SS4

1:87 Scale

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Rating
9/10

SS4G Class Bo-Bo+Bo-Bo

1435 Train Model

Prototype Information

The SS4G electric 25kV locomotives comprise of two units permanently coupled to each other back to back. They are used on heavy freight trains over much of the country, with major concentrations at Kunming, Shanghai, Beijing, Urumqi, Wuhan, Zhengzhou and Shenyang. Newly electrified lines, particularly in the north east of the country are starting to see large quantities of SS4's introduced. Four locomotive factories (Datong, Dalian, Zhuzhou and Ziyang) have manufactured nearly 1000 locomotives since production began in 1985, and although they are the same model, there are at least four variations of SS4G with minor detail differences. The later versions arrived from the factory wearing a light blue body with cream cab and narrow stripe and make up most of the class and many of the earlier white/blue and dark blue/cream livery units are steadily being updated. They have a weight of 184 tonnes and over 8,500 horse power and held the title as China's most powerful locomotives for just over two decades.

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General Information

The first product from 1435 Model Train is the very handsome SS4G electric locomotive, a common heavy duty freight type that was very rarely pushed into passenger service. They are a plastic shell model over a heavy alloy frame. 1435 have released all four factory variants of the SS4G, a factory designation and all the differences between units have been produced by 1435 - an outstanding effort and one they've pulled off very well indeed - especially considering this is their first model. They have made an amazing thirty different road numbers, available in DC or DCC sound (ESU LokSound 5.0) and included in the lineup are two special versions - a square headlight type (#7001) and decorated Zhu De (although they are all special in their own way). A common complaint with these are poor workmanship or quality control and high pricing, the former which I have not seen on my examples and considering the level of detail and variations, I can swallow the price somewhat as well (for the DCC/sound version around $500US and slightly more for the special versions as of August 2021). Most versions sold out extremely quickly. 

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Packaging

1435 have made excellent packaging for their models and it's nice to see they take this seriously as quite often poor packaging will result in damaged or dislodged parts. There is a thin cardboard presentation box which slides over a high quality two-piece thick black cardboard box. This box is foam lined and has cutouts to hold two accessories parts baggies and each portion of the locomotive. The models are mounted to a plastic cradle and each wrapped in a soft plastic sheet to prevent parts snagging on the foam. The models are removed from the cradle by two hand screws. I recommend removing and attaching this cradle while holding the model upside down. Extra cardboard blocks are provided to support the model. An instruction booklet with all of the sound and light functions (in Chinese language) is included. 

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Details

1435's are packed with very fine details. I was lucky to secure three of the four types and the more I look at them, the more differences I find. Details are a mix of fine brass, wire and plastic parts and all are extremely well made. 

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The paint work is extremely good with very sharp lines and no fuzz. The colors are very accurate and there is slight variation between certain examples. Some of the cream paint appears to be put on a little heavy side, particularly around the handrails, although you have to look very close up to notice it. Lettering is beautifully applied and very sharp, even on the tiny script. 

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There are many obvious and other subtle differences between the cab versions. The most obvious is the side cab window, large square, large angled or sealed dual window with side cab mirrors. The cab doors have either one or two handles and have windows or blanked out as per prototype. Some have embossed jack mounts, recessed footstep lip and different style handrails - either stantion & pole setup or a one piece version. 

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Roof details also vary as per prototype. The major difference between units is the pantograph style. I am very impressed that they have offered these models with all of the different styles. I have not tried any of these on the overhead, however the spring action is reasonably strong. Like all pantographs, they are fairly so be careful when unclipping them from the pantograph mounts. Other roof details are fairly minor and concern the walkway placement and insulator style. 

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Air-conditioner boxes all appear to be the same style and look fantastic with a separate etched metal fan grille. The roof mounted rheo-static brake boxes are hollowed outside with extremely fine louver detail, even though in plastic. The insulators are also plastic, again with very scrip detail and color coded. I also love the very fine brass roof lifting mounts on the roof edges. The power cables running along the roof are color coded and made from wire. Something to note for those who use the factory installed couplers, running the models on sharper curves or through points runs the risk of snagging the roof mounted power wires where the units attach.  

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All types of factory plates are offered by 1435 are separately applied metal parts with exquisite detail. The characters are very sharp and all readable despite being only 6-7mm's in length. Likewise, the side cab and front number plates are also metal parts with 3D numbers. I would have liked them to have taken more care to remove the flash from the edge of the plates and on some versions they are attached rather crooked, but this should be a fairly easy fix. 

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The undercarriage details is very high, almost a shame that it is hidden. The traction motors mounted to each axle look brilliant, as do the air reservoirs and battery boxes. The bogie details are very good with beautiful brake rigging, shock absorbers and sandboxes with very fine sanding pipes. Modern prototypes receive solid disc wheels and earlier types have Boxpok type wheels, and are painted with standard Chinese red centers and white rims. 

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Other notable details are metal footsteps front & rear, color coded air brake and main reservoir hoses, brass walkways, full rear door detail including glazing, brass air horns, and brass windshield wipers. The front marker lights are really cool, even with the lights off with horizontal glass casting lines incorporated into the design. Some of the China Rail logos on the front are slightly different with the more modern type having an outer rim. The cabs are fully detailed and unlike most cabs which get a single piece cast in your favorite shade of grey, 1435 have seen to it that they are also colored appropriately with black seats, pale green walls, white computer screens etc. Even though much of this has been achieved simply by using different colors, it has a great affect. There are a number of add on parts to install if you feel so inclined, such as multiple unit cables and metal clips to hold them in place, traction booster, coupler bars, electrical plugs etc. Most of these are microscopic and I wonder how much of my remaining sanity will dissipate with their installation, despite having clear graphic installation instructions in the color manual. Most likely I will keep them securely packed away until I get a more permanent layout set up or display cabinet. 

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Above photo is unit 1088, type DSA-200. 

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Above photo is unit 7001, type TSG-3. This is one of a very few units to have the square headlight housing and the only one produced by 1435 Train Model. 

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Above photo is unit 0205, type LV-2600. 

Performance

All my units run very smoothly and quietly (when sound is not turned on). Electrical pickup is taken from each wheel and large fly wheels are mounted on both sides of the motor for excellent slow speed performance. They have a very chunky frame with both units weighing an impressive 1184grams! All wheels are geared and they are one of the most powerful HO scale models I've come across to date.  

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Electronics

Every road number of the SS4G's are offered in DC or DCC/Sound mode. DC versions have a 21 pin plug system for upgrading to DCC. DCC versions have a LokSound ESU 5.0 sound chip in one unit and a non sound decoder in the other. Rather than take apart the whole body, the DCC chips can be access by lifting out the forward most roof panel, which is held on by clips, but be very careful when doing this as some of the roof cabling overlaps into the next panel. 

The lights consist of a main headlight, marker lights on the front and rear of each unit, cab light and engine room lights. All of these are directional. The sound suite is very good, although I would have liked a dual-sound version to be made available as I love the scream of the dynamic brakes on the SS4G's, which can be heard from a very long distance away. 

Coupler Conversion

The SS4's are fitted with Kadee scale head couplers. The gap is fairly wide between other SS4 locomotives, but extremely close between each unit. While this looks good, owners who intend to operate these models on sharper curves may need to swap them out for slightly longer shanks to prevent jack-knifing (provided). Unlike most multi-unit model locomotives, they don't have a pivoting drawbar system which could have prevented this.  Accessing and swapping out couplers is via a single Philips head screw, however be VERY careful with the uncoupling rods as these are attached to the lower coupler box plate.  

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