SS9 Class Co-Co
The SS9's are a Co-Co electric locomotive, used exclusively for mainline passenger service. Asides from the improved SS9G, these SS9's are the final locomotive class in the ShaoShan family and may be amongst the final to be retired as the HXD series are ushered in. They were all built at Datong Electric Locomotive works and only 43 were built in this style before the improved SS9G's took over with road numbers starting at 0044. They are designed with an operational speed of 170kph and have a maximum power output of 5400kw. The class is unusual in that it wears a rather striking metallic paint livery. The SS9's were fairly split between Shanghai and Shenyang depot, mostly operating express trains from these cities to Beijing, however it seems the remaining class members are exclusively based out of Shenyang.
N27 released a plastic version of the SS9, to date the only manufacturer for this type. Seven versions were made, with six different road numbers. There are some subtle differences between each version as well as different livery options. Only 100 pieces of each number were produced, however they are still available for sale from some retailers as of 2023. I am quite surprised by this as they are not a bad model overall and the price is reasonable.
The SS9's are supported in a sleeved clear plastic clam shell and are packed in a substantial two piece foam lined cardboard box. The model is wrapped in a soft sheet of plastic to protect the paint work rubbing on the plastic shell. Inside the box is an information/instruction sheet in Chinese language.
The main body shell is injected molded plastic. The level of detail was very good at the time of production and it looks very good in its proportions. There are some visible mold lines from the manufacturing process, mostly evident between the front and side sections on the curved edge of the cab.
Most of the added detail parts are metal, such as brass air horns, steel wire handrails, metal ladders, electrical plug handles and the roof electrical components. Larger detail parts such as the air conditioners, battery boxes and brake resistor grids on the roof are all plastic which have good detail. Bogies are also plastic, but look nice and it's good to see manufacturer plates have been added to them. Windshield wipers are very fine and made of brass. Air hoses are plastic and are painted with colored hose ends and taps and uncoupling rods are painted in the main body colour with red handles. My version, #0035, is the only variant to be equipped with four electrical plugs on each end, where as the other versions have two. These do come out very easily and after losing one, I intend to fix them in place in the near future. The cabs are detailed with chairs and controls, but no crew are added. The 'glass' looks realistic and has black or chrome edges as per prototype, although the marker light glass looks not so good as there is still plastic flash visible from where the parts were clearly snapped off a sprue during the manufacturing process. At least one version, #0001 has a larger side cab window. Roof detail is very good with fine wires and realistic looking insulators. The pantographs themselves are very nice and have a good spring action, however they have a somewhat fictitious mount, similar to many of CMR Line's electric locomotives. It is not overly obvious, and is clearly done for strength, but would be nice if they could have found a different way of fixing them to the roof.
The paint is quite interesting on these models. N27 have used a metallic blue paint, almost turquoise color paint for the main color. The only other Chinese model to use this type of paint was a couple of versions of Bachmann's SS8 electric locomotives many years ago. The color seems to match most of the real SS9's, especially from their early years, but I have noticed in recent years in my travels to China the paint on a number of SS9's is quite a bit bluer (as seen in the prototype photo above, taken in 2016). This doesn't make the color incorrect for the models and I am happy to note the version I bought, #0035, is very close to the real 0035 which I found in Shenyang - also in 2016. The main color however does seem to be a little bit too heavy on the 'metallic grain', although I'm not sure this could have been avoided with the available paint technology at the time. The edge of the paint between colours is very sharp and lettering is very good, even on the smaller lettering.
Asides from a number of the smaller detail parts being hand painted, N27 have also made a few variations between road numbers, according to prototype. The main color differences are the roof color which is offered in metallic blue, oxide or grey. The front China Rail logo is either red or white depending on road number.
All wheels provide electrical pick up via brass contacts behind the wheel rims. The axles are all geared to work together and the motor is fairly strong with heavy brass fly wheels installed on the drive shaft either side of the motor to assist with smooth performance. The motor on my sample is very quiet and runs well throughout the speed range.
N27's are all delivered in DC mode. They are DCC ready with provision for an 8-pin decoder of your choice (to date, my remain in DC mode). Lights are all LED's and there are directional headlights and white/red marker lights. The lights have a good color, but I find the main headlight a little on the weak side. A cab light is also active in DC model depending on direction of travel, presumably these all lights can be controlled manually when running in DCC. In DC mode, the lights can be turned on manually when the locomotive is stationary, via a switch hidden underneath the roof mounted air conditioner on #II end.
Shell removal is easy - A total of four screws hold the shell to the frame, a pair at each end of the locomotive just behind the couplers. The shell can be gently pried off the shell by gently pulling away to lift the body lugs out of the indents in the frame.
The SS9's arrive with plastic knuckle couplers. I have swapped mine out for Kadee #158 scale head 'whisker' couplers are removed the magnetic pins (as seen in all photos in this review). Replacing couplers is a very straight forward affair, just remove the screw underneath the coupler box and slide the coupler box out of the front of the pilot.