N scale steam mfgrs

jark Oct 14, 2017

  1. jark

    jark TrainBoard Member

    Being new to N-scale, I am very interested in N-scale steam locos. What are your thoughts on Model Power Steam Locos?

    TIA, jark
  2. jark

    jark TrainBoard Member

    I'm only running DC
  3. BoxcabE50

    BoxcabE50 Staff Member TrainBoard Supporter

    This should be an interesting topic. Hoping for many responses.
  4. Hoghead2

    Hoghead2 TrainBoard Member

    I have three of the 2-6-0s (Pre MRC).I did have one of the new MRC ones...The Mogul is better than the Mikado and the Pacific in terms of looks as these have moulded on handrails, and a useful match for those used on the New Haven (which I model). QC prior MRC's ownership was iffy, and the loco lacked enough current pick-up on the tenders. But now, MRC have promised better QC and revised the tender to vastly improve pick-up. They were always good pullers, so I shelled out £300GBP (!) for the new DCC sound equipped version. Straight out of the box, it didn't work. I nudged it , and it worked.. a short while later it stopped. I then had a ridiculous three-way coversation between MRC, the retailer and myself.I wanted to just return it for repair (usually insisted on by the manufacturer) but I was asked to send a photo to MRC , and they advised that the black wire to the board needed to be soldered back on (like I hadn't noticed this!) Reluctantly, I repaired it myself with a borrowed iron. It ran beautifully. The following day it didn't work... Subsequent emails suggested (inter alia) that MRC could supply a new board for my retailer to attach! Long story short, I lost my patience and returned it to my retailer for a refund. I'm tempted to try another, as MRC has made all the improvements required for this to be a top-notch model, but for the money I had to pay i'm reluctant to gamble on another.
  5. Boilerman

    Boilerman TrainBoard Supporter

    There will be mixed answers to this question, I have several MP Steam locos from back in 2006 and like them, converted them to DCC and put traction tires on them (what a task that was) and that made a big difference in their performance, cant say if they at as good as the latest release as I have not purchase any and my lay out is back in storage until I find a home that will accept it.
    I also have a couple of the Heritage Life Like Steam Locos that came with DCC & Sound and they are good and have been trouble free and are a couple of my favorites among about the 50 or so steam locos that I have purchased over the years.
    And yes most of the newer releases are improved and for the most part better.
    You may like to look up Spook Show for his reviews prior to making any purchases.
  6. railnut49

    railnut49 TrainBoard Member

    I have several 2-6-0'sz and all run nicely. I love mine. I run straight DC, can't afford dc to run all my logos. I run Bachman as well.love mine.
  7. Hoghead2

    Hoghead2 TrainBoard Member

    Heritage's USRA 0-8-0 is a star loco of mine. Despite all the bricks thrown I have four Bachmann steamers that are excellent. The 2-8-0 and light 4-8-2 are on my ready track tonight alongside my MP 2-6-0 and the Heritage 0-8-0 is making up trains for them.. I also own Bachmanns 2-10-2 and Heavy 4-8-2 ,not because they've any place on my NH layout, but because they ran so good I bought them anyway. My neighbour does Pennsy , his Bachmann K4s run good.
  8. Inkaneer

    Inkaneer TrainBoard Member

    Got two of the MRC DCC 2-8-2's with sound. Very pleased with them. Sound is totally adequate for a home layout if the dog isn't barking, the wife yelling, kids screaming and the baby crying. But since I have none of that going on the sound is okay.
  9. Rocket Jones

    Rocket Jones TrainBoard Member

    Here's the link to the aforementioned SpookShow. A priceless resource.
    Scott_ATL likes this.
  10. BarstowRick

    BarstowRick TrainBoard Supporter

    My favorite to date are the Kato offerings. Broadway Limited appears to make most guys and gals happy. I'm cautious with Bachmann but my J Series N&W is a sweet runner. So if you asked me to sum things up I'd say feel free to try them out.
  11. gcav17

    gcav17 TrainBoard Member

    Model power makes a decent loco these days. There are some rivet counting things people don't care for. But I think it's minor.
    I heard the 2-6-0 and 4-4-0 are pretty good runners. Pulling is an issue if you want long trains.
    The 4-6-2 Pacific is okay. Good detail and such. But it is rather loud. I got one of these several years ago. It has no traction tires so it struggles to pick many cars.
    I have 2 of the 2-8-2 s. They work awesome and are quiet. One with traction tires. One without. The one with traction tires pulled 70+ cars out of the box.
    There are other mfrs like Bachman. BLI. And kato. Bachman locos are ok. But you better ask before you buy. They have issues on older runs of things.
    BLI and Kato are good. But katos usually need some work to convert to dcc. Unless you got one already dcc.
    Just my opinion. Like I said. Ask before you buy any old bachmans. Lots of old junk out there

    Sent from my SM-G950U using Tapatalk
  12. Hoghead2

    Hoghead2 TrainBoard Member

    Believe me, Steam in N is worthwhile!

    Attached Files:

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  13. brokemoto

    brokemoto TrainBoard Member

    I have pre-MRC MP eight wheelers, Pacifics, moguls and mikados. On all of the pre-MRC locomotives, I have had to swap out the stock tender for either a Bachmann SPECTRUM USRA standard or short or a Kato USRA standard. They simply ran too inconsistently with the stock MP half wheels live tender. The B-mann SPECTRUM and Katos are all wheels live. With an all wheels live tender, these are excellent locomotives, although the eight wheeler is an anemic puller. The details on the eight wheeler and mogul are much better than they are on the Pacific and mikado.

    I have one MRC/MP Pacific. It came with the same cast-on details as the old MP. It came with the same half wheels live tender as did the old MP. In a failing effort to improve the contact, MP did make an attempt to make the pilots on the Pacific live, but the contact was too unreliable to make a difference. Thus, I had to swap out the stock tender for a B-mann SPECTRUM USRA standard. Once I substituted the B-mann, it became an excellent locomotive with better pulling power due to the presence of the traction tyre.

    The only MP/MRC eight wheelers and moguls that I have seen to-date are those equipped with sound and the decoder. MRC is supposed to make them available with no sound or decoder, but I have yet to see any of the latter. The tenders are, in fact, all wheels live on those equipped with the sound and decoder, a practice that I hope that MRC will continue once it issues the non-decoder equipped versions. In fact, I would hope that MRC will have new all wheels live tenders on subsequent runs of the USRA lights.

    I will second most of the B-mann steam locomotives.

    The ten wheeler and mogul are pretty good, It is simple to short out the decoder on the ten wheeler. If you take the decoder out of the mogul, the re-wiring is not difficult. One of the things about the B-mann decoders is that even though they are supposed to be "dual mode", I have fried several of them on DC. In most cases, this has happened on a MRC 2400 with the pulse switch OFF. Removing them and wiring around them is not difficult and actually results in better slow speed control.

    I have several of the older SPECTRUM consolidateds. Those were try-before-you-buy, but, when you got one that was allright, if you spent many hours breaking in the thing, the result was an excellent running and pulling locomotive. I do not have any of the consolidateds with the decoder.

    I have several of the USRA light 4-8-2s. The first runs of these had pulling problems, due to the tyred drivers' failure to contact the rails properly. I obtained mixed results with the adding of the shim. Some were good, some were horrid. I did not buy any of the subsequent runs of these, on which B-mann supposedly addressed those problems.

    I have two USRA heavy 4-8-2s. Both of them are excellent. Even with the decoder on this one, the slow speed control on DC is excellent.

    I have one USRA 2-6-6-2. It is from the first run and is a lemon. There were all sorts of problems with these things on the first run. Supposedly, B-mann did address those problems on subsequent runs, but I never bought any from subsequent runs.

    I have one B&O EM-1. Those are excellent and the slow speed control is excellent, even with the decoder on DC.

    The USRA 0-6-0 is an excellent locomotive if you will swap out the stock tender for a SPECTRUM. Spookshow's website contains a brief explanation of how to do this. If you need more help in executing the swap, there are other tutorials out there.

    Athearn sells and MDC sold a mogul and consolidated. They are 1880s prototypes, although the mogul can be "updated" with the addition of "modern" details. These are excellent runners out of the box and pretty good pullers for their size.

    As you have no doubt deduced, I do not use DCC, either.
  14. wombat457

    wombat457 TrainBoard Member

    Interesting topic and yep, whoever said there will be some variety in the answers was right; however, there seem to be a lot of people gravitating toward Bachmann Steamers????

    I have one Bachmann steamer (a DC Mogul) and it is terrible as were all of my HO Bachmann engines (only 3 of them). The main issue I had with my Bachman's was the terrible speed control. They were GO or they were STOP with very little variation in between. Some people stated that it was due to the lower quality decoders used by Bachman, not my words what I was told.

    Anyway, I am interested in buying one good sized Steamer (price irrelevant) complete with DCC and Sound. What would be your pick for such an engine forgetting about the cost for the minute? In short, what do you guys consider to be the "top of the line" N Scale Steamer?
  15. gcav17

    gcav17 TrainBoard Member

    Careful...... you may get a lots of answers and some grievous stuff... Bachman is making a good loco these days. But I think they need better sound. That's just my opinion.
    Model power is ok. Sound is kinda chinky in my opinion.
    Kato has the new 4-84 and I have heard nothing but praise about it. Sound is great from what I hear. Unfortunately. It's UP so not for me.
    Athearn has a new challenger out. But it's still new. So give it time.
    But if you really want to know. Go to that spookshow site listed above. He has tested , torn down, (well some anyway) and ran all the locomotives on his list. And it's extensive.

    Sent from my SM-G950U using Tapatalk
    wombat457 likes this.
  16. badlandnp

    badlandnp TrainBoard Member

    If size and pulling power are your want, the Bman EM-1. It is a beast! Mine can reliably pull 42 cars up a 2.5% grade with an S-curve! It is easily converted to the sound chip of your choice. I have been running mine steady for a couple years with no troubles.

    The MRC Mikado and Pacifics are recieving great reviews also. I have two of the older ones by MP and they are extremely reliable and will pull a LOT of cars. I have modified one extensively with sound and cosmetic changes, and the other just has sound installed. Solid runners.
    wombat457 likes this.
  17. wombat457

    wombat457 TrainBoard Member

    Thanks gents and gcav17, yeah I know questions like this receive responses dependent on personal preferences or favorite manufacturers and so forth, and that's okay. I will take a look at that site you mentioned as well - sounds interesting.

    badlandnp - I'm not really looking for "pulling power", I just want a good steamer to use as a "tourist train" one engine 4 or 5 cars and that's it. Some thing like a Consolidation or Mogul would probably meet my needs as such. With that being said, I do like this one:

  18. silentargus

    silentargus TrainBoard Member

    Bmann does indeed make good steam nowadays. The Pennsy K4s is very good. I don't own any of their small steam, so I can't speak to the quality there. The Spectrum 2-8-0 is probably their best offering (and the most consistent in quality control) and has been since it first came out, and can be had for cheap compared to most of the other good steam out there. For their other products... Spectrum is generally great, anything else depends on the production run (when in doubt, check spookshow for details before buying). Some Bmann products that used to be utter trash have improved greatly in newer runs because they've completely redesigned the mechanisms.

    Kato's steam offerings are fantastic, like all their other products. Not much more to say there. Even the older 4-6-4s that they made for Con-Cor still hold up pretty well performance-wise. The FEF-3 is probably the best-running steamer ever released in N.

    FVM has only made one steamer to date, a Milwaukee A class 4-4-2, but it's excellent.

    Model Power / MRC is the budget brand, but now comes with a premium price tag since sound got thrown in the mix. I don't know how the new runs fare, but I have a few of the old ones (a 4-4-0 and a 2-6-0) and like others I've had to replace the tenders to get consistent performance out of them. The new ones are probably okay because they have better tender pickups out of the box, but I don't know if I'd want to pay the prices they're going for now.

    Atlas, of course, is the only source for RTR geared steam, with a Shay that is worth every penny if you can find one. Their old-time steamers, either the 4-4-0 or 2-6-0, are better than Bmann's old-time 4-4-0 by leaps and bounds.

    BLI's M1a/b is amazing. Well worth the price tag; if you're into Pennsy steam at all, it's a must-have. They've announced a T1 as well, but I seriously doubt it'll materialize before the decade's out (though I'm sure it'll be every bit as awesome when it finally does). BLI locomotives can have pickup issues out of the box because they go overboard with the wheel blackening, but will smooth out after a bit of run time as the excess wears off.

    Athearn... still don't have any of their steam. The old-time engines they inherited from MDC/Roundhouse are well regarded, even though they're better known for Challengers and Big Boys.

    Life Like / Walthers heritage line... I've got a first run LL 2-8-8-2 (later runs added DCC, sound, and tender pickups) and a later Walthers 0-8-0 and they're both great. Sadly long out of production and getting hard to find.
  19. jdcolombo

    jdcolombo TrainBoard Member

    If you want a steam loco that works terrifically out of the box, zero issues, great pulling power and AVAILABLE NOW, then my choices would be

    Athearn Challenger;
    Bachmann K4 Pacific;
    BLI M1;
    Kato FEF.

    The first three on this list come with sound installed. In my view, the sound is not great in any of them, due largely to the speakers used. A little ingenuity and a different speaker can make things an order of magnitude better (although I should note that I haven't heard the latest sound version of the Challenger). If you don't care about factory sound and want one of the best steam locos ever built in N-scale, then the FEF is your ticket (and if you DO want sound, I think Kato sells a version through their Kobo Shops custom line).

    The latest MRC/MP 2-8-2 still has some issues with electrical pickup. But they run very smoothly and are beasts in the pulling-power category. My 2-8-2 will out-pull every other steam loco on my roster, including the Athearn Challenger and the Bachmann EM-1. I've solved the pickup problem by using a keep-alive with a sound decoder (an ESU LokSound that I installed myself). With the electrical pickup solved, this is absolutely a terrific engine, and perfect for smaller layouts.

    Bachmann's steam is hit or miss, and more miss than hit, IMHO. The K4 Pacific is terrific; the EM-1 (no longer generally available) also was great, as was the 2-8-0. The Berkshire is mediocre at best and awful at worst. And Bachmann's quality control still sucks. You might get a lemon or two in even the good units (e.g., the K4; the EM-1; the 2-8-0) before getting one that works. The newest version of the "J" is also supposed to be excellent, but I don't have one. I would stay away from nearly everything else Bachmann, including the "generic" 4-8-4 and 4-8-2. I have two 2-6-0's; one runs nicely, the other one doesn't, another tribute to Bachmann's lousy QC.

    John C.
    badlandnp likes this.
  20. brokemoto

    brokemoto TrainBoard Member

    There really is no "one good, top of the line N scale steam locomotive". There are several excellent locomotives that posters here have mentioned. The two "yardsticks" against which many measure all N scale steam are still the Kato USRA heavy 2-8-2 and the well broken in B-mann 2-8-0 that passed "try-before-you-buy". Indeed, those are both excellent locomotives. What gives them more points with me is that they are average sized steam locomotives. I prefer small to average sized steam.

    I do not know if you use DC or DCC.

    If you want a good tourist train, buy an Athearn/MDC mogul or consolidated, some Athearn/MDC wood fifty foot passenger cars and some B-mann Jackson-Sharpe excursion cars. The Athearn/MDC locomotives and cars are 1880s prototypes. I am not sure of the era of the B-mann excursion cars, but I would guess 1940s, at the very earliest. This is a good solution if you are a DC guy. The smaller size of the cars and locomotives allows them to be operated on sharper curves and turnouts, as well. While it is possible to get a decoder and even sound into the Athearn/MDC steam, their small size requires some skill.

    If you want something more modern and still have sharp curves, you could use the B-mann 2-6-0 or 4-6-0. Those come with factory decoders. If you are a DC guy, it is not hard to short out the decoder in the 4-6-0. On the 2-6-0, you must remove the decoder. While the B-mann decoders are supposed to be "smart", it has been my experience, in most cases, that the locomotives run better on DC without them. In addition, I have fried more than a a few of those decoders on DC. It has not been pulsed DC that fried them, marry it was DC on an MRC 2400 with the pulse switch OFF. You could buy an older SPECTRUM 2-8-0 that does not have a decoder. Do keep in mind that the older SPECTRUM 2-8-0 is a try-before-you-buy and that you must spend quite a bit of time breaking in the thing. The B-mann 2-8-0 does require eleven inch or better curves, as it often will climb and derail on nine and three quarters.

    For cars, you could look for the B-mann shorty stell passenger cars. They are based on a C&NW prototype. They are still out there at shows and some dealers have them as NOS. You might even find some on FeePay. The price of those things tends to be inflated, as they are mostly out of production
    (B-mann might have one train set recently issued that has them). Atlas is going to issue these cars in 2018. Atlas has added a baggage, an RPO and has a different open deck observation. For the Atlas issue, the coach and the combine are based on the same C&NW prototype as are the B-mann cars. I am not sure on what prototype Atlas is basing the baggage and RPO cars. While the B-mann observation is simply the coach with one vestibule replaced by an open deck, the Atlas is based on a CNJ prototype. The CNJ car was some ten feet longer than the Atlas model.
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