1.03.2009

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:



Impressions:
PROS:

- 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!

CONS:
- 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.

12 comments:

  1. How awesome that these models not only come equipped with DCC, but with sound too! If you ever get into Japanese, you're in for a rude awakening: Most Japanese models not only aren't equipped with DCC, but they take a lot of work to convert!

    Enjoying your posts!

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  2. Thanks for your comment! I've noticed from the Japanese models I've looked at that the descriptions are silent on DCC....that is not a good sign for me! Either a NEM 651 or already DCC equiped, or its not on the list! At some point I will have to learn how to add a decoder the 'hard way' but too much cool stuff that is much easier to add!

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  3. Kato is getting better about DCC in their recent models. Almost all of their N-scale locos will take a Digitrax drop-in replacement board (DN163K0a in most cases), and some of their MUs (and all their bullet trains) will take specially made Kato decoders (Kato EM13). However, to keep them small, Kato had to stick with only the most basic and rudimentary functionality (no 4-digit addresses! boo!).

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  4. Just wondering if you happen to know what decoder is used on the TEE unit. I have a Minitrix NOrthlander (these trains were moved to Canada eventually) that doesn't have DCC but is DCC-ready with a 6-pin decoder. I'm guessing it is a lok sound micro decoder but it would be nice to see what the chip and assembly looks like underneath.

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  5. Hi Rob! This set actually came installed with the decoder (and sound unit) already in it. I suspect its a standard Trix Selectrix/DCC decoder, but I've never taken it apart so can't say for sure what they have under there.

    I've used a lot of those 6 pin "NEM 651" decoders and they are really easy to install. If you have this plug, then I would recommend the ESU lok sound micro, or the Lenz Silver Mini D (I think that's the right one).

    Just make sure that the whole decoder will fit. I've never had this problem with any of my Minitrix installs, but some of my Fleischmann require the 6 pin plug to be on a harness (see my 'review' of the Fleischmann BLS electric loco).

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  6. Thanks Jerry. It does have a NEM 651 plug -- the Northlander is the same unit at the TEE RAM loco so I'm assuming I can fit the speaker in there somewhere if Minitrix did it. Now... if only I could find a Lok Sound dealer here in Canada!

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  7. Rob,
    That will make it easy, I've been somewhat intimidated by the idea of trying to install speakers and sound! This does intrigue me, as soon as I get some time, I'll open up the RAm TEE to see how Minitrix wired everything in!

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  8. Claus Pedersen10/8/10, 4:18 PM

    Hi. Thank you for this great blog.

    I live in Denmark. I can tell you that trains does not have bells in Europe.
    About the Ram TEE model... I have also experienced issues with the stability off the power pickup.
    I think it comes down to an internal problem or perhaps something with the balance.

    The bulb in the passengercar can be changed, so that you can get light again. :)

    Have a nice day over there. :)

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  9. Hi Claus! Great to hear from you! Thanks for the clarification on the 'bell'! :-) I sort of assumed that to be true, but one never knows!

    I've recently discovered some of the cool trains of Denmark....I love the look of the MA! The black and red paint scheme is really nice to me as well!

    Thanks for posting and for reading my little blog!

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  10. Claus Pedersen10/13/10, 4:19 AM

    Hi there

    I have just fixed the issues with power pickup.
    I soldered wires for one of the passenger cars to the pickups I the locomotive. Now it runs perfectly.

    Have a nice day

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  11. That's a great idea Claus! When I get some time, I just may try that!

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  12. Claus,

    Could you explain a little further please. Are you saying that your locomotive now draws power from both it's own pickups and those of the passenger car? Were there convenient wires on the locomotive to attach to?

    I am considering the Swiss version of the TEE RAM as my next purchase.

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