DFH3

1:87 Scale

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Rating
8/10

DFH3 Class Diesel-electric Co-Co

Bachmann China

Production Summary

Prototype Information

The DFH3 was a diesel locomotive with hydraulic transmission designed for mainline passenger service. A total of 268 units were built at Sifang Locomotive Works over an unusually long 17 year period between 1971 and 1988. They were typically found in the north and north east of the country and were particularly popular between Harbin, Dalian and Beijing. 

They were powered by a pair of V12 diesel motors which varied slightly between 2500hp (prototypes), 2700hp and 3000hp (final two units). They ran on a pair of twin axle bogies and could propel a passenger train to 120kph, although most ran at 100kph. They were not overly heavy at 88 tonnes. Diesel-hydraulics had a fairly limited role in China's railways and most of the class were out of use and scrapped by 2005. A number of examples were donated to North Korea and the final units were used at a coal mine at Qitaihe until 2015 and on the Sanmexia local railway in Henan province until 2017. 

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General Information

This is Bachmann China's first and only diesel-hydraulic diesel. Bachmann have done a good job with the dimensions and a very good job overall. This was one of Bachmann's final new locomotives before apparently ceasing production altogether around 2017. They have made eight versions including one decorated version, one semi-decorated version and two liveries. The turquoise color was applied to the class originally but in the later years most were painted in a medium flat blue color, as shown in the prototype photo above. It is unfortunate the Bachmann China hasn't made any of this livery option in the line-up, but very good to see a diesel-hydraulic finally on the market.   

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Packaging

The DF7G's came in a thin two piece cardboard box. The inner portion is a plastic clam shell with clear plastic sleeve with small soft plastic pieces to prevent paint rubbing off. The box contains warranty information and instruction/schematic sheet. There are no add-on parts included.    

Details

The details are typical of what we saw on models from Bachmann China in their final years. Some notable features are brass air horns, brass windshield wipers and wire handrails/grab irons. The side mirrors are plastic and are very susceptible to damage. The "Dong Fang Hong" characters on the front of the locomotive are part of the body shell casting and are slightly embossed. The cab interior is a single colored piece comprising of seats, power wheel basic controls. The engine room interior is devoid of detail and is obscured with the frame behind the windows. 

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The paint work overall is excellent and lining is very sharp. Lettering is typical of Bachmann's and flawless. The semi-decorated locomotive (#0220) unfortunately has painted on number plates and award plaque and all versions have painted on factory plates, rather than separate parts but are still nice and sharp. There are minor color differences in the lettering and placement of labels between each unit as per prototype.  Uncoupling rods and brake-pipe air hoses are nice being two-tone color parts.

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Uncoupling rods and brake-pipe air hoses are nice being two-tone color parts. The paint work overall is excellent and lining is very sharp. Lettering is typical of Bachmann's and flawless. The semi-decorated locomotive (#0220) unfortunately has painted on number plates and award plaque and all versions have painted on factory plates, rather than separate parts but are still nice and sharp. There are minor color differences in the lettering and placement of labels between each unit as per prototype.  

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The roof detail and under frame look slightly devoid of detail in my eyes. The handrails on the roof are nice, but the louvers look a bit shallow for this era of models. The bogies aren't too bad, but molded on cables hanging down rather than using wire is a bit unconvincing. Weathering may improve much of this but at this price point, it could have been done better. 

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Performance

The models are nicely weighted at 512grams. Electrical pickup is taken from all four wheels via copper strips pressing against the inside of the wheel. The motor is powerful and silent and is fitted with a pair of brass fly wheels to make stopping smoother and reduces the stuttering performance of older locomotives. 

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Electronics

The circuit board has an 8-pin plug for the fitting of a decoder. There is room inside to fit a sound decoder and a decent sized cavity for a fitting a speaker, directly above one of the bogies. The lighting system consists of a main headlight and a pair of red and white marker lights on each of my units. Unfortunately one of my units has defective red marker lights on one end. There are three switches on the underside next to the fuel tank which can be used to isolate some or all of the lighting, a handy feature if running multiple units.  

Disassembly

Removing the shell to make repairs or fit a DCC decoder can be done by removing four screws on the underside of the fuel tank as well as the couplers, held in with a single screw on each. The body shell lifts off very easily.

Coupler Conversion

The plastic Bachmann EZ mate knuckle couplers can easily be swapped out for Kadee types. I found #153's (short shank, whisker type) fit perfectly. I also remove the magnetic trip pins from these couplers to improve the appearance of them. 

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