Okay, everyone has heard about Aristo Craft's Dash -9 which has just been released. Garden Railways did a review on it which was pretty extensive. I borrowed one from the Clearwater GATS which had to be returned at the Orlando GATS. I am going to do a review from the standpoint of a model railroader who is not a professional product review person. Since I am not employed by any manufacturer, I can call it and write it like I see it. While the diesel is too new for my era railroad, I jumped at the chance to examine it and do some running with it.
General Electric Transportation knocked the venerable EMD out of first place in the 1980's with the introduction of the Dash-8. This was all new technology put together for the first time in a locomotive that has set the standard for the industry. The Dash 9 was introduced in 1992 which further solidified GE's hold on the new locomotive market.
The Aristo model is a Dash 9-44 CW, which means that it has six wheel trucks and 4400 horsepower. It has been introduced in UP, BNSF, Santa Fe, Southern Pacific, CSX, NS, C&NW, and CN, but so far I have only seen Santa Fe and CSX. For my review I had a diesel painted in the colorful the Santa Fe Warbonnet scheme. Except for the "gull wing" cab for Santa Fe and BNSF models, all the Aristo Dash 9's are the same. The "gull wing" cab is a distinctive feature for both SF and BNSF because it was ordered for tunnel clearance.
This is a big model, with a length over 30 inches, and weight of 17 pounds. Once again it takes two hands to handle this "whopper". It definitely needs 8 foot diameter curves, and would probably be happier on 10 foot and 20 foot diameter. It will negotiate the Aristo wide turnouts, but a number 6 turnout would be more prototypical. It also would be happier on track that is fairly level, since its length makes it fairly stiff and unforgiving of poor track work. The headlight is mounted on the nose, and the number boards are mounted on the cab. A modeler could easily change the location of the headlight to suit the particular railroad being modeled, as many had the headlight over the windshield between the number boards. The trucks are gorgeous, they are well executed models of the new GE Hi-Ad truck. The gearbox is the Aristo patented ball bearing drive, and all six wheels are powered by two motors in each truck. There are no traction tires on this model. The big complaint I hear is the A-frame which holds the truck side frames to the motor block. On the Santa Fe model they are silver, which can be corrected with black paint.
The paint on these models is neat and crisp, as is the lettering. In checking the Diesel Spotters Guide, the lettering and number for the Santa Fe unit is prototypically correct. All small labels and the builders plate are extremely well done, and placed in the proper locations on the carbody.
The fuel tank has gauges and the air tank actually has piping which is far and beyond what we got with the original U-Boat that Aristo released many years ago. Additional weight can be added to the fuel tank, and there is a waterproof speaker in the underframe for a sound system of your choice. The center of the roof is removable for access to the switches that control lights, smoke unit and motor. The smoke unit is the same one that comes in the SD-45 which puts out a large quantity of smoke and is extremely reliable.
The diesel ran extremely well out of the box. The model started to move at 3 volts at which time the lights came on. I could make it crawl smoothly down the track at this voltage. Maximum speed was approximately 60 miles per hour. This unit MU's well with the SD-45, as their speeds match. I would hesitate to try and MU it with any other locomotive than the SD-45. I know it would not do well with the USA SD-40, GP-30 or GP-7/9, and would probably cause problems with any of the older Aristo diesels. I could not measure drawbar pull, but I assume that it will pull as well as the SD-45.
The details on the carbody are well executed, and follow the prototype. All grabs are accurately located, and the windshield wipers are very nicely done. I could not believe how well the roof details were done with all hatches in the correct locations, along with all doors on the sides of the unit. Aristo has once again used fine mesh screen and grills to realistically model the various intakes, fans, and exhaust outlets found on the prototype. A bag of extra parts is included which contains three antennas, sunshades, and wind deflectors. The horn is a brass casting that faithfully reproduces the one found on the GE units which is a vast improvement over the plastic ones used on other locos.
The lighting for headlights and ditch lights is provided by white LED's. These are true white and not the bluish color found with many of the aftermarket lighting systems. The headlights are reversing, with the ditch lights turned off in reverse. If you want to get fancy with your ditch lights, a Sierra sound system will provide the options that you might be looking for. The number boards are lit as well as the ca interior. Aristo has also included proper lighting of porch and step lights on the model that really add to the realism when viewed at night.
One neat feature that I tried is the auto-resetting fuse that protects the loco's electrical system in the event of a derailment or overheating. The fuse will trip and shut down the loco down, after which it will reset so that you can continue running.
Sound systems are readily available from both Sierra and Phoenix for this big GE loco. The Phoenix system has no lighting options, but Sierra will allow you to have the ditch lights flash together or alternately, and in addition, they will flash whenever the horn blows for a grade crossing. Sierra also allows you to select whether your lighting is LED or incandescent bulb. Sierra also provides two different horn options.
This is one beautiful locomotive. For those who model mainline modern diesel operations, it is a "must" for you engine roster. Aristo has definitely raised the bar with this new offering and all other manufacturers will have to follow their lead.