SL7 Class 4-6-2
The beautiful streamline Pashina 4-6-2 Pacific locomotives were designed and built in Japan. The first three were built at Mantetsu Shahekou Works in 1934 with the remaining nine units manufactured by Kawasaki, except the final machine which was delivered in 1936. They were built for the South Manchurian Railway and ran the iconic Asia Express passenger train between Changchun and Dalian, the world's first air conditioned service. The SL7 and its train were very symbolic in showcasing Japanese technology and engineering excellence. All locomotives survived in service well into the 1980's and two units, 751 & 757, are preserved in Shenyang Railway museum.
Eisenbahn Canada have produced almost every conceivable version of the famous SL7 streamliner locomotives over two runs. The first run all featured the later redesigned streamline casing, with the most obvious spotting feature being the pair of air vents on the front cowling. The second run of models covered the short lived earlier style streamlining. I was unable to get my hands on one of the early style streamliner versions to review, but will include photos here if I ever do.
The packaging consists of a thick cotton bag with a draw-string containing a large one-piece thick cardboard box with a foldable lid secured by small magnets. The outer box is foam lined and contains another two boxes, one each for the tender and locomotive. The models come with a pair of cotton gloves and an introductory letter from the company.
The smaller boxes are also foam lined and each portion of the locomotive sits on an aluminium plate and is wrapped in a fibrous paper sheet and soft plastic. There is also a large plastic sheet which sits under the models to assist with lifting them out of the box. The only add on parts is the diaphragm which sits between the locomotive and tender.
Eisenbahn Canada's approach to building the most accurate and detailed models shines through with the SL7's. Being brass, they were able to be produced in very small quantities with fairly major details differences that would be impractical for a plastic model to produce. Not only is there different placement of components, but in some cases major sections of the streamlining are completely different. They are proportionately spot on. If your model budget is more on the generous side, I would highly recommend getting your hands on one of these as they are amongst the finest models we have seen and it is very hard to find fault with them.
All of my SL7's are from the first production run with the later type streamlining. All versions produced have either subtle or major differences, representing the fleet over a 50 year period. Out of my three, the blue version is the only one to have the full streamlining over the locomotive and tender. The other two, as seen in the above photos, were from the war or post war period where certain panels of the original streamlining were partially removed from around the cylinders, driving wheels, firebox, electrical generator and tender under frame as aesthetics gave way for practicality and ease of maintenance.
The main body and all separate detail parts are brass, either stamped, rolled, wire or lost wax-casts. A lot it is hidden away, especially the brake rigging, electrical generators, injectors, air pumps and valves etc, but it's all there. Some versions have brass number plates as per prototype, others - like mine - are painted on. Placement of handrails and grab irons varies as per prototype. Air horn position varies as per prototype.
The walkways are color coded and have a checker plate pattern. The roof hatches are non-functional which would have been a really great little feature, nor are the water tank lids on the tender. Some of the early versions have full length roof streamlining. The chimney (or stack) is hollowed out and there is a smaller hole at the base where it meets the smoke box. It is painted black and looks very realistic.
The paint work on all versions is absolutely first class and from what I can see on all my examples, absolutely flawless. The colors I have found from prototype photos appear to be accurate. The lettering is incredibly sharp and straight and every font type these locomotives used are offered by Eisenbahn Canada. The driving wheels look stunning, the green version even better with the red running gear. Handrails are metal and all painted in their respective colors. Many parts have some of their tiny details painted such as the lubricators, headlight assemblies and pilot bars.
The locomotive cab is fully detailed with and color coded correctly. The cab interior is painted yellow as all Chinese steam locomotive have with the firebox fascia the color as the locomotive. The brake stand is brass colored, regulator is red and steam gauges are white. The cab itself features glazing on most windows and doors. Hinged streamlining panels obscure the gap between the locomotive and tender. They look great, although as I like to run my models rather than just have them on display, I would have liked them to have been spring loaded so they remain pressed against the tender sides, rather than in an open position as soon as they run through the first curve they encounter!
The locomotive tenders are well weighted and roll very freely. They attach to the locomotive's drawbar with a pin. The under frame details are really beautiful, particularly the fully streamlined version with extra bracing for the lower portion of streamlining. They all feature brake rigging, highly detailed bogies with roller bearings and water & pneumatic hoses. The tender wheels on this version partially rise up under the body work. Tender wheels have white painted tires with black painted spokes. Rivet detail as seen in the photo above is superb and the paint work and lettering is perfect. A moving foot plate is fixed to the tender and bridges the gap between the locomotive and tender and it can be retracted. There is also some very neat automatic coal stoker detail.
Eisenbahn Canada have provided us with every possible type of SL7 tender as well. There are five distinct types, three of which are shown below - The blue version is the fully streamlined version with covered coal bunker and visor-less headlight. The green version also has a covered coal bunker, but has the lower streamlining panels deleted and a full visor headlight. The black version has an exposed coal bunker, full visor headlight and lower streamlining delete.
My examples all run very smoothly and very quiet. They are powered by a Swiss made DCX motor. The model is locomotive driven. It negotiates curves and point work with ease, although I have not yet installed the provided diaphragm between the tender and loco which may possibly restrict operations on layouts with sharper curves. The models weigh an average of 650 grams as some versions have with slight variations.
The locomotive is held together with small Phillips head screws. I have not had the need or inclination to disassemble the locomotive. The tender is easily taken apart with some small Phillips head screws and it lifts straight off the frame exposing the locomotives electronics.
The electrics are pretty standard for brass models with electrical picked up from one side of the driving wheels and the other side of the tender wheels. They connect via the drawbar which has spring loaded wires over the tender pin receiver. There is also a plug type cable to act as a secondary electrical backup which is not required to be plugged in to get the locomotive moving. The electronics are stored in the tender and there is an 8 pin plug for a decoder and plenty of room for a large speaker for those who wish to run sound.
The lights are gorgeous with a warm white light for the main headlights on the front and tender and a single red marker light on both ends which are directional. Unfortunately one of my examples has a damaged connection right behind the red LED on the tender and access is severely restricted here to repair so will most likely end up replacing it at some stage.
The tender coupler is a scale head Kadee coupler so will not require replacement for me. The front coupler is a dummy and all my three examples have it sitting at different heights! They are somewhat able to be coupled up to other knuckle couplers. Swapping out with a working coupler would be a challenge as there is no obvious drop in coupler that I can think of to fit, however prototypically speaking these girls would almost always run single header loco first so probably won't be a major issue. The front coupler is mounted to the pilot. There is a space behind to slide in a coupler box, but would probably require drilling a hole into the frame to secure it with a screw.