The DF3's are Haidar's second model, and in what seems to be their fascination with the older railway models of China, have chosen the DF3. This may be Haidar's last plastic model as they are moving towards brass models, which seems to be the latest trend in China. The first production run comprised of 6 road numbers in the standard Green/gold livery, the second was a limitied edition model (1000 pieces) in the rare blue/white livery as used on the San-Mao Railway (Guangdong province).
Simply put, these are the most heavily detailed plastic models I've ever come across, even surpassing many brass models. There are a massive amount of seperately applied parts, mostly in brass - some of which have to be seen to be believed. The windshield wipers, grab irons and handrails are absolutely beautiful. The hollowed out brass horns are mounted on twin pole stantions. Really very pretty. There is a small baggy of parts for side mirrors, that are so small, I'm simply too terrified to even open it up.
Unfortunately, they've come down a notch (or a few) in terms of how much one can handle the models before pieces start falling off. Of my four models, I've had to repair over 50 small detail parts (and yes, I handle these with extreme care) - and more often than not, all different, from ladders, headlight lens, horns, window 'glass', side light metal fascia - the list goes on. It appears that many of these parts may have come loose during the production assembly as there are tell-tale signs of repairs (white stains caused by the superglue fumes) on a couple of my factory sourced models - one even had a finger print on it! I've also noticed some parts are attached incorrectly or slightly off center to what they should. When running back to back, the units don't align with the other, which shows that the shell sits on the frame at a bit of an angle! To remove these models from the extraordinarily tight boxes, open both ends of the box, then grip the ears of one end and push the polystyrene inner box with your thumbs about an inch or two. The inner box can then be pulled out with one hand while gripping the outer cardboard sleeve with the other. The only safe way to handle these engines is to pick it up with your thumb and middle finger over the top while squeezing the fuel tank. Picking it up by the bogies will make the footsteps simply snap off.
The paint work is very evenly applied and all lines and lettering is extremely sharp and crisp. Each model sports its own individual detail differences as per prototype, with some having extra front handrails or a stainless steel strip, different colored number boards and either green or yellow rear doors.
Although these are quite short models, they are very heavy and on level track should easily haul a 10 car passenger train. Electrical pickup is perfect, motors are very quiet and the throttle is very responsive - however due to the drive system, the wheels seem to 'fall' into the teeth of the gears, creating a very slight hiccup at very low speeds, similar to the SS1 electrics.
Inside the model is a PC board where an 8 pin decoder can easily be substituted for the dummy plug. I appreciated the room to actually house a decoder. There is also room for a DXDC sound decoder, the top detachable section of the frame has a space for a speaker for these. The DF3's have very white directional (almost blue) LED's for the main headlights front and rear and also directional red LED's on the opposite direction of movement. The LED's are very strong and shine through the dark green plastic sides of the headlight on the B end of the engine. However this may not be such a big problem as these engines rarely ran a train while in reverse and while in back to back operation, the lights in between the units were switched off - the rear lights can simply be unplugged from inside the model to turn them off permanently. There was a mis-wiring issue with all the green DF3's. To explain, one of the wires connecting the red marker lights on the front are accidentally connected to the white marker lights. This (In DCC mode at least), will cause all the front lights to turn on (including the red ones!) when going forward with no lights on the rear end - and vice versa when run in reverse.
The stock couplers are dummy knuckle couplers, that no words (profanity is an exception) can begin to show my dismay. A medium shank coupler is good for replacing these (Kadee #5, 58 or 158). Short shank couplers (kadee #53/153) can be used for the rear ends if double heading for a nice close appearance, however this should only be attempted by those who have layouts with broad curves, or the rear lights will make contact with each other (and will probably snap off).
Despite the problems, these are hugely popular amongst modellers and when it comes to Chinese models, there's really nothing quite like it. If handled with care, they shouldn't give too much trouble and will be one of the highlights in your collection.