Folks who read my blog know that I have a sizable garden railroad layout. I run my equipment on 45 mm gauge stainless steel track, power being supplied to each track by a separate Magnum 20SRM Bridgewerks controller/transformer. (See my previous blog entry concerning Bridgewerks controllers)
It all started out quite some years ago with a set of Aristo Craft FA-1/FB-1 units painted in the Chesapeake and Ohio Railroad colors. Since I am very interested in European railroading I started gravitating towards LGB. LGB produced quite a number of railroad models based on European (mostly Swiss) protoypes. The LGB Company has had it's ups and downs, going through bankruptcy proceedings, before finally being bought by Märklin. For some time LGB was pretty much the only game in town. The models were nice, but way overpriced and their customer service was atrocious. Dealers and railroad modelers alike would quickly develop a love/hate relationship with that company. So it was with great interest that hobbiests heard the news from PIKO Spielwaren GmbH in Germany a couple of years ago that they would enter the G scale market.
PIKO's first attempt at a G scale locomotive was the Siemens "Taurus" electric locomotive. It was not superdetailed like a LGB locomotive would have been, but they do run well, they don't have silly little parts either which would fall off by themselves or break off during the first operating session. And they are considerable less expensive. For the price of one LGB unit one can easily purchase two or three PIKO locos. That is of course what I did!
PIKO's G scale models have gotten better over time and more and more models are being offered. Surprisingly PIKO still manufactures their line of model railroads in Germany. During the first quarter of 2012 PIKO announced that they would produce a G scale model of the Deutsche Bundesbahn VT 11 diesel train. The announcement was a sensation.
The VT 11 were built by the then Deutsche Bundesbahn during the late 1950's. These diesel mutliple units intended for the Trans Europ Express (TEE) system incorporated the newest in technology and passenger comfort.
The train sets were later reclassified as Baureihe (Class) 601 for the motor vehicles and 901 for the intermediary coaches. The trains had one motor unit at each end and could be run in multiple sets. These trains proved immensely popular and reliable. To a whole generation of train buffs and anoraks the bulbous nose epitomized what a great train should look like.
Having lived in Germany during the 1950's and 1960's I remember riding on them a couple of times when going to visit my grandmother in Northern Germany. However since these services commanded a rather steep premium they were not the normal method to visit my grandma.
Of course I had to have one of those for my garden railway. I duly ordered one in early 2012 through my local hobby store, Engine House Hobbies. I am glad I did: PIKO states on their web site that the production run has already sold out.
Delivery was promised in September, but that did not come to pass. In all honesty I had all but forgotten about the whole thing, when I received a phone call from the hobby store two days ago. My train was in!
And herewith a short first impression of my new toy. It is a beauty. The three piece set, composed of two motor end units and an intermediary coach, weighs in at close to twenty pounds. PIKO managed to replicate the originals distinctive bulbous nose impressively.
The paint job is clean. Separation between different paint colors is perfect: no bleeding of paint here. The technical information usually found on railroad equipment has been printed clearly and crisply.
The motor cars have directional head lights, changing from white to red depending on the direction the train is travelling. Both motor cars are powered and collect electric power from the rails through all 14 wheels and an additional two slide current collectors in the motor truck. One axle on the power truck has friction rubber tires.
The trailing truck on the motor car also collects electricity through all wheels.
The power is distributed throughout the train set via current conducting couplers. According to PIKO the train will not run unless all units are connected to each other. The power cars are set up for the addition of DCC and sound. As mentioned before the set comes boxed with two power cars and one intermediate coach. PIKO has also produced an intermediate dining car and another intermediate coach, reportedly to be released in January 2013. This five unit set should make an impressive sight on any garden railroad. One just has to be mindful of the fact that this train needs rather large radii curves.
I have not been able to see my new toy in action yet: lately the weather around here has not been conducive to running trains outside.
A few gripes. There is no factory installed interior lighting in the coaches. For the price of this train set that should be standard. To nickel and dime hobbiests for another $30 per coach to retrofit interior lighting is ridiculous. Also there is no close coupling mechanism. I fear that the spacing between coaches might be rather unrealisticly large. We shall see how the spacing will look once its running on my railroad. So, stay tuned!
(All photos by Ralf Meier)
A short video of a museum VT 11 (Class 601) on a charter run in 2010.
Video by "KIWIT4" from Youtube.