Is N-Scale Brass A Thing Of The Past?

WM183 Nov 25, 2018

  1. bill pearce

    bill pearce TrainBoard Member

    I've painted dozens of brass locos in the past and it really isn't much more difficult that painting plastic. First you have to strip the awful heavy clear lacquer, but you can do that quickly and easily with plain old hardware store paint remover. And you might need to prime it, although Scalecoat I works on brass without a primer. This far it's about even up with plastic, or perhaps even a little ahead of plastic if you are stripping a factory painted loco, or the crap undecs that lifelike and bachman used to sell with a heavy layer of grey house paint rolled on. And don't get me started on undecs with glued in windows.
    The only part that is a little tedious, is whatever masking is necessary. Since all the details are soldered on, you have to be creative, since you can't remove them and resolder after painting. But really, if you find that too hard you shouldn't be painting them yourself anyway.
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  2. WM183

    WM183 TrainBoard Member

    I think you're right, once 3D printing really catches on.
  3. JMaurer1

    JMaurer1 TrainBoard Member

    While I do agree that brass is dead, I don't think 3d printing is the end-all answer just because it requires some effort from the buyer. Why do you think ready-to-run has become so popular. People want immediate gratification and not to have to DO anything. It's not just trains, it seems to be any hobby. One of my other hobbies was racing R/C cars (I was pretty good too...2nd in Nationals twice), but why have to take the time to BUILD the car, tune the car, practice with the car, fix the car and race the car when I can fire up the game system and race online with others and never leave my chair, let alone have to LEARN something...and it's effecting everything including football, baseball, basketball, etc.
    spyder62, Kurt Moose and MK like this.
  4. mtntrainman

    mtntrainman TrainBoard Supporter

    Must be a millennial thing :whistle::p:D:LOL::ROFLMAO::ROFLMAO::ROFLMAO:
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  5. WM183

    WM183 TrainBoard Member

    I dunno. I fall right at the "Gen X/Millenial" divide (Born in 76) and grew up fascinated by how things work, fixing things, building things, and I know i am not alone. I actually am sliding into HO simply because there are more craftsman type kits available than there are in N (C&F, Westerfield, etc) and that is by far my favorite part of the hobby, building and painting and all. I know there are many others like me. Of course, we still had metal shop and drafting and all of these sort of technical classes in general high school, but regardless. I think as disposable income becomes smaller year by year, and average home sizes continue to grow smaller, a "quality over quantity" approach will likely reign in model railroading, as superbly detailed door layouts, ISLs, and so on become the norm. People will also probably seek to stretch those hobby dollars further, too; I know I do. If a kit costs 25% less than RTR for me, it isn't even a question. Yeah, some people want instant gratification I suppose, but a lot do not.
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  6. Espeeman

    Espeeman TrainBoard Member

    That is what happened to me. I was in the middle of building a half basement sized layout and tore it down to build one that is 6'x4'. Compact, no doubt, but the level of detail I will be able to achieve plus actually finish the darn thing! I am really interested in the finer details. I have several unpainted diesels for the purpose of high detailing (looking at SP Wolf's SP fleet makes me a bit green ;) ). My buddy has a huge basement layout and I belong to an N scale club so I get all the benefits of huge layouts without having to deal with a huge layout. The only thing I miss about the big layout I was building were the 19" rad curves strategically placed. Passenger trains look amazing on them and not so much so on 12 3/8" rad curves but I feel that is the only thing I really gave up.
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  7. WM183

    WM183 TrainBoard Member

    I understand completely. I have a space that is large enough to intimidate me in N; I still haven't decided which way to go, but regardless, the focus will be on operation sessions with just me, switching out a handful of industries. I do not need a lot of space in either scale for that, and in HO, the space I do have seems less huge, less "God, would i ever finish scenicking this?"
  8. r_i_straw

    r_i_straw Mostly N Scale Staff Member

    After reading this thread last week, I decided to re-power my Hallmark Brass FTs. Got a good deal on an Intermountain set at the train show in Oklahoma City Train Show. After removing all the assembly brackets from the inside with my resistance soldering iron and removing all the solder blobs around where the handrails were affixed on the inside, the mechanisms slid right in. I had to grind out some of the nose casting inside the pilots on the A units where the couplers attached. The IM mounting points can then be used. I put Kapton tape all around the mechanisms to isolate them from the shells and modified the Hallmark fuel tanks to slide over the IM ones. They run sweet. Now to finish repainting them and install DCC boards.
  9. WM183

    WM183 TrainBoard Member

    We do hope you'll share some photos!
  10. Hardcoaler

    Hardcoaler TrainBoard Member

    I didn't realize how many manufacturers produced FTs until recently. Aside from Micro-Trains and Intermountain in plastic, Overland did FTs too:

    Great Northern Brass FTs by Overland 006.jpg
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  11. Maletrain

    Maletrain TrainBoard Member

    I do think that 3D printing will change the industry to fill the niche that was once occupied by brass models. Brass models were assembled by hand with soldering bent sheet metal and adding brass castings. Newer models that are mass produces use injection molded parts in place of cutting and bending sheet metal, and assembly doesn't require craftsmen, once the molds are made. That is mainly done in third-world countries, now, where that type of labor is still cheap. But, it only works for things that sell in large numbers. Making 3D printable files for locomotive shells is a lot less expensive and time consuming than making masters and dies. And, making components like air pumps, trailing trucks, etc. that can be sold in mass can still be done the current way. So, I think once companies like Bachmann and Atlas, realize that they can sell to mass markets with those types of components, and make them routinely available like ws done for HO in the past, there could be a lot of cottage industries that make specialized locomotive shells that fit on mass produced mechanisms.
  12. DCESharkman

    DCESharkman TrainBoard Member

    Well brass steam still lives in my world, ole number 3773 pulling a string of 94 cars and a caboose

    Attached Files:

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  13. jmha

    jmha TrainBoard Member


    On my C&O layout I work a fleet of Key Imports N-scale brass locos, as well as some plastic articulateds and smaller locos. (I coudn't resist the Bachmann EM1, nor the Athearn Big Boy, even if the don't belong on the C&O) I have installed DCC myself in all the brass locos and have had Allbrass Backshop overhaul and weather some locos. Sound has been installed in one Allegheny and one Bachmann H-4. The Athearn Big Boy has factory-installed sound.
    Regarding performance of brass vs plastic locomotives, I'd say they are equal, even if the brass locos demand much more tinkering to run good. The details on the abovementioned plastic locos equal and in some aspects even surpass the brass.
    On the whole, I see why Key left N-scale brass, sadly, before any C&O L2a Hudson appeared. I have a kitbashed L-2 from a Concor mechanism which looks good, but the poppet valve gear on the L.2a, I Think could only be made by a brass maker. I would never think a plastic L-2a will appear, with only 5 prototypes ever built.
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  14. jmha

    jmha TrainBoard Member

    Some test results of brass vs plastic locos from my layout. There is a 5½ turn 1,67% 25" radius double-track helix, where standardized test conditions can be assumed;
    Athearn 4-8-8-4 Big Boy: weight (incl tender) 216 gram, pulls 40 hoppers up helix
    Key 2-6-6-6 Allegheny: weight 239 gram, pulls 40 hoppers up helix
    Key 2-10-4 Texas: weight 223 gram, pulls 40 hoppers up helix
    Bachmann 2-8-8-4 EM-1 weight 199 gram, pulls 35 hoppers up helix
    I had expected the plastic articulateds to outpull the Allegheny, since the equal load on each (swiweling) driver group would (in my belief) improve adhesion, whereas the front driver group on the brass loco articulates as per prototype and only has adhesion from its own weight. However, it seems total weight of the locomotive is the main factor. All locos stalled when slipping wildly.
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  15. WM183

    WM183 TrainBoard Member

    You guys are killing me! I need one of those brass Alleghenies so badly... =(

    I am regearing and remotoring my pair of NYC mikes as we speak; hopefully I get good at this!
    mtntrainman likes this.
  16. Kurt Moose

    Kurt Moose TrainBoard Member

    Sorry, just can't help myself! Picked up this Hallmark GP9 "passenger" version for cheap.

    Running out of room! IMG_20190117_115454.jpg IMG_20190117_115507.jpg
    WM183, SLSF Freak, badlandnp and 2 others like this.

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