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MTH HO scale ready-to-run train set

Read this review from Model Railroader
MTH HO scale train set
MTH HO scale train set
Many model railroaders get started in the hobby with a train set. A loop of track, power pack, a locomotive, and rolling stock will have a new model railroader running trains in a matter of minutes. MTH has taken its ready-to-run sets a step further by including its Digital Command System (DCS) and a locomotive equipped with a wide variety of sound effects.

With the DCS system, you can run the train and trigger sound effects with an included wireless remote controller. The DCS-equipped locomotive also runs on direct-current (DC) and Digital Command Control (DCC) layouts. MTH also offers a non-sound DC set.

Easy set up. The set includes an EMD F3 diesel equipped with DCS and ProtoSound 3.0, two freight cars and a caboose, 12 18"-radius RealTrax curves, one 9" RealTrax straight section, and one 9" RealTrax terminal section. We tested the DCS version, which includes a 24-watt power supply, DCS Remote Commander infrared wireless receiver, and entry-level handheld controller. MTH also makes more sophisticated DCS throttles that provide access to all the features of DCS-equipped locomotives.

The RealTrax track sections fit together easily and securely. The gray plastic roadbed is removable. Additional curved and straight sections of track are available separately.

The heart of the train set is the DCS Remote Commander, which I set up in a couple of minutes. Two wires from the terminal track section connect to the DCS receiver. The power supply has a barrel jack that then fits into the back of the receiver.
The infrared wireless controller is easy to use. It can control the locomotive speed and direction as well as trigger some sound effects
The infrared wireless controller is easy to use. It can control the locomotive speed and direction as well as trigger some sound effects.
DCS operation. The handheld remote controller requires two AA batteries (not included). The controller has large buttons and is easy to use. I increased and decreased the speed of the locomotive and the diesel rpm sounds increased and decreased. The sound quality is clear, without any buzzes or rattles. I also sounded the whistle, bell, and coupler crash effects. The remote can also trigger a four-part radio dialogue sequence between the train crew.

The system works with a line-of-sight infrared signal. The range of the remote is sufficient for anyone running trains on the supplied loop of track.

It should be noted that DCS is a proprietary system and isn’t the same thing as DCC. With the Remote Commander system included in this set you can run only DCS-equipped locomotives.

DCS-equipped F3. The dimensions of the MTH EMD F3 in the set match prototype drawings in The Model Railroader Cyclopedia, Vol. 2: Diesel Locomotives (Kalmbach Publishing Co., out of print). With high radiator fan shrouds and three portholes along each side, the model is based on what railfans refer to as a Phase I F3.

There aren’t many separately applied detail parts on the body shell, but the molded detail matches the prototype drawing. However, there are molding lines where the sides of the body meet the nose that shouldn’t be there.
The air horns are separately applied and the windows have clear glazing. The cab interior features painted crew figures, a control stand, and a brake stand.

Our review sample is decorated in the Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe Ry.’s warbonnet paint scheme. Paint coverage is smooth with sharp color separation. General Motors Electro-Motive Division  builder’s plates are printed on both sides above the front truck.

After removing the front coupler and one additional screw as noted in the instruction booklet, I lifted off the F3’s body shell. A die-cast metal frame encases the motor and flywheels. The printed-circuit board for the DCS system is mounted on top of the frame. The speaker and a master volume control knob are on the bottom of the die-cast metal fuel tank.
MTH HO scale F3
Locomotive performance. The DCS electronics in the F3 are the same as those included in top-of-the-line MTH locomotives. After running the F3 on the set oval, I tested the locomotive on our DC and DCC test track. Note that in DC the locomotive is designed for up to 24 volts, which is double our standard DC test. In both cases the model performed smoothly throughout its speed range.
I was especially impressed with its slow speed performance in DCC. When I set the locomotive to 128 speed steps, it crept along at 1 scale mph.
Testing the model with our Model Rectifier Corp. Prodigy Advance Squared DCC system and the MTH DCS Digital Commander gave me access to all 28 functions. Additional sound features include forward, reverse, and grade crossing horn signals. You can increase or decrease the engine rpm sounds
regardless of the locomotive speed.
Like other DCS equipped locomotives, the F3 can only be programmed on the main. Programming is limited to the short and extended addresses, acceleration rate, and deceleration rate.
The model’s knuckle couplers can be replaced with MTH Proto-Couplers (sold separately). These remote opening couplers can be controlled with the handheld controller included with the set or with a DCC or DCS throttle.

Rolling stock. The freight cars in the set include a 70-ton four-bay hopper with removable coal load, a 70-ton mill gondola, and a Santa Fe steel caboose. The cars have basic dimensions that match those listed for their prototypes in the 1954 Official Railway Equipment Register. The dimensions of the caboose match drawings in the September 1991 Model Railroader.

The plastic cars have crisply molded rivet seams, underbody brake gear, and other details. The interior of the gondola has a molded wood floor and tie-downs. The interior of the hopper has additional rivet seam detail. There are also rivets on top of the sills, which is a nice touch. The caboose has clear glazing in all its windows. All the cars have separately applied brake wheels.

The models’ lettering and graphics are straight and opaque. There are even some tiny repacking and painting stencils that are legible under magnification. Unlike their prototypes, the car ends don’t have any lettering. However, I appreciated that MTH chose a car number for each model that was correct for the type of car being represented.
Led by a sound-equipped F3, the MTH DCS freight set offers a good entry point into model railroading.
Price: $229.99 (DCS), $169.00 (DC no sound), $229.99 (DCS with European power pack). Fantasy paint schemes are $10 more.

MTH Electric Trains
7020 Columbia Gateway Drive
Columbia, MD 21046-1532

Road names: Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe; Pennsylvania. Fantasy paint schemes: Christmas, Harley-Davidson, Mars - M&M.
  • 24-watt 16-volt power supply
  • 36" x 45" MTH RealTrax oval
  • All-wheel drive and electrical pickup on locomotive
  • Digital Command System with wireless remote controller (DCS version only)
  • Eight-pin DCC socket in locomotive (DC version only)
  • Five-pole skew-wound motor with dual brass flywheels in locomotive
  • Kadee-compatible knuckle couplers at correct height
  • Protosound 3.0-equipped locomotive (DCS version only)
  • Minimum radius: 18"
  • RP-25 contour metal wheelsets in gauge
  • Weight: 16 ounces (locomotive)

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Plan and design an around the room track plan.

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