Several months ago, I mentioned that Athearn had announced a new RS3 locomotive and that it would be available in Nickel Plate markings. Well, you know me & Nickel Plate, so I ordered one right away (I actually ordered TWO of them but that's another story). A couple of weeks ago, the new loco arrived and I was able to give it a bit of a shake-down and try her out.
You may recall that I'm not a big stickler for 100% authentic models; if it looks good and looks reasonable, then it passes my muster. Others aren't so forgiving and the new RS3 is being trashed in some Nickel Plate circles as being the wrong phase and having the wrong details. As I mentioned in the NKP groups that I'm a part of, if you want to wait for a "perfect" model of anything, you might be waiting a long time. On the other hand, if you are willing to accept some compromises, then you will probably really enjoy this latest offering from Athearn
The loco was first put on the main line and I simply ran it back and forth a few times to get a feel for how it responded to the throttle and to see if it needed any additional lubrication. It was not at all sluggish and immediately sprang to life when I opened the throttle so it was time to give it a "stress test" and see how it did. I backed into the passenger siding and latched onto a consist of 5-6 mixed passenger cars that I refer to as my "business train." It's the consist that I use to show first-time visitors around my layout. Even on an uphill 2% grade with an S curve, the loco hauled that consist w/o any issues at all. From that, I can conclude that the engine will certainly pull its weight.
The first trip around the layout did reveal a real problem and one that I hope to address soon. That is the dreaded vertical curve reared its ugly head again and the loco uncoupled from its consist on the downhill side of that 2% grade that I was talking about.
When you think of a curve, you think of either left or right. But track and other things can be curved up or down as well and this can create a problem. The change in elevation causes the engine or car in front to have a different orientation to the rest of the train and this may cause an uncoupling. That was the case with the RS3. I'll share a little more about this in a future post. There are a couple of fixes to the problem and I'll discuss those as well.
All in all, I expect the fix to the vertical curve problem to be a simple one and that the new RS3 locomotives will be a welcome addition to the Eastern Division of the Nickel Plate Road.