Ever since I began watching the SP in the Davis/Sacramento area in my teens, SD45's have been near and dear to my heart. At 14, my parents gave me an SP Athearn SD45 for Christmas and I was thrilled. Later I began to notice that the nose looked too wide and eventually discovered it was too wide due to the hood width made to accomodate the motor which wouldn't fit at that time in a scale width hood.
Since those days we have had SD45's from Bachman Plus/Spectrum, KATO, Proto 2000 and now Athearn RTR has just started shipping their upgraded Rail Power shell version. Rio Grande fans have started receiving those versions - I should be getting my 3 numbers in the next week or so when my pusher gets them in the mail to me. Of course the big draw for the Athearn version is the prototypical details being added to recent diesels like the tunnel motors and now the SD45. The nose gyra light should be a Mars as originally delivered but strangely Athearn chose to use the Pyle. I'm greatful to have even a Pyle as it looks "close enough" and in the 80's, many of the Mars lights had been replaced by Pyle anyway.
The reported downside to the Athearn RTR is the Rail Power shell hood doors and latch details are reportedly not up to todays standards. Apparently Athearn upgraded about everything else on this SD45 like the air grills, roof fans, cap and so on. The D&RGW versions according to web reviews look as if the paint was applied a little thick over those hood sides.
I'd be curious to hear how the SP versions turn out and how they compare detail wise to the prototype. I expect I'll pick up at least one of the SP too since I'm a fan of the SP and they were often mixed in on Rio Grande trains in the 80's. At present I have only KATO SD45's which include 2 UP, 3 D&RGW, and 1 SP. The UP/D&RGW were purchased partly to haul the UP/D&RGW Kaiser pooled unit coal train. I'm not sure how well the KATO and AThearn SD45's will mix in the same consist due to visible differences in the shells tho. I have noticed that in the late 60's and early 70's, often you would see two D&RGW SD45's together with one large herald and one small herald together. Perhaps Athearn will run the large herald later and I'll get one or two of those to mix with like brand.
Any general comments about the versions of SD45's available? Any of you getting the Athearn SP SD45's which should be shipping anytime now? Rio Grande - The Action Road
Joined: Wed Dec 21 2005, 11:58AM Location: NorCal Posts: 59
I picked up one of the undecorated SD-45's that were shipped at the same time as the DRGW and PRR units. That gave me a direct look at the tooling, including what options are possible. I'm an SP modeler, so this unit was intended as fodder for one of the first three classes/orders of SP units, since the initial SP release is of the second half--final three classes of SP flare 45's. Some observations: 1. The door relief is, as you note, not up to today's standards. It's ok, but not great. I guess that's what makes it an RTR vs Genesis. It will be compatible with other RTR releases (GP-35, SD-40, tunnel motors). An appropriately weathered SP unit should be fine on the layout, in consist. 2. LOTS of options will be possible with the tooling Athearn has provided. Part of that should be evident in the selections for this first release ranging from relatively conventional SD-45's for the PRR, a bit more for DRGW, a high nose N&W, and the SP with L-window, SP spilt air compartment access doors (cab sub-base) and Farr radiator grills. The parts bags provide a number of these options--but not all, especially for the SP. I'll still have to use a Canon cab for the L-window, unless I can get one and a nose separately from Athearn. 3. I'll speculate that Athearn may do SP classes EF-636-2 and -3. Both are relatively direct with the tooling and parts Athearn has. The dash 2 class will have to fudge a bit on the single high-mount brake cylinder on each side of the loco, but they have a decent starting point with the alternative low brake mount side-frames. Both the low mounts and all high mount side-frames are in the undec part bag. We already saw both types used on the SD-40's.
I may add more comments/observations as I get a chance to look closely at the parts. For now, I've seen enough to otherwise dig out Kato units, with their separate hood and walkway/frame to use for an initial SP production class project that includes redoing the radiator compartment as the brake moves to a ratchet in the nose and a Hi-Tech Details "extended vision" front cab window (elongated engineer center window).
Meanwhile, I welcome the impending addition to my core SP fleet. Having the four major variations on 645-powered six axles (SD-40, SD-45, SD-45T-2, SD-40T-2) running with common drives goes a long way toward capturing the look and feel of SP Oregon and Northern California operations of the 70's.
Thank you for the detailed comments. Did you say the Athearn 1st release of RTR SD45's will not have the L-windshield on the SP version? Not that it matters that much to me. I would probably want to get at least on SP unit since they were classic SP diesels. Rio Grande - The Action Road
Joined: Wed Dec 21 2005, 11:58AM Location: NorCal Posts: 59
Jim, Sorry to confuse you. The reference to no L-window was to the undecorated unit. All images I have seen of the SP units at shows indicates an L-window--as appropriate to the SP for all but the first order/class.
The initial SP offering from Athearn is of the "definitive" SP unit, to use Prof. Strapac's description. This represents the second half of SP orders with L-window cab, split access doors on the sub-base and Farr radiator grills. These are distinctively SP.
I just openned up the parts bag and spread everything out. There are FOUR variations of cab sub-base doors! That points to a fairly full set of prototype variations for the future from Athearn. The rest of the parts and the body die work are consistent with previous upgraded Rail Power shells, notably the GP-35, SD-38 and SD-40 in the Athearn RTR line. Personally, I accept that they will be perfectly fine as "layout runners"--not super-detailed nor the finest of detail, but pretty good from three feet.
Update. I now have Athearn SD45's from both the first and second runs of Rio Grande. The first run has a spartan pilot with the closed door plow and small logo. The second run has in improved open door plow, coupler lift bars and MU hoses and a large logo. (much nicer) There are no pre-drilled holes on the first run pilot so those will have to be done by the moder to add the coupler lift bars and MU hoses. Replacing the plow with the improved version would help a lot too.
The 2nd and 3rd run of SD40T-2's also have the better plow and additional details FYI. I have noticed the SP units being treated the same way. I have two of the improved SP SD40T-2's and they have the generic not so nice plow. The photo's of the newer SP tunnel motors appear to have a taller, more correct looking plow with open doors which would greatly improve the pilot on the first run. It appears the 2nd and 3rd runs of SP/SSW tunnle motors (which are largely sold out) also have the generic not so nice plow. The newest run of SD40T-2's and SD45T-2's appear to have the new plow - yay! Rio Grande - The Action Road