Summary of N Scale Steam Manufacturers

Published: 2017-11-15 - By: gdm
Last updated on: 2021-08-14
visibility: Public
"Being new to N-scale, I am very interested in N-scale steam locos. What are your thoughts on Model Power Steam Locos?"

This question from a fellow member prompted me to share my thoughts on a variety of steam loco models from a number of manufacturers.

Bachmann 2-8-0

If you go with Bachmann, generally stick with the DCC pre-installed versions. Older models are mixed. I have a pre-DCC 2-8-0 from Bachmann that runs great and a pre-DCC Bachmann 0-6-0 that is awful.

Athearn's 2-6-0

Athearn's 2-6-0 model is a nice runner but also a pre-DCC model. I find these to be excellent models at a great price point. I am not very familiar with their newer, large steam engines, but word on the track is they are pretty good. These models are the same as the MDC 2-6-0. Athearn acquired the tooling from Roundhouse.

Atlas 4-4-0

Atlas makes a 4-4-0 that is also not-DCC though it can be modified. These require really clean track but they have awesome detail and a huge cuteness factor. Atlas also makes a Shay - which is kind of a special purpose model (great for logging or mining layouts). Once upon a time, they imported steam engines from various European manufacturers (Rivarossi etc.) and you will find these on eBay. They were good for their time, but cannot hold up to a modern day Kato.

Model Power 2-6-0

The newer die-cast Model Power engines are pretty good. I have had good experiences for the most part with their 2-6-0's and
Model Power 4-6-2

4-6-2 DCC-friendly models. The newer ones are factory-DCC and even better. These are made by Ajin in Korea I believe. As I understand it, the 4-4-0 shares a similar mechanism and is pretty good as well.

Kato GS-4

The pre-DCC Kato Mikados run very nicely but are a DCC no-go for the most part. The newer Kato Steam ( GS-4 and FEF ) models are excellent but there is a limited selection of road names for the models they chose.
Kato FEF

Kato also makes Japanese and European prototype steam.

InterMountain cab-forward

InterMountain makes a beautiful cab-forward model . One of my good friends reports that it is a bit of an awkward runner, but I strongly suspect the new release coming out from InterMountain will be improved.

I do not have experience with the Broadway Limited models. They are beautifully detailed but I don't know how well they run.

Con-Cor GS-4

Con-Cor originally produced some nice steam engines that were made by Kato. These are great runners. I have a Hudson that I love. Like the Kato 2-8-2, DCC is not a serious option. They moved this model to China for production and the Chinese models are also pretty good but they are NOT DCC models. They also make a GS-4 (also originally made by Kato) for which the latest Chinese releases that take (HURRAY!) a socket decoder. These are also solid runners.

Fox Valley 4-4-2

Fox Valley makes a 4-4-2 that is a winner in terms of detail and running as well as being a DCC socket upgradeable model (HURRAY!). The only downside is they are only made for one road name - Milwaukee.

You also have older Arnold models for U.S. prototypes which, like older Atlas/European models, are somewhat dated and won't do DCC but they will run and they can pull.

Lastly, you have some beautiful models of European steam made by Minitrix/Marklin and Fleischmann. These are excellent runners and all take DCC socket decoders.

I am sure I missed some, and I intentionally left out Brass.

Currently, we have over 500 steam models detailed in the N Scale database: Steam Loco List.

About the Author

George has been collecting trains for more than two decades. He started writing about the models and the process of collecting more recently. As well as the TroveStar Blog, George's written work has appeared in the N Scale Enthusiast Magazine. He loves talking about collecting, models, manufacturing and modular railroading. His background in management of massive amounts of financial data made him interested in using some of that knowledge to benefit various collectors. He lives on Cape Cod in the state of Massachusetts with his wife and three cats.