Our Guide to Athearn Trains

What are Athearn Trains?

Athearn is a model train manufacturer owned by Horizon Hobby based out of Illinois, USA. They first started in 1938, when Irvin Athearn built an O scale model railroad layout in his parent’s house, and then decided to sell it. 

These days, they specialize in HO and N scale model trains, as well as model railroad accessories. 

What is the history of Athearn Trains?

In 1938 Irvin Athearn, then a young man, built and subsequently sold an O scale model railroad layout in his parent’s house. There was such an overwhelming response to this ad, that he decided to begin making and selling them full time.
Within a decade, by 1948, Athearn had opened up a second facility in California and branched out into HO scale models for the first time. 

After the war, Athearn continued to make innovations regarding HO and O scale model trains, including making them out of plastic and metal, creating innovative coupler systems, as well as having a kit form and ready-to-run models. 

In fact, they were so good at it that Lionel had Athearn produced all of their early lines of HO trains. By 1979, they had also introduced a line of N scale trains that would soon become a core part of their business. 

After Irvin passed away in 1991, new owners took control of the company in 1994. In 2004, Horizon Hobby purchased Athearn and moved all production to China. They still maintain a sales and product development office in California however. 

To date, they sell 3 main lines of trains: the Genesis model, the Ready-to-Role model, and the Roundhouse model train. 

What are the different Scales of Athearn Model Trains?

Primarily, Athearn trains sell HO scale and N scale trains. The only O scale products they make these days are model cars. 

The N scale trains form just the one line of Athearn model trains, however, the HO scale is what includes those above lines of train – Genesis, Ready-to-Role, and Roundhouse. 

Are Athearn Trains worth anything?

It depends on the model that you purchase as to what they will cost. 

  • The Roundhouse model of train is roughly $80-$120 
  • The Ready-to-Role is somewhere between $200-$300
  • And the Genesis start at closer to $450 and go up from there. 

What is the most expensive Athearn Train? 

Athearn is traditionally more price-accessible to the average consumer, and as such don’t tend to sell for a lot; even the vintage models. So you can pick up some nice ‘vintage’ model trains from the early 70’s on eBay for a couple of hundred dollars. 

What is the best Athearn Train set to buy?

There isn’t a particular model of Athearn model train that we would recommend. If you’re just getting into the hobby, we suggest starting at the Ready-to-Role line of trains.

They’re a middle range of what Athearn produces, so they’re of incredible quality at a reasonable price. 

Who owns Athearn model Trains?

Athearn trains are currently owned by Hobby Horizon, a company based out of Champaign, Illinois.

Where are Athearn Trains made?

 Up until 2009 trains were still made in America. Currently, they produce all their lines in China. 

Now that you’ve got a handle on Athearn Trains, consider taking a look at some other Brands of Model Trains. Alternatively, dive right into your first purchase by looking at our Top Electric Trains Review.

1 thought on “Our Guide to Athearn Trains”

  1. When I was a kid at the Sacramento Model Railroad Club on 14th street between J & K Alley, someone brought in an O Gauge Santa Fe Passenger Diesel, set of A & B units, the early E series, very slanted nose. Santa Fe, red & chrome warbonnets: the circa 1938 Super Chief.

    As I recall the gentleman said they were “Athearn” models. Simply cannot remember if they were 2R O Gauge or had rollers. Did Athearn or others make various road prewar O Gauge E-Units,? I think Seaboard, Pennsy, NYC and Illinois Central had the first generation GM E units. CB & Q had stainless E’s. I guess the 1941 Locomotive Cyclopedia is the E Unit source!

    I am astounded at the size of the Model RR hobby as the 1930’s depression merged into WWII. Has anyone ever made a list of all the 1930′ & 1940’s manufacturers offering O Gauge SP 4300 4-8-2 models along with Lobaugh? I am Looking for an original Lobaugh specimen.

    Gunnar Henrioulle (530-346-6060)


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