DF / DF3

1:87 Scale

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Rating
7/10

DF / DF3 Class Diesel-electric Co-Co

Haidar

Production Summary

Prototype Information

The bulk of the DF's were built from the late 1950's to the mid 1970's. There were three distinct versions, the early two window type, the later 3 window version and the DF3, a higher geared version of the latter. The bulk were manufactured by Dalian Locomotive Works and Qishuyan, however some were also assembled at Datong Locomotive Works and Chengdu Locomotive Works. The main spotting difference between the two major factories was the main headlight where Dalian's machines had a simple tubular style protruding from the roof and the Qishuyan variety had a large arch shaped headlight surround. Most DF's and DF3's were retired by the early 2000's, but a select few clung to life a little later in the north-east of the country and a few further examples continued on in industrial service in Sichuan and Yunnan province. Yunnan copper factory's locomotive #2026 may still be in service to this day (March 2022).

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General Information

The DF3's are Haidar's second model and they have based their model on the Dalian built locomotives of the three-window version DF & DF3. This was Haidar's last plastic model as they are move towards brass models, which seems to be the latest trend in China, although the company seems to be defunct after 2012. The first production run comprised of 6 road numbers in the standard Green/gold livery. The second was a limited edition model (1000 pieces) in the rare blue/white livery as used on the San-Mao Railway (Guangdong province) and one painted gold, no doubt to look like an unpainted brass model. The final run saw a single decorated version.

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Packaging

The DF3's were sold in a very similar style box to their previous SS1 electric locomotive. This comprises of a thin dark green (or blue for the blue livery version) that slides over a two piece polystyrene carton. The locomotive has a few thin foam pieces and plastic sheeting for further protection. If storing the model in the box, it is recommended to keep the locomotive upright due to oil leaks from the open style gear box.

Details

Simply put, these are the most heavily detailed plastic models I've ever come across, even surpassing many brass models. There are a massive amount of separately applied parts, mostly in brass - some of which have to be seen to be believed. The windshield wipers, grab irons and handrails are absolutely beautiful. The hollowed out brass horns are mounted on twin pole stantions. Really very pretty. There is a small baggy of parts for side mirrors, that are so small, I'm simply too terrified to even open it up.​

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Unfortunately, they've come down a notch (or a few) in terms of how much one can handle the models before pieces start falling off. Of my four models, I've had to repair over 50 small detail parts (and yes, I handle these with extreme care) - and more often than not, all different, from ladders, headlight lens, horns, window 'glass', side light metal fascia - the list goes on. It appears that many of these parts may have come loose during the production assembly as there are tell-tale signs of repairs (white stains caused by the superglue fumes) on a couple of my factory sourced models - one even had a finger print on it! I've also noticed some parts are attached incorrectly or slightly off center to what they should. When running back to back, the units don't align with the other, which shows that the shell sits on the frame at a bit of an angle! To remove these models from the extraordinarily tight boxes, open both ends of the box, then grip the ears of one end and push the polystyrene inner box with your thumbs about an inch or two. The inner box can then be pulled out with one hand while gripping the outer cardboard sleeve with the other. The only safe way to handle these engines is to pick it up with your thumb and middle finger over the top while squeezing the fuel tank. Picking it up by the bogies will make the footsteps simply snap off.

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The paint work is very evenly applied and all lines and lettering is extremely sharp and crisp. Each model sports its own individual detail differences as per prototype, with some having extra front handrails or a stainless steel strip, different coloured number boards and either green or yellow rear doors.

Performance

Although these are quite short models, they are very heavy and on level track should easily haul a 10 car passenger train. Electrical pickup is perfect, motors are very quiet and the throttle is very responsive - however due to the drive system, the wheels seem to 'fall' into the teeth of the gears, creating a very slight hiccup at very low speeds, similar to the SS1 electrics.

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Electronics

Inside the model is a PC board where an 8 pin decoder can easily be substituted for the dummy plug. There is also room for a DXDC sound decoder, the top detachable section of the frame has a space for a speaker for these. The DF3's have very white directional (almost blue) LED's for the main headlights front and rear and also directional red LED's on the opposite direction of movement. The LED's are very strong and shine through the dark green plastic sides of the headlight on the B end of the engine. However this may not be such a big problem as these engines rarely ran a train while in reverse and while in back to back operation, the lights in between the units were switched off - the rear lights can simply be unplugged from inside the model to turn them off permanently. There was a mis-wiring issue with all the green DF3's. To explain, one of the wires connecting the red marker lights on the front are accidentally connected to the white marker lights. This (In DCC mode at least), will cause all the front lights to turn on (including the red ones!) when going forward with no lights on the rear end - and vice versa when run in reverse.

Caution - It is not recommended to use Bachmann DCC decoders in this locomotive as they overheat and will melt the roof. I have had no issues with other brands. 

Disassembly

The DF requires the removal of four Phillips head screws near the fuel tank and also the removal of the front coupler for the shell to lift off. Take great care when doing this not to touch the cab door ladders as they are extremely delicate. I would also recommend working on a very clean work space with good lighting so you can recover all the detail pieces it sheds as you work on it. 

Coupler Conversion

The stock couplers are useless dummy knuckle couplersthat should be replaced if you are intending to operate them on a layout. As seen in the photos, I have used Kadee scale head couplers (medioum shank) #158's. For those with broader curves who would like to run a pair of these back to back coupled closely, try a short shank #153 on the rear of both locomotives.