Request for info: cheapo 1:87 steam power.

Folks:
While browsing some Internet hobby dealers, I happened to select the 'list by best sellers' box on one, and dis-
covered that their largest-selling HO steam loco was the old-style Bachmann 0-6-0, and that a good many of the standard 'cheapies' followed closely behind. This led me to consider the extreme shortage of information and discussion about many of these engines, beyond the usual "It's junk" approach. Sure, some of these cheap train-set engines are pretty bad, but there have to be some that are better than others.
So humor the crazy guy, and let me know of any practical test results or experience with the following:
Bachmann 0-6-0 w/tender, 2-6-0, 2-6-2
Life-Like Shifter, Teakettle, Dockside
IHC Dockside
Model Power 0-4-0T, Fatboy, Shifter, 2-6-0, and OT 0-8-0, 4-6-0, 2-8-0
I have owned a few of these, most too far back to say much about, but I do now have a Teakettle that runs very nicely after remotoring...
Cordially yours: G P President, a box of track and some L-girders
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snipped-for-privacy@gannon.edu wrote:

The IHC mogul (2-6-0) is a nice running little engine. It's plastic with decent molded on details and a very good mechanism. Good slow running and it stays on the track. It's available with an oil tender as well as a coal tender for those folk doing the western oil burning roads. The boiler is full of weight. Right out of the box it looks pretty good. If you paint or blacken the shiny tender wheels it looks better. With some Dremel work you can fit a working coupler to the pilot. It used to be available for $50 new, although the '07 Walther's book list price is $75 or so. It's a reasonable model of Boston & Maine class B15 which worked backwoods way freight and hauled commuter trains right up to the end of steam in 1957. The B&M had a lot of substandard track with wooden bridges that could not take anything much heavier. It's also a reasonable model of a mogul for just about every other railroad in the country. The old Mantua Pacific (4-6-2) is a nice runner too. Plenty of them were made, and they are plentiful at train shows. I don't think they are back in production yet, at least the '07 Walthers book doesn't have it. It's a zamac model, lots of weight, fine mechanism, good slow speed runner. With a paint job they look real enough, and you can have a lot of fun adding piping and valves and such. The "front end" of the later models was an uninspired one piece plastic casting. This can be replaced with a piece of brass bar stock and Cal Scale pilot and air compressor castings. I happen to own the Mogul and the Pacific, so I can speak for them, but I would expect that all the smaller IHC and Mantua steamers are just about as good. From two feet away, any steamer looks good if it has decent paint, valve gear, and a working headlamp. Some surface prep and a can of dark gray auto primer is all you need for a good paint job. If it runs slowly with out stalling and stays on the track going thru turnouts then I'm happy with a steamer that looks good on the layout from two foot away. If cost is an object, used steam picked up at train shows is very cost effective.
David Starr
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On Tue, 20 Mar 2007 15:23:34 -0400, David Starr

Hi David, You are a real gentleman. Thanks for all the good information you post on this site!
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My limited experience is that all of the more recen IHC engines run pretty well. Perhaps it would help in the discussion your dfeinition of "cheap." By todays standards, my way of thinking is that any engine for around $75 or less is cheap. You may have a different threshold as the term cheap means different things to different people.
The one area of concern on any steam engine is electrical pick-up. The diesels have it better here as it is usually pretty easy to have all wheels picking up. Steam, especially shorter wheelbased models don't have that luxury, so if an eigine rocks just a bit in a frog, you might lose contact and w/o a flywheel, you are dead in the water. It isn't prototypic to switch at 25-35 scale miles per hour just to "coast" through them.
I try to watch for IHC Premier locomotives on Ebay.
I've had my fair share of other locomotives that very quickly ended up in a trash bin... I've not found too many engines that perform worth a hill of beans for under $20. Most of the time, it is a very inexpensive motor that starts the trouble. Poor electrical pick-up adds to it and then the lack of a flywheel kind of seals the loco's performance fate. I don't know what it would cost to include all of these features in a production model, but they are pretty much my minimums.
One vinal thing... a good power pack makes a world of difference as well. I had an old cheap trainset power pack that I used on my test track. I was so frustrated with an engine's performance that I was ready to pitch it. For some reason or other, the power pack quit working so I pulled my good one from my layout... I'm glad I did.
Hope all of this helps...
dlm
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Dan Merkel wrote:

DM:
My definition of cheap varies from 0 to $30 depending on what's happening with the bills and other expenses, and I don't generally buy locomotives new in that range (though I have in the past) because I don't have a huge hobby budget and I'd rather spend $60 on something decent than $20 on trash...but at the same time, the cheap trainset steam has this odd tinplate fascination to me, and I occasionally have had good luck with it.
Electrical pickup, yes, that's always a problem, since I like small tank engines and 4-wheel diesels, and am pretty much doomed to deal with 4-wheel pickup. Keep things clean, power the frogs, and possibly weight the engines a bit, and the troubles are manageable. Plastic frogs is flies in my soup.
A good power pack in indeed vital, and some day I fully intend to get one, because those I have now are all juuuust short of being good...my most powerful pack has selenium rectifiers, my best-controlling pack is a wimpy 7 VA (what the heck, MRC? Amperage isn't that costly!), and one other has worn and temperamental reversing switches.
Cordially yours: Gerard P. President, a box of track and some L-girders.
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snipped-for-privacy@gannon.edu wrote:

[...]
On a scale of 1 to 10, with 5 = "acceptable, just"
As a guide to my standards: Spectrum steam I rate 7 to 8. Proto 2000 steam I rate at 9 or 10. Athearn Genesis I rate 8 to 9.

Don't know. Have never bought non-Spectrum Bachmann steam. Their non-Spectrum diesels I rate at 6 to 7.

Don't know about current production. The Shifter I had some time ago, I would rate at 3.

Don't know the current version. Other IHC steam I rate at 7 to 8.

Don't know. Have never bought a Model Power steam loco.

Yes, that's the problem with the ones I know of: they do need tinkering (and more) to make them reasonable runners.
That website you refer to should have a Follow-up section on buyer satisfaction.
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After breakin all of the IHC Premier locos I have run very well, and the prices were pretty good too - $79.99 and under. A TSC T1 decoder fits quite nicely in the top of the cab on the Pacifics and Hudsons if you're into DCC.
Almost all of the non-Spectrum Bachmann steamers I've had were what I call "Toys-R-Us" quality. I got tired of sending them to Bachmann for repair under their Limited Lifetime Warranty (which is a good deal in itself), and finally retired them.
Never had a Life-Like steamer. The Model Power 2-6-0 I've got runs okay after a bit of tweaking, but it is what it is.
Len
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On Mar 20, 10:52 am, snipped-for-privacy@gannon.edu wrote:

much snipped
I have to admit that I'm completely unfamiliar with the speceific items G P mentions. I would, however, like to pick up on David Starr's suggestion concerning old Mantua locos as good starting points for relatively cheap steam. Ebay is a surprisingly good source. In the last 30 days eighteen Mantua/Tyco Pacifics have been sold there for $45.00 or less. I haven't looked at each to note the extent of possible damage, but, speaking as one whose favorite aspect of this hobby is the assembling, detailing, tweaking and kit bashing of locomotives, this seems quite reasonable. Similar value can be culled from the listings for other old Mantua engines and related brands such as MDC Roundhouse. Thank you.
Jerry
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