Model Encyclopedia - Bachmann China 1:87 QJ Class 2-10-2

Prototype Information

The QJ's were the largest type of standard steam locomotive in the People's Republic of China. They were designed and typically used for heavy freight service, but were very capable machines in passenger as well. The first prototypes were built by seven locomotive factory's spread throughout China, but batch production of locomotives was exclusive to the Datong Locomotive factory, with over 4700 examples manufactured up until 1988. The QJ's saw a number of modifications and trials throughout production life and later examples were fitted with larger 12 wheel tenders (and many earlier examples were retrofitted). 

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Production Summary

Dimensions

Model weight is between 540 and 590 grams depending on variant. 

12 wheel tender versions measure 352mm in length, 37mm wide and 57mm height. 

Model Review - First Series

General

The China Railways QJ 2-10-2 was the first mass produced Chinese steam locomotive in HO scale, arriving in 2001. There were seven production runs spanning 16 years and most versions sold out very quickly. Despite it's commercial success, many versions were not without their caveats. 

A serious fault was detected shortly after the release of the first production models in around 100 models and Bachmann issued a recall notice to have the faulty locomotives replaced in 2009. The fault was due to a very poor quality alloy used in the chassis which after some time operating, would disintegrate and completely seize. The replacements manufactured were brand new units with improved running gear as used in the third production run. Unfortunately the recall lasted only a couple of weeks before Bachmann saw the matter closed and the resulting unclaimed models (i.e. most of them) released onto the open market, with many owners - including myself - unaware that Bachmann China had even done anything about the issue. If you are are wondering which version you have, the first sign of having an improved version is the cardboard packaging being slightly smaller and lacking a clear window. On the model itself, the replacements have a flanged center driver. If you have a first series unit which has given up on life, it is very possible that you have come across this fatal fault and equally possible that you won't be able to get it running again. I tried for 10 years to get a replacement chassis for two of my units from Bachmann without success. 

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Packaging

Runs 1 - 3 had a two-piece cardboard box, a thin cardboard outer sleeve with clear window and a more substantial inner piece which accomodated a plastic inner clam shell box with plastic sleeve. The inner clam shell does a nice job of protecting the locomotive and also serves as a handy support when working on the underframe of the locomotive. 

Construction

The QJ's have a plastic shell and a zinc-alloy frame providing a fairly decent amount of weight. Detail parts such as steps and smoke deflectors are brass and others like whistles, valves etc are plastic. As a general rule, the QJ's are complex beasts and are not designed to be pulled apart. 

The tender is semi-permanently attached to the locomotive by drawbar. All driving wheels and tender wheels provide electric pickup and cables ferry power from the wheels and headlight to the circuit board housed in the tender (can be unplugged is seperating). 

Details

The first production runs are modelled on late build QJ's with full sized smoke deflectors and 12 wheel tenders and standard exhausts (the latter common through all of Bachmann China's QJ's). The model is very well proprtioned and most details are nicely reproduced in either plastic or brass. Handrails and ladders are particularly well scaled. A rubber diaphragm is between the locomotive and tender and certainly improves the overall look of the model. Coal load is removeable and a mechanical stoking equipment is visible with the load removed. The cab is reasonably well detailed and comes with two crew in unreasonably white shirts! The gear box above the third driving axle is an obvious inaccuracy but where needed for this model as Bachmann's mechanical department deemed it the most logical place to install all the bits to make it go.     

Add-on Details

Bachmann QJ's come with a number of spare add-on parts for the owner to apply if so wished. Included are a bag of real crushed coal to add onto the plastic coal load for the tender for added realism, brake rigging, re-railers and staff receivers. Some decorated versions also come with number plates, decorations and photoetched metal characters.  

Electronics

Electrical pick-up comes from the driving wheels and the tender wheels, which is ferried to the circuit board housed in the tender via wires and then back to the engine to the motor and headlights. Headlights are directional and are incandescent 12 volt bulbs. These give off a very nice color, but being bulbs tend to heat up very quickly, something to keep an eye on. Swapping these out for LED's (3mm sunny bright recommended) is a worthwhile, albeit painful, modification. 

There is plenty of room inside the tender to accept a DCC decoders. As per standard Bachmann practice, they have an 8 pin socket to accept any NMRA 8 pin decoder. The tender shell is easily removed by putting a few toothpicks between the chassis and the frame, and again on the other side.

Couplers

The Bachmann QJ comes fitted with Bachmann EZ-mate knuckle couplers. They look OK, but I much prefer swapping these out for Kadee couplers for years of fault free operation. The rear coupler will require an NEM fitting while the front coupler is a more standard coupler box with screw and plate. 

My QJ's are fitted with #17's on the rear (although #18, 19, 20's will also work if you require longer shanks). A sharp hobby knife may be required to shave a tiny amount of plastic from the front of the coupler box to allow the KD coupler to clip in place. The front couplers are much easier and I equip mine with #153's - an easy drop in replacement. The 153's have scale coupler heads for better aesthetics and have self-centering whiskers fitted to the coupler so no spring plate is required. Other types such as #5, 58, 158, 156 will also work amongst others. 

Performance

While the QJ's are fairly weighty, much of the traction is lost as the center driver. Its diameter is a fraction smaller than the others and as this is also the wheel geared to the worm/motor, it results in a jerking motion (especially when running forwards). Despite this, the model is very responsive and has a fantastic speed range. This flaw lasted through the first and second production runs. 

Model Review - Second Series

General

Bachmann released three new versions for their second series. A standard version #7207 (final QJ built), a semi-decorated #6732 "Youth" and a highly decorated #6800 "Iron Bull". There were some very minor improvements in this second run, but are overly similar to the first series in nearly every way. 

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Details

The two decorated locomotives included extra small detail parts to be installed. In the case of #6800 "Iron Bull", once the smoke box plaque was installed, it wasn't possible to return it to the box with modifying it first. The tender plaque on #6732 is installed in the wrong place (the prototype being much more off center towards the cab, smaller and much thinner). Anyone looking to buy one of these should try and make sure that the parts are either installed or included in the box. Out of five of these I've purchased, all but one included the decoration details! (If anyone wants to sell me a set, please get in touch!)

Performance

These locomotives performed exactly the same as the first series with no improvements to the running qualities attempted. I have noticed when running in reverse, the tender had a tendency to snag on the rubber corridor de-railing it or the locomotive. A quick remedy is to cut about 1mm off the corridor (use the fold in the rubber as a guide). This didn't apply to the first series and I believe the upset is due to a redesigned drawbar system featuring a more stable 4-pin design to keep the tender connected to the locomotive. The previous 2-pin type on the first series had prevented the tender from getting too close to the engine.

Model Review - Third Series

General

The third series of QJ's saw two new road numbers available, decorated #6978 and #7143. The major upgrade was to that in the performance department with a complete reworking of the running gear. While the first and second series can occasionally be found gracing the listings of eBay, this pair are seemingly very difficult to source and command significantly high prices. 

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Details

The 3rd series was released in 2007 and were both models of Ji-Tong based engines, perhaps to celebrate the end of steam on the Ji-Tong line, the last major concentration of the QJ's. Two of the most famous locomotives along the line were modelled. #7143 was held in high esteem by her crews and was given a special blue headboard in her final years, which Bachmann has decided to replicate with their model. #6978 was generally used on passenger service and has a large red smoke box plaque with gold characters which has been poorly executed in my eyes - the paint on the decorations looks very thick and unrealistic, especially when compared to the quality they achieved on their previous decorated QJ's. 

Performance

Finally Bachmann decided to something about the drive system on their QJ's and made the center driving wheel diameter the same as the others. This has greatly improved the tractive effort and eliminated the jerky performance of the prior releases. Unfortunately however, they have added a flange onto this wheel! So close, and yet so far. This shouldn't effect the running of the engine, even on fairly sharp curves and is more of an aesthetic and common sense complaint.

Electronics

LED's replaced the 12v bulbs from the first & second series. Unfortunately the color is a very unrealistic orange color.

Model Review - Fourth Series

General

The fourth production run introduced a single version of the QJ steam locomotive. Bachmann touted this one as being a limited edition of only 1500 pieces, amusing as all their previous regular QJ's had only 500 examples of each produced! This version saw significant improvements to the drive mechanism which has been used in all future versions to date (7th run) and is the only version to have been produced with the original 8 wheel tender. This model was the first QJ to be sold in Bachmann's new slimline boxes.

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Packaging

The fourth series saw a redesign of the packaging, with a more refined and slimmer 2 piece cardboard box. The same style inner plastic clam shell was retained.    

Details

2470 was a very famous Harbin based locomotive, named after Chinese general Zhu De. The model comes with two sets of decorations for the owner to apply, depending on the era they model. A ladder was also included to be attached to one side of the tender.

Performance

The engine ran every bit as good as the third series, but this time they've finally got the center driving wheel figured out with the correct size and flangeless.

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Electronics

The tender has been designed to house a sound decoder with speaker holes cast into the bottom. It happily accepts the DXDC 5302 (QJ) sound decoder and should be able to fit many others.

Model Review - Fifth Series

Prototype Information

The QJ2 was an experimental gas powered locomotive based on the standard QJ in an effort to make steam motive power more efficient at a time where steam production was still a rather major event. QJ2 0001 was built in 1986 and was subject to a handful of tests, before being converted to standard QJ configuration and mated to a new tender before being sold to in the early 1990's to a local railway as # 7291. The original tender of this locomotive was preserved at Datong Locomotive Works Museum and then painted in light blue. 7291 was still in service into the mid 2000's on the Pucheng-Baishui coal railway before being stored following an accident and ultimately scrapped not long afterwards.

General

Bachmann's QJ2 is the first and only model of an experimental steam locomotive. Typically due to their rarity and limited appeal to the masses, experimental locomotives in the model railway world are usually confined to very small quantity but high quality and pricey brass models. So full marks to Bachmann for being brave and getting one of these done! 

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Details

Black version - the details are absolutely superb. Handrails are painted white which looks fantastic. The pony truck is painted red with white lining and the cylinder casings bear the China Rail logo - a very welcome addition for me as I detail many of my locomotives in the same fashion! The tender is incredibly well done with exquisite detail. The headlight (on both versions) appears to be mounted a little too high from the photographs I've found.

Blue version - this model is equally physically detailed, however lacks much of the lettering such as road number and bureau markings of the black version. The elephant in the room obviously surrounds the issue of the color and as mentioned above, this locomotive was converted back to original spec and mated with a new tender. Only the original tender was kept for the Datong Railway museum and painted light blue after the fact. I'm not really sure what Bachmann were thinking when they decided to produce this particular color, and more so in giving the entire model a weathering job as the tender was only painted blue after being removed from service. It is possible a sewerage pipe burst next to the locomotive, but I think we're clutching at straws here. The factory weathering is also not particularly convincing in my eyes as the mud effect is glossy and only applied to the bottom half of the model. One would assume that if a steam locomotive was this dirty, the area around the smokestack would be slightly toasted as well! Still it is seems to generate a bit of interest and is probably worth having just for the collector value alone. 

Performance

The engine employs the same drive system as the latest QJ (2470 Zhu De). That is, it runs flawlessly. The center driver is flangeless and is the same size as the other drivers (read the QJ review for information on this). Tested on level track, these beauties will haul 20 - 30 freight cars with no issues. I have not tested this model on gradients at the time of writing due to lack of layout.

Model Review - Sixth Series

General

Two new QJ's were released in march 2014 with no notice of their impending arrival, which appears to be Bachmann practice now, indeed there are no upcoming Bachmann products in the pipeline known to me at the time of writing. QJ6301 is another highly decorated model limited to a production run of 500 units which comes with a booklet (Chinese language only) of the locomotive's history. The other is a high deflector version, #7127, being one of the final QJ's in service. 

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Packaging

The outer box has changed from this version. They come in the same two piece style box, albeit thinner cardboard, with a more artistic look. A new gold paper sleeve surrounds the box. 

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Details

QJ6301 - This locomotive was the pride of the Ji-Tong based QJ's, employed in both freight and passenger service. Typically, the engine was adorned with lots of red and brass embellishments. It appears that there were some changes made over the course of her life and the model depicts that of her later years. The paint work of 6301 is high quality and very sharp. I am a little disappointed in some of the painted details around the cab and tender however. The tender depot code characters and CNR logos on this locomotive should be separate brass castings, but are painted on instead. Such a wasted opportunity. The same goes with the number plates on the cab/tender as well as the small communist party flag logo on the cab side. 6301 already costs a premium over co-released 7127, so I'm a bit puzzled on why they cheaped out on this one. We've seen what Bachmann are capable of with previous releases such as 6800 'Iron Bull' and 2470 'Zhu De' with beautiful brass details. The front headboards look quite good (a bit nicer than the photos show) and the red star on the front cowling is very nicely done, however the caligraphy panels on the smoke deflectors look a bit thick. I do like the white painted handrails and lining, although perhaps a little thick on the walkway 'fences'. Details to add are the usual brake rigging and re-railers.

QJ7127 - Gorgeous! This is in my eyes the nicest of the Bachmann QJ's. It features the penultimate drivetrain and I'm a sucker for the high mounted smoke deflectors. Details appear to be much like the standard QJ's already produced by Bachmann, with only the dual tender lights, extra front handrails and, of course, the high mounted smoke deflectors (aka 'elephant ears'). The only thing I can really fault regarding the details would be the application of the deflectors to the body. They are held in by four microscopic plastic plugs. They're reasonably strong, however many of these models appear to have the deflectors bent inwards at an unsatisfying angle. Both of mine also had loose right hand side deflectors and I'm a bit nervous fiddling around with them. This could have been a bit of carelessness at the factory or restrictive packaging, and seems to be the standard for all examples I've seen so far. They sold out very quickly and I'm yet to see one enter the second hand market to date. 

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Electronics

The frame of the 6 wheel tenders have not been upgraded with speaker holes, for those who run sound, so some drilling may be in order. DCC is the standard 8 pin plug type which is housed in the tender. Unfortunately, Bachmann continue to use the deep orange colored LED's.

Model Review - Seventh Series

General

The seventh and to date final series brought us another two QJ's, one standard and one semi decorated version. Both have standard (full size) smoke deflectors and 12 wheel tenders. It appears they are being sold as DC or DCC/Sound which would make it a first for Bachmann to offer both control systems in a model. These are possibly the very last in the Bachmann range with the apparent cessation of Bachmann China. Due to their exorbitant high price and my current fleet of QJ's outgrowing my storage space, I have not yet reviewed these models. 

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