I have been modeling for almost 20 years now. This is what I think of the current state of locomotives:
Bachmann Spectrum Steam
– I bought two 2-8-0 Consolidations. These are decent runners, granted I am not to crazy about the cogged rubber band gear drive, but I have not had any problems with them.
Bachmann Spectrum Diesels
– The old adage “Fool me once shame on you, fool me twice shame on me”. I have been fooled twice so shame on me. About 15 years ago I bought two Bachmann Spectrum GP35s. They both screamed right out of the box. I took them back to my local hobby shop and exchanged them for two Proto 2000 GP18s, which still run today on my layout. A couple of years later I bought a Bachman Plus B23-7. I got it home it would not run, I took it back to LHS and exchanged it for one that did. After a few hours it started to scream. I don’t care if Tony Koester, Alan McClelland, or any other famous modeler came back and told me the new Bachmann Diesels are great, I WILL NEVER BUY ANOTHER BACHMANN SPECTRUM DIESEL!!!
Three categories, the old Atlas with the Roco drives are crap. The Atlas with the Kato Drives are excellent. The Atlas locomotives with the Chinese drive built with the Kato Designed motor are just as good. I have no problem laying down hard earned money for an Atlas.
I love Kato. I have four. I have two SD45’s and two SD80macs. The Kato drives are consistent. Right out of the box I put my 80macs, and SD45 together in a consist. There speed is matched perfectly, not one locomotive pushed or pulled faster than the other. My only beef with Kato is with my eyes and not so nimble fingers. I think I counted close to 80 separately applied pieces to the 80mac. This included the antennas, grab irons, handrails, windshield wipers, brake cylinders and lines, couplers and separately applied individual air hoses. I believe I spent about 3-4 hours on each locomotive applying all those parts. Fortunately Kato supplied extra parts. Some manufacturers will supply any extra spares in case a grab iron goes flying through the air.
Great runners, if you are running straight DC you can have them running on your layout in the amount of time it takes to put on the couplers. If you are running DCC, you may spend an amount of time trying to figure out how to get the shell off, only to find there is one almost inaccessible screw that has to be undone to finally get the shell off. This screw is sometimes hidden by a truck.
Athearn RTR and Old Blue Box:
I ran the crap out of my old blue box Athearns. I have since updated some with Helix Humper motors, when I converted to DCC and they continue to soldier on. I knew this one hobby shop owner who had an Athearn running the display train everyday he was opened. He told me it was on its 5th or 6th year and probably had over 10,000 hours on it. He just lightly lubes periodically. I have since bought 3 Athearn RTR units. Two SD45’s and an SD40. I have no complaints so far.
Athearn Genesis, Steam and Diesel.
I bought an Genesis 2-8-2. It is sitting on my to-do shelf where it needs more weight in the front to keep it from derailing everytime it goes over a switch.
I have an Athearn Genesis SD60i. It is nice looking and runs nice. However, I will not take it out to run on my modular group’s layout or to a club. The detail is just too fine and delicate to put up with packing and
unpacking it. I will say this about the sound units. I do not like the MRC sound decoders, I have known too many people who have had some issues with them. For my SD60i I put in a Lok-Sound decoder and it is really nice. I also am planning to put a Lok-Sound into one of my SD45 rtr models.
I have two SD40-2 Diesels that run like charms, these are equipped with QSI factory installed decoders. They are my favorite locomotives to run and I take them to shows and my old clubs open house. Broadway Limited Steam. I have three steamers. The only one I had problem with was the N&W A class steamer. I had to send it back to Broadway on two separate occasions.
One was warranty covered, the other time was out of warranty and it might have partly been my
fault. Both times within a week after they received it Broadway, fixed and had it back to me. One time I shipped it out on a Friday and had it back on my layout running on the very next Thursday night, six days! Their service guy even sent even called me to discuss what was going on. I also have a Precision Craft Models (associated with Broadway Limited), steamer. No problems with that unit. My only complaint with Broadway is that they announce a product and you have to wait forever until it shows up. For example, they announced the SD40-2 high hood back in the fall of 2006 and then kept pushing back the date. Their website now says it will be March 2009.