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Athearn John Deere N scale Train Set 2004 Collector’s Edition

In December 2021 a rare opportunity presented itself and I happen to be at the right place at the right time to seize it. Some could say the stars aligned just right that afternoon. Others may call it something else. But on the 18th of December in the 2021st year of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, I acquired the 2004 Limited Collector’s Edition of the Athearn John Deere N scale Train Set from a fellow Metrolina Model Railroaders club (MMRR) member. I am very grateful to him for selling me this very beautiful set to add to my model train collection. I had no idea that it existed. Below are some of the features of the train set along with lots of pictures and videos of the trains running on one of my N scale model railroad layouts known as the HJR Lonsway Pike.

Athearn released the John Deere N Scale (1/160TH) train set some time in 2004. It was NEW and SEALED in its original box with plastic wrap around it when it was first introduced to me. My fellow MMRR member mostly models HO scale items. He had just purchased a nice size lot of items in an online auction and among them was this handsome train set. He intended to sell it from the start. I just happen to be there when he opened up his big box of goodies and pulled this out. I asked him if he would be willing to part with it. He said yes. We struck a deal and now it has been added to my personal collection.

The box indicates the following preassembled contents as follows:

1 – John Deere F59 PHI DC Diesel Locomotive
2 – John Deere 85′ Bombardier Coach Cars
1 – John Deere 85′ Bombardier Control Car
1 – John Deere 53′ Flat Car With 2 7820 Tractors
1 – UL Listed Trainpak Power Supply
14-Piece Oval of Easy to Assemble Roadbed Track

After the MMRR member and I struck a deal we decided to open the train set at that time. I tore off the plastic wrap and in doing so accidentally ripped the golden 2004 collector’s medallion sticker that was affixed on top of it. I found one of the stickers still affixed in a photo of an eBay listing. I copied it and affixed it to my photo of the box in my pictures below. However, I had to find another listing on WorthPoint to be able to ascertain exactly what the sticker said. It says “1ST IN THE N GAUGE SERIES”. I would have kept the sticker that was on the one that I have if I had not ripped it into pieces when I removed the plastic. The sticker was affixed to the outside of the plastic. Both me and the seller thoroughly examined the train cars in the Athearn John Deere train set. There are a lot of minute details on each one of the train cars. The painting is very elaborate too.

I doubt that John Deere operated their own Passenger Train service. According to this Wikipedia article, the F59PHI locomotive in this train set was built for commuter service mostly in California sometime between the years 1994 and 2001 by General Motors Electro-Motive Division (EMD). Bombardier has made passenger cars and other trains in this country for quite some time and it is their line of commuter Passenger Cars represented in this model train set. In 1966 the Chicago, Burlington & Quincy (CBQ) railroad did pull a three-quarter (3/4) mile long train of John Deere tractors and equipment as part of a Deere company marketing campaign. However, I doubt that the John Deere company paid CBQ, Bombardier, or any other railway company to have their locomotive and passenger cars painted the way these model trains are painted. I believe this train set to be yet another John Deere marketing campaign . The campaign is all about the promotion of the John Deere 7820 tractor, a 185-HP (net), 20-speed, row-crop tractor manufactured in Waterloo, Iowa between 2003 and 2006. You can see it highlighted on the model 7820 Bombardier BiLevel Coach Control passenger car as well as see two N (1/160th) scale miniatures strapped to the 53′ N scale Flat car. I believe I have other N scale 7820 tractor models in my collection [need to find and confirm] and I know I have a fleet of 8 John Deere HO scale tractors as well, 7 of which are 6420 models.

Side Note: While writing this page, I searched the Internet and found some very interesting articles about the John Deer company which appears to be called Deere & Company now or just plain Deere (click links to visit I also ran across the Bombardier company and really enjoyed reading about the trains, plains, and other items the Bombardier company manufacturers or manufactured in the past (Alstrom acquired Bombardier’s transportation services a year prior to me writing this article.). [My links go to different places.] As fate would have it, later that same day, I booked a flight to Massachusetts via American Airlines to attend the annual Amherst Train Show and for the first time I noticed that I will be traveling on a Bombardier manufactured commercial passenger jet airplane soon. Had I not paid attention to the type of passenger cars included in this Athearn model train set, I am absolutely certain that I wouldn’t have paid any attention whatsoever to the manufacturer of the airplane I will be flying on very soon. I’m also sure that if I happen to get on one of Bombardier’s (or Alstrom’s) manufactured trains in the future, I will be more aware of it because of this John Deere model train set.

The HJR Lonsway Pike employs the use of some very steep grades. I modified the layout to include those grades in order to enhance the fun and appeal of that layout. My modifications were designed for trains to mostly run on the layout in a clockwise direction. This John Deere train set must be run in the counterclockwise direction on my layout in order for the John Deere F59 PHI locomotive to successfully pull the entire load successfully around my train layout and make it up the grades. You will see this in both videos. In the first video, you will see the locomotive struggle to make it up the steepest grade to go through the top of the mountain. In the second video you will watch it successfully go through the mountain and come out the other side while traveling in the counterclockwise direction. I don’t think I will even attempt to put this train set on my DeskTrain layout because I am pretty sure it will not make the grades on that layout in either direction.

Many thanks to D.O. for selling me the Athearn N scale John Deere train set.

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In the beginning …

HJR was browsing ads on a popular website and a listing caught his eye. The listing was for the sale of an N scale layout complete with locomotives, cars, controller, buildings and accessories. HJR responded to the ad and made arrangements to drive the distance to take a look at the items that were for sale. Upon meeting Mr Lonsway, a deal was struck and HJR acquired the majority of Lonsway’s N scale collection.

These photos are from the ad listing:

HJR packed his vehicle with everything he could carry filling it to the top. Mr Lonsway was kind enough to deliver the layout. Initially, HJR was mostly interested in everything except the layout simply because he didn’t really have a place to put it plus he already had 3 existing N scale layouts (MoTrack, HJR DeskTrain, and Dell Box Tester). So HJR decided to put the layout itself in its received state without any buildings, controller or accessories. He first offered it to fellow members of the Metrolina Model Railroader club. Shortly after that, HJR launched this website and the Atlas Code 55 Lonsway layout was among the first items to be offered on the site. HJR set a time frame as to when he would offer the original layout at a price close to what he acquired it for. The following pictures are those taken by HJR and placed on a sales flyer for promoting the sale of the layout:

Several months passed without anyone choosing to buy the layout. HJR decided to invest some time and money into making the layout more functional and attractive to other modelers. He told club members that if they waited until after he put his time and resources into the layout, the sales price of the layout would go up drastically to reflect the value added and the costs of the materials that makeup the layout. Thus begins the HJR Lonsway Pike layout project.

In the published articles related to the HJR Lonsway Pike layout on this website, pictures, videos and storytelling will lead you on the journey from where HJR acquired the layout through its eventual completion. This journey will take years to unfold. The story and snapshots you experience here will compress that time and hopefully give you an enjoyable and entertaining insight into a few aspects of the World’s Greatest Hobby of Model Railroading and a front seat to the remodeling, enhancing and playing of the HJR Lonsway Pike. This publications will also be used towards applicable NMRA Achievement Awards to which HJR will be applying. Because of the desired format that the NMRA Evaluators prefer to see, page comments on this project and other sections of this website are not allowed. Eventually an area where comments can be left may be provided. For now, sit back, relax and enjoy the presentation. Return periodically to view updated content. In September 2019, HJR will launch a crowd funding campaign towards finding a permanent facility to house the HJR Lonsway Pike and other model railroading projects that the public can visit, view first hand and even operate. Your support and donations are greatly appreciated.

HJR feels that Mr Lonsway did a great job on the layout and therefore honors Mr Lonsway by bestowing his name as part of the official name of the N scale model railroad known as the HJR Lonsway Pike. HJR is extremely grateful for the original building and contributions that Mr Lonsway made to the layout.

HJR points out some of the wonderful features of the original layout that Lonsway contributed:

  • Construction of a light-weight Luan 7-foot x 3.5-foot layout table for the bench-work.
  • Applying a 1 inch thick Styrofoam base on top of the bench-work.
  • Building a mountainous scene using rock molds.
  • Building a mountain with very realistic scenery details.
  • Using Atlas Code 55 track and matching colored brown ballast.
  • Creating a very realistic looking lake with creek bed.

HJR thanks Mr Lonsway for selling him the layout and the majority of the rest of his N scale collection which included many buildings already assembled, scenery materials, paints, Union Pacific locomotives and passenger cars as well as freight cars. Mr Lonsway also provided extra track, the original rock molds, turnout switch machines, and a Digitrax Zephyr DCC controller. As of August 22nd, 2019 when this article was written, all of the items in the Lonsway purchase have not yet been cataloged. When they have been, that list will be made available.

The issues that HJR had with the original layout are as follows:

  • The layout contained 2 disconnected loops.
  • The combination of using Atlas Code 55 and Atlas Code 80 tracks did not account for the rail height differences causing less than acceptable train running performances.
  • Although a town was being added to the layout it wasn’t yet complete which may have dissuaded interested parties from purchasing it.

The next post will explore how HJR dealt with the issues that confronted him on the layout.

HJR Lonsway Pike

N scale 7 ft x 3.5 ft Atlas Code 55  layout called HJR Lonsway Pike.

The HJR Lonsway Pike is fully loaded.  It was originally designed and started by J Lonsway.  HJR purchased it, redesigned and remodeled it.  Pictures, videos and detailed logs showing the remodeling process will be posted here soon.

Originally, this N scale layout was made with light-weight luan plywood as the benchwork and all the scenery was on 1 level featuring 2 unconnected loops on a very mountainous rocky plane with lake and creek.  It had a tall mountain that the train passed through and used 2 different codes of Atlas N scale track (code 55 and code 80).  Mr. Lonsway told HJR that he thought he had connected the loops but forgot to include an area where he could be a town and some industry.  When he realized this, he cut into the hillside and started preparing to incorporate a town into the layout.  HJR’s redesign and remodeling of the layout kept the basic elements of Lonsway design and enhanced it by connecting the 2 loops, converting one of the spurs into a ramp to traverse over top of the 2 loops, adding a ramp to create an elevated path through the mountain, adding a removable custom built bridge, modifying 2 other spurs and adding an a spur really make for a far more entertaining and interactive layout.  HJR added a neighborhood of homes, a small shipping industry, church and an entire town with a busy main street and bypass complete with hotel, movie theater, bank, book store, passenger station, freight station, high rise apartment building, drug store, meat shop, gas station and of course, HJR SOFTWARE’s computer repair store.

The remodeled layout has it all and is using 100% Atlas premium nickel silver rails on brown ties (code 55 track), an oil pump rig, water tower, telephone poles, mailboxes, fire station, police station, penthouse restaurant on top of hotel, LED lighting, Circuitron slow motion switch machines, 2-head signal targets, operating traffic lights and even lighted automobiles.  The layout can be operated with a DC or DCC controller.  There is even a built-in toggle switch to allow one of the spurs to be used as a programming track.  The layout is being offered without a controller so that the buyer can choose and connect their own controller, or for an additional $400 plus applicable charges, a DCC Digitrax Zeyphr Command Station can be provided by HJR.

Photos, Videos, Parts List and Development Time will be posted soon.

Item Description Cash Price Plastic Price
Current HJR Lonsway Pike with 9 Tortoises Installed $4900.00 $5046.65
Above with Digitrax DCS51 command controller included $5200.00 $5355.61

The N scale Lonsway layout as purchased December 14 2017

Additional Videos

February 28, 2018. Tags: N scale layout, model railroad, Henry’s Train Collection, Henry’s N Train Collection.