The USA Alco S-4

    USA has finally shipped their long awaited models of the Alco S-4 switcher in 1/29 scale.  The S-4 was introduced by Alco in 1950, and was produced until 1961.  It featured the 1000 HP 6 cylinder 539 engine.  Theses units had a larger radiator than the S-1 and S-3, and also had a fat oblong based stack, which goes with the turbocharger.   The USA locomotive uses the same chassis and dual motors as the very popular NW-2, and of course performs well because of this ancestry.  The truck side frames on the S-4 are AAR Type A, which are also the same as the NW-2, so no major redesign work had to be made by the manufacturer.  The wheels are solid with no traction tires, so electrical pickup will be good even if you decide to remove the sliders.  The body shell is very accurate and represents the early S-4 with the protruding shutter assembly and square fan housing.  There are number boards are on the side of the hood which light up.  I am guessing that a Pennsylvania Railroad diesel was used for the model, though it would be easy to add details for any of the railroads that used this diesel.  The headlights are directional, and the cab is lighted and well detailed. The usual  "generic USA"  engineer and a bonus fireman in place.  Handrails are metal and the cab doors open.  The stack is properly placed and works well with the fan driven smoke unit, which puts out more smoke than the old units found in the NW-2.  The bell is located below the right walkway which is an "as delivered" configuration.  Many railroads moved the bell because ice and snow would often build up in northern climates, and make it non-functional in the winter.  The paint jobs are the USA standard, as being clean and crisp with excellent graphics and lettering.  I have not seen all the road names available, so I cannot comment on accuracy.  I know there has been some controversy on the forums about paint schemes and time periods, but I will not address these here.  Road names available are D&RGW, ATSF, UP, CB&Q, C&NW, SP, NYC, Pennsy, Reading, BN, B&O, WM, NP, CP, CN and NH.  The Santa Fe guys got the short end of the stick, because once again Ro and company went with the  blue and yellow scheme instead of the "Zebra Stripe" that they all are looking for, and which would be more prototypical. Undecorated units are available, and they come in primer gray, ready for your own painting.
    The locomotive crawls slowly once it has been broken in, and will be an asset to anyone doing switching work.  The top speed is close to the prototype, which was not fast due to the gearing needed for switching work.  While hook and loop couplers are installed on the model, Kadee #787 couplers fit this locomotive just like the NW-2 for large radius curves, or you can use #831 for tight radius.  You can also used the supplied USA knuckles if that is your preference.  There is no room in the square battery box for a speaker for a sound system.  There are, however, two plastic brackets inside the hood over the weight that will fit a 2.5 inch speaker. This mount allows the speaker to point forward.  This will allow the sound to escape via the radiator shutters or the open grid on the top of the hood.  You may want to enclose the rear of the speaker so that all the sound is directed out of the body shell.  I have gone with a Sierra sound system with the single chime horn, since this was the standard horn at the time of delivery.   While I had the body shell open to put in the sound system, I repainted the engineer and fireman so that they did not look like all the other clones that USA uses.  I also put some black acrylic paint on the cab light to dim it somewhat.  As I may have stated before, locomotives do not run at night with the cab light on, since it reduces night visibility.  This effect would be the same as you driving down a dark road with all your interior lights on. The headlights are white LED's that have a slight bluish tint.  I painted mine with Tamaya Clear Yellow paint, and the blue color light went away. I could have changed out the LED's to Golden Glow LED's, but I had used this paint technique before, and it was happy with the result.
    This locomotive is another winner from USA, and is one that would be at home on any main line railroad that models the transition period from steam to diesel.  It would also be great for a small switching railroad since the gearing keeps the speed at a reasonable level.   
Couplers and handrails have not yet been installed