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Model Railroading > HO Athearn Challenger

Date: 12/08/04 03:21
HO Athearn Challenger
Author: locomotive3

Anybody out there got one?
If so, then I will have an voltage operating question to
run pass you.

Date: 12/08/04 17:24
Re: HO Athearn Challenger - no help
Author: TopcoatSmith

Have yet to see one run, last one came out of the box with a cascade of parts including the front truck. Boxed up and sent back.

TCS - pisaddointed

Date: 12/08/04 19:42
Re: HO Athearn Challenger - no help
Author: RioGrandeFan

Athearn's Challenger is an extremely nice model. It operates much smoother than Lionel's (almost as good as a Proto 2000 2-8-8-2), and looks better than Lionel's (much more to scale and finer details). The sounds come from an MRC sound decoder and aren't the best, but most folks think they are better sounding than Lionel's.

It has been the best selling loco at the hobby shop where I work. Just sold one today in fact. Only have one left and started with about 10. No one has had any complaints about them or brought one back.

They operate the best on DCC. It takes a little getting used to for DC operations and you can't exceede 18 volts on the track or the electronics don't work. The remote is ok, but Athearn recommends using the power pack throttle to control the speed rather than the remote. Use the remote to change direction and activate bell and whistle. Other sounds are available on DCC only.

Rio Grande Fan
Denver, CO

Date: 12/08/04 20:13
Re: HO Athearn Challenger - no help
Author: cjohnson

Rio Grande Fan,

I have both models, and I have to disagree with almost everything you said in the first two paragraphs. Detail wise the models are fairly comperable, with each model having some details nicer and more accurate than the other. Operationally, they both run very nice. The Athearn pulls more out of the box, due to a traction tire, but simple modifications can increase the Lionel's pulling capacity, without the dreaded traction tire.

And I haven't met anyone who thinks the Athearn sounds better than the Lionel. The Athearn/MRC sound is clearly not a simple articlated locomotive, and also lacks the distinctive whistle of the prototype. It may be nice, but it's not right.

Both models have their good and bad points, but neither is really that much nicer than the other.

Chris Johnson

Date: 12/09/04 01:34
Re: HO Athearn Challenger - no help
Author: locomotive3

Here's my operating voltage question.
My MRC 9500, 30 VAs without accessories or trailing cars
cannot get over 14.8 volts and as stated above"do not operate beyond 18 volts.

I can use those extra two to three volts to keep my DC Challenger nicely ahead of my Allegheny on the same DC track.

Do either of your Athearn models achieve 18 volts?

There are a lot of similarites appearence wise between my Athearn 4-6-6-4 and the Riv 2-6-6-6 Loco. You have to look twice(at a few feet away) to spot the differences.

Being DC, I'm happy with my first Athearn,(fire sale) and
consider the sound & remote an extra bonus since I don't have
those features on my more expensive Riv.

Thanks in advance.

Date: 12/09/04 08:44
Re: HO Athearn Challenger
Author: Phil

I have the UP3985 excursion loco and while it's a nice unit, I have some problems or concerns about it. The whistle could stand to be better. It sounds distorted and not as crisp as a Quantum whistle. I run DC and reversing the loco with the power pack can be a touchy operation espically when you are used to reversing a Broadway Limited loco. This has also caused problems when I run the Challenger at the model railroad club that I belong too. The Challenger does not like Marnostats with toggle switches for direction control. I've also read the warning about excessive track voltage and I would have hoped that Athearn would have installed heavier electronics in order to handle a wider range of track voltage. Outside of those issues, its a great model.


Date: 12/09/04 15:59
Re: HO Athearn Challenger
Author: RioGrandeFan

I work in a hobby shop and have demonstrated both the Lionel and Athearn Challengers for many folks. Probably over 50 people. More people think the Athearn sounds better. I have only had 2 guys say the Lionel sounds better. These are the facts of what people say while I am doing the demos. I can't speak for them, this is what they said.

The other unanimous comment is that the Athearn is more to scale and has better or finer detail. Again, this is what they said to me. I would have to agree that most details are finer on the Athearn, some details on the Lionel are better. The physical scale size of the Athearn is supposedly closer to HO scale.

Personally, neither one is all that great sounding which is probably why I don't own either one and most likely won't be buying either one. I was planning on purchasing an Athearn one but after hearing the sound, have decided to put my money elsewhere.

Of course there is the option of getting one, waitng for Tsunami from Soundtraxx to someday arrive and istalling that. Of course one might wait many years for Tsunami.

Also, what is the big deal with traction tires? If they help your loco pull better what is the problem? If all other wheels pick up power, it shouldn't affect anything to have two that don't. I just don't see the problem with them.

On our test track at the shop, the Athearn one runs perfectly. No side to side rock or anything. The Lionel has a hitch in its go and it has really turned customers off. There is also a fair amount of gear noise from the Lionel in reverse. You can actually hear the gear noise over the chuff and sounds. Turn the sound off on the Athearn and you can't even tell it is running.

The Athearn seems to be better quality, now if they'd just fix the sound!

Rio Grande Fan
Denver, CO

Date: 12/09/04 16:15
Re: HO Athearn Challenger
Author: rdsexton

"Also, what is the big deal with traction tires? If they help your loco pull better what is the problem? If all other wheels pick up power, it shouldn't affect anything to have two that don't. I just don't see the problem with them."

The problem is this. Traction tires are a potential motor killer. Now this depends on how much overload the motor can take but it can be a problem. If wheels slip when pullling a long string upgrade, the motor turns faster and the current, and thus the heat load, drops. With traction tires, the motor is more likely to be drawing stall current or operating above maximum current specifications. If traction tires are used, the motor should be a heavy duty version because it will probably be running hotter than without the tires.

The most notorious example of this has to be the GS4 Daylights and some others by Bachmann. Evidently, the designers assumed that they could use a lighter motor if they had traction tires. I don't know how many of those they replaced but I had the experience and I know that Bachmann left a bad taste in many, many mouths with that mistake.

Date: 12/09/04 17:13
Re: HO Athearn Challenger
Author: cjohnson

Rio Grande Fan,

You must have a bad Lionel, as most people I've talked to who have seen and run both models seem to call it a wash on detail and operation. As to sound, I haven't heard of anyone else (including several hobby shop employees) who think the Athearn sound is better or more accurate than the Lionel.

Since the Lionel probably won't be available anymore, there isn't really a point in comparing them. They are both nice models, and I'm glad I purchased both.

Chris Johnson

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