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Atlas GP40 in HO scale
The Atlas GP40-2 is an excellent model of this locomotive, offering smooth operation, fine details, and detail options to match different prototypes.

Product Review: Atlas “Master Series - Gold” GP40-2 with Sound and Dual Mode DCC in HO scale

by Gary Quale/photos by George Riley

The GP40-2 was introduced by the General Motors Electro-Motive Division in April 1972 and production of a total of 861 units continued through December 1986. The model was the successor to the GP-40, with upgraded “dash-2” features. The major upgrades were internal, including the newer EMD 645 series 3000 HP 16-cylinder engine and a modular elecrtonic control cabinet. External spotting features include the oval window for the water level sight glass near the end of the long hood and bolt-on battery box doors below the short hood. Many of the units came with M-type Blomberg trucks with dampers on the journal boxes and rubber pads instead of leaf springs.

Fewer GP40-2s were sold than either the earlier GP-40 or its dash-2 siblings, the GP38-2 and SD40-2. The railroads were developing a preference for six axle high horsepower units which had better slow speed pulling performance with less liklihood of wheel slip. The GP40-2 tended to be used in higher speed services. The dash-2 improvements made these units very reliable, so most are still in service, with those retired from the class-1 railroads finding new homes on regionals and shortlines.

Our sample model came decorated as Atlanta and West Point number 733, a GP40-2 built in November 1974 as construction number 73681-1 with Phase 1 details including an 81” short hood and wire mesh radiator grilles. The 733 was the only GP40-2 on the A&WP roster as sisters 726 to 732 were GP-40’s. The A&WP was controlled by the Atlantic Coast Line and was absorbed into the Seaboard System in 1983. The 733 became SBD 6645, and in turn became CSXT 6391.

Atlas GP40 in HO scale

The Atlas GP40-2 is a smooth runner with excellent detail. This model uses all new tooling, and is not a rework of the old Atlas/RoCo GP-40. The model has a die-cast chassis with additional weights inside the short and long hoods, yielding an unit weight of 12.9 oz. The model uses Kato-style trucks and will operate on 15” radius track, although at this radius, the trucks are almost in their stops so the track must be carefully laid. The locomotive is powered by a five-pole skewed armature motor with two turned brass flywheels. The model draws 0.32 A at 12 volts with the wheels slipping. Drawbar pull was measured at 1.6 oz. before wheel slip. At 12 volts DC, the locomotive was clocked at 62 scale MPH.

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 front headlight is programmed in the DC mode for rule 17 operation, coming on dim while the unit is idling, and shifting to bright as it begins to move. Ditch lights are not provided on this model, and the cab interior is not illuminated.

Atlas GP40 in HO scale

The highly detailed model conforms to available prototype drawings. In addition to the fine detail cast into the bdy shell, the Atlas GP40-2 has separately applied windshield wipers, metal grab irons and delicate yet tough handrails. The cooling and dynamic brake fans are separate parts that can rotate and which are visible through the fine etched metal grilles. Other details include a detailed cab interior with engineer and firemen figures, safety tread on the walkways next to the hoods, and see-through mesh on the end steps. End details include movable drop steps, brake and multiple unit hoses, and coupler cut bars. The coupler pockets must be removed to remove the body shell. When reinstalling the coupler pockets, take care to lift the center of the cut lever so that it rides up over the top lip on the coupler pocket. A few parts must be installed by the modeler, including the end handrails, cab sun shades and wind screen windows, and the front footboard/MU hose box. All of the locating holes are pre drilled, and most are a press fit. The holes for the end handrails were a bit larger, so that it was necessary to add a spot of ACC glue to secure the handrail posts.

Atlas makes several alternate sets of detail parts for this model, and includes those appropriate for each decorated prototype offered. An alternate rock-style plow and hood-mounted bell are provided on Chessie System units. Atlas offers either standard range or extended range dynamic brake blisters, or a non-dynamic brake hatch. Other alternate details are 2,600 or 3,600 gallon fuel tanks and either the early style Blomberg or Blomberg type-M trucks. Undecorated GP40-2’s come with both the standard range and non dynamic brake roof sections; the small, large and rock plows; hood and frame mounted bells; and 2,600 and 3,600 gallon fuel tanks.

The paint on our sample was smooth and evenly applied, and the white lettering was crisp and opaque. The paint and lettering closely match a color photo of A&WP 733 posted on the www.rr-fallenflags.org website. A very nice feature is that the side and end handrails come with the correct colors, in this case black posts with yellow railings.

Atlas GP40 in HO scale


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

GP40-2 - various roadnames

HO scale, MSRP $239.95

The Atlas GP40-2 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. The weight in the long hood has an inverted “V” cross-section that straddles the drive shaft and supports dual 1” speakers. The narrow hood does not provide space for baffles on these speakers, but the sound quality is still excellent. The model sounds like the prototype as the engine revs up from idle as the throttle is notched up. 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 a 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 a printed-paper Owner’s Manual with the Gold version that has complete programming information for the DCC decoder and sound system.

The Atlas GP40-2 is an excellent model of this locomotive, offering smooth operation, fine details, and detail options to match different prototypes.

—This review originally appeared in Railroad Model Craftsman in 2009.


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