Although these models are not identical (the FP45 being somewhat longer than the F45), they came out at the same time and share the same basic design. So, in order to save a bit of time, I'm going to cover them both here.
These are very impressive locomotives, and certainly right up there with the Atlases and Katos of the world. Paint and detailing are superb, as is performance. Interestingly enough, the F45 comes with a rotary beacon on the cab - a nifty little detail that I wish was included more often on diesel models. Unfortunately, it is non-functional. Like Athearn's earlier SDXX diesels, these models have actual cab interior detail.
DCC/Sound FP45 -
All of the modern mechanical niceties are here - split-frame / all-metal DCC-Ready chassis, dual flywheels, low-friction drive, bi-directional LED lighting, all-wheel pickup and drive (no traction tires), all-plastic gearing, blackened / low-profile wheels, etc.
The couplers are actually mounted to the chassis and not the shell (making shell removal a bit more difficult than it needs to be). The couplers themselves are McHenry "knuckle spring" couplers (making these the first N scale locomotives so equipped). I'm not a big "operations" guy, so I can't really render any worthwhile opinions (one way or the other) as to their functionality. For what it's worth, I pulled a train around for a couple of hours with my F45 and the couplers didn't fall apart, de-couple or otherwise screw up.
Performance-wise, these models are superb - smooth, quiet and responsive at all throttle levels. Slow speed creep is excellent, and pulling power is impressive. Just be sure to run yours around in circles for a good 15-20 minutes before deciding it has problems - it takes about that long to wear the factory wheel-blackening "crud" off the wheels (said crud making for all sorts of pickup issues out of the box). In a similar vein, be sure to check for excessive lubrication inside the trucks if you have one that's misbehaving. These models are notoriously over-lubricated at the factory (with said lube interfering with pickup by fouling the wheels and everything else).
DCC/Sound versions of these models were released in 2009. The Tsunami sound decoders included therein are quite impressive, providing robust sound and all sorts of fun bells and whistles (literally).
My only gripe with these models is with the "undecorated" versions. Unlike most manufacturers, Athearn's undecorated diesel models arrive with completely disassembled shells - IE, basically in "kit" form. Unfortunately, Athearn does not include any sort of documentation (parts diagram, or whatever) showing what goes where. No, figuring it all out doesn't require a degree in rocket surgery, but the lack of docs is a bit of annoyance. More annoying are the plethora of microscopic plastic window inserts that come with these models (all of which presumably need to be glued in place). Didn't we move on to "window insert assemblies" a way long time ago in N scale? Lastly, I was most irritated to find all of the plastic handrail assemblies jammed into a tiny little cubby in the box, basically bent out of all recognition. Suffice it to say, getting them installed was not fun! So, nice models for the RTR crowd. But if you're a re-painter, gird your loins for some extra work.
Prototype information -
By the early 1960's the Electro-Motive Division (EMD) was at a big disadvantage. Their 567 engine, in use for over 20 years, had reached it's peak at 2.500 horsepower in a turbocharged 16-cylinder version. EMD released a new 645 engine in 1966. The most powerful locomotive using this series of engine was the SD45, powered by a 20-cylinder turbocharged 645E engine producing 3600 horsepower. Orders from railroads all over the country, especially western roads, poured in. Great Northern received the first one off the production line and Santa Fe took delivery of a 90-unit order the first year.
At the same time Santa Fe was looking to replace it's aging fleet of passenger locomotives. They wanted something more stylish than a freight hood unit with a steam generator for thier famous Super Chief train. EMD had already extended the SD45 frame and added a steam generator to the rear creating the SDP45. They responded to Santa Fe's request by adding a cowl body to the SDP45 thus creating the FP45.
Santa Fe took delivery of the first nine FP45's in December of 1967. Numbered 100-108, they were painted in the red and silver warbonnet passenger scheme with black Roman-style Santa Fe lettering on the sides. The cowl offered a cleaner engine compartment and internal walkways, both of which would lead to production of the F45, a regular SD45 with the cowl. Santa Fe acquired forty F45's in 1968, numbered 1900-1939 and delivered in the blue and yellow 'pinstripe' scheme. The second twenty were equipped with steam lines for use on passenger trains. When Amtrak took over passenger service the FP45's went into the freight pool, receiving blue and yellow paint. The pinstripe paint scheme gave way to the blue and yellow warbonnet scheme by 1980. In the early 80's all 40 FP45's and 8 F45's were rebuilt at the San Bernadino shops. During the failed merger with Southern Pacific seven FP45's and twenty F45's received red and yellow 'Kodachrome' paint. On July 4th, 1989, FP45's 5992 and 5998 were released from the San Bernadino shops as numbers 101 and 102 in the newly revived red and silver 'Super Fleet' scheme with a large Santa Fe on the sides. Two F45's were wrecked and scrapped and one was sold to Wisconsin Central while the remaining six were donated to various railroad museums. Six F45's were sold to Wisconsin Central and the remaining units went to Morrison-Knudsen as lease units with one being assigned and painted for Utah Railway.
Milwaukee Road was the other railroad that bought FP45's. Arriving in late 1968 for Hiawatha passenger service, they wore the UP yellow and gray scheme and were numbered 1-5. They differed from other F45's and FP45's as they did not have dynamic brakes installed. Even before Amtrak arrived these locomotives were re-assigned to freigt service between Chicago and the Twin Cities.
Great Northern acquired fourteen F45's, numbered 427-440 and painted in the Big Sky Blue scheme, in 1969. The internal walkways were important to the GN given the winter weather on the line between the Twin Cities and Seattle. Crews no longer had to worry about ice and snow covered walkways like on their hood units. GN planned to run all of their main line freights with a F45 on the point. GN ordered an additional 12 units, which were delivered as Burlington Northern 6614-6625 in 1970. BN continued the F45 purchase in 1971 with 20 additional units numbered 6626-6645. The 46 F45's were regular power on the Chicago to West Coast trains over the former GN lines. Three of the original GN units were leased to Utah Railway for five years after being retired by BN. Two other units were sold to Susquehanna and three went first to Trancisco, then to Wisconsin and Southern, and finally to Montana Rail Link. One of the two Susquehanna units was re-sold to MRL in 1993.
Model Features -
- All new tooling
- All-wheel drive and electrical pick-up
- 5-pole skewed armature motor
- Machined brass flywheels
- Available DCC-ready without sound or DCC with sound
- Cab interior
- Celcon handrails
- With or without dynamic brakes*
- Photo-etched non-skid endwalks
- Snowplow or streamlined pilots*
- Detailed multi-piece plastic fuel tanks
- High or low-mounted headlights*
- Lost-wax brass horn
- Rectangular or oval cab door windows*
- Flush-mounted individual window "glass"
- NEW McHenry knuckle-spring couplers
* Details specific to railroad and era
As mentioned above, removing the shell is a bit more complicated than it probably needs to be. First you have to remove both couplers. After that, the shell should slide up and off fairly readily (just spread the sides apart).
F45 and FP45 reviewed 02/09 Model Railroader ("The model is built primarily of plastic and the quality of the molding is excellent. Rivet seams and other details match prototype photos. The separately applied front handrails are made of flexible acetal plastic and have thin scale profiles. The rooftop fans are especially well done, with separate fan blades under see-through grills. The etched-metal side intake grills are also see-through. One detail missed on the N scale FP45 model was the split fuel/water tank. There should be a noticeable seam that divides the tank. The fuel tank is correct for an F45. The FP45 and F45 are available with or without dynamic brakes (denoted by two forward fans on the roof). Other roadname-specific details include horn placement, round or square cab windows, snowplow or streamlined pilot, and flush or hinged number boards. The passenger warbonnet paint scheme on our review sample matches prototype photos. Along the bottom sill, the "F" and "FUEL" stencils are legible under magnification. Although unreadable, EMD builder's plates are also printed on each sill under the cab. Cab handrails are molded into the body shell. The stirrup steps are separately applied.
"After removing the front and rear couplers I lifted off the body shell. The motor and two brass flywheels are encased in a split die-cast metal frame. A printed-circuit board is mounted on top of the motor. Two light-emitting diodes (LEDs) are mounted on each end of the board. Athearn also sells a Digital Command Control-and-sound-equipped version of the model. The headlight of the DC model we tested came on at just under 3 volts. As I advanced the throttle to 3 volts, the FP45 moved steadily at 4.5 scale mph and accelerated to 145.3 scale mph at 12 volts. Depending upon its gear ratio, a prototype FP45 had a top speed of 102 mph. (The F45 had a top speed of 83 mph). The model ran smoothly through a 9" curve, but looks better on curves of 11" or greater. The Athearn FP45 has an impressive 1.12 ounce drawbar pull, which is equivalent to 27 N scale freight cars or 13 N scale passenger cars on straight and level track. This N scale diesel is a smooth-performing model that accurately depicts its cowl-covered prototype. $99.98")