SS8

1:87 Scale

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Rating
7 & 8/10

SS8 Class Bo-Bo

Bachmann China

Prototype Information

The SS8's are Bo-Bo dual-cab electric locomotives, used solely for passenger service. The prototype reached 240kph on a test train, making it the fastest locomotive on the rails at the time. They are found mainly in the Guangzhou and Wuhan areas of China. Approximately 250 of these locomotives were built, from the late 1990's until very recently, by Zhuzhou Electric Locomotive works. Recently a few of them have been involved in major accidents.

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General Information

(First Series)

The SS8's were one of the first productions by Bachmann China, and represented the first Chinese electric locomotive in model form. The models were made when the SS8's were still very new. Being very distinctive to any other mainline electric locomotive in China, chiefly due to the unusual Bo-Bo wheel arrangement, they enjoy a cult following in China. Bachmann made only one version of this model  and it wouldn't be for another six years before a new version was launched (idencital in every way apart from aesthetics and road number to the first series)

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(Second Series)

Asides from aesthetics, only very minor improvements were made to this run of SS8's.

(Third Series)

The SS8's were one of the first productions by Bachmann China, and represented the first Chinese electric locomotive in model form. The models were made when the SS8's were still very new. Being very distinctive to any other mainline electric locomotive in China, chiefly due to the unusual Bo-Bo wheel arrangement, they enjoy a cult following in China. Bachmann made only one version of this model  and it wouldn't be for another six years before a new version was launched (idencital in every way apart from aesthetics and road number to the first series)

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Packaging

The first and second series were sold in one of the earlier styles from Bachmann China, a thin cardboard box with slear display window surrounding a larger and more substaial open box. Inside this is the plastic clam shell which is surrounded by a thin plastic sleeve. The third series were sold with a slimmer two-piece cardboard box with the same plastic clam shell/sleeve affair.

Details

(First Series)

The SS8's were one of the first productions by Bachmann China, and represented the first Chinese electric locomotive. Seemingly an odd choice, given the amount of major electric classes, but these were made when the real SS8's were very green and the most advanced electric locomotive on Chinese rails. The livery and lettering are very nicely done, with sharp lines and crisp lettering. There seems to be a minor fault however, seen in the bottom photo - of the 6 examples that have come through my hands, they are all missing a small amount of paint just below the main headlight. I'm not sure if I've just been really unlucky or if this was a result of the painting process. It's not particularly noticeable as the body shell is cast in a fairly similar material. The roof details are nice and firm, with reliable operating pantographs. The handrails are unfortunately plastic, making them easily damaged - or worse yet, they simply fall out and go missing. 

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The roof details are fairly well done, particularly for the time when these models were made. The components are reasonably strong and the pantographs are functional with good spring action.

(Second Series)

SS8 0039 was the second version of the SS8 by Bachmann China. It featured only slight improvements, the plastic handrails were swapped out for wire type which meant less detail, but at least they don't fall out or break anymore. 

 

This one was adorned with gold plaques all over it, apparently affixed by an airconditioner manufacturer (whether or not this was railway related or merely an advertisement, I'm not sure). These sold out very quickly, and occasionally one can be found popping up on eBay. 

(Third Series)

The new SS8's have seen some improvements in the details with some individualism (see the photo below comparing the new style cabs of each respective model in this run). Bachmann have moved away from the earlier dark blue paint to a metallic lighter variant, as depicted on the more modern livery. The horns are now the hollowed out metal type, windshield wipers are seperately applied parts, as opposed to the one piece window/windshield of the earlier versions, and the bogie detail is much finer with very nicely reproduced footsteps. A nice touch was to paint the wire handrails in light blue. 

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Performance

(First & Second Series)

Even though these are small locomotives, they are fairly weighty and geared for high speed. They should be able to handle a rather lengthy train on level layouts, less so on hilly layouts. The SS8's are very quiet, smooth and really rather nice to operate.

(Third Series)

Tooling for the frame appears to be identical to the earlier releases, however the motor has been upgraded to a higher quality and much stronger unit. Amazingly, these new locomotives have managed to escape the atrocity of the deep wheel flanges!

Disassembly

Shell removal is easy - 4 screws on the bottom of the chassis and coupler removal. There is an 8 pin plug for optional DCC decoder installation.

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Electronics

(First & Second Series)

The main headlights are 12v filament bulbs, a short lived design with Bachmann China locomotives until LED's became all the rage. The lamps do give off quite a bit of heat, but they give a much nicer colour and are brighter compared to the LED's Bachmann equip their new models with. The circuit board has an 8 pin socket for a decoder, as well as a selector switch which controls whether the engine picks up electricity from the rails only (default setting) or the pantographs and rails.

(Third Series)

LED headlights are now used.

Coupler Conversion

The SS8's can take Kadee #5/#58/#158's for nice close coupling, although for those with layouts with very tight curves, I would recommend using #56/#156 long shank couplers to prevent derailments.