CMR latest locomotive is yet another in the modern HXD range, this time the semi streamlined HXD1D. Like the HXD3D , it stands out from most of the other HXD's thanks to its striking red livery, a welcome change over the usual blue & grey. In typical CMR fashion, they've made a whopping twenty three road numbers from seven bureaus including two prototypes, thwarting my ability to collect one of each. Asides from the garden variety, there are two prototype versions with a black front and decorated unit Zhou Enlai with a plaque bust of the man himself mounted to the front and a blue front. As usual, these three versions are rather difficult to acquire. While they are definitely CMR Line products, with the instruction sheet showing CMR, the box has "Train Garden" and I've noticed this one a few other Chinese models including a brass SS8, which leads me to believe Train Garden contracted CMR to build these models. Another oddity is the Zhao Enlai version comes in a purple box and has a rather bizarre name on the box called "Angela Technology" - possibly the oddest name for a Chinese model company since "Orangutan Models"...
I must admit, I have never really appreciated these locomotives and I was rather nonchalant about getting one, however I can happily say after receiving my first, it really is quite a superb model. The paint work is tremendous as we're starting to get accustomed to from CMR and the lettering is simply superb. They still haven't really sorted out the main pantograph mount, however they have at least painted it in the same color as the pantograph so it blends in a lot better - an effective fix for my other CMR locomotives until a pantograph transplant becomes an option. The pantograph itself is very nice, and the blades look superb. Roof detail is quite good also, but not too much to comment on as these modern locomotives don't have much exposed componentry. (some versions, have more wires and insulators fitted as per prototype). I thought the rest of the detail was a bit bare at first, but then noticed that CMR decided to reinvent the Chinese puzzle box and supply a bag absolutely choc-a-bloc with details parts to be installed by the owner. This includes, but not limited to, side mirrors, air hoses, foot steps, bogie side steps, sanding pipes, some doovalackeys and a few other whats-its. Fortunately most of these parts are also pre-painted and an instruction sheet is included and has diagrams to show where (most) of these parts go. That's a good thing, because it's all in Chinese language and that would have been some task guessing where everything went. The Zhou Enlai version requires the installation of the two brass headboards. These are a bit fiddly to attach and the sockets may require some gentle enlarging for the plugs to fit.
The undercarriage and bogies are brilliant, and those familiar with video game lingo, would say CMR have "Levelled Up". Wheel flanges are a little on the deep side, but not excessively so and work fine through my code 83 points work with no issues. Wheels have the disc brakes painted on rather than separate pieces.
Handrails on the front and sides are formed from wire and are unpainted, as per prototype. The air horns, at least on the standard version, are plastic which is quite surprising, however they are painted grey anyway like the real thing. While the windshield wipers looked larger than usual, they're quite large on the prototype, so again no problems here.
This model went out of the box and onto the test track and immediately I was shocked.. ...to find this is one of the quietest and smoothest locomotives in my collection of over 600 locomotives! It is really that good. While I have had different experiences with CMR line products from one locomotive to the next, I would like to hope that the rest of the locomotives like that.
Even more surprisingly, I'm quite confident in using the pantograph (however for aesthetic reasons only). I never thought I would see the day. The blades are finally a nice smooth and flat design. It has a strong spring action.
Power is ferried from the rails (or pantograph and rail if you wish) via a circuit board to the motor and the lighting system. At the time of writing, I have not converted my example to run on DCC. This is the first locomotive I have noticed which has provision for either an 8 pin OR 21 pin decoder. To install a decoder, you will need to lift off the shell by removing the coupler screws and the large electric box between the wheel sets.
The lighting is system is excellent. Headlights are directional and good colors on the main headlights (white(ish) blue) and markers (yellow/forward or red/reverse). The main headlights are strong.
CMR have continued the use of plastic knuckle couplers in its recent locomotives. They are not overly good quality and most modellers will probably replace them. They appear to have long shanks and aren't excessively protruding. I have not yet converted mine, however I think one would be pressed to install medium shank couplers as the uncoupling bar would most likely snag on the bottom of the coupler head. For those who like Kadee couplers, they can be easily replaced with #56/156's).
This has honestly been a very hard locomotive to fault. CMR have lifted the proverbial bar higher than I could have hoped for, especially so soon after the HXD3D. While I do prefer the HXD3D prototype, this is one seriously good model. I can't wait to see their future models.