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Collecting and Running Brass Model Trains

Updated on April 1, 2013

Collecting and Running Brass Model Trains

Collecting brass trains is a great way to get into model railroading whether or not you have a layout. Collecting brass trains is more affordable than ever and you can find great deals on eBay and internet forums. If you've never considered collecting or running brass because of the cost, now is the time to start. Brass model trains are the most beautiful, accurate, and detailed models you'll find anywhere. Brass models are available in all popular model traind scales, but the most affordable way to get started collecting is with HO scale. If you keep your eyes open you can find some really great deals. Collecting brass trains is a fun and rewarding hobby, and you owe it to yourself to give it a try.

What's New In Brass - Southern Pacific S-12 and S-14 0-6-0 Switchers

Southern Pacific S-12 #1269
Southern Pacific S-12 #1269

River Raisin Models has announced a few small switch engines for you S Scale fans - the Southern Pacific S-12 and S-14 0-6-0 Switchers. River Raisin makes extremely nice models and for $1300 one of these would be a great way to add an S Scale steam engine to your brass collection at a really good price.

I got a letter from River Raisin the last week of November stating that they didn't have enough reservations to proceed with this project. If you want one of these locomotives, contact River Raisin Models ASAP and put in your reservation. It would really be a shame if they cancelled this project. It's going to be a very high quality model at a very reasonable price...

(Photo: Doug Richter via River Raisin Models)

Watch Them In Action - Check out the incredible detail on these models...


All About Brass Prices and Value - Essential information for collectors...

These books are out of print but sometimes you can find them from resellers at Amazon or elsewhere. If you're into collecting or running brass trains, any of these books would make a great addition to your model railroading library.

N Scale Brass

Brass model trains in N Scale...

N Scale brass model trains aren't as popular as brass models in other scales, but if you're patient you can find some pretty cool N Scale brass locomotives. I'm not too familiar with N Scale but the few brass pieces I've looked at have seemed to be very good quality. Prices on N Scale brass are similar to HO Scale brass.

To tell the truth, I kind of don't see the point of N Scale brass trains - the models are so small that the detailing is hard to see - for me at least. You can find some prototypes in brass that haven't been produced as plastic Ready to Run (RTR) models though, so it can be worth the money. Also, it is very cool that people can put such exquisite detailing into such a small model...

Santa Fe 2-6-2 Brass Locomotive (HO Scale)

Santa Fe 2-6-2 Brass Locomotive (HO Scale)
Santa Fe 2-6-2 Brass Locomotive (HO Scale)

HO Scale Brass

Brass trains in HO Scale...

HO Scale brass model trains are the best way to start collecting or running brass. Right now you can find really good deals on HO Scale brass locomotives. Recently I bought a custom painted AT&SF 2-6-2 Prairie on eBay for only $225 - about the price of a quality plastic RTR locomotive. You won't always find deals like this but they're a lot more common than you'd think.

If you like steam locomotives, HO Scale brass offers incredible detail and gives you a much broader selection of prototypes than RTR steam locomotives. HO Scale brass diesel locomotives OTOH don't have much to offer over the better quality RTR offerings, so you might as well go with RTR if you're into diesels. If you like steam though, it's more affordable than ever to get started collecting HO Scale brass trains.

Milwaukee Road Brass Caboose (S Scale)

Milwaukee Road Brass Caboose (S Scale)
Milwaukee Road Brass Caboose (S Scale)

S Scale Brass

Brass models in S Scale...

S Scale trains aren't as popular as model trains in other scales, but there is a surprisingly good selection of S Scale brass locomotives, especially if you model the Southern Pacific Railroad. This is due to a single company - River Raisin Models. River Raisin imports very high quality brass locomotives built by Boo Rim Precision in Korea. If you've never heard of Boo Rim, they are about the finest maker of brass locomotives in the world - and that's not hype. I have a couple of River Raisin steam locomotives and the quality and detailing are incredible. They are produced in limited quantities so you don't see them show up on eBay very often. Other companies selling S Scale brass locomotives are Sunset Models and P-B-L (which only does narrow gauge). If you're looking for S Scale Brass check them out...

Brass Trains vs. Plastic - The detail with brass is amazing...

Brass locomotive vs. plastic locomotive
Brass locomotive vs. plastic locomotive

A few years back I bought a couple of IHC plastic ready to run 2-6-0 Moguls. I model the Southern Pacific, and these engines are pretty close to SP's M-6 class Moguls. The plan is to detail them out a bit and run them on my layout as SP locomotives. This past summer I had the chance to pick up a Precision Scale SP M-9 Mogul and I thought it would be interesting to compare it with one of my IHC models so you can see the difference between a high end brass locomotive and a plastic ready to run...

Brass vs. Plastic, left side

Brass trains vs plastic trains
Brass trains vs plastic trains

Looking at this picture, you can see the detailing on the brass locomotive is a lot finer than on the plastic loco. On the brass engine, all the detailing is separately applied. On the plastic engine, much of it is cast-in. You can also see other differences, like a bell rope, smaller wheel flanges, and overall better finish on the brass model. Still, for the price, the plastic model doesn't look all that bad...

My Brass Trains

What I have or would love to have...

This is the first brass engine I bought when I got back into model railroading. I'm really lucky because the SPNG #9 is my favorite locomotive of all time. The real one is at the Laws Railroad Museum about 5 miles from my hometown, and I have many happy memories of visiting as a kid. When I bought this engine it had been out of production for a few years (only 50 were made) but P-B-L still had one in stock. Talk about good luck:) My locomotive is a "Foreground Model" with factory weathering and an upgraded motor. It's awesome! Someday I hope to have a layout to run it on...

(Photo: P-B-L)

Slim Princess - SPNG #9...


Got a question or comment about brass trains?

Please Sign my Guestbook - I appreciate all all comments and suggestions...

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    • Steve Dizmon profile image

      Steve Dizmon 

      6 years ago from Nashville, TN

      I don't know much about model RR, but I must admit to being fascinated by the idea of brass trains. Thanks for the new, to me, information.

    • CruiseReady profile image


      6 years ago from East Central Florida

      I can't recall ever seeing a brass model train. (Maybe I did and just didn't know, because it had been painted) They certainly look wonderful, though!

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      congrats, great info

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      Collecting brass trains is an interesting hobby, the old trains really look cute in brass.

    • goode006 lm profile image

      goode006 lm 

      7 years ago

      Brass trains are great and have so much detail on them.

    • georgegijo profile image


      7 years ago

      Awesome lens. I always liked train models and this lens is very good in terms of describing everything one wanted to know about model trains.

    • I-sparkle profile image


      7 years ago

      This lens was very well done. I never heard of brass trains before. Your content and photography was outstanding.

    • glenbrook profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago

      @GuyB LM: It depends. If the gravy has too much salt it can cause the brass to corrode. Also, the giblets in giblet gravy can clog up the gears on the engine. As long as you're serving low sodium non-giblet gravy everything should be OK. To be 100% safe I guess ceramic locomotives would be best, but AFAIK no one has made one from ceramic that actually runs.

    • GuyB LM profile image

      GuyB LM 

      7 years ago

      Can they transport gravy? We always have a train during the holidays on the dining room table. Whenever someone needs something I just move the trains. I'm concerned that the brass would negatively affect the gravy. Do you have any experience? If so, was it positive or negative?

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      Never saw any brass trains before. The detailing is gorgeous!

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      Always loved model railways. Thanks for the lens.

    • libysquid lm profile image

      libysquid lm 

      7 years ago

      pretty cool...i personally never had a train but now I'm interested.


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