Outside of brass, who makes best Steam engines?

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

  1. lester perry

    lester perry Active Member

    I have a Proto Berkshire naturally it is C&O. the detail is great. and it runs good also. I also have a BLI C&O T1 it looks real good but is collecting dust in the Clifton Forge yard. Also have Bachman 2-6-6-2 that I love, it runs great and looks great. I also have 2 Athearn Genesis. they run great look OK not much detail. I am to poor for brass. I have heared nothing good about brass running from my local friends.
  2. ed acosta

    ed acosta Member

    There are some amazingly smooth running plastic locos that are made in China. I just bought a Proto 1000 RDC unit for $14.99 and cannot believe how slowly and how smoothly it runs. It goes to show just how much better running locos have become even at the low price end. I also have lots of brass locos that I have collected over time. Some of the earlier ones had noisy open electric motors, but they still ran very smoothly. Plastic locos of that same period were noisy and ran rather jerky. The later brass have very quiet can motors and run very smoothly. But, it is a bit unfair to draw a general conclusion such as "heard nothing good about brass running from my local friends" because so many of us have found brass to have exceptional running characteristics. The fact that every brass steam loco I have has sprung drivers means that each drive wheel is putting pressure on the rails which helps its overall pulling capability.

    ALthough brass has always been "too expensive," plastic offered few and vague "cast-on" details. I soon began to super-detail my plastic locos with brass or plastic castings achieving the detail of many of the high-priced brass locos.

  3. Kanawha

    Kanawha Member

    My BLI Mikado is a nice running engine, though it came with its tender pickups installed wrong. Once I flipped them around it ran great. I have a Bachmann Plus GS-4 Northern, which is a great runner, but the tender was way too light, so I added some weight.

    I've been looking at a BLI T1 for a while. Why is yours collecting dust, lester?
  4. ed acosta

    ed acosta Member

    Kanawha, you just made an interesting point in our discussion and that is that you cannot, in all fairness, judge one manufacturer against another. Particularly when early and current models are considered. Manufacturing changes are made that can either improve or wreck the reliability of the model. Perfect example of that is when you said, "Bachmann Plus GS-4 Northern which is a great runner.." Well, that might be today, but that loco has been around for awhile and has evolved a bit. It was once made by Lionel and mine ran fine. It is now reworked into a GS-3. I later bought another GS-4, this time it was manufactured by Bachmann, and it was a mess! The drivers spun on the axle and wrapped up the side rods. I returned it to the store and exchanged it for another which I super detailed and repainted. A few years later the drivers slipped on that one too, but Bachmann had their lifetime warranty, so I shipped them the running gear (I kept the superdetailed shell and tender) and they sent a completely new GS-4 and tender. I'm quite happy with the way this new one runs, but anyone who got stuck with the earlier one must be cussing at Bachmann.
  5. lester perry

    lester perry Active Member

    It hasn't run good since I got it. it has been returned to BLI once, 1 week after purchase because of striped gears. It runs jerky when pulling out and just doesn't meet my satisfaction.BUT! I am having an operating session this weekend. I will get a second opinion by assigning it to a crew and say nothing about it , see what they think.
    Ed if you are speaking of the Bachman I think you are. I have 2 of them with the same slipping problem. I got a Bowser re-powering kit for one of them to try and salvage it (I like the looks of it) no luck for me on that. I know several others who swear by the Bowser kit. With that said I will take the blame on the kit not being so good (poor assembly).
  6. Gary Pfeil

    Gary Pfeil Active Member

    So Squidbait, what are your thoughts on the various makes?
  7. lester perry

    lester perry Active Member

    I just re-read some of the comments nkp174 mentioned new Riverrossi 2-6-6-6. I have 2 of them. the only trouble I have ever had is the tires coming off. called Walthers the actual manufacturer they said put some super glue on it. It didn.t work, so I just took them off. didn't need them. as far as detail goes ,fantastic. pulling power just like the real one 7000 horse power. doesn't want to stop. kind of funny I used to have some couplers with a plastic flap where spring should be and I had one fail on one of the first car of a show off 100 car coal train. Same problem C&O had for real. I don't remember who made the couplers. but now only Ka Dee
  8. CNWman

    CNWman CNW Fan

    Although I only own one steamer, a Bachman Spectrum 2-8-0, I've run a few steamers, and Spectrum is one of the best IMO. However, I think I should note that my current steam engine was NOT my first, it is actualy a replacement for another Spectrum that had more driving rods. That Spectrum broke within an hour, the extra drving rods had snaped their pins for no reason whatsoever. My current Consolidation lacks these rods, but is far and away better than the first one.
  9. Kanawha

    Kanawha Member

    I've had mine for about 10 years, I hope that doesn't end up happening. But I guess if it was going to, it would have by now. *knocks wood* I want to expand my steam roster a bit more and some of the newer Bachmann Spectrum steamers are definitely eye-catchers. :mrgreen:
  10. rhtastro

    rhtastro Member

    My collection of steamers consists of only three, but they all look and run extremely well. The two heavyweights in my stable are the Marklin Big Boy and Mikado. And they are heavy. They can haul 30 to 40 cars without hesitation. Beautiful sounds too. They're both digital and are computer controlled. However, neither one is currently available and orginally were very expensive. You can get the Big Boy now for about 5k from one of the Florida dealers. I think I paid about 800 for mine several years ago.
    The Mike is also very well done and also out of production. As stated above some of these may still be purchased on e-Bay and are the Trix DCC version. Marklin uses a 2 track plus stud AC system and is the most reliable I've ever used in model railroading. The 3rd steamer in my stable is a Rivarrossi 3 truck Heisler converted for Marklin digital. It's very well done and runs well and is a real work of art. I love to watch those tiny drive shafts moving underneath. That and the Big Boy are always the favorites for visitors. Side by side the size difference of those is amazing. I have worked on and near a real 1906 2 truck wood burning Heisler and can appreciate the enormity that Big Boy would be in actuality.
    They were recently inactive for a period of 4 months while I was recuperating from a health problem. (I fell out of an Oak tree while trimming and broke my pelvis and right wrist.) However, when I was able to finally get into my train room, recently, they all started up without any problem. That's real reliability. bob

    And remember, enjoy all your trains responsibly:thumb:
  11. Squidbait

    Squidbait Recovering ALCO-holic

    Well, outside of brass, I think that Proto 2000 has probably had the most consistent high quality. Their 0-8-0 and 0-6-0s are both excellent models in terms of detail and performance. My only gripe with the 0-8-0 is that earlier models didn't pick up power from the tender, while all the 0-6-0's do. The Berkshire and 2-10-2 and the Y6 are all good-looking models too, but I've only run the Berkshire, and it's as smooth as the switchers.

    Spectrum has very well detailled models, but their quality has been less consistent than Proto 2000. Their first offering, the Pensy K4, was great for its' time, and was for the most part a good runner, but there were some clunkers in there too. Next I believe was the 2-8-0, and it was great, but the follow-up. the 4-8-2, had some serious problems (as did early Spectrum diesels). I have found that it's not so much specific models that are poor runners (although I have yet to see a 4-6-0 that doesn't have a small hitch or limp to it, or a 2-10-0 that doesn't have a small bind) but that there's more variation in quality within each model. I've seen several 2-10-2's that ran as smoothly as Protos, and one that was a total dog. The Mallet is a really nice runner, as is the 0-6-0 saddle tanker.

    BLI's regular steamers are very well detailled, and of the ones I have run (Hudson, Mohawk, 2-8-2, 4-6-2) have been very smooth and strong pullers. The Blue Line locos are probably some of the best deals in sound-equipped steam you can get... just not as detailled.

    The Athearn Genesis 4-6-2 and 2-8-2 were both very good locos, average detail on very good chassis. I've only seen one that was a poor runner, and I think it must have been dropped, because it was brought in for repair, and had a click-jump in the drive.

    I haven't seen too much of Rivarrossi's latest offerings, other than the Hudson. Their older models were the best you could get in plastic steam for a long time, but the early ones had a big 3-pole motor that cogged badly, and later ones had a 5-pole motor that was a bit smoother. Detail was mostly molded on, but decent. Huge flanges meant lots of work turning them down/replacing wheelsets, but with a bit of work these locos became very good. The Hudson is one of the smoothest-running plastic steamers I've come across. Perhaps it's just because it's got those big drivers, but it just seems to glide across the track. Very quiet, too.

    Mehano/IHC has some good value for less-detailled models. The mechanisms are generally sound, the newer ones have flywheel-equipped motors, and they run fairly smoothly. The latest one I have is their 2-10-2, and it is as smooth and quiet as any Proto 2000. I've got a few of the USRA 2-8-2's and 4-6-2's from earlier runs, and they're OK, but certainly not up to current standards. They are, however, easily re-motored, and become good runners with a little work and tweaking. Their mogul is also quite nice, and they have the few old-tyme 4-4-0's still on the market.

    The Roundhouse 2-6-0 and 2-8-0 never fail to impress me with how well they run. They don't have the detail of a Proto or Spectrum, but they're smooth and quiet. Older Roundhouse could become good runners with some tweaking, especially the kit locos... but detail was definitely optional, and valve gear was pretty rudimentary.

    I don't have much experience with the latest Mantua releases. Their 0-6-0, for what it is, is a decent little loco, but nowhere near the level of detail of the other manufacturers, and in comparision to the Chinese steam, the drive is a little coarse. Still, for $50, what do you want? Their older steam required quite a bit of tweaking to work well, but once tweaked, pulled like crazy if it was of the metal-boilered generation.

    Hmmm.... who's left? I think that covers the main players in the steam game these days... if I think of anyone else, I'll post an addendum.
  12. Kanawha

    Kanawha Member

    Do you know if the newest release of the Spectrum 4-8-2 thats DCC equipped is still problematic? It looks like such a nice engine.
  13. lester perry

    lester perry Active Member

    Alex had operating session last night put the T1 out with short frieght. the man running it said it was ok except the tender kept coming off the track. That is a new one I have never had that problem with it before.
    And for what it is worth in my opinion the Proto is the best when taking all of the desires expressed into concideration. Looks great, runs great pull great very smooth running. I have a proto bershire hooked up to a 70 car coal drag right now
  14. Fluesheet

    Fluesheet Member

    Les, what are you doing putting a runner like a Berk on a coal drag? Stop thinking like the C&O and put a time freight behind that locomotive! :mrgreen::mrgreen::p

  15. Kanawha

    Kanawha Member

    Well, the C&O, Pere Marquette, and NKP were all guilty of doing that to the Berks.
  16. lester perry

    lester perry Active Member

    just doing as the real one did. Coal$$$$$$$$$$$$$$
  17. Squidbait

    Squidbait Recovering ALCO-holic

    AFAIK, Bachmann has corrected the problem. The new Mountain that I played with seemed quite nice.
  18. Kanawha

    Kanawha Member

    Awesome, thanks Squidbait. :)
  19. toptrain1

    toptrain1 Member

    Who Makes the best steam engines?

    Thats quite a question. My answere is. Maybe you do! If you want to find out start out easy. Get a old Mantua, Roundhouse, or whoever 0-4-0, or 0-6-0 switcher. Tank style or with a tender. Look at it carefully. Think of what you need to get to fit into your railroad line. What detail you would want to add to make it yours, or match a real railroad prototypical appearence. Bowser and Walters catalogs will help. Bowser's info is online at their site. Now get to work and answere the Question.
    frank toptrain1

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