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Out of Production, but Not to be Forgotten!

May 8, 2008

Some of the best, (and worst) Transition-Era Models, and why you should buy them if you see them.

  Small steam and diesel locomotives are a personal penchant of mine. Whenever I come across one, I usually purchase at least one. Why? Because there are too many 4-8-8-4’s, 4-6-6-4’s, 2-6-6-2’s and 2-6-6-6’s on layouts across the country. Some collectors go nuts and collect the ENTIRE fleet of Union Pacific’s fleet of 25 big boys. At an average list price for the Athearn Genesis Big Boys around $449.98, someone could plop down  $11,249.50! and that’s not even including shipping, or state sales tax!! Rather insane, don’t you think?

  So therefore, it’s more economical, and fun to collect, DCC-equip and operate smaller stream locomotives. There are a lot of excellent locomotives from Bachmann’s SPECTRUM line, and those I’d highly regard.

However, below, I’ll point out some of the lesser-known offerings from yesteryear that would be fun to turn into a great model. If you’re not an adept scratchbuilder/ kitbasher, this article probably isn’t for you.

 Here’s an incomplete list of some of the more interesting small steam locomotives, and why you should take note of them next time you see them at a train show for dirt cheap.


This AHM/Rivarossi 0-4-0.

What it lacks, like all 1970’s Rivarossi locomotives, in good running characteristics, it makes up for in charm. The motor is a bit on the large side, so I’d suggest a replacement can motor would be in order. As you can see, my locomotive isn’t prestine, I plan to begin kitbashing it into a more interesting locomotive and probably add DCC if I can.

You can find at least one on eBay in an average week.

Check out a page dedicated to the locomotive here:

Some nice detail was cast into the drivers, representing a light, 1900’s era switcher. Note the Steel Cab. Also note some of the BEST archbar trucks made for a steam locomotive. The depth of the casting, the brakeshoes and the coils are all excellently done.


Not everything is as wonderful from up top. The wonky looking coal bunker with the cast-in shovels must have been a nice touch 30 year ago, but it looks bad today, and ruins the possibility of running more than one of these locomotived on your layout, unless there’s rules and regulations about putting the shovel just so on top of the coal pile. I plan to make this an oil burner anyway. The roof vent looks unconvincing too.

Another actually nice detail is the steam dome and unique looking whistle mounted on the right of it. The rivet detail is fairly good as well.


Not the best photo, but you get the picture, so to speak. The steps coming off the tender had a railing following alongside, but it didn’t have it when I bought it. The Ancient oil burning lamps will probably be replaced as I “modernize” it.



An attractive little switcher, This is another AHM/ Rivarossi offering, BUT, unlike most of the other Rivarossi offerings I’ve come across this one actually runs pretty well. It has nice detailing, interesting lines, and can be found on eBay from time to time.

The only thing that kind of makes me mad about this switcher is the pathetically small ladder on the back of this thing. It’s also superfluous considering the grab irons are right…there.

If you enjoy building micro layouts, like those on Carl Arednt’s Micro Layouts site: This is THE locomotive for you. The wheelbase is slightly larger than a 6 wheel buckeye freight truck, Imagine the minimum radius this locomotive can operate at! Check out a page about the locomotive here:

This switcher was made many decades ago by the fabled manufacturer, Penn-line. This lil’ critter is probably better for Sn3.5 layouts thanks to its size, but will just as well work nicely in HO. Powered by a clunky system of awesome looking old bass gears, and an ozone producing 1950’s era open frame motor, it probably won’t work right off the swapmeet table. I would suggest putting something like a NWSL spud underneath it for power.



Yet another Rivarossi Tank engine, this is based on one of the surviving “Rock of Ages” Quarry locomotives in Vermont. Mine has been painted and weathered. When I find the time, I hope to repower it, plop a decoder in it, and hope to get it running again, after I file down those flanges to RP-25 contours at least!

Follow this link to learn more about this locomotive:

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