Good Casual Locomotive

BB2921 Sep 24, 2013

  1. BB2921

    BB2921 TrainBoard Member

    Hi everyone, this is my first post on this website so hopefully no one be mad if I post this to the wrong sub forum. ( also sorry for the wall of text)

    But I have a question about good HO locomotives. When I was a kid I used to have a 4x 8 ho scale table but most of my trains were second hand or life like, then I got out of the hobby for a few years, but have since found the light again. When I came back I dove into n scale so I fit layouts under bed or easily pack them up and that has worked well, ( I am currently building a HCD layout that I post to on nscale forum, and will probably xpost to here too) but I moved to college and joined the school's rail club.

    The problem is that they run on ho dcc layout and those 2 topics are fairly new to me, however I did kinda pick up on dcc. I brought one of my only running locomotives( athearn blue box dash 9) and retrofitted a decoder in there to run, but it runs terribly, even after warming it up and a through cleaning, it's a bad runner. So I just want to get a new locomotive, but the difference between n scale and ho scale is the locomotive producers are a lot more competitive, so I'm having troubles picking a good brand. I know kinda what engine I want( SD70/80/90 or GEVO) but not sure on a brand. I looked on model train stuff and I really liked intermounatin BN executive( I know it's not prototypical at all, but I'll just be running the loco every week or so, so looks rank higher than accuracy for me) but not sure about the brand. Is that a good brand for the $130 bucks? Or should I keep looking? Also I watched a review and someone said that if you don't buy the tsunami sound one, all intermounatin come with a decoder already inside, can anybody back that up?

    thanks again and I hope I will like around here!
    Last edited by a moderator: Sep 24, 2013
  2. BoxcabE50

    BoxcabE50 HOn30 & N Scales Staff Member TrainBoard Supporter

    Welcome to TrainBoard!

    I wish my knowledge base covered the brand you mention, but I really don't have enough good information to input. So I will suggest this: Do look at Atlas and Kato. They have both been rock solid performers for many long years.
  3. Southern Oregonian

    Southern Oregonian TrainBoard Member

    Don't know about intermountain coming with decoders standard, but Athearn Genesis do and they're better then the RTR Athearns. Like Boxcab said, Atlas and Kato are also excellent. In my opinion though, for the money, Bowser and Kato are by far the smoothest running, but I'm not sure if they make your locos. MTH doesn't use true DCC decoders and has led to some mixed reviews as a result. There is also a loco poll thread somewhere here where we went into some of this.
  4. Mike VE2TRV

    Mike VE2TRV TrainBoard Member

    I second Boxcab's suggestions for Atlas and Kato - best bang for the buck. Good detail, outstanding runners, never had a complaint about mine.
  5. YoHo

    YoHo TrainBoard Supporter

    Given the specific models you mentioned, you don't have many options. Kato, IM, Athearn Genesis and BLI will all be fine. Regular Athearn is good too, but you'd need to buy a decoder. Avoid MTH.

    When you say your bb runs like a dog, can you elaborate? I have a bunch of BB engines I've DCC'd and they're all ok runners. They run as well as a DC BB but with DCC.
  6. BB2921

    BB2921 TrainBoard Member

    Well the problem is that I got that locomotive probably 10 years ago( not exact on year, it's #986 and I think my dad bought it a couple years and I wanna say it was released 1995) and several years ago I was a kid and to me it was a toy, and while it was my most prized possession, I was still a careless kid so it's seen a fall or two, it's sat in storage for the last couple years, and over it's life has probably never been cleaned or maintained unfortunately. When I put the decoder most of the metal had a slight coating of rust.

    I mean it runs, but it's slow, has a hard time picking up current where other locos ran fine, missing basically every railing, paint is worn and plastic shell has a few nice sized chips out of it; I wanna say it would be a lot better if I could take it all apart and give it an restoration; but right now I don't want to pump time and money into a loco that will hopefully* run better but look like it's off to the scrap heap.
  7. Southern Oregonian

    Southern Oregonian TrainBoard Member

    Rehabbing a loco isn't to hard. I have a few old guys rolling around. Just be sure to get plastic friendly oil, oil everything that moves, and if it is a brush motor, check the brushes and oil the outside of it where the polls come out. Removing rust isn't to hard. I had to resort to a SOS pad, but it worked. Even if it needed a new motor I'd be shocked if everything needed was over $40.00. As for that classic Athearn gear noise, yeah. It just is what it is and their isn't a lot that can be done about it.
  8. JNXT 7707

    JNXT 7707 TrainBoard Member

    Sounds like it's already got a realistic weathering on it! Just remember, "grimy, chipped, rusty" is the look we are all going for! ;)

    But YES, as has been described, BB locos are very easy to service without spending a lot of $$ on.
  9. Southern Oregonian

    Southern Oregonian TrainBoard Member

    I'll just give a quick how to I guess.

    Starting with the shell. Since you converted it to DCC I take it you know how to remove the shell, so remove it and leave it off until the end.

    Once the shell is off, remove the cover on the worm screws. they're where the drive lines end and are snap ons. Gently pry off the caps and oil the worm screw, and don't forget to oil the ends of them. Replace the caps. Oil the motor at the farthest points were the polls come out of it ONLY. Turn the chassis over.

    On the bottom, remove the just for looks truck assemblies on either side (their held in with plastic pins that are apart of them so be careful). once those are off remove the bottom cover between the axels (they are held in at 4 points and are easy to spot). once those are off remove the axels and check for corrosion on the wheels and pickup points. It also doesn't hurt to check the solder point and the wire. clean and repair as necessary. oil the gears lightly (excess may leak onto the track causing a lot of wheel slip) and reassemble (same process as disassembly in reverse).

    DO NOT put the shell back on. Test run it. If it still has issues then check the brushes. To do that you must remove the drive lines from the poles (held in with tension only so be careful) and pull the motor up since it's held in with 2 rubber sidings that have 4 plugs that plug into the frame. Be aware that before removing the copper strips snapped onto the top and bottom of the motor there is a tiny spring under each one. Loose the spring and you might as well get a new motor. So remove the copper strips and collect the springs. Under each spring is the brush. If the brush is okay (as in still existing with some height left on it) put it back in, with the spring above it and reinstall the copper strips and put the motor back in and reattach the drive lines. Take a pencil eraser and remove the excess graphite from the brush contact point on the motor and retest it. If the brushes are pretty much gone, I think Athearn still makes replacements, but their RTR motors aren't that expensive. If it runs good during the test then replace the shell and have fun.

    Worst case took me about an hour. Be sure to use plastic friendly non-conductiave oil and the only tools I needed were a knitting needle and a very small flat head screw driver. If it sounds like a coffee grinder but runs fine then your good to go. Athearn BBs are well known for gear noise. Almost everything functionally related on Athearn locos are held in place with tension so be careful not to break any of it.
  10. MarkInLA

    MarkInLA Permanently dispatched

    Firstly, better to put your N scale questions in N catagory, not HO....Next, all advice above is very very good and informative. If you're near a train store, go there and test run engines til you like one...Then, either buy it there or go on line for a possible lower price ( but no test run ). Using ebay (above) helps Tboard.. I was in N but went back to HO 8-10 years ago. I simply mothballed all my HO analog and started fresh with ' sound onboard ' engines..I love my Bachmann mogul (2-6-0) and consolidation ( 2-8-0). My Bach diesel (RS3) is fine too. Throttle is NCE PowerCab..wonderful ! Welcome aboard forum...
    Last edited by a moderator: Sep 26, 2013
  11. Colonel

    Colonel Staff Member TrainBoard Supporter

    I have to agree with Mark, after selling my whole N scale collection I have started collecting Ho DCC sound only. So far I have 5 Athearn Genysis and one Kato.

    All are excellent runners a good details. I have also purchased a NCE system and it is great.
  12. YoHo

    YoHo TrainBoard Supporter

    Just a quick note, before you oil anything, it's best to clean it adding oil to a layer of dried caked funk won't make her run better.
  13. rg5378

    rg5378 TrainBoard Member

    Sorry to hear about your engine running badly. Since it is an Athearn, it will be easy to fix / clean and get it running in top notch shape. As to your other question. Almost all brands of engines nowadays are good. Intermountain, Atlas, Broadway limited, and Athearn are good choices. Even some Bachman and Life-like Proto 2K engines are good. IMO it seems as though most modelers I know gravitate to Atlas more than the others (disclaimer, I do not work for Atlas). I acturally prefer Athearn with Tsunami sound decoders. Why? Because Athearn engines are easy to work on and parts are easy to come by.

    BTW if all else fails with your old engine, you can always take out the motor, use it as a dummy engine and equip it with decoder and speakers. I have done that with one of my older TYCO engines that has sentimental value to me but was not a good quality runner. Let us know what you decide upon. I would like to know.

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