Getting back into the hobby a bit

Discussion in 'HO Scale Model Trains' started by kepardue, Sep 17, 2003.

  1. kepardue

    kepardue New Member

    HO Scale trains are something that I remember fondly from my youth. My dad always had a layout, if not an extravagant one. The last few years he's done all of his model railroading on a computer (Auran Trainz). He had a major heart surgery last year, and as one of the hobbies I've been working at getting him back into is the old HO scale model that he has in his garage. I dusted it all off, cleaned the tracks, and today bought him an engine as his old Southern Pacific F7 had about seen its day. I got him an Athearn KCS SD40-2 Snoot, even took a pic of it.

    It's been so long since I've been in the hobby though, I really don't know of any of the best model manufacturers or what the best eCommerce sites on the 'net are (my local area doesn't have much). I'm open to suggestions here. I'd like to have him a whole set of KCS rolling stock bought for him for Christmas. I know Athearn is pretty good, because my dad always talked highly about it as a brand and always had good experience with it. Bachman I know to stay away from, he considers them toys. Any other things to stay away from or look for?


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  2. Ray Marinaccio

    Ray Marinaccio Active Member

    Welcome to the Gauge Ken, and welcome back to the hobby. Some great advances in the hobby have been made in the last few years. Take another look at Bachmann.
    I have good luck with Athearn myself. Others on this forum can fill you in on some of the newer ones better than I could.
    My Dad died from a heart attack , Enjoy the time you have together, and model railroading seems like it might help do that .
  3. billk

    billk Active Member

  4. babydot94513

    babydot94513 Member in training

    Kenneth, welcome to The Gauge!

    I am sure that you will find this forum very useful and far more informative than many of the others sites out there.
  5. IAIS 604

    IAIS 604 Member

    The top HO loco models are made by (IMHO!):

    #1 Atlas Master - the very best in plastic - or maybe brass, too! Superb detail, paint and drive (Atlas drive, not Kato except on older models) - usually complete with DCC decoder (some of the newer ones you have a choice of with or without decoder).

    #2 Kato- Superb drive, great detail, some paint problems (color and/or overspray) on certain models - avoid their SD40-2, as it has pick-up problems. Many small details to attach.

    #3 Life-like P2K - very good detail, drive not as good as Atlas Master or Kato

    #4 Atheran Genesis - very good detail, but many you attach yourself, better drive than "blue box" Athearns. Steamers are somewhat underpowered.

    #5 Atlas Classic - Superb drive, less detail than Master series.

    #6 Stewart - Very good, smooth drives (which are Stewart drives on the newer models), usually less detail than above.

    #7 Bachmann (STEAMERS ONLY!!!)

    #8 Life-like P1K (Proto 1000) - less detail, good drives

    #9 Athearn "blue box" - less detail, ok drive. Some newer Athearn R-T-R's and blue boxs have an improved drive, but still not good detail compaired with the above models.

    #10 Walther's Trainline - quality varies- ask forum about specific models! Their F40PH is a good one (at least when I bought it four years ago!).

    TO AVOID: Bachmann diesels (as a general rule - some are fair - good for kids like the Harry Potter steamer), generic Life-Like (might be good for small kids), Model Power (I wouldn't even get these for the kids!)

    I have at least one of each of the above (and many of some - like P2K and Atlas), all bought within the last five years. I don't have Intermountain or others not listed, so will not comment on there they fall.

    Sometimes it is good to ask about a specific model you have in mind, regardless of the brand - that is one thing the forum is for!

    Have fun shopping!!!
  6. kepardue

    kepardue New Member

    Thanks very much to all for the detailed information, recommendations, and welcomes! I appreciate all.

    I'd actually like to get an engine like he had when I was a kid, for the nostalgia in me. I believe it was a Union Pacific GP9, if I remember the model name correctly. Who makes a good one of those?

    Also, about the KCS rolling stock, who would make a quality variety of boxcars and hoppers?

    My father is also a steam fan, but he's never had too much luck with the steam locomotive. The fact that his layout is in the garage doesn't help matters any... I think the key word I'm looking for in a steam loco is durable. Any recommendations?

    Many thanks!
  7. jon-monon

    jon-monon Active Member

    Welcome back to the hobby, and welcome to the-gauge!!! You off to a great start with us as a photo loving group, by starting your first post off with a photo! :D :D :D

    I'll add to the comments about manufacturers that IMHO the Bachmann Spectrum line is pretty good and maybe just a notch below the LL P2K in smoothness of operation. I have to admit, being a complete tight (_!_) that I've only purchased new obsolete Spectrums.

    I've had very good luck ordering from and highly recommend them as a mail order company. Can't say I really like their website. Not searchable, and often the site does not include everything in their ads and neither is as complete as the paper catalogs, which are free with orders. You can download the ads in pdf. They have some amazing bargains like the P2K S-1 Diesels swithchers for around $30. I have a pair of them and love 'em to death.

    For supplies I don't get from the LHS (Local Hobby Shop), I usally turn to which has about everything and is a user friendly, searchable site. Great prices and discounts from walthers list. I use as a reference.

    I can not place a positive recommndation with Standard Hobby Supply. While most places reserve the right to increase their prices, they exercise their right to do so, and the magazine ads lags several months behind price hikes. They also like to backorder and gouge you twice with overpriced shipping and handling. I was misquoted prices, items not shipped they said they had in stock, and they made no effort to correct the situation. End result, I could have paid full list price at the LHS and saved money. :mad: :mad: :mad:

    There are other fine on-line outfits besides the two I deal with. But you may save yourself a lot of greif if you ask about a specific one here before ordering. If it's not a HO specific supplier, you may have more responses in the "general" section.

    Once again, welcome aboard, and we look forward to more pictures (hint hint). If you have one, you still have time to get one into the photo contest in the photo section (hint hint) :D :D :D
  8. eightyeightfan1

    eightyeightfan1 Now I'm AMP'd

    Welcome to the Gauge.
    Athern does some KCS rolling stock....Even thier new Auto-Max are lettered for KCS(I have one). They also make a GP-7(which is marketed as a GP-9, but I think they changed that). I think Kato and Life -Like make true GP-9's.

    I tend to stay away from Bachman diesels(N scale experience), but the 80 ton 3 truck Shay is a charm, even if its a slow mover
  9. Gary Pfeil

    Gary Pfeil Active Member

    Iwould recommend the Bachmann 2-8-0 as a relatively inexpensive, sturdy well made good running loco.
  10. kepardue

    kepardue New Member

  11. kepardue

    kepardue New Member

    Haha, thanks! I'll post more photos if I get any that are decent, but I sincerely doubt an old, dusty back-from-the-dead layout in a cob-webbed up garage would win any photo contests any time soon!

  12. jon-monon

    jon-monon Active Member

    Not sure what's important, ready to run, roadname, etc.? There are a lot of hoppers under $10. I've had good luck with the MDC ore car kits. Like MDC and Atherns for chaep rollin' stock. There are some acurail hoppers too, never saw one myself:

    Probably a kit. If they don't say assembled, or RTR, I assume it's a kit. The one you linked is assembled, and should be very nice I would hope for the price.

    You never know what people will like, besides, you can electronically manipulate this months pic :D :D :D Or promise not to raise taxes if you win the vote :D :D :D
  13. interurban

    interurban Active Member

    Welcome Ken and Dad,, Hope all goes well re health.

    You are off to a good start with the old layout:D
  14. kepardue

    kepardue New Member

    Don't mean to reply to myself yet again, but I have come up with a question. I've seen a lot of talk about "DCC", but I'm not sure what it is. Could someone give me a quick overview and/or give me a direction to read up more on it?

  15. Gary Pfeil

    Gary Pfeil Active Member

    Hi Ken, Right here in the HO forum there is a thread called "Who's running DCC" You can start by reading that. Also check But to attempt a short answer to your question, DCC is an operating system for running trains which allows independant control of several locos without concern for a given throttle controlling all locos. As your dad and perhaps yourself are aware, with standard DC control it is necassary to wire the track into electrical blocks connected to power suppies via switches in order to operate more than one loco independantly. DCC replaces that with the need to install decoders in the locos. Now your throttle can dial up any decoder and run the loco it is in, and others will not respond. I am a big fan of it, as most who have been exposed to it are. Main drawback is $$, but costs have come down and will likely continue to do so. Check the other thread for more, and most certainly check the Digitrax site, also and

  16. Russ Bellinis

    Russ Bellinis Active Member

    Lifelike P2k offers a Gp 7 or 9, I don't remember for sure which, I'm sure it is available in U.P. The P2k models are really "state of the art." Trains Unlimited out of Colorado bought the old Front Range dies, and offer either body and frame kits that you add an Athearn blue box drive to, or you can get them with the old Front Range drive. I've heard the Athearn drive is much better. It is a reasonably priced way to get a Gp9 with a scale width hood. The Athearn gp7 is one of their oldest models and still has a wide hood.
  17. grlakeslogger

    grlakeslogger Member

    Finding KCS Models

    Welcome back to HO Scale !!

    You'll find a great, great deal of infomation through the web, and the variety of models offered today is positively staggering.

    I went to the Walthers search engine at
    and ran a search using the keyword KCS in HO Scale, all categories. Boy was I surprised at all the stuff out there. Even if you do not buy your supplies from them (I do), they've got a great search engine. It is limited to just their suppliers, though.

    Weighing in on mfgrs., I'm fairly picky about my rolling stock and have always been satisfied with Accurail (owned by MMR Dennis Storzek) and Branchline Trains. They won't break the bank, either. I use Kadee metal wheelsets on all of my freight cars, by the way. I also buy some of the higher priced resin cars from time to time. Another thing you probably have not run across before are laser-cut structure kits. They're great! I especially like Bar Mills Scale Models. You can check them out at

    Good luck, and have a blast with the greatest hobby ever invented!

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