A Good Quality Locomotive Makes All The Difference

HO scale diesel locomotive RTR B23-7 w/DCC & Sound

A good quality locomotive will make all the difference…

It can be very frustrating having a locomotive that you need to push to get going, or it suddenly speeds up and falls off the tracks.

A locomotive runs by picking up the electricity from the track through its wheels. The wheels transfer the electricity to the motor, which then turns the gears to drive the locomotive.

A locomotive with poor pickup on the wheels or a poor gear set up will give you lots of problems. As with most things, you get what you pay for… but this is one area you do not want to skimp on. A great operating locomotive is 90% of the way to having a fantastic model train layout.

When buying a locomotive these points are critical:

  • The amount of metal wheels that pick up the electricity – the more the better, but definitely more than 1 set.
  • A good gearing ratio and motor which requires the least amount of electricity to move the locomotive, with a slow but smooth start.
  • Flywheels at one or both ends of the motor to ensure a smooth take off and smooth stop.
  • The weight of the locomotive should be just right to maintain a good connection to the track at all times but not too heavy to make the locomotive sluggish.
  • The length of the locomotive – shorter diesel locomotives are less likely to derail on the curves than longer steam locomotives.


Most hobby shops will let you test the locomotive on their in-house test tracks before you buy.

Test the locomotive forwards and backwards… Check for a nice smooth take off and a nice smooth stop when the power is ramped up or down.

I usually go into my local hobby shop after doing my research online, test the locomotive, and then you know what price to negotiate around…

That tip has saved me nearly 30% of the retail price in some cases…

Buy quality when you buy your locomotives… I guarantee the investment will be well worth it.

Check Out This Range of Locomotives – Click Here

What have your experiences been with your locomotives?

Use the comment box below and tell us… that way we learn from each others experiences…

This entry was posted in HO Scale Layouts, Model Train Modeling, Train Sounds, Where To Buy and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

24 Responses to A Good Quality Locomotive Makes All The Difference

  1. Dan says:

    Spend the money once for a good quality loco… you won’t regret it…

  2. Adam says:

    Those tips are really good just buy a good loco and youll get the best performance on your layout

  3. Model Trains says:

    My son has a couple of cheap Hornby trains that he got with a couple of sets and also a diesel that we bought separately. In comparison to the cheap trains this diesel absolutely purrs when running. You also do not have to pay a fortune for quality. We picked this up at a model train show for around £40 and it was money well spent.

  4. Dave, UK says:

    Although it’s tempting to try model locos in your local shop and then go online to save money, please remember to support your local model shop as much as possible. These type of shops are disappearing fast after being undercut by internet sellers at often better than wholesale prices, but without them we’ll lose the joy of seeing and handling models before buying as well as the help they often personally provide. It would be a shame to see your favourite hobby shop become a vacant lot or yet another restaurant.

  5. Bill Wasilewski says:

    I buy at train shows, out of model railroading magazines and also from my local hobby shop. But there are one or two hobby shops I simply refuse to buy from, They mark up the prices too, too high

  6. Steve says:

    I have two O gauge Locos, One I received from my father about six years ago, an Famous American Railroad Seriers A.T.S.F 4-6-4 Tender number 8900 and also with it came some extry boxcars. My secound I pick up an MLR Pennsylvania Mikado Steam set Tender number 9639 that is TMCC ready and also came with an freight set. Both from Lionel. So you see I am starting my hobby, I have been getting track and Loco’s to complet it, so I want to do it right or try to. I have alot of HO Trains from Loco’s to Diesel’s and alot of track to go with it that I have had sence I was around seven that my father gave to me. He is a Train Man also. I am just now getting around to put up and stay up, a train room, that is only ten by forteen with two doors , a closet, a window, so you see the room I am working with. I will have both. I have two C-W 80 Trans and the stander HO Trans , four of them. So you see I really would like to do it right. I do have an ATLES book for my HO and I do have switches for both HO and Ogauge. I guess what I am asking is, can it be done. And I guess I will anwser my on question, yes. But I do like to know the do’s and the dont’s. Thank you P.S I suport my loco hobby shops.

  7. HOWARD says:


  8. John says:


    As a local model railroad hobby shop owner I would like to say that you should be banned from your local shop. It is totally immoral to us the local shops inventory and equipment to do your evaluation then go buy it on line. How do you expect him to remain in business if all you buy from him are things that are too cheap to bother buying on line?

    If you are ever in Lexington, KY you are NOT welcome in my shop!


  9. Aaron says:

    Dude above me needs to chill! Dan said he did his RESEARCH on line then went and bought from a hobby shop. Learn to read before you start flaming people. Second, Dan, thanks for a great website, I enjoyed it thoroughly.

  10. Rey Carlos says:

    Thanks for the info, I’ll read this and understand it before I start buying my next model train.

  11. Mike says:

    Dan, Good way to attract business…. I buy from hobby shops all the time , when the price is fair.

  12. tommy says:

    just got my first starter set wish i had seen your site beforehand great info

  13. Hugh P says:


    I want to warn some of you of the pitfalls of online shopping for equipment and supplies ONLINE…

    I have bought only three items online (all 3 from different places) with very little satisfaction. Two where structure-kits that when I got them I found them both to be of very low quality even though I had seen similar items at my Local Hobby Shop for just a few Dollars more. (Get what you Pay for!!!) The other was a HO scale loco that I had seen and tried at that same Local Hobby Shop… but Ebay beat the price by 10% so I bought the same item (exact model and make) from a place I never knew of before I Looked it up online. When the loco came UPS I was Enthused to “Give it a Go!” Opened the box to find it appeared to be the same as I had tried but it didn’t have near the weight or power as the one I had looked at. Turns out the person (online dealer actually) I bought it from had done a great deal of “work” to it. Buchmann’s informed me they had removed the original motor and replaced it with a cheaper one.

    Long story short… I was out hard earned cash and a decent Loco!

    I now buy ONLY from my Local Hobby Shop!

  14. Rob says:

    So far, I have 9 locos in my N scale model railroad fleet. Eight of the locos are Kato, 3 BNSF C44-9W, 2 BNSF ES44AC, 1 BNSF SD70ACE and 2 Amtrak P-42 Phase V locos as well as 1 Sounder Transit F59PHI made by Athearn and they all run perfectly. It’s true, you get what you pay for. However, you don’t have to pay an arm and a leg for quality locos as all my locos cost under a $100 US at my local hobby shop. I’m albsolutely sold on Kato and plan to purchase more of their products in the future.

  15. jimmydee says:

    hey dan thanks for the info ,
    i was going to do exactly that go out and buy me a starter set and build off that.looks like ill be doing a little research again thanks very much

  16. Ray Ray says:

    I am thinking about starting trains as a new hobby…HELP! I need to know what brands, models, etc… that I may think about purchasing to start with. I don’t want to waste my money!

  17. Joe A. says:

    People above me are spot on: do your research on-line, then support your local hobby shop and buy trains there. If you don’t have a hobby shop nearby, check to see if the seller is actually operating a store or is selling stuff iout of his basement.

  18. Joe A. says:

    Ray Ray, Depending on whether you want models of modern up-to-date trains, or older trains (from when you were younger), check out locomotives by Atlas, Athearn, Stewart (now made by Bowser), Proto-1000 and Proto-2000 (both made by Life-Like, which is now owned by Walthers), Walthers Trainline,, and Spectrum (made by Bachmann). Everyone has their own opinion, but I would avoid “regular” Life-Like and “regular” Bachmann engines. The brands I just recommended will carry higher price tags than the train set junk, but with reasonable care they will still be around in 20 years or so, while the cheap stuff has long since been thrown out. My earliest “good” diesels are now 17 years old, and with only occasional lubrication run as well as when I got them.

    Freight cars: again, not all manufacturers make cars from all eras. I’d recommend Walthers Trainline, Bachmann “Silver Series”, Atlas “Trainman” and Accurail for durable models, and Intermountain, Walthers “Gold Line”, and Atlas “Master” for models with more (but delicate) details. Your mileage (and everyone else’s opinion) may vary.

    Disclaimer: I have no connection with any of the brands listed, other than being a satisfied customer.

  19. Ray Ray says:

    Thanks Joe A! I panicked and bought a “0” guage Lionel Pennsylvania Flyer from all places, JC Pennys. It is not too late for me to cancel the order…but I have to do it today.
    I have read a little about the difference between “0” and “HO”. I understand that the 0 is larger and that the HO is more realistic when displaying on a model (minitature sencery). Do you have any advice concernig which guage “0”, “HO” or any other (“N” ?) would be the most accessible and compatible with other makes and models?

  20. LaRae says:

    Okay, I have done some more research and have learned about Whytes Notation. I see that a good loco/engine is what I should begin with. Also, the higher the #-#-#, the more power (wheels/axles) that the engine will have to run a track. Now, I would like to ask if guage or scale is more important? I’ve seen that many HO come in different scales. I read that 1:48 is the most common, but see that there are other scales a bit smaller or larger. Will all scales “work” together with an engine or do I need to stay with one scale? Based on what I have read….I “think” that all guages in HO, will run on the same tracks (tracks that are the same distances apart)? If not, do I need to stick to one certain guage?
    come on you trainers out there, tell me Please.

  21. Dan Morgan says:

    LaRae, I suggest you ask in the forum at http://www.homodeltrains.info/forum
    It is easier to have a conversation there.

  22. Ray Ray says:

    I didn’t know that there was a forum…thanks

  23. Harry says:

    Been where you are just a year ago. Read a lot ask a lot of questions , be prepared for differe nt answers from different sources. I was able to contact a HO person who has been building for over 40 years and he has been just great to help me out when I mess up.For me I found going to swap shops a way to get equipment pretty cheap and have learned a lot working on that. I bought an expensive locomotive and didn’t buy wisely. I then bought a used loco DCC and now have a good idea what I will want down the road then the set is completed.Dont fall on your sword when you screw up because everyone has been there done that. .Good luck. Welcome to the greatest hobby.

  24. Gary says:

    Hi Dan,New to the hobby and E-BAY, I learned the hard way,Seen a steam Loco I liked and went ahead and purchased it. upon recieving it some pieces fell off as I was taken it out of the box, so I gave the seller a negitive report because he said it’s in perfect condition,(WOW that guy harrased me for months because of my report, All I wanted was Honesty,and he didn’t supply any so From then on I purchased all my Loco’s in person and tested them and you were right spend alittle more and you get what you paid for .PS my first store Loco purchased is still running great and that was 3 years ago ,Looking forward to read all your information Thanks Gary T.

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