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Athearn is an United States manufacturer of model railroad equipment, produced and distributed by American hobby manufacturer Horizon Hobby, Inc. of Champaign, Illinois, USA.
The company's history began in 1938, when its founder-to-be, Irv Athearn, started an elaborate O Gauge layout in his mother's house. After placing an ad selling the layout, and receiving much response to it, Irv decided that selling model railroads would be a good living. He sold train products out of his mother's house through most of the 1940s. After becoming a full-time retailer in 1946, Irv opened a separate facility in Hawthorne, California in 1948, and that same year he branched into HO scale models for the first time.
Athearn acquired the Globe Models product line and improved upon it, introducing a comprehensive array of locomotive, passenger and freight car models. Improvements included all-wheel drive and electrical contact. One innovation was the "Hi-F" drive mechanism, employing small rubber bands to transfer motion from the motor spindle to the wheels. Another was the double-ended ring magnet motor, which permitted easy connection to all wheel drive assemblies. Athearn was also able to incorporate flywheels into double-ended drives.
Irv Athearn died in 1991. New owners took control in 1994, but continued to follow Athearn's commitment to high-quality products at reasonable prices.
Athearn was bought in 2004 by Horizon Hobby. Athearn was then moved from its facility in Compton, California|Compton to a new facility in Carson, California.