QinLing 160 Class Diesel Railcar
ChangMing Model Train Studios
The QinLing 160 class diesel railcars are a large family of diesel powered machines. They are coupled with a manual 3 speed gearbox. They were built by Baoji Engineering & Machinery Works from 1975. They could be found all over the country particularly in industrial settings, however few remain in service these days as they have been progressively replaced by more modern machines from a plethora of manufacturers.
ChangMing gave us over a year's notice that they were to release the QL160's. I was very excited to get my hands on one (or five) as they are really awesome little machines, and given ChangMing's recent quality on their DF7D's and ND3's, what could possibly go wrong? There were five versions released, each with distinctive liveries, and all were available in DC or DCC with Sound. The models are nicely weighted for their size, at 142 grams, which has been achieved by having a die cast body shell.
ChangMing's latest boxes are a nice two piece solid cardboard box. The lid lifts off easily. Inside is a foam with a cutout section for the model between two foam panels. The model is wrapped in a small plastic sheet and sits inside the cut out foam section. ChangMing usually support their models with screws in the floor attaching it to a base, but given the miniscule size of the model and the huge amount of floor detail and lack of space, it is quite clear to see why they have taken this route. This doesn't make it a perfect application however and there are many reports of damaged models where they have been carelessly put inside the box (or taken out of) resulting in damaged detail parts on arrival. A small instruction sheet in Chinese language is provided.
The railcars are superbly detailed from every conceivable angle, inside and out. Each version has unique details to the next, be it air horn placement or size, grille style, extra handrails or pilots. There are no additional parts to be added.
The interior for these models deserves special mention. ChangMing have done an incredible job in replicating the interior. There are no wires or motors or even the DCC decoder to obstruct the view. The motor is hidden away under the realistic motor cover and the decoder/speakers are all sandwiched between the floor and undercarriage. The control stands at both ends are brilliantly replicated, not only by the detail, but also individually painted brake handles and whistles. The instrument gauges look very beautiful with simulated glass, but the real magic (for DCC users at least), they all illuminate!
Brass details include the grille in front of the engine and windshield wipers, both are of course immaculately represented. The pilots, undercarriage detail and air hoses are plastic and I suspect the horns are also, but the detail is as good as brass could be. One version has the wipers behind the pilots. All handrails and grab irons are steel wire, with some variation between versions. The undercarriage is packed with detail such as drive shafts, air reservoirs, brake rigging and sanding equipment, compressor, exhaust piping, and equipment boxes.
The paint work is very beautiful and the liveries chosen are fantastic and the paint is very evenly applied with a nice matt finish. The lining and lettering are very sharp generally speaking, although a couple of versions have slight fuzz where colors meet around the center doors. Some of the details are individually painted, such as air hose taps and roller bearing covers.
Despite its incredible looks, performance is bad. Really bad. Probably the worst model I've operated since N27's DFH5 locomotive a couple of years back. Granted they have an exceptionally small wheel base, but even on clean straight track, this thing stutters and stalls like it's going out of fashion. For some reason, ChangMing have not added a capacitor for which they are famous for adding in all of their other models to date. As this railcar has far fewer legs than a mainline locomotive, it is very frustrating that this feature has been omitted.
ChangMing Model Train Studios are allegedly working on a fix for this, although information is scarce (as of January 2023) and it seems they would much rather work on getting new models out rather than looking after the people who have bought their products. For those that can't wait, small 'stay-alive' capacitors are available from DCC Concepts, although they are quite expensive and I will wait a while longer to see what ChangMing comes up with - hopefully they can be hidden away as the interior is too nice to clutter up with these things. If ChangMing come to the table, I will adjust my rating accordingly.
Electrical pick up is from both axles, with current being picked up from cleverly hidden copper bearings at the axles. The tiny motor is hidden away in the same place as the real one, a slight raised section inside the rail car. Only one axle is powered, which is all it needs for itself and a flat car or two.
This part of the review is mostly applicable to those after DCC/Sound versions. Presumably the DC versions at least have directional lighting. The DCC sound versions have so much more and are well worth the extra investment, so long as we can get the damned things moving more than a few inches!
They are fitted with a 18 pin ESU loksound v5.0 Micro sound decoder which allows for a huge array of lighting and sound effects. The light suite includes main headlight, marker lights, interior lights and instrument gauge lights.
I particularly like the sound effects on this model - the speakers are excellent and when I can get them to run for more than a meter or so, the engine revving and changing gears like a bus is easily one of the best model railway sounds I have heard to date.
These are a little tricky to take apart, so do take care to read the instruction manual (or at least study the pictures if you don't read Chinese!). The shell is held on with two tiny Phillips head screws on the undercarriage. These should only be turned 90° however to slide out the lugs holding the shell to the chassis. The shell very easily lifts off and exposes the incredibly beautiful detail. ChangMing incidentally sell HO scale figures suitable for these cars (B0050).
The models are fitted with scale head couplers with no trip pins and shouldn't need upgrading.
These are one of the prettiest and well executed models to date anywhere. It is such a shame the performance has let them down as I would have been very tempted to give a rare 10/10 for them. I have heard multiple reports out of China that local modelers are rapidly losing trust in ChangMing which is disappointing, especially as it isn't the first time ChangMing have burned and subsequently ignored their customers. ChangMing like to tout themselves as industry leaders and they certainly have the potential to be so, but it won't mean anything if there is no faith in the brand.