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Product Review: Atlas “Master Series - Gold” Alco C-420
Atlas has produced another excellent model with smooth operation and realistic sounds.

Product Review: Atlas "Master Series"
Alco C-420 with Sound and Dual-Mode DCC in HO

by Gary Quale/photo by George Riley

The Alco C-420 was introduced in June 1963 and a total of 131 units were produced through August 1968. The model was the successor to the RS-32, with the "Century series" improvements. Both models were rated at 2000 HP and both used the Alco 12-cylinder 251C engine. External changes include the use of a centralized air intake system resulting in fewer separate air intake grills on the long hood, and elimination of movable shutters on the radiator intakes in favor of a smaller fixed air intake. Most C-420s came with a low nose, but the 30 locomotives for the Long Island and two for the Monon came with steam generators that required a high short hood. The N&W also received eight high short hood C-420s, but these did not have steam generators.

Our sample Atlas model of a phase one C-420 came decorated as Long Island Rail Road number 208, which was built in February 1964 as construction number 84779, part of a group of a group of 13 units numbered 208–220. The Long Island roster of C-420s was numbered 200 through 229. They were equipped with steam generators for use in passenger service, hauling trains on the non-electrified lines to the eastern end of Long Island. The last eight units differed from the rest in having high adhesion instead of MCB trucks. These C-420s were the first second generation diesels on the system, and allowed the retirement of several older Fairbanks-Morse units. The C-420’s themselves were all gone by 1976, sold to other railroads. The 200, 210, 213 and 221 went to the Virginia & Maryland, with the 200 subsequently becoming Livonia Avon & Lakeville 420, and the 221 becoming Susquehanna 2002, later renumbered to 260. Atlas offers the C-420 in these other road names.

The model has a die-cast chassis with additional weights inside the short and long hoods, yielding a unit weight of 13.6 oz. The model uses Kato-style trucks and will operate on carefully laid 15" radius track. The locomotive is powered by a five-pole skewed armature motor with two turned brass flywheels. Drawbar pull was measured at 1.6 oz. before wheel slip. On a DC layout, the locomotive would "wake up" and the sound system activates at 4 V. The headlight came on at about 8 V. The unit would start to crawl at just under 9v, and maintained a steady 1.5 smph with a current draw of 0.1 A. The locomotive was clocked at 46 smph at 12 volts DC and 0.2 A. A speed of 97 smph was reached at 16 V. Current draw was 0.3 A at 12 V with wheels slipping. When operated on DCC, results were similar. At factory programmed speed step 1, the locomotive crawled at 1.5 smph. Speed step 50 yielded 56 smph and step 99 produced 115 smph.

The highly detailed model conforms to available prototype drawings. The Atlas C-420 has separately applied windshield wipers, metal grab irons, movable drop steps, brake and multiple unit hoses, coupler cut bars and cab sun shades. Other details include a detailed cab interior with engineer and firemen figures, and see-through mesh on the end steps. Special details on the Long Island C-420 models include correct air horn placement and smoke deflectors for the long hood. Atlas provides factory installed AccuMate couplers on this model. The model uses golden-white LEDs for the directional headlights, and these same LEDs illuminate the adjacent number boards. The cab interior is not illuminated. The paint on our sample was smooth and evenly applied.


Atlas Model Railroad Co.
378 Florence Avenue
Hillside, NJ 07205

Atlas "Master Series" Alco C-420 with Sound and Dual-Mode DCC

HO scale, MSRP $149.95 (Silver Series); $239.95 (Gold Series)

The Atlas C-420 is available in both the Master Series Silver decoder ready version with an NMRA 8-pin plug, or in the Master Series Gold version equipped with a dual-mode decoder and a QSI Quantum sound system with dual speakers. The sound system provides programmed sounds of squealing brakes, a Doppler effect, and air let-off. The unit has a "helper mode" that turns off the whistle and bell if the loco is the second unit in an MUed set. Atlas does note that because of the higher starting voltage for the Gold sound-equipped locomotives, they cannot be double headed with non-sound-equipped Silver locos in the DC (analog) mode. Atlas provides an Owner’s Manual with the Gold version that has complete programming information for the DCC decoder and sound system.

Alco fans will not be disappointed with this model. Atlas has produced another excellently detailed model with smooth operation and realistic sounds.


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