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HO scale EMD GP9 from Athearn

By Dana Kawala
Published: December 14, 2011
MRR-PR1211_01

Product: General Motors’ Electro-Motive Division introduced the 1,750-hp GP9 in 1954. It had built 4,092 GP9 and 165 GP9B locomotives when production ended in 1963.


Southern Pacific was one of the major purchasers of the model, buying 340 units between 1954 and 1959. A few of these SP Geeps served into the 1990s.


Athearn's HO scale version is superdetailed out of the box, featuring separate parts distinct to the railroad including dual headlight clusters. This Genesis model is available with a dual-mode SoundTraxx Digital Command Control (DCC) sound decoder.


Performance: Most of the major dimensions of the model match prototype drawings in the Model Railroader Cyclopedia, Vol. 2: Diesel Locomotives (Kalmbach Publishing Co., out of print). The review sample represents what railfans refer to as a Phase II GP9.


Most of the major dimensions of the model match prototype drawings in the (Kalmbach Publishing Co., out of print). The review sample represents what railfans refer to as a Phase II GP9.


The model does have some dimensional discrepancies within a couple scale inches when compared to prototype photos and drawings in the Cyclopedia and in the April 1984 issue of Mainline Modeler. Although a few inches may not seem like a lot, it affects placement of larger details. For example, the height of the hood is 2 scale inches too short, affecting the placement of the radiator grilles, dynamic brake hatch, and cab.


After receiving some negative customer feedback over the discrepancies, Athearn issued an apology on its Facebook page in October. The model railroad maker, owned by Horizon Hobby, said these measurement errors were not realized until after the first models were shipped.


To address the errors, Athearn employees measured an actual GP9 for the revisions to the tooling, said Vic Audo, interim director of Horizon's model railroad division. "We are happy to correct it. It had problems, we are person enough to admit that," Audo said.


Production runs going forward will be made from the improved tooling, he added.


Despite the issues, the GP9 features impressive detail. All handrails, grab irons, lift rings, and windshield wipers are separately applied. The radiator fans and dynamic brake fan are separate parts under see-through grilles.


The SP "black widow" paint scheme is sharp and well applied. Because of the height discrepancy, the "Southern Pacific" lettering appears too low where it crosses the engine-access door louvers when compared to prototype photos. However, all lettering is crisply defined and opaque.


Looking under the hood, the motor and flywheels are mounted in the center of the frame. Two drive shafts connect the motor to gearboxes above the front and rear trucks.


The printed-circuit (PC) board and DCC decoder are attached to the top of the motor. The speaker is mounted on top of the rear weight. Wires run from the PC board to the headlight assemblies in each end of the body shell.


On the track, the GP9 accelerated smoothly throughout its speed range in DC and DCC tests. Slow-speed performance can be helped by setting the decoder to 128 speed steps.


The dual-mode SoundTraxx decoder features sound effects on DC and DCC layouts. The sounds are automatic on a DC layout. The decoder does a great job capturing the growl of a diesel engine. Other effects include a bell and a grade-crossing signal that sounds when the direction switch on the power pack is flipped. These can be toggled off and on with DCC.


Your customer will get a lot more sound options when running the model with DCC. User-triggered sound effects include a long and short horn blast, bell, and dynamic brakes.


The model’s instruction booklet includes a listing of the decoder’s programmable configuration variables (CVs). More extensive user manuals are available at www.athearn.com/dcc. The decoder includes a built-in seven-band equalizer, allowing the user to adjust the volume of individual sound effects, including the horn and bell.


Marketing: The ubiquitous GP9 is one of those locomotives nearly every model railroader needs at least one of on their layout. Fortunately, a lot of your customers will need several.


The ubiquitous GP9 is one of those locomotives nearly every model railroader needs at least one of on their layout. Fortunately, a lot of your customers will need several.


Despite the dimensional issues, this is still a well-detailed model and most customers have been pleased with its overall look and performance.


Future releases of the model will include more regional railroads; indeed there is a long list of GP9 owners for Athearn to work from. Be sure to stock those that are popular in your area.


Athearn is also selling a GP7 in Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe and Pennsylvania road names. The model uses the same electronics and mechanism as the GP9.


VITAL STATS
Product: EMD GP9
Maker: Athearn Trains
Scale: HO
Stock number: ATHG62615 (Road No. 5629; others available)
MSRP: $279.98 (DCC and sound)
Availability: www.athearn.com


BOTTOM LINE
Dimensional discrepancies
Revisions will improve accuracy
Many sound options for DCC