"All Mehano" SD45
Introduced: 1972 (Mehano/Yugoslavia SD45), 1984 (Austria SD40-2), 1985 (Austria SD45), and 1986 (Austria SD50)
These models are all pretty much joined at the hip in terms of their internals and history, so I'm going to save myself a bit of time and cover them all here.
Our saga begins with Con-Cor's SD45. And like so many early N scale locomotive models, said SD45 boasts a long and tortured history of assorted modifications and revisions (and once again, it's my luckless destiny to try and sort it all out for you). It all started in 1969 when Mehano introduced their first SD45 model. This first version was (and remains) a really awful locomotive (the major spotting feature being its single-truck drive). It was originally imported by Atlas (and later on by Life-Like... and then PMI... and then Model Power... ad naeusum) -
Around this same time, Mehano also came out with a line of Alco diesels (with MRC as the importer). These too were a whole lot of crap, although their RSD-15 was the least crap-infested of the bunch (owing mainly to its relatively sophisticated dual-truck drive and pickup scheme) - a tantalizing factoid that will become relavant in mere moments (I promise).
So, along came 1972, at which point Con-Cor contracted Mehano to plunk their SD45 shell atop the aforementioned "superior" RSD-15 mechanism. And lo, the Con-Cor/Mehano SD45 was born. Admittedly, the exact time-line of all of this stuff is pretty difficult to pin down. There seems to have been a great deal of overlap between the various versions and importers. And at this point I'm left to wonder why anyone would have ever bothered with the old single-truck propulsion SD45 (which Mehano cranked out right through the 1990s) when this vastly superior both-trucks-powered version was readily available...
Useless trivia- Con-Cor introduced an Alco C-636 model at this same time, mounted atop the same Mehano mechanism
Mehano made various improvements to their RSD-15 mechanism over the years, but I don't think any of these modifications ever made it into a Con-Cor/Mehano SD45. All of the CC/Yugo SD45's I've ever seen feature the earliest RSD-15 chassis/mechanism. IE, small motor, directional lighting, plastic driveshafts, and traction tires on 4 of the 12 wheels. My guess is that Con-Cor only imported these for a brief period of time during the 1970s, and that they actually dropped them for several years before ultimately re-introducing the (soon-to-be-discussed) new Austrian-made version. But that's just a guess.
Mehano's RSD-15 mechanism might have been highly regarded "back in the day", but I have yet to find one of these old first generation RSD-style mechanisms that wowed me with its performance. They're very loud and the traction tires make for a very wobbly ride. Then you have the whole "wires running everywhere" situation - IE, cross your fingers and pray that all those decades-old solders have held. From what I've experienced, pickup on these ancient locos is generally a big nightmare (IE, they'll run around in circles at full throttle just fine, but tend to die a miserable death at slow speeds).
Starting in 1984 (and in quick succession), Con-Cor released revised versions of their C-636 and SD45 models along with all new SD40-2 and SD50 models. The C-636 and SD45 used the same old Mehano shells, whereas the SD40-2 and SD50 shells were new designs. All four models were equipped with the same all-new Austrian-made chassis (presumably manufactured by the same guys that Roco used).
The motor is a skew-wound 3-poler. Four wheels per truck are geared. All gearing is plastic. The couplers are truck-mounted Rapidos. A non-directional headlight is mounted to a circuit board on top of the chassis. Most of these come with traction tires (on the middle two wheels of each truck), however the first run of the SD40-2's (and possibly the SD45's) lacked them. Pickup comes from all wheels (or at least all the ones without traction tires). Current is routed around via miles of wiring. The fuel tank is metal and actually a part of the chassis. The all-metal chassis is plenty heavy, although an extra ala-carte weight is provided for additional heft (not included for the C-636). The wheel flanges are huge, so forget about running these on Code-55 track.
Despite sharing the same chassis as the others, the SD40-2 and SD50 models actually appear longer than the C-636 and SD45. This illusion is accomplished by the way the rear truck is designed (allowing it to sit much further back, and with the rear axle actually extending out past the end of the frame). A plastic fuel tank extension is glued to the chassis to fill in the empty space between the truck and the metal portion of the fuel tank.
I suppose this new design was fairly adequate by 1980s standards, but it's certainly nothing to get excited about these days. Yes, the heavy metal chassis makes for substantial pulling power, the more sophisticated mechanism runs quite a bit smoother and quieter than the old Mehanos, and despite the traction tires, wobbling doesn't seem to be a major problem. On the downside, the things are kind of noisy, directional lighting has gone by the wayside, the top-end speed is meteoric, and the whole electrical scheme (pickup and wiring) just plain sucks (I mean, good luck getting those truck wires resoldered when they eventually decide to come "unstuck"). The ones I have that have aged well are fairly reliable runners (albeit a bit jittery), but this seems to be the exception rather than the rule. For whatever reason, these models have not aged well. And suffice it to say, finding one of these things that still runs worth a damn nowadays is nigh impossible. And let's face it, the shells have been an eyesore from day one. I still have nightmares about trying to get those fugly, brittle (and do-it-yourself) handrails glued on...
These EMD models (along with the rest of the Con-Cor/Austria diesel line) ultimately fell out of favor and vanished in the late 1980s (what with the new line of Atlas/Kato diesels having rendered them basically obsolete).
Mehano SD45's are easily identified by their white gears and "Made in Yugoslavia" stamp on the bottom of the fuel tank. The Austrian-made models have red gears and are stamped "Con-Cor Austria" on the fuel tank.
Shell removal is simple - simply spread the sides apart and lift.
Grade: D (for the All-Mehano SD45) and C (for all the rest)
"All Mehano" SD45 reviewed: 4/72 Model Railroader ("The Con-Cor model follows the proportions of the prototype quite nicely. Deviations are apparent only under close scrutiny. The models come painted, lettered, and ready to run except for the side railings and end railings, which need to be pressed into place by the modeler. The body is a well-detailed plastic casting. The cab windows have frosted plastic inserts. Headlights are illuminated through clear plastic inserts by 12-volt lamps inside the locomotive body. These lamps have diodes connected in series so that only the forward light is illuminated. The gearboxes and trucks are plastic castings. The sideframes resemble the EMD prototype fairly well but not exactly. (The same sideframe and mechanism is used for Con-Cor's new GE C-C diesel locomotive.) Scale 39" wheels are nickel silver. The end wheelset on each truck has friction treads for greater pulling. The worm-and-gear/spur-gear train is hard plastic, powering two axles on each truck. Rapido-type automatic couplers are attached to the trucks. The end sections of the superstructure are cut away to accommodate the swinging couplers... The SD45 has high starting and minimum speeds... The maximum speed is high, but there is sufficient range to allow good control. Both of our samples operated smoothly. The two engines were each able to pull over 40 cars... Compared to the prototype, the model is nearly a scale foot too high, and the truck centers have been shortened slightly... The powered model is available in five different road names and color schemes: GN, UP, Soo, SF, PRR. Unpowered units are available in the same road names. Price: $17 (powered) and $6.98 (unpowered).")
Austrian SD40-2 reviewed: 8/84 Model Railroader ("Con-Cor's N scale SD40-2 is a well-proportioned replica of a prototype unit that has the maximum-size fuel tank. The body is injection-molded styrene with excellent detail. All of the small details, like the radiator grills and dynamic brake housing, are sharp and well defined. Most of the model locomotive's dimensions are close to the prototype dimensions. It is a scale 69 feet long, 10'-3" wide, and 15'-3" high (over the horns). Diesel fans will note the unit is about 48" too long, but this extra length is split between the front and rear platforms so it is not obvious. The additional space is a concession that allows the trucks to swivel under the unit to accommodate sharp model curves that the prototype SD40-2 could never negotiate. The mechanism consists of a cast zinc-alloy frame (which also gives the model most of its weight), with a 3-pole, open-frame motor mounted in the center. A series of gears transmit the motor torque to the front pair of axles in each truck. The unit has a total of eight powered wheels. MR's sample ran smoothly throughout its entire speed range. However, it midrange and maximum speed it runs fast, and its starting speed is rather high. Even so, the SD40-2 has excellent pulling power. N&W, SF, UP, SP, Family Lines, Chessie, C&NW, BN & CP. Price: $44.98")
Austrian SD50 reviewed: 9/86 Model Railroader ("Con-Cor's very attractive and crisply detailed N scale model is made in Austria. It matches our prototype drawings nicely. The horns were mounted backwards on my sample, a deficiency I was able to correct in 3 seconds... One nice feature is that the mounting lugs lock into indentations in the shell rather than into holes that go all the way through and detract from the appearance. The frame is metal, with a cast lead weight added. The mechanism here is the same as that used in Con-Cor's SD40-2 and Alco C-636. The three-pole motor is double-ended and has a skewed armature. I could detect no cogging action when turning the armature with a fingertip... A worm drives an idler built into the top of each truck. Once the gearbox covers are pried off, the drive shafts can be removed easily. The trucks are held in the frame by single pins that can be easily pushed out. All the gears are plastic. Two axles on each truck are driven, and the center drivers on each axle are equipped with traction tires. I would rate the locomotive's performance good, with a tendancy toward jackrabbit starts. The engine runs smoothly once it gets under way. These Austrian-made Con-Cor engines are good, but not in the same league with those made in Japan by Kato. The initial starting speed is a bit high... The unit is quite powerful and capable of pulling about 38 free-rolling cars on straight level track. Electrical pickup is through flexible wires from the axle wipers to the motor brushes. The trucks pivot somewhat stiffly. Truck detail is superb. Undec, Conrail, Chessie, NS, UP, SF, MOPAC. $44.98")