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First Look Review
N scale
U23B Locomotive
U23B Locomotive, M-K-T
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by: Frederick Boucher [ JPTRR ]

Atlas has reissued their popular N scale U23B Locomotive. Part of their Master Line roster, this ready-to-run model locomotive is available with DCC (Gold Series) or as DC (Silver Series). This sample is a re-release of the very popular Missouri–Kansas–Texas Railroad livery, this model having the item number 40 002 994.

Atlas tells us:
    Powered by a V12 FDL prime mover, the 2250 h.p. U23B was GE’s intermediate-sized four-axle road-switcher of the late 1960s through the mid 1970s. The U23B’s direct competitor during this period was the very successful EMD GP38. In 10 years of production, from 1968 through 1977, a total of 481 units were produced, making this the second best seller of GE’s “Universal Series” locomotives. The first units were delivered to the Delaware & Hudson in August and September 1968. CSX predecessors Chesapeake & Ohio and Louisville & Nashville had a combined fleet of 120 units, giving CSX one of the larger active fleets in later years. Penn Central, Santa Fe and Missouri Pacific also purchased sizeable fleets of U23Bs. - Atlas

Atlas' U23C is made this model with a three injection-molded parts: cab, hood, walkway. Many individually-applied detail parts enhance the model.

What makes it go is a skew-wound five-pole motor sandwiched between a two-side metal frame. Two turned-brass flywheels smooth the transmission of energy between the motor and the nickel silver wheelset axles. Setting top the frame is a circuit board that controls LEDs for the headlights number boards. That circuit board can also be a DCC unit.

What detail does this model offer?

Out of the box MKT 350 is a good looking U23B. Atlas trumpets these notable features:
    Operational low nose headlight (used where appropriate)
    Both DCC ready and DCC equipped versions
    NCE Decoder (DCC models only)
    Separate coupler cut lever
    Cab with 4 or 2 side windows (as appropriate per road name)
    Directional lighting
    Golden white LEDs
    Painted safety rails
    Blackened metal wheels
    Dual flywheel equipped 5-pole skewed armature motor with a low friction mechanism
    Factory-installed AccuMate® magnetic knuckle couplers!

From the rail up, Atlas uses acetal sideframes for the trucks; some U23s were refitted with Blomberg trucks. Atlas has not yet released such a version.

Along the walkway are nicely thinned railings and stanchions. I think they are also acetal.

Grab irons are molded on as is most detail, both recessed and in relief. The body has six tall access doors for the prime mover. Making N scale see-through screens for the radiators and exhausts can be done but it looks funny and drives the price up, so Atlas molded the detail. Dark gray paint can fill in the screen and make it look okay. While the pilots do not have air and signal hoses, they molded their fittings. Along the fuel tank they also molded details.

For greater authenticity Atlas molds different cabs with two or four side windows. Thew exhaust stack is a separately attached part, as are the horn cluster, bell, and brake wheel. For railroads in snow country, a plow is also provided where appropriate.

Weights and Measures
U23Bs were 60 ft 2 in (18.34 m) in length and my scale ruler shows the model is accurate. It weighs 3 ounces.

Paint and livery
In the 1930s under president Sloane MKT began brightening up their trains with their red herald and yellow cabooses. But their first diesels were gray. "Miss Katy" adopted a bold red as the corporate color until the 1970s when new management changed it to the green and yellow of this model.

Atlas' painting is opaque and does not obscure detail. It is smooth and bright. Borders between colors are sharp. Placards and data stenciling is pad-printed and features good detail. I can't read it all but much is legible.

This release features six railroads and three undecorated variants:
    Undecorated without low nose headlight, AAR-B Trucks
    Undecorated without low nose headlight, FB-2 Trucks
    Undecorated, low nose headlight, FB-2 Trucks

    1. Conrail (Blue/White)
    2. Chesapeake & Ohio* (Blue/Yellow)
    3. Milwaukee Road (Orange/Black)
    4. Union Pacific (Yellow/Grey/Red)
    5. M-K-T (Green/Yellow)
    6. Erie Lackawanna - Alternate history scheme (Grey/Yellow/Maroon/Black)

A seventh model, Nacionales de México (Black/Red/Yellow), has been cancelled.

Each decorated road name comes with three road numbers.

I can't wait to run this model. It is a beautiful model in Katy green and yellow. The detail is impressive as is the painting. I appreciate that Atlas is making it authentic for different railroads with different cabs and trucks.

N scale modelers of south-central railroads and GE "U-boats" should enjoy this model. Recommended.

Miss Katy
The Missouri-Kansas-Texas Railroad, better known as simply The Katy or K-T (from which the name "Katy" derived), was a large granger system that, like the Illinois Central and Gulf, Mobile & Ohio Railroads ran, unconventionally, north-south (instead of the more common, east-west). As its name implies, the MKT connected all of its namesake states with connections to cities such as Omaha and St. Louis in the north and Galveston and San Antonio, Texas in the south. The railroad was somewhat successful over the years but it ran into financial trouble a number of times throughout its life. As finances again became an issue in the 1980s the MKT sought a merger with the Union Pacific Railroad in 1986 and in 1989 the system became yet another part of the UP empire.

The Katy has its beginnings dating back to 1865 when the Union Pacific Railway (later changed to the Missouri, Kansas and Texas Railroad in 1870) was chartered to build a line connecting Junction City, Kansas to New Orleans. Around the same time the railroad was able to reach Texas, Oklahoma, and Missouri when it took control of the Tebo & Neosho Railroad which connected places like Sedalia and Clinton, Missouri with Nevada, Missouri. Of note the MKT was leased to the Missouri Pacific in 1880 and became part of the burgeoning Jay Gould empire for a time, which lasted until 1888. The biggest advantage the railroad gained from this leasing was that it acquired new markets and reached cities like Fort Worth, Dallas, and Waco, Texas.

Throughout the rest of the 19th century and into the 20th century the Katy would continue to grow and update its system, albeit its lines were not always the fastest/most direct or built to the highest standards (a particular reason why it would have financial troubles for much of its life). In 1895 it reached St. Louis and while its dreams were to reach all of the way to Chicago, financial problems, again, kept this from becoming a reality; although other new markets it did reach included Kansas City, Omaha, and Lincoln, Nebraska.

While profits and the overall health of Missouri-Kansas-Texas ebbed and flowed through its early years, after the lucrative World War II traffic ended following 1945 it became increasingly difficult to remain solvent. The Katy, of course, never had the most direct lines and in a region choked with other railroads it comes as no surprise that trying to survive became an increasingly tricky task as the years progressed (to add to its problems the railroad had poor management on and off throughout its existence). The Missouri-Kansas-Texas Railroad also never had an extensive passenger train network (which, looking back at history today this wasn’t necessarily a bad thing, particularly as the service began to eat away severely at profits across the industry following WWII) and as early as the 1950s the railroad began to wholesale abandon unprofitable rail lines and shutdown passenger operations where possible.

By the 1970s things were looking better for the railroad as a new president, Reginald Whitman, worked to abandon unprofitable lines and passenger operations and bring in new freight business, which had become quite successful by the early 1980s. However, the merger movement of the 1980s was, unfortunately, the final blow for the Missouri-Kansas-Texas. With the loss of profitable overhead traffic provided by such railroads as the Missouri Pacific Railroad and Frisco, and now a David among Goliaths surrounding the MKT, it simply had no choice but to find a merger partner somewhere, which it did in 1986 with the Union Pacific Railroad and finally in December, 1989 the Katy officially became part of the UP system.

AccuMate® couplers are made under license from AccuRail, Inc.


American-Rails.com. The Missouri-Kansas-Texas Railroad, The Katy. [http://www.american-rails.com/the-katy.html] n.d.

Click here for additional images for this review.

Highs: The detail is impressive as is the painting. I appreciate that Atlas is making it authentic for different railroads with different cabs and trucks.
Lows: The smaller stenciling is not legible.
Verdict: N scale modelers of south-central railroads and GE "U-boats" should enjoy this model.
  Scale: N Scale
  Mfg. ID: 40 002 994
  PUBLISHED: Jun 08, 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 ©2020 text by Frederick Boucher [ JPTRR ]. Images also by copyright holder unless otherwise noted. Opinions expressed are those of the author(s) and not necessarily those of ModelGeek. All rights reserved.


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