Intermountain (China) EMD FTA & FTB

Introduced: 2002

These models represent Intermountain's first N scale locomotive release. And I have to say, they make for a very impressive debut. Oddly enough, these FTs came out closely on the heels of Micro-Trains' first ever N scale locomotive release - also FTs! I'm still scratching my head over that particular confluence of events.

These FTs look great, with fine paint and detailing. They feature separately applied handgrabs, see-through metal grills and fan covers, shell-mounted Accumate couplers (on the ends) and a permanant MU drawbar (between the two units). Other details (body style, dynamic brakes, and steam generators) vary by prototype. AFAIK, these are only available in powered A/B pairs (which is generally how they operated in the real world).

I've been told that the shells are designed, cut and molded in the USA. They are then finished and drives put under them in China.

As pictured above, "A" and "B" units actually have different chasses. So, no shell swapping.

These locos sport all of the niceties one normally associates with "modern" diesel models, EG - split-frame DCC-Ready metal chassis, dual-flywheels, low-friction drive, plastic truck assemblies, plastic gearing, blackened wheels, all-wheel drive / pick-up (no traction tires). The motor is an open-sided 5-poler. Wheels are low-profile and have no problems on Code-55 track.

Directional lighting on the A unit is controlled by a PC board mounted on top of the chassis, and with the LED headlight mounted on the front of the chassis (with wires running between the two). The headlights are white and very bright. In the above picture, I've swapped out the stock PC boards for Digitrax decoders. And do please ignore the big ugly yellow wire - that was something I had to add after I screwed up the headlight wiring.

Performance is smooth, dead quiet, and with excellent pickup and awesome slow speed creep. And brother, they'll pull as long as a train as you're ever likely to need pulled. Every bit the equal of any F unit ever to come out of Kato.

Unfortunately, not all is happy in Happy Valley. The first release actually had wires running from the PC board to the motor (and yet they still called it "DCC Ready" - it is to laugh).

Subsequent FT releases (along with Intermountain's later F3, F7 and FP7 models) replaced the wires with little legs mounted on the PC board to provide contact with the motor. Decoder installation was much simplified, but they forgot to do something about the "A" unit headlight. These remained stubbornly separated (via wires) from the main PC board. None of this is a big deal if you're operating these in DC mode, but it does make decoder installation a bit more difficult than it could/should be (basically involving desoldering the light wires from the stock PC board and then resoldering them to the decoder board).

Note - Occasionally one will encounter an Intermountain F unit that makes a lot of noise when running. Ron Bearden (noted locomotive guru) has diagnosed the problem as being too much space between the "spiked donuts" in the drivetrain (one donut mounts to the wormshaft, one mounts inside the flywheel, and then a slotted cylindar connects the two).

Wormshaft "donut" and connecting cylindar -

The noise problems arise when the donuts are mounted too far apart from each other (thus allowing the connecting cylindar to rattle around as the driveshaft spins). And the simple solution is to close the distance between the two donuts by sliding the wormshaft donut further out on its shaft (IE, towards the flywheel).

Stock DonutRelocated Donut

When moving the wormshaft donut, be sure to move it such that most (but not all) of the slack between it and the connecting cylindar is removed. Without a tiny tiny amount of wiggle room between the various parts, a slight bind will be placed on the drive train and the noise will be back.

Removing the shell on these is pretty simple, once you know the correct way to go about it (otherwise, they can be a bit of a bitch). Start by inserting two toothpicks, one on either side of the fuel tank. Then, slide the front end of the shell up and off first (if you try sliding the back end up first, the whole thing will seize up and refuse to move). For "A" units, you'll need to remove the front coupler first (just unscrew the screw and slide the coupler out the front). Be extremely careful grabbing ahold of the trucks while pulling the shell off. The damned things will fall apart in your hands with little or no provocation (a sore point with me).

Grade: A

Reviewed: 02/03 Model Railroader ("InterMountain Railway Co. has now entered the N scale locomotive market with smooth-running and lavishly detailed ready-to-run models of Electro-Motive Corp's pioneering FT road diesels. The models are offered in A-B sets coupled with drawbars. The painting on our samples is accurate and superbly executed, with tack-sharp pinstripes and lettering... Intermountain uses several different body shells and alternate parts to build models that are accurate for each paint scheme... InterMountain's tooling of the shell is excellent and matches prototype dimensions... The shell features delicate wire handrails, including a pair of grab irons bracketing the nose door. The window glazing is exceptional... These models ride on Atlas trucks, and three of the four axles on each unit have box-shaped journals- the fourth axle has a round journal bearing - a design quirk found on prototype FT's. The FT's come with body-mounted Accumate couplers... Removing the shell reveals a typical split-frame chassis with a PC board on top secured by a pair of small screws. A decoder can easily be substituted in place of this board. Our samples were a bit stiff at first, but they smoothed out as we ran them... The top speed is in the prototype passenger locomotive range, but they also perform well at freight speeds. The drawbar pull for the A-B set is equivalent to about 38 cars... Any N scaler interested in early road diesels will enjoy these excellent models. GN, ATSF, SLSW $199.95")

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