Review by Tony Cook/photos by the author
Diecast Masters offers something unique for the HO market. The company recently delivered an HO-scale SD70ACe Tier 4. Of special note, this 1/87 model includes no drive mechanism, making it a static display reproduction. Diecast Masters produces a variety of die-cast metal replicas and has a license for Caterpillar products. Caterpillar’s Progressive Rail owns Electro-Motive Division (EMD), which opened the door for Diecast Masters to produce this die-cast metal diesel.
Non-functioning static models produced in HO-scale or near-HO proportion are uncommon but have been with the hobby for decades. Europe’s Rosebud Kitmaster offered locomotives and passenger car models dating back to the late 1950s. Among the releases was a New York Central Hudson 4-6-4 steam locomotive. The Rosebud kits, which may be OO-scale (1/76), saw inclusion in AHM’s line for some years.
The more well-known static HO kits may be the Revell steam locomotives offered in the 1970s. This group included a plastic Union Pacific “Big Boy” 4-8-8-4 steam locomotive. The most recent appearance for those kits was from Con-Cor. Beyond these plastic kits, you occasionally might find some curious-looking F-units and other attempts at diesels made of die-cast metal and plastic among toys at museums or swap meets.
This HO SD70ACe-T4 comes with its own acrylic two-piece case packaged inside a cardboard window display box. The back of the box includes line drawing and facts about the prototype.
Diecast Masters SD70ACe-T4
Reproducing the new Tier 4 version of the SD70ACe diesel, Diecast Masters offers two decorations for its HO-scale die-cast metal replica. One is predominantly blue, and the other (Model Railroad News’ sample) is mostly yellow. Each includes Progressive Rail, Caterpillar, and EMD lettering and logos.
The blue-and-green SD70ACe-T4 model (#85534, $64.99) carries DM01 for its road number. The gold-and-black model includes DM02 for its road number. The prototypes have four-digit road numbers. For example, the blue-and-green SD70ACe-T4s have 1500-series numbers. The “DM” likely refers to Diecast Masters. Beyond the road number, the application of paint and lettering present a very authentic appearance.
The replica comes in a cardboard window display package. On the back is a drawing of the SD70ACe-T4 with some general information and facts about the prototype. Following the practice of many die-cast metal offerings, this SD70ACe-T4 comes with a plastic display case. The two-part case includes a clear acrylic top with black base. The base features a gray plastic track section.
The die-cast SD70ACe-T4 arrives secured to the track section/black base by two screws. A small Phillips screwdriver will help you remove the screws. The model is very durable, but you should still take care in how you handle it. I held the fuel tank section in my left hand with the base turned up and removed the screws with my right hand.
The model has some heft, weighing in at 20.15 ounces, but it really isn’t much different in weight from a regular HO-scale diesel model. Watch where you sit this replica down, however, because the metal wheels roll very freely — it might take off on you!
The trucks do turn, but this is definitely not a diesel for use on a model railroad layout. Do not put this die-cast metal diesel on powered track (standard DC or especially DCC), because there is no insulation of the wheels — you’ll risk an electrical short. I couldn’t resist the temptation to see how it might function on track. With the power off, I placed this Diecast Masters SD70ACe-T4 on my test loop of Kato Code 83 Unitrack with 24-inch radius curves. The trucks do not feature the same fluid movement you have with a typical operating diesel model, and it is more of a challenge to line up all six-axles properly to the rails. The thin profile of the wheels likely added to the challenge of railing this release. It did roll smoothly along the straight track sections but derailed quickly as it went into a curve. It should be pointed out that it is not the aim of Diecast Masters to produce a working HO diesel model, even as a dummy or non-powered offering.
Something not common to regular operating HO diesel models is the traction motor detail present on the bottom of the trucks on Diecast Masters’ SD70ACe-T4. The dummy plastic knuckle couplers represent one of the very few items on this release not made of metal.
The cab includes shades, and an antenna array is present under three rectangular domes on the cab roof. The cab windows include clear material, and interior details are present. Handrails appear along the walkways, and grab irons are also present on the model. Model Railroad News’ sample included a smooth and shiny application of paint, and all lettering was sharp, which added to the good looks of this release.
EMD’s SD70ACe-T4 has no plastic HO-scale model on the market currently, so there might be an obvious temptation to turn this release into a functioning member of a contemporary era operator’s layout. I was unsuccessful in my attempt to open this model. I removed screws from the fuel tank, which came off easily, and then removed screws at the end of the underside of the frame, but I wasn’t able to get the shell free. Finding screws just behind the back of the couplers, I was able to get the front screw off and encountered the back screw behind the coupler, which didn’t want to come out without damaging the head of the screw. I’ll leave this effort to another with a stronger desire.
How does Diecast Masters’ SD70ACe-T4 compare to EMD’s prior SD70ACe? Here is Bachmann’s Illinois Terminal SD70ACe next to Diecast Masters’ SD70ACe-T4. This view provides a look at the differences between these similar prototypes and provides the reader with a comparison between an operating plastic model and this scale metal replica.
The general look of the work is appealing for those with an appreciation for die-cast models. If you have any construction or farm machinery in your collection or a die-cast automobile, you’ll find this SD70ACe-T4 to be a fun addition to those items. You’ll find both versions (blue-and-green and yellow-and-black) available for $64.99. As one who especially enjoys collecting models, this is a must-have item. For its uniqueness alone, having a die-cast metal diesel locomotive is a great addition to your collection. I’d enjoy seeing Diecast Masters explore more EMD prototypes and I’d be happy to clear space for a shelf of HO die-cast metal diesels.
Diecast Masters HO-scale
SD70ACe-T4 diesel locomotive
Progressive Rail DM02 (yellow and black)
#85546, 3000TOYS.com price: $64.99
This review appeared in the December 2017 issue of Model Railroad News