Due to the very fine and huge amounts of detail, it is important to handle these with extreme care. There are very few 'gripping' points. A small detail parts bag is included, albeit with no installation instructions, as well as a small bag of extra coal (although the one installed is perfectly adequate!) The parts bag includes a tender coal stoker, re-railing blocks and a small number of springs and screws - not sure exactly what these are for.
Imon's QJ class 2-10-2 brass models were built by Ajin of Korea and were sold from the beginning of the year 2000. A total of eight versions were produced covering all the major changes of the QJ class over its history including 8 or 12 wheel tenders, high smoke deflectors and Giesl or standard exhaust with standard, mildly decorated or heavily decorated liveries available. Despite a very limited production, sales appear to have been relatively slow with a number of examples still available through Imon. This can most likely be attributed to a combination of a high unit cost, Chinese models being a relatively new market and Bachmann's first QJ release shortly after Imon's.
The version I have acquired is #3255 - a high deflector, highly decorated, 8 wheel tender version. The details are simply incredible - the best I have ever seen on any model. The paint work is stunning with gloss black for most of locomotive and a matt black finish over the smoke box. The chrome characters on the smoke box banner, smoke deflectors and cab sides are microscopically fine and evenly installed. Quite possibly the most breathtaking feature are the separately applied brass boiler bands a real work of art. All the other details are incredibly fine, typical of what one would expect from a brass locomotive. It is impossible to note all of the brilliant details of this model - trust me, it's perfect! A few worth noting are the water effect under the operable water hatches on the tender, fully detailed cab interior details and the rubber diaphragm between the tender and locomotive.
In fact, the only fault I can pick with regards to the aesthetics of this model is the larger glass panel in the sliding roof section which appears to have been cut relatively roughly.
The packaging is very solid and adequately protects the model. it comprises of a two piece solid cardboard box with foam supports. The locomotive and tender are individually wrapped in a fibrous fine cloth and plastic sheet. A point of note is to be extremely careful when removing the cloth sheet from the locomotive as it has a tendency to snag on some of the details and damage them. Of note on my example, a couple of the fine Chinese characters on the smoke deflector bent outwards as the packaging had caught on it.
The QJ is an extremely heavy locomotive so should give no traction problems. The driving wheels are spring loaded. The center driving wheel is blind (flangeless) just as the prototype is. Having only run this on a DC test track so far, I am unable to comment on DCC operations. In DC mode on straight level track, it has a huge amount of power, provided by the superb whisper quiet Canon EN-22 can motor. Pulling a sizeable train on straight and level track will not be a problem.
As mentioned above, I have not yet had a chance to open the locomotive up to check out the state of affairs for DCC conversion, although I am confident a decoder will need to be hard wired. Electrical pickup is from the driving wheels of the locomotive on one side, and tender wheels from the other. Conductivity between the locomotive and tender is via the drawbar with a spring loaded wire, typical of most brass steam locomotives. Although my version is a twin headlight version, only the lower light is operational. The tender light is also non-operational.
The tender has a kadee coupler installed as well as a scale knuckle coupler on the front. Although operational and somewhat compatible with other Kadee couplers, it's not designed to be a functional coupler.
In a very brief summary, Imon's QJ is simply the Rolls Royce of Chinese models.
Obviously cost is a major factor when purchasing models, but the big question is how much better is it over Bachmann's and more recently, MTC's brass locomotive. As for MTC, which was advertised as being a superior model at less than half the cost. I have being assured by retailers that Imon's is still the superior quality, and while I have not yet been able to review an MTC QJ, I can't see how MTC could improve above Imon's. Comparing Imon's and Bachmann's QJ's is a bit unfair, both models are worlds apart - however there is a case for the 10 x Bachmann to 1 x Imon ratio!