DB3 Class 4-4-4t
The DB3' s (originally LD1 class) was a small class of high speed passenger trains designed for short distances. They were built in Japan by Kawasaki in 1936 and 1938 for the South Manchurian Railway. Frequent failures with the SMR's diesel railcar sets in China as well as petroleum shortages saw favour return to these coal fired steam locomotives, although oil was trialled for a short period. The DB3's were highly advanced using a special steel to reduce weight and roller bearings throughout. They were streamlined front and rear to provide high speed service in both directions, giving the name Dabusa (double ended).
These locomotives were made for Kairyu (Bachmann's China's parent company) in the Bachmann China factory on commission for Tenshodo of Japan. A limited run of old style passenger cars was produced to be sold with these engines, which were simply repainted Bachmann 'old timer' US prototype cars in various color schemes (not reviewed, but in the main encyclopedia under "Bachmann Industries"). Despite being a very odd prototype and probably very dated to operate on most Chinese layouts, they were built primarily for the Japanese market and appear to have been fairly unsuccessful as they were readily available for many years.
The DB3's are presented in a thin maroon coloured cardboard box with a sleeved plastic clam shell supporting the model. The instruction sheet is in Japanese language.
The paint work is very nicely done and the lettering and lining are very crisp with no fuzz around the edges. Despite the wheels being mostly covered, they look really nice with black, red and white applied as neccessary. Most of the detailing is very good - particularly the sanding pipes to the wheels, pilot truck guides and uncoupling rods. Unfortunately the main handrails, particularly on the coal bunker just don't look right, thanks to the huge amount of very oversized stantions holding them in place. Painting them the color of the body may greatly improve this.
When I received my DB3, it was the worst locomotive I had experienced with extremely intermittent running which I put down to a poor pick up system and such a short wheel base. After examination, I noticed the wheel pickups were held to the circuit board with plastic clips and one of the wires from the driving wheels and another from the pony (rear) truck were making no contact with the circuit board and after some quick soldering jobs, the locomotive is now one of my best performing steam locomotives! I was able to pull eight Bachmann YZ22 carriages (with a very small amount of wheel slip in the beginning) at high speed, with a 1% gradient enabling half that amount. The locomotive is quite heavy for its size, and when the above mentioned problems were fixed, it's smooth and responsive. The motor has no fly wheel.
Shell removal very easy - Remove the front and rear most screw and the shell lifts off with ease.
The headlights, while possibly the wrong color, are quite nice. If anything, the LED on the main head light is too small in size so the housing headlight doesn't light up fully. These can be easily replaced by desoldering the headlight from the housing, which is attached to the body via a microscopic screw, and replacing with a standard 1.8mm or 3mm LED. There is an orange marker light on the rear of the engine which is permanently turned on when running DC mode. The twin side lights on the front are also always turned on, while the main headlight turns off if in reverse. The headlights is separate to the main board and rather than use wires, a pressure/brush system has been used and a connection is made when the body is screwed onto the frame. The side marker lights are wired. The rear marker light is a 2mm LED fixed to the main board. DCC installation is very easy with the standard 8 pin decoder plug. Despite the main instructions in Japanese, there is a hard wiring decoder diagram on the instruction sheet in English only!
I've not converted the couplers on this model yet, however it should accept a #5/58/158 Kadee coupler with no problems. There is no front coupler, and no provision for one.