 1974, and kept that number until the Conrail takeover (as mentioned above about struggling NE railroads, the attempt to keep the various companies afloat fizzled, and the Feds created the Consolidated Rail Corporation, better known as Conrail). LV 503 became CR 2779, and was painted in Conrail's blue scheme. 2779 was eventually retired from the CR roster, sold to Wimpey Minerals as WIMX 2779, under whose ownership it became a switcher shuffling loads of crushed rock at a facility in Laurel, Maryland. After that facility was bought by or merged into Vulcan Materials, it became VULX 2779, and at last report, continues moving rock. You can see it on Google Maps here - https://www.google.com/maps/place/Vulcan+Materials+Companyfirstname.lastname@example.org,-76.79072,17z/data=!3m1!4b1!4m5!3m4!1s0x89b7e71840a1e327:0xa0751cbaaf5a5ffe!8m2!3d39.12472!4d-76.79072?hl=en-US
This was my first Atlas locomotive ... so did I like it? Well, this is a review, so let's find out...
The label detailing what the insides hold.
And here is the 503, looking just as it did fresh from GE in 1974!
...except for the cradle it's mounted on.
Mounted, you say?
Yes, and quite securely, as evidenced thusly.
With 2 screws into the fuel tank.
This is a secure system, and no real hassle to unpack ... BUT.
I unfortunately didn't photograph this, but you're left with 2 relatively large holes in the fuel tank.
Note the "Prototypical Locomotives" bit on the box above - in my experience, having large holes in a fuel tank is generally considered a problem.
Not a huge cosmetic issue, as you'd rarely see it while in operation, but still, an unnecessary realism reducer.
Foam packing such as Athearn, or plastic end-opening (clamshell?) packing such as Bachmann would solve that issue.
And free of the cradle and on my review track.
A view similar to what you can see of it now on internet maps, but red here as opposed to the modern blue.
A head-on view of the extremely impressive striping. I've always like the LV's striping, and it is very nicely applied here.
And while I was looking at this photo, planning my review, I noticed something I had not before...
Factory supplied and installed crew.
Now, I'll admit I can take or leave figures on my layout, as my interest is vehicles and landscaping, but this is a very nice feature I'm sure folks who are into the figure scene will appreciate.
The relatively plain rear.
And on my layout.
Now, my review.
Paint and details are very nice - the stripes especially.
Very stout and sturdy
Runs very smooth
DCC works as it should
Very loud motor noise, to the point that it covers up the DCC sounds, even when the sounds are set to a level that is comparable to other locos, and is fine when not moving. I'll maybe attempt to up the master volume, but the motor noise is loud - the loudest I have.
Acceleration/deceleration lag - this is a personal preference, but I like locos to start immediately after I give them throttle, and stop when I ease off. Athearn and Bachmann do this the best, with another manufacturer that I haven't reviewed here (though the review is ready) doing pretty well. Bowser is the worst for acceleration/deceleration lag - I have a ALCo C628 that I became so frustrated with it ended up on the "Shelf of Shame". It's the only Bowser I have, and will probably stay that way. Which is a shame, because it looks and sounds great - but operational characteristics are just as important as appearance.
Anyway, my verdict.
Yes I recommend it, but you'll absolutely be adjusting the volume, and I wouldn't suggest using it for switching.
I liked it enough to keep Atlas in my list of "good or great" manufacturers, but on the good side - if they have something really unusual I really like, I'll grab one, but for more common power I'll pass.
And the B&A box.
The (slightly incorrect) details on the box about the box in the box.
Can you spot the spelling issue? It's correct in the name of this post and on the actual box car itself...
Very nice looking.
There is a car painted almost exactly like this on the Conway Scenic in New Hampshire, just a different car number.
But the Conway Scenic's doesn't have an upside down door.🙃
Yep, from the packaging like this. Just a few seconds to correct the issue, but bending that thin and flimsy plastic was quite worrying.
Paint is fantastic
Details are good
Rolls free and smooth
Handles as it should in a train
Upside down door. Not a huge deal, but still annoying, and breaking those plastic rails would've been very easy. I didn't, thankfully, but it was close.
The doors. They basically freely slide on those tracks, so they'll work open occasionally, and with billboard lettering like that, it's a problem. Better if they were permanently fixed/molded closed, as other manufacturers do. If I get irritated with it enough, I may hit them with a dot of glue or a little tape.
Looks good and operates as it should - yep, a definite recommend. But watch those doors!
Anyway, that's it for today, thanks for reading my model train rambles, and if you have any questions, drop a comment below!