Operating 2 axle power (critters)

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Saskatoon railfan
Hello, NMRA staes:
Stay away from the very short 4 or 6 wheel steam locomotives and the 4 wheel diesel locomotives as they usually run very poorly.

I was wondering if anyone has owned a 2axle in the past and had experienced any problems with it?
I's asking because I wantred to loosely model a 50year old 2axle GE critter that operated outside my home back in Winnipeg. Here are some pictures:

I figured something like this would be a good starting point:

NWR #200

Irish Expatriate
I haven't personally. I would stay away from most if not all Mosel power stuff. They are generally poor quality, as explained in the above. For good starter stuff, try Walther's trainline locomotives and 4 axle Athearns.


Saskatoon railfan
NWR #200 said:
I would stay away from most if not all Mosel power stuff. They are generally poor quality, as explained in the above. For good starter stuff, try Walther's trainline locomotives and 4 axle Athearns.
Does that include their boxcars and other non-powered rolling stock?
Good point on the Walther's and Atherns, I'll be buying a few of those.

NWR #200

Irish Expatriate
I'd generally stick to Athearn, Walthers, and other like manufacturers. Most RTR rolling stock is cheap and will not perform as well as kit built cars that cost about the same. An exception would be PROTO 2000 stock and other higher end makers. Also, try and avoid truck mounted couplers, may seem good, butr they're not.


Been Nothin' Since Frisco
I highly recommend kits over RTR stuff. There's certainly more bang for your buck if you're willing to assemble the kits yourself. However, unless you have a background in building plastic models, like aircraft, military, cars, etc., I'd stay away from the Proto 2000 and Intermountain kits for awhile. They both build fine kits, no question about it, but some experience is necessary because they aren't "shake the box" kits like the old Athearn and MDC Roundhouse* kits. Even the Proto 2000 "Timesaver" kits, which are their kits built into subassemblies and sold at a price in between the kits and the RTR versions of the same, are trickier than the MDC/Athearn kits. So, if you're ready for a kit-building "experience" try out a P2K or Intermountain kit. Thumbs up.

If it wasn't implied above, I'll say it explicitly: Athearn and MDC kits are hard to beat for value. Big thumbs up for both.

Older Walthers kits are a real hodgepodge, since they purchased some other companies and folded them into their own line, but the newer stuff is pretty simple. Their kits are like the Athearn kits, but with a few more pieces involved. Their tank car kits are a real pain, so I gladly buy the RTR versions of those. Overall, given the problems I've had with the fit of some of Walthers kits in the past, they're not the best but they're not the worst. With Walthers, RTR has solved some of the problems I've encountered. But, they offer stuff you can't get anywhere else, so big points for that. Thumbs up.

The only Accurail kits I've built are the 4600CF ACF hoppers. They are about as easy to build as any kit. On mine I replace the truck mounting push pins with screws, otherwise it's an easy, reliable, good looking kit. Again, thumbs up.

Model Power, Life Like's toy line, IHC/Pemco , Bachmann, Tyco and Mantua are all at what I'd consider the bottom of the food chain. While their models can be made into some fantastic pieces by experienced modelers who know the shortcomings of the models, I'd avoid them if you were unsure.

*Athearn and MDC Roundhouse, once "cooperative" but separate companies, are owned by the same company now, Horizon Hobbies. Interestingly, the brands "Athearn" and "Roundhouse" are now used only to define the approximate "era" of the kits. Older era cars, like the Athearn heavyweight passenger cars and the MDC 36' boxcars are sold under the brand name "Roundhouse" while the modern cars come in Athearn boxes, regardless of pedigree.

Red Oak & Western

Active Member
You might try and find an old Athearn "Hustler". While they used a rubber band drive and topped out at about 10 times prototype speed, they could be tuned to run reasonably well. I don't know how long they have been out of production, so I don't know how hard one would be to find.

Your other option is expensive. A couple of importers have sold brass models of two axle industrial switchers. Beautiful, well running models, but at a cost.

And Ryan's summation of manufacturers is right on. I'd add Branchline to the list. They have two series: Blueprint and Yardmaster. Yardmaster are good "starter" kits, while the Blueprint series are a step up in detail and complexity. I can't say anything about Bower, simple because I'll never had one of their kits. You can usually get a good idea of the complexity of the kit just be the price. An $8 to $10 kit will be fairly easy to assemble while a $30 to $40 kit will provide hours of modeling fun.



Saskatoon railfan
Thanks a lot guys, apprecite your insight.

RCH said:
Model Power, Life Like's toy line, IHC/Pemco , Bachmann, Tyco and Mantua are all at what I'd consider the bottom of the food chain.
The trainset I curently have was made by IHC and I'm pretty happy with it. It has:

BN C-Liner
BN 50' boxcar
BN caboose
CNJ gondola

All of which run great.


Saskatoon railfan

Do Bachman's normally run good or so and so? There's this one model I've been looking at for a while now, so am curious...
Otherwise I'd be sticking to Athern and Walthers.

As for the two axle, it's ben fazed out in favor of a SW1200!:p


Diesel Detail Freak


Coal Shoveler
Bachmann Spectrum are hit and miss. Some really run well, and for a long time. Others will run into a bearing problem, and they'll start to squeal. Not much you can do about that; many of us who had this problem have tried to fix it, but it never really goes away.

At the time (back 3-4 years ago), it was said that some will squeal quicker than others. But, it was also mentioned that based on their experience, it will eventually squeal. Can't recall what the problem was.



Been Nothin' Since Frisco
I think the 44 tonner (the original two motor version) was the first diesel in the Spectrum line. I have one from that original run and it is still alive and kicking. I find it to be better mechanically than any other Spectrum locomotive I've had. I've heard from others that the original two motor version is superior to the recent single motor version.


Lake Shore Lines
The 44 Tonner is a great little engine when a little more weight is applied to it. Otherwise it doesn't have much pulling power. It is also a pain to put a decoder in it. :mad:


Diesel Detail Freak
No buy a Athearn, or Atlas GP40... As for pulling power the 44toner only "has" 900 HP so it shouldn't be able to move much in the way of freight! I'm buying a yellow one later on this year to be phased into my dad's rr roster, so I'll tell you how she turns, also hope to get 2 Proto 2000 units, most likely 2 ALCo RS27's, in fmr GB&W paint. Maybe a SW8/9/600 from p2k.


Been Nothin' Since Frisco
I agree with Kennedy on the Atlas model. I got my GP38 for $60 on ebay and it was worth every penny. The newer Athearn RTR models compare favorably to the Atlas GP38, but they aren't as detailed or as smooth running.

I would definitely avoid the Bachmann GP40. It was a good starting point for a kitbash 20 years ago, but it's been superseded by much better looking and performing models. Incidentally, I have a B23-7 in the works that is starting out as a Bachmann B23-7, but only uses the walkway and drive. The other parts are cut from an Atlas C30-7 shell. It actually runs pretty well, although it's a bit of a jackrabbit...


Registered Member
Staff member
Hi Roman, the above advice is good advice. It's not only the pulling power of these trainset loco's thats poor, the drive and electrical pickup from the track is questionable also. The Bahmann GP40 has power to two axels only, one powered truck. The electrical pickup from the track is also only from two axels on the other truck. This maybe OK on a trainset loop of track, however when it comes to the frogs on the turnouts, you'll encounter jerking and even stalling when travelling slow. As the track becomes more oxydized, jerking and stopping will be more frequent because of the lack of weight and decent electrical pickup. Adding weight to these loco's is not a great idea as the motors wern't designed for that and more likely would be prone to failure. That is the reason I refer to my trainset loco's as junk, most are like new, but they are still junk.



Been Nothin' Since Frisco
Well said, Willis! That's probably the best explanation I've ever read of the description of trainset locomotives as junk.

As you're well aware, there are many cases which the "junk" locomotives were the only game in town for a particular model. I know you've done several C636s (or M636s?) using Athearn UxxC chassis and Tyco shells and I've done my own C636 using Tyco shells and an Athearn SD40-2 drive. The shells, once the paint is removed, really aren't bad. I mean, they aren't state of the art, but think back to the Bachmann GP40 and the Life Like GP38-2 (old one, not the new P2K model): they both had scale width hoods, making them among the first to have correct hood widths. The AHM GP18s were pretty nice, too, except for the handrails of course. I think Tyco had a GP20, which was the only source of the low nose and cab for us kitbashers for some time. The list goes on and on for models that have been superseded by better models.

Then there are those models you still have to use as a starting point because nobody has duplicated them yet. The GE U25C is the most glaring example I can think of, but there are others. The Krauss-Maffei diesels, the C415, SW1 (unless you count the impossible-to-find Walthers model).... anyone else want to add to the list? I know there are more.

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