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Bachmann China NJ2

Prototype Information

The NJ2 locomotives were built by General Electric in the United States. A total of 78 units were made and they are solely used on the Qingzang railway between Golmud and Lhasa (Tibet). Mechanically at least, they are very similar to GE's popular C44-9W (not used in China), although slightly more powerful at 3,800kw and designed to run at high altitudes. Passenger trains to Lhasa often consist of three of these locomotives, however double headers and quad headers are frequently seen as well. On rare occasions, DF8B's are used in conjunction with the NJ2's.

Model Production Summary

Release Date Production Number Production Run Scale Road #s Livery
August 2007 CD00401 1st HO (1:87) 0001 White, Light Blue
" " CD00402 " " " " 0002 White, Light Blue
" " CD00403 " " " " 0003 White, Light Blue
" " CD00404 " " " " 0076 Dark Green / Gold
" " CD00405 " " " " 0077 Dark Green / Gold
" " CD00406 " " " " 0078 Dark Green / Gold
2009 CD00407 2nd " " 0007 White, Light Blue
" " CD00408 " " " " 0008 White, Light Blue
" " CD00409 " " " " 0009 White, Light Blue
" " CD00410 " " " " 0019 Dark Green / Gold
" " CD00411 " " " " 0020 Dark Green / Gold
" " CD00412 " " " " 0021 Dark Green / Gold

Other notes;
- CD00401 - 406 were initially sold in sets containing three locomotives (one each of 401, 402 & 403 or 404, 405 & 406 with a pair of passenger cars, but later separately.
- CD00407 - 412 were sold in generic packaging from damaged Tibet sets.

Model Review

General

Bachmann's NJ2 entered the market with great fanfare around the same time the Tibet railway was opened. Despite the extensive marketing campaign, this is one model that appears to have been a commercial failure. A total of twelve road numbers in an even split between the standard green & yellow and "White Swan" liveries are offered. Initially, these were offered in 3 cars sets (the first three numbers of each) with a further six (the second half of the run) offered separately. After a few years, many of the stored sets were damaged in the warehouse due to humidity and the locomotives were sold in generic packaging. Each of these survivor units had a paint spot and a drilled hole through the bottom of the fuel tank, supposedly to uphold the value of the collector sets already sold.

Details
Build quality of these models is generally very high. Features cast in the body shell look good. Handrails are excellent and bogie details are very nice indeed - those copper pipes look superb! I do like the metal grilles behind the cab, which be separate brass parts - however there is a flaw with these in relation to lighting, explained later. Models come with side mirrors to be added by the owner.

On the down side, the air horn assembly looks a bit primitive, despite being standard Bachmann practice at the time, windshield wipers are a bit on the bulky side and the ladders dislodge very easily from the model. If you disassemble the model for adding DCC, modifications, repairs etc, it may be worthwhile adding a small spot of plastic cement to hold these in place.

The paint work is nice, although I am not enthusiastic of the high gloss finish, particularly on the green version. Likewise, the black undercarriage is a very high gloss black. Lettering is very sharp.

Performance

Movement is very smooth and responsive in both directions throughout the speed range. The motor is reasonably silent and there is no/minimal gearbox noise between the different units I have. This is where the good news ends and where this model's major fault begins.

When power is applied, particularly when hauling a train, the force is applied to the centre axle at a force great enough to slightly raise the front axle of each bogie. The very low wheel flanges, combined with the lift, causes (very) frequent derailments. Professional model railroaders prefer the low wheel flanges for use on fine scale track and aesthetic purposes and I suspect this may have been a turning point for Bachmann in fitting the aptly named "pizza cutter" deep wheel flanges on all their future models. A great disappointment, considering this poor performance is not evident on any of their prior released models. My locomotives were tested thoroughly on my layout prior to its dismantling and were unworkable on gradients and any form of corner (even with huge 40" radius curves!).

Electronics

Power is ferried from the rails via a circuit board to the motor and the lighting system. DCC plug is the standard 8 pin variety.

Headlights are a white/blue color with a reasonable intensity. The LED's to power the front lights sit some distance away, being over the rear axle of the front wheel set and the light is transferred via a clear plastic tube to the four headlights and front forward marker lights. While this works OK, it seems the designers totally overlooked the need for insulating the LEDs and they shine through the body shell as if the model is powered on depleted uranium. Lights are directional with red marker lights when running in reverse.

Coupler Conversion
These models are fitted with plastic Bachmann EZ mates which can be swapped out for medium shank for Kadee knuckle couplers (58/158's). Swapping couplers is somewhat fiddly and unlike most Bachmann models where the coupler box is held together with a screw, the design with the NJ2's is held in by components that clip together and slide into the pilot. Body shell must be removed to change the couplers.

Other Notes
A decent model flawed by frequent derailments and silly lighting. I can only speculate as to why they sold so abysmally and is most likely due to a range of factors such as the prototype, one of the ugliest diesels in existance, too expensive (initially at least) and the operational problems.

Review Summary


The Good News

The Bad News
Good looking replica of a very ugly locomotive! Nearly unusable on most layouts
Available in limited edition sets or separately LED lighting shines through body work
Some details are very well done Paint finish is too glossy for my liking

Model Photos


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