Charming Model Studios
HXD2 Class Bo-Bo+Bo-Bo
The HXD2 is a series of locomotives built by CNR Datong Electric Locomotive and Alstom, based on Alstom's Prima series locomotives and were designed for heavy freight service. They consist of a pair of Bo-Bo electric locomotives permanently mated together. Since their introduction in 2007, over 1300 units have been built over six versions. Charming Models have based their model on the original corrugated side and most powerful version, rated at a whopping 13,000hp. Many of these locomotives are found in service in private industry, particularly semi-privatised coal lines, but a large number are in service on regular freight duties throughout the country with large concentrations in areas around Beijing, Baotou, Datong, Hohhot, Lanzhou, Xi'an and Taiyuan.
Charming Model Train Studio released their HXD2 locomotives in three distinct flavours - standard HXD2, prototype version and an export version supplied to our war-mongering friends over in Belarus. Fourteen road numbers were offered, with multiple versions of 0001 and 0002. All models share the same corrugated body style of the original Alstom and Chinese built HXD2's and I would envisage sometime in the future an obvious addition to the lineup will include the smooth side body type. They were all offered in DC or DCC. They retail(ed) for around 3500rmb for the fully loaded DCC/Sound/working pantograph versions and about 1000rmb less for the DC models and can still be acquired today.
The models are very solid with a heavy alloy frame and a die-cast shell. When coupled, they measure 43cm in length and tip the scales at a hefty 1.022kg. Each portion is typically connected via the drawbar, however couplers are an option as well - see coupler conversion section below.
The HXD2's come in a large high quality sleeved two-piece cardboard box. Each unit is mounted in a Perspex display case, being screwed into the base (no tool required to remove) and there is a extra support and protection in the case with a plastic clam shell and soft plastic sheet to protect the paint work. Each unit is suspended in the box with polystyrene supports and extra foam spacers are there to prevent flex. Charming (and later renamed/corrected ChangMing) have used this packaging ever since and with the previous DF/DF3 diesels. It works very well and I am yet to receive a damaged model from this company on account of their packaging.
Included in the box is the instruction manual, surprisingly with both English and Chinese languages. The manual helpfully lists all the digital functions and CV settings for the decoders. A small bag of additional detail parts is also included.
These HXD2's are built very well and feel solid, however they are packed with small detail parts. Charming claim they have used a total of 1600+ separate parts. Great care should of course be exercised while handling them as well, particularly with the floor and roof detail. Most detail parts are plastic, brass or steel. Like all of Charming's models, a high degree of individuality is provided for each individual road number, such as differences in insulator style, cowcatcher style and many lettering and logo variations.
Cab doors can be opened by pushing on them. They are spring loaded and have a fairly firm pressure on them which keeps them in the closed position. The cab and rear door handles have been painted in silver. Cabs are fully detailed with chair, cabinets and full-width curved control desk. It is very dark in there (without the cab light on), but everything is color coded appropriately and the control screens and instruments even light up (DCC versions). The windshield has a full window width blind, typical of all modern Alstom designs, which is a nice touch.
Air horns are brass parts, and I love that one of them has a steel cover plate for low note. Some of the brackets supporting the roof mounted electrical equipment are also fabricated from brass. Front and side step ladders painted metal with extremely good detail.
Builders plates are nicely replicated separate sheet steel and all characters are legible. Cab door handrails are steel wire and all other grab irons and handrails are painted steel in correct colors. Some of the most impressive detail in my eyes is the metal grilles and gauze panels along the body work and on the front - I still can't capture this on the camera, but it is truly something to behold.
Air hoses, windshield wipers, side mirrors, CNR logo badges, roof electrical insulators, rods, electrical cables and radio antennas are all plastic parts. The roof mounted air conditioner compressor, brake resistor grids and auxiliary equipment boxes are also plastic, but detailed with the precision of brass parts.
Bogies construction is plastic and there are a number of separate parts applied, such as primary & secondary suspension springs, speed recording equipment and sand pipes. A lot of the fine cabling detail is molded onto the bogie frame, but it is again, extremely fine and has a nice effect. Each bogie has a bogie factory plate on one side, about 2mms in length. Under magnification, the characters are all readable! The wheels are chemically darkened and the rims painted white.
The paint work is excellent on my example. It is very evenly applied with nice rich colors with a nice semi-gloss finish. The only flaw I can see is where the white body color meets the blue showing a slight fuzz line. Given the complexity of painting over a corrugated surface, I'm not entirely surprised by this. It is far less obvious on the models as my enlarged photos of course, and is not a major detraction. All lettering including the road numbers, bureau codes are very sharp.
Each locomotive has a PC circuit board on the top of the frame. There is no electrical connection between the units and DCC versions have an ESU Loksound v5.0 sound decoder with premium speakers housed in the non-cab end of each portion. Lighting for DC versions is directional. Owners of the DCC versions will enjoy a huge array of lights and sounds. The DCC lighting suite includes cab light, computer screen/control lights(!), main headlights, front and rear marker lights, roof lights, bogies lights and sparking brake shoes which automatically come on under heavy brake applications along with brake squeal noise. While some may question the need for sound decoders on an electric locomotive, I assure you it is well worth the investment. These big hippos are very noise machines and have a stunning sound track. Sounds include overall electrical buzzing noise, pantograph raise noise, compressors, motors which change note under load, low note & high note air horns, radio chatter, audible warnings, alarms etc, etc.
By far, the coolest feature of these models is the pantographs. They are made from metal and plastic rods and look fantastic. DC users are given a spring loaded design, but DCC users will enjoy automatically raising and lowering pantographs! This technology has been seen on Charming's earlier 6K and 8k electric locomotives, but the design no longer relies on a complicated and delicate pulley system, rather a system using servos instead. It is VITAL that the pantograph is unclipped from the locking points before using this feature for obvious reasons! This can be done by hand. They can be manually raised and lowered with 'function 4' for the lead unit and 'function 5' for the rear. They are also cleverly directional, so when you change directions, one will lower and the other will raise as the F4 and F5 commands reverse. Seriously cool stuff!
Both units are motorized and have all axles are powered and provide electrical pick up. The motors are extremely silent and very powerful and there is a of heavy brass flywheel on both sides of the motor for smoother operation. I'm not sure if they were designed to pull a scale 10000kw, but they sure feel like it. They operate smoothly at all speeds from the slowest crawl to full speed - having said that, DCC users should take care when running at high speed without first adjusting the CV values as they take an almost prototypical distance to stop as well!
The model comes with genuine scale head Kadee #158 standard shank whisker couplers on the front of each unit with the magnetic pins removed. As these are my couplers of choice I haven't needed to test any others. I use the supplied draw bar between units as it provides a decent clearance and is very strong. The draw bars are a bit fiddly to connect, but you will develop a technique for this pretty quickly. I've found the easiest way is to clip the drawbar into the housing on one unit, then while keeping both units on a very flat surface, press the other end of the drawbar against the second unit's coupler housing at a slight angle before, then apply firm (but very careful) pressure until it clicks in place.
The supplied rear couplers don't quite meet up and are more of a display detail. For those wishing to use couplers to connect the units, they can be swapped out for Kadee couplers relatively easily by removing the screw from the bottom of the coupler box to slide it out. Some experimenting with different lengths will be required here - possibly #158's or one each of #158 and #156 should do the trick nicely.
These models are absolutely the best modern Chinese locomotive built to date. They perform superbly, are very highly detailed and are comparatively good looking compared to a lot of the other HXD designs. The technology included for the DCC versions is extremely good and it's great to see this company leading the way by bringing us these new features at a very affordable price. Although not exactly cheap models, are well worth the money and those who enjoy this era of Chinese railways will have no regrets owning one or more.