Introduced: 2009 (ES44AC), 2010 (ES44DC) and 2013 (ES44C4)
The Fox Valley ES44AC was that firm's first N scale locomotive model, and it made for a very impressive debut. The paint and detailing are outstanding (exceeding even the likes of Atlas and Kato). The plethora of tiny warning labels are particularly well done. Better still, these models run every bit as good as they look. Fox Valley released an ES44DC model the following year, and apart from some minor differences in shell detailing (ala the protoype), the DC model is pretty much identical to the AC model.
Internally, these locos sport all the features one normally associates with "modern" diesel models - IE, split-frame / all-metal / DCC-Ready chassis, 5-pole / skew-wound "scale speed" motor with dual flywheels, low-friction pickup, bi-directional LED lighting (yellow rather than white, though), working ditch lights, all-wheel drive and pickup (no traction tires), blackened / low-profile wheels, shell-mounted Micro-Trains couplers, all-plastic gearing, etc.
An noted above, this model is DCC-Ready (in the extreme). A standard 6-pin DCC socket is provided on the back end of the lightboard and there's plenty of room for a plug-in decoder underneath the rear LED. As far as decoder installations go, this is going to be about as easy as it gets.
FVM appears to have followed Kato's lead insofar as this model employs something akin to Kato's so-called "shock absorber" design. IE, a separate rectangular sill piece around the bottom of the chassis holds the chassis contact strips firmly in place, basically making them sprung (which supposedly makes for more reliable conductivity and a quieter ride).
For the more advanced among us, separate add-on etched and wire parts are included for installation by the modeler (grabs, windshield wipers, etc). Nice for the super detailers out there I suppose, but it does tend to leave us normal humans in the dust. It's unlikely that I'll ever try installing them myself, so I guess I'd just as soon have said detailing molded right into the shell itself. Still, if you can get'r'done, you're going to have one outstanding looking model.
Performance is virtually perfect - smooth, quiet, nimble throttle response, sensational slow-speed creep, reasonable top-end speed, and pulling power to spare. On the downside, they are pretty much limited to 11"-radius curves and broader (anything sharper than that and the wheels are derailing). Also, mine does have a very slight buzz to it, but I'm assuming that'll go away after a bit of lubrication and breaking in (and even if it doesn't, it's not a big deal). Overall, these are outstanding models in every way.
Fox Valley released ES44C4 models in 2013. These are basically ES44DC's, just with new/different trucks. Vis -
Note - the first run of ES44DC models has a misprint on the label (where it says "AC" instead of "DC").
GEVO Features (AC & DC) -
- 2 Cabs
- 2 Handrail/Sill Assemblies
- 3 Different Bodies
- Hi-Ad or Steerable Trucks
- Directional Headlight
- Illuminated Ditch Lights
- Smooth, Powerful drive w/5 Pole Motor and Dual Flywheels
- Separate Cut Levers
- Optional Metal Grab Irons (user installed)
- Blackened Metal Wheels
- Simple DCC installation with Digitrax DZ125IN or TCS EUN651
To remove the locomotive shell, simply grab the fuel tank with one hand, the shell with the other, and then just sort of wiggle it up and off.
Grade: A (for all)
ES44AC Reviewed 05/2010 Model Railroader ("A General Electric ES44AC is the debut locomotive from Fox Valley Models. The direct-current ready-to-run N scale model, based on GE's Evolution Series locomotive, uses a split-frame mechanism and features numerous railroad-specific details. A package of modeler- installed etched-metal and wire details is also included.
"The model uses an injection-molded plastic shell with a separate cab, walkways, and radiator housing. The X-panels are well defined, and the radiator air-intake screens are crisp. The air-to-air dual-fan heat exchanger is particularly well executed, with the fan blades visible under the grill. As on the prototype, there are two global positioning system domes on the cab roof. Pilot details include m.u. hoses, separately applied uncoupling levers, and a snow plow.The press-fit handrails are molded in prototypical colors, and the vertical portions in the step wells (and the step edges) are painted white. The pilots have separately applied uncoupling levers and m.u. hoses; the m.u. receptacles and spare knuckle holders are molded. The one-piece fuel tank press fits to the bottom of the chassis. It features molded air tanks and pipes, emergency fuel shutoff switch boxes, fuel sight gauges, and a bell. A separate plastic piece, which fits over the mechanism, has molded traction motor cable detail. The model closely matches dimensions of the drawings published in the November 2004 issue of Model Railroader.
"Underneath the shell is a die-cast metal split-frame mechanism. The model has a five-pole skew-wound motor with dual brass flywheels. Straight from the box, the model is designed for direct current operation. Golden-white light-emitting diodes (LEDs) are soldered to each end of the PC board. Clear plastic tubes carry the light from the LEDs to the directional headlights and ditch lights. On the test track, the ES44AC crawled along at 1.3 scale mph at 1.6 volts. The locomotive accelerated to 128 scale mph, which is more than 50 mph faster than the prototype's top speed. The model's drawbar pull is equivalent to 20 freight cars on straight and level track.
"Fox Valley Models is off to a good start in the N scale locomotive market. With three different cab and body styles, the firm can offer its N scale ES44ACs in several railroad-specific configurations. Look for the firm's ES44DC diesel locomotives this summer.")