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Bachmann's RS-3 has smartphone control

By Dana Kawala
Published: March 14, 2016
Product: Bachmann’s new Alco RS-3 road-switcher introduces the firm’s new E-Z App touch-screen train control. The E-Z App line of locomotives and train sets uses Bluetooth-based technology from BlueRail Trains that lets modelers run the model locomotive using an Apple iPhone, iPad or other Bluetooth 4-supporting iOS device.

Simple to use without any programming whatsoever, E-Z App control operates on direct-current (DC) and Digital Command Control (DCC) layouts.

Introduced in 1950, Alco built more than 1,300 RS-3 diesel-electric locomotives for railroads in the U.S., Canada and Mexico. The engine served for decades, and some remain in tourist train service.

The Bachmann model’s dimensions match a prototype drawing in the Model Railroader Cyclopedia: Vol. 2, Diesel Locomotives (Kalmbach Publishing Co., out of print). The arrangement of various details correctly model an RS-3 produced between 1950 and 1953.

The molded detail on the model’s plastic body shell is well defined. The air horn is a separate part. All handrails are made of scale-profile acetal plastic. All the model’s paint features sharp color separation.

Performance: Bluetooth is a wireless technology for exchanging data across short distances, commonly found in cellphones and related home electronics. Because it’s based on Bluetooth, E-Z App doesn’t require a Wi-Fi signal to operate. The only time you need a connection to the Internet is to download the app itself, which takes less than a minute.

After doing so, I placed the locomotive on our layout, turned on power to the rails and tapped the E-Z App screen icon. I touched “Connect” and was ready to run the train.

There are control screens for running either single or multiple locomotives. The screens are very intuitive, with a throttle and buttons to trigger effects like the headlights, horn and bell. There are also buttons for direction and a start-up/shut-down sequence. Throttle control was precise. In the settings menu, I could add acceleration and deceleration momentum. A quick-start guide is included with the model. A more extensive user guide is available as a free download at e-zapptrain

I appreciated the operation mode check boxes. By default this is set to “Full Speed.” Other options are “Passenger,” “Switcher” and “Freight.” When “Freight” was checked, the top speed was reduced from 82 scale mph to 60.

The range of the Bluetooth signal is impressive. With the RS-3 on the test track in our workshop, I ran the locomotive from down the hall, which was about 100 feet away.
On our layout and during tests in the workshop, the RS-3 easily negotiated 18” radius curves and No. 5 turnouts without losing track power or the E-Z App signal. The four-axle locomotive has a respectable 2-ounce drawbar pull, which is equivalent to 28 free-rolling HO-scale freight cars on straight and level track.

The sound effects play through the device speaker. The sounds are generic rather than prototype-specific, which was disappointing. In addition to the horn and bell, sound effects include the coupler, radiator fans and air compressor. The engine rpm sounds increase and decrease with the throttle.

Marketing: Bachmann has already introduced several other E-Z App-equipped models in addition to the RS-3. Electro-Motive Division FT and GP35 diesels in HO scale, as well as train sets featuring these locomotives, are available. As of this writing, an Android version of the app is in development, but not yet available.
Although I would have preferred more prototypical sounds, overall I’m impressed with the E-Z App train control system. It’s quick to set up, easy to use and reliable.
I look forward to seeing further developments in this technology from Bachmann.
—Dana Kawala, senior ­editor, Model Railroader magazine

Vital Stats
Product: HO E-Z App Alco RS-3 Locomotive
Maker: Bachmann Trains Stock No.: 68601 to 68605
MSRP: $239 Availability: Wm. K. Walthers

Bottom Line

• Innovative technology
• Accurate modeling
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