This was Micro-Trains' first N scale locomotive release (not counting the repaint jobs they've done on other manufacturer's locomotives). And oddly enough, both Micro-Trains and Intermountain decided to enter the N scale locomotive market at the same time - and with the same models (Intermountain also having released FTs in 2002).
Well, whatever. These particular FTs were an extremely impressive locomotive debut for Micro-Trains - both in looks and performance. I like the etched-metal sidescreens and the factory-installed handgrabs. And I particularly like the permanant drawbar connection found on most of the A/B pairs (providing for some serious close-coupling). Also included are some ala-carte (EG, uninstalled) diaphragms. Enough parts are provided for two separate diaphragm assemblies (presumably one for the back of the A, and the other for the back of the B). Other prototypically accurate details (grab irons, dynamic brake vents, headlight, and porthole number/detail) vary by road name.
As noted above, these models are generally sold in A/B pairs (with a drawbar between the two). However, A units are also available with couplers on both ends. This is accomplished by way of clips on the ends that can be used for either a drawbar or a coupler. The couplers are extremely compact and may have been specifically designed for these models -
I'm told that the actual guts of these things are made in China. They are then shipped to the US where the shells are added. These models tend to cost about 50% more than similar models from other companies. And so far, no one's been able to adequately explain to me the reasons behind said price differential.
As pictured above, "A" and "B" units actually have different chasses. So, no shell swapping (although since these are generally sold in powered A/B pairs, shell-swapping doesn't seem like something one would need to engage in anyway).
These locos sport all of the niceties one normally associates with "modern" diesel models, EG - shell (or chassis) mounted automatic couplers (Micro-Trains 1016's), 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. Directional lighting on the A unit is provided by a PC board mounted on top of the chassis (in the above picture, I've swapped out the stock PC boards for Digitrax decoders). Wheels are low-profile and have no problems on Code-55 track.
Overall performance is every bit as smooth, quiet, and responsive as anything ever put out by Kato or Atlas. Pickup is perfect, slow speed creep is sublime, and pulling power is impressive. I guess my only minor gripe is with the factory-installed handgrabs. They are easily dislodged, and wow, are they ever a major bitch to reinstall. Worse still, MTL chose not to include any spares in the box.
Prototype information -
- Over 1,000 A and B units produced between November 1939 & November 1945.
- Units are powered by a 1,350 hp 16 cylinder 567 engine
- As typically delivered the A and B units were connected by a drawbar.
- All of the Santa Fe FTs were delivered with couplers instead.
- The first set of FTs were ordered by Santa Fe and delivered in February 1941.
To remove the shell, simply insert a couple of toothpicks (or small screwdrivers, or whatever) between the chassis and the shell (right by the fuel tank should do). The shell should wiggle up and off fairly readily at that point. The pilot coupler on an "A" unit must first be removed before the shell will come off (it being attached to the chassis rather than the shell).
Reviewed: 01/03 Model Railroader ("Micro-Trains is producing Electro-Motive Corp's historic FT road diesel as its first N scale locomotive. Offered in A-B sets, these ready-to-run models are well-proportioned and highly detailed with smooth-running, powerful mechanisms... Our samples FT's closely matched prototype drawings... The wheelbase is correct on both units and the B unit's long overhang is a spotting characteristic of these locomotives. While this all-new model follows the proven split-frame design used in most contemporary N scale locomotives, MT builds this one in the United States. It has a well-detailed body shell with factory-applied detail variations to match specific prototypes. These options include large or small nose number boxes, three different roofs, single or dual headlights, side number boxes, and an extra porthole in the B unit. The grills are etched metal and the side grab irons are separate parts installed at the factory. Clear plastic window glazing fits into each opening flush with the exterior.
"The A and B units are both powered. They have a heavy cast-metal frame that's split vertically to clamp around a double-ended, 5-pole, open-frame motor with a flywheel. The instruction sheet notes the motor's maximum operating voltage is 10 volts, which is a concern as it's lower than NMRA standards... The motor is electrically isolated from the frame and there's a small PC board on top of the weights that contains the brush contacts and a directional headlight diode. A clever system of springy phosphor bronze contacts pick up current from all of the wheels and transfer it to each half of the frame. MT calls these models "DCC Ready", but there's no built-in DCC Control socket... The models come with body-mounted MT couplers... The paint application and lettering is excellent, and decal numbers are provided for the number boards... The locomotive started and ran smoothly using very little current at slow speed. It growled a bit to begin with, but quieted down as the speed increased. Its overall speed range is fine for a passenger-geared unit, but a bit fast for freight service. The two-unit locomotive delivered drawbar pull equivalent to about 38 freight cars. N scalers looking for classic early road diesels will be pleased with this model.")