best brands of N scale locomotives

Discussion in 'N / Z Scale Model Trains' started by CNWGP38, Aug 6, 2004.

  1. CNWGP38

    CNWGP38 New Member

    I am thinking of switching tom N scale from HO. What are the best N scale Locomotives to buy? ie. Atlas?
  2. brakie

    brakie Active Member

    To my mind its Atlas.. :thumb: Accept no substitutes.. :rolleyes: :D Did I say Kato also makes a great engine? .Then Life Like's SW8,SW1200 and GP20s are great locomotives as well. :thumb: I can not say about the rest of LL locomotives because the foremention LL units is the only ones I own..I own mostly Atlas locomotives,6 LL and no Katos-not in N scale.I do own 4 in HO.
  3. Belmarvalley

    Belmarvalley New Member

    I agree that you just can’t go wrong with Atlas. They also have the largest selection of available locos and road names – with more coming out all then time! Sadly, with my limited budget, I only own a pair of SD35’s. They’re great runners (made in 2000), but the current generation with slow speed motors is even better.

    I have never been able to afford Kato, but I have seen them in action and they are known for their superior silk-smooth mechanisms. Sort of the BMW of the N-scale world. But I noticed they tend to model more modern locos in limited road names (mostly western as of late). They also seem to sell out quickly, and for a premium.

    Lifelike is close, if not equal in their current releases to Atlas. I own their SD7’s, which are pretty nice runners considering their somewhat older design. I also own their GP20’s, which are outstanding – especially for the price. The GP20 mechanism is actually slightly smoother than my Atlas SD35’s! They also look very similar on the inside…

    I am hesitant on Bachmann. I’ve heard great things about their 2-8-0, and some decent things about their current crop of spectrum diesels. Maybe it’s just my own personal prejudice, but my image of Bachmann comes from my old U36B tearing around my layout at warp 9 last night to the delight of my kids. Hey, I guess at least it still works after 20 years… :D

    Intermountain is a newer player, and I’ve seen their F3’s up close and in action. Very nice, and on par with Atlas. I’ve also heard great things about their FT’s and TM’s. Certainly worth trying out.

    MT is also a newer player, but they only have an FT on the market (that I’m aware of). I heard it was pretty good. Not much else.

    MDC/Roundhouse I have no experience with, but have heard good things about. Steam only.

    Con-Cor, Model Power. I have not heard great things about them.

    Athearn is another new player. They only have one loco on the market right now (F59PH). I’ve heard so-so things. However, they have announced SD70 series, so they are certainly worth keeping an eye on.

    Well, that’s all I know (or have heard about). I'm sure others will chime in with their thoughts & experinces (which will probably be more than I have).

    I also have a website that I refer to for reviews of the older N-scale locos:

    Hope this helps.
  4. General opinon

    Kato & Atlas N are considered top-notch

    Bachmann steam in N is considered pretty good, as is any Lifelike engine introduced after the year 2000. Many pre-2000 LL engines are not as good.
  5. SD90

    SD90 Active Member

    I'd say Kato is the best. Atlas has very nice looking locomotives, but if you want to run them, they are not very good at all. I find the wheels get dirty way too fast, and good luck trying to put a decoder in them! They claim thier locos are "Decoder ready" if you want to dismantle the entire frame and have the trucks fall out, as I said, they look great, but they are a bit expensive for dummies, that's all they are used for on my layout. Newer Life Like locos are next, and Bachmann is still "questionable" (although there is no question in my mind!) Stick with Kato!
  6. brakie

    brakie Active Member

    Well, not starting a fuss but,I never had any problems with my Atlas N scale locomotives.True adding DCC decoders is a pain but,it can be done.Better still would be to buy the newer Atlas DCC equipped locomotives if one choose to use DCC in N scale...

    Another thing about Kato there is a very limited types of locomotives they make. :( Why Kato doesn't have a wider range of locomotives like Atlas has is far beyond me. :confused:

    Now the Atlas frame will need milled on the older Atlas locomotives but,that is quite simple to do IMHO by using a Dremel tool with a grinding disk.I think we can agree that installing decoders in any brand of N scale locomotives can be a pain..That is one of the reasons I will be using DC on my N scale industrial switching layout.The other reason I will be running one locomotive at a time and see no real need for DCC even though I have a DigiTrax Empire Builder II set..
  7. txcavgr

    txcavgr Member

    Kato fans are kato fans. I own a couple and they have NOTHING on my Atlas locos like the GP38s.

    Kato has its problems, like hoods too wide, poor paint quality on several models, lacking in the detail department.

    Obviously an opinion, but Atlas has SMOKED kato off the shelf. Both outfits make good stuff, but check them out yourself and see what you like best. More often than not in N scale it ends up being the model you need that determines what you buy.

    I have a set of IM FTs, heavy heavy heavy, they run very well. Only issue is the trucks could use more relief in the sideframe castings.
  8. lock4244

    lock4244 Member

    Kato makes the finest quality N scale plastic locomotives without question IMHO. Atlas are quite nice, but the Kato models are superior. I have never had a quality problem with a new Kato diesel, but several Atlas units have been poor runners out of the box.

  9. OwenCPR

    OwenCPR Member

    Just wanted to add my two cents worth here. I agree with Mike (SD90) re the Atlas locos.....I will qualify it by saying that it appears the dirty wheel syndrome only applies to the six axle drives (my two trainmasters don't run as well as my GP35). I have four older Kato SD40s in CP Tuscan schemes from the early 90s that run better than the newer Atlas locos. Having said that, I haven't given the newer Atlas Locos a good cleaning for a while so that may alieviate some of the problems and make the above comments redundant. I operate on Mike's layout occasionally and I know he has never cleaned his KAto drives at all and they all run super smooth. DCC installs on the Atlas were as Mike described - fiddly but do-able.

    I also own a great number of Life Like locos (C Liners A + B and FA1 A+ B) all post 2000 (except one F7 which is now a dummy loco) They are great locos in both detail and running - only problem is their lack of DCC readiness.

    I just received a Bachman loco (diesel) as a gift. I haven't decided what to do with it (sell it, make it a dummy????) as straight out the box it doesn't run well at all. Reinforces all the comments I have read before on this make of loco and why I have never purchased it.

    Can't comment on the Intermountain etc.
  10. storm

    storm Member

    kato all the way u cant pull 80 cars up a 2% grade with 2 atlas engens but u can with kato. when i but a loco it is all about pulling power. i can always paint the hand rails like atlas but u can add more pulling power
  11. b28_82

    b28_82 Member

    Kato and Atlas, in my opinion, are about as equal in N as they are in HO. As far as the intermountain. I've seen the FTs run a couple times around our Ntrak setup and i believe they are right underneath the big K & A.
  12. Pete

    Pete Member

    MR did a roundup of N scale diesels in their June 2001 issue. It seems like the mid-80's was a turning point in quality - for the better. The only exceptions appear to by those made by Kato, Minitrix, and the odd Bachmann which have been decent all along.
    They also mentioned the list referred to in Belmarvalley's post, and mention that it is/was more complete than the one printed in the mag.
  13. CNJ

    CNJ New Member

    I have to call it a draw twixt Kato and Atlas. Both run smoothly and quietly, and detailing is comparable. Lifelike makes some great stuff for the money. If only coupler conversions and DCC installs were easier. If you are into steam, Bachmann Spectrum is pretty good. The Kato Mikado is.......a Kato. Dat's my story and I'm sticking to it.

  14. sschaer

    sschaer Member

    best running engines are by kato. unfortunately their shells are not as good as the newer atlas locos.

    keep your hands of from life like, model power and all that cheap stuff. this is only my opinion.
  15. Gavin Miller

    Gavin Miller Member

    Kato rules!!

    The only Atlas locos I've purchased (2 xSD60 & 1 x SD60M) were a disappointment in terms of running quality compared with my silky smooth Katos. I hardly ever run the Atlas locos because I just prefer the performance of my Katos.

    It's a telling statement about the quantum leap in N-scale quality when I criticise a fine loco like an Atlas simply because there is something even better (Kato).

    Years ago we would have killed for the quality of today's Atlas locos. And, as far as Kato quality goes, we just couldn't have imagined such smooth running mechanisms in N-scale.

    Enjoy what ever brand suits your needs best.

  16. CNJ

    CNJ New Member

    I recently received an A-B-A set of Kato F-3's and a pair of Atlas Alco C-630's . Both sets were equal in every way. If anything, the Atlas locos had better detail. If my feeble memory serves, there were some sort of issues with the SD60's when they came out. When the Atlas board comes back, you might check the archives...if they havn't erased them. In any case I doubt that the SD-60's are representative of what Atlas is doing today.

  17. engineshop

    engineshop Member

    The only thing I know, was a paint problem on the EMD leasing units. I had one of those and got a free new shell from Atlas.

  18. CNJ

    CNJ New Member

    I thought there was an actual running problem, rather than problems with the paint job. Even my older Atlas Locos (RSD4/5, SD-35) run like a fine watch. Its hard to believe that there would be a noticable mechanical problem with later production. Maybe someone with an SD-60 will emerge from the undergrowth and give us the straight story.
    Oops.......I just noticed its time to go home :wave:

  19. Belmarvalley

    Belmarvalley New Member

    I would not discount Life Like altogether. Kato may be tops, but I think Life Like keeps setting the bar for affordable quality. Their newest release, the GP18, is reported to have a smoother mechanism than their GP20. I have a couple of their GP20’s and they are very nice – exceptionally so considering their price. I’ve run Kato’s on other layouts and the GP20’s are very close in terms of smoothness and slow speed.

    The only major drawback to Life Like is that they do not make their locomotives DCC ready. I’m hoping that they will address this soon, but also hope it doesn’t result in the end of their advantage in value.

    I run in DC for now, and Life Like locos are my workhorses.
  20. brakie

    brakie Active Member

    Indeed..Those LL GP20s need not take a back seat to any other brand.I have 4 of the GP20s and 2 SW1200s..NO complaints here. :thumb: :D
    Between my Atlas units and my 6 LL units I see no Kato units in my future. :wave:
    I am hoping that Athearn will do the SD70 in NS with the Spartan cab. :thumb:
    If not then 2 Atlas SD50s or SD60s will fill the bill of course I will need the undecs and paint and decal these units.. :D

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