IHC/Mehano (Slovenia) Alco FA-1

Introduced: 2007

IHC enters the N scale locomotive market by importing what appears to be Mehano's (now of "Slovenia" rather than "Yugoslavia") reworking of their old FA-2 model first introduced in the late 1960s (first imported by MRC, and then later on by Model Power). But as it turns out, this is a pretty decent locomotive (especially for the price - $40 list). Yes, the shell does appear to be identical to the old FA-2 model. However, the horns have been downsized a bit and the numberboards have been filled in such that the headlight no longer shines through them. The paint, lettering and striping are very sharp, and performance is superb - smooth, quiet, great slow speed creep and great pick-up. It's anybody's guess why they decided to redub it an FA-1, though - clearly it's too short for that. But, whatever...

The mostly-plastic mechanism is a separate assembly that lives inside the two metal chassis halves -

The pilots and couplers are mounted to the chassis (as opposed to the trucks, as in the previous incarnation). The trucks have been completely redesigned (new gearing, 8-wheel pick-up, no traction tires and more sideframe detail). The fuel tank is new, with the old molded-on stepladder having been replaced by a more 3-D looking job (the rear step-ladder is now part of the chassis-mounted coupler assembly).

The plastic mech is held between the two metal chassis halves with a couple of screws, and the shell is held to the metal chassis halves by a couple of plastic nubs on the plastic mech. These plug into the portholes on the shell (formerly wide open on the old version). Current is ferried from the trucks to the metal chassis halves via brass contacts. The chassis halves are electrically isolated from each other via plastic insulators and get their current to the motor via direct contact with a PC board inside the fuel tank (under the motor). Wires run from said PC board to the three-pole motor. There are no flywheels, so it does tend to start and stop rather abruptly. The truck/gear-tower assemblies connect to the center section via plastic pins (upon which they swivel). The headlight is a simple filament bulb crammed between the two chassis halves (IE, non-directional). Wheels are blackened and low-profile (no problems on Code-55 rails).

MT conversion does not look to be entirely straightforward. The coupler pocket has a plastic lid over the top, covering up a plastic post which holds the Rapidos in place. I removed the lid and the Rapido on the rear coupler and tried to stick a 1015 in there, but it does not go all the way in as the opening narrows towards the bottom. Although, with a little bit of judicious filing, it looks like you could get it to fit.

So, this is definitely not your daddy's Mehano locomotive. The performance is more than respectable, and whatever problems it might have in the prototypical accuracy department are certainly mitigated by its low price. Oh sure, I wouldn't even begin to try comparing it to Life-Like's FA models of similar vintage, but if these can be had at discount prices (IE, $20 or less) they should ably fill a niche in the N scale locomotive market.

Grade: B

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