The WOW effect: N Scale Tier 4 GEVO

Jenna May 16, 2018

  1. Jenna

    Jenna TrainBoard Member

    Alain LM
    by Alain LM
    About the Author

    Alain is an avid n-scale modeler who collects North American rolling stock with a focus on Canadian railroads and BNSF and all its predecessors. He occasionally purchases other models from European railroads. He has been using DCC since it's been available and successfully mixes North American and European DCC equipment. Alain regularly contributes to the TroveStar N Scale Model Trains Database (data and blogs), as well as to JMRI. By day, Alain works for a world-class railway signaling firm as an automation and real-time industrial computing engineer. This Frenchman lives near Paris.

    About the prototype
    The General Electric Transportation ET44AC, often referred to as Tier 4 GEVO, is the most recent freight locomotive offered by GE, chiefly for the North American market.

    Here is how describes the prototype on its website:

    Introduced in 2012, General Electric's Tier 4 GEVo Series represents the latest in diesel-electric locomotive technology. The GE Tier 4 GEVo is designed to meet increasingly stringent Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) emissions regulations.

    The EPA “Tier” emissions standards are a series, or Tiers, of allowable emissions levels based upon a locomotives’ date of manufacture. The highest and most stringent tier level, Tier 4, sets maximum allowable NOx and hydrocarbon emissions levels for locomotives built for domestic use 2015 onward.

    While similar in appearance to previous GE GEVo designs, the Tier 4 models featured a longer frame compared to their predecessors. This allows for a larger radiator “cab” (GE refers to the various sections of the long hood as “cabs”), and a "hump" over the engine cab for advanced exhaust treatment equipment.

    Initially, a boxy housing filled the entire roofline on the blue-painted field test/demonstrator units. Due to changes in treatment equipment and clearance issues, the "hump" would decrease in size and shape into a boxy compartment around the exhaust on initial production units. This culminated in an angled compartment surrounding the exhaust manifold on the latest production versions (2016+).

    Despite boxier engine cab rooflines and a radically styled radiator cab, the basic Tier 4 design shares a family appearance with GE safety cab-equipped units going back to the DASH-9s of the 1990s. It even includes the same 12-cylinder GEVo-12 series prime mover and 4,400hp as its predecessor model.

    The Tier 4 units have proven to be popular with the major railroads including BNSF Railway, Canadian National, CSX Transportation, Norfolk Southern, and Union Pacific. While GE has settled on a basic carbody design to keep production costs down, there are notable variations and detail differences due to customer specifications.

    With many units built for railroads across the US and in Canada, the Tier 4 GEVo can be seen operating nationwide in a variety of assignments.

    Click here to read more on the prototype, and its variants, on TroveStar.
    And now for the review
    A BNSF and a CN models

    I will be very direct and to the point: WOW!

    This is the most detailed N scale model loco, at this price point and out of the box, that I have ever seen. Without a shadow of a doubt, it outperforms the competition. Just see for yourself with the numerous photos of the production models on website. I was already very pleased with the level of detailing of Fox Valley Models and Rapido Trains, to name a few, but these models raise the bar far above the competition. The piping on the trucks and tank, the MU and trainline hoses on the pilot are detailed to a level never before reached.

    And, unlike many other brands, the modeler does not have to add any parts to engine; all the details are already assembled and firmly secured to the model- I haven't lost one yet, unlike with the IMR SD40-2W that I reviewed previously.

    The model is available for each of the class I railroads that acquired it, as well as in the GE demonstrator blue livery. In addition to the prototypical paint schemes, a fantasy paint scheme featuring the herald is also available. Due to numerous details that vary from one model to the other, this product release represents no less than 12 different variations, the BNSF itself being available in 3 versions.

    The variation points reside on the following elements:
    - Trucks: Hi-Ad or C4 (A-1-A) for BNSF
    - Engine cab, with 2 types of exhaust compartment
    - Headlight: high cab mounted for NS, nose-mounted for all others
    - Ditch lights, with or without rear ditch lights
    - Cab door, with or without window
    - Antennas: dome or farm array, of different shapes
    - Tank fuel fills: single or double
    - Handrails: two types
    ... and a few other railroad specifics.

    The model itself sports a unique combination of those features, that makes it a special model in its own right.

    You can download here a detailed description of all variants where I have regrouped, in one single table, the features of all model types as listed on website.

    The model is packed in a nice red cardboard box, that is a bit higher than the usual jewel box and a bit more than twice as wide. So it will take a bit more space than 2 other locomotives on your shelves.

    [​IMG]Plastic clamshell holder

    The locomotive is securely stored in a plastic "clamshell" holder, similar to what you can find on high-end N scale steam engines or on several HO models. I like very much this type of holder that can be used as a natural cradle when servicing the engine.

    Operator's Manual (17.6 x 8.5 cm - 6.9" x 3.3")

    The Operator's Manual is printed with a very small font; not very easy to read, even with good eye glasses. It has 4 pages of text, essentially related to the DCC & Sound instructions. Fortunately, the manual is available for download in PDF on website, so you can enlarge it on your screen. Note that the PDF file also contains the assembly drawing, that is not part of the printed manual.

    First run
    There is absolutely NO tuning required to move the engine. The DCC-Sound version starts moving slowly and smoothly at DCC step 1 (with a 128 step configuration). The DCC no sound equipped with the ESU LokPilot, out of the box, starts moving at step 1. The DC version starts moving at around 2 volts. In analog mode, the DCC-Sound version starts at around 8 volts.

    Sound volume is properly tuned to my taste, i.e. not too loud. Conversely, at higher speeds, you will hardly hear the engine sound but you are not going to drive it like a TGV high-speed train, are you?

    Pulling power seems to be at par with similar engines of other brands (see video below by DaBob's ManCave).

    Couplers are the plastic semi-scale E Type knuckle couplers. They are meant to look prototypical and to couple firmly; so no automatic uncoupling. The coupler box seems compatible with the one of Micro-Trains Line 1015/1016 coupler, so I guess that replacing it can be done pretty easily, if you'd like or need magnetic uncoupling.

    Running an MU between one engine equipped with LokSound and the other with LokPilot requires a bit of tuning, even if out of the box and at constant speed, speed matching is quite OK. Defaults of LokPilot for acceleration and deceleration are not aligned to the LokSound project, no first thing is to set them at same value; secondly, the starting delay of the LokSound (CV124.2) must be disabled.

    To read the rest of this review (which was too long to post here), please follow this link to the TroveStar blog section.
    Last edited: May 17, 2018
    Kurt Moose likes this.
  2. Hardcoaler

    Hardcoaler TrainBoard Member

    Isn't it wonderful that the ScaleTrains' Operator's Manual offers easy disassembly instructions and that the process actually involves removing two SCREWS? This is excellent. I have never adjusted to the common "Chinese Puzzle" school of N Scale locomotive design where the owner is left to pull, pry, twist or drop the assembly in hope that the body separates from the chassis without breaking something or scratching the paint. Most other manufacturers have vanquished screws to the trash can to speed factory assembly time and it stinks.

    Thank you for doing it right ScaleTrains! (y)
    Kurt Moose and Metro Red Line like this.
  3. Mr. Trainiac

    Mr. Trainiac TrainBoard Member

    I have been thoroughly impressed with everything that Scaletrains has done. I doubted them at first; I saw their one initial product (the turbine) and thought they would be some kind of limited run company that would only make a few models. It is good to see them have a full-scale production now. Being an HO guy, I haven't seen any of their N scale in person, but the pictures look amazing. Some of the guys in my club have the HO version. Your review is spot on and it is nice to see some success in the model train business.

    BNSF FAN TrainBoard Supporter

    I didn't budget for one of these but the more I hear, the more I'm thinking I need to revisit that decision. I know they sure are good looking in the pictures.

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