The long awaited Athearn Big Boy has finally been released.
We were anxious to compare this with the other high profile Big Boy renditions released by Trix and Precision Craft Models (PCM) that we looked at earlier.
This Big Boy is not a true die cast like the Trix and PCM, it has a finely detailed plastic shell over a die cast frame core.
It features fully detailed boiler backhead, individually applied detail parts like piping, valves and generators. Blackened RP25 wheels are factory installed so the loco will operate on track of any code. Front and rear cylinders and coupled drive wheel sets both pivot to manage 18 radius curves. The loco also comes with electrical pick-up on all 16-driver wheels and 8 tender wheels.The power is a 5-pole, skewed armature, dual flywheel motor. MRC has provided a factory installed sound system that operates on DCC and also can be operated by DC using the included hand held wireless DC controller. The loco comes with dual traction tire drivers, there is no non-traction tire option.
The Tender to Tender Test:
We did the the same tender to tender pull test as before and the Athearn, although it is much lighter (by 1.5 lbs) compared to the PCM, was about equal. The traction tires are the reason for equal pulling.
In the low speed contest the Trix is the leader by far, 0.9 mph, followed by the PCM at 1.4 mph and the Athearn was poor at 6.2 mph. Programming can reduce the low speed for the Athearn but this raises other issues with chuff synchronization.
There are selectable whistles on the Athearn Big Boy, some are good and some are distorted.
I suspect now that Big Boy options will be plentiful for quite some time.
I followed with interest your “battle of the behemoths” and I would like to add something after just receiving my Big Boy.
Although the loco pulls well in a straight line I have had problems with the tender turning over when trying to pull more than 18 cars on a 22″ radius curve up a 2% grade. I didn’t expect this. Have you had any other feedback concerning this problem? What do you think about adding some weight to the tender?