Locomotive Roster: Dutch RAm TEE; Minitrix 12440
The great thing about modeling European prototypes (for me anyway!) is the exciting new industrial designs and intriguing new prototypes that are just fascinating to one who is mostly exposed to their own countries domestic versions. I think one of the reasons I enjoy the European models (and potentially, one day, the Japanese models) is the surprise of seeing a familiar locomotive style with dramatic (some would say, exotic) differences from that which one is used to.
It was with this sense of joy and surprise that I came across the Minitrix 12440 Dutch RAm Trans Europe Express in their 2007 catalog. I have an affinity for the Netherlands, having visited there a couple of times for business in the past several years, and this interesting train set intrigued me with its somehow similar -yet very different- styling (compared to US prototypes). One can almost see a touch of early Fairbanks Morse or Baldwin in the design of this set.
As an N Scale modeler, it was also very interesting to me to see that this set already came equipped to run in DCC and... it had SOUND! Here is a video clip of the trainset backing into, and through, the suburban station on my layout:
- Detail...the model looks great. Not sure that it looks as good in the photos as it does in person, but the detail and quality of construction are amazing.
- The 'close coupling' mechanism that Minitrix uses is amazing. Even on some of my very tight (242 radius) curves, you don't get that 'stretched out' look that long cars get on tight curves. Its impressive and not noticable that the radii is not prototypical!
- Sounds. The sounds are great. Whistle, engine sound (which change at different RPM's), door open and close, a 'whistle' sound, and some uncoupling sounds are all pretty much spot on. The down side (and I felt this way with O Gauge as well) and no fault with the model, is that diesel sounds are just not that interesting to listen to (there is just not enough room for bass at any scale to get the right sound of power that these things have in real life!).
- Lights already installed in the cars!
- Sensitive. Of all my locomotives...this engine is usually going to be the most 'touchy' about the track. Whether it be a very slight misalignment at the track connection between two rails, a small 'frog' gap break in the current, or whatever, this set can pretty much be counted on to stall out at the lower speeds (of course, at high speed, EVERYTHING works great! But I try to keep my speed to something similar to real life! :-)). Is it just my locomotive? It seems heavy enough that its not going to have contact problems, it definitely has enough contact wheels, ah....just can not figure this engine out. Again, when it gets going, its fine, but its just so darn touchy....
- Car lighting. Within about a week, one of the car's interior lights started to flicker and eventually not light at all. Now another car is showing the same result. This is really a problem (that I have) with all passenger car lighting and the terrible solutions we have to get conductivity from the rails to the lights.
- The close couplers are a PAIN to get coupled. Not sure if Trix uses this method with other trainsets, but it does not use standard Rapido type couplers, but sort of 'friction'-based plug and socket system that is somewhat springy. In order to get the cars coupled, you need to very carefully press the plug into the other cars pockets, while the 'springiness' allows the diaphragms of both cars to touch at this point, which interferes with the ability to get the 'plug' to 'latch'. Annoying, and I suppose, this is minor, but it does keep me from taking the trainset apart as much as possible (and thus it stays on the layout!).
- A 'bell' sound would have been a nice sound feature, but that assumes that the prototype - or trains in general in Europe - used bells? I have to believe they did) as the horn sound is kind of monotonous and would be nice if there was another sound to go along with that horn.