Genesis and Proto 2000 Performance Problems

wp8thsub's picture

Ever add locos to your roster and feel this urge to stomp them into oblivion soon thereafter?  Time to vent!  Let's consider a couple of examples...

This is the last run of the Walthers Proto U30B.  I've previously noted its weak power pickup design.  Over time the performance of this model has grown progressively worse.  The electrical pickup depends on flimsy contact strips that ride on top of the axle bearings, quite unlike older Proto units I've used with Athearn style trucks.  These are constantly getting fouled by thrown lubrication, and since they have a tiny contact area where they actually touch the bronze bearings it takes only a small amount to ruin the connection and cause a stall.

This model has been in service less than a year, wasn't cheap, and I've totally lost my patience with it.  Every session it requires disassembly to clean and adjust the insides of the trucks.  Next steps are a mechanism rebuild with other trucks and/or a frame swap with an Atlas U23B.  I like the shell and want to make something operable out of it, so I'm not sending it back.  If I want this phase of U30B, I'll have to get creative.

Incidentally, see that loco behind the U30?  That's a (rather poorly executed) try at narrowing the hood on an old Athearn GP35 that I did many years back before you could get a decent GP35 shell in plastic.  It has a lot of Cannon & Co. parts and many hours invested but still falls short of looking quite right.  It ran as a dummy for a long time because the thick plastic on the narrowed hood hit flywheels and/or was too tight to fit around available motors.  I finally parts-built a mechanism using some old Athearn metal trucks with NWSL nickel silver wheels, various universal components from my junk box, and a Canon can motor from a Front Range GP9.  Crews seem to like how it runs (it's in another consist now) while complaining about the U30B, which as of last session has been pulled from service.

Score: Junk box 1, Walthers Proto 0.


wp8thsub's picture

Next Up

How about that cool Genesis GP9 I decodered up a couple weeks back?

I've hosted two groups of visiting operators since and this thing stinks.  It won't maintain a consistent speed at all times and has a tendency to stop responding to throttle inputs at at inopportune times, suggesting there's some kind of problem with the electronics.  The NCE decoder tests out OK, so maybe something's screwed on the Athearn board it plugs into.  Maybe I'd have been better off with the complete board replacement option after all.  I'll have to do some more disassembly for tuneup purposes anyway, so I'll see what I find.

See this thing?  I think Jimmy Carter was in office when this Athearn GP7 was manufactured.  It was later detailed and painted into a facsimile of WP 708, and has nickel silver wheels, hard-wired electrical connections and a can motor.  You guessed it, it's bulletproof and keeps right on running every session while the fancy Genesis Geep is headed for what may be a long stay in the shop.

Rob Spangler  MRH Blog

Same frustration with a brand

Same frustration with a brand new Bowser AS-616.  Pick-up contact on two of the three axles only.  What were they thinking? 

It spent more time stalled than running until I soldered on extra pickup wires.  I couldn't even get enough contact to power a TCS Keep Alive reliably.

- Milt
The Duluth MISSABE and Iron Range Railway in the 50's - 1:87

IAISfan's picture

Been there

I feel your pain Rob.  When doing my early builds/buys, I focused too much on nice details and paint and not enough on performance.  However, I'm much more comfortable doing paint and details than I am getting a bad mechanism to run well, so I eventually either sold off the poor runners or put their shells on a high-quality mechanism.

That may not be the answer for everyone depending on your prototype's roster and the models that are available, but in my case, I was able to standardize on a handful of Atlas and Kato mechanisms that were known to be great runners:  Atlas GP38/GP38-2/U23B, Kato SD38-2/SD40-2, Kato-repowered P2K Geeps and Geep rebuilds using Stewart/Kato F7 components, and a single Kato-design P2K SW1200.  Everything else has been de-motored, running as sound dummies or, in a couple cases, just plain old dummies, along for the ride to grow the consist to a more prototypical size.

Personally, I've found that dropping one manufacturer's shell on a good-quality mechanism is usually not that hard OR expensive, and I don't have milling equipment.  Atlas U23Bs can be very inexpensive, and I think you'd find that fitting the P2K shell to that drive would be well worth the time and effort.

wp8thsub's picture


... I was able to standardize on a handful of Atlas and Kato mechanisms that were known to be great runners...

There are relatively few mechanism types under my long-term successful locos. 

  • Athearn Blue Box with hard-wiring past the electrical failure points on the trucks, nickel silver replacement wheels, and can motors from Mashima or Kato.
  • Any Kato.  Kato trucks and motors can be mounted on several different frame designs, such as Front Range and Athearn.  I have several locos that utilize Kato drives dropped into other frames.
  • Any Atlas.

I have had reliability issues with anything sold as Proto 2000, regardless of it being under the Walthers name.  My only Genesis loco is the GP9 I posted about above.  My only Athearn RTR locos are a pair of SW1500s, and they are getting on my nerves due to spotty performance as well despite soldering all the wiring connections.  They have been my main yard switchers for two years, but are in imminent danger of retirement.  I have some old Geeps with Kato innards that will gladly fill the void.

Rob Spangler  MRH Blog


Well, Rob, that U30B is performing like the prototype in its last years. I would see if you can find an Atlas U Boat and swap over to that. If not, you could put it in the deadline and it would be inline with what WP was dealing with in its last days.

RW's picture

run reliably

I personally have found only Atlas and Kato to run reliably- I had over 50 locos.

Richard Wendt

I definitely agree with Kato

Coming into this thread, my position was that Kato is the clear winner and has been for several years.  Some of Atlas mechanisms are good, some are not.   It funny how the old reliable Athearn BB keeps on chugging. 

I think it is like anything else.  When the "manufacturer" designs and has a significant presence in the actual manufacture of the product then it tends to satisfy the customers expectations.  In this case, Kato comes to mind. 

When either of these are out sourced and that significant presence is lost, so to is the satisfaction in the product.  You can name a number of manufacturers that fit this mold.  The irony is that these are the ones who tend to be the highest priced. 


Tom Patterson's picture



After reading about the contact problems with your U30B, it occurred to me that I have one of the new Proto 2000 SD45's with Tsunami sound. I just checked the loco diagram, and sure enough, it has the flimsy wiper contacts that you mentioned above. I've run it around the layout once or twice to make sure that everything works, but that's certainly not op session service. It's hard to imagine that I'm not going to have the same problems that you have with the U30B. So I guess I have three options: 1) return it; 2) use the Tsunami in another unit and make this one a dummy; or, 3) stomp it into oblivion. Thanks for the heads up on this- there's nothing worse than painting, lettering, and weathering a locomotive only to have it perform poorly.

I'm curious about the issues with the Athearn RTR SW1500's as I've been close to picking up a couple of those recently for yard service. Are you using the original decoder and board or did you replace and/or add a decoder to them? You might want to try a factory re-set with the decoders. I've tried this several times with some older decoders that I had and it fixed the problem- for a while. Ultimately I ended up replacing the decoders.

As for reliable mechanisms, I'll echo the Kato and Atlas comments. I also have a Stewart C628 that's been very reliable although I know people have had problems with these in the past. As for decoders, I'm using Tsunami sound and the Soundtraxx MC2H104P9 mobile decoders for non-sound units almost exclusively. I've had problems with just about all of the other decoders I've used. The decoders that come with the Atlas units are some of the worst in terms of performance and features. And I won't use any factory boards. Before putting any unit in service, I take it apart and thoroughly clean everything along with making sure that all electrical connections are soldered. As long as the thing is all in pieces, I might as well add a decoder that I know will work well.

Good luck with your problem children.

Tom Patterson

Modeling the free-lanced Chesapeake, Wheeling & Erie Railroad, Summer 1976   


IAISfan's picture

Sound dummies

So I guess I have three options: 1) return it; 2) use the Tsunami in another unit and make this one a dummy; or, 3) stomp it into oblivion.

Before the stomping ensues, Tom, you might consider one other option, if your SD45 indeed becomes a problem:  Just removing the motor and gears and leaving the Tsunami and lighting in place.  I've done that with P2K Geeps, and you can't spot them in a consist, even when leading...except that they now appear to run like the Atlas- and Kato-powered units that are pushing and pulling them, rather than like P2Ks.  

I know I've gotten grief on the Proto-Layouts list for bothering to put sound in dummies, but since it allows me the flexibility of running those units as leaders without the additional cost, time, and hassle of repowering them, why not?  I only need 1-2 powered units to get trains over my layout, but I'd like to model the 3-5 unit consists of my prototype, so the loss of pulling power isn't a problem.  From an operational standpoint, the dummies are completely transparent.  I actually forget which units are dummies, so I've had to put an HO broom in one of the nose grabs to remind me so I don't assign too many to a single consist.

My total planned roster calls for 18 IAIS road units, and of those, six will be unpowered P2K and Athearn RTR units - four sound and two non-sound.  At those numbers, it hasn't been difficult at all to assign the necessary number of powered units to a consist.  Most have a single dummy with two powered units, though I'll sometimes run two and two.

wp8thsub's picture

Re: Tom

I'm curious about the issues with the Athearn RTR SW1500's as I've been close to picking up a couple of those recently for yard service. Are you using the original decoder and board or did you replace and/or add a decoder to them? You might want to try a factory re-set with the decoders.

The issue with these is power pickup and weight.  They are very sensitive to dirty track, what causes no trouble with other locos will get these to stutter.  I may replace the stock wheels with NWSL to see if the wheels may be a weak link.  I intended to use one of these for a switcher, but they have so little pulling power that proved useless for normal cuts of cars in my yard so I have two running together.  There isn't much additional room for weight.

Assembly of the wiring connections in both of my examples was very poor.  Insufficient insulation was stripped and contact was intermittent.  I re-stripped the wires and soldered all the connections.

I'm using Digitrax decoders installed on the Athearn 9-pin harness.  Re-setting the decoders hasn't changed anything.

Rob Spangler  MRH Blog

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