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O gauge Kansas City Southern Veterans SD70ACe

A new diesel from MTH
O gauge Kansas City Southern Veterans SD70ACe

Price: $519.95 (no. 20-21157) Features: O-42 operation, ProtoSound 3.0 command and sound system, smoke unit, die-cast metal trucks and remote couplers, illuminated interior and crew figures. Command low speed: 2.0 scale mph Conventional low speed: 4.5 scale mph, High speed: 68.4 scale mph Drawbar pull: 2 pounds, 2 ounces Current production: Kansas City Southern (veterans), Union Pacific, Union Pacific (Chicago & North Western heritage) Union Pacific (Missouri Pacific heritage), and Union Pacific (George Bush 41).
I like big and boxy diesels. I can’t help it. Baldwin Centipedes, Lima-Hamilton transfer engines, and any General Electric with a radiator overhang will do. My current favorite is the Electro-Motive SD70ACe. The large, sharp-cornered wide-nose cab and its in-your-face radiator bulge make me smile.

The original SD70ACs were built between 2003 and 2015. The locomotive steadily evolved, passing though EPA Tier 2 to Tier 3 emissions standards to achieve Tier 4 certification, making it one of the cleanest-burning locomotives on rails. The popular diesel has been built for customers around the world.

Opening the box
It might be easy to forget that railroad workers can also be soldiers, sailors, pilots, and marines. In 2018, the Kansas City Southern RR sought to acknowledge that fact by repainting no. 4006 in the line’s Shreveport, La., shops in a one-of-a-kind scheme to honor the patriotism and service of its employees. This included veterans as well as guard and reserve personnel who work for the railroad.

The decoration of the MTH Premier line O gauge model is the first thing I noticed when lifting the box lid. The blue field and white stars on the cab really pop out! Suggesting the design of the American flag, red and white stripes flow from left to right, rippling as if on a flagpole during a windy day.

The rear third of the carbody has the familiar yellow ribbon design on a background of green and gray camouflage.

As I said, I like boxy locomotives and this cab is great. There are angles all over! The front of the nose gently juts forward, while the sand filler caps are mounted on downward-angling sections cut from the sides of the snout. Right behind that feature designers added another downward slope just ahead of the cab.

There are grab irons by the filler caps and on the angled sides. The two-pane windshield juts forward as well, and there are grab irons on both sides of the engine number and headlight. While the roof is flat except for communications gear, the sides slant downward and end in shades over the windows. The rear of the cab is ramrod straight.

The long body has ample hinge, door, and latch detailing. The black air-intake screen, located behind the cab, is a nice contrast to the red and white stripes. The smoke unit is just ahead of the horn. And this plateau gets double points: It is lower than the rest of the roof line, and there are four lift rings on this section for removing the prime mover on the real diesel.

Three radiator fans occupy the rest of the roof. Their screens are see-through, and fan blades are visible. Four grab irons are placed around the rear radiator. The end of the locomotive is almost a throwback to an EMD Geep – flat with a headlight, and two angled sides.

The SD70ACe may be my favorite contemporary locomotive design!

On the test track
In the “things you learn” department, I initially experienced some quirky behavior from the unit. It was dead as a doornail, which has not been my experience with MTH locomotives. My iPhone MTH app fired up an MTH Amtrak diesel that had been loaded previously. I was mystified. But then a light bulb came on!

Suppose, I wondered, the problem is not with the locomotive, but with the smartphone app? I deleted the app from my phone and then reloaded it from the Apple App Store. Shazam! The locomotive loaded on the phone fine and started right up. Everything was A-OK.

Problem two was also not attributed to the locomotive but rather the design of our test track. The locomotive has a minimum curve radius of O-42, which we thought we had covered with O-48 curves. But in the four or five years we’ve had this layout, this was the first model to brush against our trackside detailing! As it rolled around the curves, the long locomotive nudged the inside wall of our tunnel and a retaining wall. Gee, we thought things were set back far enough! So that was two lessons for us in one day.

This was a fairly heavy locomotive, and the drawbar pull was great. Speed was good in all ranges (after some fast modifications to the objects along our right-of-way). The smoke output was prodigious.

The sound system was good, and it eventually drew people down the hall to see what was going on.

Considering the purposeful shape of the MTH SD70ACe body and its solid performance, this locomotive could become a star on your railroad (and be at the ready for hauling any military train in your fleet).


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