Locomotives New in the Box

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Section Hand
I have a bunch of locomotives that are new in the box and never opened or operated. I am not sure if I should be running then or not, to keep the lube loose and the drives free as well and the motors in top condition. Some are of Proto 1K vintage and I may have several of the same locomotive model with different cab numbers.

What are your thoughts on running these locomotives?




Aurora & Portland Owner
Greg, I've had NIB engines stored for years. Some were even shipped overseas with me when I was in the military. I try to keep them in a climate controlled environment. Every now and then I've pulled some out and ran them on a test track with no problems what-so-ever.

Iron Horseman

Well-Known Member
What are your thoughts on running these locomotives?
I would first ask, "Why are you asking the question?". If you are planning on selling them then the answer is, "NO". That way they can be sold as brand new mint never out of the box. If you take them out and run them then they are USED. On the other hand if you are worried about having them run well at a later time and if the lub has already hardened you will need to clean it now. Then what put them back in the box and repeat the process at some later point in time? Where if you leave them in the box and don't take them out until you need them you will need to clean them then. Same difference for time cleaning just a matter of when. Finally if you take them out and find they run just fine, what are you going to do? Put them back into the box? If so what is the point.

I think I have hundreds of locos NIB. The only reason I am a little worried is if there is something wrong with them from the factory I won't know until long after warranty has expired. A bunch of them are the old Proto's that might have the cracked gears, so .... anyway.

Back to the original point - What has happened or is going to happen that you are asking the question?
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Well-Known Member
I store locomotives for years at a time between uses. The latest bunch, all of mine, didn't get used until 4 years had passed. I believe a Proto 2000 from Life Like days has a split gear finally, but all my Rivarossi, Trix, Lionel HO, Atlas, BLI, and Rivarossi locomotives just went about their business. I didn't even have to reset a single decoder. But further than those four years, my original purchases from the mid-2000's still work without my ever having opened them up, cleaned them, and then re-lubed. They still have their original grease, and aren't the least bit stiff, noisy, or reluctant.
Iron Horseman: To help answer you question why am I worried about this issue about storing locomotives is the subject came up after several things. I read a short section in the April 2019 Model Railroader about a fellow who wanted to enter the hobby again after 20 - 40 years and what problems might he encounter.

I well aware of the problems they listed because of the locomotives being used and then stored. In the case of unused locomotives I would venture that old, harden lube and cracked axles gears would be on the top of the list of potential problems. These are easy problems to address.

I may thin out my collection of locomotives and concentrate on the obtaining higher end locomotives like Rapido and Scale Trains to name two manufactures and if I sell the locomotives I want to be sure they are mechanically fit. Or, maybe just sell them as NIB and never ran and let the buyer use his knowledge of the hobby to know that certain problems could exist in purchasing older. but NIB locomotives.

These locomotives are store in sealed containers.

The fact of life is that if I decide to sell them, I'll never see any real return on the investment that I made when I spent the $$$ to purchase these locomotives.

Thanks for your thoughts.


PS: I have purchased used locomotives and they have been great running machines.


Plucked Tailfeathers
Staff member
GREG - IMHO if you are in this game to "make a return" on your investment ... I think you are barking up the wrong tree? I made a pretty good return off of some brass that I held on too for 30 years, but the money would have much better "invested" almost anywhere.
GREG - IMHO if you are in this game to "make a return" on your investment ... I think you are barking up the wrong tree? I made a pretty good return off of some brass that I held on too for 30 years, but the money would have much better "invested" almost anywhere.
No return...just to maintain their value (?) should I decide not to operate in the future with the locomotives on my layout.

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I have several foot locker sized plastic containers filled with locomotives that have not seen the light of day except for an evaluation run maybe five years ago. At the time I wanted to inventory them, evaluate their performance and condition, and conduct a triage to separate good runners, from problem locomotives, and basket cases. Once this was completed, everything was repacked according to condition and stored.

I believe it's time I re-evaluated the fleet again, looking at it on the basis of "Am I ever going to use this thing"? Then, I can seriously consider selling based on condition for the best price I can get. It would certainly make my life a lot easier.

FWIW, based on my observations of my current fleet, Most of the split gear, solid lubricant engines were P2K. The Others were Athearn RTR RS3s and GP35s. Otherwise, the old stuff worked as intended.

Shortly before Lifelike dumped Proto, I wrote the company and explained that I had 10+ Proto locomotive new in their boxes and I worried about cracked axle gears. Proto sent me approximately 10 sets of new axles.

Nice customer service.

Athearn gears work just fine on Proto2K engines. And they are relatively inexpensive. Of course, you can go with NWSL brass gears, which are metal, and more expensive, but so far, the Atlas gears I've used work just fine. If you were so inclined, you might buy enough Athearn gears and include them in any sale. Frankly, rtr models are NOT something I would use as an investment for profit.

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