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I've been looking a pics of various steamers trying to get an idea of what one's dollar buys! I see prices from $50 up to over$500. I'd like to acquire something that can be built upon, or added to, that's got basically substantial drives/mechanics. Realize this may be a very subjective question but maybe you all have some opinions.
 

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The Bachmann Big Hauler sets are a great starting point for many folks. They are very affordable, durable and good runners. You get a loco & tender and a couple of cars for under $200.00 usually. The track and power supply are OK for indoor use only, uselesss outside.

The Bachmann Anniversary series locos are basically the same chassis, with upgraded drivers and better details. They cost a bit more, still reasonable.

I have two Big Haulers that I got started with. My plan was (still is) to run them till they croak, then replace the motors/drivers with the Barry's Big Trains upgrades. I've had them three years now and they just won't die.... not yet anyway.
 

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I agree with Dave, I've got a couple of regular 4-6-0 "Big Haulers" I've for 4 or 5 years and they just keep going and one Anniversary Edition 4-6-0 "Big Haulers" which has a lot more detail and is well worth the extra money...I also have two regular"Big Haulers"with Barry's drives in them....one of which I'm converting to 1:20.3....they are also well worth the cost....Barry's drives will pull the paint off the wall
 

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Bill you might also look at the 0-4-0 and 2-4-0 Steamers from LGB. I have a 2-4-0 with sounds and smoke. It's a great little runner that easily pulls 15 cars on a flat layout. Sets with new passenger cars are on ebay right now are going for around 200 bucks. They may not be prototypical if you want your steam engine to have been like a real loco used in the past, but they're a strong little steamer.
 
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