I originally posted this on my old website on May 16, 2010.
This post features a brief history of two of the major manufacturers of HO-Scale model trains: Athearn and Model Die Casting (aka Roundhouse Products). Both of these manufacturers were acquired by Horizon Hobby in 2004. This history was compiled from the manufacturers’ own websites, old versions of manufacturer websites found at the Internet Archive, HOseeker.Net and old magazine articles and catalogs of my own.
Musicians Jerry Joice and Perry Bodkin establish a hobby store called Roundhouse at 1301 North Catalina Street in Hollywood, California. The business is soon taken over by part-time employees C.H. Menteer and C.A. Voelckel. Soon after taking over, they are hired to build models for Cecil B. DeMille's film Union Pacific.
Irv Athearn begins building an O-Scale model railroad at his mother's home.
Roundhouse Products introduces its HO-Scale 0-6-0 steam locomotive as a brass and lead alloy kit.
World War II forces Roundhouse Products to suspend operation in February.
After receiving a large response to his advertisement selling his O-scale model railroad, Irv Athearn establishes Athearn Trains in Miniature, selling model railroad supplies.
Menteer & Voelckel's company is now called Model Die Casting, Inc. and resumes production of the Roundhouse Products line by summer.
Irv Athearn becomes a full-time retailer of model railroading supplies.
Model Die Casting relocates to Los Angeles, California.
Irv Athearn moves his business from his mother's home to a separate location in Hawthorne, California.
Athearn purchases Globe Models on July 2. The Globe Models name is retained until 1956.
Athearn introduces the 200-Ton Crane in die-cast metal.
Athearn introduces the all-metal RDC-1, RDC-2, RDC-3 and RDC-4.
The Globe Models F7 is introduced as an unpowered kit. A gear drive is added later.
Model Die Casting relocates to Hawthorne, California.
C.H. Menteer becomes sole owner of Model Die Casting.
Athearn introduces the Hi-F Belt (rubber-band) Drive for the F7, and the GP9 (actually a GP7) and Hustler locomotives. A number of plastic car kits are released including the Cupola Caboose, 40' Box Car, 3-Dome Tank Car, Heavy-Duty Flat Car, 40' Steel Refrigerator Car (with operating doors) and the Streamlined RPO, Coach, Vista Dome and Observation.
Athearn introduces the plastic-bodied RDC-1 and RDC-3, powered by the Hi-F Drive, and a plastic version of the 200-Ton Crane, replacing the metal RDCs and crane.
Athearn introduces the 4-6-2 steam locomotive with the Hi-F Drive, and the 50' Double Door Box Car, Quad Hopper and Pickle Cars.
Athearn introduces a gear-drive version of the 4-6-2 and a gear-driven 0-4-2T and 0-6-0.
Athearn introduces the GP30.
Athearn introduces freight cars with RP-25 wheels.
Athearn introduces the "ring-magnet" motor for diesel locomotives.
Athearn introduces the GP35, SD45, SDP40, DD40 and SW1500 (actually SW7) Cow & Calf.
Athearn introduces the Alco PA1/PB1
Athearn introduces the U28B, U28C, U30B, U30C, U33B and U33C.
Athearn introduces the F45 and FP45 with Athearn's first Flywheel Drive. The Flywheel Drive is also added to most of Athearn's other locomotives. Notable exceptions include the RDCs and Hustler, which still use the Hi-F drive, and the DD40. The F7s are available with or without Flywheels. The S12 and SD9 are also introduced with the Flywheel Drive.
Athearn introduces the H24-66 Trainmaster.
Model Die Casting introduces an N-Scale product line.
Athearn improves the locomotive line with a new drive with new narrower motors and new handrail stanchions. New plastic EMD Blomberg Truck Sideframes are applied to the F7, GP9 and GP35.
Athearn introduces the SD40-2 and SD40T-2 Tunnel Motor. With the new narrow motors, these are Athearn's first hood units to feature scale-width hoods. (All previous diesels, except the F7, PA1/PB1, F45 & FP45 had hoods that were too wide to accommodate the earlier wider motors.)
Model Die Casting introduces the Shay steam locomotive kit.
Model Die Casting introduces the Alco RS3 diesel locomotive kit.
Athearn introduces the GP38-2.
Athearn introduces the GP50.
Athearn introduces the GP40-2, SW1000 & SW1500. The old SW1500 Cow & Calf is now correctly called an SW7.
Irv Athearn passes away.
Athearn introduces the Impack Articulated TOFC Spine Car.
Athearn introduces the 50' Modern Double-Door Box Car.
Model Die Casting relocates to Carson City, Nevada.
Athearn is sold to new owners.
Athearn introduces the MAXI-III and Husky-Stack Well Cars.
Athearn introduces the GP60, GP50 Phase II and C44-9W.
The DD40 is released with flywheels.
In September, the non-flywheel version of the F7 is discontinued. From this point on, the only difference between the Standard and Super-Powered F7s is the large weight.
Athearn introduces the AC4400CW.
Model Die Casting introduces new can motors.
Athearn introduces the AMD-103.
In June, Athearn announces the development of the SD70-series for the Genesis line.
In October, Athearn announces the development of the Bombardier Bi-Level Commuter Cars.
On July 2, Athearn purchases the F-Unit tooling by Paul Lubliner from Highliners to be used in the Genesis line. Highliners retains the rights to sell the F-Units in undecorated kit form.
Athearn releases the Genesis SD70-series.
Athearn announces the Genesis 2-8-2 steam locomotive.
In October, Athearn announces an improved version of the SD40-2 that will replace the existing models.
The Athearn RDC-1 and RDC-3 are officially discontinued due to a damaged frame mold.
Athearn introduces the Ready-To-Roll Line.
Model Die Casting introduces Ready-To-Run versions of some locomotives and cars.
Athearn acquires Rail Power Products.
Athearn acquires the tooling for 4 50' Box Cars from Details West. They are later released in the Ready-To-Roll line.
Athearn introduces the N-Scale product line.
Athearn is purchased by Horizon Hobby.
On June 14, Model Die Casting is purchased by Horizon Hobby. The Roundhouse name will be used only for HO-Scale Pre-WWII products, with the rest of the Roundhouse line under the Athearn name.
On May 31, McHenry Couplers is purchased by Horizon Hobby.
In July, Athearn acquires the tooling for several trailers from A-Line. They are later released in the Ready-To-Roll line.
In September, Athearn acquires the Tower 55 line tooling from Overland Models to be used in the Genesis line.
On October 16, Athearn announces it is discontinuing the production of "Blue Box" kits.
Athearn releases the Genesis SD70ACe based on former Tower 55 tooling.