Monday, June 11, 2007

Big Little News, Little Big News

There are certainly more products available than ever in model railroading. This is true in all scales (OK, except maybe TT), but I pay the most attention to N scale announcements. I found it interesting that two recent announcements were at more-or-less opposite ends of the scale. Kato's NW-2 and Athearn's Challenger.

Beginning with the latter, what is it with Challengers and Big Boys? What are there, four Big Boys in production in HO now? Athearn's N scale Challenger has been reasonably well-reviewed and comes with on-board sound. Of course, most N scale layouts lack the 16" or larger radii required for this monster to really look good ... and it's out of place on all but a few layouts set in relatively narrow eras (UP, D&RGW, Clinchfield). Obviously, a big engine is interesting as a novelty, to a collector, or to someone who operates an eclectic motive power fleet.

On the other hand, the prototype for Kato's NW-2 sold over 1,100 copies, probably ten times the number of units and at least that many more prototype RRs than the Challenger. These operated for decades, sometimes as used units with a wide variety of later owners. The NW-2 could be found on terminal operations and on Class 1s. The model is only available in three or four liveries so far, but more will likely be added. The little switcher runs great, truly amazing for its size, and operates on 9 3/4" radius curves, making it suitable for the vast majority of N scale layouts.

So which do you think got more play in the model press? And which do you think I believe is more useful to most of us? The answers are in the title of this blog entry.

Currently listening to The Derek Trucks Band's Joyful Noise. What a pedigree this guy has. Joined the Allman Brothers in his 20s, recently toured with Eric Clapton, married to blues artist Susan Tedeschi. This album is jazz, rock, blues, fusion, afro/cuban ... a little of everything with a southern rock thing bubbling to the top every so often. Great listening for something different.