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Broadway Limited Model 075

Review by Neil Wood

 Norfolk and Western Class J 611 4-8-4

 

The Norfolk and Western J Class Locomotive was designed and built in Roanoke Virginia .  A fleet of fourteen were built which balanced strength and speed.  They were built in three batches 600-604 in 1941-42, 605-610 in 1943, and 611-613 in 1950.  The second batch were not built with their streamlined shrouding due to a wartime shortage of materials.  This was added later between 1946 and 1947.  The third batch were the last three steam passenger locomotives built for an American railroad and were identical to the previous two batches.

By 1950, all of the Class Js had their boiler pressure raised to 300 psi which increased the tractive effort to 80,000 pounds. The Js operated daily for eighteen years between Cincinnati and Norfolk , pulling the passenger trains The Powhatan Arrow, Pocahontas, and Cavalier. With a maximum drawbar horsepower of 5,100, the J could pull a 15-car passenger train at 110 mph on level ground. However, they were so well designed and built that one could be pulled by several people with a rope. The locomotives averaged 15,000 miles per month and some travelled nearly three million miles before their retirement.

Number 611 was built at a cost of $251,544 and entered service on May 29, 1950. It pulled the last steam passenger train on October 24, 1959, from Roanoke , VA to Bluefield , WV and back. Later that month, the railroad donated it to the Museum. In October, 1981, the 611 was removed from the museum to be part of what was to become the Norfolk Southern steam excursion program. In October, 1995, the 611 was returned to the Museum following the end of the excursion program.

Specifications for Class J-1
Wheel Arrangement: 4-8-4
Length: 109' - 2"
Drivers: 70" dia.
Weight on Drivers: 288,000 lbs
Total Locomotive Weight: 494,000 lbs
Locomotive & Tender Weight: 873,000 lbs
Grate Area: 107.7 sq ft
Cylinders: (2) 27" dia. x 32" stroke
Boiler Pressure: 300 psi
Tractive Effort: 80,000 lbs
Tender Capacity: 20,000 gals. of water, 35 tons of coal

Broadway Limited Imports model Norfolk and Western J Class

Released : First run; Jan 2005 Second run; 2006   Price $379 (approx ₤201) 

Model Specifications ,

Motor : 5 pole can motor with flywheel; Length:  385mm; Livery: Norfolk and Western; Purpose; Express passenger; Finish: Pristine; Special requirements; Requires at least 450mm or 18” radius track; Features: Body plastic, Die cast locomotive and tender chassis; Detailed tender under body; Plated bell & whistle; Operating headlight; Deck plate from cab to tender; Directional backup light; Illuminated Headlight Number Board; Prototypical cab interior; Magnetic knuckle couplers front and rear; RP-25 wheels;  Quantum sound system with following effects; Engine Sounds;  Synchronized Chuff; Whistle; Bell;  Squealing brakes; Doppler effect; Steam Dynamo when lights turn on. Includes gradual headlight turn-on effect as dynamo speeds up.); Change in chuff sounds with differing loads; Coupler crash; Air let off; Air pumps; various water sounds; blower hiss; Headlight: Will operate on Code 70, 83 and 100 rail;

Having always had a thing about streamlined steam engines, when I seen this model I had to have it.  The Norfolk and Western J class is an absolute beauty and I hoped that this model would encapsulate the fine looks of the prototype.  I had never experienced Broadway Limited models before and it was also my first purchase from a North American company (although this was manufactured in South Korea ), so I was interested to see how this would compare to the British and German locos in my collection.

The loco is securely packed in deep foam in its box.  Perhaps too well.  The box is huge relative to the size of the loco and if you are buying this mail order this will double the cost of your postage.  Inside the box is an alternative axle, a “magnetic wand”, a square thing with BLI on it whose purpose I have still not established, an assembly diagram, a warranty with disclaimers, and a manual with English only instructions.

The loco is easily removed from the box and can be connected close or very close to the tender.  The loco finish is glossy unlike most other locomotive models.  This is good as pictures of the original loco show that it has a high gloss finish, although maybe not the coal too.  What is not good is that every time you handle it your fingerprints are clearly obvious and visible.  These are not easy to clean off.  The level of detail is good and it is a very good looking model.

One of the big features claimed for this loco is that the sound can operate in analogue as well as DCC.  Full instructions on how to do this with regular DC are in the manual but basically if you have the loco in forward motion and toggle the direction switch backward  quickly it will trigger an effect.  It does not elaborate on what you do if you have a rotary dial and if this still works or not.  The manual also explains how you can programme the loco in analogue.  Broadway limited also sells a unit for analogue use which can summon up all the individual functions if this process is found too awkward.

There is a “magnetic wand” which can alter some functions by hovering this over the rear of the tender.  It can alter the sound volume, reset factory settings and turn the locomotive on and off. 

It runs fairly well although the decoder does not have the braking and acceleration delay that the Lokpilot ones do.  The sound decoder is not well coordinated with the motion of the locomotive and will continue for a few seconds after the loco has stopped.  It is disappointing after using locomotives with Loksound decoders to see how poorly coordinated other decoders can be.  The volume is loud and the effects sound realistic enough.  The horn is good and extends as long as you have the function button on.  The sound features include a voice read out of the scale speed in mph.  The light on the front when activated also has a steam dynamo sound as it lights up and switches off.  There is a light in the fire box are but no cab light.

The nature of these sound effects highlights some of the differences between American and European railway modelling.  Some of these effects would be difficult to know when to use, e.g. sounds like boiler pop off and boiler blow down.  I would have preferred that these noises were automated rather than have them as individual functions.  I really don’t see them getting used otherwise.  I would have no idea when to initiate the long air-let off versus the short air let-off.  Even start up sounds must be called up. 

There is a cheaper version of the J class made without the decoder which is $279 (approx ₤148).  This may be worth considering as the decoder in this loco is not the best.  Bachmann also make a cheaper version with a decoder for ₤142 but they have a new version with sound decoder due for release in October or November.  The price for this is not yet listed on their website.

Overall this is a good model in terms of looks.  It really does look fantastic.  The negative is the QSI decoder.  It is possible to reprogram but only a minority of potential purchasers will have the know how to do this successfully.  There are instructions in the manual but there are some things they don’t cover.  Having previously experienced the Loksound decoders I am disappointed with this one. If you do not have DCC and want sound locomotives then this may well be an attractive option as many DCC sound locos will not operate in analogue.  But if you have DCC and have locos with Loksound decoders you may find this disappointing. However as the price of this loco is less when compared to an equivalent model by Trix (Penn GG1 €449 or ₤301) then that does have to be balanced against this.  This is two thirds of the price.  As a cheaper entry into the world of sound this is as good a place as any to start.  It is worth buying although you may want to get the one without the sound decoder and install your own. You get a highly detailed loco which runs well and if you have not experienced the benefits of better sound decoders then this is acceptable.  So ten out of ten for the excellent looks, but six out of ten for the uncoordinated sound.

CV Factory default settings
CV Designation Factory setting
1 Primary address 3
2 v-start 32
5 v-high 1
QSI MFG’s ID Number 113
49 Primary Index 1
51 Sound Control 127
51.0 System Volume 127
51.1 Mute Volume 63
52 Individual Sound Control 15

Neil Wood - May 2006

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