Hello all, longtime lurker because I’m mainly an N and HO modeler. I do have a bit of O gauge which sees the light of day during the holiday season and being a Wabash fan I am very happy to own the MTH Hudson and freight car set they released several years ago. What I am looking to do is get a steam loco and a few cars for my in laws who miss having a train at Christmas. Being that this is a one month or so out of the year setup, you can imagine that I am not ready to jump at a loco that is $500 let alone above! But I realize technology has advanced from what we had in the 80s and 90s, and most engines are not going to be around $200. I occasionally find myself drooling over O gauge reviews on YouTube (usually ericstrains who as you all know does the best reviews out there IMO). I also attend the 2 or 3 annual shows here in central Ohio where I get to see some of the latest and greatest O gauge in action. I appreciate all of the detail and “plusses” that are available on locos today, like whistle steam and firebox glow. But these are things that we don’t really need for this project.
Since they are from Pure Michigan (as Tim Allen would say ), and lived near Ann Arbor, it would be special to them to have a train that represents that area. I realize AA diesels have been released, but I am wanting to do an AA steamer, AA caboose and 3 or 4 freight cars representing lines of that area like DT&I, NYC, Wabash etc. I am a stickler for detail, thanks to my career in the art field, plus I have experience running live steam so all this has me taking on the challenge to find the closest model to something the Annie actually had. Below are a few photos of locos I’ve narrowed it down to - a 2-8-0, a couple 2-8-2s and a couple 4-4-2s. A close match to any of those would be great, though I REALLY like the mikes, and especially the heavy mikes that the Wabash and Annie both had. #187 pictured looks like it would make a really nice looking model as it appears to have multiple grays or colors. But I am aware of the price of Lionel’s release! I’m finding that no AA steamers were ever made in O (or were there?) so I expect to be painting and re-lettering whatever I get my hands on.
I know both Lionel and MTH have released models that would be a good start. With any of these, I’ve already discovered that there will be some obvious differences, as models seem to have the bell in the wrong place, or have the wrong style of tender. Ones that do have the right looking tender have 2 or 3 things very wrong up front, vice versa. But I realize that there are only so many models that have been made, and I’m calling on you experts to let me know what is out there. Some of you will probably even point out things like firebox designs which I’ll take into account but again would not probably steer things one way or another. I also realize MTH has their budget conscious, less detailed “Rail King” line but most of the $200-$300 range locos I see on ebay are usually Pennsys etc and these all have a very strange tender (which would bother me to death!) or have several inaccuracies on the loco. If it comes down to one or two minor differences that’s fine, but I cannot be using a Pennsy with the headlight sitting that high or any of the odd tenders they had. I’ve started scouring ebay too as I am not opposed to a used engine as long as it runs well. I also know older models will be tied to specific control systems, but as long as something can run conventionally we should be fine. I do like the LionChief Plus since you have the option of a remote or conventional operation. But even those are up there (to me) as far as price. I just hate to put $400 into something I have to possibly paint.
I am also not above taking the engine apart enough so I can relocate the bell, move the headlight up, etc but I expect that there are enough gadgets in today’s engines I do not want to disturb so I am not even sure if I would be able to modify one easily. If it “feels” like one of those pictured, I’ve done my job. Again, I don’t have the budget for a $1000 literally “all the bells and whistles” loco that will be used once a year. Also, table width is 42” if that matters. Thanks in advance for any input.