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Kaustin posted:

Hello...I have only MTH Trains but just saw a BIG BOY that was a Sunset 3rd rail...first time seeing one...would love to hear opinions on the Sunset brand before considering one.

As said above, 3rd Rail are far ahead of Lionel, MTH and even Atlas in the prototypical detail stakes. Their brass models (mostly steamers) are a little fragile and I have had a few cosmetic repairs to do. On the couple of occasions I have had operating issues, Scott Mann has always stepped up to back his product. 

I don't buy the idea that they are much more expensive than higher end Lionel or other 3-rail locos. Over time the price gap between them and Lionel's prices (street, not MSRP) has narrowed. It depends what you really want in a model - great detail or play value. 3rd Rail have also made certain models that the other manufacturers have not and probably never will. A couple of cases in point are the Jawn Henry steam turbine and a prototypical GM Train of Tomorrow (not the mocked-up version MTH has recently issued). 

I have the 3rd Rail Big Boy you mention. It's a beautiful model but has standard TMCC features, including sound and smoke. Years after I got it, I got a VL Big Boy, which has Legacy sound that TMCC can't match. I run that one far more than the other these days but I have kept them both. 

I believe most of the Diesels are plastic. Most all the steam engines are brass. One, the NYC Mercury, is diecast. As with every companies engines, electronics changed over the years from conventional only, to TAS TMCC w/o Cruise, to TAS TMCC with Cruise and now Electric RR with Cruise. The last are the best runners.

Builders also changed. Some of the models built roughly 2000-2010 were of questional build quality. Parts would arrive unattached or came off easily even with careful handling. The ones made since around 2010 seem to have good build quality and run the best. 

Its important when considering an older model to know when it was built and what it has for electronics. Its also helpful if you have some knowledge of brass construction and how to work with it.

Pete

Last edited by Norton

My knowledge of 3rd Rail engines goes back to about 2004, when I came across the first steamers I got from them. I have only acquired one used 3rd Rail engine, it is conventional only and has QSI sound. It's ended up as a shelf queen but not because it won't run; it's great to look at but doesn't hold a candle to later command control engines in terms of play value. 

But I have certainly avoided much older stuff because I have heard about cosmetic/operational issues. You can always research what year a used model was produced and what features it has. 

Pre-2010 3rd Rail did produce some fine steamers. I have an SP AM-2 4-6-6-2 cab forward that is the finest detail loco I've got. 

Hancock52 posted:

I have the 3rd Rail Big Boy you mention. It's a beautiful model but has standard TMCC features, including sound and smoke. Years after I got it, I got a VL Big Boy, which has Legacy sound that TMCC can't match. I run that one far more than the other these days but I have kept them both. 

Norton posted:

Builders also changed. Some of the models built roughly 2000-2010 were of questional build quality.. 

I don't know what years things were built, but … I owned 3rd Rail's Y6b. Lionel's Legacy model was superior in sound, but more importantly also in running performance. Much so. The detailing was similar. Maybe 3rd Rail's details were more "correct?" I don't know. I sold the 3rd Rail to keep the Lionel.

Good luck.

Not to overload this thread but I have a few production sample photos of the SP AM-2 and the Jawn Henry.

The cab forward has the best executed detail of any model of an SP engine I have ever seen. Note in particular the tender detail in the second photo:

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The Jawn Henry is a brute. Mine came with the auxiliary water tender but the main tender defies adequate description as a piece of O scale modeling:

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JawnHenry

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I purchased a Sunset 3rd Rail O-gauge model of their TA diesel train set with Rock Island decor. Spectacular, but it will be displayed on the wall of my train room and never run.  MY home layout curves and switches (O42) aren't large enough to accommodate it.  Which might be the excuse I need to design and build another layout.

Mike Mottler     LCCA 12393 

I have three Sunset steam engines, the EA1 on order.  Yes, the SP cab forward is the most detailed engine I own, and, yes, you need be careful with handling.  But, they are very well made and to show how well...  My grandson pulled the SP cab forward off the layout and it went to the floor!!  But, I contact Scott, sent it back for repairs, and still running to this day.  That occurred back in 2002 and the most expense was with shipping.  Always keep the shipping boxes and boards, very useful for storage (long term) and packing for moving, etc.  Definitely the finest made, and not any more expensive than many from other manufacturers. As for running, I ran all three on the North Central O Gaugers modular layout at the Mundelein Library when in Chicago area, always drew a lot of compliments and comments.  Now they work the rails of my layout in Oklahoma.  Have upgraded my older Sunset engines with ERR TMCC and RS.

Jesse   TCA

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Last edited by texastrain
Norton posted:

I believe most of the Diesels are plastic. Most all the steam engines are brass. One, the NYC Mercury, is diecast. As with every companies engines, electronics changed over the years from conventional only, to TAS TMCC w/o Cruise, to TAS TMCC with Cruise and now Electric RR with Cruise. The last are the best runners.

Builders also changed. Some of the models built roughly 2000-2010 were of questional build quality. Parts would arrive unattached or came off easily even with careful handling. The ones made since around 2010 seem to have good build quality and run the best. 

Its important when considering an older model to know when it was built and what it has for electronics. Its also helpful if you have some knowledge of brass construction and how to work with it.

Pete

Yes. I have managed to get several over the years, but was never overly impressed with the quality. I imagine that the later ones are better, but I quit buying them for various reasons - partly because my "buying" has shrunk by orders of magnitude. And, Lionel/MTH products were more predictable, and they kept offering more and more variety. I know of a couple of horror stories on some of the early 3rd Rail stuff. My NYC T-Motor of some years back was pretty nice, though. 3rd Rail paint jobs always look a bit better than anybody else's, for some reason (I know mainly the steam locos).

There is one articulated that they offered years ago that I would like to have. Seldom see it offered. No one else has offered it - not unusual. 

I believe that the typical low resale values reflect the common - but not universal - issues. I am sure that the good stories about them are just as true as my less pleasing experiences.

(It also seems that the word "quality" has different meanings for different people. Mine is of the utilitarian/construction/dependability variety.)

I have five 3rdrail steam engines.  The older ones I’d say pre 2013 give or take a few years can be problematic but can be made to run better than anything else offered if you know what to look for and like modifying and upgrading engines.  There belt drive is the smoothest thing out there.

issues to look for in 3rdrail steamers

1. power pickup, two pickup rollers is not enough, ad one to the tender trucks

2. outside rail electrical connections.  Also a issue.  Make sure the front and rear trucks have good electrical connection from the wheels to the frame.  Remove paint under and mounting screws and around wheel axles.  Also use a good conductive oil.

3, for those who have TAS EOB engines with eight pin tethers.  A bad set up, as if the tach reader looses ground with the mother board the reader will let the magic smoke out and may take the EOB mother board out with it.  Ad a second tether to ground the tach reader to the EOB mother board.

3.  Brass parts can be broken off easily but being brass can be soldered back on and repainted.

checkout my YouTube channel for my 3rdrail engines in action.

Last edited by superwarp1

Sunset 3rdRail basically does scale models as opposed to toy trains.    They do convert some stuff to 3 rail but they start with a 2 rail version.    That is why the stuff usually wants wider curves and less sharp switches.      Many other manufactureres start with a 3 rail loco, and just put 2-rail wheels and wiring on it.     Most of these have compromises, some severe, relative to following scale dimensions.    One of the most common on steamers is extending the pilot deck and pilot out farther to allow the lead to be mounted forward for the cyclinders for clearance on 3 rail curves.   On some this is not too bad, but for me, the ones with 4 wheel lead trucks that are done this way are just way out of proportion and do not look like the photos of the real engines.

Sunset stuff is good quality in my opinion.    The mechanisms are very well done and work well.    The detail is also quite well done and follows prototype quite well.    Yes it is fragile, again, it is a scale model, not a toy train.    by definition getting the scale or close to scale detail dictates it will be more fragile than diecast with lots of things cast on.    

 

Another note, Sunset steamers are not expensive when compared to Overland Models, Lee Marsh, or Kohs, or the previous Precisioin Scale Corp Models.     It is relative.     Kohs stuff is on the level of museum pieces and probably most folks would be afraid to run one if they had it.     Overland is somewhere in between and more detailed, especially underneath in places on easily seen.    

A sampling of 3rd Rail / Sunset Locomotives.  Not all the greatest photos as many are off my cell phone.  Also, not pictured are my PRR M1a and J1. Granted I am hugely biased, but I am a fan.

GG1 4800 from 2010

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E7 from 2012 (2nd Run) and K4s from 2004. 

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FL9 from 2013:  note the road specific details on the Amtrak version.

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EMD FT from 2014:  The logo on the nose is made from etched brass to replicate the bronze plate that adorned the prototype.

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FP7 from 2015

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SD7 and SD9 from 2016

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E8 from 2017

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E8 on the left, 2012 E7 on the right.

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ALCO PA from 2018

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E5 / E6 from 2019

 

 

 

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Last edited by GG1 4877
GG1 4877 posted:

A sampling of 3rd Rail / Sunset Locomotives.  Not all the greatest photos as many are off my cell phone. 

EMD FT from 2014:  The logo on the nose is made from etched brass to replicate the bronze plate that adorned the prototype.

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Jonathan, I really like this Santa Fe set (early FT's). Always, thought the paint scheme really stood out, maybe it was the slight big of red, I don't know, but it seems like the as delivered schemes usually are to my liking. Thanks for sharing.

Charlie

The few 3rd Rail PRR engines I have are ones not made by other manufacturers:  N1, Q1, H6, ToT, and Brill 660.  I also have on order a F3 ABA set because 3rd Rail is the only one to have done a correct Pennsy version.  They are all nicely detailed, good looking models.

They all have cruise and sound, some came with it and others upgraded.  Except for the Q1 and Brill, they have only been run on a test track but they all work well.  I’m a little concerned about switches, but my layout will have Ross #4, #5, and a few O-80.  Crossovers are #6.

I like my 3rd Rail products.  I’d have more but did not discover them until the end of my procurement era.  I already had a good stable full of MTH, Lionel, K-Line, and Weaver engines.

If you buy an out of warranty engine and it does not run well, send it to someone like Gunrunnerjohn or Alex_M and you will get a good running engine back.

UPDATE:  Corrected.  I have the N1, not N2.  Sure wish 3rd Rail would do the N2sa.

UPDATED with photos

DSC_0009 [2)H6sb w UP Express [2)DSC_0093 [2)20180811_222351 [2)GM_ToT2 [3)

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Last edited by CAPPilot

Sorry for the blurry screen grab but in any case I can’t ID what appear to be scale size Santa Fe passenger cars in one of Jonathan’s videos. The full length dome car might be MTH but looks longer and is not, I think, the GGD Santa Fe Great Dome:

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Also the business car at the end doesn’t resemble anything I know of from Lionel, MTH or GGD. Are these K-Line cars?

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I also have a 3rd Rail PRR L1.  MTH and Weaver also produced this engine, but when I saw the detail on this one I had to have it.  It came with all the electronic goodies and is a great runner.

DSC_0068 [2)DSC_0072

I do want to mention that I tried to purchase a 3rd Rail PRR S2 - twice.  These were used and from different sellers.  However when I received them a lot of the wheels from the pilot truck, training truck, and tender were loose in the box.  When I tried reinstalling them they were very loose and one truck had a cracked side frame.  Both were returned.  I think that was an early 3rd Rail engine.

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Perhaps a review of the market may help this discussion.  3rdRail/Sunset and GGD items are not meant to be run on a 4 x 8 layout.  The modelers who want and can afford those models usually buy them when they are introduced.  Some modelers place their name on the 'back up' list. This leaves a small secondary market for used 3rdRail/Sunset items as they become available.  Further diluted by the fact that modelers who bought them more than likely have been approached by train buddies with, "If you ever want to sell that..."       

Same discussion could be mirrored about Pecos River Brass engines and rolling stock.

      John in Lansing, ILL

Last edited by rattler21

I bought an ABBA set of 3rd Rail Santa Fe F7 diesel locomotives.

Pros:

* They run great and all units are powered.

* Accurate attention to detail, as well as a fixed pilot, journals with ball  bearings, and grills installed with tabs not glued.

Con:

* Cost is a lot more than MTH or Lionel F7s, but each of us has to decide if the added cost is worth it.

* I was very disappointed with paint job on the F7 locomotives I received.  The silver finish is very dull.  I have an MTH F7set which I think looks much better, but then I guess beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

Bob

CAPPilot posted:

....However when I received them a lot of the wheels from the pilot truck, training truck, and tender were loose in the box.  When I tried reinstalling them they were very loose and one truck had a cracked side frame.  Both were returned.  I think that was an early 3rd Rail engine.

That's a key point with a more delicate engine that gets glossed over. My Allegheny does not ship well. Everytime it gets boxed back up, the tender wheels take a beating. The flimsy sideframes bend and the wheels fall out. Even the engine's trailing wheel set fell out. I think they should reinforce those sideframes better.

 My 3rd Rail Niagara is one of my favorite steamers to run. I worked on it extensively, adding sound and smoke. I worked on it to get it to run smoothly. Each time it's apart I fear of breaking something. So you have to treat them delicately. I think that maybe why some buyers keep them on the shelves. The Niagara didn't run good when I got it. Maybe that was just a bad example?

 My 3rd Rail Allegheny didn't run well when I got that either now that I think about it. I believe the old TMCC control inside wasn't programmed correctly or just didn't handle the engine well. I put PS2 inside and it ran great after. I have 1 other stock 3rd Rail with sound , a M1 TMCC that runs great. I have a N1 with TMCC and no sound and that runs well also.

 I don't have any current 3rd Rail engines. I would warn you to treat the company well. If they make a mistake with your order, don't bash them or complain. They won't deal with you ever again. Rather thin skinned IMO.

Last edited by Engineer-Joe
colorado hirailer posted:

Superwarp1's suggestions sound like they could be engineered  into the next 3rd Rail steamer, and bring utility up to appearance, if it isn't.  How is the current plague in China, as well as politicoeconomics,  impacting  3rd Rail (and everybody else!)

They are, I was talking about older 3drail engines of of 7 years and older.  Todays 3rdrail engines have all that and are much better with the smaller details.

Last edited by superwarp1

After reading through the comments, I felt I had to refer back to a thread started by Number 90....Tom....entitled "If you have something nice to say, say it here!".

In fact, in Tom's original post was this nice comment...

"I would like to say what a pleasure it is to have Scott Mann, of Sunset/3rd Rail and Golden Gate Depot, manufacturing model trains for us to enjoy.  He runs a small business, and works long hours around the world, behind the scenes, to bring us quality locomotives and passenger cars.  He listens to his customers like nobody else in the business does, and is unfailingly polite and positive when complaints are posted on the Forum.  I personally have a number of his brass steam and plastic diesels, as well as his passenger cars of all kinds.  Since they are small-batch, hand made models, they sometimes need small adjustments after unpacking, but the design and the detail are always a very good value at his reasonable prices.  And he does not let pride prevent him from learning something from his last project, and improving on his next one.

Thank you, Scott.

Tom"

Sometimes one person...in this case Tom, Number 90...can sum it up to leave one smiling and thankful. 

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