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Building a HO freight car fleet cost-effectively

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Building a HO freight car fleet cost-effectively
Posted by kasskaboose on Monday, August 11, 2014 2:17 PM

I would appreciate suggestions on creating my HO freight car fleet.  I frequently purchase RTR Atlas Trainman or discount-Athearn cars at train shows (about 6/show).  I saw estate sale tables, but after seeing most cars needed alot of work---replacing couplers, trucks, etc--I stopped going that route. 

1. Are there other good quality HO manufactures at or below the $10-15/car?

2. Should I purchase cars through online auctions or train shows? 

3. Is 50-80 weathered and RTR HO cars suitable on a 7x11 foot layout w/ three industry sidings and a 5-track yard ?

Tkx!

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Posted by YoHo1975 on Monday, August 11, 2014 2:21 PM

I'd go with Trainshows over Online Auction. Old Athearn/MDC and other kits like Walthers can be a steal. Often with Kadee couplers already installed. I'd expected prices with Kadee in the $7-$10 range depending on specific model and $10-$15 with metal wheels. For more current stock. Accurail is your friend. You still need to install the Kadees and Metal Wheels yourself....just like we all did back in the day.

 

Sometimes, you can find built kits with Kadee as low as $5 and unbuilt even lower. Not saw on the Auction sites.

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Posted by davidmurray on Monday, August 11, 2014 2:29 PM

I have no ideas on purchasing cars.

I would suggest you consider how many freight cars you need on your layout. You need to be able to work your yard while half your cars are in it, and half are at industries.

I have a seven track yard, but the three longest ones are departure tracks.  Right now I have 25 cars in that yard, plus some on departure track, and it is full. My layout is 17' by 12'  plus off line staging, and i have about 75 freight cars, plus a few passenger cars, all passenger cars start and end sessions in staging.

Dave

David Murray from Oshawa, Ontario Canada
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Posted by dstarr on Monday, August 11, 2014 5:05 PM

I do a few train shows now and then.  Here are some of the cars I have  picked up. I view them as raw material for minor kit bash projects.  Repaint, re decal, add some details, put on Kadee couplers, add some weight, no sweat, all part of the fun.  If I felt wealthier I would put on  metal wheels.  Some far, plastic wheels run good enough for me, and don't look too bad after I paint the wheelfaces grimy black.   No shipping charges for train show deals.  For this kind of $3-$5 purchase the E-bay shipping charges are usually more than the train show price. 

Train show Athearn hopper $3.  Home made coal load, paint and decal.

Bachmann train set car from a yard sale.  $3.00  Coat of Dullcote to kill the gloss and tone down the colors.  Home made coal load.

Intermountain box car from train show $5. 

Athearn tank car, train show, $5.  Repaint and decal.  Might have snagged the last set of Mobilgas decals on the web.

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Posted by Doughless on Monday, August 11, 2014 5:27 PM

I think the best deals for rolling stock is found at train shows.  You can look and touch them, and are better able to see if there are any flaws that you don't want.  As others have said, i have found nicely assembled and weathered Athearn cars with KD's for $5.  Most older Athearn or MDC cars are great deals at shows.

And I never felt like the auction sites really give you a better deal for NEW cars than the hobby shops.  Shipping costs sometimes exceed local sales tax when comparing the online store to the the hobby shop item.  For higher priced items like locomotives, the online sites usually do better.

As far as how many you need?  it depends upon how busy your layout is, but I would say that 80 cars for the layout you mentioned is probably more than enough.

- Douglas

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Posted by BRAKIE on Monday, August 11, 2014 6:01 PM

Here's another suggestion when attending train shows.Don't overlook the use cars since these can be had for $3.00-5.00 with KDs or up to $7.00 with KDs and metal wheels.

However.

Why half step when newer Atlas and Athearn RTR cars can be found on e-Bay for less then $20.00 BIN?

Avoid those cheap $2.00 train set cars you find at train shows.These usually have truck mounted X2F couplers,deep flanges and requires a lot of unnecessary work converting them to body mounted couplers and better trucks which will drive the price up of that "bargain" $2.00 car.

Also check various e-Bay stores for BB and Roundhouse cars at reasonable prices.

Larry

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Posted by BRAKIE on Monday, August 11, 2014 6:14 PM

Doughless
And I never felt like the auction sites really give you a better deal for NEW cars than the hobby shops. Shipping costs sometimes exceed local sales tax when comparing the on line store to the the hobby shop item

Here's the key.. Buy from a ebay hobby shop that combines shipping and then buy 2-3 cars..I found BIN prices can be cheaper then bidding since some folks has to win a item at all costs even if its well above MSRP.

Now that $60.00 amount for two cars at a LHS is more like $48.00 including shipping though e-bay or a on line hobby shop..Some shops offers free shipping as well.

I found that out after trying to support a hobby shop..I was paying more at the shop-not including a 52 mile round trip with lunch-diabetics must eat on a schedule to maintain normal sugar levels since sweets is out the door.The last thing you want is a sugar drop while driving----or any time as far as that goes.

 

Larry

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Posted by peahrens on Monday, August 11, 2014 6:22 PM

One reaction to your question is do you enjoy building freight car kits, which affects my suggestions.  If you haven't tried it, I enjoy it a bunch.  I've also discovered I like structure kits, so I'm highly inclined in the kit direction.  For kits, train show Athearn BB kits abound (some, for me, well priced and some overpriced) and are adequate for my needs.  Current similar items for me are Accurail and Bowser kits, with lots of selection.  I tend to buy those from web suppliers (e.g., modeltrainstuff.com).

Another angle is whether you want to get into repainting and decaling.  Check out the great work of several folks on Weekend Phoot Fun threads here.  I just (sorta) conquered the airbrush on some Athearn passenger repaints and much enjoyed the project. I'm about to repaint a couple of UP cabooses; one a train show purchase where someone had added two holes in the sides, another a MDC Roundhouse kit that just looked poor overall. 

On occasion I buy a RTR freight item, a recent example a Walthers snowplow.  Expensive but nicer than the cheaper kits I tend to acquire.  I have not yet tackled the more specialized kits.  A Tichy flat car is my biggest achievement yet.

Paul

Modeling HO with a transition era UP bent

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Posted by G Paine on Monday, August 11, 2014 6:39 PM

kasskaboose
I frequently purchase RTR Atlas Trainman or discount-Athearn cars at train shows

while you are thinking of Trainman, take a look at Accurail and, maybe Branchline/Atlas kits. They are good quality, and in a similar price range to Trainman

Also , check Trainworld site. They sell overstocks, etc at good prices.
http://www.trainworld.com/

George In Midcoast Maine, 'bout halfway up the Rockland branch 

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Posted by Geared Steam on Monday, August 11, 2014 7:22 PM

"The true sign of intelligence is not knowledge but imagination."-Albert Einstein

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Posted by MisterBeasley on Monday, August 11, 2014 8:04 PM

kasskaboose

I would appreciate suggestions on creating my HO freight car fleet.  I frequently purchase RTR Atlas Trainman or discount-Athearn cars at train shows (about 6/show).  I saw estate sale tables, but after seeing most cars needed alot of work---replacing couplers, trucks, etc--I stopped going that route.

I keep a box of Intermountan metal wheelsets and a bulk-pack of Kadee #158 couplers (my personal favorite) in my workshop, so if I see a decent car I don't worry about needing these.  It's routine, and cost-effective, too.

1. Are there other good quality HO manufactures at or below the $10-15/car?

Sure.  Accurail, Tichy and Bowser make high-quality kits that won't break the bank.  Accurail kits are pretty easy, Bowser's take a trifle more skill, and Tichy cars are challenging, to say the least.

2. Should I purchase cars through online auctions or train shows?

  I personally prefer the Buy it Now option on eBay.  Auctions tend to get out of hand and the prices are elevated from "bidding frenzy."  Train shows often have dealers who will give you a better price for 3 cars vs. 1, or will knock a dollar off if a car has a broken coupler.

3. Is 50-80 weathered and RTR HO cars suitable on a 7x11 foot layout w/ three industry sidings and a 5-track yard ?

If that is all your real estate (no staging, etc.) then that is way too many cars.  Fill your yard and sidings with cars, then take away half of them.  Make up 1 typical-sized train.  That's about all that will reasonably fit on your layout at 1 time and still let you run and operate trains.  Sure, you'll want some variety, but you should take off 1 car for every replacement you put on.

 

It takes an iron man to play with a toy iron horse. 

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Posted by joe323 on Tuesday, August 12, 2014 7:37 AM

Speaking for myself I buy most of my rolling stock at train shows.  Now as to how much you need it depends on the configuration of your track. If you have a yard you can store some there.

I have a separate yard that I use to display my rolling stock and change out the cars on the layout once in while.  For this purpose I built an extra siding with one of those Rix rail it ramps that allows me to easily add cars 9th the assumption that they come in from off the layout.   Thus I can keep a good roster but usually no more than about 12 or 13 cars on my 4 X 10 layout.

Joe Staten Island West 

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Posted by rrebell on Tuesday, August 12, 2014 11:03 AM

I buy Tichy RTR by varius manufactures and the better Atlas cars, also Proto 2000, all RTR for under $15 (used to be $10 two years ago, still is sometimes) on e-bay.

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Posted by DavidH66 on Tuesday, August 12, 2014 9:59 PM

G Paine

 

 
kasskaboose
I frequently purchase RTR Atlas Trainman or discount-Athearn cars at train shows

 

while you are thinking of Trainman, take a look at Accurail and, maybe Branchline/Atlas kits. They are good quality, and in a similar price range to Trainman

Also , check Trainworld site. They sell overstocks, etc at good prices.
http://www.trainworld.com/

 

Accurail's biggest isssue though is selection. If you want to model 1970-onwards they only have maybe a handful of kits.

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Posted by zstripe on Wednesday, August 13, 2014 5:08 AM

In case you are interested:

http://www.accurail.com/accurail/catalog/Catalog.pdf

Take Care!

Frank

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Posted by BRAKIE on Wednesday, August 13, 2014 5:35 AM

zstripe

In case you are interested:

http://www.accurail.com/accurail/catalog/Catalog.pdf

Take Care!

Frank

 

Nice outdated list since Accurail web page shows a lot of their cars out of stock-not a good sign for their line of kits.

http://www.accurail.com/accurail/

Larry

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Posted by tomkat-13 on Wednesday, August 13, 2014 9:05 AM

Here in the St Louis the Boeing RR Club has two shows a year with almost 300 tables of rr stuff & I have bought many blue box & MDC kits in the $5-$7 range + many unboxed cars with KD's in the $3-$6 range. Next show is the 6th of Sept. 

 

I model MKT & CB&Q in Missouri. A MUST SEE LINK: Great photographs from glassplate negatives of St Louis 1914-1917!!!! http://www.usgennet.org/usa/mo/county/stlouis/kempland/glassplate.htm Boeing Employee RR Club-St Louis http://www.berrc-stl.com/
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Posted by zstripe on Wednesday, August 13, 2014 5:02 PM

BRAKIE

 

 
zstripe

In case you are interested:

http://www.accurail.com/accurail/catalog/Catalog.pdf

Take Care!

Frank

 

 

 

Nice outdated list since Accurail web page shows a lot of their cars out of stock-not a good sign for their line of kits.

http://www.accurail.com/accurail/

 

Big Smile Didn't realize that I put in the wrong link until now. The one You linked is the one I wanted to use. But they did make a lot of kits over the years.

A lot of their out-of stock items, were the limited runs...like the two and three packs, which were really a deal price wise.

Take Care!

Frank

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Posted by BRAKIE on Wednesday, August 13, 2014 7:12 PM

zstripe
like the two and three packs, which were really a deal price wise.

Indeed they are even on e-Bay.I bought the three pack of the Chessie ACF covered hopper set and the  three set of private owner covered hoppers.

I think these kits rekindled my car kit building interest since I bought and built several car kits over the past few months.

Larry

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Posted by Eric97123 on Wednesday, August 13, 2014 10:16 PM

If you are in the hobby for the long haul get good rolling stock but space out the purchases. A car or two per month won't hurt the wallet so badly.

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Posted by John Busby on Thursday, August 14, 2014 12:46 AM

Hi

I can only add to this by stating the obviouse don't buy anything you can't use at the moment, and be prepared to do some work on the cars particularly older ones.

It sounds blindingly obviouse but a lot of us have perfectly servicable cars that we bought and later thought, why did I get that for what ever reason it doesn't fit with what I am doing but it is a nice car that I like.

regards John

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Posted by BRAKIE on Thursday, August 14, 2014 6:57 AM

Eric97123

If you are in the hobby for the long haul get good rolling stock but space out the purchases. A car or two per month won't hurt the wallet so badly.

 

Let's put the cheap cars and kits aside for now and look at it from a different angle.

First I fully concur with your thoughts..

If I was new to the hobby or starting afresh I would skip the cheaper cars and go for the higher detailed cars like Atlas,Intermountain,Red Caboose,ExactRail,BLMA,Fox Valley and Athearn's better RTR cars not the old BB RTR..

While I don't have a deep pocket hobby budget I feel in this case you're getting the most bang for your hobby dollars and cars that match the higher detailed locomotives that is readily available for $99.00 or less..

Again I agree 1, 2 or even 3 cars a month won't bust the bank especially if you buy at street prices.

Larry

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Posted by cmrproducts on Thursday, August 14, 2014 7:09 AM

There have been many good thoughts presented here!

When I started - I bought just about anything to get enough cars to hold OPs Session.

At that time I just ran by myself so I didn't need that many.

When I moved and began my dream layout - the number of cars needed to populate a 2500 sq ft layout was staggering!

I threw everything I had on the layout and made a lot of purchases at our Local Train Shows and LHS as they had a lot of Athearn cars at the time (back in 2000)

Now that I have the layout hosting OPs Session every two weeks and the car count is at 1200 cars - I really don't need any more cars! ;-)

BUT!

Does that stop me from buying more?

NOPE!

But now I have begun to remove the older LESS Detailed cars and selling them to others just starting out.

I will slowly keep updating the cars on the layout and will eventually begin replacing the Current Cars with even more detailed cars!

At least I am recouping some of my investment by selling off the older cars to NUBEs just entering the Hobby.

BOB H - Clarion, PA

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Posted by NP2626 on Thursday, August 14, 2014 7:37 AM

Building a HO freight car fleet cost-effectively 

 

Build from kits.

NP 2626 "Northern Pacific, really terrific"

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Posted by BRVRR on Thursday, August 14, 2014 9:58 AM

I buy my rolling stock from several sources. LHS when the price is right or when they have a unique car that I want but can't find anywhere else. I buy some from Walthers and other on-line sources. But the majority of my rolling stock has been purchased at train shows and swap meets.

If you are patient you can eventually find whatever you need at reasonable prices at a train show. An example:

I purchased seven of these little hoppers at a train show for $4.00 each. The vendor actually gave me a brake and sold me all seven cars for $25.00. They came with the Kadee couplers. I weighted them and made coal loads for them.

If you look you can find NIB rolling stock and locos for reasonable or even bargain prices.

If there are no hobby shops, train shows or swap meets in your area, the best sources are most likely on line.

Good luck in your quest and have fun.

Tags: BRVRR , NKP

Remember its your railroad

Allan

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Posted by tomkat-13 on Saturday, August 30, 2014 6:05 PM

The Boeing St Louis RR club swap meet is Saturday the 6th of Sept. A great place to get a good deal on train items.

I model MKT & CB&Q in Missouri. A MUST SEE LINK: Great photographs from glassplate negatives of St Louis 1914-1917!!!! http://www.usgennet.org/usa/mo/county/stlouis/kempland/glassplate.htm Boeing Employee RR Club-St Louis http://www.berrc-stl.com/
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Posted by doctorwayne on Saturday, August 30, 2014 11:07 PM

BRAKIE
....If I was new to the hobby or starting afresh I would skip the cheaper cars and go for the higher detailed cars like Atlas,Intermountain,Red Caboose,ExactRail,BLMA,Fox Valley and Athearn's better RTR cars not the old BB RTR.. While I don't have a deep pocket hobby budget I feel in this case you're getting the most bang for your hobby dollars....

The amount of "bang for one's buck" varies with each person's interests.  If you're looking for mainly r-t-r stuff, yeah, the high end offerings can get you started on a good footing, and bought 2 or 3 cars at a time, as your budget allows, may be a good route to follow.

On the other hand, if you're looking for added value in modelling time and learning new skills, older kits or trainset stuff, or used (and sometimes abused) stuff can be had for a very low initial outlay.  Sure, you'll pay additionally for some of the things needed to repair or upgrade these finds, but it's usually less than what a current-day high quality model would cost.  Most of my rolling stock is off the "used" table at my LHS, often for only a couple of bucks, although I do have some higher quality ones, too, and even a few (almost) r-t-r cars. Embarrassed

Here's an Intermountain car.  Bought as an undecorated kit (about $35.00), I built it mostly as intended, although I replaced all of the grabirons and sill steps with metal parts (something I would have done to a r-t-r car, too).  Lettering is from Microscale, paint from Floquil:


This one is a modified Accurail car, initial cost of the kit around $16.00.  Paint and lettering same as the first car (there are actually two of the steel ones).  I made a few modifications to the car so that it more closely represented the prototype car which was rebuilt into the steel-sheathed version:


I also scraped off the cast-on ladders and replaced them with homemade wire ones, and added brake rigging, too.  The hatch platforms were spares from the Intermountain kits:


Total cost for the extra parts was perhaps three or four dollars.  I used photos of both the real car and of a Westerfield model of the car as references.

 

The difference in cost was about $15.00, almost enough to buy another Accurail car.  I did spend more time and effort building the Accurail car, but I consider that to be part of my "bang for the buck".  That it's a fairly unique car made from one readily available only amplifies that bang, at least for me. Smile, Wink & Grin


Wayne

 

 

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Posted by hon30critter on Sunday, August 31, 2014 12:24 AM

Wayne:

As always, great work!

Dave

I'm just a dude with a bad back having a lot of fun with model trains, and finally building a layout!

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Posted by Dannyboy6 on Sunday, August 31, 2014 2:19 AM

All great sugggestions here...I would also check for used cars at your local hobby shop. Mine buys up collections and I've obtained some very nice Exactrail and Walthers cars for $12-$16. 

Also, check out the direct manufacterer's sites. I recently picked up some ExactRail cars for $13.95.

Have fun!

Dan

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Posted by BRAKIE on Sunday, August 31, 2014 4:36 AM

On the other hand, if you're looking for added value in modeling time and learning new skills, older kits or trainset stuff, or used (and sometimes abused) stuff can be had for a very low initial outlay.  Sure, you'll pay additionally for some of the things needed to repair or upgrade these finds, but it's usually less than what a current-day high quality model would cost. 

--------------------------------------------------

Wayne,First I agree but,it seems the current phase in the hobby is "I want it out of the box and it best be 100% correct."

The 1' to wide cars from Athearn and Roundhouse like many of us still use with our heads held high is no longer acceptable even when dressed up like Athearn ex Roundhouse FMC boxcars.

As beautiful as your reefer is I'm sure a freight car guru could point out the errors but,be that has it may you had the enjoyment of bringing that reefer up to your detail standards and IMHO that satisfaction is priceless and will never be found by taking a car out of its box and placing it on the rails.

On the other side of the coin many of us doesn't have the patience,the needed skills or time to do such modeling and we welcome those highly detailed RTR cars or more like we proudly just use those older Athearn and Roundhouse cars as they are.

Larry

Conductor.

Summerset Ry.


"Stay Alert, Don't get hurt  Safety First!"

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