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Who makes the best Ho Locomotives?

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Who makes the best Ho Locomotives?
Posted by JohnWPowell on Friday, March 31, 2017 11:47 AM

Been out of the hobbie for awhile and im going to build a new layout, and im thinking of switching to dcc. So i think i will buy new locos. Was wondering who is the best manufacture and why you like them?

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Posted by tstage on Friday, March 31, 2017 11:54 AM

John,

It might help to narrow down the field a bit.  Any particular era and roadname you are interested in?  Are you interested in steam, diesel, or both?  Also, how faithful to the prototype do you want?

These will all determine what is "best" because EVERY manufacturer has both good and bad models and some manufacturers concentrate on certain road names more than others.

Tom

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Posted by mbinsewi on Friday, March 31, 2017 12:00 PM

Well John P., I have no real opinion on which is the "best", that's up to individual taste, prefferences, and experiences.  Look around, read about the various manufacturers and what they offer, and look at reviews.

This type of thread is undoubtedly going to take off in all directions.  Just don't forget to chime in a few times yourself.

I might be wrong,  but we'll see Smile, Wink & Grin

Mike.

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Posted by riogrande5761 on Friday, March 31, 2017 12:00 PM

JohnWPowell

Been out of the hobbie for awhile and im going to build a new layout, and im thinking of switching to dcc. So i think i will buy new locos. Was wondering who is the best manufacture and why you like them?

If you don't want a lot of answers which are out-of-scope for (N, HO, O etc.) and what era (steam, early diesel, second generation diesel, modern) etc.  I can guarantee you'll get a flood of information, much of which isn't helpful, unless you help focus readers on what you are interested in first.

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Posted by Anonymous on Friday, March 31, 2017 12:16 PM

The OP said Ho and I understand this as HO scale, not as Ho Ho Ho.

I find Marklin HO scale locomotives to be the best - among those offering 3-rail AC. For standargd gauge model railroading, this is my choice of system, which pretty much limits me to this manufacturer. Marklin locos are literally indestructible and require only a little TLC to give you a service lasting well over 50 years. However, Marklin is a European manufacturer with very little US prototype locos and cars available. Trix is Marklin´s 2-rail DC or DCC brand. Their USRA Mikado got good ratings and there are quite a few here willing to give an arm and a leg for one (in terms of prices) to get their hand on one.

OK, this info won´t answer your question and I don´t think anyone in here actually will. What you can collect is a personal view from the forum members. If you look for a maybe more neuzral picture, check the Product Review section of this web site.

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Posted by selector on Friday, March 31, 2017 12:49 PM

The makers of steam are Broadway Limited Imports (BLI), Mike's Train House (MTH), Athearn, Bachmann, Trix, Walthers, and perhaps just recently departed, Rivarossi.  Some are eagerly awaiting of Rapido into the steam HO locomotive category, but we're still about 18 months away from their first issue.

Each of those currently with steam models available has both good and not very good examples, although BLI, MTH, Walthers, and Athearn generally can be counted on to provide good products.  Every batch has a few lemons, but the service from the importers is generally quite good.

I would have to say that the rather costly Trix 2-8-2, which are now available after about eight years, is the finest N. American steam example available short of some of the brass models.

The trend in the hobby, with many holdouts still using and very pleased with direct current (DC), is toward DCC, or Digital Command Control.  Even so, newer systems that purport to get around electrical pickup problems between the motors and the rails, are receiving encouraging reviews.  Whichever it is to be as things evolve, it is driving the prices up commensurately.

Rivarossi has produced some good steamers in the past 20 years, but the rumour is that they are quitting the N. American steam market.  I have one of their 2-6-6-6 Allegheny and would rate it at the top level in terms of reliability and looks, with plenty of details added to improve realism.

Bachmann is going through a revision process where they have been devolving some of their excellent Spectrum class of steamers down to their regular line.  It's a smart move because they have to stay competitive against the other steam suppliers who have been upping their games.  What the Company will do in order to stay in contention premium-class-wise is anybody's guess...maybe their Spectrum idea is gone forever.  Note that their one failure in Spectrum was the Class J 4-8-4; I have experience with one of them, and soon found others complaining about their problems.  Kind of put me off Bachmann, but due to the insistance of a veteran Spectrum runner on this board, I purchased one of their metal heavy Mountain Class 4-8-2.  I was rewarded by both his recommendation and Bachmann's engineering.

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Posted by Water Level Route on Friday, March 31, 2017 12:59 PM
John, depending on how long you have been away from the hobby you may be in for a few surprises. Gone (in most cases) are the engines with pancake motors, poor electrical pick-up, and crude to no details. Typically, even budget level engines from virtually any manufacturer are likely to run well for you. Now more than ever, the best locomotive(s) are the ones that meet your interest in road, era, and budget. Manufacturer doesn't matter as much as it once did. Welcome back to the hobby!

Mike

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Posted by BRAKIE on Friday, March 31, 2017 1:03 PM

Atlas has the best locomotives and the best selection of diesel types.

However,one soon learns that he needs locomotives from Athearn, Walthers(P1K,P2K) and Kato to round out his roster.

I will say approach Bachmann diesel locomotives carefully since there are many varibles some are good while other not so.

Larry

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Posted by DigitalGriffin on Friday, March 31, 2017 1:24 PM

oh no....*covers eyes*

tell me when it's over.

Don - Specializing in layout DC->DCC conversions

Modeling C&O transition era and steel industries There's Nothing Like Big Steam!

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Posted by fieryturbo on Friday, March 31, 2017 1:25 PM

It's better to just tell us a specific prototype or list fo them you want a model for, and then people can give advice on which company has the best of each.

Of the models I have, I am most satisfied with my Broadway Limited ones.

I'm unhappy with the SD-40 from Athearn I bought.  The way it's constructed is frustrating to add lighting to, but they're the only ones that made a UP Fast Forty.

Julian

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Posted by UNCLEBUTCH on Friday, March 31, 2017 1:28 PM

Granddad always said "there all good when they work"

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Posted by ACY Tom on Friday, March 31, 2017 1:37 PM

Nowadays there aren't many that are really bad. In some cases, a lower price is indicative of a lesser level of scale fidelity, or a lower reliability. Of course that's not always a reliable thing to go by. In this hobby, the particular model will be chosen for it appropriateness to a modeler's needs. If I tell you that some manufacturer's Big Boy or F7 is the best on the market (and there are several), it does you no good if you are really looking for an FM switcher. 

Tom

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Posted by DigitalGriffin on Friday, March 31, 2017 1:51 PM

ACY

Nowadays there aren't many that are really bad. In some cases, a lower price is indicative of a lesser level of scale fidelity, or a lower reliability. Of course that's not always a reliable thing to go by. In this hobby, the particular model will be chosen for it appropriateness to a modeler's needs. If I tell you that some manufacturer's Big Boy or F7 is the best on the market (and there are several), it does you no good if you are really looking for an FM switcher. 

Tom

 



Quite right.  If I need a reliable steam switcher that is cheap and easy to maintain for a little kid, I would go for a moheno/IHC believe it or not.  These are usually people's last choice.  But they are rock solid and great introduction locomotives for kids.  

There's a kids hospital that has a train layout that wasn't working.  If I were to fix it up, I would go for the IHC.

For my own steamers, I go Proto 2K, BLI, and Bachmann in that order.  But I don't have to worry about little hands, or not having access to maintain them.  Plus I want the details.

Don - Specializing in layout DC->DCC conversions

Modeling C&O transition era and steel industries There's Nothing Like Big Steam!

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Posted by DigitalGriffin on Friday, March 31, 2017 1:57 PM

BTW: In the diesel word, the Kato/Stewart(Bowser) drives with Canon motors are considered the best most reliable drives.  Atheran is considered the easiest to work on and offer a good value.  But if you want details, Proto 2000 is generally the best.  BLI does make some good diesels and some very unique models, but their reliability is hit or miss and their historical accuracy is sometimes off when it comes to paint schemes and details.  Luckily BLI has some awesome customer service.  Atlas makes a good general all around locomotive.  But they don't excel in any one particular area.

Don - Specializing in layout DC->DCC conversions

Modeling C&O transition era and steel industries There's Nothing Like Big Steam!

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Posted by slammin on Friday, March 31, 2017 2:12 PM

Anything by Kato can be counted on for smooth quiet reliable performance, that includes those marketed by Atlas in the 90s. My current project is a NOS Stewart/Kato F7. I'm adding a TCS WOW decoder and will top it off with a new Intermountain shell, givng me smooth running, great sound and state of the art detail.

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Posted by tstage on Friday, March 31, 2017 2:18 PM

DigitalGriffin
Atlas makes a good general all around locomotive. But they don't excel in any one particular area.

With one exception, Don: Along with Bowser, Atlas is one of the best at providing early diesel models to the market.

Tom

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Posted by JohnWPowell on Friday, March 31, 2017 2:56 PM
I'm thinking family line/chessie era with diesels,
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Posted by BRAKIE on Friday, March 31, 2017 3:29 PM

JohnWPowell
I'm thinking family line/chessie era with diesels,
 

Ok..I highly recommand Atlas,Athearn and Walthers P1K and P2K locomotives. Kato made a Chessie NW2 switcher.

I will add I model the SCL and Family lines and as you may know any of the railroads that was in family line locomotives will work..You can have Chessie System plus C&O,B&O and WM locomotives.

My SCL/FL has L&N,CRR and SCL locomotives.

Larry

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Posted by DigitalGriffin on Friday, March 31, 2017 4:06 PM

The Athearn RTR GP35's for Chessie are a bargain at $90 each (street price).  I own 3 of them.  They are highly reliable and come with decent detail.  But if you want sound and really good detail, I believe Walthers Proto 2K has them also.  (At least they do for C&O)

http://www.athearn.com/Products/Default.aspx?ProdID=ATH94157

Don - Specializing in layout DC->DCC conversions

Modeling C&O transition era and steel industries There's Nothing Like Big Steam!

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Posted by DrW on Friday, March 31, 2017 7:28 PM

selector

I would have to say that the rather costly Trix 2-8-2, which are now available after about eight years, is the finest N. American steam example available short of some of the brass models.

Just a comment here.  Based on previous runs, the Trix Mikado is arguably one of the best-running HO steam engines.  However, the new Santa Fe version is clearly "foobie".  It is a USRA Mikado (which the Santa Fe never owned) with an A.T.&S.F. label and a number in the wrong font.  Do you want to pay ~$400 for this?

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Posted by peahrens on Friday, March 31, 2017 10:27 PM

A few related comments:

1.  One consideration is how many locos (and/or how many will fit on your layout and storage) you may end up adding as time goes on.  For instance, I like UP and found that (over a period of 5 years now) I started as transition era oriented and then stretched that a bit.  So I ended up wanting to include many types in my roster, now including GPs, SDs, GEs, Alco's, etc.  My point is that you may want to add a loco type and then settle (up to a point) for a maker that is at least satisfactory.

2. The second point is that, if getting into DCC, you may at some point get interested in converting DC locos to DCC, with or without sound.  That has become one of my favorite activities, and expands your options considerably.  While you may not find a loco of interest available as a recent release, there are many unused (or nearly so) ones available on the resale (EBay) route.  That has been the source of many of my locos.

3.  Getting to specific manufacturers, some points.  I like HO Athearn Genesis, Kato, Atlas, Intermountain and LifeLike Proto 2000/1000 diesels.  And Athearn,  BLI and Proto Heritage (older models) steam.  It also depends on whether you are talking DC versions (which i would convert to DCC) where detail and drivetrain are the key issues, or whether the DCC offerings.  In the latter case, the decoder and speakers come into play.  I prefer the LokSounds that I put into conversions.  The Tsunami in a Genesis Geep was disappointing to the point that I replaced it, though I'm ok with the Tsumanis in my Genesis steamers.  Steamers tend to be more finicky on derailments and rail contact, so it depends.  I don't buy Bachmann diesels basis my steamer experience.  I have a 2-6-0 that's ok but it took five 2-8-0s to get to two that worked ok.  I had a pet peeve with the Sound Value 2-6-0 stripped down Tsunami decoder as it could not be adjsuted so the sound would not come on with layout power up.  (I changed the decoder.)  I don't plan to try Bachmann again.  But I must stress that others have better experience, so it's an individual experience.  I haven't tried Bowser diesels but would do so if I wanted that type loco.  MTH for me is only a DC version consideration for conversion to DCC as I don't want to deal with their unique DCC decoders.   

Just my opinions.

Paul

Modeling HO with a transition era UP bent

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Posted by Bernie on Friday, March 31, 2017 10:41 PM

I think the answer is very subjective.  Of course, Kato, Walthers, and Athearn are the heavy hitters in quality and performance.  Kato's P42s are amazingly high quality.  While Atlas isn't known for super quality, their new ALP-45 DP locomotive in NJ Transit is quite a good model.  Hornby can be iffy, but their Class 56 and Class 60 locomitives run amazingly well and are very highly detailed.  Of course, Rapido's APT-E is beyond amazing in quality and detail.  Unfortunately, they were made to order and the few that people resold on eBay sold out immediately...there are none to be had anywhere.

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Posted by selector on Saturday, April 1, 2017 12:40 AM

DrW

 

 
selector

I would have to say that the rather costly Trix 2-8-2, which are now available after about eight years, is the finest N. American steam example available short of some of the brass models.

 

 

Just a comment here.  Based on previous runs, the Trix Mikado is arguably one of the best-running HO steam engines.  However, the new Santa Fe version is clearly "foobie".  It is a USRA Mikado (which the Santa Fe never owned) with an A.T.&S.F. label and a number in the wrong font.  Do you want to pay ~$400 for this?

JW

 

That's a fair comment, DrW.  I noticed that right away when I saw the ad, and it's a tick downward, to be sure.  Still, in terms of quality, foobie or no, it's worth the $400 (I think) considering the earlier issue for the NYC version was MSRP somewhat higher than that a decade ago.

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Posted by BRAKIE on Saturday, April 1, 2017 6:59 AM

Bernie
While Atlas isn't known for super quality, their new ALP-45 DP locomotive in NJ Transit is quite a good model.

Since when? Atlas is still a top dog contender and Kato is more  N then HO..

Athearn has well known QA/QC problems. Suffice it to say I was a loyal Athearn customer now I turn to Atlas and the older LL P2K engines for my needs.

Larry

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Posted by tstage on Saturday, April 1, 2017 7:32 AM

Larry,

My guess is that Bernie is referring to some of the earlier Atlas from the 80s & 90s.  The newer Atlas is quite nice and the detailing up there with the best of them.  They generally run extremely well, too; the best of both worlds.

Tom

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Posted by ricktrains4824 on Saturday, April 1, 2017 10:35 AM

Which manufacturer is best?

Hmm, Ford, Chevy, or Dodge?

Now.... I will lob the proverbial hand grenade and answer - KIA!Laugh

Oh....  

You meant model Trains!?!

Well, why didn't you say so?

Oops - Sign Oh, you did... 

Ok, I have ones from Athearn, Athearn Genesis, Bachmann, Bachmann Spectrum, BLI, Bowser, Intermountain, and Proto 2000. All run well, and all have their +'s and -'s, so... 

Take your pick of them.

Each has their own good things, bad things, and all can (and do) have their own QC issues.

So, now, it depends on what locomotive you are looking for.

Ricky W.

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Posted by BRAKIE on Saturday, April 1, 2017 11:00 AM

tstage

Larry,

My guess is that Bernie is referring to some of the earlier Atlas from the 80s & 90s.  The newer Atlas is quite nice and the detailing up there with the best of them.  They generally run extremely well, too; the best of both worlds.

Tom

 

Tom,Even the Atlas/Kato engines was smooth runners and top line locomotives of the time. These engines are still smooth runners.

My  Atlas/Roco Alco S4s is still running smooth.My Atlas Classic RS-1,RS-3s.GP7s, GP38s,SD35  is top notch.I just recently bought  a Atlas Master SCL  Alco S-2 and like expected its a top notch model and a smooth runner.

The only bad Atlas engines I can think of was their early  N Scale and that ended when Kato started making the drives for Atlas in the early 80s and set the performance  bar higher..Atlas/China  N Scale engines is top notch.

Larry

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Posted by dstarr on Saturday, April 1, 2017 1:13 PM

They are all pretty good.  Any locomotive advertised in Model Railroader magazine, or Rail Model Craftsman  is a fine model.  I have a mixed fleet, Athearn, Proto2K, Mantua, IHC, AHM, Pacific Fast Mail, Bachmann, assembled over the years, and they all run good and look good.  Not to worry, buy anything that appeals to you and you will be happy with it.  

   The more expensive locomotives may have more details and nicer paint jobs, but plenty of modestly priced locomotives are pretty good too.  If you are buying used, at a train show, have the seller run the locomotive for you,  If it runs, both directions, quietly and smoothly, and it looks good to your eye, you will be happy with it.  It it doesn't run, it can be fixed, but you don't know how hard the fix might be. 

   Most new locomotives can be had for DCC, or DC, or "DCC-Ready".  DCC is more expensive.  DC can always be converted to DCC.  DCC-Ready is supposed to mean a no-soldering, no wire stripping, installation of a DCC decoder.  I run DC so I don't really know whether "DCC-Ready" lives up to it's claims or not. 

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Posted by cudaken on Saturday, April 1, 2017 8:11 PM

JohnWPowell
Was wondering who is the best manufacture and why you like them?

 John All of them and none of them make good engines. To me it seems it is the luck of the draw of the engine it self. Something like the old HP cars of the 60's and 70's. Why does one guy 68 383 Road Runner run 15.8 in the quater mile and another guys 68 383 Road Runner run 14.89?

 Case in point. I have a BLI PCM Y6b that has thounsdands of hard hours on it dragging 60 plus cars. All so have a BLI PCM Big Boy that I had to fix out of the box? Same goes for Proto engine before (not talking about the old cracked gear problem) and after Walther's bought them. Some run great and I cannot kill like my Erire Bulit an some where DOA?

 Funny, only maker I have not had any real problems has been Bachmann?

 

 Cuda Ken

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Posted by ATSFGuy on Sunday, April 2, 2017 10:54 AM

I think Broadway Limited Imports, Bowser, Athearn and Atlas make the best locomotives.

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