Euro-Rail/Bachmann (China) Baldwin RF-16A & B

Introduced: 2001

This was the first (and last) N-scale locomotive release from Euro-Rail Models (who wound up filing for bankruptcy in 2004). Subequently, Bachmann (who actually manufactured this model for E-R in their Chinese factory) went ahead and claimed all of the unsold units (along with the tooling) and put them up for sale (still in E-R packaging) via their website.

Circa 2008, Al Muniz (former owner of E-R Models) relocated to Texas and started a new company called Models11. I'm told he reclaimed his old stock of E-R sharks from Bachmann and once again started selling them. I don't know if he has any plans to ever re-run this model, though.

Anyway, these are very nice looking models. I especially like the separately applied handgrabs (a new innovation for N scale "cab" units).

The DCC-Ready chassis is all-metal and split-frame. The motor is an open-sided / skew-wound 5-poler (equipped with dual flywheels). All wheels are geared and provide pickup (no traction tires). Wipers on the trucks transfer current directly to the chassis (IE, no wires). All gearing is plastic. Directional lighting is provided by an old-school filament bulb on the lightboard. The couplers are truck-mounted Rapidos. The wheels are blackened and low-profile (no problems on Code-55 rails).

Performance is quite impressive - smooth and responsive, no pickup problems, and exceptional slow speed performance. Quite frankly, the top-to-bottom speed spectrum on these models is equal to perhaps the bottom half of most diesel models. And yeah, they do get to be a bit noisy at full throttle. But come on, clearly they weren't designed to run that fast (said speeds being a bit beyond prototypical reality). In any case, the "noisiness" factor definitely becomes less of an issue after a bit of lubrication and breaking-in.

On the debit side are the truck-mounted Rapido couplers. First of all, they're truck-mounted (yuck). Second of all, they are not easily converted to Micro-Trains couplers. But coupler quibbles aside, these are extremely nice looking and running locos.

These models are designed to take a drop-in decoder replacement for the light board. However, as of this writing (2008), the manufacturer of said decoder (Digitrax) has discontinued them.

These generally come in A/B pairs (with both units powered). For a while Bachmann had A/B pairs listed on their website with the B units being dummies (and for the same price as a powered pair, oddly enough). However, I'm not sure if said dummy units were ever actually produced, as I've yet to come across any such sets in the flesh.

A note on the truck gears - some of the early production models came with white plastic (nylon, actually) gears, and as such are prone to shrinking (and eventually cracking) over time. Later production runs came with more reliable black plastic gears.

To remove the shell, simply spread the sides apart and left. On the "A" units, you have to also twist / finagle the forward coupler through the hole in the pilot.

Grade: A

Reviewed: 04/02 Model Railroader ("This set of well-detailed Baldwin "sharknose" RF-16 diesel cab units marks E-R Models' entry into the N scale locomotive market. They're also the first mass-produced N scale plastic models of this distinctive locomotive... This all-new model is made in China and is built around a vertically split white metal frame, making it somewhat light for a cab unit compared to the heavier zinc-alloy frames of other N scale locomotives. The five-pole, skew-wound, open-frame motor is isolated from the frame. Power from the rails is conducted to the frame halves through phosphor-bronze pickups which contact the backs of the blackened metal wheels. A directional LED headlight circuit board is mounted atop the frame with small screws that make electrical contact with each frame half. Phosphor bronze pickups conduct power from the PC board to the motor brushes. Turned-brass flywheels smooth out the motion and provide much-needed mass. The drive train is made of acetal plastic and metal parts. Plastic universal couplings transfer motion to brass worms that turn plastic gears in each truck. The wheels met NMRA standards...

"Converting this locomotive to DCC is a simple matter of removing the two screws holding the light board in place, replacing the board with a Digitrax DN141E2 decoder, and reinstalling the screws. This is likely the easiest conversion in N scale. Our samples' dimensions closely matched drawings... E-R Models has captured the distinctive sharknose lines that helped make the RF-16 a railfan favorite. The mold work on these RF-16s is excellent with good relief detail on the body, fuel tank, and truck sideframes. These features are accompanied by another first in mass-produced N scale locomotives - separately applied, fine-wire handrails on the A units. Although left unpainted, these are well shaped and mounted close to the body. Other separately applied details include the unpainted single-chime air horns and the windshield, which has nicely done cast-on wipers. Paint on our samples was evenly applied and opaque. However, the yellow striping and logos were transparent, allowing the D&H blue to show through. The blue on the models also appears to be a couple shades too dark... However, the overall effect is still good. The model includes truck-mounted Rapido-style couplers... Despite its light weight, one of our sample A units delivered a drawbar pull of 0.8 ounces, good for about 19 cars... Operation was smooth at all speed ranges, but both samples were a bit noisy at middle and high speeds. This noise level characteristically drops off after the model is run for a while. Aside from the couplers, this is a fine locomotive...D&H, Baldwin, B&O, PRR, NYC, Undec $139.95")

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