I'm providing an Atlas O replacement parts update for anyone that has experienced the zinc pest issue on their Atlas O steel reefers, specifically the truck bolsters that have broken or crumbled into pieces due to material impurities when they were cast by the parts suppliers to Atlas. The zinc pest issue has been brought up many times in the past on this forum by members experiencing similar issues on various cast parts on many of the major brand's cars.
This crumbling effect can take years to become evident, long after you bought these cars. For example, I bought six of the 3-rail PFE steel reefers (#8513 series) in June 2005.
After not using them for the last couple of years, I just took them out again to run and one of them had a broken bolster due to zinc pest, with the usual visible indicators of swelling, warping and crackling paint, beyond the obvious breaks. I checked all of my PFE steel reefers and luckily only one of the 12 truck bolters on these six cars was affected with this issue. Others may succumb to it later I suppose, but after having these cars 15+ years, they're likely OK and I'm not worried about them.
I read similar stories on this forum several years ago about these truck bolsters breaking and Atlas not having any replacement parts for them. So I just e-mailed Atlas asking if these parts are now available, and happily they are! I got a reply from Atlas O parts guy, Bill Serratelli, saying they have replacement parts and they're $2.75 for a pair of them. They do not have a part number for them, nor are they listed on their parts website, so you need to call their parts/service number (908 687 9590) and order them over the phone. Simple enough. So I ordered three pairs, for six bolsters. Can't hurt to have a few spares.
I just received them yesterday. Here's a comparison of the old / broken part vs. the new replacement part
I did not get out a caliper and measure all the dimensions, but just doing a side-by-side comparison, they square up pretty good. Aligned with the screw holes on the car underframe perfectly and the bolster pin for the truck mounting screw was cleanly tapped.
But, in one area I saw that the new parts are different from the originals. Where the bolsters mount to the car frame, the new parts are thinner, missing a small pad that is seen on the original part below, that will have the new part, and truck, fit closer to the underframe.
On the left side of the bolster pin, the new part contacts the car frame details causing it to sit at an angle and not flat against the underframe.
Then I see Atlas also included a small bag of washers with the new bolsters. At first I didn't know for what reason, and there were no instructions in the box. Then it hit me - they're spacers. There were exactly 24 of them, four for each of the six bolsters, or two washers per side.
Sure enough, placing two washers under the new bolsters, two per side, mounts the new bolster clear of the underframe details, flat and square. A small note mentioning this would have been helpful.
Now this car is back in revenue service, with the other Atlas O steel PFE reefers. The right-hand truck is the side with the new bolster. Works good!!
I know there are many ways people have gotten around this zinc pest issue; making / using 3D printed bolsters, going 3RS, swapping parts, etc. Just passing along this relatively easy, low-cost method I found. Hope this helps those in a similar situation.