PIKO strikes again
Model train company PIKO, based in Sonneberg (Germany), just recently released their new Deutsche Bahn 103 electric locomotive for G gauge. Not quite a year ago PIKO announced that production of this particular locomotive would commence and opened pre-orders for this model. I finally received mine a few weeks ago.
PIKO is getting more and more into the G gauge model train market. The terms G gauge and G scale are very often interchangeably, if incorrectly, used. G gauge refers to the distance between the two rails. In this case it would be 45 millimeters or roughly 1.7 inches. The scale though, refers to the size of the rolling stock. LGB (Lehmann Gross Bahn), which started the G gauge hobby in 1968, began to produce in 1:22.5 scale, basing their models on the narrow gauge (1 meter or 3 feet 3 3/8 inches) Rhätische Bahn in Switzerland. However PIKO builds models of mainline locomotives. Those of course would, in the real world, run on standard 1435 millimeter or 4 feet 8 1/2 inches track. PIKO uses the 1:25 scale. Well, sort of. According to their web site the scale is “around” 1:25. Märklin uses 1:32 for their models.
“Rivet Counters” will tell you until they are blue in the face, that one just can not run different scales on the same layout. Well, I can and I do! If it looks ok to me going down the track, why all the angst?
Who would have thought: the scales actually match! An Aristo-Craft RDC in 1:29 and a Z-Stuff signal, also in 1:29, on my railroad.
But back to PIKO. As I mentioned before, their rolling stock is around 1:25 scale. My first impression of the new locomotive was quite positive. The proportions seem right, the color is nice and the printing is very crisp.
Details seem correct and nicely done. The hand rails are mostly already applied, except at both ends of the locomotive. I am not sure why this is so, but I could imagine that those could be damaged when one takes the unit out of the box.
The front apron does look a bit sparse. There is the coupler hook imitation, but nothing else. Imitation brake hoses and valves would have been nice.
The pantographs are looking good, though they are non-functional. The “roof garden”, with the insulators and cables, also looks like a good imitation of the original.
There is an “engineer” in the Number 1 cab. Curiously he looks just like the owner of PIKO, even down to the glasses: Mr. Wilfer. Humorous touch that!
The real Class 103 has a Co’Co’ wheel configuration, meaning three powered axles in each truck (bogie). The PIKO model technically has a A(Bo’)(Bo’)A axle configuration, meaning one leading powered axle and two powered axles in a truck assembly. This gives the model the capability to negotiate very tight radii often found on model train layouts.The wheel arrangement under the Number 1 cab. Motor block with two axles on the right and one trailing, powered axle on the left, connected to the motor block with a pivot. The axles have ball bearings and all 12 wheels pick up power from the rails. There are also two sliding contact shoes on each side of the locomotive. The headlights/taillights are LEDs and change from white to red, depending on the direction of travel. The locomotive is already wired for easy addition of a decoder and sound system. These add-ons are not cheap. PIKO list prices on these for the decoder are around $170 and the sound unit is another $150!
The locomotive is basically made out of durable plastic and weighs in at around 8 pounds and 11 ounces at 28 inches of length. My garden railway has inclines in parts and I am not certain that this locomotive will be able to pull a prototypical train with, say, five passenger coaches. Just in case, I have purchased the available ballast weight. It is not yet installed in the engine. The extra weights are 2 pounds and 14 ounces. So the total locomotive weight would come up to about 11 1/2 pounds. That gives me just a bit more confidence.
I have not been able to run the loco yet. It is just still too cold to be outside and the track needs some maintenance after the winter. However my experience with other PIKO G scale units makes me think that there will be no problems.
The list price for this particular model is US$ 780.00. Of course nobody in their right mind would pay that. Scouring the Internet one can find deals close to half that price. I think for the price one does get a really good model.
Märklin also has a Gauge 1 Class 103 on offer. Their model was recently reissued with greatly updated technology. It is chock a bloc full of electronics. Decoder and sound are included. The pantographs can be raised and lowered remotely and are able to collect current from a possible catenary. It has automatic, remote control couplers. It has a myriad of lighting effects. The cab doors open. The individual axles are sprung. It is almost all metal and weighs in at a little over 15 pounds. But it also comes in at US$ 2500.00 list price! Ouch…
Finally: I went through my railroad photograph collection and found this picture of a Deutsche Bundesbahn 103. This was on the approach to Frankfurt Main Station taken in May 1982. Looks like the loco went through some rough weather.
All photographs, except when otherwise noted, by the author on an iPhone X. No idea on what camera I used in 1982 for the above photo.
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