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Hey Folks,

I am confused by ads, even from big retailers, that are selling used locomotives.  Often, they state that the loco is rated C-7 in Excellent condition.  But then, many of them say sold AS-IS, without saying that they were ever tested.  And, sometimes, after stating that they are Excellent, they disclose that the bell, whistle, or forward/reverse doesn't work (I.e., "runs in forward only").

How can any loco that isn't fully operational for any reason be called Excellent???  If this is permissible, then the term "Excellent" really has no meaning.

Thanks for all info.

Mannyrock

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I recommend taking a look at the TCA website, tcatrains.org. They have posted a comprehensive view of the grading standards in the public accessible section of the site. The familiar grading of C-1 to C-10 are physical condition and appearance only. In 2020 TCA adopted an additional set of standards for operability. These are O-1 to O-5. they are described on the website. Hope this helps.

@AmFlyer posted:

I recommend taking a look at the TCA website, tcatrains.org. They have posted a comprehensive view of the grading standards in the public accessible section of the site. The familiar grading of C-1 to C-10 are physical condition and appearance only. In 2020 TCA adopted an additional set of standards for operability. These are O-1 to O-5. they are described on the website. Hope this helps.

Unfortunately, providing an operational rating is optional, and there's always the cop-out of O-1 (unknown).

I’ve always thought that the alpha-numeric ratings referred to only the cosmetic appearance. 🤷‍♂️

What he said. If you read the old TCA descriptions, the condition rating applies to cosmetics only.

Remember that they were written in 1954. Most everything those days either ran, or was relatively straightforward to fix, or was obviously bad - like zinc rotted wheels.

Last edited by RoyBoy

Thanks for the information guys.

Since probably 99 out of 100 people who are considering buying a used locomotive today are buying it so it will actually run, it would seem to me that the current rating system is a total joke and absolutely worthless.

Imagine:  "65 Chevy Corvette for sale. Excellent condition!  The engine is blown and it is sitting in a large puddle of oil.  Don't miss out on this one!"

I think it is time for some reputable national train organization to adopt a new set of ratings and rules, which include operating condition.   I mean, isn't that what organizations are for?  :-)

Mannyrock

When it comes to collecting model trains, condition trumps everything. It is the one attribute that can never be corrected once damage has been done and where nearly all the value lies. For postwar and prewar trains, C-8 to C-10 is pretty much guaranteed not to operate until you take them apart and perform a full service. This fact does not dimish their value by even a penny.

Modern era (the last 25 years) is a little different. Cosmetics are still highly important but operation carries a higher importance since the cost to repair will surely be higher. Hence the need for the O rating system in addition to cosmetic condition.

The grading system primarily addresses the cosmetics.  Back in the 60s-70s-80s the train's ability to perform was usually proportional to its appearance.  But on the newer electronic stuff you really don't know without testing it.  It could be DOA right out of the box.  The complexity and opportunity for failure is probably an order of magnitude higher than postwar or  mpc.

I try to avoid sellers and situations that are vague and evasive.  Unfortunately all the grading standards are subjective.   The definitions are open to interpretation. (minor scratches).

My favorite grading terms on this forum are "mint", "brand new" and "test run".  Seller descriptions on OGR can be very humorous such as: "mint, less than two hours run time".  Or "brand new - test run only".  Like advertising a brand new car with 1,000 miles on it.

@Mannyrock posted:

Hey Folks,

I am confused by ads, even from big retailers, that are selling used locomotives.  Often, they state that the loco is rated C-7 in Excellent condition.

I ran into this exact same issue from a reputable retailer.  I was shocked.  The engine came up as "needs maintenance" when I ran it on DCS and the paint was damaged.  Perhaps it just needed a new battery but the paint was a deal breaker.  Fortunately, they accepted the return without question.  I've since purchased  again from them but I only buy LN (like new) and have had no issues since.

I thought common sense tells us what "excellent" means.  I was wrong.  But "like new" or "new" are indisputable.   Right? 

Mike

@aussteve posted:

My favorite grading terms on this forum are "mint", "brand new" and "test run".  Seller descriptions on OGR can be very humorous such as: "mint, less than two hours run time".  Or "brand new - test run only".  Like advertising a brand new car with 1,000 miles on it.

As far as the forum goes. There are members that have established a solid reputation and can be trusted in what they sell.

If you hang around awhile you begin to find out who these folks are.

@Mannyrock posted:

Thanks for the information guys.

Since probably 99 out of 100 people who are considering buying a used locomotive today are buying it so it will actually run, it would seem to me that the current rating system is a total joke and absolutely worthless.

Imagine:  "65 Chevy Corvette for sale. Excellent condition!  The engine is blown and it is sitting in a large puddle of oil.  Don't miss out on this one!"

I think it is time for some reputable national train organization to adopt a new set of ratings and rules, which include operating condition.   I mean, isn't that what organizations are for?  :-)

Mannyrock

@Mannyrock - TCA did update their rating system by added an "operational" status using the letter O followed by a number. Check their grading standard web page for the update which I think was done in 2020.

Yeah, as Monk said..."It's a jungle out there!"

Two Ebay purchases stand out.  The descriptors were rosy, promising.  Price stayed tempting right to the end.  I dunno, maybe everyone else had been bitten enough to drop out.  I hung on to win both auctions.

The first was a Williams Daylight GS-4.  Said it had been mostly displayed.  When it arrived it looked as good as the promises.  But, when put on the track it was terrifying!!!  There was this banging sound and the engine shook like in its death throes.  Then it died altogether while shorting out...the transformer screamed "TILT!"

Not only that, though.  Just before it kicked the bucket, it produced some steam sounds...a few chuff sounds.  What's so strange about that, you say?  There was no mention of the engine having been sound-equipped in the auction.  Hmmmm.

Sent a prompt email.  Seller said in effect, 'Sorry.  Got it from someone else.  Displayed it only.  Never tried running it.  Send it back.'  OK.  Fair enough.  But I'm the curious sort.  The banging/shaking/sudden death was, well, just not natural.  And the hint of sounds where there shouldn't have been any?  I decided to operate on the patient, full well knowing that I was probably sealing my fate.

And, lo and behold, the shaking/banging was merely the result that someone had removed the two screws that held the motor to the mounting yoke.   When powered the motor did what any landed fish would do...it simply flopped around wildly.  Found two screws.  Fastened the motor to the yoke.  (Noticed some non-OEM 'stuff' and wires internally)  Put the loco back to runnable shape.  Put 'er on the track.  And not only was she a smooth runner...but has an acceptable chuff, bell & whistle sounds, compressor huff&puff when idle.   IOW, I really got more than I expected.  I explained it all to the seller and happily concluded the transaction.

------------

Second one...  Bid on a K-Line 2-8-4, the ATSF version with the Coffin FW heater, and won it at a decent...actually, amazing...price.  Again, descriptors rosy.  Lots of photos, too.  Hunky-dory, right?

Wellll....  When it arrived it had a badly bent pilot casting.  Apparently took a nasty nose dive/hit.  Checked the auction photos...how did I miss that?  Simple: All of the shots were carefully posed to belie the pilot's condition.  Can we say 'duh!'?...I did.  Registered my disappointment to the seller.

Well, without so much as an email whimper, he offered to refund half the selling price if I'd keep it.  Since K-Line was already history, I considered the challenge.  With some absence of paint on the pilot, I knew that I was dealing with a brass casting...one rather large piece...that had bent, but not cracked.  After dealing with some half the size (HO) needing chiropractic help, and rather successfully in this life-long hobby, I decided to accept.

Long story shortened...  Once the pilot casting was removed and stripped of all attachments, it was carefully 'whacked' (judiciously tapped) with a series of soft-headed hammers, wood blocks, a sturdy vise, and a glass or two of vino back into squareness and proper shape.  IOW, a REALLY good deal...with bit of chutzpah, if I do say so myself, thank you.

---------------

So, lemons became lemonade.  I know now how to read descriptions and photographs better.  I ask more questions, some of which receive no answers...which is answer enough to drop out of consideration or contention.  Frankly, I'd like to believe sellers are all honest and accurate in their portrayals.  But I can't.  And I would recommend anyone else do the same.

FWIW, of course.

And IMHO.

KD

Last edited by dkdkrd

Thanks for all of the comments.

Sad to say, that I don't have the patience or background to be able to fix electrical or serious mechanical issues.  I know that many find it extremely relaxing and rewarding, but I absolutely hate it.  So, having been severely stung on a few C-7 Excellent used locos, I have learned never to buy anything used that doesn't have a right of return.   This is one reason I like dealing with the big train store in Brooklyn, Trainz.  Most of their used items have a right of return.

One thing I found on two used items I bought on the Bay, that were rated C-7 and described as mostly used for display, is that when I got them, they looked really good coming out of the boxes, but after a couple of days, and trying to run them, I found subtle signs that they had been "dropped" on more than one occasion. Things like very slightly bend eccentric cranks, or power rods that were not totally exactly straight.  Or a telltale broad "scuff" on the front edge of a pilot that could not have occurred by running it into the end of another train. 

So, I have learned to use a really critical eye and magnifying glass in looking over engines when they arrive, particularly steamers that have so many small moving parts that are important.

I have also learned that when people on the Bay state, "Tested and runs well,"  that this means absolutely nothing.  I brought a used loco into a train shop a few months ago to sell, and the owner tested it by setting it on a 4 foot length of track, turning on the power, and running it in forward and reverse twice, thereby "testing it" for all of 6 seconds.  He then bought it.

I really like buying things from the Members of this Board, because when they tell me something runs well without problems,  . . . it runs well without problems!  Running, not cosmetics, are everything to me.  (Seems like every real locomotive I have ever seen on a track has some dents, dings, scratches, paint damage, or worse on the exterior, so model engines that look absolutely perfect cosmetically look kinda unrealistic to me.)

Again, thanks for all of the informative replies.

Mannyrock

I’d like to see OGR Forum develop a report card type of rating system for members selling to other members.

My experiences have been almost uniformly positive on this forum, and that goes back quite a ways.

Ain't ever going to happen.  The added workload would be significant, I can't see OGR wanting to jump into that can of worms!

I like it the way it is, if you use your head when buying and make sure the seller has looks reasonable, you can do well.  I've only had one or two buys that I wasn't really happy with, that's not bad out of several hundred.

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