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First Look Review
HO scale
NS TopGon
NS G-86R TopGon 25000th Rebody Car
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by: Frederick Boucher [ JPTRR ]

Originally published on:
RailRoad Modeling

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What's This?
Norfolk Southern G-86R TopGon is an HO model from Atlas. Part of their premium Master Line range, the Atlas TopGon features many separately applied fine parts. The model is available singly and in both 3-packs and 6-packs. This model is item 20 004 010, the 25000th Rebody Car.
    In late 1991, Norfolk Southern debuted the first two prototypes of its TOP GON® re-body program. Looking for a way to expand the capacity and the longevity of its coal car fleet, this program took in old hoppers, stripped them to the frame, and built an entirely new gondola body on top of that frame. With production starting in July of 1992, spanning multiple classes with multiple variations, NS' Roanoke East End Shops churned out over 18,000 of these cars, ending production in 1998. With almost 3,265 of class G-85R, G-86R and G-88R’s in service, this model represents one of NS' most recognizable freight cars. - Atlas

Gee-whiz data of this type of car follows:
    Type: Gondola
    AAR Class: GT: Open top car, having high fixed sides and fixed or hinged ends and solid bottom, suitable for unloading on dumping machines only.
    AAR Type: J311
    Detail Info: Gondola, Load Limit: 185,000 and greater, Depressed Bottom, Inside Length: 36-48ft
    Plate: B
    NS Class: G86R
    Max Gross Weight: 286000
    Load Limit: 226500
    Dry Capacity: 3850
    Ext L/W/H: 50' 1" / 10' 7" / 12' 4"
    Int L/W/H: 46' 4" / 9' 9" / 9' 10" *

The model
Atlas secures this model in a form-fitted cradle held inside their end-opening carton with a cellophane window. The cradle has a clear form-fitted top. Soft plastic sheet prevents scuffing of the model.

Atlas made this model with an injection body and metal wheels. Molding is high quality with crisp detail and fine scaling. I found no flash, seam lines or sink marks. There are large ejector circles inside the body. This model was originally produced by BLMA. BLMA engineered their models from blueprints and field measurements, plus scrutiny of 1,000s of photographs. Atlas advertises these model features:
    • Injection-Molded Plastic
    • Fine-Scale Detail
    • Separately Applied Wire Grab Irons
    • Separately Applied Wire Cut Levers
    • Etched-Metal Brake Wheel Platforms
    • Installed Internal Bracing
    • Accurately Painted/Printed
    • 100-Ton Trucks w/Metal Wheels
    • Multiple Numbers & Paint Variations
    • Kadee® couplers

Inside the hopper are fine bolt details on the slope sheets. The transverse and diagonal interior bracing beams and brackets also feature such detail. However, there is no rivet detail on the walls of the interior.

Happily, the exterior has many scale rivets reflecting the internal structures. Raised corner brackets and gussets are molded on.

The brake end of the car has almost a full air brake system, including triple valve, reservoir, cylinder, actuator arm and lever, but minimal piping and no brake rods. Atlas added cut levers but no air hoses, although those are not difficult to find and attach if one wishes to enhance the otherwise good detail.

To-scale grabs and steps are applied. Be careful of the stirrups - they are very fragile. You may notice in a photograph that one is broken.

This TopGon rides on crisply molded 100-ton roller bearing trucks and metal wheels. The trucks look good even with molded spring detail. The wheels are effectively blackened.

Smaller-sized metal Kadee couplers are factory mounted. The coupler boxes have screws for ease of removal and replacement.

Weights and Measures
Prototype G-86R gons measure an overall length of 47’5”. Atlas' TopGon does, too, but spans 51' from coupler to coupler. It weighs 3 ounces. That is light by NMRA standards, which judges the weight for this car at 4.3 ounces. The wheels are in gauge and the coupler height is perfect.

My model rolled smoothly along Atlas code 83 track and over a Peco code 80 single-slip switch.

Paint and Markings
NS' TopGons don't have spectacular pant schemes. They are gray with black lettering. The only splash of color are the reflective yellow conspicuity stripes on some cars, and subtle yellow circles around the tow holes. NS painted their rearing horse on some and Top Gon on others. Others have further stenciling depending on their use;
    Conspicuity Stripes
    Test Roller Bearings
    25000th Rebody Car
    MW Scrap Tie Loading
    263k GRL 1993 Scheme

This sample is the 25,000th Rebody Car, NS 23760. NS 23760 was rebuilt from NW 141218**. Want to see several photos of the real NS 23760? Then see Click here for additional images for this review, below.

The paint is opaque but does not obscure detail. Printing is extraordinary. All is legible and the raised and recessed parts of the body were no obstacle to the printing.

Rearing To Go
Atlas' NS G-86R TopGon is an impressive model. It may not be a museum quality offering and yet it is also not some ordinary model gussied up with metal grabs and tiny parts. The paint and printing is fantastic. Molding is sharp and many parts are to-scale. This car rolls smoothly and without trouble through switches.

Ejector circles inside the body are disappointing. If you are an operator who is concerned with weight, the weight is 30% light per NMRA RP20.1.

I am pleased with my TopGon. It will make a fine addition to rosters of modern NS model railroads. Thus I recommend it.

Please remember to tell vendors and retailers that you saw this model here - on RailRoad Modeling.

*,** RR Picture Archives. Pictures of NS 23760. [Web.] 2016.

Click here for additional images for this review.

Highs: Paint and printing is fantastic. Molding is sharp and many parts are to-scale; this car rolls smoothly and without trouble through switches.
Lows: Light per NMRA RP20.1. Fragile stirrups and ejector circles inside the body are disappointing.
Verdict: I am pleased with my TopGon. It will make a fine addition to rosters of modern NS model railroads.
  Scale: HO Scale
  Mfg. ID: 20 004 010
  Suggested Retail: $39.95
  Related Link: 
  PUBLISHED: Mar 28, 2017
  NATIONALITY: United States

Our Thanks to Atlas Model Railroad!
This item was provided by them for the purpose of having it reviewed on this KitMaker Network site. If you would like your kit, book, or product reviewed, please contact us.

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About Frederick Boucher (JPTRR)

I'm a professional pilot with a degree in art. My first model was an AMT semi dump truck. Then Monogram's Lunar Lander right after the lunar landing. Next, Revell's 1/32 Bf-109G...cried havoc and released the dogs of modeling! My interests--if built before 1900, or after 1955, then I proba...

Copyright ©2021 text by Frederick Boucher [ JPTRR ]. All rights reserved.


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