EMD MP15-AC diesel road-switcher
Equipped DCC with sound
Scale HO (1/87)
Roadname Canadian Pacific No. 1426
Electro-Motive Division MP15ACThe EMD MP15AC is a 1,500 hp (1,120 kW) diesel switcher/road-switcher locomotive built by General Motors' Electro-Motive Division between August 1975 and August 1984. 246 examples were built, including 25 for export to Mexico, and four built in Canada. The MP15AC was a development of the earlier MP15DC model, but replaced the earlier model's DC generator with an alternator producing AC power which is converted to DC for the traction motors with a silicon rectifier. The MP15AC is 1.5 ft (457 mm) longer than an MP15DC, the extra space being needed for the rectifier equipment. The alternator-rectifier combination is more reliable than a generator, and this equipment became the standard for new diesel-electric locomotive designs.
The MP15AC is easily distinguished from its predecessor. Instead of the front-mounted radiator intake and belt-driven fan used on all previous EMD switchers, these have intakes on the lower forward nose sides and electric fans. Side intakes allowed the unit to take in cooler air, and the electric fans improved a serious reliability issue found its earlier DC sisters.
Railroads that originally bought MP15ACs were the Southern Pacific, Missouri-Kansas-Texas (MKT), TFM, Conrail, Long Island Rail Road (LIRR), and the Milwaukee Road. Former Milwaukee Road units are now owned by the Soo Line Railroad (an American operating subsidiary of the Canadian Pacific Railway); those not painted in the Canadian "Golden Beaver" scheme have worn a Soo Line patch job; those wearing it are often called "Bandits". Six former Milwaukee units returned to "home rails" in 2008, serving the growing regional Wisconsin & Southern Railroad WSOR in Milwaukee, Madison, and Horicon. In addition, Union Pacific has bought many examples on the used locomotive market. The New York & Atlantic Railway, which carries freight on Long Island, uses 4 former Long Island Railroad MP15ACs to haul freight along with other ex LIRR locomotives.
Locomotive data includes:
Overall length: 49"-02"
Truck Wheel Base: 9'-00"
Height to Top Cab: 15'-00"
Weight: 250,000 lbs
Engine: EMD 12-645E 1,500 hp (1,120 kW)
Tractive Effort (starting) 62,000 lbs @25%
Tractive Effort (continuous): 48,800 lbs @ 9.3 mph
HO MP15AC with DCC & Sound, CPR #1426
Now equipped with a SoundTraxx Tsunami Digital Sound Decoder the Genesis MP15 is impressive.
Athearn pride shows in their packaging. Athearn Genesis models are packaged in a sturdy gloss blue two-piece box. Each box is decorated with a gold embossed Genesis logo. The model is securely held in an open-side, form-fitted wraparound cradle which provides a base, ends, and top; the cradle snaplocks via a tab to an end. Within the cradle the models are protected from scuffing by foam blocks and sheets. The cradle is then ensconced inside a clear plastic sleeve, and a piece of styrofoam supports the base of the cradle. The sleeve snugly sets inside a cutout in a thick foam tray in the box. Finally, a thin foam sheet protects all of the above from the inside of the box lid. These models are superbly protected from shock and jostling.
Your locomotive is fully assembled and ready to operate. The MP15 continues the tried and true Athearn model engineering concept. You have an injection molded styrene body shell and walkway secured upon a die-cast underframe by tabs and screws. The underframe has weights for traction. Mounted on the underframe is the dynamically balanced five pole skew wound motor with dual flywheels. This transmits power to both axles of each powered truck via the Genesis driveline and worm gears. Power is conducted to the motor by machined nickel plated, blackened wheels. All eight wheels pick up power. None have traction tires.
My inspection finds the model to be in conformance with NMRA Standards and Recommended Practices
, with RP-25 wheels and couplers at the proper height. The model weighs 10.3 ounces. From coupler to coupler this MP15 is 50 foot 6 inches long.
Documentation includes an exploded-view parts diagram and parts list, a DCC quick-start guide, and an Athearn News advertisement. I did not find a formal manual or product registration card. The DCC quick-start guide lists web sites for referencing further information. It does not explain how to remove the body shell. This lack of information has long frustrated modelers--no company guidance for the procedure.
Researched from the prototype to match specific units
Factory installed SoundTraxx Tsunami sound and DCC decoder
Tsunami sounds are compatible with both DCC and DC operation
Genesis driveline with dynamically balanced five pole skew wound motor and dual flywheels
Directional constant lighting
Highly detailed fuel tank
Factory installed Celcon handrails
Horn sound selections:
- Nathan P3
- Leslie A 200
- Leslie RS5T
- Nathan K5LA
- Leslie RS3L
- Nathan K3LA
Diesel prime mover sound: EMD 645 non-turbo
Athearn strives for accurate models of specific prototypes. The diagram and parts list notes 'Not all parts shown are applied to all models'
. Only those parts applicable to the prototype are included with the finished model. All of the detail features are separately applied by the factory. This is a major improvement over Athearn's original "blue box" days of molded-on grab irons and metal handrails that you had to mount!
A gallery of CP's No.1426 prototype can be see below at Click here for additional images for this review.
. This model accurately represaents the real 1426
except for two items. First, it lacks the pair of lights mounted on the rear deck. Second, it appears CP mounted rectangular plates over the oval plugs for the front and rear windows on the cab sides; the model has the uncovered oval plugs.
Athearns body shell is molded sharp and crisp. Fine rivet, screw and bolt details enhance plates and panels on the model. Athearn molded the body side grills open. However, the nice photo-etched grill screens are not secured to the top of the opening and the screens bow out slightly. Except for seams along the brake cylinders I have not found any molding flaws on the parts. For greater accuracy Athearn molds different components for specific railroads:
2 air filter boxes
Southern Pacific number boards
Long and short train lines
Early and late bell airlines
2 fuel tanks
Signal hose clusters
While not specifically identified in the exploded-view parts sheet it appears two different truck sideframes are available. EMD standardized the MP15 series to ride on Blomberg trucks, and I have found no evidence that any MP15s were refitted with AAR or EMD 'Flexicoil' switcher trucks.
Though I have not tried it for this review, removing the cab to add crew is reported to be easy. The body comes off the chassis, by detaching the flexible side handrails and the cab door hand rails. Once the hand rails are released the cab mounting clips can be unset with gentle finger pressure. The cab slides right off. A wiring bus for the lights passes behind the control console.
Carrying the chassis along the rails are detailed trucks of B-B arraignment (a pair of powdered two axle trucks) with highly detailed plastic sideframes representing Blomberg B trucks. Brake shoes are represented. Athearn details each with separately applied brake cylinders and swing hangers, and Athearn even includes the speedometer cable.
Athearn continues to equip their locomotives with plastic McHenry
scale knuckle spring couplers. These are mounted to the frame with screws.
Some 60 individual detail parts adorn the model, the highlights being:
Photo-etch side grills
Photo-etch radiator grills
Separate air filter hatches and plates
Sand fill caps
Small and large air filters and pipes
Brake wheel / lever
Separate air reservoirs
Photo-etch perforated cab steps
Separate windshield wipers
Bells and hangers separately applied
Individual window 'glass'.
Detailed cab interior (no crew)
Fine wire grab irons adorn the shell -- ladder rest grabs, grabs for the rear step, cab entry and for entering the rear door.
MU hose clusters and train line air hose
Large or small fuel tank
Cut levers for the couplers
Directional constant lighting headlights
Early MP15 models did not have tread plate on the walkways; this one does. Athearn listened to customer feedback!
This MP15 is equipped with a dual headlight; some have a gyralight. Number boards frame each headlight. Each lamp has golden-white LEDs for illumination. The cab and number boards do not illuminate. Guess you cant have everything.
Painting and Markings
Athearn painting and marking of Canadian Pacific No.1426 is incredible! A picture is worth a thousand words so Ill let the photographs illustrate most of the detail. While some photographs may appear to be duplicates they actually were included as they focus on a slightly different component.
Notice the razor-sharp fidelity of the red CP livery. The slightly satin paint is smooth and opaque yet does not obscure the wonderful detail.
Athearn prints the stenciling found on the prototype, and some is so fine that my 20/15 corrected eyesight could not read it except in the enlarged photographs.
Finally, CP's new version of their beloved beaver emblem adorns each side of the the nose. It looks good with the "Three foot rule" but up close you can see the pixels of the printing process.
This model only has one finish flaw, a small chip on an edge of the hood.
Genesis models feature a factory installed SoundTraxx Tsunami
dual-mode DC/DCC decoder with onboard sound. The system automatically senses whether you are powering it with a DC analog or DCC power source.
In DC analog, the model requires around 5 volts to come to life with sound, and 7.5 volts will start the unit in motion. The system is limited to 27 volts, damage will result above that; Tsunami is programed to protect itself at 21 volts by shutting down the motor and sound system. To further alert you of overload, the front and rear lights will flash.
The Configuration Variable
(CV) is preset to automatically activate the bell and the grade crossing signal.
DCC functions are impressive:
* Compatible with all NMRA standard DCC systems
* True 16-bit digital processor
* Hyperdrive technology, including high-resolution speed steps, high-frequency Pulse Width Modulated drive
* Torque control
* Back-EMF speed control for slow speed operation
* Hyperlight lighting effects to simulate Mars lights, Rule 17 lighting, and directional lighting.
* Programmable for either 2 digit or 4 digit address
* Programmable start voltage
* Programmable acceleration/deceleration rate
* Programmable top voltage
* Programmable speed steps
* Programmable individual unit sound volume
* 19 accessory sound functions
* Advanced consisting for multiple locomotives
I tested this model on Atlas code 83 and 100 track joined to a Peco code 100 slip switch. With the sound off the unit rolled smoothly and quietly over the track, quiet enough to hear the satisfying clickity-clack as the wheels passed over the frogs and points of the slip switch. This is quite pleasing as "blue box" Athearn were noisy, often referred to as "coffee grinders." At my lowest speed the loco did not slow on the switch. On tangent track the motor and drive are almost silent. The slowest speed I could achieve is a scale 6 MPH. Adjusting the CV should help the model creep along even slower.
Sound and Fury
The many prototype sounds simulated are crisp with the SoundTraxx system. I noticed no tinniness and very little distortion. During the prime mover start-up, the sound of the EMD 645 whines to life and then settles down into smooth rumbling idle. Sounds of locomotive appliances and generators increase the din. Automatic and selectable sounds include:
The following sounds do not function for this model, engine shutdown nor a dynamic brake.
When the throttle is increased, up revs the engine. Throttle back and there is a delay in the relaxing of the prime mover. If you have a DCC system with limited functions, you can enable an automatic signal feature, as described above in DC analog operation. You can also adjust to taste the volumes of sounds independently. SoundTraxx allows adjustable reverb, volume, auto-notching of the throttle, and manual notching.
Finally, should you or your "Brass Hat" (a.k.a. significant other) decide silence is golden, the F8 function mutes the sound without inhibiting any of the running enjoyment.
Athearn's Genesis series are impressive models and this MP15 is an incredible model! The fidelity and amount of detailing, ease and smoothness of operation, molding, engineering, sound library and quality all make this an exceptional model. The number of railroads available means few modelers will not have the choice of one for their layout. I find the SoundTraxx Tsunami system to sound better than other sound-equipped models I have. As the saying goes, "If you have dozens of engines but only one sound-equipped locomotive, you only have one locomotive." And you cant go wrong if that one locomotive is an Athearn Genesis. Highly recommend.
Athearn is a patriarch of the model railroad industry. Their old blue box RTR and kit trains are everywhere. Their Ready To Roll line is the basic product, superior to the blue box products, almost offering the same detailing and running quality as the Genesis series. Today the Athearn product line includes HO and N scale model railroad rolling stock and 1:50 (almost O scale, 1:48) die-cast vehicles. Athearn has also purchased Model Die Casting, upgrading those iconic models.
In 2004, Horizon Hobby, Inc.
purchased Athearn and moved it into a state-of-the-art new facility in Carson, California. 
Thank you Horizon Hobbies for supplying this model for review! Please remember to tell vendors and manufacturers that you saw this model here -- on RailroadModeling!
 Wikipediaฎ. EMD MP15AC
. [Web.] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/EMD_MP15AC. 23 June 2010.
 Athearn website.
A Field Guide to Trains of North America
, By Gerald L. Foster
The Second Diesel Spotter's Guide
, by Jerry A. Pinkepank
THE DIESEL SHOP: Home to First & Second Generation Locomotives and Motive Power Rosters
. [Web]. http://www.thedieselshop.us. n.d.