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I'm not sure Athearn BB models are the value they once were....

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I'm not sure Athearn BB models are the value they once were....
Posted by DigitalGriffin on Thursday, February 15, 2024 11:10 AM

So I picked up an Athearn BB P40 for $60 for my son.  It was in good running condition non assembled, but noisy.

So first thing I did was buy:
1) $120 sound decoder TCS WOW
2) $50 Genesis Motor
3) $30 A Line drive axel kit (after shipping)
4) $10 high bass speaker

$210.   That's on top of the $60 I spent for it unassembled.  I also had to do a good bit of grinding on the frame to get the Genesis motor to fit.

Total: $270

Brand new Genesis P42 Amtrak with sound assembled: ~$320

I'm six hours in soldering up micro-leds to hot glue them. 

But now that I look at the total cost, It's not really worth $50 savings given the 7 hours time and less detail it will have.  And Athearn doesn't support parts for blue boxes.

Some Blue Boxes really need extensive work on their gearing too.  Are blue box's worth it any more?


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 Doughless on Thursday, February 15, 2024 11:44 AM

Its a matter of personal opinion.  Mine is, no.  

- Douglas

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Posted by jjdamnit on Thursday, February 15, 2024 1:15 PM

Hello All,

DigitalGriffin
Are blue box's worth it any more?

I would say a qualified, "It depends..."

From a monetary standpoint, I would say they are not compared to purchasing a new, modern, locomotive.

However...

If you are looking to upgrade a locomotive that is no longer in production for sentimental reasons or prototypical accuracy, then I would say the work is well worth the time, effort, and money.

This is a common conundrum with many modelers.

Prior to PIKOs recent release of the Krauss-Maffei ML4000 Diesel Loco these were only available on the used market in DC and required upgrading to DCC.

I'm still waiting for this locomotive to come out in the Denver and Rio Grande Western livery.

One thing the OP did not list in the equation is the cost of tools, which can be quite extensive.

Many modelers do not factor in this "hidden" cost which also makes purchasing a new, modern, locomotive more attractive over upgrading.

Hope this helps.

"Uhh...I didn’t know it was 'impossible' I just made it work...sorry"

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Posted by Tin Can II on Thursday, February 15, 2024 1:19 PM

There's the rub.  Rebuilding and detailing a blue box locomotive is a hobby within itself.  I love it, but then, that is what I grew up with.  I have accumulated enough projects and parts to last my lifetime plus.  I do not have to put sound in every locomotive that I convert to DCC, so that helps.  

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Posted by MisterBeasley on Thursday, February 15, 2024 2:01 PM

I gave up trying to get my old, 60s vintage Athearn engines to even run.  This was years ago when I started building this layout.  I got a couple of Walther/Lifelike geeps for $40 each, new in the box from M.B. Klein, installed decoders and I was happy and had much better models.

I did remove the motor from one of the old engines, added lights and a sound decoder and I run it as a dummy.  The Walthers GP9M engine ŕeflects a model that was rebuilt from old GP9 engines.  I have one of those so I perversely renumbered the old dummy geep to be the unit that was converted to the 9M model.

I think of my BB models from my childhood as old friends.  I have a GP9, a few F7As and an F7B, including remnants from my  teenage years and a couple of trainshow buys for a few dollars.

I agree that rebuilding an old engine to be a working model isn’t worth the cost and effort versus buying a new one.

But I will say that every one of my old BB boxcars and flats has been upgraded with Kadees, Intermountain metal wheelsets and sometimes new trucks if necessary.

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

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Posted by richhotrain on Thursday, February 15, 2024 2:01 PM

Never owned one. Never will.

Rich

Alton Junction

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Posted by AEP528 on Thursday, February 15, 2024 2:02 PM

jjdamnit

 

Prior to PECOs recent release of the Krauss-Maffei ML4000 Diesel Loco these were only available on the used market in DC and required upgrading to DCC.

PIKO, not PECO.

My BB locos have been in their boxes for 10+ years. Atlas and Bowser make up my current active fleet.

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Posted by wjstix on Thursday, February 15, 2024 2:51 PM

DigitalGriffin
I also had to do a good bit of grinding on the frame to get the Genesis motor to fit.

Since the BB diesels have been around so long, there have been several companies who make "drop in" replacement motors that wouldn't require the grinding. 

Stix
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Posted by Southgate 2 on Thursday, February 15, 2024 3:01 PM

You didn't mention also the factor of work involved in your cost.

Since I run DC, I won't be going to the expense of decoders, etc. The BB diesels with the gold motor  / brass flywheels and nicely detailed plastic truck frames run well, especially with a couple electrical upgrades. Some good scores can still be found on those.

Those of you who will never have them, your reasons are certainly valid!

They'll never stack up against the new stuff, but that doesn't stop me from enjoying 'em. As mentioned above, "sentimental" is a factor. BBs kept me in the hobby back in the '70s, replacing train set junk.

My BBs are outnumbered by much nicer locomotives that would merit DCC if I ever make the switch, but I wouldn't considder most of the BBs worth it, especially the whole inchilada treatment you're giving it.

Dan

 

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Posted by snjroy on Thursday, February 15, 2024 3:40 PM

I upgraded a few BB Athearns, without regrets because 1) I bought them at low cost at my LHS and shows, so upgrading costs were not too bad in the big picture; 2) Working on BB engines is a great low-risk  learning opportunity (DCC install, motor change, etc.); 3) BB engines are robust compared to modern locos, especially the handrails - this is a great feature in a club context where there is a lot of rough handling.

Simon

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Posted by Da Stumer on Thursday, February 15, 2024 6:44 PM

Yes, they're worth it. I run DC, so those upgrades aren't ones I'd do to begin with. DCC locomotives cost me more for a feature I won't be using. Younger me would say I'd rather have 5+ BB locos than one Genesis-spec model for the same price. For people without much means, which encompasses many of those on the younger end, BB models are great.

If I want a model with more detail, I can detail them myself. Detailing and kitbashing is a big part of the hobby for me, so it works out. Dan Cortopassi's BB SD40-2 build series on TSG Multimedia on YouTube was a big inspiration for my delve into building rolling stock. Everyone has a different aspect of the hobby they like, and I personally like looking at a model and saying I built that. The caveat being my layout is a pink wonderland.

As for parts, most modern Athearn parts are compatible with later-era BB models. The only thing I can think of that aren't are the drive shafts, but even then you could go the A-Line route or swap out the flywheels and shafts for the newer hex type.

That being said, my actual BB fleet is very small, as my American collection spans other steam/diesel models from Tyco/Mantua, Bachmann, and the like of similar vintage and quality. My detailed modeling focus is Korean prototype, and those are either Atlas/Proto if I'm using an American-type model or 3D printed/bashed with Athearn BB or Proto drive parts. If I didn't latch onto modeling an obscure prototype, I would definitely be using more BB locos.

-Peter. Mantua collector, 3D printing enthusiast, Korail modeler.

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Posted by BigDaddy on Thursday, February 15, 2024 6:55 PM

"Dan Cortopassi's BB SD40-2 build series on TSG Multimedia on YouTube was a big inspiration for my delve into building rolling stock"

I enjoyed the two of them.  Dan was the MR train geek and John was a videographer.  They had a falling out, which neither of them discussed although Dan seems to think John claimed ownership of the videos they produced together.  I could be totally wrong about that.

John has since become a foamer and a MR geek. He does some decoder installations reviews of new models, layout tours and what he calls Chasing Trains.

Dan did a series of videos with his wife of boxes and boxes and boxes of trains he owned.  I'm not sure if he or James Wright owns the most trains.  He has started doing reviews and project videos which is more interesting.

Henry

COB Potomac & Northern

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Posted by Morpar on Thursday, February 15, 2024 8:56 PM

Honestly it all depends upon how you derive your enjoyment from the hobby. We can all place a dollar value on our time, but is the dollar value what really matters? Personally I like to convert a DC locomotive to DCC and add the lights, sound, and details so a BB fits perfectly with my desires. And since a new undecorated loco is pretty much out of the question any more there is a place for the BB to be stripped and repainted. Does an old BB look as good as a new ScaleTrains or Genesis? Nope. But do I get a lot more modeling satisfaction out of detailing one for MY railroad? Indeed I do. Overall it's a matter of what you want to do in the hobby.

Good Luck, Morpar

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Posted by slammin on Thursday, February 15, 2024 9:16 PM

I sold off my blue box F7s and GPs in the 90s replacing them with Kato powered Stewarts, Kato powered Atlas GPs. Then with the advent of DCC and sound realized it was cheaper to buy locos already equipped with sound than to convert the existing fleet. 

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Posted by ATLANTIC CENTRAL on Thursday, February 15, 2024 10:27 PM

DigitalGriffin

So I picked up an Athearn BB P40 for $60 for my son.  It was in good running condition non assembled, but noisy.

So first thing I did was buy:
1) $120 sound decoder TCS WOW
2) $50 Genesis Motor
3) $30 A Line drive axel kit (after shipping)
4) $10 high bass speaker

$210.   That's on top of the $60 I spent for it unassembled.  I also had to do a good bit of grinding on the frame to get the Genesis motor to fit.

Total: $270

Brand new Genesis P42 Amtrak with sound assembled: ~$320

I'm six hours in soldering up micro-leds to hot glue them. 

But now that I look at the total cost, It's not really worth $50 savings given the 7 hours time and less detail it will have.  And Athearn doesn't support parts for blue boxes.

Some Blue Boxes really need extensive work on their gearing too.  Are blue box's worth it any more?


 

In your case, DCC and sound, no.

I'm a DC modeler and I only have 5 remaining Athearn Blue Box locomotives. But that far back, I only had about 15 locomotives total.

The Blue Box locos I have are all F units, all with replacement can motors. All with serious super detail upgrades, GSB cab interiors, American Limited diaphragms/close coupling, Walthers dress up kits and more.

But no little electronic brains or speakers.

Of course I model 1954 and I don't own any locomotives whose prototype is newer than 1954. So no P40's here, not from any brand.

Even though I have been in this hobby since 1967, I did not seriously expand my locomotive fleet until the 90's and beyond.

The really old stuff I had from my father is long gone - PennLine GG1, Mantua Pacific and Mikado, Varnet F3's, Lindberg SW700. By todays standards none of that stuff looked that good or ran that good.

On the other hand an upgraded Athearn F7 holds up pretty well - but I'm not looking for any more.

Most of my diesels are older Proto2000's (a long list of first generation ALCO's and EMD's), Intermountain (EMD F units), Bowser (new RS3's), Genesis (EMD F units), etc.

My average unit cost of acquisition is about $100 per loco.

And that includes the steam fleet - Proto2000, Bachmann Spectrum, BLI, some brass, etc.

As many have said so far, we all have different needs and wants, different goals for the hobby, and different talents. 

Sheldon

    

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Posted by hon30critter on Thursday, February 15, 2024 10:44 PM

richhotrain
Never owned one. Never will.

I have only owned one BB switcher locomotive. I thought that the P2K locomotives' better detailing justified the additional cost. The only thing that I don't like about the P2K switchers is that the handrails tend to warp.

I do add DCC Loksound decoders which adds to the cost, but I don't have to change motors or trucks so ultimately I don't think there is a huge cost difference between the two.

Cheers!!

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 Darth Santa Fe on Friday, February 16, 2024 12:29 AM

I've heard that putting some Pearl Drops toothpaste into the gears of the original Athearn trucks and running it in both directions for a while really gets them burnished and running nice and smooth.  You can also get motors that run just as well as the Roco/Genesis motor for a lot cheaper (like the Bachmann E33 motor) and mount them with bath sealant.  That's about $50 saved right there.  The new Genesis model actually uses the old Blue Box trucks, so you can get just the new gears and place them into an old truck if the old gears aren't working so well.

For the models being worth it, that depends on who's buying it.  If you want the latest in sound and control tech, anything older than about 2015 or so isn't going to be a good deal next to a new model that has those higher quality electronics pre-installed.  If you're like me though and don't have much interest in sound and all, the Blue Box models are certainly worth the lower up-front cost.  In fact, the only reason I haven't bought a Bachmann Siemens Charger is because of their refusal to offer them without sound.  If there was a no-sound version, I would've gotten one years ago, but the extra $100 premium for something I'm going to pull out and stick in a bin isn't worth it.

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Posted by FRRYKid on Friday, February 16, 2024 2:46 AM

I find that the old BB Athearns still have quite a bit of value.

I have 4 Athearn F7s (3As and a B). I also have an SW7 and a SW1000. When I wanted to add a local run switcher for my operations, I specifically searched for the 1000. I did change out the sideframes for some Smokey Valley Flexicoil sideframes to make it a road engine but otherwise it is stock Athearn with some detail parts and custom decals. I also have two GP9s that are kitbashed to a specfic prototype. I also have an SD40-2 that is the newest in prototype age as well as an SD45.

Also, I have 10 engines that are repowers using Athearn GP35 drives. (9 GP20s from Tyco shells and a GP30 from a Bachmann shell.) I wouldn't want to kitbash with more expensive engines.

Those engines represent a fairly high percentage of my engine fleet.

I also have a bunch of cars that are Athearn kitbashes. All of them were done because the BB cars and parts were inexpensive and easy to work with.

I run DC so I don't worry about decoders and such. Athearn engines are fairly easy to troubleshoot if there's a problem.

"The only stupid question is the unasked question."
Brain waves can power an electric train. RealFact #832 from Snapple.
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Posted by Southgate 2 on Friday, February 16, 2024 3:34 AM

I just realized that of the 11 engines on the late '60s layout, not counting excursion steamers in the roundhouse area, but in "revenue" service, 6 are BB, while 3 are P2K, 1  YB Atlas. Add a BB F7 in excursion. 

Yeah, while most of my "nicer" engines are awaiting paint and such, The BBs are moving the freight. Smile, Wink & Grin  Dan 

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Posted by riogrande5761 on Friday, February 16, 2024 7:22 AM

Given the upgrades the OP mentioned, were blue box ever worth it?  Isn't it all that extra stuff/expense why he is complaining?

Rio Grande.  The Action Road  - Focus 1977-1983

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Posted by rrebell on Friday, February 16, 2024 7:27 AM

Never owned and run a BB, may have gotten one in a trade, if so resold right away. When I got back into the hobby in the 80's they were bottom fruit even then. Last purchace was an Walthers NW2 in DCC and sound, runs as well as my old Kato's did without the work and was only $150 a few years ago (like around 2). The only advantage of the Kato is it is much heavier so can pull better.

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Posted by maxman on Friday, February 16, 2024 8:07 AM

riogrande5761

Given the upgrades the OP mentioned, were blue box ever worth it?  Isn't it all that extra stuff/expense why he is complaining?

 

That's what I thought.

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Posted by snjroy on Friday, February 16, 2024 11:25 AM

A few other things I'd like to add. One, BB refers to many generations of locos. Later BBs had better motors and/or wheels. The "gold" motors can hold pretty well. Two, about the wheels, while the original non-polished wheels got dirty fairly quickly, it's not really necessary to change all of them. On 6 axle engines, I leave two sets of the originals. They provide better traction than the polished ones.

Simon 

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Posted by wjstix on Friday, February 16, 2024 1:15 PM

Athearn announced a while back that they were upgrading the F7 with a more accurate body, improved motor, and 21-pin receptacle. Not available yet, but expected soon. 

Stix
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Posted by riogrande5761 on Friday, February 16, 2024 1:53 PM

maxman
 
 
riogrande5761

Given the upgrades the OP mentioned, were blue box ever worth it?  Isn't it all that extra stuff/expense why he is complaining?

 

 

That's what I thought. 

 

So the original complaint is kind of a nothing burger.

 

And besides, it's more of a $70 difference because you can get a quality decoder for under $100.  If someone is tight for money, they to do the upgrade over a couple months and save $70. 

Rio Grande.  The Action Road  - Focus 1977-1983

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Posted by Billwiz on Friday, February 16, 2024 2:47 PM

I've done a few.  One needed a replacement motor which I found online for about $25.00.  The decoders I use are around $40.00 with sound.  Not the greatest but I'm not looking for the greatest.  Overall it has been a great way to improve my skills on overall locomotive maintenance and upgrades and build a small fleet at a low cost.  

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Posted by Canalligators on Friday, February 16, 2024 11:06 PM

My issue is having half a dozen BB locos with custom freelanced paint. I want to convert the road to DCC, and don't want to paint all new engines.  I'll probably remotor them and possibly polish the gears, shim the worm gears, etc. as will give functional improvement.

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Posted by BradenD on Friday, February 16, 2024 11:49 PM

It seems to me the OP could have been more shrewd with parts sourcing. I get my tcs wow decoders for a bit under $100.

You can get speakers for under a dollar although they aren't high bass. I'm assuming thats not a huge concern since its a BB locomotive not a super high end loco.

You can find the A line axel gears for about 15 dollars on amazon. Motors can be found on ebay for about 3 dollars.

All said and done you could spend $180ish.

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Posted by scott7891 on Saturday, February 17, 2024 10:19 AM

As others have said it is a whole lot of depends:

Running a DC layout and prototypical detail isn't a huge concern? Only doing a DCC No Sound upgrade and want to learn how to do DCC installs without damaging an expensive model?  Sentimental value behind it?  Then it is worth it.

Want the latest and greatest prototypical features with newest DCC and Sound and you think you found a shortcut by DIY?  Then no, you didn't, and there are much newer, better options available.

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Posted by DigitalGriffin on Saturday, February 17, 2024 4:46 PM

Everyone loves BB because they are impossible to destroy and run forever for a cheap price.

I thought I could get a cheap loco for my son.  I bought it without adding up the cost.  But once I got it up to modern standards, I started to realize it wasn't such a deal.  And it left me wondering why so many people are stuck on these old blue boxes as the best thing ever.

 

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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