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I received my Menard's F unit Santa Fe Beta 3.5 engine today and at least the box was not punctured through unlike a friend's who got his with a shipper custom aerated box.

First impression would be the paint appeared to be better and more consistently applied. Fit appeared okay so then I went to load batteries into the remote and the door seemed tight but everything worked.

Next is the engine with the undercarriage getting my attention. Why? Well the engine started fine but failed to make a loop around my simple O42 elevated tinplate track loop and derailed on the front truck. Further examination revealed that while the front power truck was not as bad as another poster the rear wheels were not properly gauged on the rear axle not traction tire front truck set causing the front truck to ride up the rails and derail. I decided since I am on the west coast in SoCal that I would attempt to re-gauge the rear axle front truck wheels. It took several attempts to get everything straight and within acceptable tolerances, but the job did get done.

Now onto running. The rear coupler is stiff to open and close but it did work. The front pilot hangs down really low to the track and in once section on my elevated tubular oval it would arc as it passed. Running the engine on my lower Fastrack loops it worked better. The starting speed seems to want to jack rabbit start and the same for stopping. The engine was to run like an old Mark engine. Lubrication was almost nil on the power trucks so this will also need some TLC. I does pull nicely and does not seem to slow down so that is a plus. I will be running it some more just becuase.

Overall as a toy train entry it is just fine but it almost seems I got a first revision and not a 3.5                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                             

Last edited by Captaincog
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@Dynamo2112 posted:

I watched a review from Eric Siegel (Eric's Trains) on YouTube on the first edition of this loco and he said the reason that the engine jackrabbits is because it has non-flywheel motors. It's an entry-level locomotive so that is one way to cut on production costs.

They solved that issue with the software on the 2.0 models which don't have flywheels either. Starts and stops were very smooth.

I contacted Timkos repair in Beavercreek, OH, they claim to add a pair of flywheel can motors and metal gears for $95.00?

I may have to take them up on their offer.

That seems like a very reasonable price for that work.  However, after doing that, you'll be in it for over $300 (original price, upgrade, shipping to and from Timko).  Seems to defeat the purpose of a low-cost entry-level locomotive.

@William 1 posted:

I’m with gunrunner.  I don’t understand the fascination with a cheapo engine from Menards.  I can think of better things to do with $300 than be their tester.  Send me the dough and I can probably locate an engine that doesn’t work in a trade.

It's because it was being sold for 160 bucks and some folks think it will have Lionel quaking in their boots.  Four "runs" total up to 800 produced.  Hardly competition, particularly as these seem to be scarfed up by the roughly same people and not the general public at large.

There's probably at least another 200-400 sitting at the factory waiting for 4.0 and 4.5 "upgrades."  Cynical, I know but that's how it appears to me.

Rusty

the engine wasn't 300.00!

The engine after sending it for the $90 flywheel upgrade (plus shipping two ways) is easily $300 or more.  Please try to follow the conversation.

For the same money, I can buy a nice Railking PS/3 model with flywheels, cruise, smoke, full command control, etc.  Note the MSRP of $329.95, easily purchased at most dealers for $300 or less.

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The engine after sending it for the $90 flywheel upgrade (plus shipping two ways) is easily $300 or more.  Please try to follow the conversation.

For the same money, I can buy a nice Railking PS/3 model with flywheels, cruise, smoke, full command control, etc.  Note the MSRP of $329.95, easily purchased at most dealers for $300 or less.

Scroll up and see what the link was about

@William 1 posted:

I’m with gunrunner.  I don’t understand the fascination with a cheapo engine from Menards. 

I suppose one can be fascinated, but no one seems to remember"you get what you pay for".

Additionally, most folks don't seem to realize Menards isn't a hobby shop or a train manufacturer.

It's a big box home improvement center dabbling in o Guage to pay homage to the days when postwar trains could be bought at the local hardware store".

However there is no means for warranty service or parts. There is no "train counter" and most if not all of the employees, know absolutely zero about this hobby. If it works it works. If it don't, exchange it or get a refund. If it quits in a week,  a year,  or 10 years. Your on your own.

Menards probably nets more profit from  selling honey roasted peanuts, than o Guage trains.

@William 1 posted:

And what is the fascination with having an FP7 model.  Hope you have room on your shelf to show it off to anyone that knows the difference.

What is the fascination with having any particular model?

I like the FP7 quite a bit and have 3 Sunset ones in PRR.  I also purchased the Menards 1.0 model as a curiosity and it will be a fun future project to upgrade.  The extra 4' of length is a nice compromise between a standard length F unit for a steam generator equipped passenger cab units on smaller sections of track than the larger E units.

The PRR liked them enough to purchase 40 A units and 14 B units.  The first two AB sets were the only PRR F units painted in Tuscan Red paint and were common power for the train to York, PA.  While the majority of them served in freight service, they did last long enough to run during Conrail. 

Of course I do know the difference between the various EMD F units.  The Menards unit is and FP9.

Interesting viewpoints on my little review and impressions. Yes, there are a lot of things that one could get for another $100 to $120 but in that thread of commentary then $2k gets even more. I was just pointing out my thoughts and feelings about this engine. I have plenty of F units in other makes to run so why did I get one?

I have read all of comments about the Menards engines and the people that point out that adding or changing the command control parts or motor parts might be going down a fiscal rabbit hole so to speak have a point. I would think that many of us have done this in our hobby life at some point or another.

I wanted to experience one for myself and living on the west coast, which all people either do or want to hate. Simply we do not have a Menards out this way.

My answer to the question is who I think this engine is targeted to? The average hardware store customer that remembers having trains as a kid and wants to get their family and themselves back into the hobby.

This engine works fine for that. Yes, it might break, wear out, have issues......and so does every other manufacturer from Dorfan to Lionel to American Flyer and on. I will continue to use it at train shows and for my personal enjoyment regardless of the shortcomings, or shall I state these as characteristic features of this engine?

Menards has asked people for their opinions and impressions and I wrote MY impressions and feelings. So if someone's feelings are hurt by this, well...tough.

Last edited by Captaincog

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OGR Publishing, Inc., 1310 Eastside Centre Ct, Suite 6, Mountain Home, AR 72653
330-757-3020

www.ogaugerr.com
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