Sunset's M-10000 is certainly a very pretty model. Unfortunately, due to the limitations imposed by the design there are very few people who are going to actually be able to operate it (but more on that shortly).
This four-unit set consists of an engine, a coach, a Pullman car and an observation car. Exterior paint and detailing are very nice, although oddly enough the Pullman car is not clear-coated. I don't know if all sets contain this gaffe, but everyone I've talked to that owns a set has the same problem. All the cars have window glass. Unfortunately, none of them have any sort of interior detailing or lighting.
The Pullman car connects to the observation car by way of a screw that joins the rear end of the Pullman to the forward truck of the observation car. The coach car hangs suspended between the Pullman car and the engine (metal posts on either end of the coach plug into holes in the forward Pullman truck and the rear engine truck. Each car has a small rubber diaphragm on one end and a large diaphragm on the other (with the smaller ones fitting inside the larger ones as you connect up the train). Kind of an interesting system, although I'm not completely sold on the looks. Oddly enough, all of the passenger car trucks are geared. This (I assume) because the same trucks were used for all four units (engine included) to save a litte money.
The engine is a ridiculously complex assembly. And quite frankly, I have no idea how one is supposed to take it apart. I removed the two screws holding the bottom plate in place (revealing the underlying PC board). I then removed every screw in sight. And although this freed things up to the point that I could slide the PC board assembly back and forth inside the shell, I never did figure out how to get it out of there. It seems like the whole assembly should slide out the back of the shell. Unfortunately, the motor is a sticking point and eventually I simply gave up trying (rather than damage anything).
Here's a picture of a mangled one somebody sold on eBay which may be of some help -
Based on what I can actually see, the mechanism consists of a long PC board to which the trucks are attached. All eight wheels provide pickup (no traction tires), with current transferred from the wheels to the PC board via wheel-back wipers (IE, no wires). The motor is a large "can" screwed to the center of the PCB. Long metal driveshafts with skinny flywheels are connected to large brass worms on each truck. All wheels are geared and all gearing is metal. Wheel flanges are reasonably sized, so no problems on Code-55 rails.
Engine performance is fairly mediocre. Throttle response is a bit jittery, slow-speed performance is practically non-existant, and the top-end speed is ridiculously high. And wow, is this thing ever loud. I've heard gas-powered RC airplanes that made less racket than this beast.
I don't know what the recommended minimum operating radius is for curves, but given the way the cars are joined together, mine is completely useless on even 19" curves (where every single truck will derail). I've been told that this train will actually navigate 30"-radius curves. As for whether or not that's the minimum, I couldn't really say (not having access to a layout with curves broader than 19"-radius). I'm also told that taking a Dremel to the various shells and modifying them such that the trucks have more room to pivot will allow this train to operate on narrower radius curves. But come on... If a train needs more than 19"-radius curves it's not an operable model in my book.
So yeah, basically eye candy for the display case and not much more than that. If you want to actually run an M-10000, save yourself a lot of frustration and go with the Con-Cor model instead. It puts this one to shame in every way possible.
Grade: F (C if you have crazy wide curves)