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MTH O gauge TRAXX F14 Electric

Thanks to the years of Northeast Corridor trains with sloped noses, the look of the TRAXX isn't as unusual as it once might have been.
Let’s face it. Electrified mainline railway operations in the United States have been small potatoes on the world scene. Sure, the Pennsylvania, New Haven, and Virginian lines were neat and functional, but the rest of the globe embraced electric traction far more extensively than did the United States. Innovation in the realm of electrics belongs to the Old World, not the New World.

The locomotive before us today is the TRAXX F140 from MTH. In the real world, the locomotive is made by our Canadian cousins at Bombardier. TRAXX is a family of diesel and electric locomotives featuring modular construction that can be outfitted to run on multiple voltages or both AC and DC power. This is a big deal thanks to the rise of transnational railways in Europe. There are many carriers using many power systems and this locomotive serves them all.

The Traxx F140 is a 7,500-horsepower B-B electric locomotive. Although there are no Bombardier TRAXX locomotives operating in the United States, NJ Transit is running similarly styled Bombardier ALP-46 and ALP-46A locomotives in its commuter operations.

Opening the box
I was actually expecting something both lighter and a bit shorter, something a bit stubbier, like an AEM-7. Unlike many previous MTH electrics (which have had die-cast metal shells), this engine has a plastic body. This is a 1:43 scale model that has a fair bit of size to it. So I was rather pleased with the initial feel of the model.

Many modern locomotive designs have relatively few detail points that make them stand out. In this respect, the TRAXX F140 has much in common with an Amtrak AMD-103 – a detailed face and generally long, unblemished flanks. The details present, however, are well executed on the TRAXX.

Thanks to years of Northeast Corridor trains with sloped noses, the look of the TRAXX isn’t as jarring as it once might have been. Each end has a coil coupler, and you’ll find steps on the corners, just to the outside of the sprung buffers.

There is a rather precarious looking series of footholds for crew access just above the buffers on the nose. These all have cast-in tread detail. Grab irons are on the sides and the front of the nose to help steady little O gauge engine wipers.

The lighting array matches European practice, and it’s distinctively different, but probably not worth delving into European prototype books to interpret the meaning. Still, MTH provides some basic lighting information in the manual, and you have the option of selecting lights for Swiss or German railway operation.

The cab is nicely executed and has a crew member (wearing dark shades, no less) at the helm. From an American point of view, the cab seems a bit exposed, as you envision a crossing collision with a concrete mixer or a minivan. I guess there are fewer Swiss grade crossings.

At the cabs you’ll find doors on both sides (all cast in), with grab irons bracketing the door and two handles affixed to the door. Of note are the steps going up to the door. They have gray accents and an opening at the top step on the frame. Otherwise, the greater parts of the sides are smooth, though there are cast-in screens along the roofline.

The model comes in the distinctive red, gray, white, and blue of the Swiss Railway system’s freight operator – Cargo. This takes a nice blue-red color scheme and makes it really pop with ginormous letters on the flanks. Cool.

Running along the lower part of the shell is a gray band that seems to have a bazillion small bits of nomenclature placarded to the side. It all appears very busy, and it is all very well executed. I came away with the impression that there must be a Swiss Ministry of Small Annotations.

On the rooftop you will find as nicely detailed an assembly of pantographs, insulators, and simulated electric lines as you’ll find on any model based on an American prototype. There are pantographs on each end. The inner pair raise and lower; and the outer pair are cosmetic. There are 15 add-on insulators and red power lines making connections along the roof.

There are lift rings spotted at various points, and there are squares with what appear to be a tread surface for rooftop safety. In addition you’ll find two add-on horns on each corner.

On the test track
ProtoSound 3.0 eliminates the battery with a capacitor, and the capacitor does a fine job charging up and providing sounds at the shutdown point.

When first “booting up” the locomotive, there may be a slight pause before the sounds begin, but fear not.

The manual really, really, really emphasizes freeing up the pantographs (unsnapping them from their lock-down) before applying power. This is to prevent damage from a locked-down pantograph attempting to raise automatically. Pantograph operation is triggered when powering up. The forward direction assembly rises and then changes (if needed), depending on the direction you decide to run.

You can use actual overhead wiring to power this locomotive, and there is a track power/overhead power selection switch on the underside.

The manual says this model needs O-72 track; let me assure you, it does. There isn’t any fudge factor here. I tried running it through O-54 curves, and it derailed every time.

Model performance was good. The motor was quiet and responsive in both conventional and command modes.

The only quirk was that one of the pantographs tended to be a bit sticky in raising or lowering. It seemed to limber up with some use, but it was never as robust in elevating as its opposite number.

Our command-mode low-speed average was 2.1 scale mph, while the conventional-mode low-speed average was 3.8 scale mph. The high-speed average was 82.6 scale mph.

Drawbar pull was 1 pound, 12 ounces.

Forget that argument about how this wouldn’t fit in on your layout! Most O gauge lines already run impossible mixes of roads and eras as it is. So I’m thinking that if you are a fan of electric locomotion, a European locomotive with the word CARGO emblazoned on the side just might be a nice toe to stick in the water of foreign locomotion.
Price: $449.95 (no. 20-5632-1)
Features: O-72 operation, 1:43 Eurpean O scale dimensions, two can-style motors, two coil couplers, ProtoSound 3.0 sound and control system


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