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Jouef TVG - "SNCF Alstom World record train"

Model Ref.: HJ2058

Review by David Blythman

On 3rd April 2007 a specially prepared five car double deck TGV set broke the World rail speed record on the new TGV Est line between Paris and Strasbourg. The speed achieved was 574.8 kilometres per hour or 357.2 miles per hour. The event was widely covered in the French media as this clip uploaded to YouTube shows:

The start of this official video of the record run gives some statistics of the train set.

The model
With several TGV models in its catalogue, it was inevitable that a model of the V150 would appear in the Jouef catalogue. In fact there are two. The first is in a train set aimed at the younger end of the market, the second is a fully featured model which is the subject of this review.

Regular readers of Model Rail Forum are probably wondering why I have a model of the V150. My modelling is based on the 1950s steam period of British Railways in West Yorkshire. This is a long way in space, time and technology from North East France in the early 21st Century. The simple answer is that the technology appeals to me as an engineer. I grew up on Concorde's first flight, the Apollo lunar landings and the dawn of the personal computer age. Blend my life long love of trains into that mix and owning a model of the World rail speed record holder seems a natural consequence.

What's it like?
I know very little about the prototype. There is a substantial soft back book in the box which provides background material on the record attempt but it is in French and my technical French is too rusty to gain much from it, so the review is confined to photos showing what you get and a section on how to convert the V150 to DCC.
The box has a nicely designed graphic with due prominence given to the 574.8 kph record.

The top of the box is actually a flap which opens up to reveal the carefully packaged five part train set

The five parts of the train are:

Driving car with cased in pantograph area i.e. there is no pantograph on the leading car

The first of the triplex set

The centre car

The trailing car of the triplex set

The rear power car with pantograph

Here's a photo of the pantograph itself

It is worth pointing out that the pantograph is on the non powered car. In other words, the motor which drives the model is in the car without a pantograph. Supplying power via the overhead catenary is not an option with this model even though the internal PCB has provision for it. The motor and pantograph are at opposite ends of the train.

Although I said that I know very little of the details of the train, I did get to see one of the centre cars when it was displayed at the Place de la Concorde in October 2007.

Here's a photo of the equivalent model.

To round off the model photos, here's one of the front

and for interest a comparison of the front shapes of the current World rail speed record holder and a sibling of the World steam rail record holder.

How does it run?
As can be seen from the DCC conversion photos, the power car has a central motor with flywheel which drives both front and rear bogies. It has a traction tyre on one wheel of each bogie giving a total of two, one per side. There are electrical pickup wipers for each wheel, even the traction tyred ones.

I calculated that at the world record speed the model would need to complete a circuit of my layout in about seven seconds. It actually takes about 14 seconds, so it is some way off. Even so it is considerably faster than any other model I own as this video demonstrates.

Converting to DCC
Converting this loco to DCC was a nightmare. Despite access to the service sheet on the Hornby International website there was insufficient detail or information to enable you to get inside the loco body to fit a decoder. If it wasn't for the assistance of a member of this Forum who asked on a French Forum how to get the body off, I think I'd still be stumped.

The key piece of missing information is that you must remove the rear fairing behind the inner bogie. The location is shown in the photo below

The fairing itself looks like this

Once this fairing is out of the way, you can free the tab which locks into the body.
The final step in the process is to free the body sides from the lower part of the chassis. The dividing line is level with the bogie cut out. The service sheet gives some clue as to what to do here. The upper body clips in behind the lower chassis and can be freed by sliding a thumbnail between the two parts. It's a process which is as difficult to perform as it is to explain. If you don't have thumbnails, a credit card or similar piece of plastic might do the trick. The chassis is not very strong and is easily bent. It is easier to separate the body and chassis if the tab at the rear of the chassis has already been released. The final stage in the process is to slide the chassis out of the nose section.
Once the body has been removed, the chassis should look like this

All that remains is to remove the plug and insert the decoder of your choice. I currently use TCS direct plugin decoders because they are so convenient. In this case, I put down some insulating tape to ensure that the components on the underside of the decoder board will not short out on the components underneath.

Once I was happy that the decoder was working correctly, I replaced the body. I did not remove any capacitors and the decoder seems to be working ok.

This is a fine model which is a pleasure to own. It is let down by the very difficult and poorly documented access for conversion to DCC. It is not a conversion for the faint hearted. I did initiate contact with Hornby International and they are aware of my opinion of this area.

- September 2009


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