Brass v new plastic discussion

 
  Gremlin Assistant Commissioner

I was looking at the thread about "what is the oldest DCC conversion..." and also recalled the RACE and other threads and I was wondering....

How does older brass (Mansfield, Bergs, Dockyard etc.) compare with modern (?) plastic, such as Trainorama, Auscision, Eureka etc.  In particular:

  1. Do brass models have more detail or can they become more detailed than plastic?
  2. Do modern plastic run better (no idea what that means, pulling power, slow speed crawling....)?
  3. Apart from the obvious investment in time and skill, are they worth that much extra (and yes, I understand that it involves an attempt to value an intangible, but I'm just asking...)?


Not trying to start a flame war, just wondering peoples opinions Smile

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  TheBlacksmith Chief Commissioner

Location: Ankh Morpork
A lot of the brass is quite old these days, and may not be as detailed as the newer plastic models. One thing is certain, the paint and decoration of the new plastic is far better than the older brass. In some cases the brass was not painted at all, you had to do that yourself.

As for running qualities, back in the days of brass the motors and gearboxes were nothing special, in fact often the biggest weakness in the model. Some early Japanese brass models clearly showed that the Japanese had no idea how to make a good functioning drive system. On the other hand, there were some great exceptions, notably Ajin of Korea and Tenshodo of Japan.

But modern plastic has not been around long enough yet to get a handle on whether the drive systems will last or not. Some, like the TOR 44 class have a notable fault in the drive train that is likely to shorten the lifetime of the drive, unless it is addressed.

Brass also fits into at least two categories, brass models intended for running, and brass intended for collecting. Generally speaking, Mansfield, Bergs, Dockyard were mostly intended for running, whilst Precision Scale Models are meant for collecting, or at least that's the way the owner saw it. Collectible locos are often a bit more detailed and the running properties of them is not an issue.
  Geekboy Train Controller

Location: Banned
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  Aaron The Ghost of George Stephenson

Location: University of Adelaide SA
I have several brass items, those not built (factory) by me I regard as near rubbish, those built by me I regard as brilliant because I invested the skill and time to get them just about perfect, you won't get that in factory built brass.
  David Peters Dr Beeching

Location: "With Hey Boy".
A friend and I both purchased brand new Mansfield 442's class loco in brass years back. He only had his about 12 months or so and the motor gave up the ghost, kaput, had it, it had hardly been used as well. Well he got that replaced free and then the bogies decided to throw in the towel the main drive gear on the gear tower was nylon and his cracked rather badly so he had a no go. Mine went well till a few years back and I found the same problems almost the motor was giving up the ghost and it lacked its former pulling power. The lack of pull was the same gears that split on my friends model both being loose on the drive shaft. I simply gutted the model and used it as a dummy loco for a while.

Well a while back I got a Austrains 80 class model dirt cheap, so I wondered if anything could be done to add this mech to the 442 model. A lot of cutting out of pieces ensured but now it runs again and even has directional lights etc. I had modified this locomotive into a SAR 700 class locomotive years back, I still have to modify the fuel tank on the Austrains chassis but the model now looks and runs a whole lot better.

Now on the detail side this brass body looks very crude detail wise when placed against a Austrains 442/700 class model of which I have several. People complain about the Austrains model of these being a bit crude now, but the plastic model is light years ahead of the old brass model in every way. However I wanted this old brass body to run again for old times sake and it does now.


By the way I did not waste the 80 class Austrains body either, I put the now dummy 442/700 chassis into it and have another 80 class on the roster.

I have a few brass steamers as well and none of them run as well as a modern RTR steam loco, no where near it. And like Aaron I now think that they are rubbish as they are so hard to fix now.
  yogibarnes Locomotive Fireman

Never had brass.  Could never afford it.
I have a bias - I prefer running quality to detail quality in my HO models so the following comment relates to that bias.
Plastic?  Recent diesel models great - high detail, good weight, great value.
Recent steamer models detail is very good, but they are not my favourite because the low plastic weight often equals less pulling power and because steamers usually have small body volume, you need every cubic mm to be heavy - at least of metal.  My steamers are mainly white metal and the weight is a big advantage over plastic.  I imagine brass steamers also have that advantage.
  TheBlacksmith Chief Commissioner

Location: Ankh Morpork
There is a new issue these days that destroys the performance of models and that is sound. As someone mentioned recently, he removed the weight out of the fuel tank to fit speakers, thereby reducing the adhesive weight of the model and therefore the hauling ability.
  LaidlayM Chief Commissioner

Location: Research
I was looking at the thread about "what is the oldest DCC conversion..." and also recalled the RACE and other threads and I was wondering....

How does older brass (Mansfield, Bergs, Dockyard etc.) compare with modern (?) plastic, such as Trainorama, Auscision, Eureka etc.  In particular:

  1. Do brass models have more detail or can they become more detailed than plastic?
  2. Do modern plastic run better (no idea what that means, pulling power, slow speed crawling....)?
  3. Apart from the obvious investment in time and skill, are they worth that much extra (and yes, I understand that it involves an attempt to value an intangible, but I'm just asking...)?


Not trying to start a flame war, just wondering peoples opinions Smile
Gremlin
I don't know about more or less detail but the detail on brass is more robust thus more likely to be appreciated 5-10 years from now simply because it is still there.
The VR brass locos delivered in in the 1980s run very well (as good as current plastic) and are repairable or re-buildable thus will continue to run well into the future.

Mark
  Thumpa Chief Train Controller

Location: That's on a need to know basis.
There is a new issue these days that destroys the performance of models and that is sound. As someone mentioned recently, he removed the weight out of the fuel tank to fit speakers, thereby reducing the adhesive weight of the model and therefore the hauling ability.
TheBlacksmith
I said I removed it from the fuel tank. I did not say I threw it away. It was relocated. Truth be known, it actually gained a further 15 grams from fitting the speaker and PCB. Thus improving adhesive performance.
  TheBlacksmith Chief Commissioner

Location: Ankh Morpork
I said I removed it from the fuel tank. I did not say I threw it away. It was relocated. Truth be known, it actually gained a further 15 grams from fitting the speaker and PCB. Thus improving adhesive performance.
Thumpa

Well done, most people throw it away thinking it does not matter.
  TheBlacksmith Chief Commissioner

Location: Ankh Morpork
The VR brass locos delivered in in the 1980s run very well (as good as current plastic) and are repairable or re-buildable thus will continue to run well into the future.

Mark
LaidlayM
As long as you remember how to re-assemble the gearbox. Embarassed
  Roachie Chief Commissioner

Location: Kadina SA (formerly NSW)
I'm just back from a week in Narrandera, where I helped my brother with a new layout based on the Union Pacific in HO scale. Brother has been collecting UP brass steam locos for over 45 years. They sat in his cupboard for all that time and he has asked me to paint 2 of them (last year) and fit DCC sound decoders. I painted the 2 800 class black and fitted Tsunami decoders in the tenders....no head lights (too much hassle for me).

I took these with me when I left for Narrandera last week. We managed to get the layout constructed, including the centre piece; being  a Walthers 130' turntable. It is run by a NCE 5amp system.

He has several recent plastic diesels and a Trix Big Boy that I got hold of for him.

The 2 brass locos run like rubbish!!! They only have half-live pick-up and cough and splutter around the layout. I had re-motored them with Mashima motors and they run well on a rolling road.

That half live set-up is just plain BAD.

The Trix Big Boy runs beautifully, as do the Proto 2000 diesels and all his other recent purchases.

I used to collect brass NSWGR steam locos......sold the bloody lot!!!

Roachie
  Iain Chief Commissioner

Location: Concord, NSW
Before we get stuck into the Brass we should remember that it was often the only option to get locomotives if you didn't want to scratch build them. Plastic RTR locomotives are only comparatively recent for the Australian scene so if, for example, you modelled VR and wanted a steam loco such as the R class the only option was one of the Model Dockyard R's whereas these days...

Iain
  LaidlayM Chief Commissioner

Location: Research
Before we get stuck into the Brass we should remember that it was often the only option to get locomotives if you didn't want to scratch build them. Plastic RTR locomotives are only comparatively recent for the Australian scene so if, for example, you modelled VR and wanted a steam loco such as the R class the only option was one of the Model Dockyard R's whereas these days...

Iain
Iain
Exactly, and if you wanted it to run better you fixed it.  Brass can be made to run well and kept running well, extra pickups were often necessary.  I rebuilt the pickups on a couple of locos this week.

Mark
  Gremlin Assistant Commissioner

Exactly, and if you wanted it to run better you fixed it.  Brass can be made to run well and kept running well, extra pickups were often necessary.  I rebuilt the pickups on a couple of locos this week.

Mark
LaidlayM
Interesting discussion....but to put some context in it, I was thinking about the present rather than the past.  I understand and appreciate the time, effort and skill that went into the brass in the past.  But today, if one was purchasing say a 36cl, I feel the discussion is suggesting that the plastic (may) look better and will run better - its longevity is unknown and it may be less durable.  But if one wanted something to look good and run well for the next 10 years, plastic would be the choice....?
  TheBlacksmith Chief Commissioner

Location: Ankh Morpork
Interesting discussion....but to put some context in it, I was thinking about the present rather than the past.  I understand and appreciate the time, effort and skill that went into the brass in the past.  But today, if one was purchasing say a 36cl, I feel the discussion is suggesting that the plastic (may) look better and will run better - its longevity is unknown and it may be less durable.  But if one wanted something to look good and run well for the next 10 years, plastic would be the choice....?
Gremlin

That's a difficult one to answer. Plastic has not been around long enough to say whether is will continue to run OK for any period into the future. There is already some evidence to the contrary. One thing that seems to be true is that 'new' people getting into the game, do not necessarily know how to design a good, reliable mechanism.
  speedemon08 Mary

Location: I think by now you should have figured it out
I had a friend say to me, I'll never need brass now that there is decent quality plastic models.

I tend to agree, however I have an Overland brass SD70MAC and it quite simply b-e-a-utiful (also been told it is a very quiet runner for six axle brass). Only problem because of the wheels it cant haul crap on certain types of track. Although compared to the Plastic KATO and Athearn variants however it is more durable and on the plastic variants you have to add the handrails and some detail yourselves....
  Roachie Chief Commissioner

Location: Kadina SA (formerly NSW)
Further to what I wrote earlier today....I brought back the next brass loco that my brother wants me to paint and add a decoder to. It's a UP 4-10-2; beautifully detailed and looks great. It has a huge "can" motor in it already and runs "smoothly" (upside down), but is pretty noisy, despite me lubricating it. It only draws around 0.13 amps. The "sound" seems to be just general "gearing" noise, not the motor or rods.

Anyway, I'll see how I go with the DCC'ing of it and then the painting. I'm not keen to try to add extra pick-ups on the insulated wheels, but might have a closer look before I do too much more I guess.

At least he doesn't want sound in this one, so that will simplify it a bit. I just hope I can get it running really nicely.

Roachie
  a6et Minister for Railways

I had 1st & 2nd run dockyard 38cl, also the first run of garratts, way back in the 60's.  The 38's were mixed bags, with the 2nd run being slightly better detail wise more in regard to the stack, dome & sandbox being much lower & better scale, however it ran poorely with the motor & wheels binding. The 1st run was a beautiful free & smooth running model, tried without success to swap boilers around but on sold them several years later.

The garret was hopeless & was constantly providing problems no matter which direction it ran with wheels & valve gear binding,  I forget how many times the model was fixed with time & money spent on it, luckily I was able to sell the model for $1150,00 privately which gave me air fares to China to visit real steam in operation there. The purchaser was a collector & more content with getting one of the first run garratts for display, which really was all it was suitable for.

So far I have not had any problems with operating any of the Plastic models, which includes 4xAusrains 36, on from first run, an Austrains 35. TOR 32, 42 & 44. A Eureka garratt waiting for sound to be installed after a full boiler unit being replaced.  I do have a 40cl on order, but who knows when that will come & its abilities.

I also have 4 DJH models completed without sound & decoders, they will each be fitted with future TCS wow sound decoders depending on how the fitting to a 59cl goes, also one other DJH kit of a 53 under construction.

For mine the jury is out on the Chinese models at the moment, especially as we wait to see the quality in detail but more especially in the mechanical side of things owing to most of them using new factories, thus they will get a fair bit of scrutiny as they come out.
  g523 Train Controller

Location: rowville
The pride of my fleet is my PSM is my PSM bulldogs (A, S, CLP, CLF and CL) IMHO these are non comparable to the plastic variants. The nose and windscreens are perfect, and there is something about paint on metal over paint on plastic. The run fine aswell. Once i bought my first brass loco (PSM CLF), i knew that i would end up buying more.

I also have a fleet of Trainbuilder cars. These are also brilliant, but they probably don't run as well as a plastic RTR product, due to all the extra detail around the bogies ect. Having said that, I'v seen brass TB cars run fine with a bit of minor work to make sure everythings moving properly.

There is still brass locos I'm on the lookout for even though they are already released in plastic or will be released soon.

I guess its if you are willing to spend the money on brass. You can buy 4 to 5 plastic models for the price of one (more than likely secondhand) brass loco.

Cheers
  Iain Chief Commissioner

Location: Concord, NSW
I think there is a spectrum of users at one end the collector (whose requirements depend on the scope of his collection) and at the other the operator (who simply wants the locos to haul his trains around but doesn't really mind too much about the details). I think we generally sit somewhere in between constrained by our disposable income and time. All these factors lead to deciding whether to go for brass or plastic or kits.

For me it is more what the model is and whether it fits my interests and price rather than brass or plastic.

Iain

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