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Discussion Starter #1 (Edited)
I'm heading into HO scale soon and need advice on diesel locomotive brands I should buy, and ones to avoid. I'm looking for 4 axle locos (and maybe a few 2 axle switchers) GP types, switchers.

What brands have good reliability, warranty, parts availability?

What brands to steer clear of?

I've seen deals on MTH, Model Power, Bowser, Proto 2000, Mantua, Fox Valley, Atlas, Intermountain, Rapido, Con-cor, Athern, Kato, Bachmann, Broadway, and others some of which I do not recognize their brand names. I asked my local dealer and he just said they are all good.:confused:

I may venture into DCC, and maybe sound. I want high quality. If the best happens to be DC only then I'll go that direction. If DCC has better choices, then that's where I'll head. And if certain brands and models as easier to work on, do maintenance, etc., that would be a plus.
 

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Of those on your list, I'd stay away from Model Power.....

And I'm not sure there is such a thing as a 2 axle North American switcher.....:confused:
 

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There aren't many that I'd avoid...
Almost all are good enough for most layouts, and I've rarely stuck my nose up at any.
Even some (of the much maligned) Bachmann locomotives are on my roster.
The fact is, with any brand, you could get one that was made the first thing Monday morning, or just before quitting time on Friday... they're all subject to the same quality assurance issues.
I'm confident that no matter what brand you pick, you'll likely get a good one.
 

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Discussion Starter #6
thanks all. I have had a few issues with my ON30 Bachmann locos, a rail bus brand new with broken gear, a closed Trolley broken gear brand new right out of the box.

A 2-6-0 with sound that had a weird chirping noise, brand new.
 

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The railbus was a NOS that had known gear issues, since resolved. (If it is what I expect). The weird chirping sound, if it's what I think, is an actual sound on the steamer, and you can turn it's volumn down (or off) with a CV.
 

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Discussion Starter #8
the railbus and trolley were both new unopened but probably old stock, so I'm thinking the

splitting of the plastic gears happened while sitting on a shelf. Maybe.
 

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Yes, that's what I'm trying to say. Bachmann issued free replacement parts for those guys years ago, but since these were sitting for so long the free replacement offer is long expired.
 

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Discussion Starter #10
Are there brands that are easy to work on and have parts availability, or do they all need to go back to the manufacturer if there is an out of warranty problem? I think some of them offer a lifetime warranty to the original purchaser.
 

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I think the concern of DCC or DC might steer toward the decoder in the locomotive and the system you are running it with.
As I have stated in numerous other threads about them, go cheap, be dissappointed and end up paying again for a better system. Also, buy one that nobody knows about, good luck with finding support.
 

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I can't speak for anything else since I only have On30, but in the case of the bachmann you can get parts through their website and *some* stuff is easy to work on. A skilled person can repair everything but it can take some futzing around to figure out how to get everything apart... and it's very easy to manhandle it and break something.

If you intend to do your own work, get some sort of loco cradle. I have this one: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B0716FGCM2/ref=ppx_yo_dt_b_asin_title_o03_s03?ie=UTF8&psc=1
 

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Discussion Starter #13
ya Ken, I hear you. I kinda lean towards what my local dealer sells, which in HO seems to be Atlas, Athern, Proto 2000, and some Kato, Bowser, and Bachmann. But they don't carry parts, and if there's any issue they just refer you to the manufacturer.

So I'm wondering which manufacturers have great support in case there is a problem.
 

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i have a walthers mainline sd70ace which seems ok. Except when I picked it up, I ripped the railing off. I glued it back though. sounds pretty good and runs in DC mode without issue, or DCC. it's a minimal decoder in that sense but seems to do the job. i used DCC++ and JMRI which saved a bit from an experimentation point of view on the controlling it end of things.

It seems like the 'cadillac' decoders are ESU brand. I don't have any and this is just from own small sample set but it seems like the online reviewers like the scale trains and intermountain, athearn, genesis... rapido appears quite a bit. kato. why it's a huge list!

nuy everything i own HO which isn't much is less than $200 though and many of these go well above that.

jlwii2000 is a popular online reviewer -- but someone posted this guys stuff awhile back and i like it also.

https://www.youtube.com/user/dcortopassi/videos
 

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For older GP's (GP7, GP9, GP30), try older (LifeLike) Proto2000. Be aware that you'll almost certainly have to replace the wheelsets because the axle gears split on these. But this is easy and CHEAP to do. You'll also have to clean out the old grease from the gearcases, which hardens to the look and consistency of peanut butter.

But once cleaned up, these became some of the best runners I have.

Most (but not all) of these have 8-pin plugs for conversion to dcc. If you're buying from ebay, CHECK THE PICS CAREFULLY to ascertain if there's a dcc plug or not.
Be aware that LifeLike in some cases used "an upside down" 8 pin harness to which to connect the wiring. There are special purpose-built dcc decoder boards that do quick conversions for these.

For GP35, Walthers makes a nice one, but it's pricey.
MTH also makes a GP35. They offer a "dcc ready" one which should be an "easy conversion" from dc to dcc. Haven't tried one of these yet, but will in the future.
Kato makes a nice GP35, but I haven't tried one.

For GP38, I was able to find Proto2000.

For GP40, it's Atlas, hands down.

For Alco engines, if you're interested:

RS1, RS3 -- Atlas (Bowser has RS3's on the way that will probably be very nice, but pricey).

RS11 -- Atlas or Rapido. I prefer Atlas for price and reliability. Proto1000 also made a few of these, haven't tried those.

RS27 -- Walthers Proto makes a nice one, but only a few roads had these. I have two and they both run very well.

RS32/36 -- Atlas again.

I'd avoid Model Power and Mantua, and Con-cor.
I've never tried Intermountain.
Kato stuff generally has an excellent reputation, but their items seem to be limited.
Based on too many unfavorable reports I've read, I'd probably stay clear of BLI, unless they offered something I had to have.

One last thought:
Take the time to thoroughly investigate just what's involved in converting any particular engine from any particular manufacturer from dc to dcc. Some are MUCH easier than others.

Some yard switchers can be a real pain, from what I've read.
It might be worth paying extra for one "from the factory" with dcc/sound pre-installed.
 
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