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Author Topic: American N Gauge  (Read 679 times)

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Offline ngaugepaul

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American N Gauge
« on: September 26, 2017, 09:38:58 am »
I have started to develop an interest in American N gauge of which I note that there are quite a number of manufacturers such as Kato, Atlas, Athern, Walthers etc.

I would be interested in members thoughts as to quality of the various manufacturers both in their models running qualities, detailing etc.

Do members buy from US / Canadian retailers (with presumably high postal costs and potential HMRC charges) or are there UK dealers they would recommend.

Your thoughts would be gratefully received.

Offline 70000

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Re: American N Gauge
« Reply #1 on: September 26, 2017, 12:20:22 pm »
Haven't bought any new US items in the UK for several years now - about 10 years actually, the last being purchased at the Glasgow show from one of the local traders who specialised in US stock - not sure if they are still in business though. Have picked up some secondhand stuff at "sensible" prices, but you have to shop around, to be honest.

All my new stock purchases since then have been made in the US when I have been on holiday over there, which only really works if you happen to be going near to one of the retailers who hold good stocks of equipment, as some of the smaller shops only have limited ranges, with little N in stock.
The retailer I have used many times over there is M.B.Klein in Cockeysville, Maryland - just north of Baltimore. They really specialise in mail order and have very competitive prices compared with most other retailers. I know they do ship overseas as well and as they seem a friendly bunch there, they might be able to come up with suitable shipping costs for non-US orders. Have a look at www.modeltrainstuff.com to see what they sell.
Unfortunately, that still leaves you with those nice people at HMRC to deal with.........
« Last Edit: September 26, 2017, 12:51:46 pm by 70000 »

Offline Simon D.

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Re: American N Gauge
« Reply #2 on: September 26, 2017, 12:36:38 pm »
Welcome to the merry throng of US N scalers.

In terms of quality the usual pecking order  is:

Kato, Atlas, Athearn, Intermountain, Bachmann...  The price tends to reflect this.  for loco and rolling stock reviews check the amazing Spookshow: http://www.spookshow.net/locos.html.

The US version of NGF is http://www.nscale.net/, and there is a British division of the NMRA http://www.nmrabr.org.uk/

Are you looking at the time and railroad or picking up the nice stuff - there is a bewildering range of options , especially if you want to have steam (120+ railroads in the 1950s). 

The main issue for US stuff is availability - all manufactures work to strictly limited production runs and the nice stuff can be hard to get hold or doesn't always get imported.  Exchange rates have made importing, plus the HMRC levy, a lot more expensive since Brexit.

Good UK suppliers are http://www.nscaleamericantrains.co.uk/en/ - very good service for new stuff, and Plus Daughters has a fairly good range.

Rails of Sheffield ebay shop is pretty good (offer 10% less than the asking price).  You can also get bargains from Ebay, but caveat emptor.

Also watch out for the couplers!  Converting rapidos to knuckles can be a pain.

Hope this helps

Offline Intercity

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Re: American N Gauge
« Reply #3 on: September 26, 2017, 01:56:04 pm »
I have close to 100 US diesels, all are Kato, Athearn or Atlas, I have 6 duds which need a trip to the work bench, all the others work really well especially the Katos, nice smooth pullers, good at low speeds (there are of course exceptions, but I haven't found any), I haven't put decoders in any but they seem to be drop in style as opposed to the 6 pin plug in type.

The blue box Katos are generally the older units and can run a little noisy but once warmed up seem to settle down, preventative maintenance as applied to any engines you have will keep them running nicely for years

Offline newportnobby

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Re: American N Gauge
« Reply #4 on: September 26, 2017, 02:39:11 pm »
Having seen their stand at various shows, here's another vote for Plus Daughters as an outlet for U.S. stock

http://www.plusdaughters.co.uk

Offline ngaugepaul

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Re: American N Gauge
« Reply #5 on: September 26, 2017, 05:49:14 pm »
Thank you to those who have replied

Offline dats475

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Re: American N Gauge
« Reply #6 on: September 26, 2017, 06:39:29 pm »
Hi

I have a few Atlas, two Intermountain and one micro train engine only so I don't think I'm qualified to talk about this stuff but all of them are running good.
A couple of Atlas are more than 15 years old but still running nicely slow speed.
(My engine requirement is "be able to run really slow".)

I never did anything maintenance work except cleaning wheels and trucks pick up parts.

Dats

Offline Webbo

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Re: American N Gauge
« Reply #7 on: September 27, 2017, 01:50:26 am »
Hi Paul

I agree with what others have said here.

As pointed out by Simon, Spookshow is an excellent resource for evaluating locos before purchase and for simple descriptions of what they look like inside and how to get into them. The truth is that nowadays virtually all locos made for the North American market run well and are well detailed. This wasn't always true so if buying older used locos it is certainly worthwhile checking out Spookshow.

Kato has been the gold standard for loco running quietness and reliability for quite a while, but the others are not far behind and often equal Kato in these regards. In my mind, Kato falls behind a bit in the accuracy and detailing department. For example, prototype Canadian Pacific diesels have their handrails painted white, but Kato just moulds them in the same red colour of the loco body. This is glaringly obvious to me, but this defect can be easily fixed with a paint brush. Kato is a bit more cavalier about modelling railroad specific details than Intermountain and Fox Valley Models.

Micro-Trains held the position of making the most finely detailed rolling stock for many years, but the others including Atlas, Athearn, Intermountain, Kato, and ExactRail have mostly caught up and in terms of prototypical accuracy often exceed Micro-Trains. Only quite old rolling stock is fitted with Rapido couplers. Micro-Trains makes a knuckle coupler that is not just fitted to their stuff, but to that of other manufacturers as well. Atlas and Athearn make their own versions of the knuckle coupler, but these can easily be coupled to MT equipped stock.

Living in Australia I buy all my stuff from the web as there just aren't any hobby shops around that have the models I want. Over the years, I have bought from a number of web retailers and these have all been just fine. Often, discounts of up to 30% off the MSRP are offered which greatly helps to offset the postal costs. Two of my favourites are Fifer Hobby in the US and PWRS in Canada. Fifer offers better discounts than PWRS, but on the other hand PWRS has a website that allows me to see what is becoming available in the hobby. PWRS also has a scheme in which purchased items can be accumulated before sending in a batch to save on postage costs.

Webbo

Offline Vonzack

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Re: American N Gauge
« Reply #8 on: September 27, 2017, 10:10:27 am »
I have quite a bit of US Stock, although it's pretty much all modern image. Big thumbs up for Kato diesel locos, I don't think I've got any other brand which comes close to the quality of these. I also like the big UP steamers so I have an Athearn Challenger and Big-Boy and these are again fantastic models. Rolling stock, being modern, I have a fair bit of Kato and again it's outstanding. BLMA and Micro-Trains are also very good reliable runners.

I did buy some Walthers Thrall well cars but these were very poor runners because the wheelsets and bogies were awful. Fortunately though, I was able to swap out the bogies for Micro-Trains ones and they glide perfectly now. Hopefully Walthers have sorted the issue for future production runs.

Cheers, Mark.

Offline Intercity

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Re: American N Gauge
« Reply #9 on: September 27, 2017, 02:20:38 pm »
I was advised early on when just starting to "collect" my US collection to avoid the Bachmann stuff, the early days of Bachmann are very toy looking and things like handrails are hugely oversized, they lack detail and when placed next to a nice Kato or other manufacturer they simply look awful, however....

The spectrum brand from Bachmann are supposedly a step up and much improved over the older stuff, the HHP8 units are spectrum and have directional lighting, smooth running and decent detail (to my eyes), so as time has gone by they have certainly improved on their products, also their steam locos are very nice, I have a couple including 3 EM-1s, many nicely detailed part to easily break off by fat fingered handling.

Rolling stock I have a few pieces and find them acceptable from Bachmann, although I would tend to sway more towards Walthers and Micro trains, I do have some roundhouse boxcars, which by today's standards aren't the best they do make for a nice unit train (Tropicana cars both orange and white, approx 60 cars).

Ebay is a great tool for viewing the multiple pictures of locos and stock, and will give you a really good idea of what is good and bad, remember if you buy on eBay dispite a good review it may turn up with a quick trip to the workbench before running.

Online railsquid

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Re: American N Gauge
« Reply #10 on: September 27, 2017, 03:34:42 pm »
I was advised early on when just starting to "collect" my US collection to avoid the Bachmann stuff, the early days of Bachmann are very toy looking and things like handrails are hugely oversized, they lack detail and when placed next to a nice Kato or other manufacturer they simply look awful, however....

Also to avoid is anything from Lima or Minitrix which may be floating about out there, even if it's dirt cheap. The Minitrix stuff (probably dating from the 70s) might be mechanically solid but looks very toy-like; Lima (from the same general era) is plain awful.
"Eigatani Tetsudo" - Japanese and other trains (planning), featuring:

Offline 70000

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Re: American N Gauge
« Reply #11 on: September 27, 2017, 03:47:16 pm »

Also to avoid is anything from Lima or Minitrix which may be floating about out there, even if it's dirt cheap. The Minitrix stuff (probably dating from the 70s) might be mechanically solid but looks very toy-like; Lima (from the same general era) is plain awful.

Not to mention the Mehanotehnika stuff from the 1970's as well !!

Got a couple of Arnold locos from the '70's in my fleet - both puchased secondhand. The GG1 isn't too bad (though since replaced by my 4 Kato versions) but there is an E.L. GP7 (or is it a 9?) which runs OK but seems a bit overscale.

Offline Jon898

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Re: American N Gauge
« Reply #12 on: September 27, 2017, 04:15:10 pm »
I have Kato, Atlas and LifeLike.  The first two are excellent and the latter is well worth the price if you can still find them (either second hand or as "new-old stock").  LifeLike went out of business some years ago, and some of their designs were sold on to Walthers and sold under that name.  The early LifeLike was very toy-train, but in their last ten or so years of operation (they went out of the model train business in 2005) the locomotives they produced were good value and solid performers.  Probably the only issues with the LifeLike products are that they are usually rapido couplered and DCC may be a challenge.  The spookshow site is excellent for this.

Jon

Offline texhorse

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Re: American N Gauge
« Reply #13 on: September 27, 2017, 07:44:59 pm »
Do you get the feeling Kato is the manufacturer of choice, Paul?  It's the same for me.  I've just topped eighty diesel locos, ranging from the eighties to present day.  My choice would be :

Kato
Fox Valley Models
Athearn
Atlas

FVM are quite tricky to get hold of here, and the Athearn range is limited, but well worth hunting for.  If you ever see Anoraks Anonymous at a show, make a bee line for them.  They have Katos with decoders already installed for 40 - 50, second hand!  You can also easily pick up Atlas locos from them.

Another vote for Plus Daughters from me.  Very good service indeed.

Mech Models are a newcomer to the market.  They have a great range of stuff, but unfortunately are expensive.  You may also find Contikits at many shows, who sometimes have a bargain.

My favourite American dealers are Fifer Hobby Supply (Hi Mike, if you're reading this, I know you're a member here), and Hiawatha Hobbies in Wisconsin.  I went to their shop in May and there literally several hundred locomotives to choose from.  I've have never seen such an outstanding range.

It's worth buying locos with knuckle couplers already installed, but if you have to convert your locos or stock from rapidos, or the standard N Gauge couplers, it's tricky but hardly impossible.  In fact, you may as well throw the original bogie or "Truck" as the Americans call it and replace it with a whole new one from Microtrains, complete with knuckle coupler already installed.

OK, that's it for now.  Look on Youtube for inspiration, there are some fantastic layouts and "How tos" on there (including my own Montrose and Highland Railroad).

One note about NScale.net which was mentioned above is that this last week, their site seems to have some sort of fault on it which tells us it has a virus running through it.  I'm not sure if this is unique to my computer, because I can't get in touch with anyone from NScale.net to check.  Just a caveat.

Start with a Kato and admire how smooth your loco runs.  After that, you'll consign all that Dapol and Bachmann trash to the storage cupboard, never to see the light of day again!

Andy
UK
Montrose and Highland Railroad



Offline njee20

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Re: American N Gauge
« Reply #14 on: September 27, 2017, 11:26:41 pm »
I've flirted variously with the idea of some US stock, but I was amazed when I looked on eBay at how crude a lot of Kato locos seemed to be. I've got a Genesis, which is a nice model for sure, but a lot of their stuff looked like old Farish models, and not in a good way! Given the universal praise for them I was really surprised.

 

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