SRZ/SYZ Class Double Decker Soft/Hard Seat Car
Double decker cars aren't exactly a modern development in China, with the first SRZ22's appearing in the 1970's, albeit rarely. During the 1990's with the introduction of the 25 series passenger cars, double decker variants were produced and they became a common sight on the main lines between large cities all over the country, if only for a while. They generally have a 30 - 40% increase in capacity in both seated and sleeper versions. In recent times their popularity has waned in favour of single decker cars and CRH passenger travel.
I initially intended to break up the review for the double deckers according to class, i.e. hard seat or soft seat etc, however with Bachmann's dogs breakfast of classes, subclasses, errors and product number system (or lack thereof), I've decided to combine the entire lot into one mega review. Asides from the above points and different liveries, they are essentially one and the same, sharing the same body shell, with all but one exception. The shell itself appears to have been a bit of a proverbial village bicycle as far as Bachmann models are concerned, as a whole series of them were given American railway liveries and sold to the US market (these are not included in this review). Just to add to the confusion, the fourth run has seen a minor retooling of the body shell decreasing the number of main saloon windows from two rows of seven to two rows of six per side. While I would love to say that they'd finally made a specific soft seat version, the real SRZ's can be found with either six or seven large windows, as can the SYZ's. I have no doubt Bachmann will one day release a sleeper version, which will most likely see me sent to a mental asylum as I attempt to include it into this review.
Bachmann's model appears to be based on the more modern 25Z class double decker cars with hinged end doors, rather than the folding door type between bogies on the 25B model, despite Bachmann running off a few 25B models in their line up! Having said all that, the old adage that in China there is a prototype for everything certainly rings true with these cars as there seems to be various differences of carriages belonging to the same class.
Some points of note are as follows :
CP00101 has a hard seat interior
CP00122 says SRZ 25K on the model, but SRZ 25Z on the box
The body shell is a single casting with a clip on roof and floor section. Interiors are class specific (asides from CP00101 as mentioned above) with 2 + 3 club seating on the hard seat coaches and 2 + 2 club seating for the soft seat coaches. These were Bachmann China's first passenger cars and have been quite successful enjoying four runs. Interestingly, not even the most recent version has received the interior lighting option as other coaches in Bachmann's line up.
Bachmann passenger cars come in a foldable plastic clam shell which slides inside a thin cardboard box with display window. There are some aesthetic differences on the outer packaging between the first three and fourth series.
Being Bachmann China's first attempt at passenger cars, details appear to be a little less than what we've seen from their other offerings, however they still look fantastic, especially in long trains, and there's enough liveries available to keep most of us happy. I am sceptical on a number of details on these cars, and it is assumed that there are a number of inaccuracies given the broad range of classes they purport to replicate. There doesn't seem to have been much of an option to do anything but however, afterall, out of the twenty eight photos of double decker cars I have taken from my travels to China, there appears to be twenty eight variations in the position or number of windows! Upgrades have been minimal over the four runs.
The first run came with only 2 liveries and a sheet of small sticker type destination boards. These were upgraded from the third run to the nice separate plastic variety as offered in all of Bachmann's other cars. The sticker sheet was also included in the third run, but dropped in the fourth and most recent.
Since the first run, Bachmann made a good effort to offer a number of variations in air conditioner manufacturing logos. The major detailing upgrade came in the fourth and so far final run, but even this was minimal and appears to be limited to paint improvements , finer handrails and separately applied iron railings over the door windows. (the major difference already mentioned above being the number of main saloon windows reduced from seven to six)
The paint work is generally very good, however I've noticed a few minor problems with some select cars which doesn't appear to be limited to any specific production run. Having only one of each of the cars in question in my possession, it is quite possible that this is a quality control issue and doesn't affect the entire batch. Problem relates to wobbly lines (around some of the more intricate artwork on CP00101 and an overspray on two of the road numbers on CP00120.
The coaches rolling properties tended to vary between cars quite severely, particularly in the earlier runs. I found sometimes by simply swapping the wheels around would be enough to improve the rolling capabilities. The third run sadly saw the introduction of high profile wheels.
None of the double decker cars were offered with interior lighting.
Bachmann EZ-mates are fitted to the models which should be replaced at the earliest opportunity if you don't like huge air gaps between cars. Bachmann have included their usual semi-permanent drawbars which bring the gaps closer together, yet are a pain to attach and detach. While I usually advocate the use of KD couplers, on my passenger fleet, I prefer a Kadee coupler at each end of a rake of cars (type 362 NEM) and Fleischmann 6515's throughout the rest of the train. The Fleishmann couplers offer a superb connection and provide flawless operation between the cars around corners. They are also well built and designed and very easy to couple/uncouple. I find the Kadee's don't work as well with certain types of passenger cars which can prove troublesome when blending different types of passenger cars.