Consensus: Athearn SD50 Rules

Last month's run session featured one UP SD50 someone had scored... and I liked it. This month we had at least 8 SD50s out on the track. Andre' specified this be a modern NS theme tonight, so basically anything NS or contemporary power likely to be pooled (as in, everything from Conrail to WC to BNSF). I brought an SD50, my ancient Athearn/Mashima Toosh Dah (the very same one of the short article in RMJ in 1998), and two factory Atlas dash 8s in Santa Fe. Everybody it seemed had at least one SD50, and the opinion of them was universal... they kick ass. Aside from the little snafu with the bottom motor insulation (one blown decoder before the word got out), they all ran great, and a pair of them would haul a reasonable freight up the helix. Which is more than can be said for the teeter-trucked underweight SD70s.

One comment heard: "Why doesn't Athearn just get rid of the Genesis line and make them all like this?"

Hmm. Interesting thought. Without hard sales and cost data, its hard for me to say whether the SD50 will be more or less profitable than the SD70. The body tooling I'm sure cost as much, since it's as good or better than the older Genesis tooling. Drive cost has to be much lower because it utilizes proven components. Assembly and finishing cost slightly lower due to fewer detail parts, but quality of finish seems to be equivalent. Packaging, well they saved at least a buck on the stupid sleeve box, point for the Genesis there. The question is, if the cost/price differential between an RTR SD50 and a Genesis SD70 is linear - in other words profit margin percentages is the same - my guess is that due to the lower sales price the SD50 will sell like crazy and make a lot more total $$ for Athearn.

I know the talk in the Atlas forum at least in the beginning seemed to favor the more expensive P2K SD50, in spite of its shortcomings. But among they guys running tonight - myself, Andre, Steve, George, Tom, Mark, Mark, Maurice, Rob, Rod, and Jeff --- (considered a skeleton crew BTW) - it's unanimous in favor of Athearn. And most of these guys are NOT tear-em-up builders, at least not all the time. They will take a well done RTR model and put it in service without a lot of major reworking, and they are looking for a good looking, accurate, reliable model. The Athearn SD50 fills the bill. I wonder if, now that the Athearn models are really beginning to show up in good supply now, if the balance of favor will tilt toward Athearn even in the mainstream world of the Atlas forum and rmr.

Street price here for the Athearn SD50 is $80 at Johnny's. Their price for the Proto 2000 SD50 is something like $110. Unless you are too impatient to wait for road names not yet done by Athearn (like Chessie), absolutely must have compatibility with your Proto SD60s, or would rather slash your wrists than mount your own m.u. hoses, it's a no-brainer. Athearn wins.

The Athearn SD50 is a distinct step backward in the realm of HO diesel models, and I don't mean that in a negative way at all. Perhaps a step sideways, above or below - it is something of a return to Athearn's roots producing a product that is solid, reliable, excellent basis for kitbashing and detailing, easy to work on, reasonably priced. It's a refreshing step in the face of mediocre locomotives doctored up with bells and whistles and $200+ price tags. And I think it proves that guts are more important than a tit-for-tat superdetail contest. The amazing thing is that the "downgraded" driveline of the SD50 is equal to or superior to the Genesis SD70 in every way... at least compared to the Buehler motored units.

And it stays on the track, imagine that.



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- Pre-Interstate Urban Archaeology


Reply to
Andy Harman
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I couldn't agree more. I've only got 1 UP SD50 so far, but all I can say is wow! I've run it together with a couple of Kato SD90MAC's, and it runs at least as well, if not better. The drive is smooth and very quiet, it pulls well, and I think the finish is great. Crisp painting, nice decals and the decent light bulbs make this model a winner for me.

And compared to the first Genesis SD70M's, no hassle with ditchlights or replacing circuitboards when fitting a decoder, and it runs a lot better.

I've ordered another 2, D&RGW for those, and will probably get more when my economy allows.

Not bad..... ;-)


Reply to
Nicholas Lorvik


Coming from your group... that's one heck of an endorsement. I've run an AC4400 in UP and agree with your comments. I am waiting on the CSX SD50 YN3s to arrive.

Thanks for the comments. I might not wait for the YN3s to arrive before I get a SD50! (any road)


Reply to
Clarence Bell

Does the front plow come off easily?

Reply to

I getting ready to buy the SD50 and put a decoder in. Can you explain some more about what was wrong with the bottom motor insulation?

Reply to
Patrick Carcirieri

Apparently, the bottom strip can wear through the paint covering the frame and touch metal to metal, causing a short. Think of the old strips with the prongs; you had to either cut them off or bend them away as well as insulating the bottom from it. Need to do the same with the SD50s.


Reply to
Kennedy (no longer not on The Haggis!)

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