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Manufactures of Plastic Ready-to-run Steam Locomotives

4-8-2 Heavy Mountain, Read Archive History


Athearn has been around for some time, but has not had the presence until recently when it re-entered the steam market with the Genesis Series USRA 2-8-2.   From an article in MR, it was stated that the Genesis could actually slow down to a scale speed of .3 scale MPH! For some of the great buys for Athearn locomotives check out at http://www.internettrains.com or from the "HO Steam Locomotives Guide" at http://www.steamlocmotive.com/model/HO-steam.html, refer to the mechanics of the locomotive imply some imperfections in design.


Bachmann has three locomotives currently available in their spectrum series:( PRR K4, 2-8-0, USRA Light 4-8-2 (Southern, UP, NC&Stl, NYNH&H, MP,SP )   Currently Bachmann does not have a web site but a good website that features Bachmann along with other locomotives is located at: http://www.discounttrainsonline.com where you can select HO Trains and Bachmann.   For many years most serious modelers stayed away from Bachmann, until recently, when Bachmann won "the Model of the Year Award" with it's 3 Truck 80 Ton Shay Engine.   This engine displays realistic speed control typical of a Shay engine while displaying excellent detail inside the cab as well as outside.   Having built the Shay engine from Roundhouse, one can deeply appreciate the engineering put in this model.

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Bowser's main line of locomotives are tailored toward the Pennsylvania Lines.   They also have a very the Big Boy, PRR T1 4-4-4-4, and Challenger series.   These kits are not for the beginner. In fact most railroaders have found them more than several weeks work. To have a sucessful engine requires considerable testing, re-testing and some filing and forming to produce a workable esteemed locomotive.   These engines are all metal and are heavy.   The T-1 has been quoted as "could easily pull the plaster off the wall", since it has two engines mounted in tandem under the metal housing. There are super-detail kits available to allow for intricate and accurate resemblance to the original.   With the larger locomotives allowance must be made for increases in radius to accommodate the 4-8-8-4 and 4-6-6-4 style wheel configurations.     All in all they are a great challenge for the under-challenged. Bower engines can be ordered directly from Bowser or from Standard Hobby Supply.   All Bowser HO locomotive kits are all metal with DC-71 motors.   They can be found on http://www.bowser-trains.com/.


IHC (International Hobby Corp) is now what AHM(the past importer for Rivarossi Locomotives) use to be called.   The locomotives are manufactured by Mehano in Izola, Slovenia. (HO Steam Locomotive Guide, 2000).   These are many times advertised in Model Railroader by IHC and carry Mountain 4-8-2, Mogul Locomotives 2-6-0, various cars, houses, kits, and now G scale Christmas sets.   For some these may be adequate, but to serious model railroaders, the steam locomotives leave much to desire in quality and reliability.   They can be found on http://www.ihc-hobby.com

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Life-Like Proto 2000 Heritage Steam Collection

Life-Like Proto 2000 released the 2-8-8-2 steam locomotive and can not keep up with filling orders from customers.   The advertised price on the web is $375.00.   Life-Like is has in the past produced high quality detail and smooth operation on their diesel locomotives.   The price for the 2-8-8-2 is high compared to Rivarossi's Big Boy but not bbbbb against a complete detailed Bowser or any Brass import model.   Like-Life also offers many selections of diesel power and a separate Proto 1000 series offering complete Train sets, freight cars Proto 1000 F3 B units and Proto 1000 F3A Units.   To see their latest products and descriptions look at http://www.lifelikeproducts.com/.


Mantua has produced steam engine products for many years dating back to the 1950's.   In the 1950's, engine kits were composed of brass and cast metal bodies.   One of these gems is on the web page for Mantua, showing the combination of brass and cast metal.   Weight was never a problem although some engines were noisy compared to today's can motors.   Today Mantua offers quite a different transition since can motors are standard on the line of motive power.   Mantua offers light and heavy USRA designs for the same wheel arrangements.

An excellent biography and detailed history of Mantua from the beginning can be found at http://www.railstop.com   At this same website is the biography of Bowser.   The owner of this website has a complete collection of Mantua engines and could probably answer any question that you might have on this manufacturer.

(Model Die Casting/Roundhouse) MDC

Roundhouse has been in the model railroad business since 1938, when a store called the "Roundhouse" was established by two well-known musicians who played for the bands of Bing and Bob Crosby in California.   After making a model of the famous Robert E. Lee" for the movie "Union Pacific", the company then started gaining prominence and continued growth.   The first steam engine was a 0-6-0 Switcher made of cast lead alloy and brass in 1939, soon to be reproduced in the 1950's.   Since that time, Roundhouse has developed many different models, include N and G scale engines, freight and passenger cars.   Today Roundhouse is recognized for it's R-T-R 2-truck Shay Locomotive as well as the prior kit form of the Shay.

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Rivarossi steam locomotives were first manufactured in Italy.   In the 1960 to 1970 time frame,one could find these locomotives under the AHM product line.   At that time one could buy a 2-8-8-2 Mallet for approximately $35.00. Today, that same locomotive can sell for $180 to $200.00.   There are definite advantages in owning Rivarossi locomotives. One, today's redesign of the drive train is quite an improvement over the old Can style motor and drives of the early 60's and 70's. Two, the detailing, craftsmanship is excellent for the price.   Three, the larger steam engines do not rely on the tender for electrical pickup as in the older style locomotives.   Four, most locomotives will run well on 18" radius, the larger locomotives, usually 20-22" radius. With the interchangeability of tenders, the famous Big Boy centipede tender is found on several other models and can be interchanged with other newer style locomotives.

There are some minor disadvantages of the Rivarossi steam locomotives could be the use of the rubber band tires that provide traction, but eventually over time, have to be replaced.   Price comparisons to other locomotives may seem high, but for value, you get what you pay for.   Occasionally, some cars might sweak due to friction of the plastic wheels and plastic housings.  However, this is usually a very small adjustment to releave the friction.   Sometimes getting parts for Rivarossi steam can be difficult, since the parts, if not locally available, have to be imported from Italy.   Currently, Golf Manor Hobbies in Cincinnati, Ohio is the keeper of all of the Rivarossi parts (513) -351-3849.

copyright©2001 Jan M. Willard, Mt. Airy, Md.

Last modified: 02-16-2004
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