Sunday, July 1, 2012

A Long Dry Spell. . .

Welcome to Narrabri, 4865! Finally, a reasonably well-done DL531 to join the Clyde-GM 49 Class and Gonian-Hitachi 47 Class. Now, all I need is about five more, and I'll be set!
Wow. It's been awhile since I've last posted to this blog. I'm not AWOL, although I certainly wouldn't have minded setting down roots during my last visit to Australia and sending for the family to join me.

Since returning from three great weeks in New South Wales, ACT, Victoria and South Australia, "real life" has kept me quite busy--quite busy enough to push the voluntary "demands" of writing a blog on model railroading Australian-style to the back burner. The kids have been busy with school, with baseball practice, with (now) summer vacation. We briefly toyed with the idea of buying a new house, then decided that we'd probably be better off fixing up the one we already have. And, frankly, after three weeks away from my wife and kids, I felt that maybe I should just tone down the hobby pursuits just a bit to be fair to the ones I left behind.

But, I'm back now. And ready to pickup where I left off. . .which was. . .where, exactly? In terms of modeling the North-West of New South Wales, I full admit dragging my feet the past couple of years. Certainly, doing research on just what Lance Lassen and I should prioritize during our latest Oz adventure took up a good amount of time (don't want to waste precious time on holiday spinning our wheels, you know). And frankly, progress on the layout had been stalled for awhile: I found a couple of design flaws that, while not major, were significant enough to keep me from wanting to get after them. And, I was getting disheartened as the years have rolled by and the signature motive power needed on my layout--the ones I'd paid for over three years ago--still hadn't materialized.

I wish I could've said that we were lucky with the timing of our trip and I was able to bring home the three just-released 48 Class locos Trainorama was producing--but the realities from the factories in China didn't allow that to happen.

But, fortune did eventually shine on me, if only a little bit. The new Powerline 48 Class have just been released, and while Lance and I certainly were impressed by the pre-production samples we saw in Melbourne in February, I wasn't totally committed to purchasing one or two as a stop-gap until the Train-O's arrived. But a couple of weeks ago, a mate in Canberra, Brad Hinton, offered me an 'extra' PL 48 Class he ended up with--4865. A perfect number for a Werris Creek depot locomotive. And the transaction would be painless--I'd transfer appropriate funds to him, and another modeler from Canberra, John Prattis, would carry them to Texas for me en route to the NMRA convention in Michigan. How could I refuse!

So, now I have my first 48 Class on the layout. Still outnumbered by the pairs of 44, 47 and 49 class, but it's a start. My motivation to recreate this part of the NSWGR circa 1978 has been rekindled. Now the six- or nine-month wait until the trio of Train-O's I'm waiting for seems a bit more bearable. And if this PL 48 Class is deemed worthy, I may well add another couple to the roster before the NEW Trainorama delivers their version.

What about the Powerline Model?

I've certainly been critical of the pre-production photographs of this model posted to the "Model Railways in Australia" Yahoo group (clearly a Powerline-backed discussion group), to the point that I'm sure Ian Comport didn't want to hear any more my criticisms.

But, I'll have to eat my words on several earlier criticism, and while this isn't an "A+"  release, I'd give it at least a solid "B"--maybe a "B+" if I had greater confidence in the decoder.

Here's a few of my impressions of the new Powerline 48 Class:

1) It is a beautiful model. Proportions look great. Detail is wonderful for the most part very nice..  The earlier concerns I had about the hand rails and blobby air horns are mitigated somewhat by the final result. The cab mirrors--especially-- and windshield wipers are still way too clunky, and cry out for after-market replacements--with the great quality brass and stainless etchings available, why are these items to blobular and toy-like? Speaking of etchings: Why not an etched radiator grille? The molded radiator is quite flat--giving it a wash of black paint improves its "depth."

2) Underframe detail is great--as long as you don't have to remove the carbody! Still matching some parts up that fell out/came loose with the holes they came out of!

3) Carbody removal, as rumored, is a bitch. Really, four underframe screws AND two coupler screws to hold the carbody in place is a little excessive. I'm going with just the two coupler screws. . .not likely the carbody will be in danger of slipping off without 'em! No reason in this day and age to so tightly engineer the product to make basic maintenance of the mechanism a reason to destroy nice detail.

4) The decoder seems to be just adequate. I'll keep it in until I decide at a later time to put sound in or not. What WAS funny to me was that after struggling to remove the carbody to flip the DCC switch and then struggle to put it back in place, one of the plastic tabs that hold the carbody to the sideframe of the body was in JUST the right position to push the switch back to DC! So, had to go through it a second time. What's needed is a slightly shorter switch lever. . .or, even better, engineer the DCC board so the switch is located under the removable roof hatch on the carbody (between exhaust stack and the fan), or even behind a stepwell or under the fuel tank! And it is noisy. And given the history of Powerline's decoders in the T class, I'm not hopeful about this one.

5) Oh, the fan. Whimsical little thing to include on the model. . .has its own little tiny electric motor, and, mine, at least, makes a horrible humming noise. After I got the DCC switch in the right position, I STILL thought I was on DC given the hum the engine makes while on the layout. I'm guessing I'll lose the fan motor in the DCC sound install. Seriously, as good as the model is otherwise, to have this toy-like feature is beyond me. Actual radiator fans move quite slowly (okay, the electronic wizards among us will no doubt add a resistor to the small motor to slow it down). Most of the time, radiator fans don't move--another reason to add this to a DCC function.

6) The green plastic blob crew have been excised from the cab. Two deadheading crewmen in a Train-O 44 have been moved to proper positions in the 48 class. Much better.Hopefully they won't file a union grievance about the brightness of the lighting in the locomotive cab.

7) Buffers: Seriously, I don't care if they're sprung or not. I removed the springs and shortened the alignment pins so they don't impede on the carbody removal process.

8) End sill steps: Wow. Four of the 12 etched steps came loose from the stairwells while removing the body. I appreciate the detail on these, but Lifelike in the US was able to offer cast and better-secured plastic steps that look just as good. It wouldn't be an issue, I guess, if you didn't have to gently spread the ends of the underframe in order to remove the body.

9) Paint and lettering is first-rate. The tuscan red may be a bit orangey compared to the prototype, but it comes close to the shade used by Train-O on the 49 class. Not a close match to what is considered "correct" indian red on the 44 class. But, there's always variation in paint; if I have a couple Powerline 48s in the with Train-O 48's dressed in what I assume will be the proper shade of Indian Red , the subtle variety will look nice. Silver cab roof? May well have been done to the 48 class, but the Preston book didn't mention any so painted and haven't seen a photograph of one that was.

10)Plated wheels: Powerline blew it on this. Comport admitted as much when he said the second run would have blackened wheel sets. Even so, an easy fix. At least there aren't Pizza-Cutter flanges.

11) (Narrow gauge concern): The gearbox is full-width to the standard gauge wheel sets. Not a concern for me, but thinking down the road some SA modelers would want to be able to put 3'6" wheelsets for their railroads, and this model won't allow it.

While falling short in a few areas, it will certainly hold my modeling interest until the Train-O 48's arrive and I can make a comparison.

But having an honest-to-gosh good-running 48 class proper for Narrabri is enough to finally get my butt off the chair and back to working on the layout. For now, little 4865 no doubt pines for a few more sisters, but that time will hopefully be coming soon.


Nemesis said...

Been wondering when you were gonna put another post up as I love reading about your trials and tribulations. You are not only a good modeler, but an excellent writer as well. I enjoy your blog very much.

BOLIVIA said...

Good to hear from you again Blair.!

I thought you must of had the shits with us.Or been grabbed at customs and immigration. Sounds like i can stick with the brass 48s and not be to upset .Its a shame they cant get it right.

Anonymous said...

Good to see the PL 48 next to the other TOR models, & what is very interesting is how the colour of the 48 shows up very much differently to the one I have seen, that being 4895, which looked to me quite ok whereas the colour shown in this photo of yours is quite different & of a colour I have only seen on one other 48 & that was of 4831 at Junee in early times just after delivery.

I personally think that the colour of the 49, or even the 47 is a better representation. Can't add much more than what I did to the email I sent though in regard to some needed work for them.

Anyway good to read you're back in the land of the living.


Anonymous said...

Hello Blair,
Like your commentary on the 48. Will probably wait until the Train-o's appear before making a final purchase decision.
Regarding your comment on the silver roof. While not re-reading Preston's book in total have a look at the picture on page 128 with the 48 leading. I think you will find that the loco is fresh out of the workshops and the roof is silver.