Review by Tony Cook
In 2010, Athearn announced a new Genesis-series HO flatcar to its line. The popular F89F prototype is a mainstay of North American railroading and enjoys a variety of uses beyond hauling trailers. Good news for the N-scale model railroad market: Athearn is bringing this flatcar to its catalog of 1/160 releases later this year. Railroad Model Craftsman presents an advance look at this model with this review of an early production example.
Among the early examples of 89-foot flatcars, Bethlehem Steel’s production of F89F models included more than 9,000. This flatcar came out in the early 1960s and saw adoption in the Trailer Train pool. This type of flatcar is identified as a “channel side” model. That label comes from the appearance of the side sill, which has edges extending slightly from the surface on the top and bottom and running the entire length of the car. In addition to Trailer Train’s fleet, originally wearing brown and later yellow, a number of railroads rostered F89F flatcars.
The original use included hitches for carrying intermodal trailer vans in a variety of lengths (28-, 40-, and 45-foot). Trailer Train’s reporting marks are an indicator of the type of trailers that a particular F89F flatcar might be capable of carrying. For example, Trailer Train’s XTTX noted the flatcar’s deck included four collapsible hitches; while the RTTX cars possessed a pair of fixed hitches with a collapsible hitch located in the middle of the car’s deck. These are only two examples; Trailer Train operated other configurations and revisions came for these versatile flatcars over the years as well. These flatcars also served as the foundation for autorack cars and the prototype saw use in pipe hauling and other types of transport.
Comparing this N-scale flatcar to prototype drawings, I measured the desired 89-foot length. Athearn recommends an 11-inch radius curve for good operation; I found this to be correct. As always with long cars such as this flat or passenger cars, the wider the radius, the more realistic the model will look, and it will operate better and more smoothly. Athearn’s model includes 70-ton roller bearing truck sideframes with 33-inch metal wheels. This pre-production sample weighed in at 1.3 ounces. The wheels were all properly in gauge when checked with an NMRA Standards Gage. Coupler height for the plastic McHenry spring knuckle couplers also passed inspection with respect to NMRA Recommended Practices.
The announcement states the flatcar body is injection-molded, but I think most of the flatcar is die-cast metal from what I observed. The center spine running the length of the underside appeared to be plastic, but the main body felt like it was metal. The detail was excellent on the underframe and down the bed of the flat. The hitches, presented in black plastic, are fixed in the up position. Additional details include brake ratchet and rigging separately applied, grab irons, and end ramps. The paint appears to resemble Trailer Train’s famous yellow with black bands featuring the road name in white, as well as black “TT” logos and data.
The flatbed is white and an area that certainly would see use and abuse from carrying loads. Doubtless, many modelers will weather up the white bed before putting this fine model to work. I found, in addition to Athearn’s collection of N-scale trailers (28-foot pup, 40-foot exterior post, and 40-foot Fruehauf Z), this flatcar’s hitches easily accepted N-scale trailers made by Trainworx too.
Due this fall, Athearn’s N-scale F89F flatcar will arrive in two Trailer Train paint schemes. The early brown flatcar will follow the mid-1960s and later prototype appearance. The yellow flatcar, presented in this review, replicates Trailer Train’s look beginning in the 1970s. The $32.98 release will come fully assembled with six road numbers per scheme. The first appearance of this N-scale F89F flatcar was under Athearn’s new bi-level autorack model. Due this spring, a second run of the $39.98 auto carrier will include open racks, as well as semi-enclosed examples.
UPS 40′ Drop Frame Trailer
In addition to the current roster of N scale trailers, Athearn plans a new addition for later this year. The gray 40-foot trailer riding on Athearn’s coming F89F flatcar is this other all-new release. Previously available only in HO, this United Parcel Service (UPS) prototype will arrive for N-scalers this fall. Both the coming HO version and this never-before- available N-scale trailer will feature all-new tooling. The original HO-scale UPS 40-foot drop-sill trailer came to Athearn as an acquisition. For this new production, a brand-new mold is being developed. The major difference will be the inclusion of an upper side stiffener that was not present on the original HO version. Both HO- and N-scale offerings will arrive fully assembled and decorated. The example presented is an early production test of the new N-scale molds and is subject to revisions. Athearn’s N-scale 40-foot UPS drop-sill parcel trailer will sell for $24.98 each. The officially licensed UPS trademarks will provide hobbyists with a range of looks reaching back to approximately 1970 and forward to contemporary prototypes.
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