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United Models Brass locomotives

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  • Member since
    October 2003
  • From: Maine
  • 81 posts
United Models Brass locomotives
Posted by Kimble on Sunday, July 10, 2022 6:50 AM

Can anyone tell me about United Models? I have in my possession a 2-8-0 brass locomotive (MEC 527). I don't recall where I got it. Being the only family member who is still into model railoraoding, I've "inherited" boxes of rolling stock, motive power and what not over the last 15 years. 

The only  searches that turn up are online sales. I'd like to know more abou the company.

Thanks,

Rob Carignan

Portland, Maine

  • Member since
    January 2017
  • From: Southern Florida Gulf Coast
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Posted by SeeYou190 on Sunday, July 10, 2022 10:30 AM

United was one of the main builders for Pacific Fast Mail imports.

Their models are usually heavy construction and nearly bullet-proof as runners.

-Kevin

Living the dream and happily modeling my STRATTON AND GILLETTE Railroad in HO scale. The SGRR is a freelanced Class A railroad as it would have appeared on Tuesday, August 3rd, 1954, in my personal fantasy world of plausible nonsense.

  • Member since
    May 2019
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Posted by BEAUSABRE on Sunday, July 10, 2022 9:46 PM

United built perhaps the most popular HO locomotive ever built, the AT&SF 1950 class 2-8-0 HO Brass PFM United ATSF Santa Fe 2-8-0 #1950 - Custom | BRASSTRAINS.COM                                                                                                       

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Posted by drgwcs on Sunday, July 10, 2022 11:54 PM

BEAUSABRE

United built perhaps the most popular HO locomotive ever built, the AT&SF 1950 class 2-8-0 HO Brass PFM United ATSF Santa Fe 2-8-0 #1950 - Custom | BRASSTRAINS.COM                                                                                                       

 

It seemed like united specialized in longer and larger runs. In HOn3 their C&S mogul and consolidation probable were produced more than nearly all other C&S locos combined. 

  • Member since
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  • From: Pennsylvania
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Posted by Trainman440 on Monday, July 11, 2022 10:19 AM

BEAUSABRE

United built perhaps the most popular HO locomotive ever built, the AT&SF 1950 class 2-8-0

Probably the most popular HO BRASS loco ever made, Id argue the most popular HO steam locomotive in general is likely either the USRA mik (made by BLI, MTH, Bachmann, Genesis, Trix, Oriental LTD, and a BUNCH of brass makers) or the Bachmann 2-8-0 which are just iconic.

But ya United models really are fantastic. Because of the huge build quantities, they arent rare at all, can be had for fairly cheap, and have really high build quality. Some details can be improved, the motors usually need upgrading to cans, some gearboxes have lots of slop. The brass material alloy they used is strong and robust, but isnt super friendly to solder without extremely high temps, atleast compared to the rest. 

Some of the best brass models money can buy for the value. 

Charles

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

Modeling the Santa Fe & Pennsylvania in HO

Youtube Channel: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCLb3FRqukolAtnD1khrb6lQ

Instagram (where I share projects!): https://www.instagram.com/trainman440

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Posted by SeeYou190 on Monday, July 11, 2022 12:51 PM

Trainman440
Some of the best brass models money can buy for the value. 

That sums it up very well.

I only have two united models, and their little 2-6-2 runs like a gem even with the tiny open frame motor. The MA&PA 2-8-0, which is over 40 years old, still runs good with no cleaning or new lube. No where near as noisy as my Tenshodo 0-8-0 from the same period.

-Kevin

Living the dream and happily modeling my STRATTON AND GILLETTE Railroad in HO scale. The SGRR is a freelanced Class A railroad as it would have appeared on Tuesday, August 3rd, 1954, in my personal fantasy world of plausible nonsense.

  • Member since
    August 2006
  • 1,471 posts
Posted by trainnut1250 on Monday, July 11, 2022 1:49 PM

Just keeping it real from someone else with lots of brass experience.

Always try and see the locomotive run before purchase or pay accordingly - many of these models are 40 or 50 years old at this point. While the brand may have a good overall reputation, it always comes down to the individual locomotive. I have several United Models, some run great - some don't.

I realize that it is hard to tell in an Ebay (or similar) auction how well the model runs but I always try to either pay a little under market if the running quality is unknown or purchase models that have videos of the running performance.

Some sellers are making these videos and linking them in their auctions. I have avoided a couple of dogs and bought a couple of nice runners using the videos. Some of the worst runners were bought relying solely on the sellers description of running quality.

Your mileage may vary,

Guy

see stuff at: the Willoughby Line Site

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Posted by Trainman440 on Tuesday, July 12, 2022 10:48 AM

Mel brings up a good point. 

For the most part i believe that all brass locos can be repaired. theyre designed to be extremely easy to swap out for replacement parts, easily disassembled, etc. There are only very few parts/issues that cant be repaired or replaced. (such as wheel zinc rot).

One part that can be easily replaced is the gearbox. PFM united engines all tend to run very smoothly, however there is a lot of variability with vibration and noise. Some engines run really noisy, others run quiet. There are ways to quiet a gearbox but some of these gearboxes truly are unsavable imo. As a general rule, I just replace all my PFM locos with NWSL gearboxes, they run so much quieter! Its around $30, a small price to pay to make a $200 loco run buttery smooth, and (along with a can motor) will make it run as well as a $1000 brass loco. 

Charles

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

Modeling the Santa Fe & Pennsylvania in HO

Youtube Channel: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCLb3FRqukolAtnD1khrb6lQ

Instagram (where I share projects!): https://www.instagram.com/trainman440

  • Member since
    January 2017
  • From: Southern Florida Gulf Coast
  • 16,260 posts
Posted by SeeYou190 on Tuesday, July 12, 2022 10:58 AM

I have a question.

Do you guys make improvements on locomotives that perform perfectly?

I am asking because of my Tenshodo 0-8-0. It runs flawlessly. Never hesitates, jerks, derails, binds, needs a shove, or anything. I ran this locomotive for ten years on SGRR layout 4/4.5, and it never failed.

But... it is noisy, smells like ozone, and has a high starting speed.

I am sure it would benefit from a new gearbox and can motor, but it will never be more reliable. I just don't think I will ever do anything to it.

-Kevin

Living the dream and happily modeling my STRATTON AND GILLETTE Railroad in HO scale. The SGRR is a freelanced Class A railroad as it would have appeared on Tuesday, August 3rd, 1954, in my personal fantasy world of plausible nonsense.

  • Member since
    August 2006
  • 1,471 posts
Posted by trainnut1250 on Tuesday, July 12, 2022 11:41 AM

Kevin

That is a tricky one. In general I try to not work on brass if I can avoid it. However, I run DCC, so everything gets a decoder, lights and often a can motor.

I have found if the gearbox is quiet and smooth, installing the can motor is pretty simple and you end up with good runner with a low current draw. It can get more complicated if the motor frame is part of the driveline support (brackets, bearings etc.)

I have tried super magnets in old open frame motors and while others get good results, I am not a fan. I found the current draw was lower but operation was not as smooth running as a can motor. Because I run DCC, I like to have a low current draw to keep the decoders happy (believe me - you want to keep the decoders happy).

If the loco has other problems, I will definitely try to fix them to get a good running loco. Sometimes the magic works, sometimes not. Seem nearly every OPs session new gremlins appear.

I have a box of locos waiting for repair - some mnor tweaks, others need more major work. Since I run OPs, and am building a layout to finescale standards, there is lots to do. The box often sits.

One other comment is that if the running gear is good and things run smooth, I don't take the running gear apart to paint things. I'll use a brush and spray while the loco mechanism is moving. In short - if it ain't broke, don't fix it...Too much from me..

Guy

see stuff at: the Willoughby Line Site

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Posted by Trainman440 on Tuesday, July 12, 2022 2:24 PM

Hi Kevin, all my brass have/will eventually get the following:

Motor: upgraded to can if stock motor is open frame.

Gears: upgraded to NWSL gearbox if noisy/not smooth/bad gear ratio

Springs: upgraded with NWSL light springs if stock springs are stiff (like on PFM United locos).

Lights: SMD LEDs if stock loco has no lights or bulbs.

Tubing: Replaced unless it has already been replaced by original owner. Will use universals if necessary. 

Plus DCC sound decoder, and keep alive circuit if space allows. 

All engines will be tuned regardless of what it came with. Some engines already run great and need very little work, like locos from Key or NJCB. Most engines need upgrades though. 

Due to limited time, there are some mechanical upgrades I dont do such as a screw on brass motor mount (I just use silicone glue), nor do i spring my motor mounts nor do I make custom motor to gearbox arms. They do marginally improve the running qualities but I have found my current setup to be good enough and also easy/quick to upgrade. 

In your case, the smell of ozone is a bad sign. I suggest atleast a remotor, possibly a regear too. It sounds like there also might be a lot of resistance in the drive (which can be tested by simply removing the gearbox and seeing how freely  the wheels roll)...if so some troubleshooting might be needed to see whats causing such resistance. Doing this will significantly reduce the extra current draw and wear on the mechanism, and also reduce the heat thats building up from running an inefficient motor. It can absolutely be made to run more reliable. 

If youd like, create a new forum thread and send us some pics! I might be able to help. 

Charles

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

Modeling the Santa Fe & Pennsylvania in HO

Youtube Channel: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCLb3FRqukolAtnD1khrb6lQ

Instagram (where I share projects!): https://www.instagram.com/trainman440

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Posted by Graham Line on Tuesday, July 12, 2022 2:56 PM

"But... it is noisy, smells like ozone, and has a high starting speed."

I'd start by looking at the brushes for oil or excess tension, or excessive wear. Could be a cheap fix.

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Posted by wrench567 on Tuesday, July 12, 2022 9:05 PM

  Rob.

 Old brass steam locomotives can be hit or miss. I have an old MB Austin 2-6-0 that was sitting in the box for about forty years. Had absolutely no wear. I super tuned the open frame motor and installed LED headlight and decoder/speaker. Runs smooth and quiet. Shortly after the plating started peeling off the drivers. I will eventually find replacements but until I do it still runs good.

  I don't have a brass steamer that I haven't disassembled completely and gone through everything, even side rods. Don't discount open frame motors. I run three of them all under one amp stalled. With a good BEMF decoder powering it you can get great torque and slower speed. They usually have oil wicks and beefier windings over a can.

      Pete.

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Posted by Tin Can II on Wednesday, July 13, 2022 10:01 AM

I have a United SF 4-8-4 that I got in the 80's.  At the time, I was in a club in Dallas with a permanent layout, and it looked good and ran well.  I bought a BLI 4-8-4 in the 00s that came with factory DCC and sound, and the United loco hasn't run since.  At some time, I intend to install DCC and sound, but without a place to run anything right now, it is not a priority.

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Posted by Trainman440 on Wednesday, July 13, 2022 12:48 PM

Tin Can II

I have a United SF 4-8-4 that I got in the 80's.  At the time, I was in a club in Dallas with a permanent layout, and it looked good and ran well.  I bought a BLI 4-8-4 in the 00s that came with factory DCC and sound, and the United loco hasn't run since.  At some time, I intend to install DCC and sound, but without a place to run anything right now, it is not a priority.

I mean these are two fundamentally different classes, the BLI 4-8-4 is a 3751 class loco whereas the PFM United is a 3776/2900 class 4-8-4. If you model ATSF seriously, I dont see how the BLI loco could replace the United model especially considering when the 3776/2900 class was way more prominent irl on the ATSF than the 3751 class.

 

Just giving you an excuse to dig out that United model and spend some time upgrading her :)

Charles

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

Modeling the Santa Fe & Pennsylvania in HO

Youtube Channel: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCLb3FRqukolAtnD1khrb6lQ

Instagram (where I share projects!): https://www.instagram.com/trainman440

  • Member since
    March 2021
  • 145 posts
Posted by Tin Can II on Wednesday, July 13, 2022 3:59 PM

Charles, you make very valid points.  At the time, I didn't know much about the ATSF (although it has always been my favorite railroad).  I literally bought the United because I liked it  As I have learned more about the prototypes; it pains me that the 4-8-4s weren't used on the Texas mainlines in Central Texas, where I want to model. 

My pre-teen son liked to run the BLI 4-8-4 with a string of heavyweight coaches; may not have been exactly prototypical, but it was a way to get him to like trains.  When I have something to run on in the basement, I expect to be able to coax him into the train room to run again.

My recent purchases have been a BLI 2-8-2 and a Key 1050 class prairie to complement a Key 1000 class prairie I already had.  All three are more representative of the power that ran between Temple and Brownwood in the age of steam.

 

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Posted by Overmod on Wednesday, July 13, 2022 5:16 PM

SeeYou190
But... it is noisy, smells like ozone, and has a high starting speed.

1)  Do the NIB-magnet-and-shim thing (remember that you can't safely cut or grind the actual magnets).

2)  Check and gently file the brushes to remove pitting or contamination, if there is any, and make sure that the springs and brush leads are good.  Sometimes you might want to stretch the springs slightly if the brushes have worn short...

3) Carefully stone the commutator, and clean out the slots between segments as thoroughly as you can.  You can very gently chamfer the leading edges of the segments to reduce any tendency to grab or spark destructively, and you might be able to fit a trailing brush and resistor to 'soften' the inductive surge and limit pitting or erosion.

DrW
  • Member since
    January 2008
  • From: Lubbock, TX
  • 305 posts
Posted by DrW on Wednesday, July 13, 2022 6:46 PM

Tin Can II

Charles, you make very valid points.  At the time, I didn't know much about the ATSF (although it has always been my favorite railroad).  I literally bought the United because I liked it  As I have learned more about the prototypes; it pains me that the 4-8-4s weren't used on the Texas mainlines in Central Texas, where I want to model. 

My pre-teen son liked to run the BLI 4-8-4 with a string of heavyweight coaches; may not have been exactly prototypical, but it was a way to get him to like trains.  When I have something to run on in the basement, I expect to be able to coax him into the train room to run again.

My recent purchases have been a BLI 2-8-2 and a Key 1050 class prairie to complement a Key 1000 class prairie I already had.  All three are more representative of the power that ran between Temple and Brownwood in the age of steam.

While not in central Texas, engines of both 3751 and 3776 classes had been assigned to the Panhandle and/or Pecos divisions in West Texas.

As to your son's choices, the ATSF heavy-weight "Grand Canyon Limited" was often pulled by a 3776 class 4-8-4. However, when "The Coach Yard" (TCY) made the video to present their brass rendition of the Grand Canyon Limited, it was pulled by ... ATSF 3751 (look at the initial frames of the video).

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QVjeYp95J8k

As a side note, the TCY Grand Canyon Limited is probably the most beautiful brass model train consist I have ever seen. The model even includes a feature not mentioned in any of TCY's promotional material: one of the trucks of the baggage car is powered, in case your loco needs some help to pull the train.

  • Member since
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Posted by Trainman440 on Wednesday, July 13, 2022 10:25 PM

Could never afford TCY cars lol, really wish Walthers would make more heavyweight ATSF cars. They made the chair car years ago and sell for insanely inflated prices these days. Would like to see some more. 

Anyways, lets stay on topic and end the ATSF focused talk. 

Charles

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

Modeling the Santa Fe & Pennsylvania in HO

Youtube Channel: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCLb3FRqukolAtnD1khrb6lQ

Instagram (where I share projects!): https://www.instagram.com/trainman440

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