Athearn Expertise Needed

Discussion in 'HO Scale Model Trains' started by David Rosser, Nov 12, 2003.

  1. David Rosser

    David Rosser Member

    A few days ago we bought an Athearn F-7 A unit at a train sale for my grandson to use on his first layout. Attached the horns, couplers, etc. and it runs fine: everyone is happy! But, I noted on the parts diagram (revised 1984) that the loco is shown with flywheels and a large central weight. The loco we are running has two individual weights and no flywheels. It is clearly an Athearn machine, but I am very curious as to why the machine and the diagram are not the same. The box was not sealed, but everything was there in the normal position, complete, new a far as I can tell, but the picture and the mechanism do not match. Any ideas why? Just curious; it runs fine and the new owner is happy. Dave
  2. Ray Marinaccio

    Ray Marinaccio Active Member

    It sounds to me that its an older Athearn loco with the newer parts list.
    Are the sideframes on the trucks plastic or metal with the bearings in them?
  3. David Rosser

    David Rosser Member


    Ray, Sideframes are plastic. Dave
  4. Vic

    Vic Active Member

    Mystery Solved!!

    Dave, I was around when Athearn came out with the flywheels in their locos. For awhile they offered them in flywheel and non flywheel versions. In addition to the flywheels there were some mechanical differences,mainly the length of the spline shafts were different and the electical pick up strip on the top of the motor was shaped diffrent to clear the flywheels. Also a smaller universal was required to fit inside of the flywheels.

    The flywheel versions would run much slower than the non flywheels and would not MU well with the ones without the flywheels. Consequently there was still a market for the non flywheels version, at least in old Irv Athearn's eye:D

    When new instruction sheets were printed when the flywheel versions came out they were packed with the non flywheel versions too. This saved Mr. Athearn a bunch of money on printing and paper.

    Did you know that Athearn engines and cars once came fully assembled? You did not have to put the hand rails or couplers or other detail parts on. Seems that "old Irv" struck a deal with an Indian tribe to assemble the engines on a piece work basis for something like 15 or 20 cents per loco or car. Irv was happy and so were the Indians but THE GOVERNMENT stepped in and said..."YOU ARE TAKING ADVANTAGE OF THE INDIANS AND YOU MUST PAY THEM MINIMUM WAGES...NOTHING LESS!" So...back to loose parts in a little brown envelope in the box.

  5. David Rosser

    David Rosser Member

    Athearn Expertise

    Vic, Thank you- the mystery is solved! Would you also have any idea how old this loco is, approx.? We picked up a lot of very old units a few years ago when I got a call from a friend who had the job of helping to liquidate an estate. The deceased had apparently avoided stocks/bonds and instead invested in collecting HO, not brass or exotic, just standard Athearn, Atlas, Rivarossi, etc.. Most was never out the box. Everything was priced at 1/2 the price as shown on the original label or less. It took four Sat. mornings over a four month span; my understanding was that the final total was about $40,000! I thought I had seen every Athearn possibility! Thanks, Dave
  6. Vic

    Vic Active Member

    Dave, Its hard to tell. I would think that from what you described its probably not all that old. If it was in the orginal box with the orginal instructions it probably is somewhere around the middle 1980's since you say that the instruction sheet says revised in 1984.

    I failed to mention in the other post that this engine was also sold in another version which was call the "flywheel super geared" version. The "super geared" version had nothing to do with the gears though. The gears were the same. What they did was add that large single piece weight instead of the two seperate weights to increase the pulling power..slick weren't they?

    So what you have is the non flywheel standard version.

    So many of the parts on Athearn engines were interchangeable that IMHO its really hard to tell when it was made. Also they used the same box for years and years so that's only a partial clue. Many modelers (including me) built up Athearn engines out of parts and pieces of "junkers" too.

    The orginal Athearn motor was all see that one a lot on the older rubber band drive Athearns. They then went to a plastic version that had a long bell housing on one end and then that was modified to one with a shorter housing. Didn't matter though...they all fit the rubber frame mounts and with a little "fanaggling" they would fit in whatever engine you put them in.

    Sounds like you got a good deal on the engine. While its no collector's piece in my opinion you sure can enjoy it so put it on the tracks and let it run. Wish I could have been at that sale!!:D :D :D ;)

    BTW....I know a guy here. a retired doctor, who buys everything HO (non-brass) that has ever come out over the last 40 years!:D
    His theory is..."He who dies with the most toys wins!":D He's in his 80's now. Just the other day his wife said to me..."Boy...when he goes on are you gonna have one hell of a job getting rid of this stuff for me!":D :D :D :D
  7. Roger Hensley

    Roger Hensley Member

    When I had my Train Shop in the 80s, I only ordered the Athearn Fs with the Super Weight. That's the full length weight shown on the diagram. They also offered the unit with two small weights as you describe, but for a couple of dollars more, I sold a unit that could pull the wallpaper off of the walls. :)

    It probably isn't as old as you might think.

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