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USATC S160 (Roco)

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The Big Four operated about four hundred S160 locomotives during the early 1940s, before all of the engines went to Europe. A few returned to Britain into preservation, so really the application of the model to a British layout is fairly limited – either you model the two years of operations during the Second World War, or a preserved scene, or just re-write history a bit and pretend an engine got forgotten and left behind here. This post describes my 1:87 scale S160 locomotive, made by Roco and bought new in January 2017.

 

In simple terms, the model is flawless. The standards of construction, detailing and performance are beyond much useful criticism by me. This makes a qualitative review rather difficult, so I will try to merely describe the model with some photographs and extended captions.

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The model arrived in a Perspex display case. Beginning the review underneath, there are two tapped holes in the chassis, one in the loco (near the second coupled axle) and one in the tender. These holes hold the screws securing the model into the display case:

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Despite appearances, the tender bogies are purely cosmetic and tender has a rigid wheelbase. The tender delivers power to its two outer axles,  so it runs as a 0-2-4-2-0 or a A-2-A depending on your preferred notation:

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Traction is incredibly strong. I gave up trying to find the limit with the loco pulling a 14-coach train around a radius 2 curve, because I feared the tender coupling would break. The loco refuses to stall, and always starts when asked. There are pickups on the eight coupled wheels on the loco and the four inner wheels on the tender.

 

The fittings for the front and rear couplings are for NEM 363 wedges, and these are easier on the eye than NEM 362 pockets. The fitting for the front coupling is for the user to install – I added it for practicality but of course the loco looks better without it.

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The couplings between the loco and tender and on the back of the tender are in close-coupling cams, while the coupling on the front of the loco has a simple pivot.

 

The coupled wheelbase is barely 56 mm, but the wheels have some side play to let the loco negotiate a radius 2 (438 mm) curve. There is about 0.5 mm sideplay on the two outer axles, and nearer 2 mm on the two inner axles:

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The guard irons are fixed to the pony truck, but I imagine these are fixed to the frames of the prototype. I don't know.

 

A 2-8-0 loco on a radius 2 curve will never be a very pretty sight, but the model copes without a murmur:

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The clearance between the leading wheels and the cylinders is very small indeed, and Roco have used a new wheel profile with a smaller flange here:

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The side play on the coupled wheels means the frames are closer together than they ought to be for a scale model, but this is difficult to notice with the model on the track. Rather, it is the detail of the model which shows, and this includes daylight through the bar frames:

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Going to the front of the loco, the outside cylinders are about 1 mm further out from the frames than they should be, to make room for the thickness of the model wheels. Roco seem to have done a very good job of sculpting the steam chest here, because the cylinders still look right:

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The motion is carefully and strongly made ...

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... and the arrangement of the firebox over the rear driving wheels is especially neat:

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The whole model is smothered in detail parts. Everything seems to be present and in the right place:

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There is detail inside the cab, though you have to peer inside to see it:

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And similarly the front of the tender:

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The structure of the tender is easier to see on a photo than by studying the model:

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The tender has a plastic moulding to represent the coal. This looks rather better in photos than in real life:

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If I could change one detail of the model, it would be to cut away this moulded coal and put some real coal in its place. I want to do this, but it will surely devalue the model. So far I haven't tried, but the tender top is a self-contained moulding so the alteration can be done away from the loco.

 

Here is a photo of the back of the tender to complete the views of the model:

 

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The S160 looks nothing like any other loco I have seen in Britain. It is a piece of industrial machinery with no pretensions to style. Nevertheless, I think it is a handsome beast. Here is a final photo to try to capture the character of the machine, as portrayed by Roco:

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I bought a DC model, and later converted it to DCC using a Roco-branded decoder. The conversion is straightforward, and the Roco decoder gives you acceleration curves tailored to the model. The decoder cost £40, and if you are thinking of needing a DCC version it is probably better value for money to pay the extra £100 to get the sound as well as digital control.

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I gave up trying to find the limit with the loco pulling a 14-coach train around a radius 2 curve, because I feared the tender coupling would break.

 

Wow, that's quite impressive.

 

An interesting review and I'm impressed by the excellent photos. Are you using a photo box or similar set-up?

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Now here is a question, do Roco have these manufactured in China or elsewhere as this is a superb model by all impressions? Perhaps other established manufacturers and would-be manufacturers could take some guidance here and pick up a trick or two. Thanks for sharing, I have fond memories of "Frank the clank" on the Mid Hants from the 1990s.

 

Kevin

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8 hours ago, Strathwood said:

Now here is a question, do Roco have these manufactured in China or elsewhere as this is a superb model by all impressions? Perhaps other established manufacturers and would-be manufacturers could take some guidance here and pick up a trick or two. Thanks for sharing, I have fond memories of "Frank the clank" on the Mid Hants from the 1990s.

 

Kevin

 

A label on the box reads, "made in EU". Looking at the Roco web site, it looks as though the model might have been built in Romania and painted in Slovakia:

https://www.roco.cc/en/aboutus/locations/index.html

 

The build standard is higher than any Chinese model I've bought except the Rapido APT-E, which was just as good.

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11 hours ago, Mikkel said:

 

Wow, that's quite impressive.

 

An interesting review and I'm impressed by the excellent photos. Are you using a photo box or similar set-up?

 

I have tried with a small light box (about A4 size) but it never seems to be big enough.

 

The background in most of my photos is a sheet of white cartridge paper on top of a short part of the layout. This gives me a nice height for working. There is a flash gun on the camera pointing straight at the model to try to light up underframes and other shadowy parts, and a softbox over my right shoulder triggered by the flash gun to give general illumination. Finally a white reflector near the left of the model. So it's mostly diffused and reflected light.

 

I've only been using the reflector for the last 6 or 8 weeks but it does give a more balanced-looking result.

 

The camera is always hand-held. The aperture is usually as small as it goes, f/22 for the zoom lens and f/36 for the macro lens. Shutter speed is 1/250 because this is the fastest the flash will sync. The amount of light is set on a dial on the flash head in the soft box, and on the flash gun on the camera.

 

I have a small stool to stand on when I want to get the camera over a model.

 

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