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Earle Baldwin

Bachmann Spectrum N Scale Amtrak HHP-8 Electric Locomotive

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In 1999, Amtrak began accepting delivery of fifteen new generation electric locomotives to replace its remaining E60's and supplement the existing fleet of AEM7's. The new motors, built by a consortium of Bombardier and Alstom, were classed HHP-8 (high horsepower 8000). The double ended locomotives have a profile somewhat similar to Acela power cars albeit with much stubbier noses. Although a number of problems were encountered during their first few years of service, the HHP-8 has developed into a powerful and reliable locomotive for Amtrak. MARC is the only other carrier to roster the HHP-8 with a total of 6 motors.

 

Bachmann has made available to railroading hobbyists well done reproductions of the HHP-8 in HO and N scales. The N scale version which is the subject of this review features exquisite detailing. Paint application is even and separation between colors is well defined. Lettering is flawlessly executed. Roof details featuring the various electrical apparatus are excellent. The pantographs are nicely modeled and can be raised and lowered without difficulty. The locomotive's body includes wonderful detail and appears to be solid in its construction. Featuring a die cast frame, the HHP-8 is quite heavy for an N scale locomotive, giving it good tracking ability and impressive pulling power.

 

Operationally, the locomotive runs as good as it looks. It is responsive to changes in throttle setting and emits only moderate motor noise during operation. I have quieter engines in my collection but the noise level is by no means objectionable. The locomotive is capable of collecting current from overhead catenary for those willing to undertake such an endeavor. The HHP-8 is delivered DCC equipped which enables its Engineer to access a variety of functions. Lighting features are directionally activated and provide the proper level of illumination. My only complaint with this locomotive is Bachmann's continued use of Rapido style couplers while other manufacturers have transitioned to more realistic knuckle couplers on hobby quality motive power and rolling stock. I have already procured the appropriate Micro-Trains replacement kit to convert them at the earliest opportunity.

 

The retail price of the HHP-8 is $171; however, it is not difficult to locate one at substantial discounts. I purchased my mint in the box example on the secondary market for $75. While my cost of acquisition is most likely on the very low side, the locomotive can easily be obtained for $125 and less.

 

Rapido couplers aside, the N scale HHP-8 is an outstanding model of a contemporary prototype and should find a home in the collection of any fan of modern railroading.

 

Best regards,

 

Earle

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