Hobbytrain/Lemke (Germany) / Ajin (Korea) Plasser & Theurer Track Tamper Machine

Introduced: 2009

I don't normally delve into European models, but I decided to check this one out because it's supposedly an older version of a machine that was actually imported into the US (Plasser America being the US subsidiary of the Austrian company that makes this particular prototype, and a major MOW machine producer in the US today).

Unfortunately, if this model is a typical representation of Hobbytrain/Lemke, I don't think I'll be bothering with any more of their motorized models. 'Cuz, quite frankly, this thing is a piece of junk. In fact, I might even be tempted to compare it to some of the trainset crap locos Bachmann used to make back in the 1970s, but frankly, that'd be doing Bachmann a major disservice.

The entire model is a loose, flimsy and heft-free collection of press-fit plastic parts. And as such, mine started shedding pieces the minute I took it out of its box. The motor is a small rectangular affair mounted inside the chassis just forward of the rear truck (if the big cab is the "front", that is). I'm not sure about its technical specifications (poles, winding, etc), but at this point I'm not really all that interested in finding out. Current is collected from all 8 wheels via wheelback wipers (ugh) and transferred to metal contacts on the chassis via more wipers. Stiff metal wires press-fit into the chassis route current to the motor contacts. The rear driveshaft is (presumably) a short piece of metal (I can't really see it, and again, have no interest in dismantling the thing in order to plumb its secrets). The forward driveshaft is a two-piece affair that's about nine miles long (with a flexible tube of plastic joining the two pieces in the middle). The worms are actually metal springs (similar to the design used in Arnold's old Alco S-2 switcher). All four axles are geared and all truck gearing is plastic. Wheels are blackened and low-profile (no problems on Code-55 rails). The couplers are Rapidos, fixed to pivoting mounts on the chassis. There is no lighting (although non-functional light fixture details are applied to the roof on either end).

These models are supposedly "DCC Friendly", and the instructions (all in German) do seem keen on showing how one goes about actually installing a decoder in one of these things. So, y'know, good luck with all that.

Performance is bad in pretty much every way it can be bad. Pickup is iffy, it sounds like hell (barbershop razor syndrome), it can't pull a bloody thing, the "spring" worms don't seem to like to stay engaged, and (as mentioned previously) the whole thing tends to want to fall apart at a moment's notice. The truck assemblies are particularly awful when it comes to "fall apart" syndrome. And trust me, a motorized model with discombobulated trucks, sporadic gear mesh, and iffy pickup just don't move very far. Oh, and did I mention that it costs one-hundred and forty bucks?! Yeesh.

As delivered, there is zero gear lubrication. But since lubrication actually seems to make things worse, they probably had their reasons for skipping that traditional step.

A goody bag of additional press-fit detail parts is included in the box (ladders, hoses, horns, etc). Here's one all nicely painted and detailed -

A 3-car "maintenance set" is also available. The cars only have two axles, so they're pretty much useless as North American models. But then again, the tamper machine couldn't pull them anyway, so I guess it all evens out. Oh yeah, and the wheel flanges are oversized, so Code-55 is a no-go as well.

I'm told that Hobbytrain also has plans to release a "dummy" version of the tamper. Which is a bit of a chuckle, since as far as I'm concerned the motorized version is already a dummy.

There seems to be this internet rumor floating around that these models were somehow manufactured by Kato. Well, allow me to quickly disabuse you of that fantasy. Yes, Kato has built models for Lemke in the past. But nowhere on this model (nor the box, nor any of the inserts) is "Kato" mentioned. Further, nothing about this thing looks even remotely Kato to me. Quite frankly, I think they'd be insulted by the insinuation. But if you need actual proof as to this model's origins, just take it apart and have a look at the motor. Seeing is believing -

Prototype information -

Track tampers are used to maintain the line and level of railway track. These highly effective machines allow a small gang of men to adjust and realign a significant length of track in an overnight possession. This particular prototype was used by the Austrian OBB, German DB and Swiss SBB-CFF railways.

Grade: F

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