SS1 Class Co-Co
The SS1's were China's first mass produced electric locomotive and the first in the Shaoshan series (named after Chairman Mao's birthplace). They enjoyed a long production run of 20 years starting in 1968, and over 800 were built at Zhuzhou Electric Locomotive Works during this time.
I'm unaware of official classifications (if any) to distinguish between the variations of the SS1 class, however for the purposes of this review, I have categorised them as follows, as CMR have :
Phase 1. Ribbed sides, five large portholes windows centrally positioned. Trapezoid shaped brake resistor grids.
Phase 2. Ribbed sides, five large portholes windows (three centrally positioned & one each at either end). Box type resistor grids.
Phase 3. Flat sides with long louvre panel, six oblong porthole windows. Box type resistor grids.
CMR's model is the third SS1 model offered - the first being a plastic version by Haidar some years ago, the other a more recent version in brass by N27. CMR are the first to offer all variants of this very good looking electric locomotive, and I do mean every variation! There are three main body styles, with both type of brake resistor grid and every conceivable livery. A good choice of bureaus is also on offer.
Packaging is the usual sturdy CMR two-piece cardboard box with a sleeved one piece clear plastic clam shell. An instruction sheet (Chinese language only) is provided, as well as a drill bit and manual drill, a magnetic tool and a pack of detail parts to be added by the owner if desired.
The main body shell is plastic and all lines, recesses and angles are nice and sharp. Roof detail is excellent. The ugly pantograph mount remains, however it is mostly disguised by the four insulators that surround the base of the pantograph.
Most detail parts are plastic. The separately applied number boards are plastic, so are thicker than they should be, however they've cleverly countered this by having them recessed into the body work so they don't stick out so far. Builders plates are painted on the body shell, but CMR have also included separate ones for those who would like extra realism (Top marks there, CMR!). Handrails are steel and look superb, some versions are painted depending on prototype. Windows sit flush with the model, however I've noticed a number of my models having the corner windows dislodged/snapped in half or completely missing, so take especially good care when removing the model out of the box!
Great care has been taken to ensure that no two model is exactly the same and makes for a good argument to own all of them!
Differences between versions may be :
Painted handrails (lime green, white, stainless)
Number plates with white, chrome or yellow characters
Positioning of builders plates
External mirrors, as per prototype
Variations in the paint - some versions have a light, pale or rich green upper body
Air horn housings in blue or grey
Lettering on the front windshields
Roof insulators in white, blue or red
Bogie details have a fairly good amount of detail with nice metal steps firmly attached. The wheels are correctly hollowed out as per prototype. Sanding pipes are included in the additional parts bag to further enhance detail (not shown in the photos).
Other additional parts to install include air-conditioners, builders plates, insulators and air hoses. The instruction sheet clearly shows where these are to be fixed if desired. Air horns are machined from brass and have very fine brass wire air lines and short and/or long trumpets, depending on variant. Windshield wipers are very fine. Headlight lenses are very nice. The pantographs raise with little fuss and have a nice firm action. Engine room (for lack of a better term) interior has been achieved by the simple, yet effective method of printed paper. The paint work is sensational. Lining is VERY sharp and the paint work is even. The only fault I can detect is on some of the "special" versions, which I'll get into more detail below.
My main problem with much of the detail work - builders plates, windows, number plates, chrome headlight bezels etc, etc - is the amount of flash from where these parts have clearly been snapped off a sprue. You can see an example of this in the photo above on the left hand side of the front number plate. In some of the photos, you may notice the main reservoir air tanks between the bogies are slightly lopsided. This is due to them being incorrectly assembled. I found to straighten them up, it's best to remove them by gently prying them off with a small screwdriver and then pressing them back into place.
Special versions! I collected one of each of these, and sadly I don't find them as good as the standard ones. The front badges are a touch too thick for my liking, (very similar to Bachmann's), whilst on the drastically decorated versions, the side plates are simply painted on. On road numbers 203 & 406, it's possible to see some of the body work paint underneath the painted on characters and don't present as well as they should. Perhaps I was hoping for too much when I saw add on builders plates, but these models would have been just about perfect if some etched brass characters or side decorations were included.
Out of my fifteen models, thirteen run exceptionally well with super smooth action and all are extremely responsive. The other two, interestingly both of my #061's, have an unacceptable amount of gearbox noise. I will post the findings here once I find the time to investigate further. It sounds like a more major problem than a lack of oil, and I've come across the same problems with previous CMR releases which had damaged gears.
Concerning the pantographs; while very pretty with good functionality, I'm once again very nervous actually running them under an overhead system. They have been cut out of stainless steel sheet and the edges are very sharp. I've had similar experiences with pantographs on other models where this condition sees them snag on overhead, in some cases ripping the entire pantograph off the model.
Power is ferried around by a circuit board. DCC operators can use an 8 or 21 pin decoder. There is space underneath the board at each end to accommodate a pair of speakers. The center most roof box can be removed to access a switch to change from rail pick up to pantograph pickup, however most modelers I know don't use this feature (and for good reason).
For DC users, there is a magnetic switch underneath the roof which, when the included magnetic tool is waved over the top, will isolate power to the motor but leave the headlights on.
Most of the LED's are very neatly wired to the board with miniature plugs which makes modifications a breeze. The main headlights collect power from a pressure contact mounted to the roof of the body shell.
The headlight is very strong and emits an almost peach coloured light with excellent strength. The other lights are appropriately lower strength which is nice to see.
The body is held to the shell with four main screws located above the two centre most axles which can be removed easily with a hobby-sized Phillips-head screw driver. The coupler must also be removed, a simple process by removing the screw and sliding the coupler box out. The body shell then lifts off very easily. When reassembling the model, ensure the pantograph/rail power selector switch lines up with the centremost roof box.
CMR have used a metal knuckle coupler, a copy of a standard Kadee #5. They appear to be very good quality, although personally I do prefer scale head couplers. Interestingly, CMR have the coupler housed in a self contained spring loading box to keep the coupler centralised. It takes only seconds to remove or install the coupler as a result. As the spring is included in the coupler box, the couplers need only be replaced with #5 or #58's (scale heads).