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First Look Review
N scale
N GATC 2600 Airslide Hopper
N 40’ 2600 CF Airslide® Early DRGW 18103
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by: Frederick Boucher [ JPTRR ]

Originally published on:
RailRoad Modeling

D&RGW 40’ 2600 CF Airslide® No. 18103
Type: Covered Hopper
Roadname: Denver & Rio Grande Western
Item: ATH23062
Price $22.98
Scale: N (1/160)

Athearn sets the N scale bar high with these exceptional models. Wire grabs on the running board laterals, nicely detailed air brake components, thin ladder rungs and steps, metal wheels, knuckle couplers, and exceptional lettering really make this an impressive model.

Covered hoppers are the most common freight car in the United States today. They carry light and heavy bulky commodities like flour, cement, sugar, carbon black, plastic pellets, and a host of loads sensitive to moisture. American Car and Foundry (ACF) built covered hoppers as early as 1932. Other manufacturers soon followed. Originally they were 50- and 70-ton cars that carried heavy, dense, moisture-sensitive loads like cement, lime, and sand. The cars grew in size and have been perfected into larger cars capable of heavier loads. Several loading and unloading methods are used depending on the cargo. Airslide covered hoppers were developed in 1954 by General American Transportation (GATC). For more Airslide covered hopper history, see Airslide Covered Hopper at the end of this review.

Dimensions of the 40-ft. 2,600-cu.-ft. Center Flow car: an interior bay of 29 feet 6 inches, coupler to coupler length of 42 feet, and 14 feet 4 inches to the top of the running boards.

Athearn N RTR GATC 2600 Airslide Hopper, D&RGW #18103

The all-new Athearn model is of a single-bay, 2,600 cubic foot car. This initial release is of what is typically referred to as an “early” version Airslide, the prototype having been built from 1955 to 1965, before major design changes were implemented.[1]

Key Features

    • Fully assembled and ready for your layout
    • Photo-etched roof walks
    • Separately applied wire grab irons and brake piping
    • Detailed underbody and outlet piping
    • Razor sharp painting and printing
    • Roller bearing or friction trucks per prototype
    • McHenry scale knuckle spring couplers installed

The model is sandwiched within a form-fitted cradle held inside a clear hard plastic box with a detachable lid. This both protects and displays the model. Athearn N currently lists 97 models of the 40-ft. General American Transportation (GATC) 2600-cu.-Ft. covered hopper in more than 25 roadnames. Each roadname has more than one road number. The railroads represented are:

-Burlington Northern
-Chessie System
-Chicago & NorthWestern
-Delaware & Hudson
-Denver and Rio Grande Western
-General American Transport
-Great Northern
-Jack Frost
-Missouri Pacific
-Nickel Plate Road
-Norfolk & Western
-Penn Central
-Santa Fe
including Atlantic; Nebraska; Multifoods, and more.

Molding is very sharp. There are no sink holes, ejection marks or flash. I did not find any glue spots either.

This model covered hopper is built with a frame, single-piece body , end sills with ladders, and a roof. Part thickness is quite fine. Six filler hatches are factory applied to the roof, as is the photo-etched roof walks and laterals. Detailed ladders and stirrups, and diagonal bracing bars detail the open sills.

For N scale the truck side frames are nicely detailed. The metal wheel sets are milled to operate on code 55 rail. McHenry scale knuckle couplers are installed.

This model is 41 scale feet long sill to sill, and 44½ feet long from coupler to coupler. It weighs 1.6 ounces which is heavy compared to NMRA RP-20.1 Car Weight recommendation of .96 oz.
I am very impressed with the finesse of the fine details of fine wire and delicate styrene. Look at the fine wire grab irons on each roof walk lateral and the wire brake line along the sill of the hopper body!

It looks like the AB air brake components, the triple valve, reservoir, and cylinder, are separate pieces. They are even connected with piping which, though over scale, enhances the model.

Underneath, twin unloading chutes feature several parts representing piping and appliances for discharging the lading.

About the only noticeable detail this model lacks are the air hoses next to the couplers.
Paint and Markings
My first impression is “wow!” I am still astonished at just how fine this crisp lettering is. I cannot find anything that is illegible. Dimensional data, reporting marks, capacity and load and weight information, AAR mechanical classification, Built Date, all can be read. Being an early car, this model represents an era when railroads actually owned (or at least claimed possession of) railway cars. Rio Grande had a classy herald and it really livens up the otherwise blasé gray hopper.

Once again I am very impressed with the state of small scale model rail cars. Athearn sets the bar high with these exceptional models. Wire grabs on the photo-etched roof walks and laterals, nicely detailed air brake components, thin ladder rungs and steps, metal wheels, knuckle couplers, and exceptional lettering really make this an excellent model. Perhaps the plastic ladders and stirrups can be molded to a finer diameter, but at what price? Even metal components this small are fragile. The lack of the air hoses is not a concern of mine.

This fine N scale covered hopper will enhance your layout from the late-steam era through the 1990s. Recommended.

Please remember, when contacting retailers or manufacturers, to mention that you saw their products highlighted here – on RailRoadModeling.net.

Airslide Covered Hopper
Conceived in the early 1950s, the Airslide covered hopper design was developed for dry bulk ladings such as flour, starch, sugar and plastics. Prior to the late 1940s such ladings would have been packaged and shipped in boxcars, even for car load shipments. This added extra labor and time to package, load the containers in the boxcar, unload, and remove the lading from the shipment containers. Beginning in the late 1940s covered hoppers greatly simplified the process by allowing the bulk material to be loaded in through roof hatches and dumped out of the hopper bays.

However, dry, powdery commodities such as flour, starch, sugar and plastic granules do not always flow easily from a standard hopper bay; they have a tendency to compact and “cake up” in the bay, impeding the unloading process. To solve this problem the Fuller Company of Catasauqua, PA patented the
Airslide concept. In an Airslide covered hopper the bays are formed into two narrow, steep-sided troughs with a layer of an air-permeable fabric at the bottom. Air is pumped through the material causing the lading to fluidize and flow easily through the hopper outlets. Airslide covered hoppers were built by General American Transportation (GATC), with production commencing in 1953. Originally there were two configurations - a single-bay, 2,600 cubic foot car, and a two-bay, 3,660 cubic foot car. Both were available with gravity or pneumatic outlets. [2]

Airslide hoppers proved to be extremely popular cars, selling to numerous railroads throughout the country as well as private owners. They could be found in the paint schemes of nearly all the major roads with many seeing additional schemes throughout the years as the result of sales and mergers. They were also leased to many other railroads and private companies by GATC; painted for the lessee, but carrying GACX reporting marks. Operationally, they could be found serving flour mills, sugar refineries, bakeries, and plastic plants, among other industries. The first Airslides appeared in 1953, under the GACX reporting marks. Airslides in other schemes do not seem to date before 1954. (In 1955, GATX bragged in an ad that more than 600 Airslides were in service or on order - a drop in the national freight car pool.) In General American's ad in the 1957 Cyc., they said the cars were used for wheat flour, semolina, cane and beet sugar, starch, plastic molding powder, dehydrated alfalfa meal, feed, carbon black, and chemicals. To unload the car, a source of low-pressure air was needed. As of 1962, there were some 130 different railroad and leased Airslides.[3]

[1], [2] Athearn
[3] Rensselaer Model Railroad Society
Highs: Wire grabs on the etched metal running board laterals, nicely detailed air brake components, thin ladder rungs and steps, metal wheels, knuckle couplers, and exceptional lettering.
Lows: Perhaps the plastic ladders and stirrups can be molded to a finer diameter.
Verdict: This fine N scale covered hopper will enhance your layout from the late-steam era through the 1990s.
Percentage Rating
  Scale: N Scale
  Mfg. ID: ATH23062
  Suggested Retail: $22.98
  Related Link: Athearn N GATC 2600 Airslide Series
  PUBLISHED: Jan 10, 2012
  NATIONALITY: United States

Our Thanks to Athearn!
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 ©2021 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.


Impressive model Very thorough review. I have too many N scale freight cars now (over 1500), but I will seriously consider getting some of them. Thankyou
JAN 11, 2012 - 08:52 PM

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