Introduced: 2003 (MDC), reissued 2007 (Athearn)
These models were originally produced by MDC/Roundhouse. Circa 2005, MDC was bought out by Horizon Hobby, and in 2007 Horizon re-issued these models under their Athearn label (another Horizon acquisition). The only difference between the two versions is that the newer Athearn release comes with Micro-Trains style automatic couplers (as opposed to the Rapido couplers that came on the MDC release).
Apart from the drivers, this model is nearly identical to the MDC/Roundhouse 2-8-0 model issued in 2001. The most noteworthy difference between the two is that the tender pickup scheme on the 2-6-0 was redesigned to eliminate the need for wires between the trucks and the tender. Additionally, the 2-6-0 tender is lower-profile than the 2-8-0 tender. Lastly, the 2-6-0 has a moveable vent on the cab roof.
The 5-pole, skew-wound motor is actually housed in the tender (with a driveshaft running from the tender into the locomotive cab). A small flywheel is mounted to the back side of the motor. And unlike other similar tender-drive designs (Bachmann's 4-4-0, for example), MDC didn't ignore the drivers as a source of pickup. In addition to all the tender wheels providing pickup, all six driver provide pickup as well (although the two rearmost drivers are equipped with traction tires). The pilot wheels are electrically neutral. The center drivers lack flanges, which I guess is supposed to eliminate problems navigating curves. The rear two sets of drivers are geared, whereas the forward pair is driven by the rods. The headlight is directional and very bright. All wheels are low-profile, so no problems on Code-55 rails.
My 2-6-0 runs even smoother and quieter than my 2-8-0 (and my 2-8-0 is already Kato Mikado smooth and quiet). So, suffice it to say, this is one of the sweetest running steam locomotives ever produced in N scale. Couple that with the fact that it's actually a strong puller, can creep through turnouts at scale speeds, and can run around the rails for hours and hours without stalling or derailing and clearly this loco is a winner. Some have grumbled about it not being prototypical for very many railroads, but I don't generally worry about such things. The only real downside to this locomotive is that it is very small and very complex with a lot intricately connected (and tiny) parts, making it very difficult to work on. I won't even attempt to supply disassembly instructions here. Sorry, you're on your own.
Prototype information -
Typical of the small 2-6-0s used all over America from the 1890's to the 1950's, this loco is the perfect power for old-time mainlines, branchlines or switching chores.