CMR have released another HXD electric series locomotive, in the form of the very recent HXD3D, in August of 2015. This one stands out from most of the other HXD's thanks to its striking red livery, a welcome change over the usual blue/grey livery most other HXD locomotives are wearing. In typical CMR fashion, they've made 23 road numbers from 11 bureaus (!), more than I could ever dream of collecting and have produced all three liveries, one of which is the decorated version. Sadly the two special liveries are very difficult to acquire.
Overall these are very well made locomotives, with ultra fine details and are certainly an improvement from CMR's past locomotives. There are however some issues that I'm having a hard time trying to swallow. The most glaring one is the pantograph with its very ugly and unnecessary grey plastic mount which has been carried on from its SS6B, SS3B (and the HXD1D which has superseded this model). It's sticks out even more on this locomotive as the roof is comparatively bare compared to the Shaoshan type electrics. As mentioned from the SS6B review, this appears to have been done to improve the functionality of the pantograph, but it's certainly degraded the looks. Given this locomotive is otherwise very nice and I intend to use them frequently on my layout, this one is definitely up for a replacement pantograph! There is also the mystery of the pair of roof mounted insulators with wires that end suspended in mid air. Both wires are supposed to join up to the two front pantograph mounts. Note the prototype has a slightly different arrangement (although CMR's version all the same type).
The rest of the detailing is superb. There are some minor differences between the decorated Mao Ze Dong version with the very nice addition of air conditioners and bank of standard air horns over the 3 standard + 1 loudspeaker type that the rest of the class employ. Although the Mao version is the same basic livery as the rest of the class, there are some slight variations in having a solid red roof and larger maroon colored area around the front. Paint is evenly applied and is not overly glossy or matte. Lettering is razor sharp and the ultra small lettering, particularly around the front is very impressive. I would have liked to have seen separate number plates (and perhaps depot plates) on the decorated version as the gold characters don't show up quite as well as they could. The Mao Ze Dong badge on the front is a little bit on the thick side, but less noticeable on this than say the SS6B version as it's a much larger plate.
It is nice to see they've taken the effort to apply a little extra detail paint work with door handles and white steps. under carriage detail is very good. Bogies have a good amount of depth and a good amount of detail. While I do like the red & white painted wheels on older locomotives, the slotted disc brakes on these models look fantastic. Standard versions come with side mirrors to be installed.
Both of my examples run fairly differently from each other. I was able to buy one of the regular versions in person in my latest visit to Hong Kong, but passed over four models before I found one that runs perfectly. The other models tested weren't limited to one particular type of noise, some with the typical gearbox noise, some sounding that things were unacceptably out of sync. The one I eventually selected runs silently and is quite a strong locomotive. Sadly the Mao version which I had no choice but to buy sight unseen is generating a lot of gearbox noise and I'm hoping a service will be all that's required to put things back in order before it begins regular operations. It appears it is a bit of a gamble getting a good one straight out of the box, more concerning that there appears to be a range of quality control issues with the mechanism.
There seems to have been no attempt to further the pantograph design from the SS6B locomotive and as a result I am very hesitant to use them. My example seems more sturdy than the old SS3 locomotives and springs up well enough, however the pantograph blades are very sharp and have a tendency to scrape along the contact wire, rather than glide underneath it. The result can mean even the slightest imperfection in your overhead will see it ripped apart. Until spare parts become more readily available or I upgrade the pantograph to a better design, I will keep these securely on the roof. (pssstt, CMR... just have a quick peek at those lovely flat blades on Bachmann's)
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. DCC plug is the standard 8 pin variety. Power can be picked up via both rails or one rail/pantograph (if you dare!) - there is a selector switch under the center roof panel.
The lighting is system is good, being directional and good colors on the main headlights (white) and markers (yellow/forward or red/reverse). The main headlights are however a bit weak, certainly less so than the larger type on their SS3B/ SS6B locomotives.
CMR have continued the use of plastic knuckle couplers in its recent locomotives. They appear to have long shanks and aren't excessively protruding. They are not overly good quality and most modellers will probably replace them. For those who like Kadee couplers, they can be easily replaced with #56/156's).
The pantograph is my continued source of annoyance with CMR locomotives, however if you only want one of the modern Chinese locomotives in your collection, I would highly recommend this be the one.