Buying the Model 39555 - a Märklin 4 cylinder freight engine
It is early morning, and the 57 577 approaches a tunnel portal after crossing a bridge.
It must be at least a year since I got my last brand-new loco from Maerklin.
So as I unpackage it, the excitement is like the anticipation of hot-buttered toast with a thick spread of Australian marmalade in the morning. (I write this just after breakfast). It is the 39555.
Now this is no ordinary locomotive, even before it sits on the rails. For a start, a 39555 is available only at select outlets.
Because you can buy them only from a Marklin Store, whatever that is, I really despaired of ever getting one. (Not living in Germany or the Netherlands, I am behind the 8 ball when it comes to taking advantage of some special offers reserved for Maerklin customers or Insider members). My local Australian dealer was certainly not easily put off, and managed to procure a unit for me. And I am stoked. It is a model of an era IIIa version, from around 1949, which is the epi-centre of my model universe.
Trix 2 rail, and other versions of this model for eras 1 and III are listed below. The plain-jane models are painted as delivered from the works, and on a running-in trip. The 39555 is quite heavily weathered, as #57 577, which is how most of them looked in the 1940s. Weathering appears to be a one pass job with the spray, but individual parts are picked out by hand, including the front cylinder packing, and the air pumps. The wheels must have been revolving when done, because they are so evenly painted.
The boiler is clear of extraneous hardware, and the two domes are symmetrical, of which features British designers were so fond. So this locomotive almost looks British. It might have come from the works of North British Locomotive Company in Glasgow, or the Crewe works of the London and North Western Railway.
But this is the Royal Bavarian State Railroad G 5/5 (Gattung Bayerische G 5/5 wurden von der Königlich Bayerischen Staatsbahn) later BR 57.5 of the Deutsche Reichsbahn-Gesellschaft. Original units were, and as the works plate on this model shows, built by Maffei (Munich) starting in 1911. Production continued through 1924, for a total of 95 machines. The G 5/5 were purchased for difficult long gradients in northern Bavaria, and were the first Bavarian super-heated steam freight locomotives with four-cylinder compound drive, achieving very low fuel consumption. By the early 1950s, all were retired.
This model has a metal frame, boiler and tender, and is driven by a fly-wheeled motor inside the boiler. The boiler is 98mm from the smokebox door to the cab front, and by way of comparison, the boiler of the Wurttemburg C class is 10mm longer. Apart from the long clean boiler exterior, the most notable feature, are the two massive outside cylinders which used exhaust steam from the internal cylinders. These are shown clearly in the photo.
When you consider the two internal high-pressure cylinders driving a cranked second axle, you can see why it was the most powerful 5 axle freight engine of the pre-1920s. The photo shows the piston rod covers above the front buffer.
Because the locomotive is free of leading wheels, extra detail like the removable piston rod covers are fitted by Maerklin in the 39555. Other models with leading wheels have removeable covers, to enable traverse of small radius toy train track. The exterior detail of the internal cylinders is noticeable. The supporting mechanism for the internal cylinders is also visible between the frames, which shows what can be done with modern modelling techniques and equipment.
Another feature is how the tender wheels are constructed, and I am not sure if this is the model only, or like that on the real engine. The rear 2-axle set is fixed to the frame, and the front bogie (which also carries the pick-up shoe) swivels. I am sure this makes the tender model cheaper to build anyway. The coal load in plastic is probably better modelled than any I have ever seen.
The outside Heusinger valve gear is delicately finished (though no doubt robust) and weathered, as is the long reversing rod from the cab, which appears to be done as an etching in correct shape. Watch the hand-rails and steps at the front of the locomotive. They are unbreakable material, but can be dislodged.
The running number on the cab-side is 57 577. The packaging includes a small plastic case in which to display the loco as a static model.
You can purchase this sound equipped or similar digital model, released for 2016, as follows:
for Trix 2 rail:
22029 DCC sound Bayern in green 5856
22057 DCC sound 57 579
for Marklin 3 rail:
39550 MFX+ running number Bayern in green 5856
39551 (no sound) running number Bayern in green 5856
39552 MFX+ running number 57579
39553 (no sound) running number 57 584
39554 MFX+ running number 57 565
The loco comes with two running lights on each of the front buffer beam, and at the rear of the tender. I think the lighting looks realistic, and the lantern holders at the front are a work of fine artistry.
The MFX+ decoder registered on my Central Station 1 controller without problems, as 57 577. The loco runs without perceptible gear or motor noise, and has very fine speed control. I measured the chuff rate, and while good at a crawl, it accelerated more than did the physical speed of the engine.
I adjusted it under Advanced in the Edit Locomotive screen. The default for Speed Step 1 was 0, and I left that as is. Speed Step 2 defaulted at 95, and I settled on 102. The resulting difference was enormous. These chuff rate settings seem to be a hit or miss business, and every engine I have purchased, have different defaults. In contrast, the engines supplied with my starter sets, are perfect in their chuff rate, at all speeds. Maybe Maerklin go to some trouble for those sets, to create a good impression.
Whistle sounds are quite different than many of the steam locos, and that is welcome. There is an excellent variety of other sounds too. The loco comes fitted with a smoke generator, as always a play-worthy accessory.
You can readily find more photos of this collectors item on Google.
I like this compact model because it does not look out of place on a smallish layout. I tend to keep away from very large locomotives. It is in my opinion, up to the high standard of finish, performance and features one can expect from the firm at Göppingen.
Kimball in Brisbane.