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In-Box Review
Video Review included
HO scale
Atlas GP40-2 Master Gold Locomotive
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by: Frederick Boucher [ JPTRR ]

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Atlas Model Railroad Co., Inc.

Atlas is a family-owned leader in the model railroad world that celebrated its 60th anniversary in 2009. Atlas’ products include locomotives, rolling stock, track, electrical control items, signaling, buildings, vehicles, and more. Making these models in O scale (1/48) and O-27, HO (1/87) and N scale (1/160), Atlas is renowned around the world for their product lines of
© Atlas O, Atlas O Trainman®, HO Master™ Series and HO Trainman®, and N Trainman®. The Master™ Series are available in Gold or Silver: Series Silver is decoder-ready with an NMRA 8-pin plug for Digital Command and Control, while Series Gold features sound with the QSI® Quantum System™, and DCC or traditional DC (analog) operation with the Electronic Dual-Mode® Decoder (e-DMD)! Regardless of which Atlas product line you buy, you will have a model by a company recognized for detail and quality.

Electro-Motive Division GP40-2

The GP40-2 was EMD’s follow-up to the very successful GP40 locomotive model. While many internal upgrades were introduced (such as the use of improved, modular Dash 2 electrical components), there were some external differences between the early production GP40-2 and late-production GP40. This included an engine water-level sight glass on the right side of the body (a feature common to all EMD Dash 2 models), a larger electrical cabinet air filter box, a lengthened battery compartment on the left side, and a slightly modified cab. [1]

All GP40-2s featured a 16-cylinder EMD 645-series diesel engine which was rated at 3,000 horsepower. Early to mid-production phase 2 GP40-2s were built from mid-1976 through late-1979. Several major spotting features of Phase 2 units include: an 88” low nose, corrugated radiator grilles and notched step wells. [2]

Original operators of the GP40-2 include the Baltimore and Ohio, Boston and Maine, Canadian National, Chesapeake and Ohio, Conrail, Cotton Belt, Denver and Rio Grande Western, Detroit Toledo and Ironton, Florida East Coast, Ferrocarril Chihuahua al Pacífico, Frisco, Kansas City Southern, Louisville and Nashville, Reading Company, Richmond, Fredericksburg and Potomac, Seaboard, Southern Pacific, Western Maryland, Western Pacific, and others. The CN units sport wide-nosed “comfort cabs.” When production of the GP40-2 ended, 1,143 units had rolled off the assembly line.

Atlas Master™ Series Gold GP40-2

Atlas equips this model with the Quantum QSI® System™ Q1a Sound-Decoder. The model is ready to go straight out of the box in DC (analog) or DCC mode.

Atlas pride shows in their packaging. The model box is held in an attractive sleeve of glossy black cardstock. Gold trim identifies this as a Gold series. The top-bottom model box boasts the same finish. Inside, the model is securely held in a fitted Styrofoam cradle which also has a slot for the bags of accessories and magnetic wand. The foam is easily grasped thanks to finger slots. A clear plastic fitted cover secured by tape also protects the model. Thin plastic sheets keep most of the model from touching the Styrofoam. The side railings are further protected by firm foam inserts between them and the body.

Atlas created all new tooling, not a reworked earlier shell. Atlas short and long body shells are modular for railroad-specific details. The shell has a cutout for the dynamic brake hatch, of which there are three types. These snap into place, as does the single-piece cab. Three different plows and two sizes of fuel tanks are available. Other details specific for individual railway companies are ditch lights and headlight configurations.

Details galore!

Atlas' attention to detail includes factory applied details appropriate for a road name:
* Lift rings on the body roof
* Windshield wipers
* Clear eye glass on right hood
* Piping on the trucks
* Golden-white LEDs
* Realistic die-cast underframe
* Directional lighting and number boards
* Factory-equipped with AccuMate® knuckle couplers
* Detailed cab interior with crew
* Different poses for the two crewmembers
* Separately-installed scale windshield wipers, metal grab irons and fine scale handrails
* Movable drop steps
* Walkway safety tread
* Coupler cut bars
* Multiple unit hoses and trainline hoses
* Snowplow
* Etched metal radiator and dynamic brake fans
* Dynamic brake fans rotate
* Dynamic Brake options: standard range, extended range or non-dynamic brake hatch used where appropriate per road name.
* Five-pole skewed armature motor with dual flywheels
* 3,600 gallon fuel tank.
* Hood bell on B&M units
* Early Blomberg or Blomberg Type-M trucks included where appropriate.

There are more than 60 individual detail pieces on the superstructure! The cab interior contains an interior wall, control stand, an engineer, a fireman, and seats. The crew are painted and in different poses. The detailed truck sideframes have separately applied brake cylinder and piping and spring hangers. The AccuMate couplers are mounted to the frame instead of the trucks. The cab is shielded from headlight and number board illumination.

In separate baggies are the front and rear handrailings, sun shades, and side wind screens. These pieces can be applied by you via tabs into factory drilled holes. Most snugly snapped in though the end railings needed quite a bit of coaxing into the front and rear ends.

In another bag is a magnetic wand used to adjust settings inside the model.


EMD GP40's are 59 feet 2 inches long. This model is 60 feet 3 inches from couple to coupler; the Kadee® #58 "Scale" coupler is more to scale with a smaller head, which should shorten the length. The model weighs 13.2 ounces.

Let’s Highball!

Analog or DCC, the model is ready to go straight out of the box. Just set it on the track, give her some juice, and the fun begins. To get the utmost enjoyment from the many capabilities of this model I encourage you take a few minutes in the manual to read what all is available for you.

With the weight of the die-cast frame this loco can pull a respectable consist. The can motor and flywheel assembly, transmission linkage and gearing gives a smooth performance. The video demonstrates running the unit over a slip switch; it did not derail, falter, short out nor hesitate, forward or backwards. Being a four-axle unit, a 18-inch radius curve is all you need, and the unit can run on as tight as 15-inch radius if the track is well laid.

If you have not run DCC before you may be surprised at the amount of power you have to apply before the model moves. This is normal. Quantum DCC requires about 5 volts to move the model whether running DCC or analog. This power level is called V-Start: this awakens the sleeping giant of sound, and Realistic Throttle Control (RTC). V-Start starts with the hiss of air and the grind of the starter. Then comes the low growling grumble of the prime mover starting up. Plenty of other sounds to follow! Atlas programs RTC to simulate mass for the starting loco and inertia for slowing and stopping a moving model. The sound of the prime mover increases and decreases with the motion of the model. You can choose 16 settings for RTC depending upon how heavy a train you wish to simulate.

With DCC you can activate three levels of shutting down the engine:
* Disconnect, which takes the motor off-line but the sound system responds to the throttle.
* Standby (or siding mode), which shuts off all lighting and takes the sound to a low idle hum while accessory sounds continue.
* Total Shut Down, which systematically stops accessory sounds and lighting, culminating in the final sound of the crew doors opening and closing!

Older DCC was vulnerable to short circuiting; Atlas protects your model’s PC board and motor from overload frying. If the voltage reaches 21.5 volts Quantum will take the electronics off-line as well as alert you to a problem with continuous short horn hoots. Well done Atlas!

The DCC system is programable for 14/28/126 speed steps. As updates are released, you can download them via Quantum’s Q2 Programer (not included).

Finally, the e-DMD (Electronic Dual-Mode® Decoder) is factory configured. Should you wish to adjust or change any values, your manual guides you through the process. Modelers like me who fiddle around and change configurations for the worse can reset the factory options. This is where that aforementioned mysterious magnetic wand comes into play. You do not have to enjoy the trials and tribulations of removing the shell to get at the PC board. The wand adjusts a reed switch inside the shell. And of course, with DCC, you can reprogram via your command station.

Did you hear about...?

Atlas creates a sound equipped model that leaves no power system behind. Don’t want to spend money to reequip your layout with DCC? No problem! The onboard e-DMD allows analog operators almost every function available to DCC. You control these by flipping the direction switch on your powerpack, without the model to suddenly changing directions. You can even “play the horn” in analog!

You control your model and therefore the sound, directly and indirectly. Many sounds automatically activate and shut off. Others you directly control with your controller. Several of those sounds change or vary depending on whether your model is hauling ton-miles or idling between runs. In DCC you have 13 function keys: F0 - F12. If your DCC command station only supports the older 0 - 8 keys, you cannot utilize some of the features straight out of the box. Never fear, Atlas guides you through swapping program functions to enable your preferences.

The accompanying video opens with a demonstration of the activation of the model and the associated sound effects, followed by scenes of the the discretionary sounds. Following V-Start’s hiss of air and starting sounds, the low growling grumble of the prime mover yields to a low throbbing of the engine in neutral and the whine of appliances. Other sounds randomly begin. The sound library consists of:
★ Prime Mover Rev, through all eight notches.
★ Prime Mover Start, by either compressed air or electric motor.
★ Prime Mover Shut Down (DCC and QARC only).
★ Extended Start Up, and Shut Down, vents open/close, crew doors.
★ Diesel Turbo, that high-pitched whine.
★ Low Idle.
★ Vents and Cooling Fans, opening/closing and spooling up/down.
★ Air Pumps, thumping.
★ Appliance Air Release, short or long let-off.
★ Air Brakes (DCC and QARC only).
★ Brake Squeal, changes with speed.
★ Dynamic Brakes (DCC and QARC only).
★ Horn, which can be “played” in analog, too. An Alternate Horn for country or city operations (DCC and QARC only).
★ Bell.
★ Doppler Run-by shift for the change of sound before and after the engine passes the listener.
★ Coupler, including crash of coupling, air hoses parting, couple pin disconnect, and running in/out of train slack.
★ Flanges noise.

Another feature provided by the Quantum System is verbal information (F10). Status informs you if your locomotive is in neutral or running, consist information, Shut Down state, and speed. Speed can be delivered as scale miles per hour (smph) or scale kilometers per hour (skph). You can also program it to report forward or reverse, and motor Pulse Width Modulation.

Finally, should you or your Brass Hat (a.k.a. significant other) decide silence is golden, the F8 key mutes the sound without inhibiting any of the running enjoyment.

Training the train

Packed within the box is a parts sheet, four-page congratulatory brochure describing the Gold Series features and general information, a card of analog and DCC programing and functions, and 41-page manual. All are printed on heavy gloss paper except the parts sheet.

Railroads run by manuals. So does this model but don’t let that spook you into violating Rule G! The information is easy to follow and apply. DCC systems have advanced over the years and some systems support more functions than others. Unlike early DCC systems that required some programing to get the unit to run, there is no training this train–the QSI Quantum System electric Dual-Mode Decoder (e-DMD) is smart! Atlas lists the NMRA CV’s supported as 1-5, 7-8, 17-25, 29, 33-46, and 66-95. CV is Configuration Variable, which allows you to assign the decoder specific applications.

Your manual enriches your Atlas Master™ Series Gold ownership by explaining seven topics: basic analog operation, advanced analog, analog programing, DCC operation, DCC programing, Quantum system sounds, and special operations and troubleshooting. No need to hire a tutor or seek an advanced degree, it is easy to follow and apply. It thoroughly explains these basic and advanced operation and functions of your model.

One of these capabilities is QSI’s QARC system, or Quantum Analog Remote Control. QARC gives you DCC functions with a DC powerpack. Whether operating DC or DCC, if you want to modify your model to your tastes, you are provided step-by-step instructions for programing further advanced features.

Light unto thy layout

Your model is equipped with golden-white LEDs for illumination. Upon start up the headlights, number boards, and cab lights illuminate. When the unit moves, the headlights and boards increase in brightness while the cab dims. The lighting is directional. Go forward, the front lights are bright and the rear is off. Run in reverse and the opposite is true. This is demonstrated in the accompanying video. As appropriate for a given railroad your model may have Mars light, ditch lights, and marker lights. Not all units have cab lights, including the GP40-2.

Livery and markings

The first quality of this model that I noticed is the smooth, sharp, painting and markings. There are many stencils on the unit. All are legible, even those smaller than my camera’s resolution can display. Atlas provides more than one number of a given railroad. This model is decorated as Burlington Northern 3043. BN brought GP40-2's into their roster when they acquired the St. Louis – San Francisco Railway. BN No. 3043 started life in May 1979 as Frisco No. 753, and retired in August 1997.


The Master™ Series Gold GP40-2 is an incredible model! The fidelity and amount of detailing, ease and smoothness of operation, molding, engineering, sound library and quality all make this an exceptional model. The number of railroads available means few modelers will not have the choice of a GP40-2 for their layout.

"If you have only one sound-equipped locomotive and dozens of non-sound locos, you only have one locomotive." And you can’t go wrong if that one locomotive is an Atlas Master™ Series Gold model. Recommend.

[1], [2] Atlas website

Click here for additional images for this review.

Highs: Incredible detail and painting and markings. The model is ready to run out of the box with DC or DCC systems.
Lows: No cab lighting. The front and rear deck railing can be challenging to install.
Verdict: The fidelity and amount of detailing, ease and smoothness of operation, molding, engineering, sound library and quality all make this an exceptional model.
Percentage Rating
  Scale: HO Scale
  Mfg. ID: 10 000 678
  Suggested Retail: $249.95
  PUBLISHED: Aug 24, 2010
  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.


Great review Fred. Very detailed. Thanks! Jim
SEP 13, 2010 - 10:05 AM

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