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When I first became involved with 3RO, one thing I wanted was an articulated loco. Having collected a few locos now, and got the general hang of things I’m still scratching my head over this.

Broadly speaking, I’ve arrived at the position where I’m quite happy without the electronic complexity. I’ve got On30 DCC for that. “Post-War, but better” works for me. I haven’t got room for huge curves, but I do (or did, until the present madness put a stop to it) have periodic club running days which DO have big curves, so it’s not a game-stopper. I don’t really want any more semi-scale locos and I’ve become involved with O27.

I like brass locos. I always wanted them when I was a broke teenager using mostly OO gauge rtr stock.

So, I’ve arrived at a short list as follows, partly because of things I’ve seen hanging around on eBay...

1) Williams #3590 brass challenger. This appears to be a scale size loco with basic sound, whistle only. Seems to need big curves?

2) MTH Railking Challenger. Seems to be a semi-scale loco, around 5” shorter than the Williams one. Handles O31 curves easily, but although I like my Imperial spec MTH K4S, I’m not much impressed with the detail on a RailKing loco I got on eBay in a job lot (although it’s a good “toy” loco which I let my granddaughter play with).

3) the K Line “underscale” Big Boy or Challenger. Scale proportions but generally undersized. I’m not unduly concerned over this because I have a good stock of O27 and Traditional sized rolling stock.

Right now I’m tempted by the brass Williams but there don’t seem to be K Line ones available at present. I’m interested in any thoughts or comments anyone might have on this?

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Its kind of apples and oranges. The K-Line engines have TMCC and better sound with smoke. The Williams engines generally run smoothly except for their very early offerings. It may have suethe smoke unit and if it has any sound it will be terrible. You will want to disconnect the speaker if it has one or use an ERR sound board. K-Line Big Boys show up frequently. I believe Weaver has done them in brass as well. Slightly better detail and sound than Williams.


To put in my two cents, if you can manage 36" radius curves, by all means go with the Williams brass (made by Samhongsa). They typically pull strong and smoothly; the gearing was good. The detailing is simplified but correct so far as it goes. Brass is easy to work with. Details can be added. I owned one, sold it, missed it, bought another. Have yet to upgrade it to Command Control. Stock motor can be a bit noisy; varies. Brass is a sound amplifier, anyway.

(FWIW, the smokebox front on the Williams is more accurate than those on the high-zoot 1:48 Lionel and MTH versions - Lionel and MTH packed so much stuff on theirs that their smokebox doors are too small.)

Paint those shiny tires on the wheels, subdue the rod and valve gear shine, Dullcote it. ERR Cruise Commander would be great, if that's on your list of possibles.

Last edited by D500

I've been thinking about springing for a Williams Challenger for several years.

Be aware that there are two different challengers in Williams' brass line; both are scale:

1.) Road No. 3950, Crown Edition, c. 1987-88, Model #7000, Two-Tone Grey with White Stripes, in silver box with two large black stripes top and bottom

2.) Road No. 3958, Crown Edition, Masterpiece Line, c. 1995, Model BS-04, Two-Tone Grey with White Stripes, in silver box w/ smaller red stripe border

With most Williams brass if there are two of a given model, one in each line, for example the NYC Hudsons, you will find obvious differences in the level of details between the two lines, Masterpiece models being superior.  That doesn't appear to hold true with these two.  From what I can tell they are about equal.  If anybody knows differently please feel free to correct me.  I'd like to get the better of the two, if one is clearly better.

There have been quite a few of these, mostly the 3950's, on the resale market for the last several years.  Prices have been all over the map.  You should be able to find a good deal if you're patient.

For more about Williams Brass, courtesy former member Boomer, follow this link:


@Lou1985 posted:

Find a first issue MTH Premier Challenger from the mid 90's. Has PS1 and conventional operation. I feel the motor and driveline is better than the Williams unit (MTH locomotive has a 9434 Pittman). It'll work on 36" radius (072) curves fine.

I’m very pleased with my MTH K4S now Chuck Sartor has had it, but I wouldn’t look at another PS1 locomotive unless it was VERY cheap...

I’m much tempted by the Williams #3950, club days usually offer loops of O72 and/or O81.

I have a couple of Williams locos already - a brass USRA Pacific, and a die-cast Scale Hudson and they both run very well. I’m particularly pleased with the Hudson because I took a punt on it, because it was cheap and whatever people say about these locos, I can only say that mine runs very nicely - although it definitely WOULD do a tremendous clip if allowed to! The secret seems to be to pay close attention to track connections so that voltage is as near as possible, constant all round with as little voltage drop as possible.

Ever since the Wm's brass articulating engines came out, I wanted one, but if you didn't pre order one at the time, after they came out the dealers were pricing them as much as $1800. each. A little to rich for me at the time.

Since Lionel, K-Line, Weaver and MTH started producing them, the Wm's have drop substantially in resale value. In the past 4 yrs I've bought all w/boxes, Big Boy, Challenger, Cab forward and NY Central class A and N&W class A, for each less then $500.

All are beautiful engines, I don't run any of them, they're just wall hangers.

Last edited by Trussman

Hump Yard Mike - Further to your comment about an N&W engine, a few years ago I picked up a used Lionel N&W 2-6-6-4 "1234" (6-38049) on eBay which, being a LionMaster steamer, will run on 031 curves and I'm extremely pleased with its smooth tracking and sounds - especially the whistle which is the closest thing to 'quilling' before Lionel developed and advertised quilling on their newer engines.  It's been one of my favourite engines to run ever since I got it.

I’m very pleased with my MTH K4S now Chuck Sartor has had it, but I wouldn’t look at another PS1 locomotive unless it was VERY cheap...

Williams brass or MTH Premier PS1 Challenger are about the same price. The MTH version has a more robust driveline. If the PS1 unit is bad swap in a reverse unit and be on your way for conventional running.

I run all command, so either one would have the electronics replaced.

My experience with challengers, my opinion:

I buy trains to run them.  If it runs quietly, pulls smoothly and is reasonable I'll buy it.  My very first 0 scale purchase was a ignorant lot acquisition of four Williams Articulateds in 1994.   Almost went back to gauge 1 brass they were so disappointing.  Cab forwards were geared extremely slow like an old tired dog,  the challenger gear boxes were so loud the neighbors complained.  I  believe they were powered by coffee grinders.

To make matters worse the importer started selling them out the back door for half of what I paid for them.  Like trashy ladies of the evening, different customers get different prices.

So I dumped the Williams and picked up several smooth and quiet MTH big engines and all was well until I discovered Sunset.  Sunset is the workingman's gold standard.

Great product, fair pricing, a runner and a looker plus the Mann family cares about their customers and  Sunset will  never have zinc rot.

Just opened my black box 2 rail Lionel GG-1 and the side frames were bowed out & disintegrated into black dust.

I did pick up some Oriental, Precision and Overland but not being skilled in brass soldering and painting I blew them out.  They should be sold with a brass magnet to salvage the pieces which fall off.

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