Hello folks, I'm back with another model train review!
Today we have another diesel from Athearn, SP 8151.
GE C44-9W History: The nomenclature of the C44-9W is: C stands for the wheel/truck arrangement, C-C, or 2 three axle trucks, with all axles powered; 44 is short for the horsepower rating, 4,400; -9 is how GE termed this development of their "Dash" series, which started with the "Dash-7" series, and lasted through the 8 and 9 series; W is (from what I understand) a desriptor of the cab, which is the "Wide-cab", or Safety Cab. As mentioned, it has 4,400HP, from a GE 7FDL16 V16 turbocharged diesel prime mover. This puts power through a GE GMG197 alternator to GE 5GE752AH DC traction motors, which are mounted in GE's "HiAd" (high adhesion) trucks.
They were, and continue to be, good, dependable locomotives, with the vast majority of the 3,773 built between 1993 and 2004 still in service in North America, Australia, and Brazil.
SP 8151 History: Built by GE at their Erie, PA facility in October of 1994, with serial number 47981, and painted in SP's classy scarlet and gray "bloody-nose" scheme, it would serve the SP for only 2 years before the company was taken over by Union Pacific. 8151 would recieve a UP yellow patch over the old number and be renumbered UP 9615. UP would then finish the job, and 9615 would recieve the full UP yellow and gray scheme. It continues to pull freight around the UP system, and probably will for some time to come.
Info on the box...
Good - Almost everything! The paint, lettering, and details are all perfect. I was particularly impressed by the amount and quality of small details, including the tiny warning stickers scattered around the loco. The DCC worked as it should, and the sounds were top-notch. It handles trackwork great, and operates smoothly, light or with a load. Also, the manual was typically comprehensive and well printed.
Bad - After doing the running in/warming up, it had developed a squeak. Not loud, but noticeable, and coming from the front truck.
So I decided to oil those axles - and found that the bottom of the trucks were covered in oil. Finding it ironic that the oil was everywhere but where it was needed, apparently, I moved on to taking the bottom cover off the truck to access the axles. The covers are held on by clips, which are incredibly difficult to access, constantly click back into place while working on the others, and you almost certainly will dislodge or damage some truck detail in the process. I struggled with this for a while and finally got the cover off and oiled the axles, which fixed the squeak.
Verdict - By and large, it's a great model, looks fantastic and runs perfectly. The axle squeak really is a minor issue, but the truck construction made it far more difficult and irritating to fix than it should've been. I know manufacturers love using clips on stuff now, because it's cheaper, both in manufacturing and assembly, but it's not something that should ever appear on a premium model. Folks that buy these admittedly expensive models tend to keep them for a long time, and this means maintaining them, which entails some amount of regular disassembly for access. Plastic clips won't hold up to that kind of thing after repeated uses, not to mention the solid chance of breaking the clips or damaging surrounding details. In short, manufacturers need to ditch the clips on the premium models and go for screws/bolts.
That's all for today's review. Thanks for looking!