Today I received my ScaleTrains Operator edition SD40-2. I had pre-ordered this one back in July of 2016. Originally these were supposed to ship January 2017… so a little late. Now you may be thinking ScaleTrains has been shipping SD40-2s for a while, which is true but not the sound editions which I understand was delayed in at least part because of the new sound decoder. It did come two days after my birthday so it makes up some points there as a birthday present for myself I bought a year and a half ahead of time. I don’t really fancy myself a reviewer and my intent was not to write a review but I have some initial thoughts that I thought I’d share… so this is kind of reviewish I guess.
To start off with it was very well packaged and looks great, and once I figured out the decoder (more on that in a bit) it sounds great too. This is my first experience with Loksound and it definitely sounds great.
I also ordered the details pack, since this is the operator version it doesn’t have the separately applied details like grab irons but ScaleTrains offers a set of detail parts so you can add them later. I pre-ordered these at the same time and at the time ScaleTrains had no details on what this would mean, including no price. I had hoped at the time these would be painted appropriately for the model and would just be an installation…
… but nope. It is a very comprehensive set though and I’ll need to do some practice mixing paint to get things to match properly. I wouldn’t count this as a knock against ScaleTrains, I get why they are unpainted but it’d have been nice to have them painted to save a step.
I can’t find much information on this decoder, hopefully just because it’s so new. It’s called the ESU Essential Sound Unit and all I know for sure right now is it does not have a keep-alive… at all. I’ve also not found any documentation on the decoder, if anyone knows of any I’d appreciate if anyone knows where to find it. When I first plopped it on the track I got nothing, which ended up being an electrical pickup issue (more on that in a bit) and after some fettling I got it moving but no sound.
After more messing about I figured out you had to hit F8 first which is completely different than any other sound decoder I’d used… probably some useful information to document but maybe it’s a Loksound standard behavior. Again, wouldn’t be a problem if there was any easy to find documentation, either in the box or on the ESU website. I also haven’t figured out how to use the horn, maybe there isn’t one but that seems unlikely. I could say something about documentation but I don’t know that I need to keep repeating myself.
This has been the biggest letdown, and it might not be the locomotives fault. My shelf layout has been pretty dormant for a while and likely dust buildup is an issue. That said my Kato SD38-2 with sound ran over it without a single hesitation but it also has a keep alive (which to me is a shocking absence on a sound decoder). Pushing things around I did get it to move pretty well on it’s own getting to the point where there are minimal stalls. This could be related to issues in the track work, wiring, or dirty track I’ll have to do more investigation to find out for sure.
UPDATE: I did find the poor electrical pickup was related to the layout not the locomotive, it doesn’t seem to have a keep alive but some track cleaning mostly fixed the problem and I found some failing switches causing deadspots
When it’s working it runs really well, it has quite a lot of coast programmed in which is probably pretty realistic but on a shelf layout with tight quarters something that’ll need to go so I don’t go over the edge or push cars off. Aside from pickup issues I found the fuel tank is extremely close to the track. So much so that it got caught up on a very small vertical rail misalignment. I did later get it to run over that section so not sure what was going on. Maybe it was something else causing the issue…. I at least hope so.
UPDATE: I figured out the fuel tank issue, there is a spacer on the 4000 gallon tanks and if it’s not installed properly pushes down the front of the tank. All it took to fix is pull a single screw and press the spacer in. If you have the same problem hopefully this note helps you quickly fix it yourself.
Overall it’s a nice model that looks good and sounds good and feels quite solid. I can see why ScaleTrains expects this tooling to be a revenue generator for 20 years. That said I’m concerned by the pickup issues and I hope I can get them sorted because a model that looks good and sounds good doesn’t do any good sitting in the box unused or on the display shelf. I also have another decoder less one coming that I ordered before this arrived with some unexpected birthday money and pre-ordered a rivet counter version in EMD lease paint. I’d really rather not have three brand new display only SD40-2s.