Covered Hopper Kits, Athearn BB v/s Accurail

Discussion in 'Product Review Forum' started by UP SD40-2, Sep 21, 2008.

  1. UP SD40-2

    UP SD40-2 Senior Member


    Like many of us, i have built countless Athearn Blue Box(BB) AND Accurail kits. Though BOTH of these are on the cheaper end as far as kits go, i find them to be the BEST kits you can get for the small amount of money they cost:thumb: .

    I feel comparing these kits is quite fair, since they both cost about $10.00, give or take $5.00 depending on where you buy them. the amount of parts are about the same, the quality between the two is about the same, and the skill level to build them is about the same:winki: .

    After building 3 covered hoppers, back to back today, i felt compelled to write up this comparison since while both kits are similar, they both have very distinct differences, thats differences that i never noticed till i built them back to back.


    1- i didn't take pics of the steps along the way:oops: , but hey, i didn't know i was going to write this till after i built them:119: .
    2- i wish i had a scale to give you folks the exact weights of the cars:oops: , i use dads scale to get the weight right, but thats at his house.:119:
    3- BOTH covered hoppers are ACF, but the Athearn BB has four discharges, the Accurail has three, so these are not 100% identical, but i feel they are plenty close enough to compare them:winki: .


    The Athearn BB i am using in the comparison is actually a Bev-Bel Athearn, for those that don't know what that means, simply, its a regular Athearn BB, but it comes in a road name that Athearn didn't produce, thats it, so that means except the paint its just a plain old Athearn BB.


    Athearn BB





    The Athearn BB had three more BODY parts then the Accurail, these parts were the four top hatches on the hopper, the Accurail just had one continuous hatch that represented all four top hatches. i found the Athearn BB hatches to be better detailed, but in the same token, Accurail did do a good job on the detail of the single piece looking like four separate hatches.

    The main body shell on the Athearn BB had just a touch more detail to it then the Accurail did, but nothing real significant, i found BOTH to be about the same quality wise:winki: .

    The paint on BOTH of them was very good:thumb: , the lettering was crisp and the small writing was legible on both of them also.


    Ahtearn BB
    Came assembled, plastic wheels with metal axles. i checked to make sure they were in gauge, and they were. The trucks are attached to the body by screws.

    The trucks had to be assembled, plastic wheels and plastic axles. i checked to make sure they were in gauge, and they were. The trucks are attached to the body by screws, or push pins, you have the choice, the parts are there for both ways.


    Athearn BB

    Came with horn hook couplers only. They are mounted with the old Athearn standard "push clip".


    Came with two sets of couplers, a set of accumate couplers, and a set of "dummy" couplers. They are mounted by screws.

    NOTE: I wouldn't use the couplers from EITHER of these two kits, you just cant beat Kadee's:winki: .


    Athearn BB

    After cutting the sprues off, and deburring the parts, i found that most of the pieces didn't fit well together at all:eeki: . additional shaving of some of the parts edges was definitely needed for a nice match up fit.

    the weight on the Athearn needs to be glued in with CA or with double faced tape to keep it in place.

    Getting the two end pieces to fit right for a good fit on to the main body might take a try or two, i didn't find this design real "user friendly", don't get me wrong, its not that hard, but like i said, you might not get it right on the first try:rolleyes: .


    After cutting the sprues off, and deburring the parts, i found EVERY PART fit together PERFECTLY:thumb: , NO ADDITIONAL shaving on the edges of parts was needed, the models pieces basically just all fell right into place, EXCELLENT fit up.

    The weight is held into place by tabs located on both ends of the car, no need to glue it in, its not going anywhere.

    NOTE: you probably wouldn't have to, but i glue the models together for better durability:winki: . BEFORE GLUING, if you go that route, make sure you add the proper weights to the car FIRST, you'll thank yourself later for doing that:thumb: .


    Finished, BOTH of these kits made for some real nice models, as you can see from the pics posted in this thread:thumb: . They BOTH rolled well, and the coupler hight was correct on each of them. i did however notice that the Accurail weighed just over twice that of the Athearn BB:eeki: , i couldn't believe how light the Athearn BB ended up being, so like i mentioned before, be sure and use your scale before you glue the bottoms on, so you can get the weight of the cars correct.

    Personally, while i liked BOTH cars, the Athearn had just a touch more detail, just a touch mind you, but as far as assembly goes, the Accurail was easier, and made much better.


    These were only MY observations while building these kits, you may/may not find my observations to be the same as yours:winki: . ALSO, this comparison only goes for the ACF COVERED HOPPERS,...the boxcars, etc. could be a whole other story:winki::119: .
  2. Kevinkrey

    Kevinkrey Member

    Very good comparison, arent they looking for e-mag articles?:mrgreen:

    I know what you mean about the Athearn end pieces, I HATE them. I have no accurail, cars, Ill have to try one. I bought a Walthers gold line ccovered hopper today, no assemby required!:thumb:
  3. csiguy

    csiguy Member

    interesting article. thanks for posting it. where by chance are you getting your athearn blue box kits. i would like to get a few of them?

  4. diburning

    diburning Member

    One thing that I would like to add is that Accurails weigh more and are at NMRA standards while the Athearn BBs are too light
  5. brakie

    brakie Active Member

    My comments shouldn't be taken as argumentative..Just my personal experience.

    Glad to hear Accurail cleaned up their act..

    Here's my last Accurail CH kit.This car was purchase around 2004.


    I found the parts to be very brittle and easily broken..

    Was this a bad batch? Perhaps but,it was enough to turn me off to
    Accurail's CHs since all three was in the same condition..

    As for the Athearn CH..Care must be taken during assembly because the parts are press fit..Its best to take your time when seating the end pieces ensuring they are properly seated in their correct location-use the frame without the weight to seat the ends in their correct location on the sides..Once these ends are properly seated,remove the frame and glue the end and let dry and after that everything else should fall into place..Glue the weight in by using your favorite glue-I use Walther's Goo.

    My conclusion?

    Best to buy either car RTR and save youself the hassles of assembling these cars..:thumb:
  6. galt904

    galt904 Member

    I've built a half dozen or so of the Accurail cars and was very happy with the way they went together. I've built only one of the Athearn cars, but it was quite frustrating and tricky to get the ends to stay in place while installing the floor.

    Some of the Accurail cars I did were earlier run and had screws for both the trucks and couplers, and some were later and had the pushpins for the trucks and couplers (can't remember which is later and which is earlier). I emailed Accurail thinking they missed the screws, and they replied to me about the pushpins, but mailed me some screws anyways, in a very timely manner. While not 100% prototypical in the CPR/Soo paint scheme (which most of mine are) I have nothing but good things to say about the Accurail hopper and their customer service. :)
  7. TruckLover

    TruckLover Mack CH613 & 53' Trailer

    Nice Article Deano :thumb: :thumb:

    Ill also agree with you on the Athearn Covered Hopper Ends. The 55' Centerflows are a pain in the :curse: :curse: :curse:.... lol the 54' PS Ribbed Side Covered Hoppers are not as difficult but they are still up there with the 55' Centerflows lol

    I enjoyed reading the artilce Deano, thanks :mrgreen:
  8. diburning

    diburning Member

    I just got an Athearn covered hopper. The couplers are nto at the right height, the coupler pockets have those clips and the pocket is too shallow to accept regular kadee #5s. I'm going to the LHS tomorrow to see if I can get some Kadee #147s (underset shank whisker couplers) to see if that will work.
  9. sumpter250

    sumpter250 multiscale modelbuilder

    ??? It's been a while since I assembled my last Athearn 55' covered hopper, so I got the model out and checked out what I had done.
    I will have to find another kit to figure out why I do not remember any problems with the ends.
    The coupler pockets are indeed too shallow to accept the Kadee #5's as they are. I do remember having to remove the "ears" on the bronze springs so that the pocket cover would install. as for the coupler height?, the coupler checks at the right height, with a Kadee height gauge, with 33" wheels. Put the proper 36" wheels on, and the coupler will be too high.(design oversight?)
    I have, when needed, removed the kit coupler pockets, and used the Kadee pockets with shims to get the height right. Then again, I have also had to do some "semi-major" surgery on some projects. :twisted:
  10. diburning

    diburning Member

    On the contrary, mine was still too low with 36 inch wheels and whisker 5s. I'll get a pack of 37s and try trimming the ears off the bronze spring and see if that helps.
  11. sumpter250

    sumpter250 multiscale modelbuilder

    That's "interesting". Please keep us informed with the results you come up with. I am beginning to suspect that Athearn might be using a new tool for the covered hoppers. The one I referenced didn't have the problems covered here, and I didn't do any modifications outside of trimming the spring, to fit in the pocket.
    Any information you can provide will be greatly appreciated. Thanks, in advance.
  12. santafewillie

    santafewillie Member

    I have built about 40 of each of these covered hoppers. My observations are the same as Deano's. While the Athearns have slightly more detail, I like the Accurails better. galt904, it's the older Accurails that have only the push pins, the newer ones have screws. They are now including screws on all of their products...a welcome improvement. The push pins usually break the first time you have to remove the trucks for maintenance. I have not purchased any of the Athearns in about 6 years, and all of them were too low with the 33" wheels that came with them. Changing them to 36" P2K wheels or adding a Kadee red (.015) washer to the truck mount solves this problem. Maybe the newer ones are improved.I have to clip the ears from the Kadee #5 metal springs as sumpter250 said. On a side note; on my layout I use the three-bay Accurails (and other three-bay models) for grain only. The four-bay Athearns are used for plastic pellets, flour, and other lighter industrial commodities; this is based on my railfanning observations of ATSF and BNSF practices over the last 30 years. For csiguy; my LHS stocks hundreds of BB kits; he admits to making a lower profit on them which is why some other shops don't carry them any more. Athearn still makes them.
  13. diburning

    diburning Member

    I don't like how the accurail shells attach to the chassis. It seems to be very crude and comes off easily.
  14. Dan85

    Dan85 Member

    Very good comparison. I too have assembled both accurail and athearn bb kits. Personally I prefer Accurail. I also like that they provide color matched decal sheets for road numbers.

    - Dan
  15. nkp174

    nkp174 Active Member

    On a related note...I really like Bowser's covered hoppers. I have three of them. Nice cars for around $10.

    Is the problem the coupler box or the car body height? If the car sits to low, add washers in between the trucks and the body.
  16. diburning

    diburning Member

    I fixed it with the special kadee couplers. I just broke a bowser kit. The bowser kit cars seem to be very brittle and the screws for the coupler pockets are tiny and easily lost. I don't like how the bowser kits require glue however.
  17. csiguy

    csiguy Member

    i agree with you NKP. the bowser covered hopper kits are fantastic. i have built about 6 of them so far and they look really nice and run good as well . the bowser 100 ton hopper car kits are a very nice kit. they're reasonably priced and not that hard to put together.


Share This Page