Want to post a reply to this topic?
Login or register for an acount to join our online community today!

Looking for a good, short, inexpensive HO steam switcher.

  • My eight year old son and I attended the local train show last weekend and when we got home he pulled out all my old train stuff. We found a small place in his room to put up a 2' x 4' switching layout and I've got the board together and even have some track in place.

     The biggest problem, though, is that with the track plan we have, there's not a lot of room for cars and an engine on the sidings. I have a 70's Mantua 0-4-0 tank switcher that would be the perfect engine for switching this track IF it ran well ( and it NEVER ran well as a switcher ). Even an 0-4-0 with a tender is a little too long for this layout. Sad

    I'm looking for something similar in size, and it HAS to be a steam engine ( so my son says ). Does anyone have any suggestions on what I can use? I'd like to keep costs down, but I'm willing to pay a little more for quality... It also needs to be pretty smooth, since I know that if the engine is jerky and/or too fast that he'll lose interest.



    Replies to this thread are ordered from "oldest to newest".   To reverse this order, click here.
    To learn about more about sorting options, visit our FAQ page.
  • Suggestion:  Bachmann's 2-6-0 Mogul.  it is new to the market, not too expensive, and does come DCC sound equipped.  THis locomotive and about a dozen or less cars, plus some purposeful trackage (not just round and round) can go a long way to accomplish what it is you want to do.

    Rich C.

    PS:  my son just bought his son a Lionel set, which, for a four year-old, is good as it is big enough for him to hand,le.  My grandson opned the box and the other presents just faded into the westering haze.  I purchased some turnouts, crossovers and more track, plus a couple of cars not in that box for him.  Good Luck.

  • Try a Model Power 0-4-0T switcher.  I have one and it runs fine and has directional lighting.  The gear ratio is a little too low and it races along at 80mph, but otherwise it runs fine.  No front coupler, but a little cutting and gluing and you can fit a coupler box in just fine.

    The 0-4-0 is a smooth runner albeit fast.  Model Power also makes a 4 wheel porter diesel switcher that is the same size.  Both can be had for about $20.


    Modeling the Pennsy and loving it!

  • How about Bachmann's 0-6-0T? The Spectrum version. Has couplers front & back. Might be a little privy depending on your budget. Usually can be had for under $100. And is available in both DC &DCC versions.
    Dvds IGN
  • I second the suggestion of the Spectrum 0-6-0T

    $59.99 from Trainworld with DCC onboard - which can run on DC or DCC.  Pretty hard to find it without DCC anymore.

    The Bachmann 2-6-0 is too big, and the non-Spectrum version does not run as well.

    The Model Power 0-4-0T is not as good as the Mantua you already have.


    Nigel N&W in HO scale, 1950 - 1955 (..and some a bit newer too) Now in San Jose, California
  • I agree that the Spectrum 0-6-0T would be best, but it seemed since the OP said that he wanted something cheap, I assumed that anything over about $40 would be too expensive.  The Model Power 0-4-0 runs well as slow speeds, but it has a very unrealistic top speed (it outruns all my other locomotives.)  A little careful painting of the details on the 0-4-0 make it look reasonable, and it has pretty reliable pickup.  You could wire a resistor in series with the power pack to cut down the loco's top speed, though it would take a little trial and erreor to get the right size resistor.

    Pretty much any model switcher will have a top speed quite a bit higher than the 35mph or so of the real ones.

    Mantua also makes an 0-6-0 that can be had for about $100 at a train show with dual mode DCC and sound.


    Modeling the Pennsy and loving it!

  • I would also reccomend the Bachmann Spectrum 0-6-0T. I have both the Spectrum and the Mantua, The Spectrum runs better and looks better than the Mantua. Both of mine are straight DC.

     A similar topic came up in the past, Here are some comparative pictures of mine.

    Edit: The Bachmann is Cab# 89, the Mantua is cab# 92



    May your flanges always stay BETWEEN the rails

  • Wow, this is an OLD thread, I just noticed that the first reply(01-01-2013) was almost FOUR YEARS after the original posting(03-11-2009).

     I wonder what the OP eventually bought, and how the layout turned out, is the 8, now 12 yearold Son still enjoying it?


    May your flanges always stay BETWEEN the rails

  • One comment about the Spectrum 0-6-0T. Have you ever noticed it waddles like a duck?

    Thx IGN

  • I don't remember that, sounds like a wheel bored off center, or a bent axle. Have you seen many like that, or just one or a few? My interests have changed to 3 Rail O-Gauge, and I have done very little with HO for several years, even my time at the club has gone down dramatically, I have just lost most interest in the smaller scales.


    May your flanges always stay BETWEEN the rails

  • Wow - I can't believe that this WAS so long ago!!

    The little 2x4 layout has been in my son's room ever since we finished the track work, and he still uses it on occassion. Mostly he'll just position a few cars around the sidings and shuttle them to the "industries". The only thing we ever did finish was the trackwork... SOME day we'll find the time and space to expand things.

    What we ended up with for a switcher is somewhat ironic, but "love is blind". When we went to the local hobby shop (The Hobby Gallery in Wolcott, CT - HIGHLY rated) on one of the display cases was an OLD metal bodied Mantua 040T switcher. My son saw that and HAD to have it, and the hobby shop pretty much gave it to us for only a few dollars, since it was so old. Surprisingly, that little switcher does a pretty reasonable job and actually runs better than the 70's 040T that I had!

    I've looked over this thread and I'm sure a newer switcher like the Spectrums would be even better, but until we expand things, I think we're actually in pretty good shape.

    I absolutely appreciate all the responses this has generated, even after four years!!! Thanks to everyone for their input!!



  • Hi, Bill  Hope you're still checking this.

    Is that the old Mantua 'Booster' 0-4-0T?  If so, it's a pretty good model of a Pennsylvania RR A5a,  Spotting detail is the square cross-section Belpaire firebox in front of the cab wall.

    It's also well nigh indestructible.  Mine has been in on-and-off use since the early 50s, still runs well - and is the only purely American prototype loco that has free run of my Japanese prototype layout.

    Looks like you picked a winner,

    Chuck (Modeling Central Japan in September, 1964)

  • Good to read that the Model Power 0-4-0 is decent enough engine, I was hesitant to get one for a planned Gn15 project.

       Have fun with your trains

  • Hello All, I am new to this forum and about 1 year into model railroading (HO scale). As I look through the posts on this thread, I realize this is old and Bill is set with a switcher, but for what it's worth, I have both of the Model Power 0-4-0 tank switcher and the Bachman Spectrum 0-6-0T DCC switcher. I got both of these switchers from TrainWorld: the Bachmann switcher for $49 on sale and the ModelPower switcher for around $16 on sale. The MP 0-4-0 switcher is not as smooth and I agree with the gear ratio being off, but it can easily pull several cars through the yards without any problems. It does fine with Bachmann turnouts where other engines derail - even at high speeds. My 5 year old son plays with it often. The Bachman Spectrum 0-6-0T is a great little saddle tank switcher and is DCC too. Not bad for $49 or even $59 bucks. It does run smooth and I do not get any waddle at all. I am currently running DC and will be switching to DCC as my layout expands later this year (2014). I will create a separate DC based layout for my son for him to enjoy some of the basic engines and the Bachmann HO Thomas sets that he currently runs on my layout. I also have an old Mantua 0-4-0 that I got for $5 at a train show (Timonium, MD show in Oct.) and that initially was not running well - but a little cleaning and lubrication and it runs great! It is really heavy with a metal shell that has taken some beating over the years by it's prior owner. Hope this adds some more details and support info for anyone else looking to get any of these switchers. Thanks.