Barriers to entry … Converting AtlasO Trucks

One of the issues that Proto48 has is that the barrier to entry is fairly high. For those interested who are coming from other scales, it can be very daunting. One of the major players in the O scale market is AtlasO  and they make some beautiful equipment. All of their rolling stock is to scale and beautifully detailed, even if there isn’t enough of it. Both their 2-rail O Scale and 3-rail O gauge offerings can be converted to Proto48 and make great candidates for the fledgling Proto48 layout, but there is a catch…

Atlas O trucks are quite good looking, but they are built very wide to accommodate both the 2-rail and 3-rail wheelsets. While Northwest Short Line sell axles to convert these trucks to Proto48, they do not correct for the oversize bolsters and thus, leave a large unrealistic looking gap on either side of the truck. In the past, if the modeler wanted to correct this flaw, he had to machine the correct amount of material from both sides of the bolster, then drill and tap for screws to hold the sectioned bolster together. For many modelers in the Proto48 realm, this is not an issue, but for many who are now looking to enter this intriguing scale (including me) they just don’t have either the machine tool skill or the tools themselves to easily make these modifications. For the new modeler, this conversion can easily take between 45 minutes to an hour, per truck and for those coming from HO, this is just not what they want to do. Several years ago, 3D printing and Shapeways came to the rescue.

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I can’t remember the first bolster I designed, but I created a bolster that could be 3D printed and would replace the stock AtlasO bolster with the exact same part, but that was narrowed to the correct prototype width. Since the bolster needs to be removed to swap the wheelsets out anyway, this bolster would decrease the amount of time to convert an AtlasO car to Proto48 from 2 hours to 10 minutes or less. While to get all of the benefits from Proto48 would require more modification of the car to use more accurate couplers and truck bolsters … the novice modeler could get up and running in very little time.

That is the purpose of my Drop in Replacement (DIR) bolsters, to get your Atlas O models up and running on Proto48 track in as little time as possible, for a minimal investment.

Most of my work up to this point has been on roller bearing trucks, since I am a modern modeler, but I have, as late, branched out to two of AtlasO’s other offerings. As I get the opportunity, I hope to get more bolsters for the other AtlasO truck offerings available. If you don’t find what you want or need, please contact me and we can see what can be done to accommodate you.

In another post, I will detail the boslters that I have designed and that are available from Shapeways, including direct links to the parts to order them directly from them. In addition, I intend to offer the bolsters for sale directly from me. The one benefit of purchasing from me is that I will inspect the bolsters for quality and clean them up as necessary, but there will be an additional cost that I will detail in the upcoming posts.

Onward and upward.


One thought on “Barriers to entry … Converting AtlasO Trucks

  1. Thanks Jim – great to see the blog. I’ve ordered from Shapeways and am comfortable with the ordering process itself, but I am a bit unsure of exactly _which_ conversion kit to order for _which_ Atlas car. The blog will help a lot.

    …gregg laiben


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