HO locomotive quality ranking

Joe Daddy Jun 30, 2006


Highest quality locomotives (multiple selections ok)

  1. Broadway (BLI)

    39 vote(s)
  2. Athearn

    54 vote(s)
  3. Bachmann & Spectrum

    25 vote(s)
  4. Trixx

    8 vote(s)
  5. Atlas

    91 vote(s)
  6. Kato

    88 vote(s)
  7. Mantua

    6 vote(s)
  8. Walthers Trainline

    7 vote(s)
  9. Proto (1000, 2000, Heritage etc)

    56 vote(s)
  10. Other (poll limit is 10 choices)

    22 vote(s)
Multiple votes are allowed.
  1. StickyMonk

    StickyMonk TrainBoard Member

    Same here!!!!!

    My top 3 locos I own are
    1. Kato NW2, it may be getting on a bit now and had a LOT of running but it still runs flawlessly and silent.

    2. Stewart F7A/B (Stewart drive not Kato), again another silent runner thats also one of my best pullers.

    3. Proto 2000 GP18 (newest batch), very smooth and controlable with almost silent running.

    Some locos that are almost as good but not up to those 3 are my Kato GP35, Atlas Master GP38 and a Atlas/Kato RS3.

    I only own 1 origonal Athearn loco now and that is a SD40-2, it is a very smooth and quiet loco, I do also own several Athearn switchers but they will not be run until they get repowered.

    I have 3 of the old Atlas/Roco locos (2 SD24's and a GP38), while the bodys need a huge overhaul to bring them up to todays quality the chassis and motor is a smooth and quiet unit, but after being used to Roco continental locos its not really suprising to me.

    I do have a Bachmann Spetrum 44t, and a Proto 2000 S1, now both of these locos seem to require time to 'warm up' before use, so if I leave them running round my layout for 10 mins or so before I put them into switching service.

    My Atlas (china) S4 and my Walthers H10-44 are both smooth but somewhat noisey.
  2. YoHo

    YoHo TrainBoard Supporter

    As I've said in other threads on this topic, quality for me is about what I get for the money and nobody, not even Athearn themselves has topped the classic bluebox engine in the what you get for the money department. Solid if basic details. I great motor with dual flywheels that will run forever.
  3. verse2damax

    verse2damax TrainBoard Supporter

    If you want to get P2K locos for good money Ebay is your best bet.
    I've never gone over $60.00 for a Proto diesel. The most expensive P2K equipment that I have is the 0-8-0 which I bought for $105.00, shipping included. You can get most of the smaller switchers a prices between $25.00 – $45.00.

    If you don't mind shopping on Ebay you will get some pretty good deals.
  4. Joe Daddy

    Joe Daddy TrainBoard Member

    If your prices were for DCC/Sound locomotives, you did very well indeed, if not, I think you are paying the going rate. I just purchased a P2k 2-8-2 and a RS-15 with DCC & Sound for $240 from the web, not eBay. Prices for same on eBay 360 - 425 new or used.

    Joe Daddy
  5. BigOzzy86

    BigOzzy86 New Member

    I own 2 Proto 2000 GP9i's. One with sound / DCC and the other with just DCC. Top notch...smooth runners and no problem pulling 30 car trains.... even up my clubs Helix.
  6. GS4

    GS4 TrainBoard Member

    My main source of motive power is Athesrn. I've bought my Athearn locos over a 28yr period and have not had any problems to date. I've also got a few locos from other brands, also with no problems. Maybe I'm just lucky. Here's a breadown of my loco inventory:-

    Athearn = 25
    Atlas = 02
    Bachmann = 03
    Rivarossi = 03
    Roundhouose = 03
    Total = 36
  7. rogertra

    rogertra TrainBoard Member

    As usual with most polls, this one is poorly written,

    "Highest quality locomotive"?


    They all vary.

    Diesel I'd say Atlas was best.

    Steam, I'd say Life-Like P2K was best and Athearn, at least the 2-8-2 and 4-6-2 were the very worst.

    So, how about rephrasing the poll?


  8. Joe Daddy

    Joe Daddy TrainBoard Member



    Once a poll starts, it cannot be modified.

    I went to your website, nicely done model trains you have.
  9. watash

    watash Passed away March 7, 2010 TrainBoard Supporter In Memoriam

    Great scenic job Rogertra! Welcome to TrainBoard!
    I have to agree with you about 'best' engines. My question would be: BEST at what? How it looks, how it runs, how well it runs very slow, goes over turnouts without wobble, how many cars it will pull on flat track, up grades, how easy to control, how it sounds, how it stays on track, how much it costs to maintain, or, how I like it myself?
    I like some of my own engines less than others I have, so 'best' is relative to what?
  10. Cleggie

    Cleggie TrainBoard Member

    For my money Atlas are the best, great detail, sharp paint and lettering. I have had no problems with the locos I own, they run smoothly, quietly and pull well straight out of the box.

    I had some Athearn BB diesels but had troubles with derailments and short outs travelling over turnouts. I have sold them and don't plan to buy any more.

    Kato and Proto 2000 also rate highly. Bachmann diesels I found a little dissapointing, ok but I won't buy any more.

    It's a case of "you get what you pay for" spending a little extra cash to buy a "quality" brand loco will pay off in the end.
  11. traingeekboy

    traingeekboy TrainBoard Member

    I think polls never really cover the issue. Maybe if you broke it down by type of engine. Steam and diesel. I have a LL heritage 080 that easily beat the pants off of every other loco I test ran at my LHS, except for the BLI hudson. Of course a hudson would have looked silly switching freight so I opted for the 080 :p I noticed our Mr grant has a couple of those LL 080's on his layout as well, so I must be in good company.

    I will keep out of the diesel rating as I have none.

    One thing I find interesting is if everyone posted how many locos of each brand they own. I bet some of the medium quality stuff is filling out most of the fleets and those manufacturers have found their niche quite handily.
  12. ScaleCraft

    ScaleCraft TrainBoard Member

    Varney steam...specifically Super Mikado (sprung fully), followed by Old Lady b2-8-0 and Docksiders.
    Varney Diseasemals....belt drive F-3's, metal gearboxed switchers.
    Athearn diseasemals, from HiF to gear drive, old yellow box and blue box style. Run for ever.
    Mantua Mikado, Version 2.
    Given me a lot of good service over the decades, and I still have them.

    Bad: Athearn steam, and I don't care if it's the ones I have or the reports on the newer one. I have an 0-4-2T, this one being the third one, and I bought it for nostalgia only. I have an 0-6-0 which I never had before.

    You asked!
  13. RT_Coker

    RT_Coker TrainBoard Supporter

    I only have experience with one, and it has been bad! So I put in a negative vote for that one (voted for all the others).
    Highest quality in my book includes good technical support!
  14. ScaleCraft

    ScaleCraft TrainBoard Member

    Ah. Something that has never entered into my lexicon.
    Back in the day, there was no technical support. You followed instructions to assemble, and after a while gained enough experience you didn't really need instructions.
    With no electronics whatsoever, one wire between loco and tender, sometimes not even a headlamp, it was simpler...and more reliable overall.
    Parts? Fill out the form, tape a quarter to the form and mail it.
    Parts showed up rapidly.
    Some of the stuff now seemingly cannot be worked on....can't get siderod crankpins out....it's ludicrous.
    I remember when Mantua started drilling boilers and providing a headlamp bulb. THAT was progress!
  15. Southern Oregonian

    Southern Oregonian TrainBoard Member

    I still consider myself new, even though I've been modeling and buying for 5 years now. I started in N scale when I was much much younger (BN was still BN, and SP existed) and 5 years ago decided to start again with HO.

    Likes so far, Athearn Genesis has been good to me so far, both in looks and quality. Next is Athearn RTR. It is what it is, cheaper but better then a lot of other makes which is why most of my roster is Athearn RTR. Next would be Bowser. Bowser is new to me and I'm really regretting waiting this long to get one. I have 2 now and they are the best team I own, so good that I preordered 2 century units in SP&S when they come out (first preorder ever). Then comes my much loved Atlas unit. I have no idea how old it is, but it's never had a problem. Then there is my Sunset SP&S 700. Points for looks and support, not so much for first run drive wheel explosion and minor, minor detail issues. Best traction out of everything I own and fully sprung (also the only brass unit I own). Brown box BLI is a champ too. Never had any issues, same with my BLI AC6000 in SP. I'm adding Proto 2k here because the old one I have (FA with invisible spinning fan) looks great, but needed a new motor and might need new drive gears. I attribute it's break downs to age rather then quality. At least Athearn parts work in it since Walthers doesn't know what replacement parts are (I did call).

    Now for the bad. IHC. Nice paint, wrong flag. Runs too fast and being 99% plastic has no track effort what so ever. Never had an issue with it, but since it has to run solo and can't pull a load it never gets used. Model Power has good weight, but the paint could be better and once again, it's a loco that flag never owned. Bachmann. Oh Bachmann, ask me what generation of loco I prefer if you want me to vote. I had a slot car motored steamer that didn't' last long, a can motored steamer with plastic drive wheel axels that explode with time (still have it), and 2 new GS4s that are alright. My wife has 2 of their Americans that I loathe. They seem to need a lot of care per foot of run time. I do however have a newer f40ph Spectrum that's a good runner, I wish I could say the same for the doodlebug. Walthers, I've had some good and bad experiences with them, but the bad IMHO far outweighed the good.
  16. SD40E2

    SD40E2 TrainBoard Member

    When I was in n-scale,atlas gp's and lifelike proto's were my choices for multi-unit lashups and their running qualities.Since I am now ho, my best engines have been atlas b-b's and proto gp38-2's.all are good pullers for me and excellent switching units.the protos will pull my house if I let 'em.Don't have any athearns yet, but waiting for their GP40-2's,so i'll see how they are.bachmann to me have good steam engines,i owned a pair of mountains and a consolidation,all were great engines.LL Berkshire ran ok but didn't pull very well.Best pullers I ever seen running were proto sd60m's on a friend's layout,slow but smooth units and you couldn't find enough cars for them to pull,even on his grades!
  17. JNXT 7707

    JNXT 7707 TrainBoard Member

    I would have to go with Athearn overall. Blue Box being my favorite simply because they seem to last forever and are easy to work on. At this point, I think I could take an Athearn BB apart and put it back together blindfolded. Not a huge fan of the BB motors, but they are serviceable. Find a couple units that run together and they'll pull all you need to be pulling. Also, being so easy to work on, these things are easy to remotor as well.
    Second choice... I'd say Proto 1000 and 2000. Great pulling power. Not so easy to work on.
    Can't really comment on anything else, either don't have enough to have a good opinion one way or another or don't have any at all.
  18. gjslsffan

    gjslsffan Staff Member

    I agree that Athearn is my all time favorite. Was considering Proto till I remembered many were imitation Athearn. Not to mention all the Proto axles I had to replace with Athearn axles. Athearns whether BB or RTR are just so simple and reliable, show them a little love and they will outlast you.
  19. Southern Oregonian

    Southern Oregonian TrainBoard Member

    LOL, I was just posting on a thread about the interchangeable parts and motors between Athearn and P2K. I will say though, that my FA is probably one of the best shells I've ever seen for an Alco. Sadly, I think one of the other gears in the front of my unit is failing, but it's not the axels. :(
  20. Mike VE2TRV

    Mike VE2TRV TrainBoard Member

    Atlas and Kato are tops on my list. Not listed in the poll is Intermountain - my FP9 is beautifully detailed and mechanically it's a dream.

    Proto 1K and 2K are good, solid, well detailed, but their rating is somewhat blemished by their chronic axle problems.

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