For Your $'s Who Manufactures The Best Loco


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It would be nice to have a reference of opinions, pro and con from our members, on the different makes and models of locos. If a member or guest was planning to purchase a model loco, such a thread by the users of these models would be of great value to someone planing to make a purchase. I know everyone has their favorite manufacturer and is willing to defend the title of being the best, but please remember it is only an opinion and if said opinion is questioned, well that's fair game. :D

In my opinion and for my money, the Athearns take the trophy home. However under new ownership this could change as the model making industry seems to be a bit of a volitile state now. All my main loco's are now Athearn based and except for some Bachmann and Lionel steamers the rest are considered to be junk.
When Athearn came out with the blue box kit I'd say just about everyone could afford a decent model loco, and for a few more dollars in add on's it could be a thing of beauty, far below the cost of some others available today, and with a bit of work can be made to run just as good if not better. In the running dept. with a decent throttle I doubt any other make could beat it in tie to tie creeping. So for the cost and a little extra work, it's Athearn. Anyway that's my choice What's yours :)
Hi Greg, sorry I should have included that this section applies to all scales, your comments are most welcome.
Cheers Willis
I know who produced the best crap locomotives, that would be Tyco. :D

The were so far behind the times when I first discovered Athearn 20 + years ago.
know who produced the best crap locomotives, that would be Tyco.

Well running wise I agree 100%, however I make good use of the shells nowdays and they're not too bad. :D

Cheers Williis
Atlas or Kato I'd say, in HO and N. Both produce heavy, smoothly functioning mechanisms, along with excellent detail.
Atlas are very consistant in their running. I have Atlas from the yellow box through the Master and I can throw them all into 1 consist and they run together on plain ole DC.
Kato GP35 is the quietest and smoothest I've ever run - I've got to haul my Atlast Master down to that test track and see how similar the performance is on that track.
CB&CNSfan said:
Hi Greg, what is it about SHS that catches your interest?

This has great detail and runs as nice as any Kato or Atlas HO engine I've ever owned. It is inbetween O scale and HO. SHS also has two switchers as well as an F-3. Their 2-8-0 is suposed to be a real jewel.

Well, for my budget I will have to go with PK2, LifeLike. They run good, decent detail and they are in my cheaper price range. I love Atlas for detail. But like every thing above LL I can't afford it!! :eek:
The spirit of the question (offering opinions for newbies) leads me to choose Athearn. You get quite a bit of bang for your buck with Athearn.

  • Their models are virtually indestructible (my one year old daughter has thrown an F7 on many occasions without so much as the motor or a drive spline being dislodged).
  • They're a great starting point for any projects you may want to undertake, from light detailing to kitbashing and scratchbuilding (yes, I'm a rivet measuring, scratchbuilding prototype modeler).
  • The price is usually much less than any of Athearn's contemporaries (such as Life Like Proto 2000, Kato, and Atlas).
  • They are widely available and seldom follow the strict limited run policies of their contemporaries.
  • Paint and lettering are often very well done, especially on recent models.
  • All their models operate together and are based on the same motor and gearing* (something Life Like P2K could take a lesson from) which means almost all of their products have interchangeable parts.
  • Their catalog is vast in comparison to any of the other manufacturers, almost all of which is available at any given time.

I love my Atlas locomotives. It's definitely money well spent and I don't question those purchases one bit. But, the fact that I have some fifty or more Athearn locomotives and five Atlas locomotives (and maybe fifteen P2K models) says something. If you're new to the hobby, go with Athearn.

* Genesis line notwithstanding.
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Well so far, I haven't read anything that would make me switch from Athearn to the Atlas, the PK's or what ever. My 630's powered by Athearn are over 2 ounces heavier than the origional Athearn U33C's and can haul just like big Alco's did. On a 7% grade where my 2-10-4 and a host of 4-8-4's, bounce and spin their wheels with a nine car consist, the Athearns have no problems with 16 cars.. ( they do slow some what though). :D

Cheers Willis
Since scale wasn't mentioned, I will go with...

Baldwin Locomotive Works, though Lima made a good product too. ;)

Oops, sorry, wrong forum....
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Because I model mostly Phase 1 equipment, most of my purchases are Atlas, P2k, and The Genesis series from Athearn. All three run extremely well and are easy to convert to DCC. For sound, i love the Broadway Limited series. However, i am noticing more mfG's coming out with Quantum sound so the jury is out on that one.
In N, almost everybody rates Atlas 1st now, because they have way more road-specific details and a huge selection.
Then Kato, then LL.
IM and MT don't have enough models to rate.
Personally, I prefer LifeLike because I like their early diesel selection like FAs and the BL-2, and they run every bit as well as the others these days.
ConCor is just weird...truckmounted pilots?
Steam is a different idea because I just don't care for steam.
I think for the beginner starting with Athearn blue box or RTR are the best bets. As for my next pick I would go with Atlas since they are both consistant and have pretty good detail. I like P2K a lot but there drives seem to be different in every locomotive and even in diferent runs of the same locomtive. I do have some Kato and find them to do a pretty good job at drives. I am currently taking some of the best of both worlds using a P2k shell on a Kato frame. I really feel that it somes down to what you are modeling since not all companies are making the same product and some are focusing on more modern stuff. My advice to anyone getting started is save your pennies and buy quality becasue you will be much happier then a pile of Tycos on the floor.

Be Wise Beware Be Safe
"mountain Goat" Greg
Hi Greg, when I'm done building my fleet, all of my diesels will be Athearn powered. It takes a bit of time,( truthfully, a lot ) but the Athearn can made into a smooth runner that's a whole lot quieter than the out of the blue box configureation. Any of the loco's I want to model are way out of my price range so it's kitbash, trial and error for me. Although they don't look like anything Athearn ever put out, they are still Athearn under the shell :D

Cheers Willis
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I see that Athern is a good way to go. Yet no one mentioned Walthers! I have teir GP9M and it runs great!