DF4D

1:87 Scale

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Rating
5 - 7.5/10*

DF4D Class Diesel-electric Co-Co

Bachmann China

Production Summary

Prototype Information

DF4D's were the forth version of the popular DF4 series of mainline locomotive. The early examples shared the same boxy body styling as the DF4C's, which was given a more sleek look soon after by making the front of the roof more curved and the squared off headlight given a cylindrical housing. The first DF4D's were passenger locomotives and were crimson/cream and geared for speeds of 140kph. There is also a sizeable fleet of freight DF4D's, geared for lower speeds. On top of this there are a few sub-classes designated DF4DF and DF4DH for freight, DF4DD for industrial / shunting use and DF4DK for passenger service. This review covers the DF4D, DF4DF and DF4DH varieties.

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General Information

(First Series)

The first series of DF4D was released at the same time as the 1st series of DF4B locomotives. Comparatively they were poor sellers, and many brand new examples can be found on eBay from time to time. This does not imply they were inferior to the DF4B's, but certainly were less popular.

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(Second Series)

The second series was a limited edition model of DF4D 1893 "Mao Ze Dong", named after the PRC's leader from 1949-1976. Although limited, they were fairly slow in selling initially, however prices on the second hand market have risen considerably recently.

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(Third Series)

A year on, another limited edition DF4D was released. This was also a decorated locomotive, although less outrageous than "1893 Mao ZeDong", with a small plaque on each end in celebration for the Communist "Youth" movement. The model was initially commissioned by a model railway club in China, but was released to the masses shortly after.

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(Fourth Series)

The fourth series of DF4D was the first to introduce the freight DF4D's - two DF4DF's and two DF4DH's. The two DF4DF's were cancelled for unknown reasons, but would have been in the Tiger Stripe livery, similar to the passenger DF4DK's. The two that survived the modelling axe, were two rare DF4DH's, a freight variant with extra ballasting to give a greater axle weight, and thus more tractive effort. They can be identified from regular DF4D's by the lower side panelling, not to mention the light blue freight color scheme.

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(Fifth Series)

Two variants have been made, the prototype DF4D 0001 with the later rebuilt cab design (rounded roof and round headlight) and DF4D 0489 with Tiger Stripe livery. The Tiger Stripe scheme is applied to the entire DF4DK class, however a few DF4D's and DF4DF's were also painted in these colors. Both models were limited editions.

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(Sixth Series)

Two new freight variants of the DF4D were released in late 2012, although both variants have also been used in passenger service to a limited degree. The latest version have the more modern rounded shape that most of the class have (or were rebuilt into). Both locomotives are Beijing bureau. The paint work and lettering on my sample is absolutely beautiful, sharp, very evenly applied and a really beautiful color scheme.

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Packaging

(First - Fourth Series)

The early DF4D's came in a thick cardboard box with a thin cardboard sleeve with display window. The inner portion is a plastic clam shell with clear plastic sleeve. The box contains warranty information, and instruction sheet with diagrams and any applicable add-on details.   

(Fifth - Sixth Series)

These DF4D's came with a thick windowless two part box and the same sleeved plastic clam shell to hold the model in place. The box contains warranty information, and instruction sheet with diagrams and any applicable add-on details.   

Details

(First Series)

The models were very nicely detailed with the main body shell made in plastic with many seperately applied plastic or metal details. Unline the DF4B's, these models have open side cab windows. Four road numbers were made with two beureaus. The differences between the 4 models is simply in the placement and difference in the lettering. The paint work is very nicely done, razor sharp lining and very crisp lettering.

Unfortunately these models also share the same body warp problems as the DF4B's (you can read more about that also in the DF4B review - link above) due to the design of the frame where the body sides above the bogies sinks in. The bogies look very shallow and the details, for example sanding boxes, look much smaller than what they should be. These are simple press fit bogies, and although replacement improved side frames can be sourced, Bachmann haven't made any in the unique muddy grey color as featured on the DF4D's.

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(Second Series)

This has so far been the only DF4D produced in the rare Dark Blue/Cream livery and was the first decorated DF4D locomotive made. This model had seperately applied brass number/beureau plates, a large plaque on the cab ends bearing Mao's face and a bank of five airhorns on each end of the roof above the cab.

These models shared the same internals as the previous edition, so unfortunately also suffer from body warp. They also sport the shallow bogie style, although these can be replaced with Bachmann's replacement bogie side frames, with no difference in color being standard medium grey.

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(Third Series)

This model was a retooled DF4D model and featured the rounder roof design with circular headlight housing as seen on later examples of DF4D. The tooling for the early version hasn't been used since. The chassis was improved with this version which eliminated the body warp from previous runs. The improved bogies were also used with this model, giving much greater depth than the previous versions.​

(Fourth Series)

This appears to be a slightly retooled version from the others with m.u. plugs above the pilot, side panelling and the side cab windows with a very slightly different shape (and closed). Asides from that, and the new style air hoses, the detail differences are minimal.

(Fifth Series)

These locomotives employ the same new chassis as the latest DF4B locomotives (6th series). They unfortunately share the high profile wheels. Some detail changes are the handrail design, being the new one-piece style and rear vision mirrors fitted below the side cab windows.

(Sixth Series)

Minimal differences between these and the fifth series DF4D, apart from two new livery's and the omission of cab mirrors.

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Performance

(First - Third Series)

These engines are extremely heavy - which is a good thing for pulling heavy trains. Electrical pickup is perfect, and they are very quiet, responsive and smooth. There are two very large brass flywheels to help with this. I have noted over time that the motors have worn out on a few of them, and the pulling power has fallen to about half of its original capabilities. They have low wheel flanges and can navigate through most commercially available track 70, 83, 100 with ease. 

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(Fourth Series)

These two versions appear to be stronger than all previous releases, which leads me to believe that the motor has been upgraded to a more powerful version.

(Fifth Series)

These two versions appear to be stronger than all previous releases, which leads me to believe that the motor has been upgraded to a more powerful version.

(Sixth Series)

The locomotives are very heavy, smooth and responsive, typical of the rest of the DF4D series. The main headlight appears to be particularly weak, no doubt due to the ineffective periscope type system used by most Bachmann models. The only gripe I can come up with is the usual deep wheel flanges.

Electronics

(First - Second Series)

Electricity is moved around the engine via a PC board and wires. The lighting is directional, with the main headlight powered by a 12volt incandescent bulb which looks very bright and has a good color. Unfortunately, these can get very hot after a period of time which is no good for the plastic body shells in the long run. They do have some heat insulation around the bulbs, but I'm not sure I would trust this (don't forget to turn them off when not in use!). The marker lights are nice, particularly the inner red ones.

There is enough room inside the shell to accept most HO scale sized decoders, although it may be necessary to position them between the motor and the frame. As per standard Bachmann practice, the DF4B's have an 8 pin socket to accept any NMRA 8 pin decoder.

(Third - Sixth Series)

The locomotives are very heavy, smooth and responsive, typical of the rest of the DF4D series. The main headlight appears to be particularly weak, no doubt due to the ineffective periscope type system used by most Bachmann models. The only gripe I can come up with is the usual deep wheel flanges.

Disassembly

There are four Phillips head screws holding the frame to the body shell. The couplers must also be removed before the shell lifts freely away. 

Coupler Conversion

All versions will accept long shank (#56/156) Kadee couplers. A very fine amount should be shaved off the top of the shank for free movement and a tiny bit on the bottom at the back of the head to avoid clearance with the center un-coupler stantion.