Decent N car brands?


edito, ergo BOOM.
Hi everyone,

so I pretty much decided to go the N route with my new layout. But being as I have no experience with N, (and very little with other scales!) I was wondering what are the decent maufactureers of freight cars? I'm looking for more modern mixed freight-kind of cars. (hoppers, covered hoppers, gondolas, boxcars, etc.)

Are there still cars avaliable in kits? And do they have metal wheels or decent couplers?

I am planning a trip to the LHS, but any help here would be most appreciated. My reasoning is to get a few cars and a locomotive...then size them up visually to start a layout plan.

Hi, Tom.

N scale has improved dramatically over the last decade or so. All of the current products are vastly improved over their predecessors.

In terms of quality freight cars, the leader of the pack has to be Micro Trains (MT, formerly Kay-Dee). Their knuckle coupler system is the defacto standard in N scale. MT freight cars are well detailed and usually operate flawlessly. Be aware that MT offers low-profile wheels for their cars. Low-profile wheels have very small flanges and look more prototypical, but can be prone to derailments if the trackwork is not dead perfect.

MT produces a lot of limited-run "collector"-type cars. This often leads to products that are no longer available shortly after being introduced to the market. Great if you like to collect, not so great if running trains is your goal. Some of these are "specialty" cars, like their highly popular State Car series and their annual Christmas cars. These are really for collectors, as they represent no prototype cars.

Atlas has always produced excellent running freight cars of all types. Very good detail and reasonable prices. Most come equiped with Rapido-style couplers and/or Accumate knuckle couplers. The Accumates will couple with MT's, but will not uncouple with MT's magnetic uncouplers. Atlas cars are easy to convert to MT's.

Bachmann needs to be mentioned, if for no other reason than they are prolific in their production of freight cars. Some are better runners than others, all can be improved with a little work.

Intermountain makes very nice products, but I don't have much experience in running them.

There are a lot of older production cars still available, both new and used. Of the older production models, Con-Cor was perhaps the best. They were well detailed, easy to convert to MT's and had metal wheelsets. Metal wheelsets seem to operate more reliably than their plastic counterparts. Many modelers upgrade from plastic to metal wheels to improve operating characteristics. Be aware that different manufacturers often use different axle lengths, so if you are planning on upgrading, make sure the replacements are designed for the manufacturer's product you wish to upgrade.

There are other freight car manufacturers out there. Your hobby shop may have a good selection from different companies. Look them over carefully and, if possible, ask to put them on a length of track and see how easily they roll. Cars that roll easily allow you to pull more cars on a train.

Hope this information helps you. Don't hesitate to ask more questions as you get farther along in this hobby.

Darrell, quiet...for now
Most all of my freight cars are Atlas, I also have some Intermountain, Athearn, and Kato. They all run great.

I don't have any from Deluxe Innovations or Red Caboose, but I have heard that they are very good.

I look for metal wheels when buying cars. I think they track better, don't get too dirty and roll easier than plastic. I have tried MT's low-profile wheelsets but don't like them. They derail more frequently on my track, perhaps because my track isn't 100% bullet-proof. They also seem to have problems with Atlas turnouts, which probably require wheels with larger flanges.

I haven't found any cars that are so bad they can't be fixed or improved. It's a matter of how much you want to spend and how much time you can devote to improving the car. Oddly enough, if you love detail, the cheaper, less detailed cars are a good starting point. Anything you do to them will be an improvement!

Darrell, quiet...for now

I agree on metal wheel sets on the N scale cars, I am now in the process of switching all my MT trucks and Atals trucks over to metal. Intermountain has come out with new wheel sets for Atals and MT style trucks. I am very pleased with them, though I am also installing the MicroTrains retainer springs to help create a little drag on them.

As for quality N scale cars, I am very impressed with Atlas on their cars, low price and the detail on the latest, the tank cars etc, are stunning, I am still a MT collector of sorts, they too are IMHO still the top in detail and paint. Almost all the n scale cars from LBF, Intermountain, Deluxe and Red Caboose, Kato and Athearn are excellent looking, but still find myself buying the Atlas and MT cars as a first choice.

As for the low-profile MT wheels, I don't have any problems with them, I am running Atlas Code 55 on the whole layout, my only issue has been the Atals engines all have to be regauged to NMRA specs to run properly through the Atlas turnouts, pretty sad when Atlas can't get their own engines to run through their turnouts.

You may want to get those Atlas cars soon, I just heard they are raising prices 10% :(

BTW, welcome to N scale, you won't be sorry.
10% is no big deal, since Atlas cars are about the best value/dollar out there.
The newer releases are more accurate and closer to recommended weight than their older designs.

Don't bother looking for cars with metal wheels, as these usually only come on the junk brands.
If you want metal wheels, buy the good cars then use Atlas, Intermountain or NWSL replacement metal wheelsets.
Pick the correct size, as some prototype (and model) cars use 33" wheels, some are 36".
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Keith 55 said:
Don't bother looking for cars with metal wheels, as these usually only come on the junk brands.
If you want metal wheels, buy the good cars then use Atlas, Intermountain or NWSL replacement metal wheelsets.
Pick the correct size, as some prototype (and model) cars use 33" wheels, some are 36".

I would caution on the Atlas wheels, I bought a pack last week, and they were all out of gauge, and wobbled horribly. NWSL while probably the best looking, I find it hard to spend $8 for just 1 wheel set. I think Intermountain's 33 and 36" sets are great, I have some of the IM MicroTrain sets, though I wish they would have blackened them like the other sets. So far the only cars I have ran into that use the 36" seem to be the Atlas modern tank cars. The metal wheel sets I have found to be sharp are the Kato's that come on the Coal Gondolas. I had heard a rumor, though not a word anymore was that MicroTrains was going to do metal wheel sets.
Thanks guys...

I'm still trying to decide what to do (if anything). I keep talking myself out of doing anything.

And next week it's a trip to the university book store for yet another semester...that drains the hobby resources fast!

I don't know whether the price increase by Atlas will prompt the other makers to jump the bandwagon and increase their prices too!
My rolling stock consist mainly of Atlas, but I am now looking at other makers like Red Caboose which now come with MT trucks and couplers. For me, MT couplers are a must as I find the Atlas Accumates are of inferior quality, they tend to uncouple and break when running long trains.