Model Encyclopedia - Bachmann China 1:87 CRH3 High Speed Set
The CRH3 is a variant of the Siemens Velaro high speed trains. The first few sets were built in Germany with the rest at Tangshan Railway Vehicles. The CRH3 is the pinnacle of the high speed trains that have swept across China in recent years. It remains the highest speed variant, capable of a 350kph top speed. The prototype has a total of 8 cars including the two cab units at either end comprising of 6 second class coaches, one first class and one dining car.
It's taken over 3 years for me to get my hands on one of these sets, and overall I'm not too disappointed with it. Quite the opposite in fact. It is a little too modern for my era, but I've always been rather impressed with China's high speed railway system. I bought this knowing that it was already incorrect in only having 5 cars in the set, and while I am aware that many people simply don't have the room to run them, it would have been nice of Bachmann to at least made the remaining three cars available! Rant over...
The detailing on these sets is very nicely done and unfortunately can't really be appreciated by the photos alone (although I've done my best with the ones below!). Build quality is excellent, the electrical components are very nicely represented and the pantograph is easy to operate and works very well to boot. Lettering is very crisp. The doors are simply pained on, but it doesn't detract from the appearance. The wheels have the external disc brakes, although the bogies themselves look a bit too plasticy for my liking. Overall however, it ticks most of the boxes in the aesthetic department.
The center car (dining car) is the powered unit on this train and it is very heavy. All the cars have interior lights and this is sent down the train by the drawbars (very similar to the SS4G models released a bit later on). I've found that on my sample, the drawbars are rather difficult to fully connect. The million dollar question - does this thing crank out a scale 350kph? Well, no... it will do maybe a scale 120kph at full throttle on level track, certainly not even close to the potential of the real train. Now this isn't to say it would be necessarily safe to have one of these things zipping around at 350kph around the layout; the carnage of a derailment would be catastrophic - however it could be safely operated at a speed at least double this (given the high wheel profiles) and would certainly be more believable. It is also useless on gradients (tested on a 2.7% gradient). There is no traction problems given the weight of the car (and no wheel slip), but the motor in the powered unit simply can't handle the stress of pushing half the train up hill and pulling the other half up as well, it simply runs out of puff and hums until some manual coaxing is applied. Little wonder they didn't go for the full 8 car set! Performance is generally very nice despite this, with smooth quiet operation. The cars (once coupled) are very close together and are quite forgiving around sharp corners.
The cars all have electrical current passed through the cars by the way of drawbars, the same design as used on Bachmann China's SS4G double unit electric locomotives. On top of this all cars pick up power as well. A DCC decoder may be placed in the dining car. The headlights are quite nice on this model, perhaps a bit too yellow if one had to nitpick. Car interiors are all lit with white LED's for the cars. Given the dark windows, they seem particularly dim, however I'm not sure if this is how the real ones appear due to the tinted windows. At the very least there should be more of these lights inside each car as the 3 or 4 provided leave dim spots throughout the train.
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