Latest update: 15 June 2016
PIKO entered the G scale market in 2006 with the ‘Taurus’ electric locomotive. Nearly 9 years later, a lot has changed. Building long-lasting G scale equipment for the outdoor environment isn’t easy, and PIKO probably made some (design) mistakes in early models.
This guide aims to provide a simple overview of the evolution of PIKO motor blocks, and to hopefully clear up some confusion about the different generations and types.
Note: All information on this page is based on my own experience and knowledge of PIKO’s G scale products. This page does not feature official information provided or approved by PIKO, unless stated otherwise.
Evolution & Different Designs:
With all the changes made by PIKO over the years, drive units differ in various ways:
- Motor Brand
- Motor Type: with or without ball bearings
- Wheels: different materials
- Axles: with or without ball bearings
- Power Pick-up: brass power pick-up strips or carbon brushes
Most locomotives are equipped with a 5-pole motor, of which I don’t know the manufacturer. The 5-pole motors are known for drawing quite a lot of current compared to other brands. With the introduction of the BR 64 steam engine in 2013, PIKO used a Bühler motor – the same brand is used by LGB – for the first time. The Bühler motor is a 7-pole motor, and is known for its smooth running and low current draw.
Newer models have ball bearing equipped motors, which should deliver smoother running (especially at lower speeds) and improve pulling power [This statement needs verification!].
The first PIKO locomotives used alloy wheels with a black coating on the entire wheelset (PIKO DE: “schwarz vernickelte Radscheiben aus Zinkdruckguss“). The black coating quickly wore off the wheel tread surface and flanges after running the loco for a while. So really there was no point for it being there at all, so PIKO changed their production to not apply the black coating on the wheel tread surface in later models.
The left picture below shows the wheel of a VT 98 railbus, which has only run outside for just a few hours. See how much dirt has been collected on the wheel tread already? The right picture shows the wheel of a BR 80 steam engine which has been running for a few years. A layer of dirt has formed on the wheel tread, which reduces power pick-up significantly.
Many people complained about bad power pick-up, as locomotives stuttered or came to a complete halt on dirty track. If you clean your track regularly, you should not experience much problems.
PIKO acknowledged the ‘problems’, and decided to introduce a new type of wheels…
With the introduction of the German BR 194 electric locomotive and the American “Mogul” steam locomotive in 2011, PIKO switched to chrome plated wheels (PIKO DE: “verchromte Radsätze“) for their newly announced models. The chromed wheels don’t pick up dirt so easily and provide much better power pick-up. The picture below shows the chromed wheels of my “Mogul” steam loco, which remained shiny after running for many hours of my garden railway. A massive (and welcome) improvement over the old wheels.
PIKO for the first time used stainless steel wheels with the introduction of the German BR 64 steam engine in 2013. As of 2016, the BR 64 (2013) and BR 24 (2015) are the only locomotives to use the stainless steel wheels, all other new models use the chrome plated wheels.
Early generations had the axles directly placed into the motorblock housing (first picture) Newer generations use ball bearings on all driven axles (second picture), therefore a new motorblock housing had to be designed. This means – in most cases – you can NOT simply swap your old axle for a new ball bearing wheelset, as it will not fit in the gearbox housing. A full motor block swap may be required.
Most PIKO locomotives use brass power pick-up strips, which are pushed against the axles (you can also see them on the pictures above). The BR 64 steam engine is the first locomotive from PIKO to use carbon brushes (like LGB).
Identifying PIKO G Motor Blocks:
Over the years, the new types of wheels and motor have been introduced together with PIKO’s new models. Older models still used the old type of motor block design, and existed alongside the newer models. For the average consumer, it was a bit confusing to know which model had the new style wheels, and which didn’t.
I made my own interpretation of the different generations:
- Generation 1: Alloy wheels (full coating)
- Generation 2: Alloy wheels (wheel tread not coated)
- Generation 3: Chrome plated wheels
- Generation 4: Ball Bearing Chrome plated wheels
- Generation 5: Chrome plated wheels, Ball bearing motor
- Generation 6: Ball Bearing Chrome plated wheels & Ball bearing motor
- Generation 7: Ball Bearing Stainless Steel wheels with Carbon Brushes & Ball Bearing Bühler motor
Generation 1 and 2 are typically referred to as ‘Old style’ on G Scale News and international forums, while later generations are referred to as ‘New style’ motor blocks. I never had problems with the Generation 1 and 2 locomotives myself, but they are very sensitive to dirty track. If you keep your track clean, there’s not a huge problem.
The table below helps you with identifying PIKO’s motor blocks. This is just a guideline, and based on my own experience and knowledge of PIKO products. If you want to be a hundred percent sure, always check with your local retailer (although – unfortunately – often they don’t know either) or contact PIKO directly.
|Product Family \ Generation||1||2||3||4||5||6||7|
|BR 80 (37200)||X|
|BR 80 (37201 – 37202)||X|
|BR 64 (37210 – 37212)||X|
|BR 24 (37220)||X|
|Railbus (37300 – 37303)||X|
|Railbus (37304 – 37305)||X|
|TEE (37320 – 37321)||X|
|Taurus (37410 – ? )||X|
|Taurus ( ? – ? )||X|
|Taurus (37422 – 37427)||X|
|BR 194 (37430 – 37433)||X|
|BR 194 (37434 – 37435)||X|
|BR 218 (37500 – ? )||X|
|BR 218 ( ? – 37506)||X|
|BR 218 (37507)||X|
|V 60 (37520 – 37522)||X|
|V 60 (37523 – 37524)||X|
|V 36 (37530 – 37531)||X|
|BR 199 (37540)||X|
|BR 199 (37541)||X|
|BR 199 (37542)||X|
|V 20 (37550)||X|
|V 100 / BR 204 (37560 – 37562)||X|
|V 100 / BR 204 (37563 – 37566)||X|
|BR 132 Ludmilla (37580)||X|
|US 0-6-0T (38201 – 38202)||X|
|US Moguls & Camelbacks (38XXX)||X||X|