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Discussion Starter #1
Some of you have been helping me learn about this hobby to get my son started. You're help is greatly appreciated.

I'm still searching for a locomotive or two. And need a little guidance in what is a decent quality locomotive. eBay is FLOODED with trains and I've learned not all are created equal. My current train, a Bachmann Hawthorne village Corvette edition. Turns out it's a pretty good runner.

So I took a chance on an eBay lot that included a few locos. And you guessed it, they are junk. Pancake motor, loud and not at all smooth and they put off an unpleasant electrical smell. They may get some use after cleaning and oiling, but I think I would prefer something that will be reliable.

Brand lines I'm looking at, Bachmann plus, Bachmann spectrum and Athern. With the Athern, is there a model line to watch out for, I don't really see models listed, just Athern. Is Any Athern flywheel drive ok? I can find all three for about $40 on eBay. I don't need top of the line or any fancy do dad's. Just smooth running and reliable. Thanks for the input.

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Yes, some of those older model locos were not the best.
When buying locos you want to try to determine when
it was made. Model locomotives made in the last 10 to 15 years are
vastly improved. So much so, that there is little
difference in quality between brands. For the most
part, detailing is the major reason to pay more for a loco.
Now, there are lemons in any product, but, in general,
any new loco on the market, regardless of brand, will
be a nice smooth running product. Because
of the complex drive shafts and other visible moving parts,
Steamers could be more troublesome. Otherwise,
you can be confident buying a NEW HO loco. If you
like it's looks and it's price is satisfactory go ahead
and buy it.

However, keep in mind that in addition to being
cautious about when a loco was made, it may need
TLC. The lubrication in the gearing may
have gelled and thus impairs it's operation. For
smooth operation there must be positive electrical
contact between the track and the wheels. So wheels
and electrical contacts could need cleaning with
alcohol. You may need to obtain plastic friendly
'grease' for the trucks and 'oils' for the motor
shafts...these are sold by LaBelle, usually
available at hobby shops.

Train cars, freight or passenger,
however, are usually usable even if
made decades ago, But here again, the wheels
may need cleaning and axles lubricated with graphite
to help them run with as little friction as possible.
Metal wheels are preferable to plastic.

As you've found, on used cars,
you want to watch for couplers
that match what you have...today most of us use
knuckle couplers that look like what you see on
real train cars. But you can replace whatever is
on an old car with new couplers. Most of us
use those made by Kadee. Their model #148 is
the easiest to use but their # 5 is also very popular.
Both are of equal quality and can be used on any car.
They have many other models but they are for
specific purposes that can be explained later.

Don
 

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I think you'd be happy with pretty much any Athearn locomotive, assuming, of course, that a used one off eBay has been cared for, and isn't beaten to death.....

Athearn has been around for decades, and got many modellers into the hobby with inexpensive, reliable locomotives.....
 

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Discussion Starter #5
Thanks for all the info. I've got a bunch of spare couplers, but none of them are great. The ones I've found that work best are knuckle couplers with a spring and that have the two "arms" on the mounting side that keep it centered. It makes automatic coupling easier and my son loves being able to couple the trains "just like the real thing". I have no idea what those are called and if that's what everyone else uses. Unfortunately most of the spares i got do not have the centering arms, so they end up in opposite sides making it impossible to couple.

I'll see if the seller can find a date for when these locos were made. They look pretty clean and are custom painted, so I'd assume someone that was into the hobby and now likely to care for them then some Christmas special.

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If you want the honest truth, it looks like crap.

There's overspray everywhere and no glass in the windows. There's also some kind of big grey splotch at the rear corner of the shell. No idea what that is.

You can do much better for $40.
 

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A real good one sold for $33 two days ago. See those four tan dots on the bottom, they are the motor mounts and look dried out needing replacing. Not a big job, but should lower the price

The one you looked at for $39.99 is missing the rooftop horns. Also, if you look inside the front window, you will notice the steel spring bar which connect the motor electrically to the wheels is rusted. This is common for Athearn locomotives stored in basements IMHO. Attics are slightly dryer.

I own more than one Athearn and like them a lot. Some imporvements can be easily made. The Bachmann PLUS 'B' unit I own runs better.
I actually may put one of mine for sale soon.

543188
 

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I know you're watching the pennies, even if just to model responsible behaviour for your child. Who wouldn't...?

Atlas 'classic' and Master Gold, if they still run those or if you can find NIB stock on Feebay, are very good. I have two Atlas sound diesels, a Trainmaster H24-66 and an RS-3. I can't tell you how impressed I am by them, and for the price, it's a forehead smacker.

Kato diesels, whose drive mechanisms some of the not-so-long ago Atlas diesels used, have a very strong reputation. Kato doesn't spend much in HO these years, and prefers to run N scale product. But their HO stuff, when they offer it, is snapped up right quick.

People who were in the hobby years before me still lament the demise of the 'blue box' Athearn do-it-yourself locomotives. They appreciated the chance to make customized locomotives, and the locomotives ran well. Cheap, like borscht, and a solid deal. Nowadays, I'm not sure, but Athearn Genesis brand is the creme de la creme. Highly detailed, and if you can afford it, generally very good runners.

But, there's also BLI, Bachmann, MTH, Intermountain, and Bowser. They all have some good runners, and every one of them will warrant their product for you. It's a pain to send stuff back for repair, but it's a fact of life in this hobby. Doesn't matter who sold it to you, who specified the engineering, who paid for the production, or who did the actual construction...every one of the scale importers/producers has to take back some of each run of locomotive to put them right.

What you buy used is not warranted. What you purchase refurbished, which BLI offers at its website, IS WARRANTED. And with a probability of about 95%, it's also now a runner.
 

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Personally, I think when when you find something cheap, younask WHY it's so cheap... I personally wouldn't buy either, unless it's a junker that you expect your son to trash anyway..
 

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Discussion Starter #12
Personally, I think when when you find something cheap, younask WHY it's so cheap... I personally wouldn't buy either, unless it's a junker that you expect your son to trash anyway..
I guess something of a junker. I just want something that runs fairly well and won't give us fits. I'm not concerned with the kennel of detail or accuracy. This is an intro locomotive. If the hobby sticks then we can get into the nicer stuff later.

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Thanks for all the info. I've got a bunch of spare couplers, but none of them are great. The ones I've found that work best are knuckle couplers with a spring and that have the two "arms" on the mounting side that keep it centered. It makes automatic coupling easier and my son loves being able to couple the trains "just like the real thing". I have no idea what those are called and if that's what everyone else uses. Unfortunately most of the spares i got do not have the centering arms, so they end up in opposite sides making it impossible to couple.
Yes, they are called knuckle couplers, and they are what most people use these day. of all the brands out there, Kadee is the best known and has the widest selection.

As for your spares, just from your description it sounds as though they may be Kadee #5's, which were probably the most widely used knuckle couplers until the whisker style (with the two 'arms') came into being.

The reason they get off to one side is that they don't have a built in centering spring. The springs are available from Kadee

They mount in the coupler box on top of the coupler. A small puff of powdered graphite lubricant helps operation. Don't use oil or grease in the couplers, it attracts dirt. Once installed, the #5's will work fine with the whisker style couplers.
 

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If you get Bachmann, get "later-model" stuff. The newer ones are much better than older, so they say.

If you want good runners right "out-of-the-box", I'd suggest Atlas. Consistently very good. They aren't overpriced, either.

If you would like older-era diesels, I'd suggest Proto2000 (new-old stock). But be aware these might need a little "clean-up" to get up-to-snuff. But once done, they are great runners.

Walthers Proto (not to be confused with the earlier Proto2000 by Lifelike) makes some nice stuff, too. The dcc/sound equipped ones are pricey, but they usually offer a non-sound "dcc-ready" DC version for considerably less.
 

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I guess something of a junker. I just want something that runs fairly well and won't give us fits. I'm not concerned with the kennel of detail or accuracy. This is an intro locomotive. If the hobby sticks then we can get into the nicer stuff later.

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The problem with trying junkers, and then seeing if the hobby"sticks", is that the junkers often sour and frustrate people on the hobby, and they never continue......I've seen that happen more than once.....
 

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Walthers Proto (not to be confused with the earlier Proto2000 by Lifelike) makes some nice stuff, too. The dcc/sound equipped ones are pricey, but they usually offer a non-sound "dcc-ready" DC version for considerably less.
Actually Walthers Proto are in reality newer versions of Proto 2000 locomotives.....Walthers bought out Lifelike, and re-worked Proto 2000 into their Walthers Proto brand.....virtually the same locomotives except for the packaging....

However, the Walthers Proto ones don't have the cracked gear problem that the Proto 2000 versions had....Walthers makes gear sets to fix those though, and when you do that, there is no difference between the Like-like and Walthers versions.....and the good news is that there are thousands of Proto2000 ones out there, many still NIB, which, with a simple fix, can be made to run perfectly, at a fraction of the cost of the newer versions....
 

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Actually Walthers Proto are in reality newer versions of Proto 2000 locomotives.....Walthers bought out Lifelike, and re-worked Proto 2000 into their Walthers Proto brand.....virtually the same locomotives except for the packaging....

However, the Walthers Proto ones don't have the cracked gear problem that the Proto 2000 versions had....Walthers makes gear sets to fix those though, and when you do that, there is no difference between the Like-like and Walthers versions.....and the good news is that there are thousands of Proto2000 ones out there, many still NIB, which, with a simple fix, can be made to run perfectly, at a fraction of the cost of the newer versions....
And THAT is really good info
Thanks, Hobo!
 

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The problem with trying junkers, and then seeing if the hobby"sticks", is that the junkers often sour and frustrate people on the hobby, and they never continue......I've seen that happen more than once.....
Exactly. The junkers are hit or miss. It doesn't take too many misses before it would have been cheaper just to buy better quality up front.

The number one reason why people leave the hobby is that they can't get trains to run reliably.
 

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Discussion Starter #19
Exactly. The junkers are hit or miss. It doesn't take too many misses before it would have been cheaper just to buy better quality up front.

The number one reason why people leave the hobby is that they can't get trains to run reliably.
Which is why I'm looking for some reliable but inexpensive. I don't care about detail, just reliability. Someone mentioned missing horns and windows on one that I posted, those are exactly the details I don't really care about. I don't care if it's hot pink,I have paint. What I'm hoping to find is a used or lower end engine that still runs reliably and smoothly.

As mentioned previously, my Bachmann Hawthorne village F7 runs really well. I'm tempted to pick up another one of those for him, they can be had for $50. I just don't know if they are all the same locomotive. They usually don't say much about the locomotive ourself, just whatever theme it's painted in.

I'm not spending $150+ for his first loco. That said, I do agree with not buying a true "junker", I'm already saddled with two of those. But it seems used is a better way to get a quality loco over buying new. At least that's generally true, although there is some risk.

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Discussion Starter #20
Thanks for all the info guys, looks like maybe proto 2000 or even the 1000 are bargains to look for

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