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Vintage Brass Locomotives
By: Craig    Date: 2005-06-08
There is work to get Vintage running at scale speeds!
I have been asked several times to recommend an HOn3 locomotive to purchase. Since tallent levels vary considerably, it is not a good idea to purchase an older vintage locomotive unless you have attained the tallent to make adjustments to the locomotive. As you might immagine, there are many things to consider, and that is why I have written this article.

There is a lot of Vintage Brass out there, and most of it is on the shelf of a modeler or collector. I have seen some pretty impressive collections. Much of this brass was purchased originally for $50-60.00 US dollars. Vintage Brass from the 1960s usually had some kind of running problem. Only the experienced modeler is able to regear, install the parts, and fine tune what is necessary to get these to run properly at scale speeds. Much of this early brass had problems that could cause an inexperienced moderer headaches and unwanted expense.

Locomotives still need to be smooth running before the installation of DCC. DCC will only enhance the running of your locomotive.

It is important to realize that to get an HOn3 locomotive to run properly, to operate smooth and at scale speeds, the locomotive needs to be Re-Motored with higher technology motors. You can make the larger C-21, C-25, K-27, K-28, K-36 K-37 locomotives run either on DC or DCC technology. The lighter C-16, C-19 engines, are very attractive to have on the layout. DCC technology will help you get a smaller locomotive running at scale speeds. Some of these depending on vintage will require new gear towers to run them. The smaller locomotives are lighter in weight, and in the HOn3 scale that is a huge factor. When running DC weight is in direct proportion to the way the locomotive runs. In DCC weight can be overcome by DCC technology. Because there are so many adjustments that can be made to the decoders installed.

Higher tech motors are now available in many different sizes. The 1630 or under category is full of motors that will slow start most of the vintage HOn3 out there. Adding DCC will enhance the running capability of a motored locomotive. And it will do it without all those flywheel installations.

If you have not tried DCC yet, there are set ups to compensate for Start Voltage, Kick Rate, Kick Depth, Frequency Wave (short to long) and Maximum Voltage. Sounds complicated, but pretty simple procedures.

You can get into DCC systems for under $200.00 and be up and running in a very short time assuming that you do the labor yourself. Parts are cheap and labor is the expensive part.


1970s, 1980s, 1990s Brass more attractive!
of the best vintage brass was from the 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s. PFM, Baloa, PSC, Sunset, and Westsides larger k27, k28, K36, k37 are the better running brass. Some High Grade brass is still available from the mid to late 1980-s. Fujiyama fits into the catagory of High grade, also PFM has High Grade brass from the mid 80-s. However some of these are not just out of the box runners. If you are a patient person, there are some adjustments that need to be made before you want to show them off on the layout. This Vintage era of Locomotive is not usually going to require machine work to get one up and running at scale speed. Just time and parts.

I have put together an expected to do list for some of the most popular 1960s, 1970s and 1980s brass. Most of the items listed below will cost not more than $35-100.00 dollars to perform. Unless you add DCC to the mix.

Adjustments you would expect to make are:

Proper motor replacement & alignment - We have high tech motors now to replace inadequate ones previously used. Shown above is an older application of motor install.

Flywheels are not always needed - only in some applications. Motors we are using now are 10x stronger than earlier magnet versions. Thus slow starts are possible with only a motor install. DCC can help your locomotive slow start by making adjustments initially with your cab control. Questions contact us by phone.

Worm gear to idler gear alignment - some slack needed here!

Wire placement very important

Lubricant & clean gears-using Silicone Lube

Running time - after adjustments have been made

Binds in drivers and axles. Always check these-especially after locomotive has been upside down - also check for spacers on rods.

This is a partial list and each topic could be expanded on. Maybe in later articles.

A good modeler can bring back to life just about any junk brass, it depends on talent, tools, and especially a little money. If the parts are there you can do it.

In todays brass market we see locomotives that are running smoother and look more like the prototype on your layout. Brass buyers demand more quality now. Pre installed high tech can motors, detail, decoders, paint and decal are on the typical locomotive now. Blackstone on the lower market of entry level locomotives has found that through some engineering and quality control we can have locomotives run out of the box. PSC MMI also needs credit here for engineering their beautiful locomotives which are now coming out DCC ready.

We can still be faced with making minor adjustments even to the new brass market locos, but the end result is tremendous. This quality is what we have come to expect from the manufacturer.

If you enjoyed this article, let me know by sending an email!

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