I'm sure all of us have their favorite, "worst HO Steam" model; so I decided to limit my choice to brass models.
In making my choice I first considered market place value. Is a slightly more accurate model that sells for three times the price the better model? My value analysis would be NO. Is a more highly detailed model a better value than a model that runs better? Again NO for me. Is a more highly detailed model with the wrong details (e.g Skyline Pox) a better model? Again for me, NO. How about a nicely made model built to the wrong scale? even if it's the only game in town? You probably have guessed my analysis would again be NO. And finally can a model that runs poorly with poor workmanship that defies improvement be ever considered a better model? Uh, NO.
It should be obvious that my personal bias would never allow me to label a KTM model from the 70's selling for $300 on eBay as worse or with a lower value per dollar than current state of the art models selling for $2,000. Still with the five criteria I listed; I can't think of a single model that would be the worst in all five criteria listed again below:
Value per dollar
Operation at the expense of Detailing
Erroneous Detailing (Skyline Pox for me)
Out of Scale model (PSC SP Dynamometer Car)
I must ad that I have been able to repair or improve numerous "poor" models into excellent operators. In selecting my worst HO Steam loco I added a final criteria "DEFIES IMPROVEMENT"
That leaves just two Candidates.
The NKP Southern Pacific MM-3 2-6-6-2
I reserved this model when it was announced, paid full list as most dealers did not sell it. And had my choice from six models which I inspected and tested and selected the best. It was highly detailed, but operation was unreliable (continually broke down). I rebuilt it mechanically at least three times, but the running gear was wearing out after only a few hours or operation. Parts continually fell off, before and after painting. I gave up as it couldn't meet my operational needs at the time and sold it for less than I had invested. It was nicely painted with directional lights, heavily weighted, with a large can motor and flywheel. I felt lucky to get my original $500 investment back.
The KEY Rio Grande L-96 2-8-8-2s first run.
This is a mistake I made twice. I bought the engines aftemarket, so I couldn't choose from dealer stock. I attributed the first engines numerous defects to the previous owner who had applied a poor paint job. The second model was unpainted and the defects were exposed completely. Like many early Korean models poor solder joints were everywhere on a highly detailed model. The mechanism was even worse, rods and linkage was made from butter soft metal that easily distorted and wore through. Holes for side rod screws were so far off center that the rod material did not completely surround the screws. Both engines never ran as well as the MM-3
My WORST HO STEAM ENGINE? has to be the one I bought twice!
The KEY Rio Grande L-96 2-8-8-2 first run