Introduced: 1969 (by MRC) and 1976 by Model Power (redesigned 1989)
This model (manufactured by Mehano of Yugoslavia) originally appeared as part of MRC's big plunge into N scale in 1969. Their commitment was short-lived however, and the entire line was dropped after just a few years. Model Power picked up the C-420 (along with the rest of MRC's Yugo-made Alco diesel line) around 1977 and continued selling them (with some modifications) for many years.
All of these Yugoslavian diesels (C-420, RSD-15, FA-2, et al) seem to have gone through a similar evolution over the years, with each coming in three distinct versions.
The first MRC version had a small motor, traction tires on the back two wheels, a two-piece plastic drive shaft and a small weight screwed underneath the motor.
The next version appeared shortly after Model Power took over the line. This one is virtually identical to the first version (traction tires, weights, motor, wiring, etc) excepting that the plastic drive shaft was replaced by a spring.
The final (and best) version was released circa 1989 and had a much larger motor, no traction tires (IE, 8-wheel pickup), a two-piece drive with a spring between the two pieces, and no weight screwed to the bottom (to accommodate the larger motor). The big weight on top of the rear truck on the later version was also modified to allow wires to run over its top (in the previous version they ran underneath the motor). All three versions share identical shells.
The first two versions are terrible. The looks are bad and the performance is worse. Noisy, wobbly, bad pickup, etc, etc. The most recent Model Power version is much improved (at least in the performance department). The one I have is easily the finest running Mehano locomotive I have ever owned (admittedly faint praise). It still only has 2 powered axles (on the rear), but pickup comes from all eight wheels so it can ably circumnavigate my layout without embarassing itself. OK, it still looks lame, but honestly, it runs quite well. It's smooth, not real loud and performs very well at slow speeds.
Unfortunately, both versions suffer from a serious case of "whacked by the Yugoslavian ugly stick" syndrome. Shell detailing is pretty primitive, the paint looks like it was spewed from a firehose, the handrails and steps are laughably huge (and pathetically brittle), and... well, I could go on, but what's the point?
The MRC versions are stamped "MRC Yugoslavia" on the front truck. The early Model Power versions are totally bereft of any sort of indication as to their origins, whereas the later versions are stamped "Made in Yugoslavia by Mehano" on the fuel tank.
A staple of Model Railroader ads for decades, these things seemed to vanish around 1999. Perhaps due to all of the conflict in the former Yugoslavia?
Grade: F (for the first two versions) and C (for the most recent Model Power version)
Note- the following review contains a glaring inaccuracy. These models never had powered axles on both trucks. The guy who wrote this must've been looking at (or thinking of) MRC's RSD-15, which did in fact have two powered axles per truck.
Reviewed: 8/70 Model Railroader ("This excellent model closely follows the proportions and scale dimensions of the C420 prototype except for a few deviations. The construction follows that of most model diesel power presently available. The body is a one-piece plastic casting with all detail cast on. The handrails and air horns are cast separately. The models come painted and lettered for UP, SF or PC... The engine frame, gearboxes, and truck sideframes are cast plastic, as are the running parts of the drive. The fuel tank center and ballast (placed over the power truck) are soft metal castings providing necessary weight for good traction. The metal wheels scale 43" in diameter - the prototype has 40" - with .030"-deep flanges. Nearly all N scale diesels have oversize wheels. This tends to detract from the overall proportions of the models. This may be due to the lack of suitable small gears for the power trucks. Rapido-type automatic couplers are truck-mounted... A five-pole DC motor drives two axles on each truck. Electrical pickup is made on 6 of the 8 wheels, three on each side, providing good contact through any turnouts that have plastic frogs. The remaining two wheels (on one axle) have friction treads. A 12-volt headlight bulb is mounted over the front truck. Our sample ran smoothly and quietly... the starting and minimum speeds are high, and most of the control is in the middle voltage range. The friction tires enable this relatively light engine to handle 38 to 40 average freight cars... Price: $11.98")
Reviewed: 2/77 Model Railroader ("The Model Power N scale C-420 is a nicely proportioned model that is very close to the prototype dimensions. The model scales 60'-0" long, 10'-3" wide, and 15'-9" high. It has a cast plastic body with extra detail parts cemented in place. The frame is plastic with metal inserts for the motor mount and weights. One truck (the rear one) is powered... One of the weights sits just over the rear truck, so the model has a surprising amount of pulling power. It is driven by a a tiny 5-pole DC motor. The overall operation of the sample model was generally good; however, the starting speed was rather high. This made switching somewhat difficult. The top speed is just right. Model Power's C-420 comes equipped with rapido-type couplers and a headlight. It would make in interesting addition to most layouts. Lehigh Valley, SF, ICG, Rock. Price: $18")