How To Make The Best Choice When Selecting A Locomotive For Your Layout

Did you know that when you choose the right locomotive this decision plays a major role in having a well running and fantastic model train layout?  Choosing the right locomotive or locomotives will in fact provide you with years of rewarding entertainment and a smooth running railroad.  Your locomotive is the one component of your railroad where you definitely want to consider spending a few more dollars than you may have initially planned on.Often, new model railroaders will start by purchasing a ready-to-run kit which will include a locomotive, rail cars, track, transformer, and a few other things which are part of a fundamental railroad.  Unfortunately, most everything which is included in the majority of these kits proves to be unsatisfactory as the hobbyist gains experience.  This is especially so with the locomotive that is included.

Even if you don’t purchase a kit such as the one which was previously mentioned and purchase your locomotive separately, there is still a strong possibility as a new model railroader that you will not make the best decision in your choice.

The problems which are encountered when a locomotive doesn’t specifically meet your railroading and layouts needs involve issues with acceleration and one other frustrating problem.  You may have to push it to get it going, or you may also discover that it frequently derails.  Additionally, it’s worth mentioning that a locomotive that has inferior pick-ups on its wheels or a nominal gear set will also create problems.

There are certain and important criteria which your locomotive should meet before purchasing it and they are as follows:

1.  It should be weighted with an even balance and if it is, you’ll clearly see that it starts with ease.  In a word, you’ll see no evidence of sluggishness.

2.  Typically, the more metal wheels your locomotive has the better its operation capabilities will be.  Why?  More wheels equals more wheels to pick-up the electrical current which is necessary to move your locomotive.

3.  Even the length of your locomotive plays an important role.  For example, the shorter a locomotive is the less likely it is to have derailment problems.

4.  Also, the locomotive you’re considering should have flywheels at one or both ends of the motor.  This will insure smooth stopping and smooth starts.

5.  Now, one of the more efficient ways to insure that the first locomotive you buy will be trouble free and meet your expectations for a well running layout is to visit the model train hobby shop in your area.  There you will discover that the employees who work in hobby specific shops are more knowledgeable and very helpful than those who work in regular hobby shops.  These attributes will come in handy when selecting the right locomotive.

In this type of store you’ll be able to test run the locomotive you’ve selected which will further validate the fact that you’ve made the right choice, and this decision will directly relate to the help that the store employee provided you with. 

One other tip which I think will prove useful relates to doing some online research regarding pricing.  After you find a locomotive that you think will work for your railroad you may want to enter into a negotiation with the hobby shop to settle on a final price.

Finally, the type  of locomotives and trains which you select for your layout represents an important group of decisions.  Make sure that you’ve already decided on a theme or era for your layout before purchasing anything.  Remember, you’ll be building your layout around these decisions.

To determine which locomotives were run during certain eras try doing the following searches online:

List of GM-EMD locomotives 

List of ALCO diesel locomotives

You can also gather quite a bit of pertinent information about the prototypical railroad you’re modeling by simply searching online.  With that said, however, there is another option which involves just having plain old fun which is the actual point of building a model railroad.  You can take an enjoyable vacation, and in so doing also benefit by an educational experience by visiting the area and locations where the railroads you are interested in modeling are located or were once located.

Another great resource for learning about locomotives by downloading the brand new Athearn Edition 1 catalog.  It contains quite a bit of valuable information about locomotives which really isn’t available elsewhere.  If you take advantage of the clickable download which is made available below you may discover that the content presented in the catalog will prove to be useful for many years to come whether you buy Athearn products or not.