Charming Model Studios
Mitsubishi / Kawasaki 6K Class Bo-Bo-Bo
The very handsome 6K class was a smaller class of advanced electric locomotives designed to traverse the hilly LongHai railway line in central China. All units were built by Kawasaki Heavy Industries of Japan using Mitsubishi traction motors and 85 units were delivered during 1987 and 1988.
They were all based at Luoyang depot and ran almost exclusively between Xian and Zhengzhou proving to be very reliable machines. The relatively unusual tri-bo wheel arrangement worked well on the line it operated and inspired further tri-bo wheel electric locomotives of the SS7, B, C & D class which also operated on the same lines. The last of the class was retired in 2014 and one has been preserved at the Beijing Railway museum.
Charming Model Studios chose the 6K to kick off their fairly short lived endeavour into model railways. Numerous road numbers were produced, including one decorated version and a special (albeit ficticious) livery. With this model, Charming Model Studios introduced a number of firsts in Chinese model railway products and was exceptionally well done. Three tiers were built; DC, DCC and DCC sound. To date two series have been built. Unheard of in Chinese model trains, Charming models (initially at least) offered an excellent customer service support network with any problems quickly rectified by the company. These models are heavy, tipping the scales at over 750 grams, due mainly to the die cast body shell. Please note I only own a few samples of the DCC/Sound version (first series) upon which this review is based, so some functions may or may not be present in other versions. From what I understand there were slight improvements made to paint and details on the second series, although the functioning pantograph system was removed.
Packaging consists of a thick two piece box with stiff foam inserts. To protect the model from damage, it is screwed on to a semi-permanent three-piece plastic shell from the bottom with hex bolts into the chassis. Each model includes an Allen key to remove the model. The box contains the instruction manual (with DCC functions in Chinese and English), a miniature replica builders plate and some mounting plugs. Also incldued are a pair of under carriage equipment cases which have been left off so the model can be attached to the provided base/packaging.
These models have absolutely outstanding details and there are lots! Despite how fine some of these are, the model seems to be able to be handled without anything falling off, asides from part of the very fine under carriage rods which come lose. These will be very hard to find unless they've come off in the box as they are exceptionally fine. Certain versions have minor variations, for example antennae or air condtioner style.
The first series of (DCC/Sound only) had an incredibly impressive function with automatically raising pantographs which runs off a tiny pulley system. When activated and changing direction, the working pantograph will fall before the idle one will raise. It should be noted to alllow this function to work, the pantograph must be unclipped, otherwise damage may occur. This feature apparently proved problematic for Charming and it was initially reoffered with this feature omitted. It seems however they have mastered a new design and some versions came with this feature.
The China Rail logos are separately applied polished metal and look stunning. One of my units, #050, is a decorated locomotive and hence isn't equipped with these, but instead a (genuine) brass placard in their place. The photos below don't due much justice to them.
Paint is exceptionally sharp and evenly applied. It is fairly thick, but this doesn't hide the details in anyway. Each road number sports specific details in most cases between the roof mounted equipment or pilots painted red or grey.
These models use an ESU Lok Sound V4.0 sound decoder and hosts a very impressive array of genuine sound effects. They all seem to be in sync enough for me not to bother adjusting any of the values, apart from the volume which is by default set to "apocalyptic level". Asides from the engine throttle noises, there are the usual coupler attach and detach, pneumatic systems, generators, motor alternators, flange squeal and brakes. There are also some voices from the crew, level crossing alerts and station announcements (initially these locomotives were designed for freight service, but were often thrown into passenger service when required). The crew and station noises are a bit of a pain as they go on for a very long time and can't be interrupted, save from lifting the locomotive off the rails; not easy if you have overhead wiring installed. Perhaps the most interesting sound function is the pantograph making contact with the overhead wire - even better with my versions with the functioning pantographs.
The 6K's feature a huge array of lighting effects including engine room, headlights, ditch lights, running and directional markers, cab and even number boards. All are of course able to be turned off individually. Most lighting functions fade in very nicely, apart from the engine room lights which has a fairly noticeable stepping up effect to achieve full brightness. Charming have of course taken the effort to include genuine colours for all lights and the effects are simply superb. The main headlight is very strong.
All lighting and sound functions are listed in English in the otherwise Chinese language only instruction manual.
The models are very smooth in all directions and throughout the speed range. The powerful can motor emits next to no noise. I've had no problems with derailments through #4 Peco code 83 points. The center bogie (un-motored) sits very nicely on the track.
Not required. The model comes with genuine scale head KD couplers #156 long shank whisker couplers and as these are my couplers of choice I haven't needed to test any others.