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August 2006 - Page 19


Patented ball bearing equipped Prime Mover gearboxes Operating classification lights and front numberboards Cast-metal drive wheels and jointed side rods Prototypical Baker valve gear MU plugs for multiple locomotives and battery operation Thermal switch to protect against excessively high operating temperatures Prime Mover smoke system with fan and auto shut off Flywheels for better performance Moveable cab side windows Detailed boiler and cab Weighted for superior pulling power Gear cases allow lateral and vertical movement of drivers for rough, uneven track The model is not only impressive in size but in form and function as well. All wheels and drivers are metal as well as all the driving rods and Baker-style valve linkage. The wheels on the pilot and trailing truck are the same polished metal as the tender trucks but smaller in diameter. The drivers are darkened metal but a bit too shiny. Painting them black would be visually more appealing. Each set of drivers has a powerful can motor and each driver axle has gearing. Both sets pivot freely from the models superstructure allowing for a minimum operating radius of 8' diameter curves. The front set of drivers has the larger low-pressure cylinders while the rear set has the smaller highpressure cylinders. The front pilot area is very impressive with an abundance of detail. The front pilot is primarily a footboard style with the center section tube-style on both sides and below the coupler pocket. A functioning coupler cut bar is attached at the top of the pilot beam face. The pilot deck is two levels with the upper level ending just below the bottom of the smokebox. The lower level has a functioning headlight with numberboards on a mounting bracket attached to the top of the pilot apron and toward the front. The upper pilot deck area is located between the two low-pressure cylinders of the front engine. There are steps leading from the lower deck to running boards above the low-pressure cylinders. Encasing the whole pilot deck area is an elaborate handrail system made of blackened brass wire. The smokebox and boiler are injection molded and have boiler bands, wash-out plugs and rivet detail, among other features, skillfully molded in place. This massive subassembly employs a huge amount of separately applied details as well. The smokebox front has a separate casting, complete with hinges and rivet detail, for the smokebox door. Both the smokebox area and the firebox area are finished in a light gray paint. The smokebox includes other separately applied details including metal grabs and hand rails, running boards, piping, smokestack, bell with mounting bracket and pull cord, and working class lights and numberboards. There are two large sand domes atop the boiler, each with separately applied piping detail. Other details of the boiler include separately applied items that are either metal or injection-molded plastic. Some of these details include all piping, pumps, compressors, running boards, handrails with stanchions, air tanks, boiler steps, steam generator, whistle and poppet style safety valves. The cab is a separate item installed at the factory. Its moldedon detail is exceptional and sharp. Among features included on the cab are sliding side windows and metal grabs. The cab floor has a functioning apron attached at the rear. The backhead is detailed with molded-on features. It has minimal detail but is acceptable. Some may enjoy going all out with piping, valve handles and the like to further enhance the cab interior. The cab sides are lettered in aluminum, A.T.&S.F. Below the cab floor is a control panel with four power switches. The panel can be accessed by turning the locomotive upside down. One switch is for selecting track or battery power. The other three are on/off switches for the motors, smoke generator and lights. The Prime Mover smoke generator and smoke fluid reservoir are located beneath the smokestack. Smoke fluid (25-50 drops) is added to the reservoir through a filling hole in the center of the stack. The power switch for the smoke generator is switched to the on

position. With the locomotive running, the fluid reservoir quickly heats up the smoke fluid and the smoke comes billowing out the stack. Should the reservoir run out of fluid there is an automatic cutoff circuit to prevent the unit from burning out. The locomotive has a factory installed printed circuit board that is DCC and Radio Control ready. The Instruction Manual explains how to access the PC board. A parts bag is included in the packaging the provides a working knuckle coupler for the front of the locomotive. The model comes with a five-year warranty. This models operating performance is at least as good as its looks! Performance testing was done on my home layout, outdoors. As I mentioned, early in this review, my large scale steam interests have been narrow gauge and my layout reflects this. My minimum radius is 5', and my maximum grade is about 3.5%. Despite the rugged terrain of the layout the Aristo-Craft Mallet performed flawlessly in all speed ranges. The review sample was run for two weeks, from two to six hours per day. The locomotive ran smooth as silk with barely any motor noise throughout the test period. Since the prototype ran at slower speeds I ran the model at an average speed of about 25 smph. At times the locomotive would drop down to a crawl on the steeper grades of my layout, but it ran continuous without any stalling. Watching the valve gear and side rod motion during operation is a sheer delight. To summarize, the Aristo-Craft Mallet is a fine model of a popular prototype. Its size, superb detailing and performance make this an awesome model in many ways. Those who purchase this model will certainly be satisfied beyond their expectations. It is offered in the following roadnames (tender style): Undecorated (USRA), PRR (USRA), ATSF (USRA), UP (Vanderbilt), Rio Grande (USRA), Rio Grande w/Green Boiler (USRA), C&O (Vanderbilt), SOU (USRA), N&W (USRA), B&O (Vanderbilt), SP (Vanderbilt), GN (Vanderbilt), and CB&Q (USRA); ART-21600 to -21604, -21604G, -21605 to 21611, respectively. MSRP $945.00 (UP $993.00).

AUGUST 2006

MODEL RAILROADING 19

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