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Iron Road Aristo CP Rail SD40M-2 Review by Tom Matys
Review of Aristo-Craft CP Rail SD40M-2 (art. 22413A, -B) by Tom Matys
Prototype Information:
SD40M-2 no. 5493

With the economy booming and low fuel prices of the mid-sixties, many US class-1 railroads were in need of a more powerful locomotive to keep up with the ever increasing volumes of transported goods. EMD (Electo-Motive Division of GM) answered the demand by introducing a 20 cylinder, 3600 horsepower, turbocharged locomotive to the market in 1966, the SD45. For the next 5 or 6 years, these powerful and unique flared-radiator units could be seen working on many major railroads within the United States. However, in the early 70's, it was obvious that due to the rising oil prices and maintenance costs, the SD45 was too expensive to operate and many units were sold to smaller operators and replaced with the more economical EMD SD40-2.

At the same time, the two major Canadian railroads, CP Rail and Canadian National were quite content with the performance of GMD's version of the SD40 and SD40-2 and never purchased any of the more powerful SD45 locomotives.

After nearly 30 years of service on various railroads, many of the old SD45's had reached the end of their working life and were scraped. In the mid-90's, a number of these units were saved from the cutter's torch, due to the ever increasing demand for motive power, so instead of a scrap yard, some ended up in shops receiving a complete overhaul including a new prime mover and upgrades to SD40-2 specifications.

In 1995, CP Rail purchased seven such units from MK (Morrison-Knudsen) with the model designation SD40M-2. These are really 3000 horsepower SD40-2's with SD45's skin as the class number implies; DRF-30 (Diesel Road Freight - 30 [x100] horsepower).

General Data (as built):  
Designation SD45  
Locomotive Type (C-C) 0660  
Locomotive Horsepower 3600  
Diesel Engine Model 645E3  
Number Of Cylinders 20  
Cylinder Arrangement 45deg. "V"  
Operating Principle 2 Stroke Cycle,Turbocharged,
Unit Injection, Water Cooled
 
Full Speed 900 RPM  
Idle Speed 315 RPM  
Supplies:  
Lubricating Oil Capacity 294 Gal.  
With Deep Sump Oil Pan 467 Gal.  
Cooling Water Capacity 288 Gal.  
Fuel Capacity (Basic) 3200 Gal.  
w/ Extra Capacity 4000 Gal.  
Sand 56 Cu. Ft.  
Air Brakes Type 26L  
Approximate Weight On Rails 368,000 lbs.  
Weight on Drivers 100%  
Major Dimensions:  
Length Between Coupler Faces 65' 8"  
Width Over Underframe 10'  
Overall Height-Top Of Rail
To Top Of Cooling Fan
15' 7-3/16"  
Minimum Curve Radius-Single Unit 193'  
 
Model Review:
Aristo SD40M-2 no. 5494

In the summer of 2001, the first run of the long anticipated SD45 locomotives produced by Aristo-Craft had finally arrived at retail stores across the country. By that time most of the models were pre-sold and the entire run was completely sold out within a month. This caused the earlier announced scheduled release of the RDC-1 (due in January '02) to be postponed to allow Aristo to rush a second run of the SD45 through the factory in order to satisfy the higher-than-predicted demand.

The model is an accurate 1:29 scale replica of a standard SD45 diesel locomotive in it's original configuration as built by the factory in the late '60's. Detail is abundant, crisp and well executed. Some of the more interesting features include 13 lift rings on the roof of the long hood section, 5 see-through free spinning non-powered roof fans, opening side windows, fully detailed cab interior with an engineer figure and controls, accurate windshield wipers, metal multi-color railings, see-through steps, metal radiator and air intake screens, richly detailed truck side frames, MU stands and folding walkways.

This is a very heavy model, over 15 pounds and most of this weight is in the fuel tank. The combination of plentiful detail and great weight makes handling of this loco a difficult task. Never lift the loco by the dynamic brake blister, it's only a snap-in part covering a set of switches used for selecting numerous operating options. The very heavy fuel tank is also a snap-in part and if the loco is tilted while holding the tank, the tabs may fail and the tank will separate from the loco's frame.

This "New Generation Large Scale Model" comes with a number of improved and advanced features such as the chip controlled smoke unit that produces a good amount of smoke but also has a burnout protection that will shut it off when out of smoke fluid, modular power brick design with ball bearings, three gearboxes and two motors in each bogie (all three axels -- six wheels are powered). An internal plug-and-play circuit board makes installation of a sound unit or a DCC chip a simple task.

Both my SD-45's ran very smooth right out of the box. After two hours of continuous running (breaking-in period) I haven't noticed any improvements in operating characteristics and decided that no more breaking-in was needed. Slow speeds are very smooth and steady, hardly any pulsing is noticeable and the headlights are bright even before the engine starts to move. There were some reports regarding gearbox and smoke unit problems on the Aristo forum but in most cases those were a direct result of improper usage (overloading) of the equipment. All initial problems (actual and perceived) were addressed and resolved by Aristo-Craft and the second run of these great engines will include many improvements to make these models even better.

Pros:  
Good accuracy and detail, very close to scale  
Very powerful locomotive w/ 4 motors and 15+ pounds of weight  
Body mounted couplers  
Plug-and-play circuit board and constant lighting  
Excellent value for the money  
Cons:  
Some detail parts are too fragile and break easily  
Not weatherproof - can't be used in rain (switches and CB's are exposed)  
When railing is installed, the engine will not fit back into it's shipping box  
Other:  
Minimum Diameter (loco only) 4 feet (LGB 11000)  
Minimum Diameter (loco w/ cars) 8 feet (LGB 16000)  
CP Rail road numbers released 5493 & 5494  
Place of purchase Watt's Train Shop  
Price paid $203 US plus shipping  
 
Aristo's list of features:  
Two 3 Axle Ball Bearing Efficient Power Trucks  
2 Motors per Truck with Low Amperage Draw  
Modular Electrical Connections and Car Body  
Operating Diesel Smoke Unit  
Lighted Front & Rear Headlights and Numberboards  
Interior Cab Lighting and Interior Cab Details  
Lighted Porches and Operating Red Marker Lights  
Solid Metal Railings and Lift Rings  
Clear Plastic Windows with Opening Side Windows  
Super Detailing including Windshield Wipers, See Through Steps, and M.U. Hoses  
Operating AAR Knuckle Couplers  
Fifteen Pounds of Locomotive for Better Performance  
Prototypical Painting, Lettering, and Road Numbers  
Quality Water Resistant Speaker Included for the Sound System of Your Choice  
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