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Thread: Kato Siemens ALC-42 Charger - First Impressions

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    Default Kato Siemens ALC-42 Charger - First Impressions

    As a modern-era modeler, my motto is, "I model what I see." Though the new Siemens ALC-42 long-distance Chargers have been in Amtrak's fleet for the past several months now, I had no urge to buy one until I saw one in the flesh.

    Then a week ago I was tipped off on the "Union Pacific Coast Line" Facebook group that ALC-42 #306 was leading the southbound Coast Starlight into Los Angeles Union Station that evening. I checked out the Amtrak Live Train Tracker site and took a short drive out to my closest depot, the Glendale, CA Amtrak/Metrolink station to see it pass by (not a revenue stop for the Coast Starlight). I did what any good foamer would do and took photos and video. Mission accomplished.

    Now I wanted one.

    So I ordered one and it arrived on Friday:

    This isn't so much a review but a first-look glimpse. I mean the detail is what you'd expect from Kato. The embossed holes on the rims of the wheelsets are definitely a nice touch; those are lacking on the otherwise excellent Bachmann SC-44 regional Charger that came out not too long ago.

    I couldn't really run it since as of the moment I don't have a decoder for it. And while Kato fortunately chose an existing common Kato diesel decoder form factor for the ALC-42 and I could borrow one from another Kato loco, I plan to add ESU LokSound (and the appropriate lights) to this one.
    I did run it back and forth a couple times using the DC simulation mode (address 00) on my Digitrax DCC system - it runs and has onboard sound without a decoder - but you never want to run it like that again...) It's wonderful Kato quality of course but I had a few concerns/observations -

    Kato's ALC-42 has ingeniously designed a compartment in the fuel tank for a DCC sound speaker (to save scaredy-cats like me from the trauma of milling the frame) but they offer NO information on what size speaker it is. I even emailed Kato USA a couple weeks ago as to the dimensions of the speaker compartment and got no reply.
    So I learned to pop off the shell, partially disassemble it, whipped out the digital calipers and Take One For The Team.

    Okay then...If you plan to equip your ALC-42 with sound, remember to get a 16mm X 9mm X 3mm sugar cube speaker. ESU, TCS, TDS and others make speakers of that size. I also happened upon someone on FB who prints his own speaker baffles.

    I recently ordered the baffles, as well as a speaker and ESU sound decoder (ESU 58741 with the Siemens Charger sound file (S0837), so those will be coming in soon).

    Oh yeah, when removing the side skirting piece that also includes the fuel tank (easy to remove via 3 clips each side with a tweezer or jeweler's flathead screwdriver), do make sure the rear "MU cables" detail pieces (one each side of the rear coupler) are accounted for. I lost one of them for a while and didn't find it until I scoured the carpet under my desk for the 4th and final time.

    The front numberboard light/headlight/ditchlight/marker light lenses were all clipped to the same plastic piece that snaps into the nose of the loco. It seems I can possibly add SMD LED ditch lights to this thing without cutting anything. I might have to cut a bit of the red front marker lightpipe to get an 0402 red SMD LED in there to illuminate the marker lights.

    Since I had the thing open, I might as well drop in one of the 11-212 Kato lighting kits that I had on an Amfleet car that I bought a couple months back just to see how those worked out. Only the basic LED circuitboard with the two contact legs were used - not the plastic assembly clip, the long plastic lighting strip or even the orange LED light hood. They snapped into the little recess behind the lighting board and worked fine in my simulated DC mode, albeit they looked way too blueish.

    When coupling my new ALC-42 to one of my Kato Superliner cars, I did notice that the ALC's coupler slung rather low compared to the Superliner. The same result showed up when I coupled it to a Kato Amfleet and even a Rapido Horizon Dinette car (which I upgraded with underslung MTL 2004s in a 1015 draft gear box).

    As you can see, when mated to a MTL coupler height gauge, the discrepancy was obvious. Both the front and rear coupler are below standard-height.
    I might need to use an underslung coupler like the MTL 2004 or explore other options. Then again the P42DC is rather low itself, but has never uncoupled on me. So we shall see. I still haven't figured out how to open the coupler draft gear boxes on the ALC.

    Metro Red Ln (Metro Red Line)
    Under the streets of Los Angeles

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