Mainline - Cheap for a reason?

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End2end
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Mainline - Cheap for a reason?

Postby End2end » Fri Oct 10, 2014 1:18 pm

Hi all.
Yesterday whilst purusing the bay of flea I came across a suspiciously cheap Mainline loco.
This lead me on a search for Mainline's products there and what I found confused me a little.
Why are Mainline loco's and rolling stock so cheap compared to other OO scale manufacturers?

Can anyone shed some light as to why?

Are thier engines in the loco's no good, or are there back to back gauge issues, low quality detailing and design or something completely different?

From what I remember, although not 100% /don't quote me on this, is that Mainline is a defunct company not producing models anymore.

It just seems very strange that most other model railway loco / rolling stock manufacturers are more, and sometimes much more expensive, where with Mainline products it seems you could almost fill your modelling "boots" for half the cost.

Thanks
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Re: Mainline - Cheap for a reason?

Postby stuartp » Fri Oct 10, 2014 1:38 pm

1. They're old, the newest item in the Mainline range is getting on for 30 years old. Having said that, in its day the detailing and accuracy was about as good as UK 4mm RTR got, so appearance shouldn't be an issue.

2. On steam locos the wheels are attached to stub axles, which push fit into a nylon muff. This age-hardens and splits, and is not straightforward to fix.

3. Still on the loco chassis, it's a split chassis so conversion to DCC Is not straightforward either.

4. Most (all ?) of the range re-appeared in Bachmann guise (with a better chassis on some of the steam locos) so given the choice, a Bachmann model will usually command more than the same thing in a Mainline box. Also, for example, the LMS coaches are available new from Bachmann with better wheels for £25, so that limits the second hand price to an extent.

Long may it continue mind you, I have quite a bit of Mainline stuff acquired cheap off Ebay for fettling with new wheels etc. Both my long-firebox Jubilees are Mainline ones with new Bachmann chassis (acquired new when they were still available as spares).
Last edited by stuartp on Fri Oct 10, 2014 5:31 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Mainline - Cheap for a reason?

Postby alex3410 » Fri Oct 10, 2014 1:53 pm

Visually they locos stand up really well they just are so old the internals fail and no spares available, the rolling stock is better as you can replace wheels etc

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Re: Mainline - Cheap for a reason?

Postby End2end » Fri Oct 10, 2014 1:56 pm

Many thanks for your reply and the information stuartp and Alex.
As that is the case and I will be going down the DCC route plus I am not in any way mechanically minded I think if I am to purchase any Mainline stock I will keep to rolling stock rather than loco's, and change the wheel sets as neccessary.

Does your above statments also apply to LIMA, as they seem to be suspiciously cheap as well?
Thanks
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Re: Mainline - Cheap for a reason?

Postby alex3410 » Fri Oct 10, 2014 2:09 pm

The only Lima loco i have had is a class 20 which was sold as spare or repairs - i got it going but its been a real dog to maintain, the wheels pick up dirt really quickly and within a loop or two of the layout it would start causing issues. I did convert it to DCC but the dirty wheel problem means its now packed up in a box :lol:

i don't know if mine was just a duff though so would not want to say either way, these days i tend to steer clear of anything thats not at least DCC ready as my repair skills are not good enough to coax old locos to run well enough for my liking :lol:

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Re: Mainline - Cheap for a reason?

Postby End2end » Fri Oct 10, 2014 2:32 pm

alex3410 wrote:these days i tend to steer clear of anything thats not at least DCC ready as my repair skills are not good enough to coax old locos to run well enough for my liking :lol:


Excellent philosophy Alex. I'll grab an oar because i'm in the same boat. :lol:

Although there are some non DCC ready locos on my "I WANT ONE" list like the GWR deisel railcar which I have not managed to find a DCC ready version as of yet and the 4 non DCC ready loco's I already own.
It's not the soldering that is a problem for me, that's the easy part. It's the what, how, where, why and the "it's stopped working. What do I need to do to fix it" that stumps me.

Like I say, I am not mechanically minded. In fact i've only just learnt recently that, that round thing over there is not in fact a circular saftey rail......apperently it turns the vehicular conveyance........... somtimes referred to as a ....... car??? :lol:
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Re: Mainline - Cheap for a reason?

Postby stuartp » Fri Oct 10, 2014 5:38 pm

Lima varied from very good to very poor. Some of the accuracy was a bit suspect on their earlier models, but the later ones, especially diesels, were pretty good if a little basic by today's standards. A lot of Lima tooling is now in the Hornby Railroad range. The mechanicals vary, you either get a very good motor or a very noisy one it seems, and some of their steam loco chassis were spectacularly bad.

Mainline rolling stock is usually pretty good. They tended to plonk all steam era wagons on the same generic 10 foot wheelbase chassis, that may or may not bother you, but the plastic wheels should just ping out for you to replace with metal Bachmann ones. The standard Mainline tension lock coupling was a damn sight more robust but still elegant than anything before or since too.
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Re: Mainline - Cheap for a reason?

Postby Bigmet » Fri Oct 10, 2014 8:36 pm

A site on Mainline, with links to some other older makes at the bottom of the page. http://www.mainlinerailways.org.uk/index.htm

Of all the Mainline product, their BR mk1 Restaurant/Buffet is still sought after. It's a model of a type that Bachmann haven't offered, and is a good match to their product if fitted with replacement flush glazing from the SE finecast range.

This may seem hard to believe, but everything prior to Bachmann's Blue Riband production from 1998, and Hornby's first Chinese made product starting with the rebuilt Mechant Navy in 2000 is much inferior to the RTR product we get now. There were occasional 'burst of sunlight' models in these earlier defunct ranges that still look well enough, but most of these have inferior mechanisms. Many of these 'moved on' and got better mechanisms where appropriate from a later manufacturer, some examples

The Trix A2, A3 and A4 (the Trix A4 body alone still current, the basis of the current Bachmann A4),
Mainline locos and some stock (that became much of the launch product of the Bachmann range, mostly replaced with all-new models now),
Airfix GMR, (which later became incorporated in Mainline) some locos and goods stock, (much of which is or has been available from Hornby),
Replica B1 (the body is still in use on the Bachmann B1).

Lima were bought lock, stock and barrel by Hornby; and most of their diesel types have received new drives to their great benefit, and are made available in the 'Railroad' range.

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Re: Mainline - Cheap for a reason?

Postby End2end » Fri Oct 10, 2014 9:41 pm

Many thanks for the information and history Bigmet.
Interesting stuff.
Now I have relegated any Mainline purchases to rolling stock only.
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Re: Mainline - Cheap for a reason?

Postby Bufferstop » Fri Oct 10, 2014 11:38 pm

Just in case anyone thought they'd got Mainline's failings sussed, twenty odd years ago I bought a Mainline Collet Goods as a non runner. I took the chassis apart and reassembled it with the screws in their intended positions and started running it. After about 15 years of regular use the plating on the stub axles started to wear away causing pick-up problems. So I made some wipers which connected the wheel backs to the chassis halves, and got another 4 or 5 years out of it when the bearing in the motor housing simply gave up. At which point I did a body swap with a new Bachmann version. It just goes to show no matter how justifiably bad the reputation is you can always find one that breaks the mould.
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Re: Mainline - Cheap for a reason?

Postby End2end » Sat Oct 11, 2014 1:10 am

Bufferstop wrote:Just in case anyone thought they'd got Mainline's failings sussed, twenty odd years ago I bought a Mainline Collet Goods as a non runner. I took the chassis apart and reassembled it with the screws in their intended positions and started running it. After about 15 years of regular use the plating on the stub axles started to wear away causing pick-up problems. So I made some wipers which connected the wheel backs to the chassis halves, and got another 4 or 5 years out of it when the bearing in the motor housing simply gave up. At which point I did a body swap with a new Bachmann version. It just goes to show no matter how justifiably bad the reputation is you can always find one that breaks the mould.


This sounds like one of those "excpetions to the rule" Bufferstop, which no doubt there are many but my skills do not go as far as finding out that screws are not in the correct position or "I made some wipers" or "I did a body swap". :lol:
What seems easy to more established modellers can be a complete minefield to others and as such I think I will be steering clear of any Mainline Loco's.
Not because they are no good, but because I wouldn't be able to fix them if they broke and the scarcity of spares would be a worry too as I would not be able to fabricate my own or even have the tools or knowledge to do it.
Also my train control will be DCC, which from what I understand, is not really easy to install with the split chassis loco's due to the way they pick up current/power or something.??
But excellent and valid points for anyone querying the same as myself who could possible fettle and fix older loco's.
Thanks
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Re: Mainline - Cheap for a reason?

Postby Bigmet » Sat Oct 11, 2014 10:57 am

Actually, fitting DCC to Mainline split chassis is a piece of cake, because the connections from chassis half to motor terminals are on clear view. Bachmann's later - mechanically superior - split chassis makes life more difficult because the motor terminals are buried inside, requiring the chassis to be split to get access.

Mainline also incorporated into their range several Airfix GMR designs, and some of these are as simple to convert as could be wished for. The N2 and 61xx are two I have done: it needs no more than 'snip' 'snip', soldered joints x 4, and you are done.

The Airfix design of open frame five pole motor on these models is usually a noisy brute thanks to slack manufacturing tolerances, but the running performance is fine; it will do anything a Mashima 1833 can, if you can put up with the additional coffee grinder noises! I had one in a Hornby 9F adapted to loco drive, weighing near 2lbs for traction on my old outdoor line. The motor eventually pulled the wheelsets apart, wheels shifted on axles.

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Re: Mainline - Cheap for a reason?

Postby stuartp » Sat Oct 11, 2014 12:43 pm

Bigmet wrote:Actually, fitting DCC to Mainline split chassis is a piece of cake.

Being strictly DC I stand guilty of repeating the 'split chassis bad' received wisdom there, sorry. I've never had any problems with mechanical reliability of the motors themselves, as you say they are sound enough, it's usually the split axles or the valve gear which gives up the ghost. Flexible plastic slidebars are not conducive to long life and reliability. I've lost track of the number of times I've rebuilt my mate's Royal Scot by making one good chassis out of three mangled ones, the next Bachman chassis I win on Ebay is his !

If you do decide to buy Mainline you can often pick up Bachmann replacement chasiss on Ebay for around £30-40, they're a straight swap by just undoing a couple of screws. Of course it's probably more economical to look for the Bachmann version of the whole thing in the first place but it's an option at least.
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Re: Mainline - Cheap for a reason?

Postby Bigmet » Sat Oct 11, 2014 4:11 pm

Quite so, I haven't decoder fitted any Mainline or Bach split chassis for myself since Bach's Blue Riband range wss introduced. But various friends still like them enough to have them decoder fitted, and I have steadily worked through the spares from my worn out old split chassis models keeping these running - just nearhing the bottom of the barrel now! A good decoder will make these locos run as well as current product, if they are in mechanically ideal shape. Some will be significantly noisier, the old split chassis V2 typically a really graunchy old dog for example, that just has to be accepted.

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Re: Mainline - Cheap for a reason?

Postby Bufferstop » Sat Oct 11, 2014 5:59 pm

Hi end2end I do make everything sound simple, deliberately, because it causes others to think. Hopefully it leads to questions like "how would you make some wipers?" If it sounds like something that might be useful to you, then perhaps you would seek out a method, even ask me how I did it, because the description of how you do something, in minute detail, can be boring and indigestible unless you need the answer. One thing that has definitely got harder over the years is removing and replacing loco bodies. Until the 1980s most steam outline bodies were held in place by no more than one screw (often down the chimney) and a couple of lugs under the cab. More recent releases based on the same tooling often have the same fixing points in the moulding even if unused, so swapping bodies can be as simple as undoing one screw. It amazes me that modern models are far more complicated to get into, often needing you to get in to fit a decoder but then not coming with the useful little sheet that shows which screws to undo. Such is progress. If I say I've done something (other than generating lots of money) I'll always be happy to pass on my knowledge. Then you'll probably see that if I do it it can't be that hard.
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