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This review was taken from the July/August 2000 issue of Model Railroading Magazine and is reproduced with permission of Highlands Station, Inc., Aurora, CO.

Atlas AEM-7/ALP-44

Review by Rich Picariello

Beginning in 1976 and continuing on through 1977, Amtrak tested an Rc4 electric locomotive on loan from the Swedish State Railways. The Rc4 demonstrator (X-995) was built by Allamänna Svenska Elektriska Aktiebolaget (ASEA). As a result of the Rc4 tests, Amtrak authorized EMD in 1979 to build copies under license from ASEA. Although the Amtrak units resemble the original Rc4, some design changes were made to the carbody for accommodation to Amtrak service. Budd built the carbodies, while the electrical equipment and assembly was done at the EMD plane in La Grange.  After delivery of the first two groups, additional orders fro the AEM-7 received carbodies built by Simmering-Graz-Pauker of Austria because Budd had ceased building railroad cars. AEM-7s were acquired to replace the remaining GG-1s and the E60CHs on Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor. In Metroliner service from New Haven to Washington, speeds up to 125 mph are routinely reached.

The visually similar ALP-44 is built entirely in Sweden. Only New Jersey Transit operates the ALP-44. The major difference on the ALP-44 are the large grids on both sides of the upper body. The AEM-7s and ALP-44s ride on four-wheel type B trucks with 50” wheels. They develop an incredible 7,000 hp in a carbody about the same length as an EMD F-series diesel.

Atlas offers O scale models of the AEM-7 and ALP-44 and has recently introduced HO scale versions of these locomotives. The HO models are ready-to-run right out of the box and are factory set to operate from track power. The unit can be changed to operate from catenary (via the pantographs) by rotating a contact on the PC board from the “truck” mark to the “pantograph” mark. The model has a speed range that is very similar to the prototype. Low-speed operation is excellent. The roof features all the detail of the prototype. Items such a the electrical box, twin working pantographs, air conditioners, insulators, conduit, air horns and Sinclair antennas are all present and are very well done. Our sample is decorated for SEPTA. Paint is smoothly applied, and the stripes, lettering and graphics are first-rate. Even the smallest lettering is readable. The only thing I didn’t care for are the car door steps that are cast onto the trucks rather than being attached to the body as on the prototype. Atlas probably did this because free-standing steps may have interfered with truck swing. To make the steps more visible, paint them aluminum. Major dimensions closely match those on published drawings.

 AEM-7/ALP-44 Features are:

  • Full cab interiors w/cab crew in one end
  • Metal grabirons and grabrails
  • Windshield wipers, mirrors, MU hoses and coupler lift bars are separate factory-applied parts
  • Accumate® magnetic couplers
  • Motor w/dual flywheels
  • All-wheel electrical pickup with all wheels powered.
  • Operating pantographs
  • Directional headlights and marker lights
  • DCC ready

Atlas has created a terrific locomotive! This is an item that I never expected to see as a plastic model. While the prototypes run only in the eastern United States and have appeal to Eastern modelers, many modelers in other parts of the country may want one or more to run on their layouts or to add to their collections. Roadnames for the AEM-7 are Amtrak, Amtrak Northeast Direct, Maryland Dept. of Transportation (MARC), Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority (SEPTA) and undecorated. The ALP-44 comes decorated for NJ Transit (NJT) and undecorated. Decorated units come in two numbers each and unnumbered. The price is $134.95

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