time to buy the centerpiece

Discussion in 'Getting Started' started by railBuilderdhd, Dec 19, 2007.

  1. I’ve decided what rail line I want to model now I’m looking to buy the rolling stock and locos. What I would like to know is what experience other have had with the different brands and what to avoid. I especially want to know what to avoid when I buy my locos. I’m looking to model a more modern area for now so I’m most interested in the diesels that you find running now. I have been thinking about the fun it would be to model the 50’s so I could see an old steamer on the line as well but I want to have a more modern era for the entire layout. I don’t think it would be a problem if have a steam engine, I can still see an old steam engine running on a rail today – just for fun now and again.
  2. Just in case anyone wants to know, I've decided that I’m going to model the PRR (Pennsylvania Rail Road) and I’m going to start my Layout in Philadelphia area on the docks.
  3. iis612

    iis612 Member

    Here is the best advice I can offer...
    Generally, at the LHS you get what you pay for. Meaning, if you see rolling stock priced at $3.99, they will need some heavy modification to make them run reliably on your layout. They are typically out of scale, and do not meet NMRA standards.
    Be careful with ebay purchases. If they do not describe the item well and dodge questions about specifics, they are selling crap.
    As far as I am concerned, dollar for dollar, the best locomotives in the lower price spectrum would be the Bachmann spectrum line. They offer smooth, reliable operation, they are equipped with a DCC decoder, and have a decent amount of detail.
    Go to train shows and modelers swap meets. Search the bins, there are real treasures for bargain hunters there.
    Don't forget, if you are running freight, to mix up your rolling stock road names. The only freight train that I have ever seen with identical rolling stock was a unit coal train running from Toledo, OH to Bay City, MI.
    If it were not for RR interchange, rail freight would not be feasible.
  4. Sorry, I forget to post the scale all the time. I'm working in HO and I want to keep price down as much as I can. I'm not collecting trains but just running them for now.
  5. What about Roundhouse rolling stock cars, they any good?
  6. iis612

    iis612 Member

    I don't have any Roundhouse cars, so I can't offer an opinion about them. (Unless I have one that is in my second hand collection)
    I mostly have Athearn and Proto 1000/2000 rolling stock, with some mantua, and bachmann thrown in.
    They are in the lower price range $8-$15 per, and they need a bit of tweaking here and there, but are generally good runners.

  7. MasonJar

    MasonJar It's not rocket surgery

    Your best bet for rolling stock, offering decent prototypical accuracy combined with low price, and ease of assembly are the Athern blue box kits or the Accurail kits. Most can be had for between $10 and $15, go together in minutes, and run well with only minor modification (usually metal wheels, Kadee couplers, and weight). These are "drop-in" conversions, requiring no special tools or skills.

    My LHS was offering a "mix bag" of 10 Accurail or Athearn (can't remember which) boxcars from various roads for CAN$60 this past summer. Maybe still on - www.larkspurline-trains.com

    As for engines - Spectrum steamers are good. For diesels, the prices are generally lower anyway, but people tend to like Proto1000/2000, Atlas, and Kato.

    The advice that you get what you pay for is true, but remember that the same item can be had for different prices at different stores/websites, so it pays (so to speak) to shop around.

  8. Thanks Andrew and others,
    I was looking to shop but I wanted to hear from guys that have experienced first hand what the different companies produce. I've purchased a engine that I only wanted to place on a shelf for show (BNSF) and not run. I'm glad I don't want to run it because the trucks are to small for the track. Anyway, I've been shopping on e-bay and didn't want to start to bid on junky cars/engines.
  9. DeckRoid

    DeckRoid Member

    I went through the same thing you went through, with regards to not knowing which brands to buy and the LHS, while having an ... ok ... selection, just wasn't cutting it for me. One fellow in my club suggested Pacific Western Rail Systems.

    These guys were a club that couldn't get the cars they wanted, so they started their own business. 10 years later, these guys have a sweet advanced search engine.

    Down side, they deal only in N and HO and they take 3 to 5 days to get the stuff to you.

    *** I personally like the Proto stuff, Athearn Genesis, Bachmann Spectrum, Kato and Stewart Hobbies (now owned by Bowser) ***
  10. PWRR-2207

    PWRR-2207 Rogue Islander


    I have one, a Roundhouse 50' FMC SD Box Car. It had one part to glue on (a wheel) and glue the box to the frame.

    I replaced the trucks and plastic wheels, changed the couplers to Kaydee's and had to add a couple washers to get the weight up to NMRA standards (1 ounce + .5 ounces per inch of model car).

    I do not want to come off sounding critical of Roundhouse but for the low cost, do not expect massive details. The car is in scale and other than repainting the roof some day, looks pretty good.
  11. nkp174

    nkp174 Active Member

    I have Life-Like P2K steam, Bachmann standard steam, Bachman Spectrum steam, MDC steam, and just about any other manufacturer that you can think of (except Bowser...and my only PCM/BLI is a galloping goose).

    For freight cars, I have accurail, athearn blue box, mdc roundhouse, life-like, bachmann, and a dozen others.

    For simpler kits, Athearn & accurail are great. For really cool kits, especially for a pennsy fan, bowser's cars are awesome (a little more difficult...but certainly not advanced). MDC/Roundhouse are some of my favorites. The old kits required a little paint for the die cast parts (the name is Model Die Casting)...and some drilling on their old-time tank cars for the railings..

    If I was you, I'd pick an era for the stuff (and I'd definitely go 1950's for Pennsy). For mainline stuff & RTR engines...I'd then get, probably, a spectrum K-4 (although not as good as the other spectrum engines...pennsy specific) or a BLI Pennsy J-1 (2-10-4). I'd then get a Pennsy caboose from Bowser...and several 40' boxcars from Accurail/MDC/athearn and several 34' hoppers from athearn/accurail/bowser...and a PRR X-31 boxcar from Bowser (available RTR). I'd also pick up a few PRR painted passenger cars (spectrum's heavyweights, Branchline or walthers). Eastern Car Works makes the classic PRR P-70 coaches...great, distinct PRR coaches.

    If it doesn't have to be RTR, I'd nab a Bowser deluxe kit...for they are THE source for Pennsy power. I'd look into the A-5 or B-6 plus some boxcars (X-31s especially) if I was modeling the docks...the RTR engines are mainline engines...the K-4 specifically being a passenger engine that wouldn't set foot on the docks.

    It's tough to really model the Pennsy without them:
    Bowser - HO Steam Loco Kits
    Bowser - HO Freight Cars
    Bowser - HO Freight Cars
  12. Russ Bellinis

    Russ Bellinis Active Member

    You haven't mentioned how much space you have to build a layout in, or what sort of minimum radius you can run. If you are wanting to model a modern class 1 mainline, you will need to have broad radius curves because the modern locomotives are so long. You mentioned modeling the Pennsy. Unless you model a "what if" freelance where on your layout the Penn Central never happened, and it never became Conrail, the Pennsy was part of the Penn Central in 1972 if I remember correctly.

  13. Thanks for the great info and help in a direction. What about well crs that I've seen by the docks being loaded with containers. Do you have any suggestions for those as well.

  14. I didn't mention the space I have for layout because I'm only working in sections and for now I'm doing a layout on a 4x8 maybe I push that out a little more if needed. I'm going to move in a year or so and I don't want to get this to far out before that move so I'm working on the basics for now like the era, what industry I want to model (dock and yards). then when I move I can have the layout go from the dock yards to the mainline and other industries. So, for now I don't know the radius of the curves. Now, what Pennsy ever became is what I'm currently researching. I know the modern era will include csx and Conrail but I have much to learn.
    I will say as I learn I think maybe I would like to model an older era and work sometime like the 50 when you see both steam and diesel on the rails.
  15. nkp174

    nkp174 Active Member

    The cars I mentioned are for the 1950's era PRR. What you see today (intermodal) are quite different and I don't know where to find them (athearn?). The 1950's were the zenith of the PRR...by the merger with the NYC, they were both shells of their former themselves.
    The 1950's versus today is like comparing apples and oranges. Boxcars today are frequently 85' long were they were typically 40' long in the 1950's. Hopper cars were 2-bays, now they typically are 4-bays. The intermodal business is a huge component of modern rail, but was just getting started then...with trailers loaded on to real flat cars without removing their wheels. Covered hopper cars were new...had only 2-bays, and were rated at 70ton...now they are all 100t+. Then cabooses were on the end of every train...while now they are almost extinct. Then a train would have cars from 15 different railroads...while now they'll be 1-4 railroads plus ttx and other rental operations.
    The Penn Central/Chessie system eras were actually the dark ages of railroading. Companies were failing, track was being abandoned, and passenger service was being eliminated. In the east, the two surviving parent roads (C&O & N&W) were the two big coal haulers whom had the least to lose to the highways. This era (by far my least favorite) has cars midway in between the 1950's and the present. It is also the preferred era of trainset manufacturers.
    The best known 1970's model railroad is probably Allen McClelland's Virginian & Ohio.

    If you model the present, I can't really give too much advice. But if you have a single 1950's train, I can help (which is what I've tried to lay out). Although the Pennsy is not a great interest to me, Bowser's offerings always are tempting for me to jump into it. It has always been a very easy steam era road to model due to the availability of almost everything specific to the Pennsy.

    Modern vs. steam era is also very different in the approach to modeling them. Steam era stuff can be learned here on the internet and through many books. Current stuff is a moving target which certainly adds a little more of the sport element too it...but that's the foamer sport of writing down modern car numbers and trying to catch a slightly different paint scheme on a new locomotive...with the aid of a scanner.

    Also, if you've never seen mainline steam in action live...I'd track some down. Personal experience has a huge impact on what we like. A trip to Strasbourg to see their collection of PRR power or especially chasing mainline steam are hobby changing experiences. Rich Melvin of the 765 crew tells a few great stories about it. I believe my favorite came on a Saturday New River Gorge excursion. By rules, a CSX man had to be in the cab. The engineer sent in by the dispatcher was quite ticked off over his assignment with a stupid old steam engine. He was cussing and swearing about it. By the end of the trip...he was so excited that he informed the crew that he'd pull some strings and try to be back the next day. Sure enough, he was. That's why some railfans have such a love over the 611, the 765, the 4449, the 3751, the 844, etc...

    Also...Life Like P2K: good. plain Life Like: bad

  16. Thanks for so much great info!!! I understand what you are talking about with the joy you get from modeling the older steam era and how a trip to an old steam engine can change your way of modeling. You made me think back to my days of being a child and the trip I took with my father to an old steam engine and how it changed my way I was modeling back then. That is why I'm thinking more of the 50's now so I can keep an old steam engine on my layout. I would really like to model a modern layout with a dock and maybe a yard full of well cars and trucks running the containers out with cranes. I guess what I would really like is to have multiple layouts for different eras (dreaming). Well, thanks for the thoughts and getting me to stop and think and all the other good info.
  17. Triplex

    Triplex Active Member

    The PRR merged into PC in 1968, and PC into Conrail in 1976. Conrail broke up and was absorbed into CSX and NS in 1999. NS got (most of) the old PRR lines.
  18. So, you got me thinking as I look at a design I'm working on (to post soon for ideas) how do I know what radius I need for the size of car I want to run? Say I want to run the enclosed auto carrier (89' flat car) or a car that's long like that. Is there a way to figure out the required turn radius for the car length running on the layout?
    Happy holidays.
  19. nkp174

    nkp174 Active Member

    Most HO stuff will "run" on 18" radius track. Although, practically, 22" is the minimum radius. Greater radii are primarily for appearance...as the operational characteristics can be achieved with 22"R. (I'd presume that the 89'ers would work on 22"R...although plenty of modelers would look upon that with scorn due to the visual aspect).

    If I was you, I'd get some sectional track and flex track...and then experiment with an 89' car.

    I don't see any problem with having a roster consisting of everything from an 1830's 0-4-0 and autoracks. You can either justify it as the railroad having a steam program or...my track, my rules. But, since one aspect of model railroading is to make our railroads seem realistic (or dramatic)...which means that K-4s would probably look bad pulling a string of autoracks since you know that they're from different eras.

    One of my favorite modelers is an HOn3 guy named Harry Brunk. Before his dozens of magazine articles and the re-issue of his Up Clear Creek on the Narrow Gauge compilation book...Harry knew he wanted to model the canyon road. He just didn't know if he wanted to model the 19th century when it was the Colorado Central or the 20th century when it was the Colorado & Southern. He detailed a mogul to match an 1884 CC mogul and another to match a 1930s mogul. It helped him decide that he wanted to do the 20th century. But, various aspects of his road are not quite in the era he chose...he elected to build the Georgetown Loop high bridge as it appeared in the 19th century...with less bracing.

    I highly suggest your "centerpiece" be steam...because while steam fans commonly have a centerpiece...diesel fans don't really seem to. This is usually due to the fact that the differences between steam locomotives are far greater than the differences between diesels (the difference between a 2-8-8-4 and a 0-4-0 is far greater than between a UP Centennial diesel and a GE 25tonner).
  20. eightyeightfan1

    eightyeightfan1 Now I'm AMP'd

    There's no problem in having steam power in the modern era.
    I model today, but my railroad also has a couple of steamers, 80tn three truck Shay, Consolodation and a "Big Boy"(Touted as the only operating one in the world...freelancing is great) and some vintage rolling stock for their "Heritage Fleet"(freelancing is great)which is used on "Railfan Days" and photo ops.(Isn't freelancing great!)

    You could also have two eras by backbating your layout once in awhile. But this is more expensive as you would also have to change your cars and trucks, signs, and even some buildings.
    As far as having big modern SD80 or SD90 diesel in Pennsy colors, talk to member smoke(An SD 80 in Brunswick Green and gold Dulex lettering...Too Cool!), he's seems to have cornered the market it in fantasy, or "Retro" paint schemes

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