Steam Engines

Discussion in 'N Scale' started by stepchild, Mar 11, 2008.

  1. stepchild

    stepchild TrainBoard Member

    I would like to get a steam engine that is DCC ready or decoder already installed and will go around an 11" radius.

    Do they make any that fit this criteria?

  2. Fotheringill

    Fotheringill Staff Member TrainBoard Supporter

    There are varying definitions of "ready". I am not being picky, but there is a wide range of what people think it means. Do you really mean, just plug and play or do you mean drop in and do a lot of soldering with taking apart and putting back together the steam engine?
  3. AB&CRRone

    AB&CRRone TrainBoard Supporter

    What are you thinking of? Small, medium, large? Any particular type?

    Most any small steam will negotiate that radius. But little is DCC ready. The Life-Like 0-8-0 is one that comes to mind. Larger locos from Bachmann may negotiate that radius and are DCC ready or decoder installed. Even larger like the Athearn Challenger reportedly will negotiate 11" radius (but don't look too good doing so) and are available decoder equipped only. The Kato GS-4 4-8-4 is not quite DCC ready but soon will be.

    A lot depends upon what size/type you are interested in.

  4. stepchild

    stepchild TrainBoard Member

    Hey, thanks for the info.

    I would like any steam engine that would go around 11" radius and was a plug and play for dcc.

    I'm new to this hobby and not sure I want to have to do a lot to make one work on dcc.
    Mainly because I wouldn't know what to do.

    I have looked at some online stores and there don't seem to be any available. Or I'm not looking in the right places. Any help here would be appreciated.
  5. TrainGuy

    TrainGuy TrainBoard Supporter Advertiser

  6. stepchild

    stepchild TrainBoard Member

  7. TrainGuy

    TrainGuy TrainBoard Supporter Advertiser

    The 0-8-0 and the Heavy Mountain will run on 11" radius with no problem
    The 2-10-2 will run on 11" radius but looks better 12" or better.
  8. SPsteam

    SPsteam TrainBoard Member

    Go with a bman 4-8-2 heavy if you want an installed decoder in a smaller locomotive. If you want to go all out, get the challenger or bigboy, that way you'll have sound too. That is if the road name is not important.
  9. stepchild

    stepchild TrainBoard Member


    Thanks for the info.

    Do you have these in stock?
  10. stepchild

    stepchild TrainBoard Member

    Hey SPsteam,

    I'm not sure the challenger or bigboy fill work on 11" radius. However the Bachmann looks promising.
  11. Bob Morris

    Bob Morris TrainBoard Supporter

    The Bachmann 4-8-2 will probably negotiate 11" radius, but mine is happiest on a minimum 17" radius. The Walthers/Like Like 0-8-0 has been a major disappointment in its pulling power. My decoder equipped unit will only pull 8 cars on the flat and it's NOT a plug and play affair. Tony's Train Exchange will install decoders in smaller steam locos (Bachmann 2-8-0/Model Power 2-6-0 or 4-4-0).

    My experience with steam in N scale (2 Kato Mikado's, 3 Bachmann Spectrum 2-8-0's, 1 Bachmann 4-8-4, 1 Bachmann 4-8-2 Heavy Mountain is somewhat discouraging. My Intermountain, Atlas, Life Like and Kato diesels are much less difficult to get running properly, and the DCC installations are relatively simple.

    If you like to tinker a bit, steam certainly looks lovely, but all your trackwork -- especially your turnouts -- better be pretty flawless for the steamer to run well.

    Of course, YMMV.
  12. SPsteam

    SPsteam TrainBoard Member

    My fingers outran my brain when it came to the 11" radius caveat. My bad.
  13. stepchild

    stepchild TrainBoard Member


    Thank you very much. That was some very good info.

    Maybe I need to stick to diesels until I get some more experience.
  14. stepchild

    stepchild TrainBoard Member

    No problem. I'm a very slow typer and still have that problem.

    Again thank for the info.
  15. Mark Watson

    Mark Watson TrainBoard Member

    I would put my vote toward the Kato Mikado. Though installing DCC is not the easiest, the quality and the way it operates greatly out weights its competitors, especially given the price. Now of course this is my own opinion, however I'm sure there are many who would agree.

    If you don't feel comfortable installing a decoder, there are many places and people who would do it for a very reasonable price (Just make sure to get some form of insurance in case they mess up). As for me, installing a decoder in the Mikado was my first attempt and as long as you are careful, it's not as bad as it sounds.

    Once I saw it on my own layout.. I bought another.
  16. SteamDonkey74

    SteamDonkey74 TrainBoard Supporter

    Would you consider an Atlas Shay? I believe Tony's Train Exchange sells Shays with decoders installed. They're pricey, simply because this loco wasn't really made for ease of DCC installation, but a Shay should be able to handle 11" radius curves.

    There may be a TB sponsor that also sells these. I haven't done the research.

  17. stepchild

    stepchild TrainBoard Member


    Thanks for the info on the Kato Mikado. I check Tony's train and they put decoders in them. However they are a little pricey.
  18. stepchild

    stepchild TrainBoard Member


    I checked Tony's and they don't list them. But they do sound interesting.

    Do you happen to know the price?
  19. Pete Nolan

    Pete Nolan TrainBoard Supporter

    With an 11" radius, and no experience with installing decoders, I'd stick with diesels for a while. There are many with a decoder board that is easy to install, or already comes installed. I just think you'll be much happier with diesels, which are much more forgiving than steam. I'd recommend running them a few months around your layout and then decide on a steamer. By that time, you may have become more comfortable with the idea of installing one in a smaller steamer such as a Bachmann 2-8-0. While not plug-n-play, it's fairly easy if you go step-by-step.

    Even plug-n-play decoders have their installation pitfalls. Many require you to install insulating tape or remove and re-install the electrical pickups. Sounds simple, but it confused me when I was starting out in DCC, and that was after 30+ years in N scale. If you are not accustomed to computer technology, it can be a real puzzle. If you're not accustomed to the way engines are built, disassembled and then re-assembled, it's a double whammy. Hey, it was a whammy for me even though I'm familiar with both!

    Once you are comfortable with both technologies, then a whole new world of engines opens up, especially the Bachmann 2-8-0 and the Model Power 4-6-2. They are much less expensive than some of the other alternatives, and look good on smaller radius track.
  20. Mark Watson

    Mark Watson TrainBoard Member

    You get what you pay for.. :p The decoder I have installed in my two is the DZ123 decoder with the MSRP of 19.00. Works just fine unless you want sound.

    I will admit that I have no other recent experience with any other of steam other than the Athearn Challenger, which I also have and it does negotiate 11 inch curves just fine ;-)

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