Outside of brass, who makes best Steam engines?

Discussion in 'HO Scale Model Trains' started by keqwow, Feb 14, 2008.

  1. keqwow

    keqwow New Member

    Outside of brass, who would you say makes the most detailed and to scale steam engines?
  2. nkp174

    nkp174 Active Member

    Tough call. Bowser sort of cheats...they have super detail kits which consist of lost wax brass castings...to make them more detailed.
    The earlier Japanese brass was not as detailed as many of the newer plastic models. My proto 0-8-0 is more detailed than all four of my brass locomotives. Also, many older Japanese brass models run like...well...they sort of don't run...or at least we wouldn't call it that now.

    Brass is merely a tool for small runs. That means that features that most people aren't willing to pay the significant extra costs for (pipe fittings on their models...fully equalized suspension)...will only be offered in brass. The San Juan Car co has offered an On3 2-8-0 kit that is probably superior in every respect to any brass model of that engine...but it cost $700.

    I don't think that there really is such a thing as "best". For an excellent craftsman, kits like San Juan's would be the best...but for a not so good craftsman, they'd probably prefer Precision scale's die cast version as the best.

    I personally like the detail on my P2K 0-8-0 the best. Yet, I feel that the Bachmann (spectrum) stuff is better as the detail is nearly as good...but they can pull more and cost 1/2 as much. BLI & PCM, in my opinion, suffer in the value department...but I'd take their 2-8-2 over Athearns...and they're the only ones to have offered a 2-10-4 (just like Precision Scale & San Juan, they've offered the same Rio Grande 2-8-0...and it is almost a joke next to their offerings). They have excellent sound & excellent detail...but they're just so expensive (IMO).
  3. MasonJar

    MasonJar It's not rocket surgery

    There are a number of manufacturers now who are making nicely detailed plastic steamers. Depending on what you want, you may not have a choice of manufacturer, and/or you may have to go with a generic or USRA style, rather than a road-specific model.

    However, the possibilities include, but are not limited to:

    Broadway Limited
    Bachmann Spectrum (not "regular" Bachmann)
    Proto2000 from Walthers
    Athearn Genesis

    I have a 0-6-0 from Proto, and a 2-8-0 and two 4-6-0s from Bachmann, and they are all great engines.

  4. nachoman

    nachoman Guest

    Compared to what was available 25 years ago, everything today looks quite good. I really can't be a good judge of the above manufacturers because I don't own any. But looking in the display cases, the proto 2000 are about the most detailed plastic steamers I have seen. The bachmann spectums, athearn genesis, and BLI are all very, very good IMO (compared to 25 years ago). And most steamers, brass included, usually look best with the proper weathering and a few added details

  5. Don7

    Don7 Member

    My opinion as well. When on limited income/allowance price is so important in comparison to the small difference in quality.
  6. ed acosta

    ed acosta Member

    I suppose that I should consider myself to be 'old school' since I began modeling long before DCC and sound. I would have preferred to have brass locomotives over plastic any day, but price was the limiting factor. I recall the day I purchased a 4-12-0 in brass for a whopping $300! That was a ton of money a few years ago. So, I chose to buy plastic wherever I could and superdetail to provide as much detail as the brass models.

    Below is a Rivarossi or AHM Cab Forward. I found a brass cab for it for 25 cents at a swap meet and probably paid $50 for all of the detailed parts. Ready-to-run is not where my heart is. I really enjoy spending weeks on a single loco, and maybe because of that you'll consider ME loco!
    Jul05 004.jpg
  7. keqwow

    keqwow New Member

    Well don't get me wrong....I'd build a kit any day over a RTR model...but I am not into kit bashing and coming up with something that will work. I'd rather have a box full of a few hundred parts...but have all of the parts IN THAT BOX to start with. I love building the kits...plus I think it is easier to weather individual pieces like that first....but I don't see much appeal in mixing and matching kits. I also don't care much for molded details...I want some dimensionality to my models...I like seeing all of the pipes, bells and wistles to stick out from the body. But I just can't bring myself to spend over $500 on an engine...and these brass ones are really crazy. Just saw an absolutely stunning brass Big Boy for the bargain price of almost $3000 !!!!!!! :eek:
  8. toptrain1

    toptrain1 Member

    detailed locomotives

    Opinions ! We all have them. When I run a BLI GG1 with the sound going after awile I shut the sound off. It annoys me. When I run one of my old Penn-Line GG1's I just let it go. As to detail the BLI is as well known to be superior in every way. When placed side by side the Penn-Lines not scale length is easy to see. Now couple them to a train and run them. In motion it is not so obvious. What matters is what you think and not someone else does.
    On my layout I would just run trains. I had 4 main lines. I was in the middle of them watching them run arround me. When I got tired of one it went on a sideing and I released another complete train. Detail is nice. If I had 20-20 vision I would appreciate it more. At 62 well I like what I do.
    frank toptrain
  9. puddlejumper

    puddlejumper Member

    Proto 2000 gets my vote. Their 0-6-0 is magnificent, the bell and whistle even have a pull cord!!

  10. pgandw

    pgandw Active Member

    I'd say the Blackstone D&RG K-27 is a magnificent model locomotive - available in several variations and with/without DCC/Tsunami sound. Of course, it's narrow gauge (HOn3), but it's about as good as it gets for RTR non-brass steam in HO scale.

    MMI just released a die-cast K-27 with brass details that is even more detailed than Blackstones. Not quite as good a runner out of the box, though.
  11. GN.2-6-8-0

    GN.2-6-8-0 Member

    I just purchased my 1st Broadway limited locomotive the AT&SF 3800 class 2-10-2 and have to say its a step up on the Bachmann specturm line.
    Extremly heavy and with optional traction tires is suppose to pull 80 40ft freight cars on straight and level track. 40 without.
    Also the QSI sound system is specific to that class locomotive and sounds very...very good.
    Have heard some concerns about programing the decoder but have'nt got that far yet,am told if you follow the directions specificly there shouldn't be any problems....

    Attached Files:

  12. Fluesheet

    Fluesheet Member

    Add Trix to that list. I haven't seen the Big Boys up close, but the Mikados they produced are amazing. Very heavy, very cleverly assembled and detail much better than the Genesis (and even a step up from BLI's version).

    The downsides are that they are no longer being imported, the sound is so-so (though motor control is very good), and they were very expensive when new (~$550ish). However, the price was cut about 2-3 years ago and they can now be picked up on Ebay in the $175 - $200 range.

  13. sumpter250

    sumpter250 multiscale modelbuilder

    Steam Locomotives. I will overlook detail, to get smooth slow speed operation. That said, Brass.....I have several brass steam locos, in various levels of detail, from pretty basic to reasonably well modeled.
    The Rivarossi (now Hornby) C&O H-8 Allegheny is perhaps one of the most accurately, and completely detailed non brass RTR locomotive out there. I have not seen the Hornby product up close, but I've heard that some mechanical improvements have been made. The Rivarossi versions ran better than their other locos, and at least equaled most of the brass I've seen, (and have).
    I've remotored a Sunset Models B&O EL3a, and C-16a, a GEM 2-4-4-2 (now equipped with DCC). I have a pair of PFM "Sierra's" that need to have the gear train rebuilt, or replaced completely.
    There are more detail parts in brass, than in plastic.......soldering skill is always a good thing to develop .
  14. toptrain1

    toptrain1 Member

    Out side of brass .

    Bowser makes the best locomotives. Their cost is reasonable. They look good and can be detailed to look great. They run tremendusly. They are made in the USA. And you will have to look far to find a locomotive in it's class (4-6-0,4-6-2 2-8-2, 2-8-0 etc.)that will out pull them.
  15. UP SD40-2

    UP SD40-2 Senior Member

    Heres MY thoughts on it, going by what I HAVE:winki: .

    Athearn Genesis
    1 Big Boy
    2 Challengers

    1 F-E-F Class 3 Northern
    1 Heavy Pacific

    1 AC-12 Cab Forward

    Proto 2000 Heritage
    1 Y3

    As far as looks and the BEST detail goes, Intermountain wins HANDS DOWN:thumb: , though the Athearn Genesis and the Proto 2000 Heritage comes in a VERY CLOSE second:winki: .

    As far as run-ability goes, the Athearn Genesis wins the prize in MY book:winki: , i have the least trouble with them, they are NOT picky on the track conditions, and can take tight curves(22R) NO PROBLEM:thumb: . (Rivarossi takes a very close second:winki: ).

    just MY thoughts based on what i have:winki: .

    :deano: -Deano
  16. MilesWestern

    MilesWestern Active Member

    I have a love for small steam locomotives, and to be honest, very few run well, unless you work on getting better motors for them or improving pickup.

    However, I've played with most of the brands of steam locomotives out there and I've come up with a small list of Quality based on manufacturer.

    MANTUA(post tyco) Is excellent looking, and operating. Most come with a DCC plug in the back and really have excellent motors and run well, and smooth. Some of the detail is kind of clunky and their headlights are hideous.

    Bachmann Spectrum- Good running, good electrical pickup, good value, and excellent sound thanks to Tsunami decoders! Yes!

    I have scrapped every Rivarossi locomotive I have owned for parts, they were all older than 30 years, and they have a terrible motor, especially in the 0-8-0.

    Old MDC (from kits w/brass wheels) Crap. Stay away at ALL COSTS.

    New Pre-Athearn MDC (Comes assembled in red&yellow box) AWESOME! worth every penny. bright headlamps and good detail, Also DCC-able from what I've heard, although not sure.

    NEW Roundhouse Wow. Excellent running, good-ish sound from MRC, pulls alot of cars, and are all painted in striking crispness, and some have prototype specific details.

    Lifelike Proto 2000 heritage: All I can say is wow, got to see someone test drive one, wish I could get one myself, stunning locomotives.

    BLI is certianly great, but pricey. Sound is good and realistic, solid runners, minimal problems, if there is a problem, it's usually a factory defect.

    Any brass locomotive would be a show stopper with a new sagami can motor DDC'd with a Tsunami decoder, I've had someone do that to my only brass engine with stunning results.
  17. Squidbait

    Squidbait Recovering ALCO-holic

    Old Rivarrossi were definitely problematic, but I saw a new Riv NYC Hudson in the LHS, and it has to be one of the the smoothest-running steamers I have seen... and I've seen a lot! It was amazing!
  18. nkp174

    nkp174 Active Member

    I think it is important to weigh kits and RTR separately...as well as pre-1998 and post 1998 locomotives.

    First, Rivarossi's only post-1998 locomotive is their 2-6-6-6...which I've heard is the finest locomotive ever released in plastic...better than brass...and I've also heard mixed reviews about it being both a great and bad puller. Mid-90's rivarossi engines ran nicely (factory equipped with sagamis)...but suffered from having the same undersized drivers (albeit with new RP-25 flanges) from the 1970s. The earlier engines were loud, with poor pulling power, and badly oversized flanges. But, Rivarossi were the creme de la creme of plastic steam prior to 1998.

    Athearn's genesis steam is mixed. Their locomotives run beautifully, but the first two releases were know for terrible pulling power (and detail only slightly better than the 30yr old Rivarossi engines). The Genesis pacific was, by every account from every person I've ever known to have seen one in action, be essentially worthless. It didn't have enough tractive effort to pull the shortest passenger train up a slight grade.

    Mantua's ought to also be split up. My 4-6-0 was both poorly detailed and an awful runner. My mallets were outstanding pullers...with moderate detail. Most of their other locomotives suffered from: A) not being models of any real engines...nor representative of anything other than obscure prototypes...and B) details so bad, well, they practically didn't exist.

    Mantua, Bowser, and MDC/Roundhouse all have similar roots. All three were die cast kits. All three suffer from odd prototype selection...or poor fidelity to the prototypes...except for Bowser's PRR engines. The quality of the model obtained is entirely related to the skill of the modeler...and the add-ons you apply to the model. For non-PRR/non-harriman/non-NJ modeling...they are not very good except for freelance models...even Bowser's USRA engines have many bad flaws.

    It seems that pretty much no modeler is really qualified to rate them all. It seems that while I'm well qualified to rate Bachmann's stuff...I have no experience with Intermounatain's 4-8-8-2. I've had first hand good and bad results with MDC engines. I remember regarding Bachmann stuff as trash...and now I hold it in high regard.

    EDIT: Even brass can be junk. I seems that most DSP&P modelers regard Balboa's DSP&P mogul as junk since they based it on incorrect drawings from the 1960 issue of MR. I've seen other examples of poor brass as well. My brass C&S caboose isn't 1/10th the model my plastic Grandt line version is...and my brass business car is just plain pathetic. Bachmann's On30 2-6-0 can be turned into a nice On3 engine by merely regauging it...I've seen it recommended as a far better basis for a South Park mogul than Balboa's brass South Park mogul.
  19. Squidbait

    Squidbait Recovering ALCO-holic

    It seems to me that's a pretty broad assertion.

    I've been a model railroader (as opposed to train set player) for over 30 years. Rarely having much cash for brass, I've bought mostly plastic steam. I've been a member of a large club, and have several friends with large steam rosters, where I've run vintage die-cast kits from the '70s to the latest brass offerings.

    I have owned and/or run steam models from MDC/Roundhouse/New Roundhouse, Mantua/Tyco, Rivarrossi/AHM, IHC/Mehano, Bachmann/Spectrum, PrecisionScale, BLI, LifeLike/Proto 2000 and Athearn as well as brass models. I work in a hobbyshop that stocks the latest offerings. I think I'm pretty well qualified to judge the majority of current steam offerings.

    So put that in your pipe and smoke it! :p sign1
  20. nkp174

    nkp174 Active Member

    Yeah, I agree. There are some...but for the majority of us...we can't. I'm certain that the staff at MR can accurately compare models far better than most of us. I'm comfortable making statements about the quality of most locomotives...having run them, seen them, or known enough people to have them...but I can't really comment on some of the newest offerings...or the old Arbor models. Perhaps we need some sort of weighting scale...to help measure the quality...and of course this would have to be relative to something...so, say, Bowser locomotives could, perhaps, be the gold standard in pulling power...while 0 corresponds to a Tyco FA I once had...it couldn't pull itself up my 7% branchline grade sign1

    -Smooth operation
    -pulling power
    -quality of kit/rtr product (are modifications necessary to achieve the top 4)

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