Our preliminary evaluation of these two,new,high tech releases has resulted in the following observations:
Bachmann Spectrum Mountain 4-8-2:
The detail and the running gear are comparable to their first release, the acclaimed, Consolidation 2-8-0. Generally the 4-8-2 has been cast in the “same mold”. Because it is larger than the 2-8-0, the 4-8-2 has good hauling power (10 Spectrum Heavy Passenger units over a 4% grade).
However, some of these early production units have been released that exhibit the following problems:
(A) Bent or distorted electrical pick-up wipers on the loco’s main drivers. There are eight of these phosphor-bronze wipers, one on each of the loco’s main drivers that have been designed to wipe the inside rims. We found some of these wipers distorted and wiping on the spoke area. These can be repositioned by using a suitable tweezers.
(B) A chattering noise or sound related to the operation of the motor and drive linkages. Chatter increases with RPM and was more prevalent in reverse.
(C) Waddling or yawing of the loco side to side,probably as a result of a slight quartering intolerance.In most cases this waddling was barely noticeable and acceptable.
We are in the process of evaluating our stock and have been working directly with the folks at Bachmann to resolve the issues. They have advised us that the loco side rods and mechanisms are delicate and should be carefully handled. They also suggest the user to lubricate the side rods before steady running. I am confident that the 4-8-2 issues will soon be resolved to the benefit of all.
Note: The 4-8-2 uses the standard 2X4 NMRA plug assy. Any decoder with this plug will work for DCC operation. Soundtraxx will soon be releasing a special Plug n Play decoder for both Spectrums.
Athearn Gen.2-8-2 Mikado.
Athearns first entry into the steam market is impressive. The 2-8-2 rivals the Bachmann Spectrum steam series! The appearance and detail is excellent, and the running gear is precision Korean format consistent with their brass offerings. The electrical pick-up is accomplished by using split axles and frame. Therefore no wipers are required, a big plus in my opinion. Although the molded detail is excellent, the user is required to add a significant portion of the fine detail elements like hand rails. The front light uses a yellow LED which is not attractive.
I have two concerns with this loco:
(A) The wiring or the umbilical between the loco and tender is covered with black shrink tubing.The stiffness of this combination virtually renders the loco inoperative.The user can remove this shrink tube with a razor knife and then paint the wires.Caution,there have been user reports about the fragile termination soldering of these wires causing breaking or shorting.
(B) Traction.The 2-8-2 will pull only about ten average freight cars over a 4% grade. This may improve as the loco rims get worn.
Notes: The 2-8-2 uses a 9 pin header connector for DCC conversion. The following decoders will mate directly with this header plug:
System One: DH155.
NCE Corp: D104EU,D104US
The above locos and more similar models to come represent a good opportunity for the Steam moddlers to have high performance and good detail at a reasonable cost.
If you would like to add to this evaluation, email your comments.