Athern Engines

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kbbgood

New Member
Back in the 90's I was in a good place money wise so I was buying a lot of engines and cars as well. Not really knowing what I was doing as far as types I got GP20's, 38's 50's 60's SD40-2 and SD45's maybe even a few SW1500's. All both running and fake. So I've been looking to get a few more and it looks like they quite making the one's from back then or have they? Don't live where I can get to a store and look at them now. Just have to deal with the internet now. House almost paid off and am going to build a garage with a 24x15 room on the end of it just for a train room. Can't wait. How do I know which ones are likt the one's from back then?
 

montanan

Whiskey Merchant
First off, Welcome to the forum. Welcome.gif

I am in about the same boat as you are when it comes to not having any hobby shops around. There was a point when my work on my layout which I started over 30 ago had just about grinded to a halt. Internet retailers are just about the only place I have to shop for model railroad supplies unless I manage to find a shop while on road trips. I saw your post about a Helix abd the well cars, but I model the transition era and am into older equipment.

Just ask as many questions as you have to as I am sure that someone on the best forum on the internet will be able to answer. Stop by the Coffee Shop and have a cup and shoot the breeze too.

When I changed over from N scale to HO around 30 some years ago, Athearn locomotives were probably the best bang for the buck. I had a few which I did quite a lot of work on in order to make them perform better. Than Atlas brought out their line of Alco locomotives which were so much better with the Kato drive. Ended up with a dozen of them. Since them, a lot of manufacturers have come out with some really fine running locomotives.

A question - are you operating DCC or DC ?? I am an old fart and a lone operator and am sticking with DC as I am a lone operator and my layout was built mainly for switching and I rarely operate more than one locomotive at a time. Atlas does make some really nice running locomotives in DC versions, but lets find out first which control system you are running and work from there.
 

santafewillie

Same Ol' Buzzard
I'll address Athearn first since that is what you specifically asked about. Athearn engines from the 90's are just that. Athearn engines from the 90's. They are not bad, especially with a little tweaking and detailing. You can still get them on E-Bay and other Internet reselling sites. Any engine that you buy from the last 15 or so years is going to have more detailing and generally will run better at slower speeds. Athearn took many of the same locomotives and upgraded them several times with road specific details, directional lighting, hard-wired the engine, installed better quality metal wheels, closed the pilot and attached the bodies with screws, and added authentic numberboards. And all of them allow easy plug-in decoder installation. Their Genesis line is one of the top-notch products available today. Many other manufacturers are out there that make diesels on the Genesis level, Atlas and Kato to name a couple. I don't own any Intermountain or ScaleTrains at this moment so I cannot directly comment. I do have four ScaleTrains SD40-2's on pre-order so I will know near the end of the year. Most manufacturers do not offer "dummy" locos any more. The P2K line which came out in the late 90's also run well. I also cannot comment on recent Walther's or Bachmann products since I don't own any of them either, but I hear that Bachmann has improved considerably.
As to whether or not they quit making them, I can say that I purchased a number of Athearn GP60M's and SD40-2's around 2011. Being a Santa Fe modeler, I also bought 5 CF7's around the same time.
Google what you are interested in. Amazon and E-bay as well as the traditional model RR online stores have them.

Willie
 

kbbgood

New Member
What I would like to know is what is the difference between blue box and the rtr engines now sold? And what websites are the best sites to look for Athern and their parts? Thanks you guys.
 

santafewillie

Same Ol' Buzzard
Athearn took many of the same locomotives and upgraded them several times with road specific details, directional lighting, hard-wired the engine, installed better quality metal wheels, closed the pilot and attached the bodies with screws, and added authentic numberboards.
I don't buy online because I have access to a LHS.
Willie
 

Rico

BN Modeller
To add to Willies response there's one huge improvement from the old blue box runs, and that's the bulbs being in the headlights and not in the loco cab. Big step forward.
Another would be more prototypical handrails.
 

Greg@mnrr

Section Hand
Also, the newer locomotives have better metal wheel material and improved power pickup from the trucks to the motor.

Greg
 

montanan

Whiskey Merchant
Greg had a good point. When I was upgrading my old Athearn locomotives one of the first things that I did was to replace the Athearn wheels with nickle silver wheels and I also ended up replacing to original Athearn motors with a quality can motor. Instead of using the metal strap that runs over the top of the motor to the trucks, I got out my soldering iron and hard wired these connections. I also added constant directional lighting. These locomotives were upgraded nearly 30 years ago and are still in service and run as well as any new locomotives with the changes that were made.
 

kbbgood

New Member
Thanks guys. I kind of understand what they did. I have some work to do. Can fake engines be made to run with their parts?
 

montanan

Whiskey Merchant
Athearn has introduced their Genisis line which is a step up from the old blue box locomotives. I do have a couple of them and they run as well as anything on the market today. I was a little gun shy with having to do so much work to the early locomotives, but they were given good reviews in model railroad magazines so I thought I would give one a try. Ran almost as good as my Kato drive Atlas locomotives.
 

Iron Horseman

Well-Known Member
Thanks guys. I kind of understand what they did. I have some work to do. Can fake engines be made to run with their parts?
Yes, a dummy locomotive can be powered by adding the appropriate parts. Especially the Athearn Blue box and the Ready to Run. Fairly easy conversion.

Almost no one makes dummy locomotives these days, unless they designed to work exclusively with another powered unit (thinking of the BLI Alco Ps, and the EMD E1s).
 
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Greg@mnrr

Section Hand
Just the reverse approach Iron Horseman....

I took an powered Athearn SW 1500, removed the motor and drive linkage to the trucks and added a LED headlight. Powered unit to a Dummy unit.

This engine will be a rear end helper for my 120+ ore train unit train that's pulled by my two Atlas Milwaukee Road U Boats with DCC. No need to match speed steps since it is a un-powered Dummy.

Need to weather the unit. Going to be very dirty since it is always working from the rear and an older unit.

Wish I could find more Dummy units.

Greg
 
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riogrande

Active Member
How do I know which ones are likt the one's from back then?
Basically all the Athearn engines were in the kit blue box line in the 1990's and earlier. For about the past 15 years or so, Athearn has been selling their engines assembled as RTR (ready to run) and they are in yellow and blue boxes and require basically no assembly although a few may come with a some parts you can add like tank fillers etc. If you can't see their stuff in a hobby shop, you can view a lot of it on the website.

http://www.athearn.com/

Even if something is out of stock, you can see those items (for reference) by checking the "view retired models" check box. For example this page:

http://www.athearn.com/Search/Default.aspx?SearchTerm=sd40-2loco+RTR&CatID=THLD

Will show in-stock GP40-2's but past runs that are out can be seen if you check that box on the left side of the screen.

Athearn has come a long way in the past 20 years so check'em out. Some of their RTR diesels are more basic in detail, while others, like the SD40, SD45 and SD45T-2 are all nicely detailed.
 

chessie_system3

Well-Known Member
How is it I got left out of this one? I run a mixed bag of new and old Athearns on my layout. Truth be told the Athearn RTR parts do work on the old Athearns. I have a BB with the DCC board and directional lighting. I do all my Athearn shopping now a days on eBay. It's a win some lose some deal however. Sometimes I can score a locomotive for under $20. Other times it's upwards of $50 for an old bluebox.

Sent from my LGLS675 using Tapatalk
 
some of the ready to run models are pretty much assembled blue box with the plastic handrails and a little better motor. some with a little better detail. they are also out in the roundhouse name. some also still have the crew frier headlight. i still rather buy those and add a decoder and buy the detail parts you deem to be important.
 

Greg@mnrr

Section Hand
I have an old BB F and B unit locomotive set that I have had for 30+ years. The powered unit may just become a "hobby" project using a motor from a PK2 locomotive and circuit board for DCC. Could be a fun project to bring new live to this vintage model.

Greg
 
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tootnkumin

Well-Known Member
Staff member
Between BB and RTR (Ready to Roll) there was a transition model. It used the BB chassis, motor and metal strip connection method of those older types. The shell still had the gap in the pilot beneath the coupler and was held to the chassis by 4 clips that extended down through the fuel tank, motor recess in the chassis. I only had 1 of this type and swore I'd never get another, because of the great difficulty disengaging those 4 clips without them popping back on whilst doing it. They did have wire grabs added to the shell, instead of the BB's moulded on ones, and a choice of the BB wire hand rails, or the new, finer detailed, Delrin plastic handrails/stanchions. Having the BB motor/lighting system, they are not so easily converted to DCC. They came in an upgraded box with a viewing window. They are visually identifiable by that gap in the pilots below the couplers.

The next models up are the ones usually referred to as RTR/DCC Ready. These used the same box as that just described but with the addition of a large yellow, multi pointed, Star in the upper right corner of the window. On the star is written that the model is DC/DCC Ready. DCC Quick Plug Equipped. These, if you are looking to install DCC, are the ones to look for. The old metal strip connectors are gone, replaced by a circuit board and wiring, directional lighting and a choice of either an 8 pin NMRA socket, or a 9 pin socket on a wiring tail to plug a suitable decoder into. New shells were also introduced with better, upgraded tooling (the nose hoods were slimmer and close to prototype scaling), all wire grabs installed, including metal cab sunshades and only the Delrin handrails. The gap beneath the couplers was closed and the shell held in place by the screws through the coupler boxes. The chassis had more weight and the wheels were now NS. The motor was still open, but the armature was upgraded. You will still find them for sale, some still New in the Box. Oh, and opening, sliding windows in the cab sides.

The Genesis Line came into being around the same, using the identical shells, but a better Can motor (about 2008). They also came either DCC ready or fitted with MRC DCC/Sound ex factory. Those decoders were not regarded highly for reliability. In about 2011, the sound decoders were changed to the first edition Soundtraxx Tsunami. Identifiers between the 2 versions, is mainly the boxes they came in. The Dcc ready or MRC fitted had a yellow and blue box (emphasis on the yellow). The Tsunami fitted was a Solid, one color, dark blue box. That they have sound decoders is noted on the end of the boxes in both cases.
 
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Greg@mnrr

Section Hand
Toot: Excellent information...

"In about 2011, the sound decoders were changed to the first edition Soundtraxx Tsunami. Identifiers between the 2 versions, is mainly the boxes they came in. The DCC ready or MRC fitted had a yellow and blue box (emphasis on the yellow). The Tsunami fitted was a Solid, one color, dark blue box. That they have sound decoders is noted on the end of the boxes in both cases.

Some thing I didn't think about as being the way to tell the differences between versions of decoders.

Thanks.

Greg
 

tootnkumin

Well-Known Member
Staff member
I have had several yellow box Genesis locomotives with Tsunami decoders.
That's interesting, makes things a little more difficult, but I would assume the Soundtraxx Tsunami logo would appear on the end of the box?

I forgot to mention that the DCC ready model still is available in the dark blue box and is continuing also since the sound version has changed to the new Tsunami2 decoder.
 




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