It took me exactly 12 weeks to build this kit, from November 15, 2010 to February 15, 2011. It was mostly done in evening hours and on weekends. The last week of the project I pretty much worked on it full-time (over 8 hours per day) to finish the model in time for the February 19th model railroad show here in Houston. Building the body of the kit goes fairly quickly (considering the overall time table of the project). The details (the side and end hand rails, and the grab irons in particular) really bogged me down. Near the end, the electronics and dealing with all the wires took several days of 8+ hours to tweak, rework, and test. The hardest part of this project is definitely at the end, in other words, the project gets harder as you progress! No nice way to say that.
I am a bit of a rivet counter, so I spend a lot of time studying photographs and asking questions. All in all, I consider this project a success. The engine still needs a little tweaking because at slow speed it shakes a lot (the body, being as heavy as it is, makes the unit a bit top-heavy). As far as the looks of the engine, I am very happy. I am glad I scratch-built the parts of the kit that I didn't think looked good, and I am happy with the paint colors.
Would I buy and build another Railmaster Hobbies engine kit? Absolutely! I highly recommend their kits if you enjoy a challenge. These are not easy kits, but if you have a little bit of experience under your belt, and have lots of patience, you can tackle one of these kits. In the future I might buy an Alco S2 and perhaps another RS-1 of theirs.
Here is a list of things I would recommend to Railmaster Hobbies to improve the kit:
- Rewrite the instructions. They are practically useless.
- It would be great if the chassis came with flywheels, and if they were already installed on the motor shaft.
- Supply the interior brake wheel.
- Supply the screws needed to attach the chassis to the body.
- Supply shorter, but straight brass wire (although longer wires are needed for the long-hood handrails).
- Better identification of the parts, especially the small details.
- The handrails supplied with the kit are hard to use, don't look very good when finished, and are difficult to get a nice straight handrail when installed.
- Provide materials for making MU (multiple-unit) short-hood end handrails.
- Fix the molded-in hinges between the doors in the side panels of the short hood.
- The first louvered door near the cab on the engineer's side needs to be two doors above one another, not a single door.
- Dimples aren't provided for the wrap-around-corner grab irons on the corners where all the other grab irons are, and one dimple is missing for the single grab iron on the other corner.
- Some extra door handles would be great (I later on discovered that door handles are needed for the front of the long hood, too; the dimple is there, just not enough door handles in the kit).