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1  Discussion Boards / General Discussion / Re: HO freight car quality on: March 16, 2010, 05:32:53 PM
If you plan on staging a few cars that will not be moved frequently (i.e., cars parked on an industry spur or siding) and you are not a rivet counter -- I am definitely not -- you can get away with purchasing less expensive rolling stock.  Truck/wheel/coupler upgrades are optional, though you might want all of your cars to have the same type of coupler just in case.  While the inexpensive but easily upgradeable Athearn Blue Box kits of yesteryear have been discontinued, you can still find them if you're willing to check around.  Check out the "close-out" bin at your LHS or search online sites, and not just for Athearn Blue Box kits.  It's amazing what you can sometimes find on clearance.  Accurail also offers some inexpensive kits that are decent and easy to assemble.  In addition, Accurail offers runs of 3, 6, 12 (and more) different car numbers for some of their kits, which is nice.  Finally, you can also do quite a bit of inexpensive "upgrading" (detailing) to a cheap-looking car with appropriate paints/coatings/chalks/decals. 

For rolling stock that will be moved about the layout frequently, I recommend making sure the cars either come equipped with or are upgraded to better trucks/wheels (RP25), couplers, and (if necessary -- but usually not needed) proper weights.  Using a computer analogy, you might be able to play a computer game using Intel GMA 4500 (integrated graphics) on an 17" monitor at 800x600 @20fps with medium settings but you'll enjoy the experience much more if you have an AMD HD5870 graphics card and can max out the eye candy on a 24" monitor (okay, 3 of them using Eyefinity) at 1920 x 1080 @60fps. 

IMO, Atlas Trainman, Accuready and Bachmann Silver Series (excluding the log cars) are pretty good in terms of bang for the buck ready-to-run rolling stock.  You should be able to buy most freight cars from the above lines for well under $20 per car, often $10 to $15.  BTW, the Bachmann Silver Series log cars are very nice -- I have several of them -- but the list price is @$43 per car (c'mon, Bachmann -- help me out!).  When Walthers runs a sale on its branded rolling stock (Platinum/Gold Line/Proto 2K), that's usually worth taking a look.  I really like Atlas cars (and their trucks), too - probably my favorite overall, but a bit more expensive on average than some of the other vendor offerings.     

At the end of the day, it's your layout and you make the rules (and set the budget).  Everyone has their favorites, but in the end we'll end up with similar cars for a given road name from multiple vendors just for the varying car numbers and different detailing.
2  Discussion Boards / General Discussion / Re: Going to be in Chicago Area for train diesel days on: July 10, 2008, 08:32:19 PM
In Chicago:  Grayland Station (HO, N), RAM Hobby Shop (HO, N -- call ahead, as owner has recently had health problems), Zientek's Model Trains (HO).  In the suburbs, Des Plaines Hobbies (HO, N), Lombard Hobbies (HO, N). 
3  Discussion Boards / HO / Re: Bach Man - large city buildings from Bachmann? on: July 10, 2008, 08:21:19 PM
I recently picked up the Bachmann Spectrum Cityscenes Ambassador Hotel (LHS) and Sears Catalog House (ebay).  Thought about picking up either the Trade Tower or Metropolitan Building, too, but they won't fit too well on a shelf layout.  I haven't started building either kit yet, but I did take a quick look at the Sears Catalog House.  Very detailed instructions, lots of pieces.  FWIW, there are currently several Bachmann Spectrum Cityscenes HO kits currently for sale on ebay.
4  Discussion Boards / General Discussion / Re: Is MSTS 2 compatible with Vista? on: June 11, 2008, 01:37:49 AM

MSTS II and Vista is from the same publisher. The HAVE to work together.

Or at least it will work until SP2 is released for Vista, which will then cause conflicts with hundreds of existing drivers and DLLs. 
5  Discussion Boards / General Discussion / Re: Cheap Laptops on: June 11, 2008, 01:32:04 AM
Speaking of parallel port printers, I have an HP Laserjet 2100MP printer that I have added to a mixed (XP/98, Mac, Linux) network using an H-260U internal print server from Silex Technology.  Silex makes some pretty nice print & device (for multifunction units) servers.  The H-260U (@$99 several years ago) is fantastic -- and was 1/3 the price of the HP EIO network card.  My Linksys & Netgear print servers wouldn't support Macs -- a necessary evil, as my wife loves her old G4 iBook -- so I had to find another solution.  I had tried a parallel port-USB converter similar to what Bob had found, but performance was too inconsistent. 
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