Stupid question I'm sure: Brass

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Whiskey Merchant
Nice Locomotives. I'm not really into brass locomotives, but do have a few. One is a Z-5 Yellowstone which I custom painted over 20 years ago. As a kid, I had the opportunity to have ridden in the cab of these monsters as they were performing their last duties as helpers over Bozeman pass out of Livingston, MT. Needless to say, when I saw it, in brass, I had to have brass gives you the ability to have a very accurate model of a locomotive that normally may not be modeled, just like the ones pictured above. Steam engines especially varies from railroad to railroad depending on the needs of the particular locomotive. You could put five mikes or consolidations next to each other from different railroads and they can look completely different from each other.

In the picture below are a couple of consolidations. 184 is a PFM brass locomotive and 189 is a Bachmann Spectrum locomotive. I have had the PFM for over 20 years and it is one fantastic running locomotive. When I picked it up, I wasn't really looking for a brass locomotive, but another modeler was a bit hard up for cash and made me an offer I couldn't refuse. ($125) I didn't want brass, but i did want a consolidation as my freelance railroad only runs smaller locomotives, from a mike to a prairie and back then the selection and running qualities of available steam locomotives weren't the best. The picture isn't the best, but I'm sure that you can see the better detain on 184 compared to 189, which really isn't bad for a plastic locomotive.

Thare are also people who just collect brass and many of these locomotives may never have their wheels touch a track. Years ago I custom painted a number of brass locomotives, Milwaukee Road electric locomotives. He had a basement full of O scale brass all sitting in boxes and he didn't have any track of layout of any kind. He just liked brass locomotives. Some of his custom painted Milwaukee Road locomotives are now on display at the museum in the old Northern Pacific depot in Livingston, MT.

Iron Horseman

Well-Known Member
Yeah I supposed, but what detail you gain you loose in realism. I've never seen a brass locomotive before. I guess I just don't get it.
That is like saying I've never seen a plastic or die cast locomotive before. Making a model locomotive out of iron and steel is possible but also difficult so why make things harder than they have to be? It is just a model.

To the bigger topic. In the old days when plastic models began getting more and more detailed and better running the older brass models started looking shabby. I sold most all of mine. But the technology in brass has advanced too. I've started purchasing brass models again. I really like my newest Z6 (Sunset). Not as good of detail as a W&R model but for the $1000 difference I can live with it.
I own a NJ brass class ep2 bi polar electric painted in the milwaukee road. I'm guessing it's an 80s model and has a horrible drivetrain. Detail is nice but the drive is junk pretty much.


Well-Known Member
Northwest Shortline has replacement components. You can also try the brass list over on Yahoo for advice on re-powering.

There were four runs of those from 1973-1983, all built by Kumata. It can be made to run well.


Well-Known Member
One of the nicest things about brass, particularly steam, is their simplicity. They are easy to get into and simple to maintain. I would not trade any of my older brass models for the newer plastic steamers that are coming out. There are no spare parts anymore, and the level of complexity is way above where it needs to be. Older models can be brought up to current standards by adding or replacing details. Pricing levels for 1970's-1990's brass and current plastic are not very far apart.


Whiskey Merchant
I'll agree with you Alan. I don't have a lot of brass. I am not a collector, but the majority of the brass I have are for certain railroads that do not have certain locomotives available. I haven't bought any brass in years, but the older ones I do have are excellent running locomotives.

I had custom painted some O scale brass for a local collector, electrics for the Milwaukee Road. Then I got my Z-5 Yellowstone I wanted to paint for the Northern Pacific. I was a bit gun shy at first about disassembling it for painting, but it ended up being a fairly easy job and cam out great.

Pulling power is also good on all of my brass locomotives. Steam locomotives usually won't pull as good as diesels, but I can't complain about the performance of the ones I have. A Bachmann Spectrum consolidation is a very good performing little locomotive, but my brass consolidation can handle 2 to 3 more cars on a 2 percent grade.

Years ago I used to help out the Great Falls Model Railroad club during their open house during state fair. Their layout is in the Public School building on the fair grounds and their rent for the year is to have trains running during fair. Can't beat that. I brought the Z-5 one year and had over 100 cars behind it and it didn't even break a sweat. We would had added more but ran out of freight cars because all of the members weren't there yet.


Well-Known Member
I have a fairly large brass collection, probably larger than it needs to be :rolleyes: I generally only buy brass when I can't find what I want in plastic. Unfortunately if you model the SP when I do you don't have much of a choice. My Daylight train is a case in point. I sold my brass Daylight cars when the MTH train came out, though I kept my brass GS locomotive(s) The GS models by Broadway and MTH were not comparable. My Lark train is a mix of brass and plastic cars. Plastic Pullmans mostly, with brass headend cars, a brass diner/lounge/club, and a brass obs. It gets pulled by Plastic E units. Unfortunately it is way too heavy for a single GS!

A big point in favor of brass is layout sized models. Most companies are doing big northerns, articulateds, an so on. Large steamers that struggle on tight radii, or are just plain too big for most layouts. I have those models (guilty!!! ;)) but I like my 2-6-0's 4-6-0's, 4-6-2's, and 2-8-0's. They look much better on the average layout. A pacific pulling 4 or 5 60 footers is an excellent layout sized passenger train. Unfortunately, they are hard to find in plastic, and nonexistent for the SP. There are a few new 2-8-0's coming out in plastic, but none I can use. IHC did a 2-6-0 that was actually an SP design, but it just didn't pull very well. I haven't found a brass model that I couldn't make run well with a little tuning, mayve a little weight, and if necessary, a careful application of Bullfrog Snot!
one thing not really mentioned is longevity, Here is a good example a Max Gray DRGW L105 Challenger, I just bought this 2 weeks ago. After giving it a check up and lubrication it runs almost completely silently,as well as the day it was built.......AND realize this model is now over a half century old being made in 1962.
I challenge any plastic model engine Steam or diesel to match this record.


Iron Horseman

Well-Known Member
One of the nicest things about brass, particularly steam, is their simplicity. ... Older models can be brought up to current standards by adding or replacing details.
That makes the assumption that one can solder. Seems there are many folks out in model railroad land that have a hard time just soldering a wire to a rail. Don't know what they would do with the tactical heat soldering needed for work on brass locos. I can see their brass locos ending up melted into chunks of brass in a pool of lead. :-(
G'day ...Did anyone see this fairly recent vid for the upcoming release of a brass 4-8-8-4 Big Boy. HO Scale by GLACIER PARK MODELS, the manufacturer ...Are you sitting down and do you have your heart tablets at the ready..How does just under $3500 sound as I was told by a forum member......To put that in perspective for me , that's 10-12 Athearn Genesis's..In another topic I mentioned that and it was pointed out by that fellow forumer that these models would be exquisite for that sort of money and as much an investment as a model. and that comparing them to other ones was like 'apples to oranges' He's right I'd say .Must admit , I'd LOVE to see one in the flesh , just to say I had..Not very likely though I'm afraid..If I remember the manufacturer I'll add in their name for you..Cheers Rod...
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Well-Known Member
Staff member
$3500???? Jeeze, and I got scared when I saw a $2000 price tag on a G Gauge Steamer! Hell, $3500 would get me another Harely or a 4 wheeler or one hell of a lot of VB's, which I desperately miss I might add :D
G'day Tony.....Try this one.... This is a Trix model of the same 4-8-8-4.....very very nice ...way way cheaper , I think a bit over a grand , maybe $1200...beautifully made...but it ain't brass...To be honest I bought a 2003 BA Series Ford Fairmont Ghia (the fancy Ford Falcon) if you recall from your Aussie days...She's a beaut DOHC 24 valve 4.0 litre six cylinder , inline. goes like a V8 ..sequential sports shift , electric everything , leather everything...premium sound , two zone climate control , memory seats etc etc...and she didn't cost me much more than one of these locomotives...Mind you , can't fit it on the layout but then again I can't drive the Big Boy to the city either here's a bad photos of it ..Cheers Rod...


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G'day Rico.....Well actually........Quite literally the steering wheel is on the 'right side'....but variety is the spice of life...Here's a couple more photos...One is of 'sadly ' the last Ford Falcon GT 2013/14 that I got a shot of a few weeks ago at our local car show and the other one is of my very frosted over other Falcon , my dear old 2001 model that is quite truly bulletproof..just goes and goes and goes had her since it was 18 months old...Did you look at the Trix Big Boy review link I added.. //Interested to see what you thought of that .By the way the US built Mustang is going to take the place of the Falcon GT soon...Cheers Rod 2013 GT Falcon.jpg frosty falcon.jpg
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