Hi, I'd be interested in opinions on the current 4 or 5 top-rated N-scale freight car manufacturers ...regarding detailing, variety-available, and performance (...such as tracking, coupling, etc.). Thanks very much, Norm.
I am not real up to date on current offerings, as most of my rolling stock are rebuilt from parts lots. But, I do have a few new pieces...
Atlas 40' rebuilt well cars, these are actually great, etched walkways, metal wheelsets, and body mounted knuckle couplers. These run really well. No enhancements needed other than weathering.
Atlas PEMEX tanker, came with truck mounted couplers of some type & plastic wheelsets. Overweight at 43 grams. Needed truck replacement out of the box.
Athearn, similar variable experiences...
The Athearn "I Love NY" boxcars come with Bettendorf trucks, I replaced those and fitted 36" metal wheelsets. Works pretty good now, and the OEM couplers actually play well with KATO couplers!
The Athearn GATX general service tank cars, they run great right out of the box, and come with excellent 36" metal wheelsets. The couplers (Mchenry maybe?) are on the large side.
Micro Trains, they are good but the wheelsets are plastic. The factory weathered models look fantastic.
Bachmann Silver Series, the CSX center flow hoppers come with Bettendorf trucks, I don't know if that is prototypical but I of course replaced those. They also come with metal RP-25 wheelsets, but oddly they don't run turnouts well. Wouldn't run until I did full replacement of the trucks and wheelsets.
I'm next going to be trying an Intermountain covered hopper. I understand these come equipped with their excellent metal wheelsets.
Also ExactRail, I'm going to try their freight cars too. They come with body mounted 1015s and metal wheelsets.
I don't mode, in N scale, but I'd say the idea is pretty much the same as HO. The brand of the car can help determine the level of detail, but for performance, tuned trucks with metal wheels and metal, body mounted couplers will provide best performance. Detail is often a function of price, so where you have an option, pay a little more and get better detail.