Jamco Ltd (Japan) Brass ATSF Class 3400 4-6-2 Pacific & Milwaukee Road F7 4-6-4 Hudson

Introduced: 1969 (4-6-2) and 1970 (4-6-4)

Jamco Ltd was a fairly shortlived pioneer in the business of N scale brass imports. They announced their ATSF Pacific and Milwaukee Road F7 models in 1968, actually released the Pacific (made in Japan) in 1969, and then promptly vanished from the face of the earth.

Although the F7 never did reach the production stage, a number of preproduction samples were actually delivered to Jamco in 1970 (more on that in a moment). Meanwhile, a second (slightly revised) production run of the 4-6-2 was released circa 1970/71 - this time sold by Master Model Products (a Chicago area manufacturer of machine scews and whatnot). The first production run came in fancy wooden Jamco boxes (as pictured above) and the later models came in cardboard "Master Model Products" boxes -

The Jamco 4-6-2 was the first ever brass locomotive imported in N Scale (with production reportedly consisting of approximately 600 units). Unfortunately, it's not a very good model. Shell detailing isn't much better than what you'd find on an old mass-produced plastic locomotive from the 1970s - IE, most of the shell details are simply molded in. Worse still, the soldering job on the separately applied parts is pretty sloppy (with the odd glob of solder being clearly visible, and with some of the parts looking a bit crooked). And then you have that big ugly wire, clearly visible running from the drawbar up to the motor. The cowcatcher in particular is a big problem. I dunno if they had problems with the casting or what, but they're invariably a big mangled mess (at least on the first-run version).

The mechanism is quite simple, although getting at it is a bit of a challenge. First you have to remove the screw holding the front of the chassis to the boiler. Then you have to remove the screw holding the rear of the chassis to the shell (under the cab). At this point, you might be able to wiggle the chassis out from inside the shell. Unfortunately, the motor is a bit of a sticking point, and what I wound up having to do was remove the trailing truck in order to get at the screw holding the motor to the chassis and then remove that. Once the shell, the chassis and the motor are all separated it's relatively easy to get things apart. Reassembly? Well, that's something else entirely.... have fun!

Oddly enough, the stair/walkway assembly is a separate part that is simply sandwiched between the shell and the chassis. It's also disappointingly loose fitting.

The mechanism basically consists of a motor, a driveshaft, a worm, and a bunch of gears to turn the drivers. All three driving axles are geared, so the running gear is simply along for the ride. The motor is an open-sided 5-poler. Left-rail pickup is provided by the six left-side wheels on the tender (with current being transferred to the motor via a stiff wire on the drawbar). The right-side tender wheels do nothing. Right-rail pickup is provided solely by the three drivers on the right side. The left-side drivers are electrically neutral, as are the pilot and trailing trucks. The center drivers lack flanges (I guess to allow the locomotive to pivot more easily on curves). Oddly enough, the center wheels of each tender truck also lack flanges. I've never seen anything like that before and have no idea what purpose it might serve. Maybe they thought that because the trucks have three axles there'd be problems through curves if all the wheels were flanged.

This model has no lighting, nor does it have couplers. It doesn't have traction tires either, although that's not necessarily a bad thing. A coupler pocket with a predrilled hole is provided on the back of the tender. The first-run version has no provision for a coupler on the pilot at all, whereas the second-run version does (just guessing here, but the difference is likely due to the lame first-run tooling for the pilot being jettisoned and then re-made) -

This locomotive runs around in circles kinda/sorta OK, but that's about all I can say for it. Pickup is frequently iffy, which I'm assuming is the fault of the drivers and not the tender (although those sprung-wire drawbar connections can be problematic). Where I tend to have problems is in sharp curves, where the three drivers picking up right-rail current might be losing their contact. And getting through a turnout without a stall (or derailment due to the huge flanges) is a virtual impossibility.

The motor is very slow to respond to the throttle - and once it decides to get moving, it launches into action like a rocket. Slow speed performance is virtually non-existant, as slowing down to more reasonable speeds generally results in a stall. The top-end speed is off the charts. FWIW, pulling power seems adequate. The gear motion is OK, although I have noticed the occasional wobble. Amazingly, this model runs extremely quietly (all the more amazing given the fact that all the gears are metal). I'm still scratching my head over that one.

I find getting this thing situated on the rails to be a very annoying and time-consuming procedure. You have to get the drawbar stuck onto the tender peg first, and then hope it stays on there while you finagle with all of the various locomotive wheels. It always takes me several tries.

The biggest problem with this engine (and the reason I give it an "F" rating) is the chassis design. The motor assembly is screwed to a flimsy strip of brass extending off the main part of the chassis. And said flimsy strip of brass is extremely prone to spuriously bending itself out of place, thus causing the worm to lose contact with the rest of the gears (IE, spinning motor / parked locomotive). I have no idea what causes this, but it happens all too often. The solution is to stick a screwdriver inside the shell and push/bend the motor back into place. But it never lasts long.

I'm told that N scale brass was originally manufactured with collectors in mind, and that it was not expected that said brass models would ever actually run on model railroads. Well, based on this first N scale brass loco, I'd say there's probably a lot of truth to that statement. This thing is a total shelf queen.

Addendum - I shipped mine off to Victor Miranda (noted locomotive tinkerer) and had him refurbish it a bit. In addition to soldering (or re-soldering) some of the shell detailing and giving it a good cleaning/lubing, he also made these modifications -

- New insulators for the drawbar
- Replaced the big green wire with a smaller black one, and moved it to a sprung connector pad (to minimize flexing)
- Added a shim to lift the motor at the rear
- Added weight to the front truck
- Added a plastic washer to the left screw-in crank pin (to lift the side rod off the tire so it won't short)

After these modifications, overall performance improved significantly. No, it doesn't run like a Kato (or anything even approaching that), but it's certainly on par with some of the other steamers produced during the 1960s (Rivarossi, Arnold, etc). Pickup remains a bit iffy, so it's still not anything you could really operate. But all of the really dire maladies are cured, allowing it to run around in circles fairly reliably.

As noted above, the second Jamco brass project (their Milwaukee Road F7 Hudson) actually reached the preproduction stages in 1970, with six shells being delivered to the three gentleman involved in the venture (two shells each, according to Dallas Mallerich's Greenberg's Price Guide To N Gauge Trains). These shells were reportedly mounted on standard Con-Cor/Kato 4-6-4 locomotive and tender chasses -

Although the project never reached fruition, those preproduction samples are still floating around out there in collector-land. Also, a number of copies of the shells have been made over the years, some of which occasionally show up on eBay -

Grade: F (or "C" if you have access to Victor Miranda) for the 4-6-2

Reviewed: 9/69 Model Railroader ("The model only partly follows the type of construction that has been used for HO models for many years, having a cast brass boiler instead of one built up from sheet metal... the cast brass boiler increases the weight... The ready-to-run model is well proportioned, although some liberties have been taken in the overall size to accommodate the oversize wheel flanges and the mechanism... Our test sample scales 9 feet too long, and most of this is due to wheel spacing. The wheel diameters are smaller than scale, again to accommodate the deep flanges... Materials are generally similar to those used on HO models having embossed rivet detail, cast and coined fittings. The boiler is a brass investment casting with most detail, including the piping, cast on to it. A few extra pieces are neatly soldered on. The cab is formed from sheet brass. Most details are well shaped...

"The smooth-running mechanism has all driving axles powered through gearing. Two idler gears and a worm gear drive the wheel assembly from a five-pole 12-volt DC motor. The total reduction is 20:1. This is a rather low ratio for a steam model and so produces a high scale speed... The rods and valve gear are nickle silver. To provide sufficient clearance for the crossheads, the front Baldwin disk drivers do not have crank pins but are held in proper position by the gearing... The model is awkward to disassemble... Because of this it is difficult to get good worm and gear alignment when the model is reassembled... Like the cab, the tender is fabricated from sheet brass, with excellent embossed rivets which are close to proper size... All wheels are slightly under scale size with .040"-deep flanges. We operated our model over several different makes of turnouts with no problems... Couplers are not furnished... It seems there is hardly an N-scale model that will start more slowly than 10 scale miles per hour, and this model is no exception... Under load the engine performs well... This is an interesting model and, we hope, the beginning of a whole line of N scale brass locomotives... Price: $49.95")

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