what old time steamer to buy ?

Discussion in 'FAQs' started by fran1942, Apr 18, 2005.

  1. fran1942

    fran1942 Member

    Hello, I want to buy a medium to high quality "central pacific, west coast steam engine circa 1860-1880.
    I know Bachmann and IHC make versions of these, however I understand that their quality is economy level ?
    Is there any other company that makes mid to high end quality versions of this type of train ?
    I just want to ensure I get an engine that will last a good few years without breaking down etc.

    also, can someone please point me in the direction of a website that sells scenery eg. bridges and/or tunnel entrances from this era. (1860-1880 west coast)

    Thanks for any help.
  2. Wyomingite

    Wyomingite Member

    Hi Phil,

    First off welcome to the Gauge. Athearn recently bought out Model Die Cast. They made one of the best old time steamers I ever owned. Athearn is now making the same steamer in the 2-8-0 and I think the 2-6-0. They are great pullers having the motor in the tender and they also have traction tires. Atlas also recently brought out a old time steamer that I have heard great reports on. One thing about a steamer is give it plenty of break in time as the longer they run the better they get. As far as the other items you mentioned give 4 Nscale.com a try. Mark has treated me great the years I been ordering from him. There are also lots of on line hobby shops that are great.

    Ron :thumb: :wave:
  3. fran1942

    fran1942 Member

    thanks for the advice. I am after HO scale. The ones you mentioned are HO ?
    I went to Atheran and Atlas websites but could not find the old time steamers you mentioned.
  4. jetrock

    jetrock Member

    The problem is that even the MDC "old time" steamer isn't really appropriate--fran1942 is looking for an 1860's-70's prototype wood-burning locomotive, not the turn-of-the-century coalburners that MDC/Roundhouse sold.

    And I do mean "sold"--Horizon Hobby distributes MDC (they bought Athearn too) and the only motive power listed on the Horizon website is the new Critter.

    Atlas doesn't sell any HO steam right now--the "old time steamer" they just put out is an N scale Shay, appropriate for 1890's-1930's logging lines but not 1870's Central Pacific. They do have some Moguls that would be appropriate--but fran1942 is modeling in HO, so they wouldn't work.

    Unfortunately, the only choices besides the economy-type engines IHC and Bachmann sells are expensive brass engines ($400-500+) because 1860's-1880's railroading is kind of a limited niche market in the US--not a lot of people model that era, so not a lot of companies produce engines for that era. Other model railroaders I know have the same problem.
  5. sumpter250

    sumpter250 multiscale modelbuilder

    I would assume that you're looking for an "American" (4-4-0). Most of the reasonably priced models, are not reasonable quality(toy). Most quality models, are not reasonably priced (brass).
    What Jetrock mentioned, about the number of modelers of that era, is, unfortunately, true.
    That style locomotive is small, and light on the rails. Models were hard to power, and couldn't pull much. With a small can motor, NorthWest Short Line gearbox, and Aline/or NWSL cup and ball universals, you might be able to make the Bachmann 4-4-0 run a little better. (Actually, that's where a lot of us have the most fun with this hobby........making silk purses out of sow's ears :D )
  6. Bill Stone

    Bill Stone Member

    If you model 1860-1880 (as I do) You will need to get heavily into kit bashing, if not outright scratch building. For locos and for cars. That may seem drastic if you are new to model railroading, but a lot of us find that to be the best part of this hobby. It wouldn't cost you a whole lot to buy a used IHC or Mantua 4-4-0 and give it a shot.

    I agree that the (former) MDC locos are too "new" for your era, but even they can be back-dated with smaller boilers and cabs, etc. I believe the HO Bachman 4-4-0 is not worth anyone's trouble to try to fix. The early style IHC 4-4-0 can be made into a quite good looking and good running loco without too much trouble (but it actually is representative of locos at the latter end of your target era). I think your best bet is to get your hands on some old Mantua/Tyco "General" locos, and try your hand at bashing them. The prototype was built in the 1850's, but Mantua modeled it as it appeared in the 60's, after the Civil War. They are quite easy to work on, and can be easily bashed. There are always some for sale on EBay. I prefer the older (say prior to 1975 or so) production runs as they have open-spoked drivers and no traction tires. Model Power bought the Mantua line a while back and is promosing to reintroduce the General in the not to distant future.

    It's true that HO 4-4-0s have little pulling power, but then it was also true of the prototypes back then. Very short, very slow trains, and lots of double heading was typical.

    Good luck,

    Bill S
  7. mhdishere

    mhdishere Member

    Just a quick correction, it's Model Power that bought Mantua, not Life Like
  8. Bill Stone

    Bill Stone Member

    Right. I misspoke.
    I corrected my post.
    Bill S
  9. AndyH

    AndyH New Member

    I'm not much help with the rolling stock as I'm collecting V&T of a similar or older vintage but would suggest that for bridges you go for a nice wooden deck truss. I recently completed a Juneco 75ft deck truss which takes probably 3 fairly easy evenings to complete (2 hours each) and cost I think $C16. It looks great and is proto-typical of the type built in the west using mainly local materials. Juneco is a canadian brand and is hard to come by (are they still trading?) but other suppliers do similar.

    Here is a link to what the finished item looks like, not mine but I also got it looking great....


  10. Doc Holliday

    Doc Holliday Member

    That's a great looking bridge. Wish it was mine.

    Welcome to the Gauge. I model the same era, but am not quite as prototypical (or as willing to spend the bucks) when it comes to my steam locos. As to scenery, I suggest you look into mainly timber structures like the bridge shown above. Campbells makes some bridges, portals and structures that should fit your local and era. I bought one timber portal as a guide and am scratch building the rest from coffee stirrers and matchsticks. Pre-cast plaster random stone portals would also be appropriate. Trestle and bridge kits , both plastic and wood are also readily available from a number of sources.

    Show us some pics along the way.
  11. fran1942

    fran1942 Member

    thanks for the reply. The colours on your Juneco bridge look great. Please tell me how you achieved that colour. Was the wood they provided already stained ?
  12. hminky

    hminky Member

    I am modeling California in the 1870's in OO/HO(1/76th or 4mm/ft on HO track). The IHC 4-4-0's locomotives and old time cars are actually made to that scale combo. This makes all the locomotives smaller. There are enough OO scale wagons and figures from the United Kingdom to make it easier. There are also 1/72 scale military wagons and figures that can be adapted. HO structures need very little mods to become OO.


    The IHC 4-4-0 with a 1/76 figure in tan and an HO figure in white. The locomotive matches the drawings for the Genoa in the MR Steam Locomotive Encyclopedia in OO/HO


    The MDC 2-8-0 nearly matches the drawings of the 1875 Pennsy H-1 in OO/HO. If you can live with the gauge not being right it really works well. The MDC old time box car becomes a 32 foor 1870's boxcar.

    I have a web article about making tender pickups for the IHC 4-4-0 which improves performance 100% at:


    Just a thought
  13. Bill Stone

    Bill Stone Member

    You've got something there Harold. I'd never given it much thought, but it would certainly make 19th century modeling easier if one went to OO. (My one hesitation is that I enjoy bashing the Mantua General, and it would be a bit small for OO.) I believe the old Mantua 4-6-0 (there's always a pile of them on EBay) was also done to OO dimensions. It's certainly way too big for HO.

    If my math isn't too far off, in using HO gauge for OO scale, the track gauge is only undersize by 7 scale inches. Less than a tenth of an inch. Not a whole bunch.

    Your tender wiper tutorial is perfect. I will certainly follow it. Thanks.

    Bill S
  14. MasonJar

    MasonJar It's not rocket surgery


    Welcome to The Gauge! Nice looking bridge. Juneco is on-again off-again mostly due to the health of the principle behind the company I believe. They do make great stuff. You might try Hunterline for some other good wooden bridges. They do not have a website, but are found at shows, and in some southern Ontario train shops (e.g. Credit Valley).

  15. hminky

    hminky Member

    The old Mantua Ten Wheeler is actually Sn3-1/2. It is a Southern Pacific narrow gauge prototype. There was a plan in the Model Railroader awhile back and it matched it perfectly.

    Here is my mockup of a ten wheeler in OO/HO using a Bowser NYC K-11 chassis:


    That is with the HO 69" drivers that come with the chassis, the measure out to 61" in OO. I think I will go with the HO 61" which becomes OO 56". That is a Mantua 4-6-0 boiler shortened for my venture into Sn3. The Bowser chassis has a seperate worm so is very adaptable to tender drive.

    Here is a mockup with the Mantua boiler on a MDC chassis:


    The difference between the OO(1/76) and HO(1/87) is only about 15%, but it makes 1870's possible.

    The General would probably work fine in OO, I tried that route for the 1870's in HO once. Since the cab of the Mantua General is bigger than the one on the IHC 4-4-0 it is probably closer to OO.

    Just a thought :wave:
  16. AndyH

    AndyH New Member

    Most of the wood is laser cut to exact length but not treated / coloured. The photo is from a web page I used as a guide. That guy used Black India ink diluted in rubbing alcohol. For my one I could only get Parker black ink which has a slight greenish tinge, though after a while it has lost most of that and looks nicely aged. In the UK I could not easily find rubbing alcohol but surgical spirit is pretty much the same sort of stuff and most large chemists / drug stores should have some and it is quite cheap. Then just play around using some scraps to get the desired depth of colour. You can't really over apply if you don't have too rich a mixture.

    Also the instructions say to use a 0.02" drill but I found the holes too small for the cast bolt ends and eventually chose a .5mm drill which though nearly twice the diameter was a better fit does not look too large. A 0.02" drill will also go missing if you sneeze!

    One gripe is that they do measure EXACTLY what you need and not a millimetre more. Saying that, I just ran out of the stiff wire that is used for the truss rods and had to find one extra length to complete the model.

    But overall it's a nice little project and quite fun to put together.

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