DF11Z Class Diesel-electric Co-Co + Co-Co
Red Star Models
The DF11Z enjoys a cult following amongst China Railway enthusiasts. The first four units were delivered in 2002 and numbered 0001 A/B through 0004 A/B. They were phased into service replacing the NY6 for special (non-civilian) passenger trains, chiefly for government use and high ranking Communist party officials, although recently at least one train from Beijing uses the DF11Z on an almost daily basis. They are based on the standard DF11, but with single cabs and are permanently connected back to back in pairs and were built with significant upgrades, including foreign technology from Bosch, Woodward and ABB.
The final two units were numbered 0005 A/B & 0006 A/B and delivered in 2015 and 2016 respectively. There are some superficial spotting differences between the original class members and the later units, such as modern LED headlights and marker lights and the omission of red paint on the pilots. All units are part of the Beijing Bureau/Beijing depot fleet. They are nicknamed "the big Z" by local rail fans.
Red Star Model is a new comer to the ever expanding world of Chinese model trains, boldly choosing a rarer locomotive class as their first project. I'm happy to say on the whole they've done an extremely good job. Both units are powered, heavy, have excellent details and have produced (nearly) all the versions available. They also represent good value for money, a rare thing these days! The drawbar also transfers power between the two units and both must be connected to work.
Attaching the units is a bit awkward and they must be aligned perfectly before pushing both of them carefully together (praying the shaft doesn't snap in the process!). They separate by simply pulling them apart. Both drawbars pivot in much the same way as the Bachmann passenger car system (which is based on the old Roco design) and allows for close coupling. I have not been able to test the minimum radius required to operate them.
The DF11Z comes in a quality two piece box. Inside is a foam sheet, a thicker piece with cut outs to support the models and some add on accessory parts and another foam sheet on top. Each unit is wrapped in a soft plastic protective sheet. I don't mind this style so much, however the previous owner of the one I purchased has accidentally put on of the units in the wrong way around and destroyed on of the air horn assembly's. Instruction sheet is provided (Chinese language only).
The body casting is superbly recreated with very sharp details and edges, particularly around the louvre vents. They are relatively easy to handle, however care should still be taken as many of the components, such as air hoses, are made from a very brittle/soft plastic and are prone to breaking/snapping. Sadly one of my units arrived damaged with two of the three air horns and the antennae assembly snapped off, probably during the shipping process. The drawbar also transfers power between the two units and both must be connected to work.
The body casting is superbly recreated with very sharp details and edges, particularly around the louvre vents. They are relatively easy to handle, There are quite a few details that can be quite easily snapped off, such as air hoses, handrails, bogie traction bars, etc. Most of these are are made from a very brittle/soft plastic and are prone to breaking/snapping. Keep an eye out for the air hose taps. For some reason, Red Star thought it a good idea to make these as separate parts from the rest of the airhose! I guess this means they can be positioned into the open position if you like. They are glued in, but the glue is extremely weak and they come out very easily.
Some of the finer details include the metal windshield wipers, machined brass air horns, multi-coloured air hoses with taps, multiple unit receptacles, separate metal handrails. One thing that RSM have done extremely well are the side number plates and three dimensional China Rail logos, which I'm guessing would have just been painted on by most other manufacturers. A few extra pieces are included in the box for installation by the modeller including side mirrors, step ladders and some end body panels for installing around the drawbar area. If you install the end plate which includes four rear air hoses and red marker lights, you will most likely not be able to run them on your average layout. Once installed, the drawbar fits very snuggly inside, making it impossible to pivot which will lead to derailments as it jack knifes even through very generous curves and points. The only way to have this extra detail and make it run worth a damn, will be by performing some fairly major surgery to install a much thinner drawbar and a smaller plug system.
The dark green paint work is very nicely applied. The yellow lining is very sharp, with a little bit of loss as it passes over the main louvre vents. The red and white pilots are very impressive also. Lettering and lining is as good as I've found anywhere, with some less than 1mm in height, but still perfectly legible. The builders plates are painted on which is fine for the newer versions as the real ones are made from extremely thin aluminium. From photographs I've seen on the original version, RSM have painted those on as well and would have benefitted from separate pieces. The old builders plate version is available only on one of the variants of #0001A/B.
The wheel sets look great with impressive depth and very fine sanding tubes, speed cables, traction bars, etc, etc. I love that they've taken the effort to paint the shock absorbers blue and red. The footsteps have a habit of falling off on my units, but can be pushed back into place pretty easily.
The units are both very heavy and both contain powerful motors, which equates to excellent pulling performance. My samples generated too much noise for my liking, however they are smooth and responsive nonetheless. As mentioned above in the 'details' section of the review, there is a very big problem running these with the detail panel in place, which will make it impossible for the units to negotiate curves without derailing.
The units are engineered to easily accept sound decoders with dual speaker mounts in both units. Lighting is strong and directional. DCC users will be happy to know that a single decoder will operate both users. It takes an 8 pin plug. There are speaker holes incorporated for those who want to go down the sound path.
The model is easy to disassemble for repairs or modification, with four screws holding the shell to the chassis - note these are not the four screws holding the fuel tank in place, but either side of it, above axles 3 & 4. The coupler must also be removed for access. Both units are connected by a drawbar system, which is a little clunky in design. Mine was pretty severely damaged, looking like both units had been crushed, but after disassembly I was able to coax things back into place OK.
The model is fitted with scale plastic non functioning plastic couplers. They are a light grey colour which I found a little odd at first, however looking though my photo archives, the prototypes seem to have grey painted couplers as well! Nevertheless mine will shortly be swapped out with KD's. They will require medium shanks (#5) or with scale heads (#58) or scale heads with whisker springs (#158's).