SS3B Class Co-Co+Co-Co
The SS3B was developed by Zhuzhou locomotive works in 2002. Over the next seven years, Zhuzhou, Ziyang, Datong & Dalian would collectively produce 353 units. They are essentially a double unit version of the popular SS3 (from number series 4000) with each unit having a single cab and semi-permanently coupled. Unlike the majority of early designs, both units were designed to be operated by a single crew. They are typically found in the southern and central areas in China with large concentrations found at Wuhan, Lanzhou and Chengdu.
CMR have blessed us with the very imposing double unit CMR locomotives. They were sold as double units with each unit in a nice CMR cardboard box and a carboard sleeve that slides over both boxes. A total of ten road numbers have been produced with eight bureaus. They have made versions produced by Datong locomotive works and Zhuzhou locomotive works and two of the versions carry a darker shade of blue, as per prototype. In Lanzhou I was able to watch both color schemes, sometimes working as double headers (4 units) over the yellow river.
Rather than redesign a new box for a double unit, CMR Line have simply used two separate boxes to house each portion. They are both solid cardboard and kept together with a thin cardboard sleeve. The inner packaging is a plastic clamshell type with a plastic sleeve. The models are wrapped in a thin sheet of plastic to avoid paint damage.
The paint work is overall very nice. The paint is evenly applied and the edges between the white and blue paint is extremely sharp. The roof paint is equally good. Some of the roof mounted electrical components are painted white and some of the red (from the plastic color they were moulded in) is showing through. The lettering is very sharp and the finer lettering is superbly done. The biggest disappointment on mine is two dirty great finger under the white paint just under the side cab window on one of my units. These models were made only a couple of months after the SS6B and many of the components from those have been shared on these. As such, much of what is said from here is lifted from the SS6B review.
Starting from the top, the pantographs are reasonably strong and good looking, apart from a very unrealistic and ugly pantograph mount. CMR were aware of the criticism from the SS3 pantographs, but I'm unsure why they've gone to this extreme with the mount while leaving the major problem with these pantographs unchecked. More of that in the performance section.
Roof detail is not too bad. CMR have abandoned the idea of separate walkways on the roof, which is a shame, but hardly surprising from the problems they had with them in the SS3. They now form part of the shell and don't look overly convincing to me. The insulators look fairly good, but I will most likely paint mine to get rid of the plastic look. Air horns are very good as are the brake resistor grids and air conditioners.
The cab sides are very nice, with very sharp body detail. The handrails are superb, with the majority of them painted in the correct colors. Windshield wipers are exquisite and I'm very impressed with the window surrounds being chrome on the side windows and black on the front. The headlights and marker lights are very nicely reproduced and the pilots are also very good. Bogie details are great with traction bars and very fine brass ladders. My only criticism is the copper electrical contacts are visible and could have quite easily been designed to remain hidden.
Separate parts to be installed are air hoses, side mirrors and some foot steps.
The model runs very well in both directions and is very powerful, many thanks to the heavy weight of the model. There are no traction tires and due to lack of layout I've only been able to perform basic tests. My units run very well, however I should stress I had to go through four of them in a Hong Kong retailer before I found these that run nigh on perfect. Both units are powered and are very strong.
As for the pantographs previously mentioned, it appears that while the pantographs are stronger, I am still very hesitant to use them. My example seems more sturdy than the SS3 locomotives and they spring up quite happily, however the pantograph blades are also very sharp and have a tendency to scrape along the contact wire, rather than glide underneath it. The result can mean even the slightest imperfection in the overhead will see it ripped apart/off completely. I'm considering upgrading the pantographs on mine to a German brand once I can be bothered. I would like to hear from anyone who actually uses these (either powered or not) for your thoughts.
Power is ferried from the rails (or pantograph and rail if you wish) via a circuit board to the motor and the lighting system. There is a selector switch on the circuit board to allow the change between pantograph and wheel power, note this requires removal of the shell. DCC is easy to install with an 8 pin or 21 pin type decoder. At the time of writing, I have not converted my example to run on DCC.
The lighting system is very nice, even without the bogie lights, with a very strong white LED for the main headlight and more yellowish marker lights for forward direction and red for reverse. Lighting is directional.
CMR have again used plastic couplers for both ends of each unit. They appear to have long shanks, and could most likely be reduced to a medium type for closer coupling while still maintaining a good clearance. For those who want the genuine KD's with scale heads, a 58/158 does the trick nicely (or if you still want the long shank type, go for #56/156's). Most modelers will also want to close the gap between the units. While CMR have included a drawbar to replace the couplers here, it does nothing to bring the units closer together. I imagine it wouldn't be too hard to drill another hole in this and trim accordingly, otherwise, medium shank #58/158 kadee's will work fine.