Introduced: 1969 (by MRC) and 1977 by Model Power (redesigned 1989)
This model (manufactured by Mehano of Yugoslavia) originally appeared as part of MRC's big plunge into N scale in 1969. Their commitment was short-lived however, and the entire line was dropped after just a few years. Model Power picked up the FA-2 (along with the rest of MRC's Yugo-made Alco diesel line) around 1977 and continued selling them (with some modifications) for many years. AHM and Life-Like also imported these briefly in the 1970s (post-MRC and pre-Model Power). A staple of Model Railroader ads for decades, these things seemed to vanish around 1999. Perhaps due to all of the conflict in the former Yugoslavia?
There seems to have been some confusion on MRC's part as far as what exactly this is a model of. I have seen it listed in MRC's own ads as an FA-1. However, some of the actual model box inserts call it an FA-2, while others call it an FA-1. Well, whatever. The concensus seems to be that it is an FA-2, so let's go with that.
All of these Yugoslavian diesels (C-420, RSD-15, FA-2, et al) seem to have gone through a similar evolution over the years, with each coming in three distinct versions.
The first MRC version had a small motor, traction tires on the back two wheels, a two-piece white plastic drive shaft, a small weight screwed underneath the motor and wiring running over the top of the motor. The next version appeared shortly after Model Power took over the line. This one is virtually identical to the first version (traction tires, weights, etc), however the motor is slightly larger, the plastic drive shaft is black, and the wiring runs underneath the motor. The final (and best) version was released circa 1989 and had a much larger motor, no traction tires (IE, 8-wheel pickup), a two-piece drive with a spring between the two pieces, and no weight screwed to the bottom (to accommodate the larger motor). All three versions have a single powered truck and share identical shells and trucks.
The first two versions are terrible. The looks are bad and the performance is worse. Noisy, wobbly, bad pickup, etc, etc. The most recent Model Power version is much improved (at least in the performance department). It still only has 2 powered axles (on the rear), but pickup comes from all eight wheels so it can ably circumnavigate my layout without embarassing itself. OK, it still looks lame, but honestly, it runs quite well. It's smooth, not real loud and performs very well at slow speeds. Still a bit wobbly, though (probably due to the lack of any kind of weight on the front end of the chassis).
Shell detailing is OK for it's era, but pretty primitive by today's standards. As for the paint and lettering, well... not so good. And I guess the truck-mounted couplers count as strike three - yuck. The MRC versions are stamped "MRC Yugoslavia" on the front truck. The early Model Power versions are stamped "RSO Yugoslavia" on the front truck, and the later versions are stamped "Made in Yugoslavia by Mehano" on the fuel tank. The AHM versions are simply stamped "Yugoslavia". The Life-Like imports don't have any markings on the models themselves. Instead, the box inserts say "Made in Yugoslavia".
Trivia - circa 2010, Model Power cooked up a dummy version of their FA-2 -
In addition to being sold ala carte, they were also sold as part of a "Loco Maintenance" building set -
I'm not sure wear the shells might've come from, but my guess is that they were old/leftover Mehano production that Model Power had sitting around doing nothing. Of course that's just a guess.
Grade: F (for the first two versions) and C (for the most recent Model Power version)
Reviewed: 1/70 Model Railroader ("This MRC model is an accurate scale reproduction of Alco's FA-2 diesels built from 1950 to 1953, not the FA-1 which was constructed from 1945 to 1950 as implied in MRC literature. The difference is an extra 2-foot length on the FA-2, and the side radiators moved about 7 feet from the rear of the unit. FA-1 units had the radiator flush with the rear... The ready-to-run model closely follows prototype dimensions and proportions. It is made of well-detailed plastic castings. All fittings are cast in place except for the separately attached air horns. Clear plastic inserts are used for the cab windows, number boards, and headlight. The frame is a plastic insert; cast soft metal weights are added for ballast. A five-pole motor drives the rear truck... All gears are nylon-type plastic. The truck sideframes and gearboxes are molded plastic. The wheelbase is slightly long, while the wheels scale 43" in diameter; the prototype had 40" wheels. Wheel flanges are .030" deep. The two rear wheels have plastic friction tires. All six remaining wheels help provide electrical pickup. Rapido-type automatic couplers are truck-mounted... Our test sample had a high starting speed and tended to leap into action. Once started, the model could be throttled down only slightly... Our model pulled 25 freight cars... The model is priced $8.98. Instructions for maintenance are provided. The painted and lettered model is available in C&O, PRR and SF color and lettering schemes.")
(Thanks for the dummy pics, Klaus)