Simplist way for Multiple Units

Discussion in 'HO Scale Model Trains' started by Wildcatfootball, May 14, 2006.

  1. Sorry to start another thread, but I've got a lot of questions. I used to search function, but all I find was stuff I didn't really understand. I'm modeling the moderen era in the Northwest so a lot or Amtrak, UP, & BNSF. I need to know how to run multiple units. The first thing I thought of was just buying dummy engines, but then on long trains going up a grade, I'd be done for. So can someone explain what I'll need. I'll basicly be buying most of my engines from Athearn, so I don't know if that helps at all, but a lil more info to help me. Thanks guys.:wave:
  2. santafewillie

    santafewillie Member

    You may as well buy all powered units. My experience is that dummy Athearn units don't roll too freely. If you're running DC then it helps to MU like units, i.e. all SD40-2's or all Dash9-44CW's. With DCC I understand you can program different units...I don't know how to do this since I run DC. I also had always heard that on older Athearn units you should use plastic couplers to avoid shorts, but I never have any trouble with mine and I use KD # 5's. It has to do with the frame carrying power from opposite wheels. I think it only matters if the paint is chipped off the mounting posts. This isn't a problem with newer units with the removable plastic coupler box.
  3. jim currie

    jim currie Active Member

    MUing is tough on DC you need to test units that you intend to run to see if they are close to the same need to run a break in on them and some times you need to tweak them.if the speeds are not the same but close I put the unit that runs the fastest in the lead.
  4. isboris4449

    isboris4449 Member

    If you are sticking to Athearn, or mostly Athearn, mu'ing shouldn't be a problem, they run well together after being broken in. If you want to run a mix of manufacturer's units together, it can be done without too much trouble. It requires some effort, a few extra bucks and some basic skills, but the results are worth it.

    With Athearn units you can vastly improve their running characteristics with a few improvements.
    1.Replace the original wheels with nickel silver plated wheelsets from Northwest Shortline, which improves electrical pickup immensly.
    2.Remove the bar that conducts power from the trucks to the motor and hard wire the power leads to the trucks.
    3.Add thrust washers (available from NWSL) on the ends of the drive shafts at the gear tower ends to take up the slack.
    4.Replace all older Athearn motors with the newer thin-frame motors with their better running characteristics.
    5.On older units, do not use the coupler boxes molded as part ofthe frame with the clip on covers. File them down flat, drill and tap a 2/56 hole and mount Kadees in their boxes with nylon screws. This eliminates the shorting problem. On my Athearn loco's, I cut the frame mounted coupler boxes off and body mount the couplers. All you do is glue plastic strips inside the shell to form a pad even with the top of the opening in the pilot. Use a Kadee coupler box cover to mark the location, and again drill and tap a 2/56 hole. Just mount the couplers and you're done. If the couplers are too high, use either Kadee washers or plastic shims to lower them.

    To equalize the running characteristics between Athearn and say, Atlas units is not that hard. The major problems stems from the much lower current draw of the Atlas, Stewart or othe expensive loco's motors. Set up a test track with a volt and ameter connected, using the same type of throttle you use on the layout. After giving each locomotive a thorough break-in period, with the shells on, measure the starting voltage. The Athearn's should all be pretty close. All you will need to do is add a resistor between the power leads of the Atlas (or whatever) unit and the motor that raises the starting voltage to that of the Athearn units. They don't need to be exact, but fairly close. Just take your measurements with you to the electronics store and a clerk can help you if, like most of us, electronics aren't your strong suit.

  5. Ralph

    Ralph's for fun!

    :) That's what we're here for! :thumb:

    It looks like you're getting a lot of good info here. I use dummies but usually limit my consists to two locomotives, sometimes three depending on how the lead powered unit pulls. I do have trouble hauling more than a 15 car train up the one grade on my layout but that's about as long a train as I usually run anyway because the size looks "right". I use mostly Athearn powered and dummy locomotives. Tom provided a lot of great information in his post that I'll keep in mind for the future.
  6. shaygetz

    shaygetz Active Member

    Tom's got you covered...the only thing I do different is that I replace every other driver with an NWSL replacement. They are identical in size so there is no lop lolly issue (unless you choose to correct the wheelsets i.e. SW1500s use 40" wheels, not the 42" ones that Athearn provides), you improve the pickup yet still retain the traction of the original sintered iron wheelsets and you get two locos out of every package to stretch your dollar to boot.
  7. Is there anywhere I can find out what size wheel my engine has? The engines that I'm talking about combining right now are the Amtrak AMD103's.
  8. Russ Bellinis

    Russ Bellinis Active Member

    A web site I like to reccomend for modelers using Athearn locomotives is If you look about 1/2 way down the page to TUNING UP ATHEARN AND OTHER HO SCALE LOCOMOTIVES, clickon that page and he gives instruction on how to hardwire Athearn locomotives to eliminate the steel slider the Athearn uses to ty truck power to the motor. All Athearn r-t-r and blue box locomotives that are factory stock are geared the same and use the same motors, so they will run together. The speeds will vary somewhat sometimes because of production tolorances. As a friend of mine who belongs to the La Mesa Model Railroad Club in San Diego told me, any locomtive will run with any other locomotive if you have enough weight behind them. If you use Kaddee #5 couplers on the locomotives and run them back to back, make sure you use the Kaddee coupler boxes with them to keep the couplers insulated from the locomotive frame. If the metal couplers contact the metal frame and the locomotives are coupled back to back, you will have a short.

    I tried to give you a direct link to Jim Fuhrman's web site, but when I tried to open it, AOL couldn't find the page! I'm going to send you a different way. Go to the Orange county Module Railroaders site at Scroll down the page until you see a selection titled "Links to Member Pages". When you click on that link The first site listed is Jim Fuhrman's site.
  9. isboris4449

    isboris4449 Member


    Can you check your link? I tried a few times and get error messages.


  10. Pitchwife

    Pitchwife Dreamer

    I started a similar thread. You can check it out here. Maybe you can get some additional information there. I know I got some here.
  11. lester perry

    lester perry Active Member

    Wow sounds like you got a wealth of information here. I usually just match manufacturers, I have found that some will run OK with other manufacturers but you are limited to a certain speed. Like Athearn & Bachman one will start first and drag the other then at some point they will run the same then one will start running faster than the other.

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