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. dti406

    dti406 TrainBoard Member

    I marked down at the best quality Kato and Atlas, although I have been pleased with my Athearn Genesis NKP GP9's. Next down the list are Proto's, Stewart and Intermountain. Another one not mentioned is Hobbytown of Boston, these diesel units when properly assembled were bulletproof and would haul many cars with just one unit, especially if they were outfitted with a cast metal body.

    After working in a Hobby Shop for many years, I would never have a Botchmann as I had to repair too many of those and many had to be returned to the manufacturer as not able to run or run satisfactorily.

    Rick J
  2. Mike VE2TRV

    Mike VE2TRV TrainBoard Member

    I've noticed that Bachmann seems to have an intermittent quality control problem, and some models are just badly designed. I have three Spectrum locos, all three run well, but the 44-tonner is wobbly on its trucks, and a recent purchase, an H16-44, I had to repair because one of the motor contacts was touching the frame in a badly corroded area - in addition to having to clean up a lot of excess grease. The 70-tonner didn't have any issues.

    But I do agree that Kato and Atlas are tops on my list. Never any issues, very good detail, run smooth as silk.
  3. f2shooter

    f2shooter TrainBoard Member

    I have a Spectrum K4 Pacific that is excellent, one of the best I've ever had. I have a couple of other Spectrums that are quite good also. I have two Fleischmans that are wonderful. Believe it or not the two that always run no matter what, on whatever track I put them, are a pair of Tyco 4301s that I've had nearly forever. They aren't the best slow but they always go.

    Rick H.
  4. Geep_fan

    Geep_fan TrainBoard Member

    I used to give the no.1 spot to Atlas, however they have lost that spot in the past few years, the drives are smooth, but the new atlas's couldn't pull the skin off pudding. They really have got to improve in the tractive effort deparment.

    Right now, athearn genesis currently holds the spot of #1, I own 4 of the genesis FP45/F45's and I really love em, plenty of detail, and enough tractive effort to satisfy any model railroader. I also have a soft spot for the genesis Geeps, I own a handful of them and they haven't let me down yet!

    P2K holds spot 2, the units come with a decent level of detail and have enough weight to lug around a decent amount of cars. (layout around here has some steep grades, if you hadn't figured that out yet). I'm not a fan of the DCC ready thing they used to do, but thats another discussion. I recently purchased a pair of new P2K F7's, and lo and behold, P2K is now using stewart drivetrain clones! Talk about a smooth runner :)

    Spot 3 is currently atlas's, I'm a big fan of my atlas GP38's and a buddy that I pool power with has some GP40's. These things are smooth runners bar none, nothing in the fleet approaches their level of slow speed control, and for the case of these models, they have a decent level of tractive effort. A+. However atlas has lost ranks with me in the past few years for the lightness of their engines and the finish they put on their metal wheels. Yeah, sure the finish conducts power better, but the glossy surface means even with additional weight, the units will slip long before they reach their capacity of cars.

    Seeing the bachmann posts above, I would like to say that I agree with Mike, Bachmann is hit and miss with their models, I have an S4 that ranks up there with atlas in smoothness and drive quality, however I also have a GP35 that has become a parts unit.
  5. friscobob

    friscobob Staff Member

    I have several Bachmann locomotives- a Spectrum 2-10-0 "Russian" Decapod in Frisco markings that looks & runs very nice; a first-run 44-tonner in SLSF livery, also a good runner; a Spectrum 70-tonner, now missing handrails but still runs decently; a Spectrum GP30 in Pennsy livery that I'm seriously considering repainting into a Santa Fe unit; a Plus GP30 redone into a Frisco locomotive with DCC; and another Plus in ATSF colors that is fair at best, but a little addition of details and I can make it a decent stand-in (I need Santa Fe locomotives for my layout as well, and I cannot wait for the ATSF GP7Us from Athearn Genesis).
  6. JNXT 7707

    JNXT 7707 TrainBoard Member

    I think the Bachmann Plus locomotives are the deal of the day. I have acquired a trio of SD-45's, a B23-7 and a F7B. All smooth, strong pullers and available at train shows and auction sites for little $$.
  7. torre63

    torre63 New Member

    For me ... BLI and MTH (not listed) are the best. Very good BOWSER, ATLAS and INTERMOUNTAIN (not listed).
    However, there is always work to be done for these models. Compared to original prototypes is always missing some detail.

  8. StickyMonk

    StickyMonk TrainBoard Member

    I just have 2 Bachmann diesels and 2 steam, the 70t is an early model, the 44t is a new one (seriously wondering how I will get sound in it!) both run very nice, the 2-8-0 runs smooth and silent, but the 4-6-0 occasionally locks up, I am sure this is a simple fix but I have other priorities at the moment.

    Sent from my Xperia Z using Tapatalk 2
  9. montanan

    montanan TrainBoard Member

    I like my Atlas locomotives. They are older versions, probably close to 20 years old (Alco RS1, RS3, RS 4/5 and RS 11). They still operate as smooth as they did when they were new. The few Athearn locomotives I have have been re-motored, except for one Genesis F unit which runs great. I have a couple of Stewart switchers which are also great performers. I have little experience with modern locomotives as I started and completed mt fleet many years ago. I like Atlas.

  10. StickyMonk

    StickyMonk TrainBoard Member

    The older Kato drive atlas locos are still at the top of the class in running, I regret selling mine off several years ago when I left the hobby for a while, the New atlas locos are fantastic but do not have the pulling ability of those old locos.

    Would love a few RSD units but these are so rare over here in England :(

    Sent from my Xperia Z using Tapatalk 2
  11. friscobob

    friscobob Staff Member

    I still have several Atlas locomotives with Roco drives (three GP38s, a GP40, and an undecorated FP7 (which will be painted & detailed into Frisco black & yellow). Bought all of these back in 1980, and all still with original motors. Back then, if I wanted scale-width EMD hoods, it was Atlas or nothing. I added detail parts and filled in the notch in the fuel tank on the GPs, but didn't replace the oversized handrails- yet. If I can figure out how to install DCC, they'll see service on my Frisco layouts until I catch the westbound.
  12. StickyMonk

    StickyMonk TrainBoard Member

    I had a couple of Roco powered SD24'S many years ago, one was Atlas one was ConCor those were very good runners, only thing that let them down was the fuel tank grove and the chunky details. I would happily have another if the price is right.

    Sent from my Xperia Z using Tapatalk 2
  13. Mike VE2TRV

    Mike VE2TRV TrainBoard Member

    I have one of those Roco-powered Atlas SD24s - it's noisy, a bit chunky detail-wise, but it's a real moose for pulling.

    Atlas and Kato switchers are also impressive. They're heavy - heavier than some of my Athearn Geeps - and can pull pretty good too.

    Haha... I look at my Kato GP35 next to the older Athearn model, and the age-old question comes up - the one that every man never wants to hear:

    "Does this Kato make my Athearn look fat?"

  14. Southern Oregonian

    Southern Oregonian TrainBoard Member

    I'd love it if someone made a Alco Century with a smoker. Then just for some realism, preprogram the decoder to 'breakdown' periodically. Wait, it'd be better if it had sound too and sputtered to a stop. I'd buy one then use it to mess with people at clubs. "It's broken and smoking!' 'No, it's just realistic."

    Disclaimer: I actually really like Alcos, but even SP&S with it's 'Aclo country' had issues with some models like the 636s.
  15. Nick Lorusso

    Nick Lorusso TrainBoard Member

    I'd buy a few if they where set up like this.
  16. Southern Oregonian

    Southern Oregonian TrainBoard Member

    Why hasn't anyone brought up Brass makers yet? BLI sort of counts now that they went hybrid on their steamers, but what about 3rd Rail-Sunset, W&R, Division Point, ect?
  17. John Smith

    John Smith TrainBoard Member

    Speaking of Brass... Overland has wonderful locos... although, the price is quite high. I had a set of CSX AC4400's with a fuel tender that I bought in 1998 for $1300. Ran great!, could even run the fuel tender in between the units with no problems. Sold it in 2009... for a small profit!
  18. 9mmAuto

    9mmAuto TrainBoard Member

    I've really started to get into the hobby after I bought a Bachman set at Costco a few years back for "my son" for Christmas. Since then I have bought a number of locomotives some good some bad. I am strictly DCC because I like the added realism that it introduces to the hobby. That being said I'm a bargain hunter but I also like detail on my models. Here is what I have from favorite to least favorite.

    1. Broadway Limited SD7, very smooth at low speeds, the paragon 2 sound is unbelievable. The detail is good but not as good as some of my other locomotives.

    2. PK2 SD7 and F7. Both are quiet and smooth runners. The detail on my PK2 SD7 is better then that of on the bli. I would have ranked these first but I don't think tsunami sound is as good as the paragon 2 delivers (this is probably my fault).

    3. Athearn veranda turbine. This locomotive has incredible detail, the things I have issue with is 1. The lights are dim, especially when you add a decoder, they were so dim I could barely see them when I turned all the lights off in the room. 2. It seems a little off balance on curves, my sharpest radius is 22 inches so I'm not pushing it to the limit.

    4 Bachman sound value S4, and a sound value 2-6-0 mogul. These are both smooth runners and have pretty good detail. The tsunami sound is a little tinny compared to my others but it's pretty good.

    5. Bachmann 2-8-4 that I made a polar express train. It is smooth and quiet and good at low speed, this was my first experiment with DCC and sound it has a tsunami heavy steam decoder. It has passable detail but I have been considering replacing it for something more eye catching.

    6. Athearn bb SD9, I call it my "fat girl" because it is wider then my others. I understand that athearn did this to accommodate the motor. The detail isn't that great compared to my my others but it is okay. I tried to like this locomotive, I replaced the steel wheels with the new ones, I took apart and rebuilt the trucks to try and quiet it down but no matter what I did it still sounds like a wheat grinder.

    Last edited by a moderator: Jul 9, 2014

Share This Page