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Ideal Starting Locomotive(s) for HOn30?

From various.
Are there any locomotives that would be considered as an ideal starting point for someone wishing to enter the world of HOn30?

So far, I have seen mostly kits/conversions that involve (in my experience) rather touchy mechanisms like Bachmann 0-4-0 and MDT models.

Are Fleischmann 0-4-0 mechanisms worth looking at?

I’m leaning towards the following:

Roco 0-6-0T or a Railway recollections 0-6-0T (with the lifelike mechanism) or perhaps the Railway Recollections Climax kit.

Any other suggestions for a quick/easy start with a new gauge?

I haven’t picked a setting yet, I’m merely interested in acquiring some equipment at this time.


Other than the fact they stall on some turnouts, the new Bachmann MDT chassis is a good runner.

I have a RWR 2-6-2 Baldwin I plan to build this weekend. I haven’t had time yet to really mess with it, but the kit looks great. I’ll post up some
pictures when I get it finished. I think this will be one of Barry’s best kits.


In the HOn30 Locomotive Handbook, Chris highly recommends the Erie Limited mechanism. While it may be hard to come by it is suppose to be a great starting point to build a Forney in HOn30. I recently found one on ebay, I think I paid about $75 for it. It is sitting under my bench awaiting the “winter building binge”. I’m probably like most, in that I will end up with a very high engine-car ratio. BUT!! what’s the sense of having a bunch of engines that
don’t run well?? Also, I believe that someone made a re-motoring kit of some kind for the Bachman engine, but I haven’t seen one.


My experience with the Roco 0-6-0T is that it is a nuisance to keep running. The exposed gears on the side of the frame pick up tiny bits of grit or ballast, then jam. I have to put on the optivisor, get a sharpened toothpick, and pick out the bits.

The Bachmann 0-4-0T (out of production now) has two lethal faults. One is that some of the main gears (the worm gear) have not filled properly in the old, and the hole in the center is way oversize and irregular. This type of gear will eventually jam the mechanism. THe cure is to bore out the hole and glue in a brass bushing that fits properly on the plastic spindle in the frame. That’s a lot of work and requires some precision machining.

The second Bachmann problem is that over time the plastic gear hubs that mate with the drivers will split. I have not tried to fix that, theoretically it could be done.

The Life-Like mechanism seems to work just fine. The Fleischmann “Piccolo” 0-4-0T runs very nicely and can be converted to go in a small railbus, for example. It is more expensive (about $85).

I would only suggest you buy my Climax if you have or can get an older Life like GP-18. The Old GP-18 has the plastic frame, the new has the split frame. The new one will not work. I do have plans to re-power it when I have the time.

Thanks Barry

The MDC/Athearn N-scale 2-6-0 is an excellent mechanism for conversion into a small, freelance HOn30 mogul.

HOn30 superstructure conversions are available from Cliff Darrow (via Al Sandrini’s B&F Hobby) and now also by Miniatures by Eric in Canada (thanks to Pieter Roos for this info!)

Pieter wrote:

I was in the internet at lunch, and happened to check the Miniatures by Eric page. He has added two new HOn30 loco conversions, check them out.

I also like the LifeLike N-scale 0-6-0 saddletanker, for which Barry McClellan’s Railway Recollections has several excellent HOn30 superstructure conversions.

Have fun!

Tom H. in Toledo

The original Bachmann MDT Plymouth model did not run very well, but the new version runs very well. It has good speed characteristics and Micro Train couplers can easily be added.

The N Scale 2-8-0 Consolidation mechanism, first built by MDC and is now an Athearn N Scale kit (Since the purchase of MDC by Horizon Hobbies, who also owns Athearn) is a great running mechanism, and has a flywheel for great slow speeds. The convesion kit by Cliff Darow (Small Scale Logistics) makes it very easy to convert the loco to HOn30. The domes and stack twist off of the loco and the cab goes together very easily. The tender deck is replaced by a one piece resin casting to create the new fuel bunker and the addition of a white metal air tank completes the conversion. The boddy is never removed from the loco or the tender for the conversion. I have over 100 hours on one of the locos and it runs just great.

There are several more conversions, including the MDC/Athearn 2-6-0, which uses the same conversion as above. Railway Recollections has just released their new Baldwin 2-6-2 conversion, which used the new Bachmann 2-6-2 mechanism. If you have not tried any of the new Bachmann split frame mechanisms, you need to do so, they run great.

Al Sandrini

I vote for the new Bachmann 2-6-2, it runs great has a great conversion fro Barry McClelland .


I like Fleischmann ‘N’ 0-4-0 Black Anna They run extremely well and tolerate tight turns.

I have 3 of them and I love them.

But they are not cheap.

Right now, one has an HO-sized cab stuffed on top. In my dreams, all will eventually be HOn30 or 4mm models.

Bim Bousman


If you don’t mind starting with a diesel loco, which usually track better and have fewer pick up problems, try this…..

Purchase two unpowered plymouth switcher bodies from Furnaro @ Camerlengo, price anywhere from 8.00 to 12.00 dolors each.

Carefully cut the hood off of one of the Plymouths. Try to save the cab as well because you can use the cab for another loco rebuild following Bob Hayden’s article of years ago.

Take the hood you cut off and carefully cement it to the other Plymouth body giving you a nice Center Cab loco. You will have to do some minor cutting and fitting but there are several N gauge mechanisms that will snuggly fit under the new shell and you are ready to run.

Bob Hayden”s N scale conversion is even easier. You just take the cab from one F & C Plymouth and cut/fit it over a the end of a N scale diesel. Add
some new running boards and a few other details and you are off and running.

I think I still have a copy of Bob’s article and if Bob has no objections I would be happyu to send yoy a copy.

Sam Parker

I honestly think my easiest steam locomotive to build is the new Baldwin 2-6-2. It’s list price is $65.00, $10.00 more than the Porter 0-6-0.

Thanks Barry

Having just last week built both superstructures, I agree. The 2-6-2 is a breeze, even for a beginner.

The Porter requires a bit of fiddling. It’s not hard, just a bit frustrating at times to get everything aligned and some experience helps.


For a starter HOn30 loco conversion, I really can’t go past the Life Like SW1200 for either a small diesel of Class A Climax conversion.

Examples of the breed can be found here

Hope this helps,

Happy Modelling,
Aim to Improve,
Professor Klyzlr,

Add the cab from the F&C copy of the Minitrains Plymouth to the above or to an Atlas RS1 and you’re done. THe Atlas can be bought with MT couplers already installed.


Nigel Lawton offers a precision remotoring kit for the Bachman 0-4-0T that cures most of its running problems. He also offers the same kit for the older 0-6-0 however with the new Bachman N scale 2-6-2 and 2- 8-0 on the market, it would seem to be a bit of overkill to try and remotor the older 0-6-0s.

If you go back about a week or so in the messages you will find some from Nigel that give his website if you are interested. There really isn’t another four-wheeled mechanism with the drivers large enough to do a reasonable Forney except for the Bachman so if you are leaning that way, give Nigel’s offering a look.

The Fleischman 0-4-0T is excellent but the drivers are a bit small for a “Mainer” Forney.


The new Bachmann 0-6-0 or 2-6-0 or 2-6-2 run very well also the diesel switcher 0-6-0.

Regards, JE

You didn’t mention if you were looking for kits or ready-to-run, and yes they do exist if you look around.

As far as mechanisms go, you can’t beat a diesel mechanism. They have a lot less problems, gears, flyrods,etc, than steam ones. I have a Railway Recollections Climax that is built on a GP18 diesel mechanism and runs great. I was really surprised that in spite of no flywheel, it runs excellently and I like slow runners. Anything than can only run at medium to top speed is not a great runner.

Ready-to-run: talk to Big Al at B&F Hobbies; he has some that are really already built kits. There is also Tom Price of “”. I have bought a Dunkirk and a Center Cab diesel from him. Actually mine came from his occasional sales on ebay. They each cost more than $100, come in a great storage box, and run great. A Dunkirk is similar to a Climax-Shay but with no mechanism visible and like them runs on a pair of trucks like a diesel. (Actually the Dunkirk company was the first maker of Heislers.) Some people consider any loco over $100 to be overpriced but wake up and look at HO prices these days. And maybe some beginners have more money than time to put in 30-40 hours building a kit.

Of course now I have 4 engines and 2 cars. What’s wrong with this picture?

Alan Cushing

The ideal starting loco is the Car Works #23. Already built and you can even get it painted.

I just want to express my thanks at the tremendous amount of responses my query has received to date. I currently have an MDC 2-8-0 and the 0-6-6-0 Japanese mallet that I’m tempted to use for HOn30 conversions.

I’ll probably try to find a Bachmann Industrial diesel and Life Life 0-6-0 as starting points. (I’m not keen on destroying an expensive unit at this stage of the game). I’m encouraged by the variety of options out there (at fairly reasonable prices).

Thanks for all the links and suggestions.

regards, Markus

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