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what is a relatively cheap steam G-Scale Locomotive (steam locomotive), with a large amount of pulling power, that can easily be converted to dead rail operation?
While you clearly need better track than the plastic, one suggestion would be to buy a modern version of the Bachmann 4-6-0. There are thousands around and they can be acquired for $50-$100. They have had continual upgrades, so the 'modern' ones are Anniversary or "Gen-5", characterized by a hump under the gear on the rear axle.

Then you need to disconnect the track pickups, which is very easy on this engine - the front truck has wires that you can snip, and the bottom plate has wipers that rest on the bearings and they can be unplugged. While you have the bottom plate off, connect a pair of wires to the track pickup wires leading to the motor and run them out the back.

The tender can take as many batteries as you want to install. Then, for a control system, you can make it manual by using a PWM motor speed control (a few $ on eBay or Aliexpress) or a simple radio controlled ESC. A cheap car system works but doesn't reverse too well.
 

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If he's trying to save money, why are you recommending the extra cost of a battery installation?
Didn’t he originally ask for a cheap battery ……
Come on guys, his budget was $150, and I pointed out he can get a 4-6-0 for $50. Batteries aren't that expensive. Manual control using a PWM board is only $10.

[Incidentally, there was a thread of his last year about fixing the gear on his 4-6-0 . . ]
 

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I don't think a $50 used 4-6-0 will be the complete cost for the loco, it will probably need repair.

Let's not introduce someone to the hobby by giving him a problem right off..

Get him a good track powered loco first. No one wants to start the hobby with a train you have to run around after like live steam...

Crazy
 

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Tell me this then: What is the pulling power of a Battery Powered/Radio Controlled Bachmann Big Hauler? Roughly how many of the ubiquitous LGB 4021 2-axle Gondolas can this locomotive haul? Furthermore can it easily negotiate the standard LGB R1 1000 curved track?
On a really good day on flat track without grades or sharp turns my Big Haulers would pull perhaps 3 cars and a caboose.... All standard Bachmann. If you haul LGB cars they tend to have more weight and you'd pull less. Next issue is the wheels. The plastic wheels are not the best bet. In all cases upgrade to any brand of metal wheels. That improves your running and what you can haul. The first versions of the Big Hauler used 7 volt industrial style batteries in the boiler of the loco. Charge was over night. Run time up to 1.5- maybe 2 hours. They also where all plastic drivers. Generally not great locos. I had upgraded to Barry's Big Train replacement drive sets. The track connections were not good. Put in a set of feed wires for each section of track. Hope that's of some help to you.
 

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They are very inexpensive locos, not even bushings for the driver axles. You are going down the wrong path.


 
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