Company Profile: Atlas
History in a Nutshell
Stephan Schaffan, Sr., an immigrant from Czechoslovakia, founded the Atlas Tool Company in his garage in Newark, NJ, in 1924. His son, Stephan Schaffan, Jr., came to work for him in 1933, and almost by chance began developing many innovative model railroad products, such as turnout kits, prefab flex track, rail joiners, preassembled turnouts and more, which helped popularize HO Scale model railroading. Ultimately the demand for his products led them to build a new factory in nearby Hillside, NJ.
Anticipating the growing popularity of N Scale in the US, in 1967 Atlas began building business relationships with multiple European manufacturers to rebrand and import a comprehensive line of products. Atlas continued to aggressively expand their product line, and subsequently became one of the largest North American N Scale suppliers. Atlas later forged a partnership with Kato of Japan to produce what would become some of the finest model locomotives of their day. Atlas also entered the market for ready-to-run O and HO Scale model trains in the 1970s, and in the 1990s changed the company name to Atlas Model Railroad Company, Inc.
Steve Jr. died in 1983, and in 1985 he was honored posthumously for his contributions to the hobby by the Model Railroad Industry Association (now the Hobby Manufacturers Association); he was also inducted into the Industry Hall of Fame in Baltimore, and was entered into the National Model Railroad Association Pioneers of Model Railroading in 1995. His daughter Diane and her husband Tom Haedrich continued to run Atlas until 2013, when Paul Graf was named Chief Executive Officer, and Jarrett Schaffan Haedrich, great-grandson of founder Steve Sr., became Chief Operating Officer.
N Scale Products
Beginning in 1967, Atlas imported locomotives, passenger cars and track from Rivarossi, freight cars from Roco, structure kits from Pola and Faller, and American-styled figures from Preiser (a first for the US and for N Scale). All of these products were branded for Atlas. They also co-marketed their N Scale line with Rivarossi on an international basis. Rivarossi's chunky 0-8-0 steam switcher became something of an icon for Atlas, appearing on catalogs, train sets, kits and ads.
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