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I’m still at the point financially that I have to try to find bargains for the trains that I purchase. I hope that this trend will not continue, but as for now, I have to do a lot of research to try to find decent trains at reasonable prices.
Most of the difficulty that I encounter is with Atlas trains. Particularly online, I will see an Atlas locomotive with four numbers following it. These numbers do not pertain to the type of locomotive, but instead identify the local line that the locomotive may be a part of (example; Atlas 2205). This number does not tell me if it as an RS2 or 3 or maybe a Gp30 or 40, etc…. I do not know a reliable way to figure out what model that I will be receiving.
Is there an easy way to determine what type of locomotive that I am considering buying online? I’ve been burned too many times, spending too much money for junk locomotives, thinking that they are from a certain line, but when they arrive, I find that they are terrible runners that are not worth the time, effort or expense. It’s gotten to the point where I don’t like to buy anything from Atlas, because there is a better-than-even chance that I will be receiving a pice of junk in the mail. I know that their newer locomotives are good, but I cannot figure out if the machine that I am bidding on is ten or maybe even 45 years old. Is there a trick to it? What am I doing wrong? I’ve used Spookshow, but it is only useful if you know what you are getting. For the others, I have to guess.
 

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Buying locomotives on eBay, and/or on-line from any auction site….that’s the first thing you’re doing that’s wrong….and not only old Atlas, but all the older, poorly built locomotives out there….

I’m afraid experience will turn out to be the best teacher here…..get yourself a book on locomotive types, so you can tell a GP30 from a C424…..etc…..

Been there, done it all, took 37 years to be where I am today in the hobby….
 

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I’m still at the point financially that I have to try to find bargains for the trains that I purchase. I hope that this trend will not continue, but as for now, I have to do a lot of research to try to find decent trains at reasonable prices.
Most of the difficulty that I encounter is with Atlas trains. Particularly online, I will see an Atlas locomotive with four numbers following it. These numbers do not pertain to the type of locomotive, but instead identify the local line that the locomotive may be a part of (example; Atlas 2205). This number does not tell me if it as an RS2 or 3 or maybe a Gp30 or 40, etc…. I do not know a reliable way to figure out what model that I will be receiving.
Is there an easy way to determine what type of locomotive that I am considering buying online? I’ve been burned too many times, spending too much money for junk locomotives, thinking that they are from a certain line, but when they arrive, I find that they are terrible runners that are not worth the time, effort or expense. It’s gotten to the point where I don’t like to buy anything from Atlas, because there is a better-than-even chance that I will be receiving a pice of junk in the mail. I know that their newer locomotives are good, but I cannot figure out if the machine that I am bidding on is ten or maybe even 45 years old. Is there a trick to it? What am I doing wrong? I’ve used Spookshow, but it is only useful if you know what you are getting. For the others, I have to guess.
Plain and simple: what you're doing wrong is to try to participate in an expensive hobby on the cheap. 99.9% of the time, a loco is priced cheaply because it is a cheap loco. Sometimes, you find a diamond in the rough, but the odds aren't in your favor. I know this is not the first time someone has told you this.

Your problem has nothing to do with Atlas locos, BTW, but the fact that you're buying worn out crap that HAPPENS to be Atlas. But just because you can figure out exactly what model it is doesn't mean that you won't get a piece of junk. Even if the model was brilliant when new, it may now be totally worn out.

My most pressing advice to you is to delete eBay from your bookmarks list, and ignore any listing in a Google search that has an eBay address. Buying on eBay is an option if you know what you're doing; not otherwise. Buy from reputable e-tailers. Only. Set yourself a budget, say $50 a month (or whatever amount you've been spending on the junk). Put it in a separate account if you don't have the discipline to not spend it on something else. When you have saved up $250 (or whatever the loco you want costs), THEN go buy a good one. It's better to have a few really good locos than an entire fleet of junk that doesn't run.

If you just can't avoid eBay, then observe the first rule of purchasing there: if the condition of the loco is not "New", move on. Even a new one may be so called "New, Old Stock", meaning that it has never been used, but your odds of getting something that runs well are enormously better if you buy new. And, of course, if you do this, you will discover that prices on eBay really aren't any better than those at more reputable websites. If you still can't resist the temptation to buy used, then you really have to dig. First of all, as OilValleyRy said, if the seller can't provide EXACT details on what you're buying, move on to the next run. Ask the seller to send you video of it running. Ask if they will guarantee that it runs or refund your money. Check their return policy. If he refuses to do these things, then it's long odds against getting a quality piece (if the seller really does know it's in good working order, he won't hesitate to stand behind it).

And while you're looking for these new locos, take the time to look at the other budget components of your train setup, and make sure those aren't contributing to the problem (poor quality power pack, filthy / corroded steel or brass track, etc.).
 
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Plain and simple: what you're doing wrong is to try to participate in an expensive hobby on the cheap. 99.9% of the time, a loco is priced cheaply because it is a cheap loco. Sometimes, you find a diamond in the rough, but the odds aren't in your favor. I know this is not the first time someone has told you this.

Your problem has nothing to do with Atlas locos, BTW, but the fact that you're buying worn out crap that HAPPENS to be Atlas. But just because you can figure out exactly what model it is doesn't mean that you won't get a piece of junk. Even if the model was brilliant when new, it may now be totally worn out.

My most pressing advice to you is to delete eBay from your bookmarks list, and ignore any listing in a Google search that has an eBay address. Buying on eBay is an option if you know what you're doing; not otherwise. Buy from reputable e-tailers. Only. Set yourself a budget, say $50 a month (or whatever amount you've been spending on the junk). Put it in a separate account if you don't have the discipline to not spend it on something else. When you have saved up $250 (or whatever the loco you want costs), THEN go buy a good one. It's better to have a few really good locos than an entire fleet of junk that doesn't run.

If you just can't avoid eBay, then observe the first rule of purchasing there: if the condition of the loco is not "New", move on. Even a new one may be so called "New, Old Stock", meaning that it has never been used, but your odds of getting something that runs well are enormously better if you buy new. And, of course, if you do this, you will discover that prices on eBay really aren't any better than those at more reputable websites. If you still can't resist the temptation to buy used, then you really have to dig. First of all, as OilValleyRy said, if the seller can't provide EXACT details on what you're buying, move on to the next run. Ask the seller to send you video of it running. Ask if they will guarantee that it runs or refund your money. Check their return policy. If he refuses to do these things, then it's long odds against getting a quality piece (if the seller really does know it's in good working order, he won't hesitate to stand behind it).

And while you're looking for these new locos, take the time to look at the other budget components of your train setup, and make sure those aren't contributing to the problem (poor quality power pack, filthy / corroded steel or brass track, etc.).
CTValleyRR, you hit the nail on the head. Research is necessary in this hobby. I started the hobby in the same way. I burned time, money & patience learning the hard way. I model on a budget. While purchasing new only would be ideal, I've learned that used can be okay. But I do research the item I want to purchase and the seller. Whether it's online or a dealer.
 

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Concerning Atlas, early on I bought new Atlas RS3 and GP7 and GP9 locos, and after a good bit of use they started screeching. Local hobby shop said bearings were shot. I quit buying Atlas. I then started buying a few Katos from an N Scale magazine ad, new Kato F3s. They still run, almost thirty years later. What you need to learn is the model lineup from various makers and which are good. I have found every thing from Kato to be good. Some Atlas have lasted, maybe because I don't run road switchers much. Some Life-Like work well for me. mainly the EMD E-6, E-7 and E-8s. I usually run passenger trains. Those Life-Like E models are not DCC ready, and \, if you want to use DCC, you need to be careful about what you buy, and here spookshow.net can be a great help.
 

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Agree, @CTValleyRR pretty much summed up how I buy loco's since I retired and disposable income has, shall we say, decreased.
I do use ebay and, thru luck more than skill I imagine, have managed to buy 3 brand new loco's.
Two Kato and one Life Like, got them at prices I could life with and again luckily the sellers have been honorable.
All were researched before I pulled the trigger and by all appearances they were brand new, in some cases tested but brand new.
 

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I’m still at the point financially that I have to try to find bargains for the trains that I purchase. I hope that this trend will not continue, but as for now, I have to do a lot of research to try to find decent trains at reasonable prices.
Most of the difficulty that I encounter is with Atlas trains. Particularly online, I will see an Atlas locomotive with four numbers following it. These numbers do not pertain to the type of locomotive, but instead identify the local line that the locomotive may be a part of (example; Atlas 2205). This number does not tell me if it as an RS2 or 3 or maybe a Gp30 or 40, etc…. I do not know a reliable way to figure out what model that I will be receiving.
Is there an easy way to determine what type of locomotive that I am considering buying online? I’ve been burned too many times, spending too much money for junk locomotives, thinking that they are from a certain line, but when they arrive, I find that they are terrible runners that are not worth the time, effort or expense. It’s gotten to the point where I don’t like to buy anything from Atlas, because there is a better-than-even chance that I will be receiving a pice of junk in the mail. I know that their newer locomotives are good, but I cannot figure out if the machine that I am bidding on is ten or maybe even 45 years old. Is there a trick to it? What am I doing wrong? I’ve used Spookshow, but it is only useful if you know what you are getting. For the others, I have to guess.
Matison;
The quality of Atlas N-scale locomotives has varied a lot over the years.
Early Atlas locos from the 1970s-1980s era were, (and still are as used locomotives) pretty much what CTValley said CRAP. To be fair, most of the N-scale locos made back then, regardless of brand, were also CRAP. They had 3 pole motors, no flywheels, and gearing that was way too fast. Interestingly, two exceptional locos of that early era were the "ConCor" PA-1 diesel, and the "ConCor" J3a 4-6-4 Hudson steamer. Both were actually made by Kato, ConCor simply imported & stuck their brand on them. While not up to modern standards, these two locomotives were the best running locomotives of their time. I have both, and they still run well today. The point here is that Kato is an excellent brand. I have many of their locomotives, and some of their passenger train sets, and all are excellent quality.

Fast forward a few decades and you will find some superb running "Atlas" diesels. Models of various prototypes, and while branded "Atlas" they are often stamped on the bottom, "Made in Japan." These are, again, locomotives actually manufactured by Kato, and sold under the Atlas brand.

So when looking at used "Atlas" locomotives you may get the proverbial "silk purse" or a "Sow's ear." It depends on who actually manufactured the locomotive, and when it was made. That's a problem with E-bay. How do you know who actually made the loco? If it's a dud, can you return it for a refund? Are you sure?
Today's locomotives (Atlas & many other brands) are nearly all made in China. Most of these current-production, new, locos are quite decent runners. However, a few might not be.
One notable exception is (you guessed it) Kato. They still make their own, always excellent, super-smooth running, locomotives in Japan. These locos are sold under Kato's own name, and the same mechanisms are also sold to other companies, like Atlas, and sold under that company's brand. So even new locos, purchased today might vary in quality. Fortunately nearly any locomotive you buy new will run well. If you buy it from an honest & reputable online dealer like www.modeltrainstuff.com or www.trainworld.com you will also be able to return any defective loco for repair or replacement. I don't think you will get that from some random seller on E-bay.
You get what you pay for. If you didn't pay much, you probably won't get much. One great running new Kato is worth more than dozens of CRAP locos. There are hobby things where you can save money. The attached file lists some. However, locomotives are not one of them.

Traction Fan
 

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I've actual found some great deals on ebay. I recently got a lightly used Kato Emd SD-70ACe for around $70 with shipping. The only caveat was the missing horn, which I ordered direct from Kato for $10. Always ask the seller the important questions. Does it run well? Do the lights work? Will they accept a return? Kato locomotives are a great choice, because they are well made. Stay away from used Bachmann, lifelike, and older (pre-90s?) atlas. And last, but not least, new is always best. I recently just missed a new Kato GE ES44AC that went for only $86 (I lost the bid in the last minute)
 

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I’m almost surprised no one has mentioned Trix/Minitrix…..still have my Trix F unit I got for Christmas 1968, and it still runs like it’s new…..worm gears, 5 pole motor….

Trix is now owned by Marklin, and is still being made….granted, they don’t make N. American locomotives anymore, but….
 

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Atlas locos starting in 1985 had mechanisms made by Kato. Those are really nice. They do have molded on grab irons, but they’re great for customizing like blue box are, but higher quality shells & guts.
Today I’m not sure who makes motors for Atlas. Canon was for a while… and booooy let tell you, nothing on the market compares to those. Absolutely unequivocally nothing. It’s not even a contest.
 

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I've actual found some great deals on ebay. I recently got a lightly used Kato Emd SD-70ACe for around $70 with shipping. The only caveat was the missing horn, which I ordered direct from Kato for $10. Always ask the seller the important questions. Does it run well? Do the lights work? Will they accept a return? Kato locomotives are a great choice, because they are well made. Stay away from used Bachmann, lifelike, and older (pre-90s?) atlas. And last, but not least, new is always best. I recently just missed a new Kato GE ES44AC that went for only $86 (I lost the bid in the last minute)
I forgot to mention, ebay sellers have ratings, so always check that first. Never, ever, buy from a seller with less than a 99.5% positive rating!
 

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What a great resource Spookshows site is for learning many performance aspects and maintenance tips for so many models. There is another so generously provided site that does a lot to provide as much data on manufacturers and models produced over the years, Trovestar. The database is HUGE, and once you figure out how to adjust the search fields, you can narrow down a lot of what you are looking for. I have found a few items I own that are not listed, as this is a user-built database that grows with additions.
N Scale Model Trains Database (trovestar.com)

Personally, I would have very few trains if it was not for Ebay.
 

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Personally, I would have very few trains if it was not for Ebay.
That's true for many people. But the message here isn't "don't use eBay", but "don't use eBay if you don't know what you're buying, and don't let low price be the ONLY consideration when purchasing."
 

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That's true for many people. But the message here isn't "don't use eBay", but "don't use eBay if you don't know what you're buying, and don't let low price be the ONLY consideration when purchasing."
That's definitely true. I've gotten great deals on some locos, but I got a couple that weren't so great. Fortunately, because I communicated with the sellers before and after the sale, I was able to get refunds. So always;
1 check the sellers rating
2 ask them the important questions
3 insure they'll issue a refund if it doesn't work out
4 research your potential locomotive purchase on the sites mentioned (trovestar and spookshow)
And definitely ask about it on this forum if you still have doubts.
 

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That's definitely true. I've gotten great deals on some locos, but I got a couple that weren't so great. Fortunately, because I communicated with the sellers before and after the sale, I was able to get refunds. So always;
1 check the sellers rating
2 ask them the important questions
3 insure they'll issue a refund if it doesn't work out
4 research your potential locomotive purchase on the sites mentioned (trovestar and spookshow)
And definitely ask about it on this forum if you still have doubts.
I would like to mention that some MRR's favor locos & rolling stock by manufacturers that others won't purchase for some reason. This hobby is about having fun. I say buy what you like, because it's up to you.
 

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I would like to mention that some MRR's favor locos & rolling stock by manufacturers that others won't purchase for some reason. This hobby is about having fun. I say buy what you like, because it's up to you.
That's also true. I like kato, but in spite of Bachmanns bad rap, I also have a spectrum locomotive (SD40-2) and a lot of bachmann rolling stock. And it's all good. I have a 'trainset' Bachmann loco from the eighties that still runs.
 

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I have an F7 AB set of Bachman Plus that I have had since 2005 and have run the heck out of and it still runs the same, slow but steady. SP Daylight and the collors are dull. It is OK. It is slow enough that, pulling old bulb-lit cars, it is slow at full throttle and lights them up well.
 
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