When it comes to deciding which type of HO model scale train to purchase, steam and diesel locomotives both have their distinct characteristics, both good and bad. By being aware of these characteristics, you can make a knowledgeable decision without regrets.
Steam locomotives have a distinguishing, main attribute: steam. Known by the familiar whistling as steam blows, the original "Choo-Choo" train is undeniably recognizable. Even though diesel trains do not have this feature, their tenders are sleek and modern in design. Electric steam locomotive models come equipped with an operating smokestack and tend to be replicas of days gone by, back around the 18th century. Diesels are mainly modeled after original trains which ran about 100 years later around the early 19th century and later.
Made of brass and other sturdy metals, steam locomotives are strong, weighty and durable. Additionally, many of the metal parts used in construction are applied separately - a common feature found in Bachmann locomotives. This demonstrates the care and due diligence given to each manufactured part. Diesels models can be found made of heavy weight plastic and other materials.
If you want a diesel train, look for trains with momentum and track stability features. Characteristically, the diesel trains have "all-wheel" drive. Bachmann trains and other brands may list "8-wheel pickup and 8-wheel drive" which are compatible to the all-wheel drive feature. This adds to a train's longevity and smooth operation, which is desirable for any diesel. Also, look for models with dual, precision-balanced flywheels. These elements help keep the train running stably on the track making it less likely to jam as rolls over unnoticed debris.
By contrast, steam locomotives are known by the number of axles stated in the title or somewhere in their product description. For example, "4-8-4" would be interpreted as a model featuring two axles in the front and rear; and 4 drive axles. Since these types of trains are typically substantial in weight, they need compatible axles which are strong enough to stabilize their frame.
Some collectors note clearer, more defined hand painted details on most steam engine models. This in part is due to the fact that brass takes well to applied graphics. Designs on shiny metal alloys tend to be more visible from a distance as well as visually engaging close up.
Overall, steam engines are priced ranging from $75 on up. It is not uncommon to find mid-to-higher priced models in the $250 range and higher. This is due to a combination of factors including the popularity of the original during its heyday on which the replica is modeled after. You will also pay more for the combination of axles. For instance, expect to pay around $75 or more for a steam engine from Bachmann locomotives with a defined "0-6-0" type. This means "0" front and "0" rear; however, the 6 drive axles make up for the missing fronts and rears.
While most steam locomotives cost more than their diesel counterparts, Bachman trains do not. Prices depend on which features are included. Expect to pay significantly higher prices for added perks such as digital control for speed, lighting and directional operations, domes, additional box cars, caboose and other benefits.
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Joe Kanooga is a father of two kids, a successful business owner and the author of numerous articles about Bachmann trains. Click here to download a free Model Trains Guidebook which includes articles about Bachmann locomotives plus hobby tips, ideas and information.
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