Minitrix (Germany) Fairbanks-Morse H-12-44

Introduced: circa 1970 (discontinued circa 1999)

These little guys used to give new meaning to the word "ubiquitous". Back in the 70s and 80s when photo spreads were published in model railoading magazines, you could always instantly tell whether the featured layout was N scale or not by the presence or absence of one of these little eye catchers. I've no idea why Minitrix chose such a goofy and obscure prototype to model, but given the dearth of decent yard switchers back then, everyone seemed to have at least one.

These are nice enough looking models, although the fact that the chassis is clearly visible through the cab windows is a bit of a distraction. And yeah, the bloated handrails are kind of an eyesore as well.

All wheels are geared and provide pickup (no traction tires). Current is transferred to the motor through the metal chassis itself (IE, no wires). The motor is an open-sided 3-poler with dual worm gears. The couplers are truck-mounted Rapidos. Most of these are equipped with a single non-directional headlight mounted in the cab end of the chassis. However, I'm told that at least some of them came with non-directional lights on both ends. The wheel flanges are somewhat oversized, so these models will not run on Code-55 track.

Performance is quite outstanding, particular given the model's small size and the era in which it was produced. Despite the small footprint, pickup is excellent - no stalls, no stuttering, no nothing. Throttle response is smooth, slow speed creep is very impressive and the top-end speed, though excessively high, isn't nearly as insane as other 1970s locomotives I've encountered. Better still, the entire mechanism is simple and solid and runs practically noiselessly. It also has a decent amount of heft to it, making for some respectable pulling power. Yes, they can get a bit balky if you don't keep things clean. But no question about it, these are definitely runners.

These locomotives were primarily imported by Model Power (packaged in the familiar "Minitrix" cardboard box). However, circa 1982 Con-Cor imported undecorated versions and resold them in paint schemes unavailable directly from Minitrix. This model was ultimately discontinued when Marklin bought out Minitrix circa 1999. As far as I know, this model remained unchanged throughout its entire production run.

Trivia - I'm told that these shells are a good fit for the Bachmann NW2 chassis. They can also be used with a Con-Cor/Kato SW1200 chassis, although some minor modifications to the frame may be necessary.

To remove the shell, simply pry the sides apart to free them from the metal tabs in the chassis.

Grade: B (mainly for the looks - performance is a solid "A")

Reviewed: 9/74 Model Railroader ("The superstructure is a plastic casting with most of details cast on. Handrails, bell, and air horns are separately attached at the factory. The frame is a zinc-alloy casting with cavities to hold the 3-pole motor, headlight, and gear drive... Spur gears carry the drive to all 8 wheels. Through the use of wiper contacts running on the insulated wheels, all wheels are used for electrical pickup. Our test sample ran smoothly through all speed ranges... the minimum scale speed was quite high... Using a transistor throttle, we were able to cut the minimum speed in half... The model is well detailed and well proportioned, and has good running characteristics. Milwaukee, PC, UP, SF. Price: $22")

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