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Model Railroad News reviews The Athearn Husky Stack

Wednesday, December 09, 2009 by Steven Goehring

Provider Name:  Model Railroad News

Copyright:  2009 Lamplight Publishing

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Page 2: Athearn's Husky Stack Model
Page 3: Mush!
(continued from previous page)

They do make a handsome train! Almost all N-scale containers on the market now will fit them, allowing for endless variety. Remember that you can put 20-, 40-, 45- or 48-foot containers in the well and anything 40 feet or longer on top.

The first thing you notice about the Husky Stack is that this is not your grandfather's N-scale model freight car. For one, the detailing is very intricate and accurate. Many separately built detail parts adorn the car. For two, the car has body-mounted McHenry couplers. Finally, the model rides very low and close to the rails, noticeably closer than previous N-scale double-stack cars.

The car measures out incredibly close to published measured drawings. In fact, I found every published measurement to be within inches of spot-on. There was no published value for overall coupled length, although it's safe to assume that the over-scale coupler shank common to all N-scale couplers would skew this measurement. Still, it was a joy to run down my scale converter and input value after value from the caliper… and smile as each one lined up. Kudos to Athearn and their predecessors for the attention to detail.

Speaking of detail, the car is nicely done. Both freestanding and molded-on brake equipment and air lines follow the published drawings and available photographs. The walkways look very nice, but they are not as accurate. The drawing published in DeBoer's Piggyback and Containers shows the car having full walkways on both sides of each end. This means the Athearn car would be lacking a step on each side (when looking at the car from the end, each side is lacking a step on the left). This may have been omitted to leave room for the brake rigging on the B end of the car. I won't miss this specific detail, although it bears printing here, considering the high praise I give these cars on scale accuracy.

Paint and lettering are well done on the cars. The colors seem accurate, although at the rate that dirt and grime accumulates on these low-slung cars, photos and seeing them in person don't give the most accurate comparison. The colors seem reasonable and the printing sharpness is excellent. Each car contains plenty of fully legible maintenance instructions, dimensional data, and other such fine print, if you care to pull out a magnifying glass and read it. While the cars meet NMRA standards for wheel gauge and clearances, they fall far short of the recommended weight. You can always add weight to containers, but for a 5-inch car to weigh only 0.26 ounces is crazy. A 50-foot boxcar by Athearn weighs nearly 5 times that, and measures more than an inch shorter to boot. The suggested weight for a car measuring about 5 inches over the frame ends should be 1.25 ounces. You won't get that weight level with an empty car, but by adding weight to containers, you can compensate. Containers weigh from .15 oz to .40 oz, but considering the low weight of the Athearn car, you should shoot for each container weighing a half-ounce. That said, the car still tracks fairly well despite its light weight. It would be better if the plastic body were replaced with metal for added weight, although that would probably force a compromise on the detailing and paint quality.