Athearn Trains was founded by Irv Athearn in 1946, manufacturing supplies and kits for O scale modelers. He soon branched out into HO scale in 1948, and later acquired the Globe Models line. By the mid-1950s, the company was offering kits and ready-to-run models made from injection-molded plastic, including standard freight cars and passengers cars that quickly achieved universal acceptance among modelers. Having a large production facility in California allowed for contract work, including the HO first scale trains offered by Lionel in the 1950s and by Cox in the 1970s.
Athearn continued to develop and offer new diesel locomotive models through the 1960s and 1970s, and making continuous improvements to make their models more in tune with scale dimensions. New owners assumed control in 1994, three years after Irv Athearn’s death. The Highliners brand of EMD F-units was acquired from Paul Lubliner in 1998, followed by Rail Power Products line of locomotive shells in 2002, and boxcar tooling from Details West.
Horizon Hobby acquired Athearn in 2004, closing the factory in Compton, Calif., and relocating the offices to Carson, Calif. The Roundhouse line of model trains was acquired from Model Die Casting at the same time. The tooling for Overland Model’s short-lived line of Tower 55-branded diesel locomotives was acquired in 2008 and was incorporated into the Athearn Genesis line. The end of an era came in 2009 when Horizon Hobby announced the end of so-called “blue box” kit production, and that all manufacturing would move to China. The company continues to operate out of an office in Long Beach, Calif., while warehousing is maintained by Horizon Hobby from their headquarters in Champaign, Ill.
Athearn Train Sets