New 26.Dec.2015, updated 29Feb2016
This blog note is in group Models and is about a Fleischmann 396071 that seems to have the “AC” 3-rail as a rather dubious add-on. (You might drop the intros and jump to The problems right away.) It’s an electric locomotive series E 60, DRG (BR E60). The model is at Fleischmann here, and the real locomotive is at German Wikipedia here. As mentioned the loco I have is for “AC” or better Märklin 3-rail with a slider current pick-up underneath. It’s digital, so it’s actually DC with modulated digital traffic. It’s got sound and digital individually controllable couplings in each end. It’s a very nice piece of engineering, done both by the deceased engineers around 1925 and by the Fleischmann designers. I assume that on a 2-rail system it runs beautifully. However, for me it’s not a closed case. I can’t use it.
Disclaimer: there is no money involved, no ads nor free gifts from all of my blog notes. I write about what I observe but do allow myself some reflections around it. Any complaints: Comment below or send me a mail, and I’d be glad to rephrase.
One of the problems is that it doesn’t run. A problem is that it derails trying to traverse most of my old metal M-track switches (model 5118) from the 60-90’s (with studs). On plastic C-track (model 612) it does traverse the turnouts but not smoothly. Also, the slider makes too much clicking noise. This is my first Fleischmann and I had expected it to run as perfect as my two Roco locos (SBB Ae3/6 II (model 68403 here) and the ÖBB Class 1245 (model 78494 here)). Roco (here) and Fleischmann (here) are sibling companies under Modelleisenbahn GmbH (here), so I had assumed their solutions were comparable. When it comes to running they are far from.
The Fleischmann web page of the loco now (Dec2015) said that it’s “Discontinued, limited quantity available”. I think this is a change since November. I bought it directly from Fleischmann’s web shop (I think it’s the same as Roco’s web shop).
My “layout” and control
To set you in scope, here’s where I expected to see it running, since all my other locos do. I started collecting Märklin in the sixties. My kids bought me track for Christmas over the years, and now as a grandfather we are three generations sitting around this flat “layout” (click on the pictures for more pixels):
As you see I take good care of everything, even my Lamp G4 iMac from 2002 (which works every time I check it). The Fleischmann trafo is something old I found, it does take the Lemaco SBB Ae 3/6 II on a two-rail track in the window sill, far away from small hands. All my analogue locos I now enjoy on a shelf (at work and at home), so all the locos in the layout are digital. Four Märklin, two Roco plus this rather immobile Fleischmann.
The M-tracks are in fully working condition with no bends or problems. I have checked this thoroughly. I haven’t planned to upgrade to C-track (or even nicer to flex rail) for this railroad, but I have some C-track that came with two sets of Märklin 3+ My World that I enjoy on the floor with grandchildren. But I do hope to add catenary wires (here).
I use Märklin Mobile Station II (firmware 1.81, not the newest). The setup instruction that came with the loco was not updated for Mobile Station II, and I did try all the alternatives (using database #36330, #37962 or just the address) with no success. But the Mobile Station II did find it with New Loco, Find and it appeared as DCC, with the address I had fiddled around with (=4). Fair enough. The rightmost side track in Fig.1 gets the power feed and I may break the connection to the rest of the layout; I use it during loco configuration since that process will get confused by other, interfering locos.
Since all my other locomotives run, then it’s easy to conclude that it’s the Fleischmann “AC” that has these problems, per running on my track. Here are the points:
The wheel flanges are not for my Märklin
See my blog note NMJ derailments where I discussed this in another context. This also points to NEM 340 which defines how Märklin flanges should be. I have measured all the stock that works to be correct around 1.2 mm, including the Roco locos (NEM 340 says max. 1.35 mm (but no min?)). It’s only around 0,7 mm on this loco. I think that this is the most important reason why the loco climbs the central part of the turnout. It also has problems running the side track with several small curved tracks, with no switches (Fig.1 right side). All over I’d say it doesn’t run inside almost any track, but often tries to climb it. Remember it isn’t flex rail.
The controllable couplings some times touch the studs
It looks like there basically is enough margin, but in practice it isn’t. This is in the lower position. When it slides onto the studs it shorts the line. I just wonder about the digital data protocol (how unsafe it seems to be – not Fleischmann’s fault) – because when this happens the Roco 68402 (several times with only this locomotive) some time starts and runs some 10-20 cm. Once it was wiped out of the Mobile Station’s setup.
The slider makes ticking noise when touching the studs
This goes for any of the tracks. There’s nothing else touching the track, and it’s not the motor or gear (I have lifted it up and ran it on the non rubber-band wheels to learn). I can actually see the slider hit the studs and make the noise, in both directions. The sliders on Märklin locos are 5 mm wide, just like this on loco. But the Roco loco slider is 8 mm with plastic. I have tried to tighten the leaf springs, but it only helped a little. I still ticks. All the other locos use a screw to fasten the slider, this loco has a plug. It feels quite loose.
Any of the reasons above makes the locomotive not usable for me. I wonder why my two Roco “AC” versions are perfect, I’d say better than Märklin, when the Fleischmann “AC” port is the opposite. I am surprised that I haven’t found any other reports about this.
I will contact Fleischmann about this. I don’t reveal or publish excerpts from private mails without permission. So what now happens is really up to Fleischmann. Both with my loco, and how this note might be updated.
My advice (so far) is that if you are to buy any of the AC 3-rail versions you should mail Fleischmann querying about this matter.
My case with Fleischmann
I bought this loco on the net directly from Fleischmann in the common Roco/Fleischmann shop. It was then sent from Germany to Norway with no VAT in Germany. I had mailed them about how this model ran on 3-rail track ahead of the purchase and they replied that it was no problem. When I reiterated the case as reported in this blog note they repeated that they had tested the loco on all three types of Märklin 3-rail track (M-track, K-track and C-track) and it was reported to have run without any problem. As I expected they indicated that my case was the first.
However, they accepted a return, including a more expensive return postage. I had to have receipts of course and send them an invoice. After some weeks the money appeared on my bank account. When I could document all this to the Norwegian authorities I also got the 25% VAT in Norway returned.
All over and again, my experience with Fleischmann was one of a serious company. As I have expected to see them since I first had a friend who had Fleischmann in the sixties.
It was sad to return such a nice locomotive! But the money was reinvested in a Märklin 37294, see blog note 123.
Fleischmann versions of this loco
Fleischmann seems to have taken over when Märklin left:
- Original of BR E 60, DRG, grey-blue, pantograph with double contact plate, without shunting platform and additional windows on either side, appear in 2013/14 catalogue as new:
- Era IIIa of BR E 60, DRG, green with red wheels, pantograph with single contact plate but double “rocker”(?), without shunting platform and additional windows on either side, appear in 2013/14 catalogue as new:
- Era IV of BR 160, DB, red, pantograph with single contact plate, with shunting platform and additional windows on either side, appear in 2014 catalogue “Innovations”but coming in 2017:
I haven’t found a perfect E60 or E160 alternative to this loco. It’s got sound and the nice coupler (that I haven’t been able to test thoroughly). It’s in the direction of a scale model.
The Märklin models are less detailed and thus more “playable”. But alas, no sound – they are simply too old:
- 37562, DRG E 60, red, era 3, shunting platform, digital, ca. 2002-2005 (here)
- 37561, DRG E 60, green, digital, ca. 1998-2000
- 34561, DRG E 60, green, delta, ca. 1998-2000
- 3457, as below with pantograph with double contact plate, around 1992-1993
- 3157, DB 160, red, analogue, shunting platform, ca. 1981-1993
I can see in my 1981 Märklin catalogue that I have priced 3157 with a pencil, meaning it was on my wish list then. So the Fleischmann loco was to be an old dream come true.
Strange, to search on the internet looking over my rather coincidental catalogue collection first is easier than only using google. However, Koll’s katalog” for the Märklin models might have been even better (here).