For Atlas (Who Didn’t Shrug), a 1:1 Scale NJT Locomotive

Written by William C. Vantuono, Editor-in-Chief
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All photos: William C. Vantuono

Full disclosure: When I’m not dealing with full-size railroad rolling stock, I operate (don’t say “play with,” please) model trains. I have a fully operational O scale railway, and a collection of HO models on display. My 1:48th scale empire is conveniently located in a room next to my home office. I indulge myself only in my spare time, of course …

I jumped at the chance today (Dec. 1) to attend the unveiling of a New Jersey Transit ALP-45DP dual-power locomotive in a unique livery: Atlas Model Railroad Co. of Hillside, N.J. NJT, celebrating the 40th anniversary of regional/commuter rail operations this year, partnered with Atlas to celebrate that company’s 100th anniversary, coming up real soon, in 2024. The talented folks at NJT’s Meadows Maintenance Complex, through a generous sponsorship from Atlas, wrapped ALP-45DP 4503 in Atlas centennial graphics. The result is rather stunning.

DCC is “Digital Command Control,” kind of like CTC (but not PTC) in miniature.

This effort is the opposite of what model railroad companies and modelers have traditionally done for generations, which is to create a scale replica of the “real thing.” Here, NJT and Atlas worked together to design a centennial scheme and apply it to a “1:1 scale” prototype. Sometime in 2024, Atlas will have 1/87th (HO) and 1/160th (N) model replicas of 4503 with matching MultiLevel passenger coaches. They are now available for preorder.

“Railroad buffs can keep their eyes peeled as [4503] will be criss-crossing New Jersey all throughout 2024, which marks a century of Atlas manufacturing model railroad trains,” NJT said. “As part of the celebration, Atlas also plans to shrink this special locomotive into a model railroad engine of its own.”

Just let me know when the real 4503 will show up the North Jersey Coast Line, in Red Bank, OK?

Technically speaking, 4503 has already been “shrunk,” since the graphics are a vinyl wrap that’s heated to shrink a little to conform to the carbody and its numerous contours.

NJT President and CEO Kevin Corbett and many staff members from Rail Operations and headquarters joined Atlas people to mark the occasion. The smiles on everyone’s faces (including yours truly) were as broad as 4503’s 72-foot length.

It’s no secret that many railroaders are enthusiasts. Some collect model trains. Some build them from kits or from scratch. Some build and operate layouts (one NJT staffer has an HO scale railway equipped with CTC!). Some are painters. Some are photographers. Some volunteer at tourist lines on their days off. Many do all or most of the above. That’s a good thing.

There was a time when if you applied to work on a railroad you wouldn’t dare say you were an enthusiast. Management frowned on that, claiming you would spend too much time “playing,” distracted by the sights, sounds and smells of real railroading. Nonsense! I’ll bet that some of those crabby old bosses went home after work and spent hours tinkering with their Lionel (or Atlas) model trains.

As I mentioned above, you can pre-order an HO or N scale Atlas set of 5403 with matching MultiLevel passenger coaches, including a cab car. According to Atlas, there are no plans to apply the centennial scheme to actual NJT coaches. (Place sad emoji face here.)

Atlas Model Railroad Co. image.

I have two requests for Santa (well, Atlas and NJT) for this Christmas: 1) Offer the models in O scale so I can operate a trainset on my layout. 2) Wrap a set of MultiLevels, including a cab car, in the Atlas centennial scheme.

Happy Holidays!

Kevin Corbett and me.
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