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To all of you experts, I'm going to start with some basic questions related to this craft/hobby with some factors in mind that are important to me. I already did my intro thread a few days back,..so here we go ;)

Given my available space and the overall apparent popularity and availability my first set up will be in HO. My interest aesthetically and historically is without question various types of steam locomotives and all the goodies that go with them. So those 2 things are settled. I have never dealt with these trains before so I have only a passing familiarity with even the big names like Lionel or Bachmann. I have done enough looking off and on to know there are numerous companies,..I consider that to be a good thing. Quality is very important to me. I would rather my first purchase be only a locomotive and a single coal car and be happy with that than a string of 5 or 6 cars of lesser quality. I want dependability and detailed pieces. Those 2 things together define the quality to me. I really don't like a "plastic" type look feel either. I am certain proper maintenance is key to keeping these running as with anything else...I just don't want to have to work on it for an hour to get 2 hours worth of run time. I usually shy away from things made in China,..I generally find I like many things made in Germany....not sure if that matters here in this world or not. I also want some good speed control,..if I prefer to run it around at a slow speed I want that option. All opinions welcome,...any companies or models to stay away from,...any recommended ?? Any companies out there have grade A reputations for producing high quality steamers with good costumer service ??
I'm not limited specifically to any budget,...not saying it doesn't matter,..but it is not my major concern. At the moment I am wanting feedback from the experts on detailed quality and longevity. I do have other things of interest in life,..firearms,..air rifles,..hunting/outdoors...I have my share of tools . None of it is cheap. If you guys have any questions for me so that you can help me along just ask. Thank you for your time - Aaron
 

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Your German choices still made in Germany or Austria are Roco, Bemo, TRIX, and Märklin (AC 3-rail only). Märklin owns TRIX and is their DC counterpart.

PIKO manufactures locomotives in Germany but most rolling stock is manufactured by PIKO in China. Their Expert line is sometimes still made in Germany depending upon the model.

Fleischmann manufactures in Germany, but only N scale now. They are partnered with Roco who only manufactures HO and some narrow guage (HOe) equipment.

Jägersdorfer is made is Austria and mostly produces ÖBB models. Highly detailed and more expensive than most other brands, though all brands are highly detailed.

Bemo produces a lot of Swiss narrow gauge HOm for SBB and Rhätische Bahn (RhB) railroads. Some private railroads too. They produce a lot of standard gauge in SBB livery.
 
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To all of you experts, I'm going to start with some basic questions related to this craft/hobby with some factors in mind that are important to me. I already did my intro thread a few days back,..so here we go ;)

Given my available space and the overall apparent popularity and availability my first set up will be in HO. My interest aesthetically and historically is without question various types of steam locomotives and all the goodies that go with them. So those 2 things are settled. I have never dealt with these trains before so I have only a passing familiarity with even the big names like Lionel or Bachmann. I have done enough looking off and on to know there are numerous companies,..I consider that to be a good thing. Quality is very important to me. I would rather my first purchase be only a locomotive and a single coal car and be happy with that than a string of 5 or 6 cars of lesser quality. I want dependability and detailed pieces. Those 2 things together define the quality to me. I really don't like a "plastic" type look feel either. I am certain proper maintenance is key to keeping these running as with anything else...I just don't want to have to work on it for an hour to get 2 hours worth of run time. I usually shy away from things made in China,..I generally find I like many things made in Germany....not sure if that matters here in this world or not. I also want some good speed control,..if I prefer to run it around at a slow speed I want that option. All opinions welcome,...any companies or models to stay away from,...any recommended ?? Any companies out there have grade A reputations for producing high quality steamers with good costumer service ??
I'm not limited specifically to any budget,...not saying it doesn't matter,..but it is not my major concern. At the moment I am wanting feedback from the experts on detailed quality and longevity. I do have other things of interest in life,..firearms,..air rifles,..hunting/outdoors...I have my share of tools . None of it is cheap. If you guys have any questions for me so that you can help me along just ask. Thank you for your time - Aaron
aaronc;

Welcome to the forum and to model railroading. MichaelE has already given you the information on German train brands He is our resident expert on European trains. I'm an N-scale modeler, so I am not as familiar with HO-scale products as I am with N-scale ones. Kato is an excellent high quality brand from Japan. They make mostly N-scale though and very little steam. They do make some HO-scale equipment but their big emphasis is on N-scale. So, though it's my favorite brand, it probably won't help you much. Bachmann as far as I know, is all made in China, as indeed are most US type trains sold. My multiple bad experiences with Bachmann locomotives from the 70 & 80s have turned me off that brand permanently. However, I admit that those long-ago experiences and reading here on this forum about people returning Bachmann locomotives that broke down fairly soon after they came out of their boxes, and many posts about Bachmann DCC decoders developing buzzing noises, and Bachmann's EZ-Track turnouts (track switches) being absolute junk, have made me quite prejudiced against Bachmann. However, on the plus side, I see many posts about Bachmann's much-improved quality in their locomotives. Bachmann also offers a wider selection of steam locomotives than most other brands. Broadway Limited and Rapido are both well regarded brands I have seen plenty of gorgeous, very highly detailed, passenger cars by Rapido, advertized, But I don't know if they make locomotives Broadway limited definitely does. The files attached below are some I wrote for new model railroaders. They have a lot of information on a wide variety of model railroad subjects. Hopefully, you will find some helpful things there.

again welcome;

Traction Fan 🙂
 

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Really no one makes junk locomotives these days. The problem you're going to have is that for American prototypes, almost all of it is made in China. As Traction Fan said, Kato is made in Japan and Rapido in Canada, but BLI actually does import... mostly from China and Korea. There are actually only a few factories that make the product in China... they just retool the line and make a run for a different company. However, I don't think you'll find any reduction in quality. The European manufacturers generally stick to European prototypes; not a lot of options there if you want American models.

For Steam, BLI is pretty much your best bet. Walthers Proto, Rapido, and Scale Trains' Rivet Counter and Museum Quality lines, but those folks don't offer many steamers (none at all in Scale Trains case). However, you can also look at other higher end brands: Athearn Genesis, Atlas Master, Bachmann Spectrum, and Walthers Mainline, to hit the big ones.

Just as most of it made in China, most of it is also made of injection molded plastic. There is some brass out there, if you're willing to pay 4 figures for a locomotive (and some of it doesn't even run that well). However, paint jobs on the plastic stuff are very good, and you can weather it or just hit it with a top coat of matte finish and it will look fine.

For the best in motor control, you're going to want to look at Digital Command and Control, or DCC. This gives you the ability to fine-tune the speed performance of your locos to suit your taste.
 
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Discussion Starter #5
I really appreciate all of the responses,...very helpful. I have seen the brass locomotives in my browsing here and there, I really have no idea what that is about and no I'm not starting there. BLI and Athearn are certainly options,...as are a few others.Thank you ! - Aaron
 

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for plastic i recommend bachmann spectrum, [as i have quite a few], and as far as cheap brass, well , maybe look at arkane brand, seems to valued pretty low ... not usually available in DCC though, you may want to make the change yourself ..
by the way, these are some of the brands i currently have, and run on my layout [HO]
 

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I really appreciate all of the responses,...very helpful. I have seen the brass locomotives in my browsing here and there, I really have no idea what that is about and no I'm not starting there. BLI and Athearn are certainly options,...as are a few others.Thank you ! - Aaron
arronc;

The basic idea behind brass locomotives, "way back in the day" was that they had much better detail than the plastic locomotives of that time. Also brass manufacturers sometimes offered models of specific prototype locomotives, not available in plastic. I own one such brass locomotive. It's an N-scale Milwaukee Road "Bipolar" electric locomotive. Even today, I don't think anyone makes an N-scale plastic bipolar. They certainly weren't available when I bought my brass one, because that was the only N-scale bipolar made at the time.

I once sold model trains at a Woolworth's store, during the Christmas season. People would see a plastic steam locomotive for $75 and a brass one next to it for $350. They seriously asked if the expensive models were literally made of gold.😄
The much higher price of brass, over plastic, was actually due to the considerable labor cost of the many hand-installed detail parts. The plastic locos of 30-40 years ago were pretty basic models. Mass produced, injection molded, items with little detail, and not very good drive mechanisms either. (at least by today's standards)
Back then, many of the brass locos didn't always run that well either. However, a lot of brass locomotives were/are bought by collectors, who seldom, if ever, run them.
Like collected rare stamps, or coins, the collected items are only displayed, not actually used for their original function. No collector is going to put a $5000 coin in a vending machine , or use a $3500 stamp to mail a letter!

Today plastic locomotives can be bought with loads of detail, some specific to a particular prototype. The drive mechanisms have improved tremendously over the years. High quality plastic rivals brass in both looks and performance. Today there isn't much advantage for brass over plastic. Brass is heavier, and may pull more, but today's brass buyer is likely a collector, or want's some odd locomotive that's not available in plastic, or simply likes and wants brass.

Have Fun;

Traction Fan 🙂
 

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Discussion Starter #8
arronc;

The basic idea behind brass locomotives, "way back in the day" was that they had much better detail than the plastic locomotives of that time. Also brass manufacturers sometimes offered models of specific prototype locomotives, not available in plastic. I own one such brass locomotive. It's an N-scale Milwaukee Road "Bipolar" electric locomotive. Even today, I don't think anyone makes an N-scale plastic bipolar. They certainly weren't available when I bought my brass one, because that was the only N-scale bipolar made at the time.

I once sold model trains at a Woolworth's store, during the Christmas season. People would see a plastic steam locomotive for $75 and a brass one next to it for $350. They seriously asked if the expensive models were literally made of gold.😄
The much higher price of brass, over plastic, was actually due to the considerable labor cost of the many hand-installed detail parts. The plastic locos of 30-40 years ago were pretty basic models. Mass produced, injection molded, items with little detail, and not very good drive mechanisms either. (at least by today's standards)
Back then, many of the brass locos didn't always run that well either. However, a lot of brass locomotives were/are bought by collectors, who seldom, if ever, run them.
Like collected rare stamps, or coins, the collected items are only displayed, not actually used for their original function. No collector is going to put a $5000 coin in a vending machine , or use a $3500 stamp to mail a letter!

Today plastic locomotives can be bought with loads of detail, some specific to a particular prototype. The drive mechanisms have improved tremendously over the years. High quality plastic rivals brass in both looks and performance. Today there isn't much advantage for brass over plastic. Brass is heavier, and may pull more, but today's brass buyer is likely a collector, or want's some odd locomotive that's not available in plastic, or simply likes and wants brass.

Have Fun;

Traction Fan 🙂


Kind of what I figured on the whole brass concept. Since I have some conversation going here I'm going to ask a few more questions. It possibly warrants it's own thread so if you guys prefer I'll start one but here it goes.

What era do the trains start to be considered "vintage" ? Is it like 1950's / 1960's and back or more like pre WWll and back? I'm sure there is some collectability in the metal/tin anitques,....how many of you guys refurb and run them ?,.......or are they really only considered safe queens ?
 

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You're talking mostly O and S scale here as HO didn't come around until the '50's. Invented in Germany by the way.

There's not much left from that era in HO that is still around. I guess they didn't value them as much as they did O and S scales. To answer your question though, anything from the 50's through the early 80's I would consider vintage HO. Mostly Pre- DCC equipment.
 
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Kind of what I figured on the whole brass concept. Since I have some conversation going here I'm going to ask a few more questions. It possibly warrants it's own thread so if you guys prefer I'll start one but here it goes.

What era do the trains start to be considered "vintage" ? Is it like 1950's / 1960's and back or more like pre WWll and back? I'm sure there is some collectability in the metal/tin anitques,....how many of you guys refurb and run them ?,.......or are they really only considered safe queens ?
aaronc;

There is a common misconception that all old model trains are "valuable collectors items." We get many inquiries here from people who have some old trains that they inherited, or bought an estate sale. These folks always ask us to put a value on this stuff they have, often thinking they've found a treasure, and seldom is the value higher than a very few dollars.
The old trains that are actually valuable are usually O-gauge Lionel made before world war two. In other words, about 80 years old. There are also some larger than O-scale "standard gauge" models that are often very valuable indeed. Most of these date back a century, or so. They are very rare, and like many antiques, if it's in good condition, with the original finish, that makes it more valuable. With rare exceptions, plastic HO-scale or N-scale trains from past decades aren't worth much at all. Brass locomotives will usually sell for more, but often not much more than their original cost, sometimes less than their original cost. Like anything else, an old train is really only worth what someone is willing to pay you for it. You can check ebay and see what model trains are selling for. To many "Antiques Roadshow" fans, those ebay prices come as quite a shock. :eek:

Traction Fan 🙂
 

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There are several of them around. Where are you located?
 

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There are several of them around. Where are you located?

Grayson Co Kentucky,...it's south central area of the state. I work in Louisville. I'm also only a couple of hours from Nashville, Tenn. if something was ever happening there.
 

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I measured my table today and it is exactly 48" around. I'm reading turn radius on an HO set up can be as little as 18" or slightly over 20",....depending on the source. I don't want to run my layout all the way to the edge,..I'm leaving my self a little room for a possible derail/wreck. It sounds like I could easily do a basic circular layout 36"to 38" around. What say ye gent's ? Anything wrong with that to get my feet wet ?
 

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I measured my table today and it is exactly 48" around. I'm reading turn radius on an HO set up can be as little as 18" or slightly over 20",....depending on the source. I don't want to run my layout all the way to the edge,..I'm leaving my self a little room for a possible derail/wreck. It sounds like I could easily do a basic circular layout 36"to 38" around. What say ye gent's ? Anything wrong with that to get my feet wet ?
If you use 18" radius curved track, the width will be slightly over 38". Track radius is measured from the center of the ties. So you should be able to fit a circle of 18"r track, or even 22" r track, on your 48" diameter table. The 18" radius curves may not work well with big locomotives, or long cars. 22" r can handle most HO-scale equipment, but your track will be close to the edge of the table. Is That table the only space you have available?

Traction Fan 🙂
 

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Option 2: Kato Deal of the Month!
I want this myself! but just no place to accommodate it at the moment:mad:
Just slightly tighter (550mm) , track is not separable from roadbed...
You are very unlikely to experience any derailments using Unitrack, in my opinion!
 

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If you use 18" radius curved track, the width will be slightly over 38". Track radius is measured from the center of the ties. So you should be able to fit a circle of 18"r track, or even 22" r track, on your 48" diameter table. The 18" radius curves may not work well with big locomotives, or long cars. 22" r can handle most HO-scale equipment, but your track will be close to the edge of the table. Is That table the only space you have available?

Traction Fan 🙂

Welp,.....I have the run of most of my basement . One room is my "deer head room",..the other is my workshop,...I carve bone/antler down there,..and do some other piddlings. All that being said they are both do some fixing up from the ground up in various ways. So,..the simplest easiest way for me to get to work with this IMO is just to clear off the hunting pics/couple of waterfowl mounts I have on this table in my trophy room and get started that way. Would I be a guy to set up a large layout in either of these rooms in the future,..you dang betcha,..I plan on it. I just don't want to do it and have to take it down in the next 18 months or so for remodel reasons. My goal here is
  • A simple circular layout
  • To use quality materials ( at least decent ) from the track up. Something I can build on and reuse later in a larger layout.
  • And most of all,..get educated. I've probably said on other post here that I never had a train as a kid,..I'm 45. These particular components and everything it takes to make them run smooth are new to me.
I only want to initially purchase something like this,..A nice steam locomotive and a coal car. That's it. I've only begun to look at these so I've no where near made any decision on that,..this is just an example of what I like and have in mind.


Thank all of you guys for your responses thus far. - Aaron
 

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I mean, yes, there are other things that can cause derailments other than poor track work, maybe the #1 for you (with no turnouts) would be the train uncoupling and the loco pounding into the caboose 😄 But pay attention to your couplers (Kadee), and coupler height, etc. and you'll be good! IMO
 
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