D38 Class Special-Purpose Flatcar
The D38 class Schnabel is the largest freight car in China, and one of the largest freight cars in the world. Only one was built by Qiqihar Railway Rolling Stock Group and was designed to transport grossly over-sized loads, often generators and transmissions for power stations. Like all Schnabel cars, it seperates into two equal halves and the load is spliced between them, becoming part of the car (which must be a spectacle in itself to watch). The D38 spreads its weight of 226 tonnes over 32 axles and is able to carry loads up to 380 tonnes (606 tonnes total), giving each axle a load of nearly 19 tonnes each.
These D38's are the most recent Chinese freight car model, and seem to have been rather successful in terms of sales. There is no doubt they are an absolutely outrageous model and although all models are welcome, many Western modellers have expressed concern that they have chosen such a model when many other popular types haven't been made yet. It makes sense to me, as Bachmann China seem to fancy making models which showcase China's railways - e.g. fastest, most modern, most common - and now, largest. They can be operated with the load attached or 'light', for lack of a better term. The load is attached from the bottom via screws which attach to flexible arms on the car ends. the top of the load is a press-fit design, which works well enough, but should be lifted up from each end of the car - not from the center.
These were offered in two packaging choices. The first was in a large, but flat two-piece cardboard box. The inner packaging was a two-piece clear plastic shell with a number of impressions to hold each of the two portions of the freight car, the generator load and the accessory parts.
The second type came in a very long box containing a clear plastic tubular display case with a black plastic base and a piece of track in which the model sits. This was a more expensive option.
These cars are easily the highest quality freight car yet built to date, and given that they cost 5 times a standard freight car, one would sure hope so! There are stacks of details, including CCTV cameras (6), air conditioner compressors and roller bearings all individually numbered. While I personally prefer the grey color scheme, the brown version seems to be a little nicer with the lettering (the grey version seems a little thick in places).
This car has a lot of legs. There are eight bogies, each with four wheels (these wheels are much smaller in diameter than anything we've seen from Bachmann China before - unfortunately those damned deep flanges are still ever present). The end wheels are mounted like any standard wheel on a freight car - with pointed axle ends. The middle wheels however, are clipped in with a single center mount. The wheels have a lot of give and I have found that I can even run mine on 26" radius curves! Of course this is subject to what clearances your layout may have, and if you're running catenary masts for electric locomotives, it's best to run this baby into a siding and just enjoy it for its' aesthetic purposes. It should also be noted that the generator 'load' is substantially taller than the car itself.
What I don't like is that often one of those axles simply hops off the rails due to the design with the single center mounted clip. A dual clip could have fixed this problem, but I can imagine would have created havoc for the Chinese modellers running them on there 15" layouts. (okay, an exagerration - but you get the point). Long story short, 99.9% of modellers are going to need to come to some sort of compromise to run these models hether it be building the layout around it - or just on straight track.
Bachmann EZ mates can be replaced with Kadee #5/58/158 (medium) or #56/156 (long - as if you need the thing to be any longer!).