Train sets

Discussion in 'HO Scale Model Trains' started by TomPM, Nov 24, 2003.

  1. TomPM

    TomPM Another Fried Egg Fan

    I am now venturing into an area of the hobby that I have not been involved in for quite some time. My son will be asking Santa for and electric HO train set of his own. We have discussed this and he will be keeping the set in his room, but he wanted something that he could run on the layout in the basement, thus it has to be HO.

    Now I can figure out what new locomotive or rolling stock kit I want for need but sets I have not looked at for years. So here are some questions.

    Who manufacture sets? The one thing I am pretty sure of is that we will stay away from the low end Life Like sets. I know from past experience that the red and yellow box Life Like stuff is unreliable. I guess that leaves me with Bachmann and Athearn? Does Atlas have sets?

    If Athearn makes sets what type of track do they use? I am currently using Bachmann EZ-Track with the temporary layout set up. Eventually this will be phased out in favor of Atlas.

    Next point is I would prefer a diesel locomotive. I like the steam and I know he would not mind the Harry Potter set. The problem I have with the steam locomotives is that he will be handing them and grace is not one of his strong points.

    Lastly where can I get a good price? I have looked at a few Internet sources and have come empty. Ebay has not had a great selection either. One of the LHS had no HO sets. At another the sets were so old that they set off an allergic reaction to dust when I moved them. I still have one more LHS to check out.
  2. MasonJar

    MasonJar It's not rocket surgery

    Hi Tom,

    Don't have too much experience here, but the John Deere Athearn set that is available at WalMart in the US seems to be getting good reviews. Everything else is panned or outright rejected.

    Some people would recommend that you build your own "set", and it doesn't seem like a bad idea.

    Atlas has starter sets of Tru Track. Add a secondhand MRC power pack, a decent loco, and some reliable rolling stock, and you are probably not out much more than a decent set. Even if it costs a little more, you know it is 1) a unique combination, and 2) reliable.

    Just my $0.02. Hope it is helpful.

  3. jon-monon

    jon-monon Active Member

    My gut feeling is go with Athern, unless you can get a P2K, then I'd go for that. I wouldn't get an HO bachmann, unless they offer a spectrum set. Even then Spectrum is IMHO 2nd to P2K, Athern, etc. Of course, you could always get a cheaper set and augment it with a decent loco as a stocking stuffer. Here's the lineup:

    You can search by brand at the left. Most of the Athern sets list TureTrack.

    Trainworld has bargains on good quality diesels:

    You could get the infamous Athern SW-1500 for $26 or a P2K S-1 for $30.

    They do have Spectrum sets, but not in diesel freight:

    Decisions, decisions....
  4. Chessie1973

    Chessie1973 Member

    I wouldn't go with a Bachmann period. Having fought the Bachmann rolling stock tooth and nail lately.

    The biggest problem with trainset rolling stock is the snap on talgo trucks. I your son were to later decide he wanted to "be like daddy" and get more serious with modeling he would have a difficult time changing out trucks or adding kadee's to his train set due to the snap on trucks. Most of Bachmann's stuff that I have seen unless it is silver eseries has these snap on type trucks.

    Go with an Athearn set. Or heck if all else fails take him to the hobby shop and tell him he gets to pick out the locomotive, and rolling stock himself and you and he can have all the more fun setting up his trainset HIS way instead of how some big company thinks it should be.
  5. Vic

    Vic Active Member

    Tires vs Trainsets

    Hi, Tom, Back when I had my hobby shop I got so disgusted with trainsets that I quit handling them. What I would do was make up my own sets with Athearn locos and cars, Atlas NS snap track, a low end MRC powerpack and some Atlas acessories like telephone poles etc. You might want "Santa" to consider doing it this might get more value and quality for your $$$:)

    The RTR sets from Bachman or Life Like etc...for every 10 I sold 5 would come back because this or that didn't work. I never had one of my sets to come back and I sold 100's of them.:)

    I think trainsets are like tires:eek: get what you pay for:eek: :D
  6. TomPM

    TomPM Another Fried Egg Fan

    Thanks folks for the responses.

    It is funny looking at this because I have to rethink my whole philosophy on what I am looking for. For myself I am looking for details, the right road name, and reliability. Now I am looking for a six year old who is going to handling these trains on a daily basis. It is not always easy to think back.

    Part of the reason I was looking at a set is because of the fact that everything is there. No running around getting this here that there. Also for a kid there is a certain effect when opening a big train set box then a bunch of smaller boxes.

    I have been contemplating purchasing things separately. The problem areas I see are track and the power pack. The LHS around don’t seem to carry any track packages or sets. You have to purchase it piece by piece and after a while that can get a little pricey. For what ever reason inexpensive power packs are almost impossible to find. In regards to the track I prefer the EZ-Track or Atlas equivalent. These are tracks he can relate to. He can put them together and they will stay together. The problem with Atlas snap track is if it gets moved too much it will come apart. This is going to be his train set and he has already informed me that he will make the track plan himself. He seems to enjoy doing this as he does it with his wooden Thomas set and some old EZ-Track I have that I don’t use.

    If I have to build a set I think I would go with an Athearn blue box locomotive, something without too many details. If I go with blue box rolling stock then I have to build it. Of course I could try to get him to do it or maybe his older sister, she has built several blue boxes already. The only inexpensive RTR I trust is the Bachmann Silver Series with the body mounted couplers. I have several of them on the layout and they work well.

    Again thanks and keep the ideas coming.
  7. Chessie1973

    Chessie1973 Member

    For a power pack I would reccomend the Athearn one. I use it currently and at about 30 dollars it is not to pricey.

    I also use the EZ Track and you can pick up an entire loop of track without problems with it and move it around.

    I also like the Bacnmann SS stuff I have two of thier cars and they run very smoothly and as a bonus they come with metal whells which will save you time cleaning you sons track down the road.

    The life like trains often have plastic drive wheels with traction tires, The Bachmann's usually have metal wheel with traction tires. You could get him an Athearn F7 Locomotive as thier are no extra parts to attach to it and some RTR cars and the track and power pack for around a hundred dollars I would think.
  8. Russ Bellinis

    Russ Bellinis Active Member

    Athearn makes a number of sets with ready to run locomotives and cars. I think most use the f7. They have both freight and passenger sets. They come with the Bachmann ezmate track, and the Bachmann couplers. I would change the couplers out for Kaddee. My local hobby shop sells the Athearn sets for about $100.00. Bachmann Spectrum makes some of the best Steam engines now, but I think you are wise to stay with diesel for a boy who may be less than careful with the locomotives. The Athearn f7 is an excellent choice for a child because it doesn't have many small details to break off.
  9. MasonJar

    MasonJar It's not rocket surgery

    If you still want to build your own set, but like the appeal of a "special box" to open, I saw some of those nifty aluminum briefcases at the Home Depot for about CAN $30, which is the cheapest I ever saw... They have that "perforated foam" that you can custom shape to fit whatever you are putting in the box. That would be pretty unique...

    As for your criteria (details, road name, reliability), I would argue that they still apply, or at least "road name" and "reliability" still apply. Maybe switch "details" for "durability". I think if it is not reliable, he'll loose interest pretty quick, and he'll want to see stuff that he might see in the real world.

  10. Chessie1973

    Chessie1973 Member

    On a sort of side note I bet those briefcases would be perfect for storing Locomotives and rolling stock when travelling to shows or to RR club meets.
  11. TomPM

    TomPM Another Fried Egg Fan

    Thanks everyone for the suggestions.

    I was able to get the Walthers GP18 set in CSX off a hobby shop that listed it on Ebay for $72.00 with shipping and insurance. The set arrived on Wednesday.
  12. Russ Bellinis

    Russ Bellinis Active Member

    Good choice. I'm not sure about the detail on the Walther's gp18,
    their -840B seems to be the best of the Walther's models I've seen, but they have an excellent drive, and should operate well. They also have a minum of small details for a young one to break off.
  13. TomPM

    TomPM Another Fried Egg Fan

    Oopps, my fault.

    Just checked the set when I got home. The locomotive is a GP9M.
  14. Russ Bellinis

    Russ Bellinis Active Member

    It is still a good choice for a youngster. It has a can motor so it should be a good runner. Little breakable detail, so it should be good that way too. The model shell is an old "Cox" body and is like the early Athearn about 1 scale foot too wide. It is a model of the last gp9's that EMD built which had low noses, as opposed to "chop nose" units modified by various railroads.
  15. pjb

    pjb Member


    If this is a small child , giving him a child friendly and durable trainset from PLAYMOBILE makes sense.
    If you can afford it then LGB,MTH, etc.- are jazzier, but that is beside the point.

    Give him/her a workable toy train may make them a model railroader one day. Giving them 'HO' or other small scale trainset; even the most "'bulletproof", a MÆRKLIN starter set, will present frustrations to little hands, and small parts will be broken off. Rerailer track sections are a good idea for any scale of train set.
    In small scales incorporating a couple of the permanent kind into the setup is a must for little children. Even with them , small kids well resent the ease adults operate these trains, and get negative vibes as to their own competantcy.
    Buy PLAYMOBILE- and let them have fun, instead of a start on neuroses!

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