The Guide to HO Steam Locomotives

This document is a guide to HO steam locomotives (of North American prototype). It is organized by Manufacturer. Under each manufacturer, both the strong and weak points of their steam locomotives are listed. Feel free to submit any comments that might be of value to others.
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Athearn

In 1999 Athearn entered the steam locomotive market with the Genesis Series USRA 2-8-2 and 4-6-2. The models were manufactured by Samhongsa. At the time, this was the first new steam locomotive offering in many years. The other companies offering steam locomotives at this time were Rivarossi, MDC/Roundhouse, Tyco/Mantua, and Bowser. However, those models were still being produced using decades old technology. The Athearn Genesis models included can motors, flywheels, improved (non-tender) electrical pickup, very quiet operation, DCC-ready wiring and moderate detail. Since this initial offering, the Mikado has been discontinued. Athearn now offers:
  • Union Pacific Challenger 4-6-6-4 (released 2004)
  • Union Pacific Big Boy 4-8-8-4 (released 2006)
  • Union Pacific class FEF 4-8-4 (released 2007)
  • Southern Pacific class Mt-4 4-8-2 (released 2010)

Advantages

  • They run well and provide good low speed performance.
  • They come wired in such a way that makes adding DCC extremely easy.
  • They are moderately detailed with a cab backhead.

Disadvantages

  • The add on detail parts (such as grab irons) may be difficult to apply (but that is part of the fun for some of us).
  • The LED light glows a little greenish.
  • They can be a bit slippery.
  • The early 2-8-2 and 4-6-2 locomotive had problems with axle gears splitting. I have replaced one using an NWSL replacement part.

Other comments

  • Ed Bradbury writes: I have three of the 2-8-2s. All run well but will not pull anywhere near 30 cars and a lot less on any type of grade. However I am please otherwise with their performance.
  • John Mock writes: What--no comments yet regarding the Genesis Southern Pacific MT-4 4-8-2? I recently purchased one of the last new 1930's versions in dealer inventory. Unfortunately, the major NYC dealer shipped it poorly--with no packing peanuts or any other material at all around the locomotive box--just stuck inside an Athearn case that originally carried multiple locos, and taped shut. As such, the 4-8-2 is susceptible to shipping damage, and I had to re-attach a piece of the cab roof which broke loose during shipping as a result. There was other minor damage as well; thankfully most of the fine details on this model are easily glued. Now repaired, it runs great for me in DC mode, is exceptionally quiet and smooth, lights very nicely (has actual bulbs in numberboards, not sure about headlight and tender backup light--they may be LED--are bright). Now if I only had a good means of weathering that repaired cab roof...Otherwise I love the model (more than the MTH steamers I wrote glowing reviews about below).
  • Paul Menkens writes: I have of these, 2 Mikados and 1 Pacific. the first Mike was from the very first batch and has worked perfectly since new, the second one came a few years later and the gear S.T.B. soon after I got it, when I contacted Athearn they told me that they were trying to get some replacement gears and to keep getting back to them and they would eventually be able to fix it for me (at no cost) finally about a year and a half later they said to send it in and they did fix it and it has run fine since however they broke some of the detail parts and the headlight has not worked since. The Pacific split it's gear also and i am going to buy the replacement gear from N.W.S.L and do it myself rather then send it back. My friend has a pacific like mine and it has always run perfectly. When these things run they run great, when I inquired about the replacement gears at N.W.S.L. their comments were that 1)their gears were machined from solid delrin and wouldn't split like the original molded plastic ones and 2)these are nice locomotives and it baffles them as to why Athearn chose to save money by putting such cheep gears in
  • scott writes: I have a Challenger and enjoy it. On a flat layout it will pull 43 cars at a resonable speed. I would like to get a second 3900 but none are to be had in Houston. The Digitrax system is fine and the sound (DCC) good. I collect UP 1930-40s freight and steam. No more Atherin car kits to be had but I have 45 freight cars and a passenger train that I seldom use. Only reason I have it is I rode the 3985 in 1992 and 1995 and the purpose of the engine is not to haul passengers. The tech analyst at Digitrax was useles as he knew very little and his attitude bad. I am lucky that there are several very nice guys in my area that have great layouts and are very eager to help. In summary I enjoy the sound system and 3900 but will not have a good place for a layout for quite some time. Who knows by then I may have been able to find another 3900.
  • don frigo writes: i've purchased a used 2-8-2 with the nwsl replacement gear installed and it both runs and pulls well ...appox 14-16 weighted freight cars on level track.
  • Bill K. writes: Notes on Athearn's original steam engines: The 0-4-2T is based on a drawing published in Model Railroader; it's not a bad little locomotive that runs well and will pull a fair amount of cars. Expect to pay $20-$30 for one. The 0-6-0 is a USRA design. Nearly all of these suffer from a main drive gear on the axle that has cracked, resulting in an engine that won't run. The last I checked, they were selling for about $25; a good display piece since most do not run and many better models of the same engine have been released since. The Pacific was based on a Boston & Maine locomotive. It went through several drive revisions before ceasing production in 1966. Some of them run very well and the whole lower boiler and frame is cast, giving them a fair amount of weight. They also have decent detailing especially considering their era. However some of them suffer from degredation of the cast material, causing them to swell and warp. Pickup varies from tender only to tender and loco, some have plastic drivers, some plastic with metal rims. Even the main drive gear moves from the middle axle to the rear axle through the various revisions. Athearn sold the tooling to this engine, occasionally rumors surface that the current owner will produce a run of them, but so far none have turned up. Expect to pay between $50 and $100 for one in good shape that will operate. Basket cases can be had for far less.
  • steven parry writes: Concerning the Athearn Genisis 4-6-6-4 challenger, it is somewhat a failure. I have an open layout and I'm using some 1970's DC controllers. That engine uses so much power that it shuts itself off and when you want an operational coupler for dubble-header operation, they only give you the parts and say "figure it out yourself because we don't want to put it on the manual" and some of the parts fall off. But, they do add a lot of detail and sound to this engine. It is very expensive.
  • Richard writes: I have a previoue run Athearn FEF that has the older MRC sound and control system. I had troubles with it operating well in DC mode and sub par DCC performance compared to the Digitrax, QSI & Soundtrax systems. The model in general is very striking and the motor drive system & traction are excellent. I would like to see stronger Headlight performance and the red mars light is a nice touch but could also be brighter. Overall I really like Athearn's quality for the money and would highly consider them in my purchasing decisions. For HO steam power, I have preferred BLI and MTH as my first choice, however Athearn has improved their product to keep pace and is generally less expensive with good performance. Athearn's Big Boy uses a plastic body while I understand, BLI uses a Diecast body for heavier traction. BLI's Cab Forward is offered in both plastic and Brass versions and both are excellent. In my opinion, b oth Athearn and BLI offer great models of these engines so look at price and customer support in your consideration.
  • Deidre Renee writes: Athearn have changed their decoder manufacture and now less than half of the sound options are now available. Also the small handheld radio control unit is no longer available. Now I am stuck with one Challenger that no matter what DCC system I buy it will not utilize all of the sound features either!
  • American Flyer writes: I just recently purchased an HO Genesis UP 4-8-4. It is of extreme high quality. It has tremendous ability to pull. It is fast beyond belief. The sounds are mediocre. All-in-all, it's by far the best steam locomotive I own. I'd recommend this model w/o reservation.
  • Andrew writes: 2-8-2 is sparsely detailed by current standards,one 2-8-2 I had suffered from the split drive gear that is fairly common,lightweight and weak puller (ten cars at the most with a lot of wheel spin).I have two of these locomotives. 4-6-6-4 by comparison is a beauty, strong puller, smooth running, the remote has roughly a six foot range (in my admittedly cluttered basement).
  • Tuna writes: I have four Genesis steam locomotives - 844 FEF-3, 3958 Challenger, 4020 and 4024 Big Boys. I'm very happy with them as they look very good and work very well. The sounds available are impressive. I've had to upgrade my track to larger radius turns to handle these big locomotives.
  • Christopher Smith writes: I have had nothing but good luck with the new 2-8-2. It handles the 30" radius curves and the switches admirably and I have nothing but respect for these engines. They are a bit tough to put together, but the end results are indeed worth it.
  • A viewer writes: Model flanges are low, and will derail on less than perfect track work curves pulling a moderate consist. Reason is that location of tender coupling pin is too far back, and the cab swing out on a 18" curve creates a significant torque on the loco that derails the front drivers over track imperfections. Boiler weight is too small to counteract this. Solution is to relocate tender draw bar pin to the loco trailing two wheel truck frame, which effectively causes the consist pulling force to be exerted much closer to the centerline of the loco, and eliminates the twisting torque. No derailments.
  • A viewer writes: I installed a Digitrax DCC using the new type of provided plug. Performance is somewhat worse at low speeds, I have not tried to program start voltages, etc yet. Also the electrical contact is now poor, as I suspect the DCC circuit is more sensitive to minor continuity disruptions. I think the decision to only provide contact at the drivers was not the best, and I am planning to add more pickup points, possibly using the tender axles ala Rivarossi and Bachmann. Still a great model for the price.
  • Charles Emerson writes: I have installed Soundtraxx decoders in a number of Athearn 2-8-2s and have found no problems installing a decoder and speaker in the tender. As for the derailing problem that is not limited to 18" curves. I have 48" curves on my layout and it derails on these as well. I found that the front set of drivers jam when the spring is compressed. I tried to rectify this by polishing the bearing faces but to no avail. I solved the by installing heavier springs from NWSL. You have to drill out the the spring cups in the chassis to fit the NWSL springs. These springs are longer and heavier so they limit the travel of the wheel and the bearing doesn't jam. I haven't found mine to be noisy at low speeds, unlike Bachmann Mountains, its just that they are so light they won't pull anything worth a damn up a grade. I would venture to guess that Athearn's new pacific will pull even less.

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Web Sites

Bachmann

Bachmann has produced model trains in three distinct categories. Each of these categories is different in both quality and price. These three categories are:
  • Original Bachmann: These are low quality locomotives that are worth maybe $30 at the most. I would consider these to be toys.
  • Bachmann Plus: This was Bachmann's mid-range line of locomotives. Their quality is better than the original Bachmann line but are not worth more than around $80.
  • Spectrum: This series was introduced in the 1980s and is of high quality.

Advantages

    Disadvantages

    • Historically, the Bachmann line of steam locomotives has not been known for its workmanship. Some would argue that the serious modeler should approach these locomotives with caution.

    Web Sites

    Other comments

    • Chuck Lehne writes: I have a 4-8-4 that went out of quarter and rebuilt it with a {no longer sold} Bowser drive and a powerful DC 71 open pole motor. It can pull a long train about 45 cars with no problem. I've done two engines to date and they are great.
    • Rainer Ilg writes: I´m finish a model railroad and I bought three ho bachmann 260 dcc on board sound value and I run with the first loco only 50 feet and two wires betwen the loco to tender melted the plastic protection of the wire,and loco stop. I put the second and it´s run for five days and the same problem comes back.The last,same problem.I don´t know what is.
    • Bob Cline writes: Older Bachmann plastic axel drive gears. I have been successful in repairing a FEW of the older split gear drive axels by machining an axel with a thin shoulder that fits inside the gear ring. A fixture is used to center the broken axel and then drill out the center of the gear to accept the new axel and then pin the shoulder and axel together. Concentricity is vital as is axel diameter. I have also tried the two part epoxy plastic mix. The split shaft gear and wheel axel need to be degreased first. Fill the axel with the mixture and shove the three components together removing the excess mixture that press out in the cracks. It is important that the completed axel is in proper time. If the gear itself is split, that can be repaired also but not worth the time.
    • Arthur Morgan writes: I have had 3 Bachmann GS-4 Daylight engines. The first (early 80s) ran well and pulled well (traction tyres), but not for long--the split axles failed. I finally returned it to Bachmann 7 years ago, and they gave me a Plus version (no DCC, no tyres). This ran smoothly but pulling power was unbelievably low for such a big engine, even with 2oz. of extra weight. Its split axles failed after very little running time. So I bought a DCC version a few months back, and it was the same as the previous one--no pulling power. This time the wires between tender and engine started breaking off the fourth time I ran it, so it's dead too. Not much reason for home in this story.
    • Brian writes: I'm surprised no one has mentioned the infamous Bachmann split axle problem. Because of the split frame technology in their steam engines they came up with Nylon tubes to form an insulated axle between the metal drive wheels on many of their steam engines. Over time, they dry out & split at the wheel end where they're pressed onto the stubs on the inside of the wheels causing the running gear to go out of quarter & jam up. There is no repair & after this failure the loco is junk. Their early stuff from the 70's & 80's also had the unreliable "pancake" motor. I sold mine off & bought brass versions instead for these problems.
    • G. Austin writes: I have a Bachmann Plus 2-8-0 Consolidation and it runs pretty good. As far as the rumors go for it bieng a terrible locomotive, I dont believe them. This particular locomotive was manufactured in '92 and still runs great to this day. the plastic is a little frail on some parts but thats to be expected from a 20 year old plastic locomotive, this isnt lionel people... As for the built in smoke unit, it still works and hasnt cracked like other Bmann units ive had from this time group. Ive had this locomotive pull around 20 cars all with different types of trucks from smooth running to toy trains. Replacing the NMRA coupler was a pain, I had to shear off the orignal "coupler box" on the tender and drill, shim, and mount a Kadee coupler (with a screw). Still has the original light bulb, that still works. IMHO if you take care of your "junky" Bachmann steamers they will take care of you.
    • John D. Mock writes: I will only comment on the most recent Bachmann release (to date). The 2012 HO Alco 2-6-0 mogul with Tsunami (basic package) sound and DCC is one terrific value for the money. For a small steam engine that does not have traction tires, it actually pulls very well. The chuff sound is first rate and very clear, and the model runs very well and quietly. Some magazine reviewers have said this engine offers "near Spectrum quality at a regular Bachmann price". I must agree. I'm very glad Bachmann left the infernal traction tires off this engine.
    • Matt writes: All of my four steam locomotives are by bachmann, as I have a small budget. A USRA 0-6-0 that i got in a set broke after about two weeks, but I sent it in and it was repaired and is still running fine a year later. My K4 4-6-2 and my Modern 4-4-0 both work fine. My J 4-8-4 looks great, but has an all-or-nothing throttle.
    • Dave Paterson writes: I have two Spectrum K4s. Both run well but both can't pull. I'm lucky to get a baggage car and coach behind one of them. How do you add weight to these things to increase their pulling power? I've called Philadelphia. They have no answers for me...Anybody out there have any luck?
    • Rafael Garcia writes: I have not trusted Bachmann since my "toy" 0-6-0, lovingly detailed and weathered by me years ago "rotted" in place: the cast metal cracked and broke on the frame, the wheels came apart as if it had been slammed with force on the track. It is good to know they have improved their quality, from what I read.
    • Mike Toney writes: I have had many different Bachmann engines over the years. Like anything made overseas, the quality control will be all over the place. I have a K4 that is just prior to the DCC/Onboard series, so its just DCC ready, runs like a fine swiss watch. Bachmann upgraded the K4 over the years since it was introduced, newer versions have a larger motor, are a bit heavier and detail/paint finish is much better. I can live without working smoke, it leaves an oil residue on the engine and track, and we know oil on the track isnt a good thing in HO scale. When they can make a HO engine smoke like a real steamer with black/grey and lots of it, then I might be impressed enough to get it. The NKP Berks are beautifull runners, but need golden white LED upgrades to the lights (very easily done by the owner), the 4-8-4s run just as well. Thier newer diesels are on par with some of the best on the market in the drive systems. I have one of the GP7's in the DCC/onboard series that I chop nosed and custom painted. It runs quieter and smoother than the yellow box era Atlas/Kato drive versions at the local club. They are however a bit spartan in detail, but then as modelers, thats where we have fun adding the details we want or dont want. For the price they cannot be beat. The Baldwin Sharks and GP30's run the same way. Bachmann has been quietly and slowly upgrading their drives over the years. But with any engine, I test run it before the money leaves my wallet at the hobby shop. Bachmann isnt free from having a dud here and there, but I have seen this in all brands including the high doller BLI/PCM and even Brass models have their quirks. Basicly any of the newer blue box DCC/onboard series run well, just test run it before purchase. Most all the Spectrum series run well and newer issues have finer details and more refinement of the drive system. The plus series is what became the DCC/Onboard series, less detail but a Spectrum quality drive. Bachmann also has an excellent forum were you can post problems or ides for future projects, and Bachmann does watch and post on the forum as well.
    • Chris Heilbronn writes: Bachmann has supplied to many modellers the world over generally affordable products to suit the average modeller.More recent items have tended to be more expensive and (supposedly)of a better quality than previously supplied.Having said that,my own experience of Bachmann has been something of a mixed bag.For example,the Russian decopod 2-10-0 I have is a great loco,exceeding my expectations,yet the Chinese QJ loco (possibly the most expensive loco Bachmann made at the time),has turned out to be one big problem,caused by the engine's frame actually cracking and breaking through in no less that 4 places;this on an engine that was purchased brand new and never run.Only when a test run was attempted did this issue come to light.The explanation from our local repairer,was that the metal had expanded,and having no room to accomodate this expansion, the frame subsequently fractured.I was also told that this is by no means an uncommon issue-the metal in these frames can be unstable due to poor quality control,and can happen over any period of time.I wonder if any one else has had a similar experience with Bachmann locos.I have also found that Bachmann's repair service does not like to be helpful,and living "down under" as I do,this has made me VERY sceptical about purchasing Bachmann products.
    • neil writes: I have had some bad bachmann locos i think anything made in china is of dubious quality there can motors are cheapest they can get.i have just purchased a shay with sound just because it was half price,and only when tested in the shop.But it took four different new locos before the shop owner found one that worked i think that says it all hi hi.
    • Keith writes: I sent an early Bachmann 2-8-2 Mikado back for repair, which through a side rod which could not be fixed. They sent me an email the next day and asked me if I wanted a new loco[of my choice] payed for the DCC fitted only I had a new one with 2 weeks of sending it to Bachann. I must point out that I live in Australia, had to send to US for repair. They are the only manufactures of loco's that I know of that will do that. The loco was about 15 years old,bought off Ebay USA.
    • wbriley writes: recently purchased 2 Bachmann 2-8-0 consols ..inital problem with slow running / stalling out of the box. someone a B'mann told me to run them" wide open" around the layout for 20 mins. breakin...not done. Dissassembled one to check lubing..came apart ok.and added a DAB. BUT I cannot get the worm gear to "remesh" with the drive gear... It runs, stalls, and locks up..tried not to overtighen the attaching screws Hate to think they're going into a display case.. pulling power is adequate for my mid size railroad any suggestions..??
    • Richard writes: The experience I have with Bachmann in general, has been with limited Ho steam and lots of On30 steam. the Spectrum HO I do have runs very smooth and has excellent detail. I have heard that the wheel wipers on some engines are delicate and problematic but the engines I have are fine performers. My On30 engines have been excellent with the only issues being with the geard Shay's having weak plastic beveled gears on the external drive shafts. Aftermarket gears are now being offered due to the extent of this issue. I have not had trouble with mine yet but I am also very cerefull in how I run my shay's and maintain them prudently. I have found Bachmann the most affordable for the quality of detail but research before you buy; They tend to be "hot and cold".
    • David Colgan writes: Just purchased a 1980's/early 90's 2-10-4 Texas. Sitting in the bargain bin at my LHS. Got an IHC pacific and the 2-10-4 (both with tenders) for a trade on a brand new Athearn Pullman car. (valued at about 16$) that brings the locos to about 7-8 dollars a piece. Both run very well. If the Bachmann craps out, I can send it in and get a brand new 2-10-4 i'm sure.
    • David Colgan writes: I bought the "Overland Limited" basically just for the 4-8-4 steamer that came with it, the price was right and I planned on making a little money back on top of that consigning the powerpack and rolling stock and track. The UP 4-8-4 in that set is a newer version....Like the DCC ready 4-8-4's that Bachmann standard is selling right now for around $110.00. The only thing that differs from a spectrum is the detail and lack of a flywheel, other than that the mechanism is superb. It does not have the old style of plastic sleeves joining the axles together and it doesn't pick up power through the fram anymore either. It has wipers and solid axles with the gear as one casting. Very good locomotive. It's nice to see Bachmann upgrading their standard loco's to almost spectrum quality mechanism's
    • Joe A. writes: I agree that Bachmann's quality control leaves a lot to be desired, so much so that I'd expect to see reviews of each engine that range from "great" to "terrible". The Spectrum 2-8-0 is based on an Illinois Central prototype, which was a very large and modern-looking consolidation. I was happy with my two 2-8-0's until I parked one of them next to my USRA light 2-10-2. The 2-8-0 is taller and has a larger diameter smokebox! I imagine that Bachmann used the large I.C. engine as a prototype for the 2-8-0 so that they could fit a larger motor inside; but I still think this engine is at the out edge of being the right size for a 2-8-0. My 2-10-0 performs excellently, pulling 10 to 12 cars on a slight (<0.25%) grade. I wonder how free-rolling the freight cars of the people who had trouble with poor pulling performance are? I tinker with/replace the wheels and trucks on my cars until they rool very smoothly. If your cars are, for example, Tyco or Model Power cars out of the box, your engine will look sick trying to pull them.
    • John Bisby writes: I purchased 2 new Bachman HO 3 truck Shay's in June 09. All the plastic bevel gears were split on both units. NWSL replacement steel gears are not easy to fit to the original drive shafts. If you intend replacing the gears I suggest removing the small cradles that support the drive shafts. Also, the universal joints don't have enough lateral movement which requires some trimming of plastic inside the joint.
    • Scott Johnson writes: overall rating one word (junk) fustrating and dissapointing Cant pull cant climb hesitate derail .......................
    • Ian Sach writes: I had stalling problems over insulated points with my 4-6-0. Remedied the problem by tweeking the pickups & cleaning with railcleaner fluid, and then adding a very small amount of "Inox" brand lubricant to each pickup - no problems since.
    • Deidre Renee writes: I took delivery of a brand new 'sick' three thruck shay. The couplings were so loose it just skipped and jumped all over the place. Bachmann replaced the loco. The replacement had a piston rod that kept falling out so they sent me a full cylinder replacement set. Later I received in the post a full set of three spare trucks and another two full cylinder assemblies. So.. If you ever get a sick model always contact Bachmann first before you break something trying to fix it yourself! It took three months( but I do live in New Zealand) now I have ample spares that would be for the parts that wear most.
    • Deidre Renee writes: I agree now that these models should be definately approached with caution. I am sick and tired of returning the same item and get a replacement with still more faults. Not only that, it took three emails over two months to even get a reply. I thought my overpriced model had gone down a black hole.
    • Ian Sach writes: The 4-6-0 10 wheeler (with sound) is a good looking & reasonably well finished loco with good weight but is a lousy puller. I'm disappointed that it struggles with only four metal wheeled 40' boxcars & caboose attached on a 2.0% incline. The incline is on a 22" curve, which I know adds more to the actual percentage of incline, however, all my other locos including two Bachmann 2-8-0's, a Proto 0-8-0, & a Roundhouse 2-6-0 all handle 8 - 12 goods carriages up this incline with ease. I think Bachmann would be wise to install traction tyres on the middle drivers - I will be applying some Bullfrogsnot or equivalent in order to fix the problem. Also, I had main gear problems with a 2-8-0 - sent back to Bachmann, replaced chassis & drivers, same problem as before - returned to BACHMANN & replaced again. I think quality control still needs tightening as both these problems involved badly inserted worm gearing and plastic main axle drive cogs. I'm disappointed with the quality, runs OK now, but took a while, & I'm not happy with the extra postage costs I incurred from Australia to USA. I'll think twice before I purchase another such loco.
    • Gene Stebbins writes: I have had two Bachman K-4 Pacific Locomotives for about 15 years. I installed Kadee 711 in the pilot of each, and I usually double-head them to pull my Spirit of St Louis 12-car train. They run well in this duty or pulling a 6-car local.
    • Kenneth L. Bird writes: Bachman has excellent detail but I have experienced the following. 2-8-0: Main gear on motor came loose on shaft. Doodlebug: Same problem on wheel sets, gears loose. 2-10-0: I have two of them and even when double headed they can't pull more that 10 cars. 0-8-0 Same problem, low traction. The J Class 611 derailed constantly due to a poorly designed rear truck mounting. I modified mine and it is now OK. Most of the manufacturers, including Bachman,have adapted the McHenry Kadee knock off couplers. They are very inferior to the Kadees, won't stay coupled on long trains, and the knuckels break easily. I replace all mine with Kadees.
    • Elliotte Norton writes: I have a Bachmann Norfolk and Western 611 "J" class. I pull the entire Rivarossi 611 passanger car set. The train has digital comand control with all the bells and whistles. I have it running around my living room suspended about 8 inches from the ceiling. I can sit in my easy chair and control it with my digitrax empire builder controller. I love it and highly recommend it. The only problem I had was, Bachmann does not offer passanger cars that are era correct. I found my set on ebay. Rivarossi only made them a few years. I was lucky to find them. They are fully detailed with interiers. The only addition I had to make was to change the trucks and adding lighting to the passanger cars. I plan to soon have it on you tube. It will be listed as ( Nates HO N&W 611 "J" class ) in my opinion, it's the most beautiful passanger train of all time.
    • Anders Nyquist writes: I have a Bachmann USRA 0-6-0. Wheel slip is very excessive.
    • Fred Jensen writes: I have recently purchased the Bachmann 80 ton 3 truck shay. The performance is excellent, but I had to take the front trucks off for slippage.
    • Robert DeWoody writes: I also have the 2-8-0 and I must say it is one of the best plastic HO steam locomotives I have come across. It's somewhat generic and may need some detailing specific to the railroad you model but overall it is very nice.
    • Cal writes: I have several Bachmann Engines (H0). I would suggest that you stay away from the ones that actually puff smoke. Their smoking is a disappointment. Also they are especially fragile. Spectrum engines are better than my other Bachmann engines. Some of the Western Maryland Engines are used on the Western Maryland layout at the Hagerstown Roundhouse Museum. However, the view seems to be (also my experience) is that if you want a H0 smoking, the MTH trains are the best. Unfortunately, right now MTH only makes the Penn K-4 steam engine. I bought one and am very happy with the MTH Penn- K4; also enjoyed the sound system of MTH's K-4 (and this was heard by using my existing Spectrum power box).
    • Michael York writes: There is a lot of confusion over Bachmann's quality. Older Bachmann locomotives were essentially low quality locomotives with nice detail. Spectrum was introduced in the late 1980's to produce better models. Bachmann Plus was introduced to bridge the gap between the two (and no longer exists). Bachmann's Spectrum 2-8-0 is one of the finest models ever introduced in HO scale (1998 MR product of the year). This wonderful locomotive sometimes gets confused with the not-so-good Bachmann Plus 2-8-0 (I had one) and their old standard line which was little more than train set toys that looked like models. Their Spectrum line is outstanding quality and a tremendous value. Their newer standard line entries (such as the new 2-8-4) are also much better than the old stuff.
    • Maxwell Holmquist writes: The J1a 4-8-4 runs well with passenger consists and 100+ cars of freight. When used with a Tsunami sound decoder and 2" speaker in the tender, the sounds are AWESOME. A smoke generator can be added for more effect but do not attempt this project if you are unwilling to spend some serious time installing it. A great locomotive.
    • Robert DeWoody writes: Bachmann 4-8-2: Nice looking and mine runs very smoothly. Most detail is separately applied to locomotive. Tender (USRA short) looks a little small for this locomotive and has very little detail.
    • Charles Emerson writes: The Bachmann Plus 2-8-0s are really good engines, I would say better in the pulling respects than their Spectrum counterparts. While not prototypical for any of the lines except the Reading, they are overall really good engines.
    • A viewer writes: The 3-truck Shay runs slow and very smooth and is DCC ready.
    • A viewer writes: Flea market price for the 4-8-2 is around $110.
    • A viewer writes: All are reported to have good mechanisms. One report stated that the 4-8-2 can pull 50 cars on a level track.
    • A viewer writes: The 4-8-2 I purchased (new) looked very good but did not run as well as I hoped. Poor electrical contact due to weak and loose main driver spring contacts was the reason I suspect. These brass contacts are very thin and fragile, and I did not try to bend them into contact. Very poor headlight illumination, but the firebox sure glows! I returned the model for a refund, disappointed.

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    Bachmann Spectrum

    Bachmann has produced model trains in three distinct categories. Each of these categories is different in both quality and price. These three categories are:
    • Original Bachmann: These are low quality locomotives that are worth maybe $30 at the most. I would consider these to be toys.
    • Bachmann Plus: This was Bachmann's mid-range line of locomotives. Their quality is better than the original Bachmann line but are not worth more than around $80.
    • Spectrum: This series was introduced in the 1980s and is of high quality.
    Bachmann offers several wheel arrangements in their spectrum series. They come equipped with E-Z Mate Mark II couplers. Locomotive details seem to be good. I have heard mixed reports on how well they run. Perhaps it is prudent to buy a Bachmann locomotive where it is easy to return it should you be disappointed.

    • 3-truck Shay (80 ton, various lines)
    • 4-4-0 (various lines, old and modern)
    • 0-6-0 (USRA)
    • 2-6-0 (various lines)
    • 2-6-2 (various lines)
    • 4-6-0 (M&P)
    • 4-6-2 (PRR K4)
    • 2-8-0 (various lines)
    • 2-8-2 (various lines)
    • 2-8-4 (various lines)
    • 4-8-2 (USRA Heavy)
    • 4-8-4 (N&W, SP, various lines)
    • 2-10-0 (Russian Decapod, various lines)
    • 2-10-2 (USRA Light)

    Web Sites

    Other comments

    • Scott Fanks writes: When I bought my EM-1 I thought with my track work the locomotive will at look great sitting in the engine area. I've had it now coming on 3 years it has not derailed once. It is an outstanding puller and looker. Bachmann spectrum got this right. As for the spectrum NW 611 bit of a different story. It found defects in my track work which were remedied. But the pulling power was poor due to the fact the drivers are not rubber tires. I Was able to correct this with 3m electrical tape real thin and wrapping it once around the rear driver. Only one revolution with the ends cut at an angle where the ends meet. This greatly increased pulling power from 2 athern passenger cars to 8. This trick also worked on my standard bachmann Berkshire. The tape may need replaced after a while.
    • Brian writes: The Spectrum J Class engine I had also was designed with the split frame & Nylon axle tube problem I had with the older Bachmann style locos I mentioned above, but by that point the motor was much improved. It ran a lot smoother & the wheels looked a lot better but it was still a ticking time bomb for the split axle problem & it almost looked to me like the nylon tubes were even THINNER than they were on the old ones. Sure seems like a planned obsolescence to me. Sold on Ebay to put money towards a brass one & never looked back.
    • Ganerd writes: I am not a rivet-counter, but I was disappointed with the HO Spectrum 2-8-0 Consolidation with DCC/Sound which I bought from Bachmann. It was SUPPOSED to be a freight engine SOU 721, but it dimensionally incorrect (built lighter as the passenger train series.), the bell was in the wrong location, the steam tub on the side of the engine was a generic one they place on every steam locomotive, the cylinder construction was that of passenger train, the engineer was yellow, of obvious Chinese (like the owners of Bachmann), etc. etc. and the list goes on and on. As far as working, maybe mine was a fluke but it cannot take less than 22 inch radius without derailing. I have good track that causes NO problem with ANY OTHER locomotive or car. The Bachmann Spectrum was the ONLY problem. I would never recommend it to ANY SERIOUS modeler. I placed my questions and concerns about the derailing problem on the Bachmann "Ask the Trainmann" Forum and typical to the communist government the owns the company, I was CENSORED and my topic was COMPLETELY removed ... no questions answered, no notice it was being removed. Just one former customer's opinion about Bachmann. Feel free to contact me directly for more design discrepancies. Thanks for allowing me to voice my opinion and not censoring me like Bachmann! .
    • John Mock writes: The Spectrum EM-1 is a wonderful engine in every way. It runs and looks great---and compares quite favorably with some higher priced offerings from other manufacturers.
    • Mike Yurgec writes: Recieved my Bachmann Spectrum J locomotive with on board DCC / Sound. VERY DISAPPOINTED. It won't pull more than three passenger cars and won't go through turnouts or around wide raius turns without slowing down. Typical Bachmann trash. I returned it and vow to never again buy Bachmann.
    • Garrett Zimmerman writes: I have had mixed results with Spectrum. I have had many wonderful Bachmann locomotives. A Spectrum C&O 4-8-2 and a Spectrum undecorated shay. Thess locomotives would bog down and pull for all their worth. I have the 4-8-2 drag a 40 car train around the layout and i even put a video on youtube of my shay pulling what i believe was 23 passenger cars. The video is called "Super Shay" and my screen name is Trainman96. On the other end of the spectrum there was the Spectrum N&W 4-8-4 I purchased that could barely move itself, and that was only on straight and level track. It could not go through switches, curves, or get itself on or off the turntable. Needless to say I returned it, saved up an extra $100 and purchased the MTH HO scale N&W 4-8-4.
    • Ed Robertson writes: I have about a dozen or so spectrum locomotives. All except one have been fine. I guess anyone can wind up with a "Friday" locomotive as I did. I returned it to the hobby shop where I purchased it to get it repaired. BIG MISTAKE! Bachmann works better with individual customers than it does with their retailers.
    • Gene writes: I have a Spectrum DC 0-6-0 saddle tank from 2002 that ran great out of the box, slow,smooth and quiet...I added a DCC decoder 2 years ago and it ran even better. So when Bachmann came out with the same loco a couple of years ago with DCC on-board I bought 3...BIG mistake...all 3 run like dead dogs....start,stop,start,stop.....hummmm,start, stop. I checked all the pick-ups, wiring, wheel-gauge, cleaned wheels,track...did everything I could think of and nothing helped. If it was just one loco out of 3 I'd say fine...bad luck, but 3 out of 3...sorrythat's bad manufacturing and bad quality control. My advice...find a cheap older DC model and add a decoder yourself!
    • Joe writes: I have 4 of the Spectrum steam engines; the 3-truck shay, the modern 4-4-0 with dcc, the ten-wheeler (4-6-0) with dcc and sound, and the mountain (4-8-2) all of them were purchased new. I haven't had a problem with them except for the modern american. It ran for about a year and something broke inside, I haven't had the time to find out what it is or to fix it. The rest run really well. I've had my newest one, the mountain for over 2 and a half years now and haven't had a problem with it yet. The Shay is a completely different story. I bought a regular dcc decoder for it and it ran for a few years, then I decided to get a sound decoder for it. I bought a lok sound decoder for it, I had a hard time fitting the decoder and speaker into the tender then realized that you couldn't hear the sound, so I switched it back, It will just be dcc until I can figure out a better arrangement for the decoder and speaker.
    • Brian writes: I have a Spectrum 2-10-0. Needless to say, it ran great, right out of the box, even after customization. My only problem is the fact that if I have it running for a REALLY long time, it makes a whirring noise. After sitting for 10-15 minuted, it's completely fine. It's nice that I can find customization parts for the locomtive, since I'm modeling a specific engine (Strasburg #90). I hughly recommend Bachmann Spectrum, as I am Very statisfied with their products.
    • dan gimelli writes: I have a bachmann spectrum consolodation that runs absolutely flawless!!! that prompted me to buy one of the russian decapods. poor choice. while the locomotive looks fantastic, it runs like absolute crap. the drivers bind in the journals, the tender is too light to stay on the track and the pilot truck may as well not even have flanges. on good, filtered dc, the thing barely runs. DCC it just sits there humming. Pity. its a beautiful looking engine. guess i'll stick with my MTH engines
    • Mike writes: I have a 2-6-6-2 (C&O H-5 #1524), three truck shay, and a J class w/ aux water tender (renumbered it 611). they run great and highly recommend them. The J was a little light so I added weight. I also got three new engines two southern mountains and a Western Maryland decapod. I test ran them at a locale club and put a load behind them (6 hoppers) and it started to smell like a belt was burning, took them home and sure enough there is a belt from the motor to another gear that drives the engine. need less to say I am not to happy with those engines. Any suggestions on regearing them?
    • Ted Lewis writes: I have three Spectrum units from the early/mid 90s. Doodlebug, K4, and Amtrak F45(?). All ran great for a relatively few hours, less than 50. All slowed down to a crawl. Lubed all (I am a little experienced in that) and they still were slow. Soooooo, I put them away until now. All run just the same, no better and no worse 10 years later. I will never buy another spectrum (my local hobby shop guy won't even carry the line anymore) unless somebody can tell me a magic bullet to improve them. None of them were inexpensive.
    • Paul Menkens writes: I have 5 Spectrum steam locos a 2-8-0 , 2-10-2, SY Mikado and 2 Baldwin 4-6-0s the 4-6-0s are gems-run great although they don't pull a lot but who would expect them to, I do wish the headlight was less blue though, the SY is the same story looks great, runs great but doesn't pull a lot, the Consi is OK although currently it's decoder does not work but that's not Bachmann's fault (I installed it myself and it really does make a huge difference in the speed of your starts and stops to cut the caps on the circuit board) this leaves the 2-10-2 the first one ran less then one lap around my layout before it S.T.B. Bachmann was glad to replace it with a new one which took a while but this one has run well HOWEVER the lead truck derails, I have pretty wide curves and can run much larger locos such as a BLI 4-8-2 and 2-10-4 and an IHC 2-10-2 with no problems whatsoever so I don't think it's my track. a couple weeks ago I took this loco up to the Montreal club layout which has very wide curves and very smooth track and it still derailed, though not as much as here (last week I took my BLI K4 Pacific up there and ran it for 5 hours without a single derailment) I just don't understand why this great looking loco can't perform as well as the IHC 2-10-2 that cost $100 dollars less
    • Bob L. writes: I am on my third 2-10-0 decapod. First one's motor ran - most of the time - then would jam and over heat. I thought I screwed up the DCC installation (was one of my first). I bought number two. It was DOA, except for a humming sound. It went directly to Bachmann under warranty. Number three seemed fine. After about 30 minutes of intermittent use, it quit. I am debating sending it back. I really don't want another dud. I same some other Spectrum locos that seem OK - at least for now, but I will not buy another Spectrum. Too bad, I like the available locos.
    • Mike Toney writes: Bachmann is definatly a brand to be considered these days, all of their blue box DCC/Onboard series run nice and smooth, LED lights and can motors with excellent detailing for the price, the Spectrum series is a step above that in detailing with some having sound as well. With anything from Asia, one must try to test run the engine prior to purchase if at all possible, they all have duds these days. At the shop I frequent, we have had very little in the way of duds from Bachmann, with minor wheel gauge issues being taken care of in shop (unless its a set of drivers on a steam engine, then we send those back) Only one that comes to mind of recent is a Shark nose that had gear issues in one truck, everything else has been excellent and the shop has sold loads of DD40ax's, 4-8-4's, 2-8-4 NKP Berks and the smaller GP7's ect. Some will say the K4 doesnt pull well, but neither did the real one, thats why the PRR double headed them on crack passenger trains. Watch some of the you tube videos of the 1361 thru Tyrone, PA trying to maintain restricted speed with a heavy load, doesnt work well on a 80" driver engine! I can recommend the Spectrum as well as the DCC/Onboard line to any modeler.
    • Kaleb writes: I own the Bachmann Spectrum "The Explorer" set. I'm very impressed with the extremely low noise level and the low speed performance, but it seems that the drive belt system (may have been changed since mine was made) makes it a risk to make the small 2-8-0 Consolidation pull more than the three included cars. HINT: I found a replacement belt REALLY cheap under the 2-10-0? section of the parts site (fits fine). You can only purchase the WHOLE drive system is listed (for $20.00) under the 2-8-0.
    • Bill K. writes: Bachmann quality can be spotty at best; I have one On30 Forney that's great, and one that just died out of the blue with about 10 min runtime, it has a short in the PC board I believe that caused a chip in the decoder to overheat in a way that were it positioned just right it would have caught on fire (the chip glowed bright orange-white and smoked). They can be contacted online through their website for warranty questions, if one has a reciept and purchased the engine from a dealer, they'll cover it up to one year; after that there's a fee for repairs that varies with the scale of the locomotive.
    • Roy writes: My 3 truck shay is outstanding. Very smooth running, great sound, and powerful.
    • Big John writes: I just got the Bachmann 3 Truck Shay. What a smoooothe runner pulls 12 cars maybe more as all I have is 12. Also the front 2 wheels on the front truck free wheels so it is operating on 10 wheel vs 12 wheel drive. Amazing. I only paid $119.00 for the Bachmann Spectrum Three Truck Shay from Trainworld. Some are selling them for up to $200.00. Fantastic loco and detail.
    • Mike Peeso writes: I just purchased the URSA 2-10-2 and the front steering wheels keep derailing. The engine is not very powerful, so I would not buy another.
    • Jerry Greenawalt writes: I have two Bachmann Spectrum K4's PRR. One is one of the first Spectrum models and wobbles down the track. It has hardly been run. I hear the centers of the wheels on these things warp. Junk. Paid good money too. The second one I have is one of the newer Spectrums with the power pickup in the tender and runs really good. I also have what was supposed to be a 2-10-4 Texas PRR, but for some reason has a UP tender on it. Not even close to be prototypic. I Dont think Ill buy anymore. Its too bad Bowser quit making their kits.
    • Stephen writes: I have a Bachmann Spectrum Rock Island 2-8-0 and it runs well. Only thing is the spectrums don't start as quickly as other Bachmann DCC equipped locos but they sure run much smoother at slower speeds.
    • Grant Padgett writes: I have a Bachmann Spectrum Pennsylvania K4 Pacific and it is well detailed and powerful for the money, it runs very well. Bachmann has come a long way from producing crappy toy-like models.
    • Person in New York writes: I have two Spectrum locomotives, the Maryland and Pennslyvannia 4-6-0 which I have had for about a year, and the 80-Ton Shay which I have only had for a few days. The 4-6-0 is a wonderful engine, highly detailed, and has handled 4 to 6 cars on a 4 percent grade. Its only drawbacks are when it gets going down a straight at speed its front sort of swivels about, giving the appearance of waddling. The other thing is that the headlight gives an unnatural blue light. As for the shay, it is a wonderful loco, very strong, has pulled ten cars on a flat surfce with ease. Its gear shaf is extremely realistic with lots of moving parts. Has a bit of difficulty starting at a slow speed, but other wise, a great engine.
    • Tom Turner writes: I purchased a Spectrum 2-8-0 (dcc & sound) Santa Fe #2528 that ran for a short time. After about 1 hours use, it failed to pull even a few cars up a 1%-2% grade. The wheels were not spinning. I think it may be the gear slippling on its shaft. I tried contacting Bachmann, with no success. Its now a year later I am still unable to use this locomotive. I finally got thru to bachmann and I am told I will need to pay a fee,plus parts & shipping. I do understand their policy but I feel that this problem was not my doing. They tell me they have not had any such problems with this model. If anyone has had similar problems please let me know.
    • Paul Pietrak writes: I have two Spectrum 4-6-0s one purchased 3 years ago and one just got last week. Both locos stop or hesitate over a insulated frog. Not all the time but enough to be concerned. All pick-ups are engaged and working. Since the frog is only about an inch and a half at most and the loco picks up on both the loco and the tender, this should run ok.Any one with the same problem?
    • Dedalus Wainwright writes: I have 7 Bachmann Spectrum Consolidation 2-8-0's. Out of the box, they had significantly different performance characteristics (flat performance and grade climbing performance between engines varied.) And so far, they wont pull a caboose up 3 degrees at low speeds locos purchased in spring of 2009
    • William K. Jibby writes: I just purchased a Spectrum 2-10-2 that was on sale. The guys at the club love the sounds. Since it is Tsunami it is great. Only problem is Digitrax can not change the ID. Tsunami needs higher current and needs a booster to change the loco ID.
    • Tom White writes: I have three Spectrum locos, a 2-8-0, a heavy 4-8-2 and a 2-6-6-2. Haven't had any problems with them at all, and all are about four years old. The USRA 2-6-6-2 is a very surprising loco--beautifully detailed (C&O prototype) and a smooth, very strong puller for its size. But all of them are very smooth runners and relatively decent pullers. Tom
    • AkronMike writes: I have approximately 12 - 14 spectrum engines dating back to the original 44T. I have never had a problem nor have I been dissapointed with their performance, like all equipment you must keep them tuned and oiled. No one has mentioned the O3O narrow gage engines by Bachman. These are simply awesome and I cant think of another mnfg that can match them for quality and cost.
    • Poop Dick writes: I own a spectrum 2-8-0 and a 2-10-0, the 2-8-0 is a little slow to start, it needs about 4 volts to get an abrupt start going. my 2-10-0 had a short in it after about a month of use, which i believe could've been fixed more easily than I did it but oh well, it runs well now, I also have a plus line 2-6-2 with USRA tender, and contrary to what people say about them, it is a decent puller (12 cars, for its size) and very reliable. other locos: model power saddle tank 0-4-0 and bowser dockside 0-4-0 (with added tender like 2 of the prototype engines were modified for.
    • Yves Boisvert writes: I have 2 Spectrum, 4-8-4 Daylight and a 2-10-2, both have the same problem, the front pilot wheel makes contact with the cylider in curves. Can someone help me with this? Thanks
    • American Flyer writes: Without too much elaboration, I'll not buy another Spectrum...or Bachmann locomotive. Of the three I own, 2 Heavy Mountain and 1 2-10-2, none have worked properly. None can pull a hot knife through melted butter. I'd recommend spending a little more money and getting a BLI or Genesis.
    • Ryan Marrs writes: All of the Spectrum locomotives run well at first. However after about a year they seem to wear out. They don't pull very well at all. The newer standard line locomotives (the ones with decoders) run very well but don't look as good as they could.
    • Ozark Southern writes: I own a Spectrum 0-6-0T. It's very light. I have a 1% grade on my layout and it strains to make it with more than 5 cars. Detail is excellent. Noisy when it runs forward. Silent in reverse. Headlights a tad dim. I'd give it a 7 1/2 out of 10.
    • Roddo writes: I have three spectrum locos: a 2-8-0, a 2-10-0 and the NYS&W 2-8-2 which was very expensive. I like the running qualities of the 2-8-0. The 2-10-0 is fine, especially with a lenz BEMF decoder- but it does have wobbly drivers (ie the wheels move back and forth on their axles. Unfortunately the 2-8-2 has a rotten bind and runs like a brick, even with a top line decoder. Will probably need to strip down completely, re-quarter (or put away forever depending on how much time I have). They are also quite light footed and pull very few cars (the 2-8-2 is quite good though). Suggest trying before buying whenever possible. QA seems to be an issue at Bachmann. They look great nonetheless.
    • Scott K writes: I have a Spectrum 4-8-2 Mountain with the factory-installed Tsunami sound decoder. It is a great locomotive. In terms of detail it rivals my brass Akane 4-6-2 Pacific and my super-detailed Mantua 2-8-2. In terms of performance it is a very strong puller and runs very smoothly at slow speed. The Tsunami sound system is fantastic. The sound quality is better than any of my other sound decoders. The chuff matches the drivers exactly. The performance options for this decoder are very good. It was a little more expensive than my BLI Blueline 2-8-2 but the BLI didn't come with an engine decoder (only sound), so add that cost and the BLI was more expensive. Overall, I think the Spectrum is slightly better than the BLI Blueline.
    • Harvey Stern writes: I have five Bachmann Spectrum locomotives. They run smoothly at first but after 50 hours of running the motor brushes are worn.
    • Tuna writes: I have a Bachmann Spectrum 2-6-6-2 Mallet Mogul. It's been nothing but reliable.
    • Ernest Gatzke writes: I have a Spectrum 4-8-2 mountain type locomotive with a firebox that glows. I don't know why this feature was added because most steam locomotives ran with the firebox doors closed. They were opened by the fireman to shovel coal or rake the fire to even it out or to pull clinkers. It would have been made much more realistic if the glow would have been placed at the bottom of the firebox.
    • Steve Workman writes: I have a Spectrum 2 truck Climax as Moore-Keppel #3. I have mostly ran it on a 3' test track, but it runs smooth, and does well at low speed. The detail is excellent, and the piston rods/flywheels move as on a real one.
    • Brian M. writes: I own a Spectrum NC&StL Decapod. Since last Xmas when I got it, various bits like the windows, the cowcatcher, a pipe, and a wire have either broken off or disconnected. And I don't run it very often.
    • Randall Smith writes: The Bachmann Spectrum 3-truck Shay runs extremely well pulling 12 log wagons up a constant 4% grade in true shay style.
    • John Patton writes: I have a lot of Bachmann equipment such as the 3 truck 80 ton shay, a Russian Decapod, all by the "Spectrum" line. All are well detailed, the Russian Decapod, could have a thinner boiler walk to be scale. BUT it runs well and pulls decent for its size. I usually use it for a helper with my converted Rivarossi 4-6-6-4 Challenger as these 2 models are in Western Maryland livery, with this said, the Russian Decapod, runs VERY well with the Rivarossi 4-6-6-4. The Shay, runs well, a little faster then prototype but runs well, pulls well as well for its size and weight. I also have a few of the Bachmann "Plus" line steam locomotives, a 4-8-4, and a 2-8-0. Both run POORLY! I will be buying Bowser made "Bachmann re-power kits for these! These locomotives also are in Western Maryland livery.
    • Bill Garry writes: I have the Spectrum 4-8-2 lettered for NYO&W. The detailing is average and the performance is excellent, but the pulling power is not 50 cars (unless perhaps if they are equipped with needle point bearings, which mine are not).
    • Jerry Leeds writes: Have Spectrum engines. As a rule they don't pull very well but they do run well and look great. I guess my favorite is the Climax with the Decapod a close second. Really want a K4 with sound, but am torn between Bachmann & BLI. Probably go with Bachmann for the good sound decoder and price.
    • Sam Dwire writes: As far as I can tell the Spectrum Line is far and away better than old Bachmann. As far as I can tell cost less then Broadway. I own three: a 4-8-2, a 2-10-0 and a 2-8-0. They are all good running and pull rather well. I intend on getting another 4-8-2 and at least two 2-10-2`s as well.
    • Garrick Kautz writes: I have recently obtained a large variety of Spectrum locomotives. The attention to detail is exceptional. The locomotives run smoothly and I am very happy with their performance. Best place to get them is Micro Marx. Nothing bad to say other than a missing instruction sheet for my Acela dual loco set. A simple letter resulted in a replacement. In addition, you can download most of the manuals from Bachmann.
    • Larry Skonieczka writes: Bachmann used to be one to stay away from, but lately they have been producing some very nice locomotives both in the Trainline and Silver Series lines. The Spectrum series has always been above the rest and the equipment, sight wise, is equal to or in some cases exceeds the more expensive BLI, Trix and Marklin locomotives.
    • A viewer writes: Bachmann Spectrum have released an N&W auxiliary tender that matches the Life-Like Ys.

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    Bowser

    Bowser produced PRR steam locomotives, USRA versions of the 4-6-2, 2-8-2, and 2-10-2 wheel arrangements, and a Big Boy and Challenger. These models were primarily sold in kit form, however, I have seen assembled models in hobby stores from time to time.

    Advantages

    • If you want PRR steam locomotives, Bowser was a good source. They produced the old "Penn Line" series of steam locomotives. They also made a Big Boy and UP Challenger.
    • Since the boilers and frames are entirely made of metal, they are heavy. As a result, they are generally good pullers. I've seen one person write: "A Bowser can pull the bumper off a Chevy.".
    • Without the "super detailing kit, they can look somewhat plain. With proper detailing, these steam locomotives can look very impressive. If you know exactly what detailing you want to add, you can just buy the proper parts instead of the "super detailing kit" and save some money.

    Disadvantages

    • The open-frame motor and gearing produces some noise. This can be improved by re-motoring and re-gearing using NWSL parts.

    Other comments

    • Art Waite writes: Stumbled across this site and see that it is out-of-date for the most part. I see that one commentor stated that Bowser kits are no longer produced, and that is true. Also, Standard Hobby Supply long ago stopped selling these kits, and I'm not sure SHS is still in business for that matter. I happened to have obtained ALL of Bowser's steam kits before they discontinued them. I have built them all and have various versions of them including the original 1948 Mountain (with brass tender) and the wooden semi-vanderbuilt tender and the later generic rare brass tender by Bowser. No one seems to have mentioned that the Challenger and Big Boy had an inadequate connection between tender and loco--let alone the fact that Bowser did not produce a proper tender for either. You cannot back up one of those locos with any tender as such because the swing of the long loco will derail the tender on curves that are any but the most broad. Special modifications can be made, and I have done so along with special versions of Bowser K4s and others for clients. Remotoring Bowser locos with various can style motors can work wonders with performance. I have a Bowser K4 with every conceivable detail and with a can motor that makes the loco run as quietly and smoothly as any plastic loco. I once sold a similar one with blinking red firebox lights for over $600 to a buyer. Those were the days! I also have various Penn Line built and unbuilt kits and once owned a Penn Line Crusader which I sold for $2000 to a very happy buyer. I could go on. . .
    • Rob writes: I have found that the electrical connection between the tender trucks and body which relies on gravity to make the connection has been a weak spot on a few of my Bowser locomotives. By hardwiring the trucks directly to the tender body with small flexible wire this problem was eliminated. I have also added wipers to the insulated tender wheels to add more pickup points for the locomotive side of the circuit.
    • George T. Galyon writes: I have the K4 4-6-2 (backdated to original accessories). The starting voltage is a little high but once running it is a good puller and it can be throttled down to a very slow speed. I am planning to add in Neodynium magnets and a motor controller decoder now that it is running in DC so well. It easily pulls 10 HW passenger cars and probably would do a lot better if we could hook up a 20-30 car passenger train that would not tend to uncouple at "track irregularities".
    • Bill K writes: It should be noted most Bowser kits date back to the 1950s if not older, some of them originally released by defunct manufacturers like Penn Line (H9, K4, I1) and Varney (Dockside, Old Lady 2-8-0 and the similar 4-6-0), they date to an era when being a modeler meant doing a lot of the assembly yourself, and you just about needed machinist skills to finish a kit properly.
    • SEY writes: I've heard that Bowser will discontinue making the steam locomotive kits!! So sorry to see this. I guess it is a sign of the times. Get these while you can.
    • Benz writes: I have a Bowser Northern that I built. If you take your time getting the running gear to work smoothly (it must be able to roll freely on it's own with out the motor installed) it will be quiet even with a DC71 motor installed. Hardest part I had was scrapping slots in the inside of the tender for a NCE D408SR decoder. These are the last HO scale locomotives made in USA.
    • John Patton writes: I have built many Bowser Challengers, these locomotives take a lot of work but with the detail kit and a little work they look as good as brass locomotives, and will pull a house down the street! Although they're built just like the real thing, they require large radius curved track for the articulation, 30 inch radius at least. I've also built and rebuilt two PRR I-1s from Bowser and these will also pull a house as they are extremely heavy locomotives due to the cast metal boilers. I made one into a Western Maryland I-2. With a little detail nd mill work they turned out well! As said many a time here, take your time building these locomotives as they will run like Swiss watches if the time is taken. I will buy more of these in the future for I love the process of building of these locomotives!
    • Larry Myers writes: I recently completed a Bowser kit for an USRA 2-10-2. I had some trouble getting it to operate smoothly until I increased the diameter of the drive rod holes. The super-detail kit took some work but the end result was well worth the effort. The valve gear wasn't that difficult to assembly with the tool included in the kit. If you can built this kit you shouldn't need to purchase the assembled valve gear. I painted it with pollyscale steam power black.
    • RL Whiting writes: I have assembled over 7 different Bowser kits, from Mikados to the Bigboy. If you pay particular attention to the fit, and smoothness of the mechanism they run wonderfully. If you do not, you will have binding and stuttering motion especially at slow speeds. I found much of this was due to clearances for the main rods, and valve gear components. As far as pulling power, I have a Challenger that will pull over 200 cars, The engine weighs 3 pounds alone with the optional weight. The Mikados will all pull about 40 cars up 2%. I usually weight up my locos as far as possible without having any weights show. Super detail kits are not hard, but I found experience is helpful in putting the parts on. It also helps if you have a good basic working knowledge of steam locomotive design and what the parts actually do, to better fit and apply them. As far as the DC-71 motor, it could be better as they can draw over an amp under load. Can motors are far more efficient. Still, for a reliable solid puller, I would buy Bowser.
    • Doug Kisala writes: The Bowser "13000 gallon" tender is a model of a 130P75/130F82, and was used (in varying configurations) behind class I1s/I1sa, K4s, K5, L1s, and M1.

      According to the Spring 1988 Keystone, 100 130F82 tenders were constructed for use with I1s Decapods. From the mid 30s to 1949, all were converted to 130P75 tenders and were used mostly by K4s engines. A few were used behind M1 Mountains and L1s Mikados.

      Two 130P70 tenders (with different trucks) were built in 1929 for use with the 2 K5 Pacifics. These were later converted to 130P75 when the K5 engines got stokers. Still later, they received 2FT2 trucks (like the kind Bowser sells with their tender) making them look just like the other 130P75 tenders. After class K5 was retired in 1953, the tenders went to K4s Pacifics.

      Starting in 1952, a small number of 130P75 were converted back to 130F82 for use behind I1sa Decapods.

      The Bowser 13000 gallon tender needs some modifications to be correct depending on time frame and the engine modeled, but is a starting point for their I1sa, K4s, and would be appropriate behind M1 and K5 engines.

      K4s 1361's current tender is 130P75 3950.

    • A viewer writes: Bowser steam locomotives are usually sold in kit form.
    • A viewer writes: Building a Bowser kit requires patience. Riviting the valve gear assembly probably requires the most. This is not necessarily a drawback -- some people get as much enjoyment out of building the model as running it. I have written a few paragraphs about building Bowser kits that is now part of the rec.models.railroad FAQ.
    • Andy Miller writes: The Bowser locomotives are accurate models of their prototypes. However, in some cases the tenders are not always correct or at least ordinary for the engine to which they are attached. For example, the K4 tender is rare for a K4. It is much more appropriate behind the L1. A very good looking, and far more common tender for a K4 can be made by shortening the body casting of the "long distance" tender which Bowser provides with its I1. Several feet have to be spliced OUT of the middle and the resulting body then mounted on K4 tender trucks. The E6 tender is just wrong for an E6. The right tender can be had from MDC. It should be mounted on Bowser's Dolphin trucks.
    • Wes Barris writes: Although Bowser sells both a Big Boy and a UP Challenger, they do not sell a centipede tender. They sell an optional semi-Vanderbilt tender instead. If you really want a centipede tender, you have a several options.
      1. Find a lone Rivarossi centipede tender at a flea market. This may take quite a while. I have seen one at a flea market for $50. This tender will need to be modified for electrical pickup. I've done this using NWSL wheels and some brass wipers that I fabricated.
      2. Find a Monogram Big Boy kit at a flea market. I've seen many of these. They usually sell for around $10. You will also need a conversion kit that Bowser sells that has brass wheels for this tender. Last time I was there, Caboose Hobbies in Denver, CO had a couple of these Monogram centipede tenders with the Bowser wheels installed. They were priced at $75 ea.
      3. In 2002, Rivarossi has begun selling individual centipede tenders. I have no information on availability. Check at your local hobby store.

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    Best Source

    • The best source for Bowser locomotives is probably a model railroad flea market or swap meat. Standard Hobby Supply used to sell them. If buying a kit at a flea market you should look it over very closely to make sure you have all the parts.

    Web Sites

    Broadway Limited Imports

    Broadway Limited Imports models are very high quality plastic models with a few metal details. They are powerful, well detailed engines that come factory equipped with a sound decoder that can run on both DC and Digital Command Control (DCC). They are fairly expensive, but reasonable regarding they have sound and are DCC equipped. They are prototype specific. They have produced everything from a USRA Heavy Mike to a PRR T-1. They produce mainly HO scale models with one O scale narrow gauge item -- a D&RGW C-16 in 0n2 1/2. Apart from a chassis design problem on one model and the mandatory glitches in first time production runs, they're reliable from all the comments I have heard.

    BLI also has a cheaper line of locomotives (still with DCC and sound) with molded on boiler details and some other omitted features from its Paragon Series (BLI's standard line) called the Powerhoude Classics series. Only a Heavy USRA Mike and a Rio Grande C-16 have been released in this series. BLI had a problem with locomotives shorting out for various reasons, but they have fixed this. A second release heavy 2-8-2 has no problems. They also had a few detail shortcomings on a recent HO scale model of ATSF #3751. BLI has announced a PRR K-4s in the new "Paragon Platinum Series", in which the boiler shell is cast metal and (from what BLI says) has even more separate details. This engine is on the pricey side for not being a Mallet, at $450. So far BLI has shown a liking for Eastern prototypes, although BLI has announced four (one UP and three Santa Fe)western engines. Like all of the other manufacturers, BLI seems to ignore any Midwestern or Deep Southern prototypes unless you count the two N&W offerings they have. Their selling point right now seems to be offering prototype-specific steamers with sound and DCC.

    Information provided by Christopher Meyer.

    Other Comments

    • Robert Potter writes: I have three BLI locos. A heavy Mikado, a heavy Pacific and a 2-10-4 T-1. All three have been in limited service for about 10 months. Nary a problem so far although the 2-10-4 does have an uncanny ability to find less than perfect track work. It will negotiate a 22" radius with no problem but will not do the same through the same radius if it is in a curved turnout. It's tempting to turn down the rear driver flanges and apply the traction bands with rubber cement. I haven't had the "huevos" to do that yet.
    • Denis Long writes: I have quite a few BLIs, and a fewer number of MTHs. I very much like both brands, but then, I'm not hard to please. I have not read all these comments,too many. the bulk of BL's output is in plastic, true, and they are expensive; MTH is even higher; put them in brass and you could triple their price. BLI has produced models, also as brass hybrids, Museum(all brass), and die-cast, most of the latter, under their Precision label. Their hybrids are a real buy for a brass loco, and the full brass is much cheaper than other brass importers, plus you have sound, etc. Only other brass I know of, that is less expensive,with sound, is Sunset.
    • George T. Galyon writes: I have the BL 2-10-4 with QSI sound. I added my own motor controller decoder. This loco is a real beast. I have hauled 45 (heavy) coal cars on a layout with 26-30" curves. With this load the loco is sensitive to track "irregularities". Adding weight to the tender (10 oz) really helped. I recommend this loco to anyone.
    • Robert Lee writes: Just got one of the Q2's from the last run. Very detailed and runs great. Well worth the price. I had to do a hardware reset when I got it and the sound has a little static at times but I will experiment with speaker baffles. It took a year to get it but it was worth the wait. It pulls all the cars I have with no trouble even without traction tires.
    • joe pinto writes: I just got the BLI Q2 and had troubles with the first one. The front drive shaft wasn't connected and shorted out. Then my replacement unit, in only a week, the smoke unit took a dump on me! I'd sold my Westside Q2 to get this! Now I wished I'd kept it. Detail and quality on the Westside is better then the BLI! Go to youtube, type in powerwagon79. I did a video compairison of both Q2's. BLI told me that my first train repairs can take upto 6-8 weeks! Wished MTH made the Q2 ,you get better quality then the over-priced BLIs.
    • George ONeill writes: I have a few BLI locomotives and I think anymore they are getting overpriced for what they are, they are not brass, they are plastic and the biggest problem I have had are the ones made in China, I have both Korean and Chinese made BLI locos and there is a big difference in quality and in the electronics, I have a paragon series 4-6-4 NYC made in Korea, no problems since day one, a stealth series 2-10-4 made in Korea, no problems, 2-8-2 blue line made in china, nothing but problems with the electronics, a 4-8-2 NYC blue line, nothing but problems with the electronics made in china, I have had both of my blue line locos sent to BLI numerous times thanks to the electronics, I have since took care of the problem by removing all of BLI's made in china electronics and replaced it with MRC and no problems at all now, the locos are nice but the price tag anymore for a made in china product is not worth it, considering it is plastic and for a little more you can own a diecast MTH or a brass loco.
    • Mark Lindsey writes: I have 2 of their Y6b's and one of the N&W "A"s. Both are poorly executed as far as the running mechanisms are concerned. WHY must makers of articulated engines copy the 60+ year old Rivorossi method? The rear engine does NOT swivel on an articulated engine. Oriental LTD proved that correct articulation didn't make overhang any worse with their USRA 2-8-8-2's. Bowser even produced Big Boys and Challengers that articulated correctly, so it must not be that difficult! BLI's N&W "A" looks stupid as the cab overhangs about 10 feet and the front engine hardly swivels at all. Even the brass Key "A" and others which articulate correctly don't have overhang issues. What is wrong with the designers? Can't they learn from others? Are they building poorly conceived models to satisfy the guy with 18" radius sectional track on his train board who just HAS to have big steam? They put lots of detail on the modern locos and tricky electronics with sound and (for guys who want that toy look) smoke machines, while still producing little more than an over detailed 60+ year old mechanism. Very sad.
    • Paul Menkens writes: I have 4 of these, all PRR, K4 Pacific, M1a Mtn, Decapod (Precisioncraft) and 2-10-4 all run, look and sound great the first M1a was defective but was replaced by the dealer I bought it from (Tony's Train Exchange, where I bought all four of them) and the replacement has worked great. They all pull well without the traction tires installed although I might put it on the M1a at some point, this one has a plastic boiler and isn't as heavy as the others. The only complaint I have with BLI is that they announce these things years ahead of when they are actually going to be available with overly optimistic delivery dates (there's nothing more frustrating then to order a locomotive and then see an announcement that the delivery date has been pushed back a year and a half) there's no excuse for this and they'll have to get this under control before I'll order any more of their products.
    • Jim S writes: Have a P2 Hudson (J1e) purchased in 2010 that lurched and jerked in addition to needing a new DCC board and steam unit in it. I sent it back only to have it returned with it still lurching and jerking. I sent it in again and it came back closer to normal performance. Then the lurching and jerking started again. I am still in the process of getting the issue resolved. I have a Blue Line SD40 that operates quite well, but both are loud "grinders" in reverse. Also the steam unit buzzes and apparently this is "normal"??? I will be trying MTH to see if it's worth the extra money!!
    • Richard Chilton writes: I own 16 Blue Line and Paragon 2 diesels and steamers. I have installed Digitrax DZ143PS decoders in all the Blue Line engines with oustanding results and (so far) no problems at all. They run very smooth and quiet when sound is off. The smoke units can make a squeeking sound at first but it seems to quiet down after some use. 'Turns out this is "normal" so no need to worry. Slow speed is incredible and smooth. I've had good support from BLI techs when I had a question, just be aware of their hours, 12-4pm est. I have one refurbished Mohawk and it works excellent so far. Over all I think the BLI engines and freight cars are an excellent value for the quality and performance. I have the new Brass Q2 and it is an exceptional looking show piece that runs as well as it looks, however it dose not have traction tires so it won't haul grades as well as the Y6b die cast 2-8-8-2. I believe BLI is listening to feedback and responding with improvements each model run. They appear to be paying attention to their competition as well. Over all I think BLI engines and rolling stock are an excellent value for the quality and performance they offer.
    • gene gleason writes: i have 30 bli steam and diesels, just got the prrq2, outstanding engine runs great looks great sounds great. my fleet have had some problems but for the most part an impressive product line
    • Tom White writes: Despite being dual-mode (DC/DCC) the BLI's are really designed for the DCC modeler. In DC, they take an inordinate amount of voltage to get going, and on my DC layout, they are controllable only in the upper quadrant of my Controlmaster 20 power pack. With that aside, they are extremely well detailed and quite smooth runners. However, since they cannot be operated in tandem with my own DC locos, I am in the process of selling my BLI steam fleet. However, for the DCC modeler, I would think that these are some of the best locomotives on the market. Their prototypes seem to be geared more toward the 'Eastern' steam modeler--particularly PRR, with only a bow to western roads such as Santa Fe and Union Pacific. But they are quite good models. Tom
    • Joseph Bille writes: I have several BLI engines, Two Hybrid New Haven I-5s, tow 2-10-4s (one PRR J-1 and one C&O T-1), a PRR M-1b, a PRR T-1, an N&W J class 4-8-4 (Stealth) and a PRR USRA Mikado. I've had minor problems with a few of them, sound mostly, and a sheared side-rod bolt on my first I-5...the guys at BLI were responsive and helpful, and repaired the bolt on the I-5 with no service or shipping charge...so I guess I don't understand why some of the listings here relate having problems with customer service.... I think there are definite issues with the sound systems in both the Paragon 2 and the BlueLine, but that can usually be solved by a DCC reset - easier on Paragon than on BlueLine...shorts and smoke are altogether another thing, of course, but my experience with Broadway Limited has been good overall.
    • SY writes: I bought a new PRR J1 2-10-4. It made gear noise right out of the box!! I sent it in, 6 weeks later I got it back, they replaced the gears which they said were defective. Later I had exactly the same issue with the M1A 4-8-2 Mountain.
    • Jeff Hunsaker writes: I bought the USRA heavy 2-8-2, the PowerHouse series. It ran well on DC for about a month, then it began to short out at random places on the track-not even on any turn-outs, it would quit, shut down and then re-boot itself. Then the sound would start fading in and out and need to be reset to the factory settings, but even then it would soon start it all over again. I am quite dissapointed with it.
    • John Mock writes: I have two of the most recently released BLI Blueline USRA Heavy 2-8-2's, and I run only in DC mode. They run very well and the sound is good, and not as loud from the factory as my Precision Craft PRR I-1sa (whose high pitched Banshee whistle scares my youngest son). With the DC Master, you can "play" the whistle of the Blueline engines a little bit. My only complaint is that once they start moving, the speed curve progresses quite rapidly (in DC mode) to a rather fast speed. I wish they were geared for a little bit more gradual speed curve.
    • American Flyer writes: I own an ATSF 4-8-4. Everything works as advertised. It's a good, solid locomotive. It will pull 30 cars with lots of power to spare. I am a Genesis aficionado, but I'd certainly buy another BLI steam locomotive. In fact, I pray the yet-to-be-released Paragon2 Hudson is as good as this locomotive!
    • Alan Arthur writes: We have been running a BLI cab forward several hours a day for over 3 years. It pulls 35 flatcars of die cast tractors up a 3% grade quite well.
    • John Baker writes: I just purchased a BLI 2-8-2 Heavy Mikado. I am running DCC. It shorts when it goes over switches, but not every time and not the same switch each time.
    • Al Crawford writes: I recently purchased two BLI Mikado's (Paragon series) from two different sources. One runs great while the other shorts out my DCC system when it goes left around any 24 inch radius curve. It goes around a right-hand curve just fine. I contacted Broadway but received no reply. My new BLI Hudson works great in all respects.
    • Al Turkel writes: I have a 2-8-2 and a 4-6-6-4. Both ran good to start but then the sound units went (within one week of each other). Next, the 4-6-6-4 starts bucking and soon it was smoking and not from the smoke stack. I called customer service but it was a waste of time. They offered to sell me some other locomotives at a special price. They didn't seem to value the customer.
    • John Patton writes: I too question BLI's quality. I bought a Blue Box series "heavy" 2-8-2 with sound. I had it for less than a month when it stopped running and the sound only "idled" in place. I had it replaced and the new locomotive did the same thing within a week!
    • Frank Pedone writes: I'm seriously questioning the quality of Broadway engineering. In April 04 I bought 3751 Class 4-8-4. The headlight didn't work. BLI tech dept.support sent me a new headlight. That was defective. They instructed me to send back the entire unit for repair. I complied, put it in the mail and then had second thoughts. It was brand new so I called them and insisted on a new unit replacement. They complied and i got a new unit. On Jan.15, 2008 I bought EMD F7/A and B both powered with quantum sound. This week the B unit wouldn't move and while trying to use the sidekicks it was making relay clicks, muffled sound and then went to a loud static noise before it completely died. Again I had to send it to them and am facing a 4-6 week wait for it to be repaired. Not Happy! To add to my anger, the A unit isn't running smoothly on pristine clean track and wheels.
    • Jim Trowbridge writes: I have a BLI light Mikado and a BLI New Haven I-5. The Mikado has the traction tire and easily pulls 25 to 30 40' cars up a grade. I have put a new QSI chip in it that supports more sound features. The I-5 is beautiful with a low whistle that sounds like a steamship horn. It can pull 8+ heavyweights up a grade on an N scale power setting on a DB 150 at 55 to 60 Mph. Add 10 mph or so for an HO setting. The sound of power functions are great.
    • Charles Ditmore writes: I bought a new Mikado used it very little when it developed two significant issues, the second of which required that I send the entire unit back to the supplier for repair. The first issue turned out to be caused by the wires under the cab getting pinched between the solder points on the IC board and the underside of the cab. This resulted in loss of sound in one direction and was easily fixed by routing the wires better. The second issue resulted from excessive solder on the backside of bottom IC board shorting to the chassis when I attempted to use the volume control knob to lower the volume. This resulted in complete loss of all engine functions even after the short was removed and a hardware reset was performed. As others have stated, the detail is great, as is the quality of the sound.
    • Donald Penniman writes: I just received an I-5 New Haven Railroad Hudson. It is a great locomotive. All I had to do was change the coupler on the tender. Then I found the draw-bar from the locomotive was too short so I found a Mantua draw-bar that was 1/16th of an inch longer and hooked it up and now I'm running a train I call the "Yankee Clipper". I must say Broadway did a great production with this locomotive.
    • Gary Nahass writes: I bought five of them, a Hudson, Mikado, Norfolk & Western 4-6-6-4, Mountain and a F-9 Diesel. They are beautiful. Lower the volume from the factory settings and give them a little oil if the wheels squeak. You can operate the horn and the bell with a regular DC power pack. They merged with Precision Craft which require a $50 button to operate the sounds in DC. They have come out with the economical "Blueline" engines which need another $50 button to make the horn work. It's time for me to spring for a DCC system so I can use any brand of loco.
    • Bill Neale writes: I regularly run 2 of the Broadway M1a 4-8-2 engines on my railroad. They have prooven to be extremely reliable and are strong pullers. I run 25 car trains up 2% grades and have no problems. I do recommend that owners apply light lubrication to the driver journals as these tend to run dry. The exhaust sound and the whistle sound are very realistic, hence, these engines are the ones used to show off the railroad to occasional visitors. Consequently, they get a lot of use. The only drawback is the QSI sound system that does not match chuff rate to driver rotation at higher speeds.
    • Robert DeWoody writes: BLI 2-8-2 Light Mikado: Nice looking and the sound is impressive. Some detail molded on the boiler but most are separately applied parts. Starts and runs at a very low speed. It comes with traction tires on the last pair of drivers but has a spare set without tires if desired. My only negative comment is that there is no glass in the cab windows.

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    Web Sites

    IHC (International Hobby Corporation)

    IHC is the latest incarnation of AHM (Associated Hobby Manufacturers). In the 70s AHM imported Rivarossi locomotives. The current batch of steam locomotive built for IHC are manufactured by Mehano in Izola, Slovenia.

    Advantages

    • IHC steam locomotives have can motors (although they are cheap ones). They have exceptionally low current draw.
    • They also use a small flywheel. However, the flywheel is too small to have any noticeable effect.
    • They are cheaper than Rivarossi (but then so are a lot of things).

    Disadvantages

    • IHC will sell a number of locomotives of one design where only the railroad line is changed. For example, they sell a Mountain (4-8-2) in GN, UP, SP, C&O, etc. This particular locomotive is based on a C&O prototype. The other lines never had this particular locomotive. In this example, the model is pretty true to the prototype except the coal bunker of the tender is not correct -- it is too large.
    • These locomotives are plastic with some lead weight added -- but not enough. They are too slippery.

    Best Source

    • The best source for IHC steam locomotives is probably a flea market. I've seen the Mountain sell for around $100, the Prairie for around $60.

    Other comments

    • Mike Boyle writes: I own a 2-6-0 Mogul. It runs great, never had any issues with it. I added a Soundtrax decoder in it, a long time ago. It has been a very reliable engine. I tend to only run it pulling 4-6 40' boxcars, and a caboose.
    • Paul writes: I have two AHM/Rivarossi locomotives a UP Big Boy and a 3 truck Shay in Cass River Senic.Both locos were bought used from an estate at one of our local train shows in the 80's and I have no idea how much if any they were run previously.I paid $50 for each when they were selling new for over $200.The Shay runs very well at all speeds and will even track down to a walking speed with my old Troller Autopulse.However it will barely pull itself along a level stretch let alone any cars.I really need to add a lot of weight to it to make it a useable model. The Big Boy ran great when I first got it but the drive shaft has worn itself loose in a very short time and I need to find another way to get power to the gearbox.A real nice looker though and it looked so good on our club layout with 28 inch curves pulling a string of coal cars or iceed box cars.
    • Ron Brill writes: I have an IHC 0-8-0 shifter from 2008, purchased before the old IHC went out of business. The locomotive is a good runner, but the detailing could be improved for specific prototypical purposes, as all the 0-8-0's appeared to be just road name clones. The NEW IHC is run out of Texas(6/2011).
    • Paul Menkens writes: I have 4 of these and they're all great runners, a Mogol, Mountain and 2-10-2 I have yet to install decoders in the Mtn and Mogol but I put a Soundtrax decoder in one of the 2-10-2s and it works great, NEVER derails and pulls pretty well too, as I noted in the Spectrum section, I wish my Spectrum 2-10-2 that cost a bit more, worked as well as this one
    • Bill K. writes: IHC is a descendant of AHM, run by the same guy. They basically collected everyone else's cast-offs and re-tooled them into some decent products. The USRA light Pacific was an RSO Yugoslavia piece that's been sold by just about every manufacturer that imports stuff over the years - Life Like, AHM, Model Power, Mehano. The USRA 2-8-2 is the same boiler with another chassis. The 2-8-0 (later offered as an 0-8-0 as well) is the Tyco "Chattanooga" 2-8-0/0-8-0 with a new drive and the USRA tender from the Pacific (0-8-0 appears to use the tender from their 2-6-0). The 2-6-0/4-4-0 was originally offered in the late 1970s by both Life-Like and later Pemco, who also initially offered the 4-8-2 (both with a tender drive I believe, the 2-6-0 for sure). The old-time 4-4-0 is the same old AHM "Inyo" dating to the 1960s. Some of these were junk as initally offered, others (the USRA Pacific/Mike) were never too bad and needed only a better motor to be a decent quality engine. The last I had heard, they were in the process of moving production to China when Mehano went bust, while the man behind IHC was hospitalized with an illness, so just what's to come next who knows - but I am sure someone will pick up the pieces eventually. They bring too much money used (watching 2-6-0s and 2-8-0s bring $30-$50 on eBay in mid-2010) to let die.
    • David Colgan writes: I finally aquired an IHC loco. Technically it is an RSO Mehano, but it is the exact copy of a 4-6-2 light pacific from IHC. paid $7.00 (seven) dollars for it from the bargain big at my LHS. Runs well even for a 3-pole motor.
    • David Colgan writes: These engines are getting hard to find as IHC has gone out of business. Good runners and worth the 50-75$ for small steam (4-4-0/0-8-0/2-8-0/2-6-0) I don't believe that they ever made a prairie.
    • Gavin writes: I purchased a 4-8-2 CN loco through Great Canadian Superstore, the rest of the set was pretty cheap but the loco was fantastic. The mechanism is so quiet that all you hear when it is running is the hiss of the wheels on the track. I went out and bought a set of undec Athearn heavyweight passenger cars and painted them up in CN colours. I shortened the drawbar to give it a more realistic spacing between the loco and tender.
    • Person in New York writes: I have two IHC engines, a 2-8-2 and a 4-6-2. The wierd thing is that they look exactly alike, aside from numbers of drivers, driver diameter, and colors. The 2-8-2 is certainly my most powerful engine, and I can attach it to 15 cars and not worry about slipping at all. The 4-6-2 is slightly less powerful, but delightfully fast! They both are not the most detailed engines, but IHC is the brand to use if you want sturdy, reliable, workhorse engines that will pull any train you attach them to.
    • John writes: I own an old AHM Big Boy that's slated for repairs if I can find parts for it, or static display if not. I'm surprised it does run albeit not very well. I also have an IHC 'Premier Line' GG-1 (PRR) and am frankly astonished at it's performance. Easily rivals my newer Kato diesels for smooth running, quietness and slow speed operation. My only complaint is the very dim headlight at slow speeds.
    • Andrew writes: I own two IHC engines and have had them for at least two years and they really aren't half bad except for the pacific which ran for 1 month and then went out. I have a 2-6-0 from IHC that's running but it can only pull 2 cars and then it struggles
    • Andrew Cayer writes: I just bought an IHC 4-6-2. I was surprised. For the price this loco works very well. I had a bad experience with a Bachmann 4-4-0 Spectrum. I had to send it back. It took three months to receive a new one and it still doesn't work too well. I think that I'll be buying a few more IHCs and forget about Bachmann.
    • Jim Valimont writes: I have a 2-10-2 Sante Fe, a 4-6-4 Hudson, and an 0-8-0 switcher that I bought directly from IHC. I have them all equipped with Soundtraxx Tsunami decoders for DCC operation. All locomotives were made in Slovenia, and I'm pleased with all of them. They are the workhorses of my layout and I've been running them for over two years now. They pull great and have good low speed movement. I also have some Bachmann steam locomotives which are OK but do not perform quite as well as my IHC locos.
    • Tom writes: It appears that Mehano is now out of business and they went to China to build their new loco's. My first 2-10-2 made my Mehano was great, and the second one made in China was junk. Also their diesels made in China stink. I returned the 2-10-2 made in China for a Proto which was great. Seems you get what you pay for. So if you pick a good contract manufacturer in China it is ok, but if you buy junk, that is what you get and sell to the public. Buyer beware.
    • Ryan Marrs writes: I have four IHC locomotives (a 2-6-0, 2-8-0, 4-6-2 and 2-10-2). These are all wonderful performers. They pull better than most locomotives. The 2-10-2 is DCC ready which is very nice. The detailing could be much better but they are pretty cheap.
    • tman writes: According to the pacificcoastairlinerr.com, the IHC 4-4-0 locos are not actually HO scale (3mm/ft), but the British OO scale (4mm/ft). I don't know if this is also true for their other locos.
    • David Starr writes: I have a pair of IHC 2-6-0 Moguls. They are good runners, reasonably priced, have nice low speed creeping, and quiet mechanisms. These are small and light so they don't pull all that much, but then the prototype Moguls didn't pull much either. The interior is packed pretty full of weight. There isn't room to add much more. The pilot coupler can be replaced with a working Kadee coupler after a good deal of Dremel work on the pilot to open out the coupler mounting hole. Looks can be improved by painting the bright and shiny tender wheels grimy black.
    • Anders writes: I got an IHC 2-8-0. Lots of wheel slip. It's a poor puller.
    • Tuna writes: I have 2 IHC locomotives - a Mountain and a Pacific. The Mountain was my first locomotive. It runs pretty good for what it costs. The Pacific is the IHC Gold version done up in the ALTON LIMITED paint scheme. I just got it and have not run it much. I added a Tsunami sound decoder and it appears to be working ok.
    • John Patton writes: I've got the IHC 2-8-2, 4-6-2, and 4-8-2. They all run OK but don't have the greatest pulling power as they're too light. However with added weight and some removal of cast-on detail, and re-applied road specific detail, they make for a decent locomotive for a low price. I've taken an IHC 4-8-2 frame and replaced the boiler with an extended IHC 2-8-2 boiler and replaced the Vanderbilt tender with a Rivarossi tender to make a B&O T-3. In summary, these locomotives aren't the greatest out of the box, but excellent for kit-bashing a prototype of your choice with a little work. Don't forget to add weight for pulling power. The newer series from IHC seems to have an improved motor and drive.
    • RL Whiting writes: I have several IHC locomotives. (3 consolidations, 2 mountains, a mikado and a pacific). The detailing is average and not very specific roadwise. The Pacific, Mikado and Mountains are basically USRA design copies. The 2-8-0 is very generic. I have had some of these for a long time, since about 1995. They all run smoothly, but the smaller engines are not great pullers. Still, I would rather have a smooth running engine than one that pulls hard but is not smooth. The prices on these have risen considerably in the last few years. The mergers of the manufacturers has caused all of the HO prices to rise so this is not unexpected. To be totally honest, unless I find an IHC model worth buying at a flea market I would buy and assemble a Bowser kit instead.
    • Alex writes: I have owned an IHC Mountain for about 8 years or so. In all that time I've only had one major complaint. The wiring on it is kinda flimsy. The connecting wire between the tender and the loco broke. Furthermore, when I take the engine apart I feel like I have to treat it very gently for fear of pulling the soldered connections apart. Only one other minor complaint is that its definitely not a GN P-2. It is some other roads engine, probably a C&O from pics I've seen, but Im not knowledgeable enough on eastern RRs to confirm). My model has TONS of detail, but all for a different engine then its made out to be. The tender has loads of room for DCC. Still, short of brass, I haven't been able to find any good plastic GN P-2s, and I don't feel confident enough to scratch-detail this one to be a P-2, so I'm content with it's little masquerade.
    • Sam Dwire writes: Having went to a salvage store I found a IHC 4-6-4 in a trainset that was selling for $15.00. The rest of the set was junk but the locomotive ran so well that I decided to keep it for my layout.
    • Jeff Deprato writes: I recently purchased an IHC premier series 2-10-2 locomotive that came DCC ready. It has been a very good engine and have run it for several hours at my club. It will pull a fairly long train without any problems. I would consider purchasing another one like it in the future.
    • Steve Wysowski writes: I have four IHC produced 4-4-0s. I re-powered all of the New Haven 4-4-0s using Nihon motors with 3:22 gear-heads from the motorman in Texas. This provides an operating speed of between 5 and 20 MPH, prototypical for these locomotives for a branch line. I also super-detailed them all using Cal Scale parts. I redesigned the pick-ups using Tomar Wipers so they run very smoothly and are weighted to pull as many as 15 cars on the straight and level. These are outstanding running little locomotives and the price is right.
    • Tom Clarke writes: The IHC 2-8-2 Mikado is great value for your money. However, the sub-frame is made of rather soft plastic, which will allow the drive wheel axles to eventually burrow into it, even with the most generous lubrication. This wear makes the drive wheels sloppy and wobbly, which in turn makes for very a poor connection between the wheels and the track, often causing stops over switches and elevation changes. I have finally done some modifications to my engines to eliminate this problem; I have drilled out the sintered bronze bushings that normally house drive shafts. I then went on to cut them in two, and install the half-bushing into the Mike's sub-frame, with a little dremel work to make them fit. The axles of the drive wheels no longer rub against the plastic sub-frame, but are instead contacting the sintered bronze bushings, saving the sub-frame from terminal wear. This is perhaps the ONLY drawback to these IHC 2-8-2s. Aside from this, they are fabulous in terms of looks, quietness, low-speed power, and overall elegance.
    • A viewer writes: Mountain and Consolidation: Run well, but not much low speed sensitivity. DCC can be added to either. The Mountain is difficult to disassemble and put back together. The DCC converter can be located in the tender on both.
    • A viewer writes: I now own 3 IHC loco's: the Pacific, Mike & Consolidation. I found all of them ran poorly out of the box but found this was caused by poor lubrication of the motor bearings & gearbox. I simply squirted a few drops of oil into these areas and now all 3 perform superbly - virtually no noise from the mechanism. All three now outshine my Spectrum K4 which is by no means bad.
    • A viewer writes: Low speed pull is excellent, and engine weight feels good to me. I'm only pulling around 10-12 cars at the moment, but even on a 3.5% incline it doesn't slow down or slip at all. Moreover, it's extremely quiet running. Only drawback is that it doesn't come with a smoke system. This can be easily added (IHC makes a smoke system add-on, which I've purchased but not yet tried to install). They don't mention the add-on in the engine's docs however).

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    Web Sites

    Life-Like Proto 2000 Heritage Steam Collection

    Life-Like claims that their Proto 2000 2-8-8-2 is the most meticulously detailed, best-running injection-molded steam locomotive ever produced! From the comments I have received from readers, I would have to say that the above statement is probably true.

    Advantages

    Disadvantages

    • Expensive ($350+)
    • Proto models are too delicate for much operational handling.

    Other comments

    • Spencer Adsit writes: I have four 2-8-8-2s that I bought undecorated, and a Virginian 2-8-4. I built the Mallets to replicate the Virginian 700 series and the N&W Y-3s, and with a little help from the late great (fantastic really) Life-Like parts group created the correct tenders for them. The Virginian BA was a wonderful addition to my Virginian fleet. I will long lament the demise of Life-Like, as I feel their offerings that I have exposure with were all great. I have had no running issues with any of them.
    • Jerry Blair writes: I have the Denver and Rio Grande 2-8-8-2 running on DC only. This engine is currently running on my branch line that has three 15 inch curves and this engine just keeps pulling and has not derailed or had any binding on these short curves.
    • Greg Latiak writes: I have two Proto 2000 Locos -- an 0-8-0 and an 0-6-0. Both have wonderful sound. The 0-8-0 runs well but is very touchy about track cleanliness. The 0-6-0 has power pickups on the tender and has been very good. But recently the right side rods fell off the rear driver, which I am trying to repair. Much too expensive a loco to have it fall apart after only a few hours of use.
    • Mike writes: I bought a Life-Like P2K C&O Berkshire (before walthers bought Life-Like) and came without traction tires. It runs really good and pulls about 20 hoppers up a roughly 2% grade. After I added sound, the performance went down hill about 10-12 hoppers up the same grade. I thought about putting the PC board back in and running it straight DC again or figure out how to put traction tires on it without having the sound cut in and out. Overall though, I am very happy with the engine.
    • Hayden Cook writes: I recently purchased the D&RGW USRA 2-8-8-2 and i just have to say wow! I have a Bachmann Spectrum that i thought has some great detail ( USRA 2-10-2 ) but after just getting this loco, it leaves the other ones in the dust! The engine was able to turn on sharp corners with no speed difference which some of my smaller steamers couldn't even do. and it has great pulling power. I also got this loco with sound, and I was really impressed with it. The decoder in it was basically pre-set so no tinkering with it is nessisary although I probably will make some changes to volume and speed. But I highly recomend this this locomotive!
    • Mike Toney writes: I cannot recommend this line due to the very delicate details and axle cracking issues that are the same problem suffered by their diesels. I had 2 of the NKP Berks, from the second "improved" run with correct drivers and working mars light, both suffered cracked axles, rendering them unrunable as the the driver set went out of quarter. The axle design is the same as a diesel, with the metal part of the drivers being splined and pressed into a delrin axle shaft, one with the gear molded into it. The plastic shrinks as it ages but the metal drivers pressed into them dont, thus split. Very beautifull engines, almost impossible to get parts from Walthers for them, took me several days worth of arguing with the higher ups at Walthers to get replacement drivers for my Berks and they really dont want to talk to anybody with a Like Like built Proto engine at all. I think in the long run, these engines will be sidelined by cracked axles and gears unless NWSL steps in with replacement axles and gears. Mike
    • STEF writes: Got USRA HEAVY 2-10-2, undecorated w sound; weathered it (the Life Like locos are shiny black) and decaled it for Erie. This loco is AWESOME, smooth, powerful, nice sound. These proto locos are great I think.
    • Richard writes: The Proto heritage line is a true piece of art running down the tracks. I have the older run with no traction tires and they do fall short on pulling power so I will contact Walthers to see if they can help me upgrade my older models. Another issue is I am afraid to run them heavily do to the delicate construction of the side rod assemblies. They use very small "rivet" style pins to connect the outer most rods the the larger inner rod and as these move around I am afraid they will wear the delicate flair on the pin until it falls out. Since these are not nuts and bolts, they will be difficult at best to repair. I have a beautiful 2-10-2 sitting on a shelf for precicley this reason. I will be calling Walthers to see if I can order replacement side rod assemblies to have on hand. If you want rugged steam engines for constant running & have good detail I would go with Broadway limited in general. I do love my Heritage engines but they need to upgrade their line to keep up with the competition. The newer engines are gorgeous & improved but I feel they need to be more stout & user servicable.
    • Eric L. writes: I have purchased a Virginian P2K 2-8-4 Berkshire and installed Soundtraxx's Tsunami Heavy Steam decoder. The model is an aesthetic masterpiece: beautifully detailed cab and siderods, Virginian-specific details, and non-molded-on exterior plumbing. Great puller on level track and medium grades. However, I have the first-run edition, and be advised that it is a slippery beast on heavy grades (I couldn't get more than 10 cars up my club's admittedly very steep 3.5% grade). Looks like I'll be placing a call to Walthers for traction tires, which do indeed come on the second-run model. Other than that, I highly recommend the Berk.
    • Grant Padgett writes: I just bought a Proto 2000 Pere Marquette N-2 Berkshire and I have nothing but good things to say about it, the detail is amazing and the paint on it is crisp and realistic. Sure its delicate to handle but as far as this loco goes I rate it a 10, when I get enough money I plan to snatch that Pennsylvania 2-8-8-2 with sound.
    • Tom White writes: Frankly, until two days ago, I would walk a mile to avoid a Proto2000 steamer--overpriced, and though exquisitely detailed, EXTREMELY poor pullers. I had a USRA 0-8-0 and a USRA 2-8-8-2 and both were extremely disappointing locomotives--especially for the price. However, several days ago I was in my LHS and saw a new DC Proto USRA 2-8-8-2 in their Rio Grande version, and I got curious. After watching it demonstrated for me, I bought it with the understanding that if it proved as disappointing as my other Proto steamers, I could return it. Frankly, I am amazed. Without traction tires (which I abhor), the new Proto handled about 25 cars over my MR, which contains wide (36" radius)curves and stiff (up to 2-1/4%) grades without any trouble at all. The loco is heavy, well balanced and beautifully detailed. It also has incredible control throughout the speed range. If this is the path of future Proto2000 steam locos, then I'm certainly willing to change my opinion of them. This one is a jewel. Tom
    • Ian Sach writes: I have an older Proto 0-8-0, the DC model before tender pickups. I added a Tsunami sound decoder and pickups to all tender wheels. The loco runs superbly, the BEMF adds to its slow crawl ability and I have had no problems with motor noise or lack of pulling power. The coupler connector is poorly designed & failed not long after purchase. I made a sturdier styrene box housing which solved the problem. Out of three other manufacturers I have to say that the Proto loco's are by far the best in my stable.
    • SY writes: I have an N&W 2-8-8-2 and a C&O 0-8-0 and 2-8-4. These three engines are the three best running steam engines I have ever had (I have had probably 150 engines over the years!!!). They run like Swiss watches and look very nice as well. Easy to add Decoder and/or Sound!!
    • Kenneth L. Bird writes: I have a large number of their diesels and they run well. The early models had a problem with cracked gears on the wheels sets. They sound like a "flat wheel" when they run. I have had to replace five sets of them this year. I have not had any problems with recent production models.
    • Jim Valimont writes: I recently purchased a 2-8-8-2 in which I plan to install a soundtraxx Tsunami decoder. While I'm pleased with the appearance and initial operation of this locomotive, I find the drawbar connection to the tender very fragile and of poor design as it broke the second time I connected the locomotive to the tender. I question whether this connection arrangement is truly reflective of the origional design.
    • Andrew writes: I have the first run 2-8-4 & 2-8-8-2 (both non sound equipped)both are beautifully detailed, smooth quiet runners, weak slippery pullers (the newer run locos have traction tires which have improved things in this regard).
    • A visitor writes: I purchased my 0-8-0 on Ebay (new & sealed) for $50 and it runs very well without any trouble whatsoever.
    • Roland Kucharski writes: The Proto 2000 0-8-0 is the best running loco I've ever had and I've got a lot of engines. It is extremely smooth with a load or without that machine can actually crawl.
    • Jake Fischer writes: I recently bought one of these engines, the sound is top notch and very prototypical. I must say that they are among the smoothest steam models I have ever seen. The only drawback is that it suffers from lack of traction. I struggled to pull a load of 30 hoppers on a 1.5 percent grade, but this can be fixed with the new included traction tires. When added it pulled 95 hoppers up a 1.5 percent grade. Overall, best steamer ever purchased, and highly recommended.
    • A viewer writes: The newly released USRA 0-8-0 sells for $225 retail.
    • A viewer writes: The appliances and tender size of the various 2-8-8-2 models are customized to match that of the prototype.
    • The eccentric cranks on the right side of the locomotive are offset in the wrong direction.
    • A viewer writes: Flea market price for this locomotives is around $275.
    • A viewer writes: This locomotive was reviewed in Model Railroader, March 2000, page 16.
    • Charles Emerson writes: I also have 2 P2K 2-8-8-2s and 3 0-8-0s to which I have also installed Soundtraxx decoders. These models are excellent and have exquisite detail perhaps even more than some brass (Sunset) models. My only criticism is that as beautiful a model as they are, for which we are paying top dollar for a limited run model and there is no crew. A bit stingy on Life-Like's part.
    • Robert DeWoody writes: P2K Heritage 2-8-4 Berkshire: This is a great model locomotive and has railroad specific details for the names offered. I have the NKP Berk and think it is the best non articulated plastic steam locomotive to date. It pulls about 18 freight cars up a 2% grade and would pull more if either heavier or if it had a traction tire. I've pulled over 30 cars on flat grade. P2K Heritage 0-8-0: This model is loaded with applied details and runs as well as it looks.

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    Web Sites

    Mantua

    Mantua started in Mantua, New Jersey. Mantua later changed its name to Tyco (The Tyler Company). Tyco then split into two companies: Mantua and Tyco. The portion that became Mantua again concentrated on model trains. Tyco concentrated on other toys. In October 2001, Mantua ceased manufacturing model trains. Model Expo bought all of the ready-to-run locomotives and offered them for sale through their mail order catalog. Since then, Model Power has begun selling "Mantua Classics".

    Because Mantua was a major manufacturer of HO steam, and because many people still have Mantua locomotives, information on them will remain as part of this page.

    In the late 1990s, Mantua steam locomotives underwent a transformation. They used to offer the following wheel arrangements: 0-4-0, 0-6-0, 2-8-2, 4-4-2, 4-6-2, 4-6-4 (two versions, one with pacific boiler and one with mikado boiler), and a 2-6-6-2 articulated logging locomotive. They were all powered by an open frame motor. The newer incantation of these locomotives included more wheel arrangements including several camelbacks. The newer models also came in a variety of road names and had Sagami can motors and improved gearing. I have heard that these can motors made a considerable difference in locomotive performance.

    Mantua made steam locomotives in the "small to medium" size range. The switcher is a fairly accurate model of a Reading 0-4-0, except that it scales out about a foot too high. The 0-6-0 version is not a model of anything other than an 0-4-0 body on a 0-6-0 chassis. The switchers come with a rubber tire on one wheel.

    Mantua applied two versions of a larger boiler to different chassis to produce both light and heavy USRA designs of both the 4-6-2 and the 2-8-2 wheel arrangements. The 4-6-2 is very close to a USRA light 4-6-2 or a B&O class P-7 4-6-2. The 2-8-2 is very close to a Lehigh Valley 2-8-2 or CB&Q O-3. They also used it as a generic camelback boiler.

    Advantages

    • If you want affordable camelback steam, you don't really have any other choice.

    Disadvantages

    • Steam locomotive designs used for Mantua locomotive are more or less generic.

    Other comments

    • Bill W writes: I have two Mantua 4-6-2 from when I was 8 years old. I am now 55 and they are still in good working condition. My son got me another from Ebay and now I have three that work very well. Just wish they would have flywheels on them. Bought the repower from Alliance and it does allow creep but has less power than the original open frame engines. Not sure if there is something wrong with it but it does work. I use these to pull my heavyweight passenger train that models the old Royal Blue. Plan to modify one to match that engine. Should be interesting.
    • Donald S. Barniskis writes: My Mantua 2-6-6-2 Uintah Railway articulated locomotive #50 with the can type motor will articulately negotiate an 11.5" radius curve. There are 2 such curves on my layout, so I can state that a 2-6-6-2 logger without a tender will cope with properly laid curves of very tight dimension without problem. I have not tested the unit with smaller curves, but I do know that a model with a tender does not have the same degree of conformability and cannot track such a restrictive curve.
    • ken roth writes: I have every camel back made from Mantua and really like them. I cannot complain about tracking nor running ability , although its a shame with all the different styles of locomotive they never made the reading Crusader.
    • trailrider writes: I love Mantua steamers, though I haven't had a chance to check out the new versions. Mine are mostly 30+ years old. I've heard folks criticize the straight-top boiler of the Mikado as being "unprototypical". Check out a Burlington Route O-3. The Pacifics are great for passenger service, and can pass for any number of prototype locos. The open-frame motors are not the best performers, especially at low speeds. If one can locate a gearbox (Yardbird is currently out of them, unfortunately...I think I have the last one in stock on the way to me), or can cobble one up from sheet brass, with bearings, and change the motor to a can or coreless, you will have a really smooth runner, provided you smooth up the running gear (round Swiss needle file). I don't run Mikados much nowadays. I need bigger engines for my 3 percent grade. The solution was to kitbash a pair of Burlington M-2 2-10-2's and a pair of M-4 2-10-4's using a pair of Mikes for each. Four-wheel trailing trucks came from Mantua Hudson/Berkshires. A Mike frame, a Pacific forward end frame and a couple of Pacific boilers, and I have a nice B-1 4-8-2. A pair of Pacific frames, and one each Pacific front end and Mike rear boiler, an all-weather cab, and you have a 4-8-4. The open frame motors were replaced with Canon 20mm coreless motors (no longer available unfortunately, but there are other possibilities). Want such hogs to run on 18" radius? Use blind drivers on all interior axles, and shim them up with .010" brass and the flanged (end) drivers and bearing down .010". Can't see it unless you get the light behind it, and get right down at railhead height. I've pulled sixteen very heavy (old zamack bodies) freight cars up a 3 percent grade with 20" radius curves at each end of the grade with one of the 2-10-4's. (The 2-10-2's will do about the same since the only effective difference is the 4-wheel trailing truck on the M-4.) Can't pull any more than that on my layout...the locomotive will straighten the string out at the curves! All such kitbashing requires is a good hacksaw, plastic steel, whatever super details you want to add, and patience. But you can use the regular locos as is!
    • Jack Munro writes: I have a Tyco 2-8-2 that I built from a kit in the mid-70's, as well as a new Mantua 2-8-2 (C&O configuration -- fairly close) that I bought on eBay earlier this year. You're quite right -- the difference in performance between the old open-frame motor and the newer can motor is marked. I have three of four old Tycos with the open-frame motor and, though they're fine at high speed (the way we kids used to run them), they don't have the torque to pull a load at slow or moderate speeds up and down even mild slopes in the table without sloooowing down and speeding up again. For some reason both my old 2-8-2 and 4-6-2 run more consistently in reverse (age may be a factor!) But again, the new can motor, running in essentially the same 2-8-2 body and frame, is smooth and consistent at all speeds.
    • George writes: Mantua locomotives are a really good option considering how over priced a lot of the plastic locomotives are anymore, mantua locomotives are easy to repair, and if you need parts, Yardbird Trains carries almost everything, sure the mantua locomotives are spartan in detail, but you can add your own details or even use a cary boiler on most of them, anymore the prices of plastic locomotives are becoming the prices of brass locomotives and it's ridiculous, mantua fits the bill if you want something that is reliable and something that can actualy pull a long line of cars without slipping, most of the newer mantua locomotives made by model power start around $50 where the 4-6-2 and the 2-6-6-2 sell for around $100 new.
    • Bill K writes: Mantua originally offered Reading-RR prototype and some more generic prototype kits of brass and cast construction. Most of the current kits again date to the 1950s era and originally were sold with all cast boilers, cabs and tenders. They were retooled in the 1960s to get plastic tender shells and cabs, the 0-4-0 eventually getting an all-plastic shell (and under Tyco it even got the same drive as the diesels used). The Sierra 4-6-0 was a 1960s release and it's somewhat oversize, scaling more to British OO than to American HO size. It was offered for a short time as a 4-8-0 as well. After the split, some Tyco/Mantua items eventually went to IHC - IHC's 2-8-0 and 0-8-0 use the boiler casting sold for years as the tender drive Tyco "Chattanooga" engine, but I have also run into a "Mantua" version with a conventional drive. The casting itself is a take on a USRA 0-8-0. Like anything else, how they run depends on the skill of the assembler, but most of them can be made to operate acceptably.
    • DeeK writes: I have two Mantua 2-6-2 "praire type" and they are good engines - no mention of the 2-6-2 above??
    • SY writes: EASY to convert the older motors for DCC OPERATION; take a Dremel w a Cut off disc and cut a groove into the brass tab on the top of the motor connected to the rear most brush spring; now both brushes are isolated from the motor and frame, solder two feeder wires and you are ready for the Decoder!!!
    • Ronald Busey writes: I purchased a Model Power WM 2-6-6-2. Model Power service on warranted units SUCKS! On third send to company, I am having them keep my engine (since no one there is competent to repair) and send me a NEW one when next shipment comes in in 2010.
    • David J. Starr writes: The older Mantuas are decent runners. The boilers are Zamac castings which give them weight. The stock Mantua mechanisms run smoothly despite the open frame motors. I put a can motor into a Mantua Pacific which made a good runner into an even better runner. Stock, the lowest creep speed was about 5 scale mph. The can motor dropped that down to 0.05 scale mph. That Pacific served as the base for a B&M P4 kitbash. The overall dimensions match those of a P4 to within a few scale inches. Parts are still available through Yardbird Trains. The works are simple and there is little that can go wrong that cannot be fixed. In many cases a new paint job is all that is needed to revive a tired looking used engine.
    • James writes: Mantua's HO scale replica of Sierra Railway 4-6-0 No. 3 has proved to be an absolute godsend for my modeling purposes. The protoype is the famed, so-called 'Movie Star Train' that has appeared in a number of films and televisions shows, including "Back to the Future", "Little House on the Prairie," and "Petticoat Junction". This locomotive suits the time period and atmosphere of the protoype railroad I'm modeling to a tee (1880-1920). The best part is that Mantua offered various different versions of this locomotive featuring different dome styles, different stack styles, different wheel arrangements, even different tender loads (coal or wood). Alas, HO versions of this lovely engine are no longer commercially available through any maker. Fortunately, however, Mantua's are easily found on Ebay and for sale at train shows at terribly reasonable prices. With Sierra No. 3 currently being restored it will be interesting to see if any of the current HO makers decide to offer it.
    • Scott K writes: I have a Mantua 2-8-2 Mikado with a nice super-detail kit but the boiler is massively over-sized even for a USRA heavy Mikado. It's bigger than the boiler on my 4-8-2 Mountain and nearly as big as my 2-10-2 Big Six. I was hoping to make a passable B&O Q Mikado by adding a Vanderbilt tender but the whole loco is just too big. Then I thought I might try to kitbash it into a 4-8-2 but it will be too much work to relocate the cylinders and replace the rods to accommodate the 4 wheel truck. Oh well, I just pretend it is a freakish B&O frankenengine :). Otherwise, it is tough as nails and heavy enough to haul a small building. The detail is nice and once I replace its horrible open-frame motor with a can, I'm sure it will be a very strong, smooth puller.
    • Mary Kutner writes: My Husband and I picked up their 0-6-0 and goat locomotives as we had luck with their loggers. We must have 50-55 steam locomotives of all makes. I must say you can't kill these little beasts. We only put 5 cars on the 0-6-0 but on the Goat we have 14 cars of various sizes and weights. Jack and I run this line 4 hours a day 5 days a week and we really like the quality. They are detailed fairly well. Whomever bought them seems to know how to make a loco run. Anybody can make a $400.00 loco but a very good one for $150.00 is what we need.
    • Jon Altemac writes: I have a new logger running 6 hours a day. No problems and it's pulling 22 logging cars up my 2.5% grade.
    • John Patton writes: I own several Mantua steam locomotives. They are generic, but with a little detail the 2-8-2 can be made into a respectable B&O Q-3 or Q-4. Same goes for the Mantua 4-6-2 which is a very close replica to a B&O P-7. I also have a 2-6-6-2 made into an 0-6-6-0 to replicate the B&O's "Old Maude" (which is the USA's first Mallet type locomotive dating back to 1906). I also have an 0-6-0 and 0-4-0 in both regular and Camelback versions. The Camelback's cabs stand about a foot too tall but are good starting points for modeling different Reading lines locomotives that have Wootten fireboxes. Any of the Mantua steamers are good starting points for kit-bashing. The best part is their bullet proof gearing! Whether open frame motor or caned motor, they will pull with little effort,
    • Steve writes: Mantua also made the Dixie Belle old timer 4-6-0, General 4-4-0 (all metal with tender drive), old timer 2-6-0, Belle of 80s (all metal) 4-4-0, and old timer 4-8-0. They also made a Decapod 2-10-0 using a Mikado boiler. Later they made a 4-4-2 including a Camelback version as well as 0-8-0 and 2-8-0 versions. I have successfully kit-bashed the Mikado into a DL&W heavy Mikado by shortening the tender and using Bowser trucks plus additional detail parts. I also made a WM I-2 class heavy 2-10-0 by detailing and kit-bashing the tender from a Bowser long haul tender kit.
    • A viewer writes: NWSL now have a gearbox kit for the new style Pacifics.
    • Val Nelson writes: I also have a rather extensive parts inventory of Rivarossi and Tyco HO parts. I bought out the entire parts inventory from a hobby shop in Omaha, NE and still have quite a bit of it - literally thousands of parts. Please let me know if I may be of assistance to anyone. I can be contacted via this email or by phone at 402-493-3774.

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    Best Source

    • For older Mantua steam locomotives, flea markets would be a good source. The going price for a Pacific or Mikado in good shape is around $40 - $50. The newer Mantuas are making starting to make their way into flea markets. Prices are in the $150 range.

    Web Sites

    MDC (Model Die Casting/Roundhouse)

    I have never built an MDC steamer. However, I have gathered the following information from others. From what I gather, building these kits into a well running locomotive is a challenge. If anyone wishes to add more details to this information, you may send it to me .

    MDC uses essentially the same boiler for both the Mogul and Consolidation. Their boilers are well cast in a combination of plastic over a metal core. The side rods use a plastic crank pin rather than a screw. Sometimes they come out while operating, but super glue solves this problem. The motor may require slight shimming to achieve proper gear meshing. They have good low speed performance and are very quiet for an open frame motor.

    MDC now offers its 2-truck shay "ready to run". This item runs very nicely and has bright led directional lights.

    Advantages

    • MDC makes just about the only "non-brass" HOn3 steam locomotives.
    • The latest MDC kits now have can motors instead of the older open-frame motor.

    Disadvantages

    • The Shay model requires a great deal of "tweaking" to get it to run well (smoothly). NWSL sells a re-gear kit for the Shay. See RMC Jan & Feb 1991, and MR Aug 1985. I have been told that the NWSL re-gear kit for the HOn3 C-21 is essential.

    Other comments

    • John Stahl writes: I have built the 0-6-0,2-8-0 and 4-6-0 with few problems. The 2-8-0 & 4-6-0 are of the Harriman era and are still running great after 25 years. I just recently installed a can motor in both these locomotives that was purchased from Chino Backshops in Arizona. If you have one of the newer MDC models they already have a reduction gear built in which slows these engines down to a crawl(15 scale mph. All I had to do was remove the gear from the open frame motor and slide it onto the can motor and you're ready to highball. Look on Flea Bay or other auction sites. They do show up but they're getting harder to find.
    • Kevin Collier writes: I have built several MDC steamers, a 060, 3 of the smaller 280s and 2 of the larger 280s. With the original open motor and the can motor series. Cleaning of the castings is the most important thing that you can do to guarantee a good running engine. A small round file to clean where the axles ride in the frame, you don't have to wallow it out, just make sure that any burrs are removed. Also, as has been stated by others, clean the side rods of any roughness. Labelle is a very welcome aid to your work bench [if you are a shooter and have some Gunslick, it's even better]. Also, set your tenders up for at least one truck to pick up electric current.
    • Bill K. writes: MDC's 0-6-0 was originally released in 1941 (!) and some of the other SP/AT&SF design rod locomotives in the 1950s. The 2-6-2 is a fiction, made to get more milage out of the Santa Fe boiler. Most of them were re-tooled like Mantua engines to convert shells to plastic from all die-cast.
    • David Colgan writes: I just purchased another MDC shay. It was a kit that someone built already which ran horrible. I used stock parts from a freinds kit that used NWSL parts in his. I replaced; -The axle gears -The tower gears (drive and idle) -Line-shaft gears (I am using 3 believe it or not) -Paint and almost every detail (I consider the only work not done by me was cutting the parts from the sprue, it was a complete rebuild) The locomotive runs very well now. I am using only kit parts and have the NWSL replacements if needed. I was afraid to take the loco apart to use the NWSL gears because of the time spent on the stock ones. I have installed a snowplow, a "bear trap" spark arrestor from scratch and a wood load with cables for the whistle and bell. She is a very good runner and both my kit-built and RTR will cover 3 feet of track in 1 minute 40 seconds.
    • David Colgan writes: I just bought an HO 2 truck shay "Ready to Run" I was satisfied with the performance since I only paid about $65 for it (Coming to find now that this was a steal considering they aren't made at all any more) After using some Labelle, it's a totally new machine. Runs very well. I found that the factory had made improvements in the side drive line and motor and eliminated the need for some of the NWSL upgrades.
    • Donald Frigo writes: I have just completed a 2-6-2 loco and it runs great! It does have the newer can motor. Being my first kit loco I'm very happy with it. Follow the directions and it will go together easily and both run and look good.
    • John Patton writes: I have but one MDC/Roundhouse kit, the 70 ton 3 Truck Shay. It's complicated to assemble and there are tricks to get it to run smoothly. However, it will work and work well. I have replaced the motor with a Canon flat can motor and will look into the gearing to eliminate the binding on the side gears on the wheels.
    • Steve Wysowski writes: I have built six MDC/Roundhouse kits; three 2-8-0s, two 2-6-0, and one 4-4-0. I have re-geared and re-motored all of them. I used standard NWSL gearing kits at 72-1 ratio. I also used Maxon can motors with flywheels, The motors are 1323 and can be purchased from "The Motorman" in Texas. These engines run extremely well. They can go as slowly as scale 1 mph! They all pull 15 cars w/o a problem. They required a great deal of "tinkering" but they run as smoothly as glass.
    • Eugen Takacs writes: I have built plenty MDC steam locomotive. My web site has some pictures of them.
    • Johannes M. Vogt writes: I just finished assembling a MDC HOn3 inside frame 2-8-0. The motor (open frame) is good quality. However, the rest of the mechanism is practically useless. When assembled as instructed, the locomotive barely moved, and I went on to rebuild the entire mechanism:
      • The teeth of the idler gear sometimes got caught in the large gear that meshes with the worm. I made a new set of brass gears leaving enough clearance to avoid this problem, and also changing the gearing ratio from 48:1 to 73.6:1.
      • The plastic crank pins are too long. The result is that the side rods have too much play, they can tilt sideways and then get jammed. I made shorter steel crank pins, which prevent the side rods from tilting/jamming and also reduce friction.
      • It was impossible to install the main rod and related mechanism. The parts simply didn't fit together. I had to rebuild all of these parts. I drilled out the holes in the cylinders to press in brass bushings (just pieces of brass pipe), in which I now run steel rods.
      Now my locomotive runs very smoothly with impressive low-speed performance. All wheels are nickel plated, so the electrical contact with the rails is reliable.

      The locomotive isn't the greatest puller though, and the fact that the tender was unreasonably heavy didn't exactly help. I machined down the die cast bottom part of the tender to reduce the weight.

      Conclusion: Unless you have a hobby machine shop and you want to rebuild the entire mechanism, consider it a display model.

    • A viewer writes: I have built the MDC 2-truck shay and have been very disappointed. The instructions are inadequate, the die cutting is lousy and the "tweaking" is nearly a complete rebuilding. I don't recommend these kits unless you are a proficient kit-basher.
    • Someone on rec.model.railroads writes:
      1. The new can motor in the current kits is a Sagami can and is very good. The earlier one was an open frame Sagami, which mine is and I find it more than acceptable. The main problem was after the motor, mostly within the drive train.
      2. Replace all the plastic gears in the gearbox with brass ones from N.W.S.L.
      3. I used both the gears on each truck and haven't had to much of a problem.
      4. I found that I had to wire the trucks together to keep the keeper plates in place as the little plastic tabs were almost useless and broke off after the first attempt at disassembly.
      5. Any good light grease is fine.
      6. I also replaced the M.D.C. universals with standard Athearn ones as I found these to be smoother and helped this loco to run better.
      7. Granted the shay is a difficult project but the effort is worthwhile. Where else could you get a 3-truck shay for approximately 100 dollars. I have built four of these kits and due to practice I am able to turn one out in a few evenings. It just takes patience and a lot of hit and miss assembly for the drive train but it can be accomplished in about 5 hours with satisfactory results. Otherwise I also operate the Santa fe 4-4-2 Atlantic, a very easy kit to build. It is basically screwdriver assembly and then some minor adjusting and greasing. This engine I have run continuously at a local club, doing local runs, for the last 12 years and it must have at least a half million scale miles on it with just regular maintenance. I highly recommend these kits for the novice. They produce a locomotive with staying quality, ease of assembly, and fairly good looks.
    • A viewer writes: MDC offers smaller steam locomotives like 2-8-0s, 2-6-0s, 4-4-0s, and Shays. The "side-rod" locomotives are based on SP prototypes, except for the C-21 which is D&RGW.
    • A viewer writes: The C-21 boiler can be lowered to prototype height as described in an issue of Model Railroader.
    • A viewer writes: Boilers are made of metal.
    • A viewer writes: With patience and the easy-to-follow instructions, these kits can be built into nice looking locomotives.
    • A viewer writes: References for MDC
      • MDC Shay test, RMC, 84/02, p103
      • Better performance from MDC Shay, MR, 85/08, p84
      • Upgrading the MDC Shay:1, RMC, 91/01, p64
      • Upgrading the MDC Shay:II, RMC, 91/02, p79
    • Someone from MDC writes: The manner in which side rods are installed can cause the drivers to wobble. Punched brass side rods have a burr around the outer edge on one side while the opposite side (face) has no burr. The burr needs to be cleaned off. After cleaning you will still be able to tell which side originally had the burr. Install the side rods with burr-side inward (toward drivers) on one side of engine and with burr-side outward (away from drivers) on the opposite side of the engine. This will ensure that the rod holes will match perfectly on both sides of the locomotive. Now test roll without motor and step gear. Check for binding in the mechanism or wobble, then add motor and re-check under power. A wobble can be introduced by gears being too eccentric or rods/cross-heads fouling.

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    Best Source

    • Your best bet is probably mail order. I've seen MDC kits available from Standard Hobby Supply. Prices vary from $55 to $70.

    MTH

    MTH offers a number of variations of four different steam locomotives which include:
    • NYC L3/L4 4-8-2 Mohawk
    • SP GS4/GS6 4-8-4 Northern
    • Erie 2-8-8-8-2 Triplex
    • PRR K4s 4-6-2 Pacific
    The locomotives come equipped with onboard sound and command control electronics. The prices range from $400 to $500.

    Other comments

    • Arnold Harner writes: If you do some research the roadnames for the GS-6 and the triplexed are correct, BLI is starting to do the IHC thing. They just released some 4-6-2s. They are all USRA design. One is painted and lettered as a reading G-3. which didnt even look like a USRA and were homebuilt. plus it seems that they are copying their models off of what MTH releases. Hate to tell them that nothing beats MTH Proto sound. The only beef I have with Proto sound is the fact that you can only hear the dynamo when you first turn it on. after that you cant hear it. Not very proto typical. the whistles are better than anything else out there though.
    • John Mock writes: Having lived with the MTH steam power for some time, and having used their DCS system (some like it and some do not) I can say they generally perform every bit as well as MTH claims they will perform. Although they are not cheap (I subsequently sold them for less expensive diesels to keep my son happy at the time) I would have to say that generally speaking they are well worth the expense. The 4-12-2 was very reliable for me, along with the Challenger and 4-8-4's. The smoke and sound was outstanding--little else comes consistently close in steam.
    • Sean Geer writes: I own about 8 MTH HO scale locomotives. I also operate trains weekly at shows and the club. I do notice after about 20 hours of run time the wires in the drawbar will become loose from the soldering. This can cause strange noises, or when sound and smoke are both on the chuff will be out of wack. Its an easy fix and have fixed several myself. Besides that they are very nice and excellent performers.
    • Eddy writes: I own an MTH bigboy, but since Christmas, I have actually had it on the track for just about ten hours. First, the rear drivers stopped turning, and the hobby shop where I purchased it tried to fix it. That failed, and they replaced it with a new one. Two days later, I had it back for a third time because the sound was sputtering and the loco was shorting out. This one went back to the factory. When it returned, the hobby shop owner said he had sent in three others with the same problem. Now it has been home for three days, and the shorting seems to have returned. I have only read good things about MTH, but I am beginning to wonder if they had worked out the bugs in the Bigboy before it went on the market.
    • Ed Mora writes: I own a Pennsy K-4 sound & smoke. Works well on DC or DCC. I called the factory several times to get tire track replacement, sent email, got on web site and after 10 days no response. Train also derails constantly due to poor design of the front (little) wheels. Disappointed with MTH service and parts availability. Ready to sell and get another train.
    • Dave Smith writes: We have several MTH locomotives and like everything about them. I recently purchased NYC 2-8-2 light Mikado. Like all our MTH locomotives it runs perfectly. EXCEPT: it won't stay on the track. The lead drivers climb the outer rails on any curve from 24" to 38" radius, it climbs curved turnout points and frogs. I sent it back to the factory for which I received prompt and friendly repair. BUT, it still climbs the rails just as before.
    • Art Boardman writes: I have (5) MTH HO locomotives and love every one of them! The DCS system which I have is so much easier and better to use with more features than DCC. I also am a member of a club layout which of course is DCC, and I run my MTH locos there as well as on my DCS layout at home. I would appreciate hearing from anyone who knows of a club layout running on DCS, if there are any. My e-mail address is.... a.boardman@comcast.net
    • JayD writes: I purchased am MTH Mohawk and was very impressed by the sound and smoke, unfortunately the one I got had a bad hum in the sound system and the gears were grinding in it. I suspect that the drive wheel springs were not installed correctly but found that one of the screws to the plate holding in the drivewheel was stripped and I could not open up the engine to check them, of course for the 400+ price tag I felt noone should have to fix a new engine. I returned it for a new one, my local hobby shops suspects the one I recieved with the grinding noise may have been a return that was accidently resold by his distributor. Besides this set back, my Mohawk is the centerpiece of my layout and is a joy to operate.
    • John Mock writes: The MTH steamers are the best engines I've ever owned. The Challenger in particular is a tremendous value in bang for the buck. The sounds are great, and the deep UP steamboat whistle is right-on. I disagree with Victor on one point: All roadnames offered for the GS-4 and GS-6 are correct in that Western Pacific actually owned them, and the actual surviving Daylight for a time was temporarily painted in BNSF markings.
    • Damon Hartley writes: Wow these engines are great. I got tired of screwing around with DCC issues and went to all DCS engines. If you want to RUN trains and not have to figure out what happened to the DCC every time you turn it on then MTH is for you. I simply turn on the DCS system and all engines are ready to go right now. I also like the fact that the controller has feedback to let you know where a loose connector or dirty track is. The sounds on the MTH engines are excellent. I stood right next to the track as the real Daylight zipped past me at track speed and as my HO daylight zipps past it sounds just like the real thing. Worth every penny.
    • Richard Chilton writes: I own Five MTH HO engines now and I am very impressed with the lighting features, sound and performance. Their Quality control is the best I have seen in the industry which underscores their long time to market new products compared to BLI for example (in my experience). I fully agree with David and Victor's coments about MTH. They truly are a joy to watch and they are very at home in a display case as well. I have a few of the AC70ACE diesels thst took a few months to get but were well worth the wait. These have electric couplers that are nice but have mixed reviews from those that have used them, however MTH includes a pair of Kadee couplers with instructions so you can repace the electrics if you wish. I also agree with Nick that they are worth every penny.
    • David W Hurlburt writes: I have (2) MTH HO locomotives a NYC 2-8-2 light Mikado and a NYC 2-6-4 Dryfus Hudson and I have serveal other steam and transistion engine from various mfg. But the two MTH engines are my favorites...The syn. smoke and digital sound is a "show stopper" at the model railroad club when I run my engines and make a couple of converts to MTH...The rear LED taillights on the Mikado Tender and the running lights that showcase the Hudson's drivers get the most comments.
    • Victor Pinamonti writes: I own quite a few MTH HO locomotives now and have been very impressed with them. They do tend to do the IHC thing where they make one prototype model and put road names on it without localizing it for that railroad (Triplex and GS-6 are examples) but all are very good runners under DCC.
    • Bob Rodriguez writes: I have the K4 which runs smoothly and the sound and smoke chuff sounds and looks great since everything is in sync. That said I bought the Erie triplex I really have nothing bad to say about these models except that I use a MRC power pack so I do not get all of the sounds that are available.
    • Nick writes: I just bought an MTH Western Pacific 4-8-4 and love it ! It's very smooth, sounds great and smokes a lot more than the earlier K-4 I had. The LED lights make it very interesting to watch and it's detail is outstanding. It is definetly worth the money.

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    Web Sites

    Rivarossi

    For many years, Rivarossi steam locomotives were manufactured in Italy. During the 1960s and 70s they were imported to the U.S. by AHM (Associated Hobby Manufacturers) and sold for $20-$60! In the late 1990s through 2000, they were imported to the U.S. by ModelExpo. More recently, they were imported to the U.S. by Walthers and cost much more -- as much as $240. In 2004 Hornby acquired Rivarossi and moved the production to China. The locomotives that Rivarossi produces include some of the more well known American steam locomotives such as the UP Big Boy and Challenger, the SP Cab Forward, and the NYC Hudson.

    Rivarossi models are sold "ready-to-run". Parts can be expensive and difficult to find. Back in the 1990s, the best supplier of Rivarossi parts was Model Railcraft Supply Depot. However, in 1996 MRSD sold its Rivarossi Parts business to Golf Manor Hobbies in Cincinnati, Ohio (513) 351-3849. In the 2000s, Golf Manor went out of business. In 2009 many Rivarossi parts have been seen being sold on eBay.

    In 2002, Rivarossi released a new model -- a Chesapeake & Ohio Allegheny (2-6-6-6)! Rivarossi always had a tendency to concentrate on "big steam" and this is one more example. The list price is currently in the range of $300 - $400. The Allegheny comes without traction tires (which are commonly found on all other locomotives from Rivarossi). However, they can purchased as an option.

    1969 Big Boy Schematics

    Advantages

    • Rivarossi's biggest asset is that they produce the best selection of famous and well known U.S. steam locomotives you will find. Models range from UPs famous Big Boys and FEF-3s to SPs famous Cab Forwards to N&Ws class Y-6 2-8-8-2s, and many more.
    • Although bodies are made of plastic and many details are cast or molded into the body, they are good looking locomotives.
    • From wheel diameter to overall length, the proportions of these models are very close to scale.

    Disadvantages

    • The biggest drawback to these models is that they are expensive. List price for a Big Boy is somewhere between $220 - $250.
    • Their older 3-pole motors give them poor slow speed performance. NOTE: The newer Rivarossi locomotives have had their drive trains (and motors) completely re-designed. I have not seen the new locomotives so the slow speed performance problems may no longer exist.
    • Older Rivarossi locomotives used a motor that could be noisy.

    Other comments

    • Tim Reardon writes: One of the first locos my Father bought me back in the 70's was a Rivarossi 2-8-8-2. It had the motor mounted in the cab. It was not a great runner and would stall electrically unless a moderate speed was maintained. Its performance level was poor and being that I was just starting out in the hobby I did not have the knowledge or skill to do anything about it. I tossed it in a box of odds & ends and forgot about it. That box was moved around with my train stuff for years. In 2011 my oldest son found it while going through my "train junk" boxes. He bought it to me and urged me to get it to run. I tried to tell him that it wasn't worth the trouble but he insisted. So, I gave it a shot. In the state it was in it did not run at all. I opened it up and was amazed at the drive system design. Strangest I had ever seen. I cleaned it up and re-lubed it. Next I had to straighten out the side rods. They were binding due to being bent for its 30 plus years in the junk box. Once the side rods were remedied I tried to run it but the electrical pick-up wasn't good and the unit was jerky. I got to thinking about all the locos I had added pick-ups to and how that did help them. I ordered Bowser metal tender trucks and installed them with soldered pick-up wires. I fed the wires through the tender body and installed a Miniatronics two prong plug between the tender and the loco body. I then ran the wires directly to the motor. The results were remarkable! The loco ran smoothly, although still noisy. Its slow speed crawl capability was amazing. Since then I have re-painted it and use it often. To this day it is the only loco I can honestly say has never electrically stalled. If it does stop while crawling it is due to getting "stuck" on a track abnormality and a slight nudge to the throttle frees it every time. It has never required HOG (Hand of God) assistance. Unbelievable! I used Neolube to darken the toy-like appearance of the shinny metal side rods and so forth. It serves as an example of yesteryears design and all improvements were add-ons so the integrity of design is still in tact. Those that see it run are speechless but no more so than the hobby shop owner who remembers my Dad buying it for me. I took it to a club layout and the initial reaction from "those older and wiser" than I was rolled eyes and shaking heads. That only lasted until I was given the chance to run it. The rest of the night was consumed by the guys creating longer and longer consists in an effort to produce an electrical stall when crawling. They were not successful.
    • Tim Reardon writes: One of the first locos my Father bought me back in the 70's was a Rivarossi 2-8-8-2. It had the motor mounted in the cab. It was not a great runner and would stall electrically unless a moderate speed was maintained. Its performance level was poor and being that I was just starting out in the hobby I did not have the knowledge or skill to do anything about it. I tossed it in a box of odds & ends and forgot about it. That box was moved around with my train stuff for years. In 2011 my oldest son found it while going through my "train junk" boxes. He bought it to me and urged me to get it to run. I tried to tell him that it wasn't worth the trouble but he insisted. So, I gave it a shot. In the state it was in it did not run at all. I opened it up and was amazed at the drive system design. Strangest I had ever seen. I cleaned it up and re-lubed it. Next I had to straighten out the side rods. They were binding due to being bent for its 30 plus years in the junk box. Once the side rods were remedied I tried to run it but the electrical pick-up wasn't good and the unit was jerky. I got to thinking about all the locos I had added pick-ups to and how that did help them. I ordered Bowser metal tender trucks and installed them with soldered pick-up wires. I fed the wires through the tender body and installed a Miniatronics two prong plug between the tender and the loco body. I then ran the wires directly to the motor. The results were remarkable! The loco ran smoothly, although still noisy. Its slow speed crawl capability was amazing. Since then I have re-painted it and use it often. To this day it is the only loco I can honestly say has never electrically stalled. If it does stop while crawling it is due to getting "stuck" on a track abnormality and a slight nudge to the throttle frees it every time. It has never required HOG (Hand of God) assistance. Unbelievable! I used Neolube to darken the toy-like appearance of the shinny metal side rods and so forth. It serves as an example of yesteryears design and all improvements were add-ons so the integrity of design is still in tact. Those that see it run are speechless but no more so than the hobby shop owner who remembers my Dad buying it for me. I took it to a club layout and the initial reaction from "those older and wiser" than I was rolled eyes and shaking heads. That only lasted until I was given the chance to run it. The rest of the night was consumed by the guys creating longer and longer consists in an effort to produce an electrical stall when crawling. They were not successful.
    • John P Varry writes: I have a 25 yr old Rivarossi 2-8-8-2 redone in Pennsy . I installed a Canon Can motor with NWSL gear sets . The engine well crawl so slow you have to watch it to see if it moves . Engine will pull anything you can put behind it .
    • Martin writes: I bought a UP Big Boy and the double-grey Challenger of the last Rivarossi production line 7 years ago. They appeared to look fair, motor did run good and not noisy, fair traction but not for too long trains, rubber bands tend to loosen after a while, when runing heavy trains. Detailing was OK, but some manually to add details like handrails seem to be standard products by Rivarossi, piping could be better detailed, also painting, Dimension seemed to be good. A big improvement is the Allegheny, top detailling and colouring incl. wheel edges - even finer than BigBoy and Challenger - an LED lights the firebox, good operation and traction. I prefer having this one displayed behind glas - looks great, because of all the little details. I would say BigBoy and Challenger are fairly detailled for operation, not so perfect for displaying while Allegheny seems to be just the opposite - many details to be a bit worried when operating it. The prices of all of them are 300-400 Euro even with decoder up to 450. But compaired to Marklin/Fleischmann/Trix/Roco Standards even fair.
    • Jim Favre writes: No comments on the smaller Rivarossi locos? Rivarossi offered a number of small locos that are excellent and produced in numbers that still makes them easy to find. The key is that the small locos were made for different markets. Their 0-4-0T Docksider, 0-4-0 Switcher w/ sloped tender, 0-6-0T Saddle Tank, & 0-6-0 Switcher w/ tender were offered as simplified "Entry Level" or "Starter Set" versions with the bare minimum of attention paid to the drive & side rods and what's called "Deluxe" versions with the most visually notable difference being very nicely done drive and side rods with fully detailed and functional crosshead and valve gear. Less visible was the construction of the frame and motors. Low end frames were mostly plastic, the Deluxe mostly metal. Gearing and motors also reflected the division between Entry Level & Deluxe. The performance of small short wheelbase locos is often stated as poor when in fact they are fine. The performance gap is most often the result fewer wheels which means fewer locations to acquire track power. This makes dirty rails, wheels, and dead frogs the issue not the loco's quality. Proper maintenance of both the locos and the right of way is paramount. The less expensive Rivarossi short wheelbase locos may not look as impressive as the Deluxe versions but will often perform as well when loco and layout hygiene is up to snuff. Don't overlook the deluxe Rivarossi Docksider or the 0-4-0 Switcher as chassis donors for an 0-4-4-0 logging Mallet or Beyer Garratt. A pair of Deluxe Docksiders will shortly reappear from my work bench as a 1:22.5 scale model of the smallest Garratt ever built and remarkably, still in operation in Tasmania. Remember, it's easy to trip a four legged mule but, hitch 20 of them to three heavy wagons hauling borax and nobody will notice if one stumbles.
    • Hayden Cook writes: I purchased a faily new Rivarossi locomotive on ebay bot too long ago. It is a 3-Truck Heisler and I bought it used but I was able to get it at a good price! The loco was a little shaken up during shipping so i had to glue some of the parts back on but it really is a nice engine! After putting an N scale decoder in it and testing it out, it is a really smooth running locomotive and now im looking into putting sound into it although space is a little restricted inside. There is a little bit of sound from the gears but thats how all geared locos are, but overall i am really impressed with this model.
    • Rivarossi Fan writes: The late '90s Pacifics do have a drive train problem and is just as Rob describes. Apparently, Riv. resorted to a plastic pin to cut costs. It seems to me that the real cure is to push the broken pin out of the idler gear, drill a hole in the chassis side, where the plastic pin was molded, and use a metal rod as a replacement. It's possible that the pin might hold if the fine, if it were glued in the chassis side with CA or epoxy. The gear end would be flared to prevent the gear from falling off, or the fit in chassis might be tight enough to keep the gear in place. I spoke to Hornby USA. He stated there is NO repair network. Yet they are still selling $300 Rivs. Huh? I've written Hornby in England, have not yet received an answer.
    • steve writes: I,m an SP fan so a Riv Cab Forward was essential. Had problems with wheel pickups. I pulled the origional springs out of the pickup plungers and replaced them with pairs of Kadee knuckle springs as advised by Golf Manor Hobbies. I fitted phosphur wire pickups and metal axle wheel sets to the tender. The loco has got the "specific" Cab For Tsunami sound decoder in it, and now pulls a good load and sounds the part.A lot of fiddly work, but it's put a good looking loco to good use!
    • Ken Benton writes: I just perchased a 464 Hudson Rivarossi for only about $130.00. It runs extremely well and low speeds are unbelievably great! It runs very quiet as well. The only two problems I had were this.... #1. The tender actually came with (get this)a HORN COUPLER! It's a little tricky, but it can be replaced. #2. The engine can not and will not and never will pull a train up a grade of substantual proportion. China forgot to add traction rubber to the drivers.I would have payed any extra amount for their extra home work. This engine is D.C. only and thats the way I like them.I don't know why but I have a very hard time finding the 464 wheel configurations and when I think I have it turns out that they are not in stock. That is another reason I was very pleased to find this model. Ken.
    • Barry Reeves writes: I have an old Rivarossi UP Challenger. I have fitten a Sountraxx DCC decoder into the tender and it works well. I very lightly oil the motion and keep the gearboxes well lubricated. She is old and needs care but I am very pleased with it.
    • Jon writes: I aquired a Georgia Pacific Corp. Heisler, it's an excellent runner, very strong too.
    • D. R. MacDougall writes: My first steamer was the PM Berkshire, back in 1970, I still have it. Recently I found another at a swap-meet for $5 brought it home to find out the can opener motor was toast, no problem, a local surplus store blew out a bunch of Fulhauber motors, now it's one of my quietest runners. There is also ample room inside the Rivarossi Big Boy for 2 motors, allowing the two sets of drivers to change sync or slip independently. I had to cut down the internal weights to fit them but it was really worth the effort. I'm now adding a speaker/decoder in the smokebox. I also have a Y6b in the works but fitting two 17mm diameter motors is a bit more challenging, although it will permit a detailed cab.
    • Mark Weber writes: I am new to Rivarossi and I picked a used Rivarossi 0-8-0 at a show and I am vey happy with it and now I have a 4-6-2 that I got as a parts loco witch is in the works being restored by a good freind and I hope to have this one up and running soon
    • Tom White writes: My very first mallet was the Rivarossi "USRA" 2-8-8-2, which I bought in 1964 or so. It had the tender pickup and the 'pizza-cutter' flanges, and ran extremely well for me for quite a few years. I did a lot of kit-bashing on it, and I liked it a lot. I didn't buy another Rivarossi loco until they came out with their first run of the C&O Allegheny (a locomotive I had really no use for on my MR, save that the loco itself has always fascinated me). The first run came with traction tires, which gave it a TREMENDUOUS pulling power on my MR. The traction tires promptly gave out (as traction tires do, LOL!) but even that did not affect its tremenduous pulling power. As far as detail, it is still the most exqusitely detailed plastic locomotive I have on my roster. It's just INCREDIBLY beautiful to watch. Performance is very smooth through all of the speed ranges, and it's given me no mechanical problems whatsoever. For my money, it's the best plastic steamer ever produced. Tom
    • Poop Dick writes: I just bought a Rivarossi 0-8-0 shifter for 25$ at my local hobby shop. What a Steal! its over 40 years old easily since it has the original AHM box. The previous owner even installed kadees. Excellent runner even with the noisy 3 pole motor.
    • Larry Hampton writes: I own several Rivarossi steam locomotives. They are the early production models. The were cheap to buy a long time ago. They look nice and run great. Once on a club layout I ran my UP BIG Boy with over 30 cars and the engine quit running. Sometimes at the Timonium Train Show the dealers there sell Rivarossi parts. There they also sell a lot of Rivarossi trains too. They have 600 dealers there on a regular basis in all scales.
    • Gerry in Canada writes: I have two Rivarossi Alleghenys bought within the past year and both have the same problem. On both locomotives the wires from the locomotive to the tender seem to be too thin and break from fatigue. One is being held by two wires instead of six or seven and is not running. The other has some copper showing from one wire I am sure it will snap soon. I never undo the connection even when servicing them.
    • Ian Tozzi writes: I live in England and have just purchased an older version (1976) Rivarossi UP Big Boy no 4013. Yes the motor is a bit noisy but apart from that it is a fantastic runner even at slow speed. A little bit of extra weight has been added to both the drive assemblies as the second drive axle seems to derail rather easily. I have got a few issues with running it on other model railways (railroads) due to clearances (HO as opposed to 00).
    • Robert McNeill writes: I too have several Rivarossi (AHM) engines. The only problem I encountered is some of the 70's era units had press fit metal wheels in a plastic of some type axle which splits under undue stress or from improper greasing or other misuse.... Val Nelson please contact me at the above email.
    • Scott K writes: I have a Rivarossi B&O EL5 2-8-8-0 and a B&O 2-10-2 Big Six. The EL5 is from 1996 with a nice can motor and flywheel. Once I cleaned and re-lubricated the gears (essential!) this locomotive absolutely crawls even under heavy load. This is important for realistic operation of this model since EL5s were primarily found on the 2.5% plus grades of B&O's West End literally crawling up those grades pulling drags at only 8-10 MPH with 2 or more EL5's shoving on the rear. There is no room in the boiler for a decoder or speaker so I'll be doing a tender conversion on this one. On the other hand, my Big Six is from the 70's and has a horridly loud and jumpy open frame motor which sticks out of the cab. It has very poor slow speed and pulling performance. This one will need to be re-motored with a can. At the same time, I'll put a DCC and sound system in--there is generous room in the boiler on this model. Both are nicely detailed, even though most details are molded-on. They still look very nice, and both are very close to the B&O prototypes (especially in that the Big Six has the headlight properly located). Also, it is difficult to replace the stock fake knuckle couplers on the front pilots for both of these. I had to carefully but firmly yank out the retaining pin, and then after lots of trial-and-error trimming, I managed to squeeze a long-shank Bachmann EZ-Mate coupler into the slot. They work OK but don't swing side to side very well. I can only front-end couple on a tangent.
    • Tuna writes: I have a Rivarossi UP 844. It's a 1997 version and was not DCC ready. I bought it at a train show and added DCC (pain). It been a reliable runner but is now retired to the display case since buying a Genesis 844.
    • John Patton writes: My first Rivarossi locomotive was a B&O EL-5 with the Model Expo drive. This was the upgraded drive system from the AHM days. It has great pulling power, weight, and slow speed performance, unlike those from the earlier "AHM" days. I have since bought many Y6bs to make into B&O EL class 2-8-8-0s. I've got two Challengers from the 1970s, three 2-10-2s, two 4-6-2s, two 2-8-4s, one Big Boy, and four Cab Forwards. All these old locomotives will be re-powered with flat can motors from Canon with flywheels where possible. Keeping all the gearboxes lubricated is key on these Italian models.
    • ED Robertson writes: I have many older Rivarossi engines and have found them to be the most detailed plastic steam locomotives of their day. Re-motoring is not too difficult and the folks at Northwest Shortline are very helpful. I've heard IHC may still have some parts for these locomotives. The IHC scratch builders bible is also a must. Careful not to over-task the 3 pole motored locos. It may also be desirable to replace the mesh commutator brush with a solid carbon one.
    • John Speakman writes: I have four of the 'Red Box' (the Jubilee releases from 1995) steam locomotives - the Big Boy, Challenger, Mallet and Cab-Forward and am extremely happy with them. They all have the upgraded can motor which results in terrific low speed capability and quietness. These locomotives have an honored place in my collection firstly for their performance and quality of detail (even Kato is molding detail parts - have you seen the brake cylinders molded into the truck side frames on the AC4400CW...?), especially given the price of the Trix Big Boy. I'm always on the lookout for more of the newer Rivarossi's. They're well-worth the price! As a side note, I also have one of the older-version Big Boys with the motor in the cab (doesn't run), but as I can't find parts for it I have it on static display on my layout (free-lanced based on a museum theme) as a 'future restoration project'.
    • Alex Sheppard writes: I have one of the old Rivarossi Big Boys, with the 3-pole in the cab. Sure, it's noisy. Ok fine, it's not very good at slow running. But it can probably out-pull its newer counterpart! After all, hauling 100 cars is no simple feat in HO scale!
    • Robert DeWoody writes: I have the Pere Marquette Berkshire (2-8-4 from the last production run before Rivarossi went under). Except for the fact that it is just their Nickel Plate Berk with PM lettering it is a very nice model. I changed the pilot and removed the NKP number boards and think I have an acceptable PM model. This release has a can motor instead of the old pancake piece of junk the earlier releases had and a traction tire. It out-pulls my P2K Berkshires by a wide margin but you should be careful not to overload it as it will stall instead of spinning it's wheels. It has good low speed performance and I am very happy with it as it cost less than half of the P2K model.
    • A viewer writes: I have a Rivarossi 2-8-4, its a beautiful locomotive. The only down side is the motor stalls when going over switches or inclines.
    • Gene Gleason writes: I have an H8 with a Tsunami sound chip. It has fantastic sound and performance. I have 10 big engines and this is one of the best runners.
    • Steve Pushak writes: I picked up an older model Rivarossi Big Boy used on eBay for a reasonable price. I was disappointed with the slow speed performance and lack of power so I plunked down $80 for a re-motor job using the NWSL 20328-9 5-pole can motor. It now has a lot more power and speed however it draws a lot of current, runs hot and still has very poor slow speed performance. Since I want the pulling power more than speed, I'll have to re-gear as well it looks like. I would recommend re-gearing and adding fly-wheels for better low speed performance. I haven't found any better references on the Internet so I'll provide further comments here if/when I get it running properly.
    • Val Nelson writes: I also have a rather extensive parts inventory of Rivarossi and Tyco HO parts. I bought out the entire parts inventory from a hobby shop in Omaha, NE and still have quite a bit of it - literally thousands of parts. Please let me know if I may be of assistance to anyone. I can be contacted via this email or by phone at 402-493-3774.
    • Rick Uglum writes: I have one of the new Rivarossi Cab Forwards. This is an outstanding locomotive! I had mine pulling 52 cars weighted to NMRA standards with no problems. It is quiet, smooth, great at low speed operation. My only complaint is that it is labeled as an AC-12, although it is really an AC-11 (based on the number). I would highly recommend this locomotive!
    • Warwick Falconer writes: I Recently bought 4 of the new upgraded series of Rivarossi locos, 2 Challengers, a Big Boy and an Allegheny. They are absolutely superb, very fine and extremely accurate in detail and fantastic runners. They are very smooth with low motor noise and excellent low speed performance, plus they can put in a good turn of speed. Slight problem with the front bogie truck of the Allegheny not tracking properly which was easy to rectify, other than that it's a amazing locomotive and well worth the large price tag. There is no comparison between these new Rivarossi models and the older ones - you would think they were from a different manufacturer.
    • A viewer writes: New Challenger: Low speed operation is excellent, on a par with the Athearn/Genesis 2-8-2. They will pull a lot of freight cars, at least 40 smooth rollers (eg. Proto 2000). Smooth and quiet, and these models track well. But, the rear trailing truck on the loco is extremely sensitive to spring tension adjustments, and will not track well unless its tuned perfectly.
    • A viewer writes: NYC 20th Century and Empire state Hudsons: Good lookers, lousy runners. Poor electrical contact, and very poor low speed operation. Noisy motors and not much pulling power. They stay parked a lot, but track well when they do manage to run.
    • A viewer writes: Because of their relatively light weight, Rivarossi locomotives use "traction tires" which could be described as rubber-band tires on some of their drive wheels. These traction tires can make the locomotive wobble.
    • A viewer writes: Streamlined Hudsons: I have improved the electrical contact by soldering an additional pickup to the middle axles of the tender. Also I oiled the axle contacts lightly, and this has improved the performance substantially. They now run well and are closer to the performance I expected. Back in the roster.
    • A viewer writes: I just received a "re-manufactured" Rivarossi Berkshire from Model Expo - apparently meaning that it was faulty when new so it was returned for factory repairs and testing and then sold again at a discounted price ($125). My expectations were fairly low as Model Expo states that re-manufactured models often have slightly damaged boxes and can be shop soiled. To my pleasant surprise, the model arrived in perfect condition - that to me equals good value at $32 less than retail.

      Performance is good straight from the box. The drive train is quite noisy in reverse having a very audible grinding sound but much quieter going forward. Some good lubrication will probably cure the unwanted noise.

      The only thing I don't particularly like are the traction tires. The model seems heavy enough not to need them and finding replacements is often difficult. Having said that, the Berkshire has tremendous pulling power - easily 50% more power than anything else I've got.

    • Rob Seel writes: The New Rivarossi Heavy Pacifics may have a gearbox problem. This happened to me twice -- once with a new locomotive, and again with a new replacement after the same 10 to 12 hours (cumulative) of running time. The 4-6-2 has an idler gear mounted on a pin molded to the side of the gear box. This pin has sheared off, causing the idler gear to move forward and bind the loco to a dead stop. Reversing the power and starting up again causes the loose gear to be thrown to the back of the gearbox, out of the way so the motor can spin freely while the loco stands still. The only remedy I know of is to replace the gearbox. Hopefully NorthWest Short Line come to the rescue.

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    Best Source

    • Rivarossi steam locomotive are often found at model railroad flea markets. Big Boys and Cab Forwards in good to excellent conditions can usually be found for around $150. Most others (Y-6, NYC&StL 2-8-4, NYC Hudson) in good to excellent condition are usually around $100.

    Web Sites

    Trix

    I first heard of Trix when someone sent me email saying that they just bought an HO Trix BigBoy. I have only heard good things about Trix and that it is owned by Marklin .

    Marklin also offers a USRA (New York Central) 2-8-2 "Mikado".

    Advantages

    Disadvantages

    • Expensive

    Other comments

    • Boris writes: I purchased one it runs great when it runs, it shorts out when run in reverse.
    • Rodney Diaz writes: Trix US mikados are superb, well detailed smooth and powerful, though there is a slight bit of motor noise. I recently bought a Geman outline loco- surprised by its 'toylike' features; especially for the expense. Europeans still have the awful deep flanges. Diecast shell but poor mouldings, separation marks. Worst of all is a rotten little 'pancake' motor; very noisy. Gears can be seen (I bought it online, so didn't see such shortcomings). Lesson learnt.
    • Victor Pinamonti writes: I have owned Trix products for many years, typically European models, but have the Big Boy, GG1, the Mikado, and the US rolling stock. I bought the Mikado and Big Boy early and have changed out the sound schedule for the newer ones that ESU released. They have always been high quality models. I have bought some of the European models in all kinds of condition and have not found one yet that I could not restore to run in perfect operation. The most amazing thing about the Trix is that the Big Boy can run on a fifteen inch radius curve. Nothing less than impressive to us who model US, but an everyday thing for the European who typically has not much room to run a model railroad, where 15 inch curves are the norm. I have not seen a Trix wear out yet, they are pretty tough. The high exchange rate for the Euro has caused me to slow my Trix buying down considerably, but you can find the US models on auction or at train shows for a more reasonable price.
    • Tuna writes: I used to 'work' at a model train museum in Guthrie, OK where the center piece layout is a Marklin unit with the German "3-rail" HO set up. From opening to closing, I ran a UP Big Boy pulling 30-40 cars continuously 5-6 hours at a time. It never failed. I think that is amazing. The Marklin stuff is very well made and very pricy.
    • John Matitz writes: I purchased the trix 2-8-2 (Light Mikado w/sound) at close-out pricing in Spring of 2007. The detail of the engine & tender is excellent. When in operation, club members have inquired if the engine was brass... very impressive. Sound is good, and very smooth running. I'm experiencing shorts with the tender truck pick-ups while going over some of our clubs switches, which I have yet to correct. Pulling power is not that good when climbing our clubs steeper grades. The engine will pull only 12 to 15 freight cars (including caboose) through these areas depending on the cars rolling ability. I'm looking to changeout a pair of the 63" drivers and introduce Marklin wheel sets with traction tires. I'm confident this will improve the pulling power.
    • Dave King writes: I picked up a 4-8-8-4 big boy about a week ago and so far I have had no problems with it. Since i started building train platforms I've started to lean toward larger engines. I own another big boy but its made by Rivarossi and it is starting to ware out its pulling strength. The only complaint I have is that it was a little pricey. Other than that it runs beautifully. Pulling power is amazing I put on traction tires and it pulls 300 cars on my level track. I will continue to purchase from trix from here on out.
    • Jake Fischer writes: I just purchased the trix 2-8-2 light mikado with sound. This is the most smoothest running locomotive I own. The sound is the best part of the product, the whistle is very realistic. It has a lack of traction, and only could pull 20 cars plus caboose up a 1.5 percent grade, therefor not intended for heavy duty. This would fit great for local runs or heavy switching. Overall well detailed and great engine!
    • Jeff McCrea writes: I've owned my Big Boy for about a year now and it's been a love hate relationship. I agree with the other comments on the detail and quality. This engines is amazing looking and does run very smoothly. However it does, at least for me have a few draw backs:
      1. DCC operation, part of this is probably our clubs older NCE setup but this engine is very picky when it comes to power. It definitely found any and all weak spots on our layout. It was also very difficult to fine tune, I can't even turn off the directional lights.
      2. Rear coupler, the center spring design on the tender actually pulls the coupler down. The first car's coupler would slip out over the top of the tender coupler. I switched to a #17 Kadee (shorter shank) from the original #18. I still had to bend the 17 up, seems to have helped.
      3. Pulling power, I've read numerous articles claiming this engine pulled over 100 cars. Which I'm sure it did, "on level track". Well our club is anything but, anymore than 10 cars it would begin to slip badly. I initially tried adding weight which only marginally helped. The European version came equipped with traction tires. I found a distributor through whom I could order parts and ordered a set of stock replacement wheels and two sets of traction tire wheels. I'd intended to groove the wheels (my buddy has a machine shop) using the European wheels as a guide. When they arrived I discovered the only difference with the European wheels was the flange was only slightly bigger than the RP25 wheels. I went ahead and installed these wheels. The difference was dramatic. I pulled 65 properly weighted cars through our entire layout to include a helix from hell without a hitch. I'll bet my engine will pull over 200 cars on level track. Now our club layout is all code 100 track. If you're running anything less I think you'll have problems with these wheels. I hope this helps anyone having pulling problems with this engine.
    • Jim Thomas writes: I have a hobby shop in kokomo, Indiana and am a modeler myself. I have sold over 20 trix big boys and have never heard a complaint. They are fabulous! They are die cast and weigh more than any plastic or brass model I own. According to the literature from Trix, they will take a 14 and 3/8's inch radius curve! It easily went around an 18" radius curve on my shop layout. One customer says his pulls 120 Athearn cars on level track. The first version was DCC ready, but the current model comes with a decoder and sound factory installed.
    • Warwick Falconer writes: I recently bought a Trix Big Boy and it is the most amazing piece of RTR model railroading equipment I have ever seen. The model runs very and I mean very smooth and extremely quiet - hardly any motor noise at all. It has excellent low speed performance as well as being the fastest and by far the strongest loco I own. The detailing is out of this world - get a picture of the prototype and try and find a missing part, it's almost impossible!! As Trix/Marklin said most of the model is metal and there are very few plastic parts, this a major advantage as it is fairly robust when compared to highly detailed plastic locos such as the P2K 2-8-8-2s. One draw back - this engine is too nice to use for fear of wear and tear. Well Done Trix on an awesome model of an awesome engine.

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    Web Sites

    Brass

    Having "Brass" as a category covers a lot, but I will try to summarize.

    Advantages

    • In general, brass locomotives can have the best detail work. But be careful. The manufactures don't always get it right. For example, I've seen brass models with incorrect marker lights.
    • Usually, brass models are an accurate representation of the prototype.

    Disadvantages

    • Obviously, brass models are expensive. You get what you pay for. Brass models also hold their value. This is particularly true of the more expensive brass.
    • A common misconception is that all brass locomotives are good runners. This is not the case. Many older brass models use open-frame motors and poor gearing. Newer models will often have can motors and improved gearing. If you plan on running the model, it is important to see it run before you buy it.

    Other comments

    • John D. Mock writes: I was privileged to own and operate many brass diesels and steamers during the late 1990's and early 2000's. However, the quality of today's plastic offerings has increased to the point where I consider them a much better value than brass. On a recent attempt to get back into brass, well, it turned out to be a horrible experience and I lost significant money on an engine that was poorly represented by the seller and subsequently could not be made to run well at all--but would have needed extensive work. Buyer beware.
    • stef writes: I have improved the operation of several Brass locos w open frame motor by replacing w a newer can motor along w NWSL universal set, eliminating the rubber tube drive shaft, very easy to do, lots of can motors on e bay. Be sure running gear is operating flawlessly first though ie no binding.
    • Brass Fan writes: Detailing on brass locomotives can be exquisite, and there are some of the oldest models were pretty plain, but cheaper. Newer, less expensive model were imported by AHM's HCB(HIGH CLASS BRASS) series. AHM didn't pull any punches when describing how great these were. I like articulateds, but many of the older engines were particlularly difficult to get running right. KMT transmissions were a fine example of high amp, coffee grinders. Before OMI gave up steamers, they were a safe bet for good quality operation. Nowadays, after you have reserved a brass engine, the wait can easily be in YEARS.
    • Victor Pinamonti writes: Good comments all around - Brass models show a commitment to the hobby. Overall they tend to cost more, but typically they are made to be anywhere from fair to exact models of the real thing. If you need painting practice brass is a good choice since brass is easy to strip versus plastic, a cheap brass shell is a great way to perfect your painting skills. Operationally I have not run into very many brass models that can't be made DCC operational. However older models require electical pickups and new motors to effectively convert them. The newest Brass is very operationally friendly and the best in detail however are the most expensive. One thing is for sure there are less brass models being made today due to the high quality of plastic and die cast models being produced that fill the product gaps that only Brass used to fill in the past. Brass Hybrids are another thing to consider that are new to the market.
    • andrew writes: I LOVE BRASS I am only 11 years old and I own seven brass engines and one engine pulls every single solitary car on my layout they are very fast very powerful the only thing they aren't is fussy but then again all of my brass engines were my grandpa's. When I tell people I run brass they say wow and when any of my locomotives show up at the railroad club they always turn heads. My engines are awesome world renound manufacturers like Key limited Challenger and Sunset. So if you want engines that are all around awesome brass is the way to go.
    • Tom White writes: I agree wholeheartedly on the plusses and minuses of owning brass locomotives. Since the two railroads I primarily model (Rio Grande/Southern Pacific) are mainly ONLY available in brass, acquiring a working steam roster may involve what we brass owners refer to as 'tinkering'. Sometimes, a LOT of 'tinkering'. However, brass is generally very forgiving to work with, and adjusting brass mechanisms is relatively simple. Removing several screws lifts off the entire boiler mechanism, and you are faced with the motor, flywheel (if any), shaft and gearbox. From there on, it's relatively simple to 'fix' whatever problems are occuring in the running mechanism. Many brass locos also require re-weighting and balancing in order to get the maximum running capabilities out of the engine. Again, this is a relatively simple--if often time-consuming--process. However, at least IMO, once you get a smooth, responsive running brass locomotive running on your layout, there's a great satisfaction in it. Brass is bult to LAST! Many of my brass locos are over 40 years old, and they are running very nicely, thank you. One has two choices with brass--put them in a case and admire them for their exquisite detail, or put them on your layout and run them, THEN admire them not only for their exquisite detail, but also their ability to do what I firmly believe they're meant to do--haul trains. And this might come as a surprise--there are many brass locomotives out there that actually haul as many cars as their prototypes. I know. I've got quite a few. Tom
    • A viewer writes: Often, buying a brass model may be the only way to get a model of a specific prototype.

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    Best Source

    • Although you can find brass models at flea markets, you can't always test run them there. I would suggest that you find a serious hobby shop that sells consignment brass. This way, you will have a selection to choose from and will be able to test run the model too. It is also possible to make offers on a given locomotive.

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