MTC has made its first foray into die-cast models with the DF4C being the first to be released in this method, to date unusual for the Chinese market. These are rather heavy locomotives, this one weighing in at 690 grams with plenty of room inside the shell for more weight if required. Six versions have been made, including two special versions, with 300 units per road number. The outer cardboard box is a little on the thin side, although the inner is nice with lots of foam and a one piece plastic clam shell with sleeve. The model itself is protected from scuffing by being draped in a nice thick, soft plastic sheet.
MTC have used the same shells for their early DF4D models. It is unlikely I will buy one of them for my collection, however it is safe to assume they would be identical in most aspects to the DF4C's asides from liveries and other cosmetic differences.
The wheel sets are a real work of art with lovely depth with even individual traction motors realistically reproduced. Springs are part of the cast, shying away from the individual springs many manufacturers are opting for, however they still provide a good amount of detail. Brake cylinders, traction bars, shock absorbers and a host of other details are all present and correct. The builders plates are etched brass and the detail is good enough to die for. One of mine was unfortunately applied at a very slight angle, and being a Ziyang version is unlikely that they were polished brass (the real Ziyang plates being fibre glass), although this is nit picking and they look superb regardless. Other model makers should take note that making good details such as these are not impossible and are greatly appreciated.
Some of the notable features on my version are wire handrails (with appropriately coloured stantions), fine windshield wipers, milled brass air horns, full interior details and even a realistic engine housing the electric motor. Wind visors are included in the box to be installed. Mine will definitely be added at some stage in the near future, as MTC have drilled holes through the shell the entire width of the body to accommodate them and it's a bit too noticeable to ignore.
The paint work looks very nice, with razor sharp lining and very crisp lettering. There is a flaw on my version, with the white paint of the China Rail heralds on the front of the locomotive being a bit too thin, allowing for the cream stripe to be visible underneath it. The main paint itself also appears to be a bit too thick for my liking (although there is a possibility that this is the detail from the body cast itself; I'm not willing to strip the paint off my version to check!). The thick paint is more obvious around the top of the cab doors and side louvre vents.
The motors used are very strong and with the weight (plus potential for lots more) will ensure these are used actively in people's fleets! There is a little bit of noise, but not distractingly so. Electricity is picked up from all wheels via a copper brush system and the locomotive performs superbly through the speed range.
The PC board will accept a plug and play 8 pin decoder for DCC users. There are a number of predrilled holes, most likely for the installation of speakers (dual). In DC mode, marker lights, cab lights and main headlight are directional with red marker lights displayed on the rear most cab according to direction of travel. This is the first Chinese prototype model to feature an engine room light as well to show off all the amazing detail underneath. The cab lighting and engine room lighting is a bit too strong for my liking (and perhaps too yellow) so I diffusing them a bit is certainly on the list of priorities. I would have also liked to have seen some bogie lights as well which is becoming a popular trend with Chinese models now. Headlights are a very nice pale peach colour and marker lights are a good strength. All lighting is provided by use of LED's. I have no doubt certain lights can be turned off in DCC mode, although I haven't been able to test this at the time of writing.
The model is fitted with scale plastic non functioning couplers. Most modellers will want to replace with scale heads, in which case you would need 56/156's with long shanks. 58/158's may also work, although clearances will be minimal.
Finally a DF4C in model mode! They offer many good features over their plastic brethren without the very high prices of brass models. CMR Line will release their plastic models in a short while and it will be interesting to see how they fare against MTC's. Over all MTC have produced a very high quality model which are a welcome addition for collectors.