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Older Rivarossi steam -- any good?

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Older Rivarossi steam -- any good?
Posted by crossthedog on Monday, February 21, 2022 6:51 PM

I searched online for opinions but only saw a similar question asked many years back to very little response. Wondering what you guys think about older DC Rivarossi locos, like Connies, Mikes and Decapods. Mainly I'm interested in two things: do they run well on code 83 track and how noisy are they compared to other locos of the day.

Extra credit: if consensus is stay away, and if I wanted a Mikado or Decapod or Consolidation in DC, what would be a better option, in production or out? 

Thanks in advance,

-Matt

Returning to model railroading after 40 years and taking unconscionable liberties with the SP&S, Northern Pacific and Great Northern roads in the '40s and '50s.

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Posted by crossthedog on Monday, February 21, 2022 7:10 PM

Looking further along in the search results, I found this on page three or four:
http://www.spookshow.net/loco/riv282.html

"All of the Atlas versions (identified by their clear plastic boxes with blue plastic inserts) have somewhat iffy frames (constructed out of something called "Zamac"), which has a reputation for being quite brittle (especially where the motor screws to the chassis), as well as being prone to heat-related warping and out and out crumbling. No, they don't all have these problems, but enough of them do to merit the reputation (I've certainly run into plenty of warped/cracked frames on these myself over the years).

The Atlas versions also have a very poor quality can motor which was prone to melting down (depending on the year it was made, the motor housing might be black or silver, but regardless of the color the quality is suspect). Right-rail current comes from the right-side tender wheels (via axle wipers), and left-rail current comes from the pilot truck and left-side drivers on the locomotive. All of the rest of the wheels are electrically neutral. Unfortunately, tender current is routed to the locomotive by way of a notoriously unreliable stiff metal wire on the tender drawbar -

All four driver axles are geared and all of the gearing is metal. Two of the right-side drivers are equipped with traction tires. A non-directional headlight is mounted to the front of the chassis. The pilot coupler is a dummy (fixed/non-opertational) knuckle. The tender coupler is a truck-mounted Rapido. The wheel flanges are oversized, so these models will not operate on Code-55 rails."

Doesn't sound like I really want to pursue older Rivarossi steam.

Returning to model railroading after 40 years and taking unconscionable liberties with the SP&S, Northern Pacific and Great Northern roads in the '40s and '50s.

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Posted by gmpullman on Monday, February 21, 2022 7:56 PM

crossthedog
Doesn't sound like I really want to pursue older Rivarossi steam.

That would be a good choice unless you want to tinker and repower. I have one remaining Rivarossi* locomotive that I bought back in 1971 or '72 from Woolworths the day after Christmas for about $20.

 Rivarossi_AHM_Hudson by Edmund, on Flickr

It has pizza cutter flanges and does not like code 83 rail.

 Rivarossi_pip-frame by Edmund, on Flickr

There was a late-in-the-game "upgrade" to some of the Rivarossi locos that had a better motor and, I believe, slightly smaller but still oversized flanges. If you could see the motor sticking out of the back of the cab it was the older variety.

 

*edit: I retract that statement. I did buy a pair of the very recent Rivarossi U25Cs that are excellent locomotives. These were made after the Hornby acquisition of the Rivarossi name.

Good Luck, Ed

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Posted by John-NYBW on Monday, February 21, 2022 8:41 PM

Excellent runners for their day but not on code 83 track. Flanges are too big. They will run on code 83 but sound like they are going over a washboard. 

Code 83 started to become widely available in the late 1980s and it was sometime in the 1990s that Rivarossi retooled to make smaller flanges. 

I have around 10 of steamers with the pizza cutter flanges on my shelf. None has an operational front coupler. Someday I plan to get around to selling them on ebay. Most are large UP steamers and the typical price I see them go for on ebay are $150-200.

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Posted by John-NYBW on Monday, February 21, 2022 8:47 PM

gmpullman

 

 
crossthedog
Doesn't sound like I really want to pursue older Rivarossi steam.

 

That would be a good choice unless you want to tinker and repower. I have one remaining Rivarossi* locomotive that I bought back in 1971 or '72 from Woolworths the day after Christmas for about $20.

 Rivarossi_AHM_Hudson by Edmund, on Flickr

It has pizza cutter flanges and does not like code 83 rail.

 Rivarossi_pip-frame by Edmund, on Flickr

There was a late-in-the-game "upgrade" to some of the Rivarossi locos that had a better motor and, I believe, slightly smaller but still oversized flanges. If you could see the motor sticking out of the back of the cab it was the older variety.

 

*edit: I retract that statement. I did buy a pair of the very recent Rivarossi U25Cs that are excellent locomotives. These were made after the Hornby acquisition of the Rivarossi name.

Good Luck, Ed

 

I have that same NYC Hudson that I bought sometime in the 1990s. A bit more than $20. When I was planning my layout in the late 1990s, I decided to go DCC so I took it apart to see what it would take to add a decoder. Then I decided to go with code 83 rail and that killed that idea. It's still in a plastic storage box, disassembled. 

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Posted by RR_Mel on Monday, February 21, 2022 9:05 PM

I am a Rivarossi articulated fan, I simply love them. The only problem with the Rivarossi articulateds are the Pizza cutter flanges and even then I’ve never had a single problem with the over size flanges on Atlas or Pico code 83 track.

I have 20 Rivarossi articulateds that I’ll put up against any manufactures equal for running or pulling power.  I have remotored all of them as the original motor is a Rivarossi weak point, the original motors draw way too much current.

A single Mabuchi SF266 (less than $4) works very good, dual Mabuchi SF266 motors and additional weight triples the draw bar at half the current of the original motor.

9oz of #8 birdshot gives them 6oz of drawbar.






 
Mel


 
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Turned 84 in July, aging is definitely not for wimps.

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Posted by BEAUSABRE on Tuesday, February 22, 2022 7:02 AM

I belonged to a club when I was a teenager and my first locomotives were the Rivarossi IHB U4a 0-8-0 - seemed like it was produced in the millions - and B&O S1a 2-10-2. One of the older club members instructed me how to remove the wheel sets, turn them down using the club drill press, a file and a sanding block and then how to reassemble the running gear and quarter the drivers. Then I used a file and sandpaper to open up the pilots and installed couplers. Yes, it took time, but it taught me a lot, particularly not to be impatient and rush the job.

After that surgery, they've done me proud and I still have them. I've done some upgrades - I replaced the X2f couplers with Kadees and later, installed a can motor when I added DCC - so they're better than new and I'm still happy with them. The only thing is, some people think the turned down drivers look too small, but considering what a brass S1a costs on Ebay, I'll put up with it.

So you can do what I did using something like a Dremel motor tool, try to pick up the later offering with smaller flanges or shell out the bux. If I was in your shoes, I'd probably go with option two, then invest in some modeling tools and fix the front coupler. 

Why the big flanges? Rivarossi was an Italian manufacturer and the flanges complied with the European standard set by NEM, their version of the NMRA

And, geeze Louise, I'm old enough to remember when RP25 came out...

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Posted by Overmod on Tuesday, February 22, 2022 7:51 AM

Back in the day (and this was a VERY long time ago, longer than I care to really contemplate, let alone state) I turned down Rivarossi flanges and did a little tread reshaping.  This was done by fixing the axle to be free to turn and directing a flat grinding wheel at an angle to the tread, using very tiny feed and liberal cooling.  Too much force and too much heat and the tires can move or the plastic driver centers melt.  I was intentionally overcautious and so avoided any problem.

I have seen a number of discussions about making replacement driver tires that have the 'correct' flange and also make up at least some of the correct driver diameter for better appearance.  As I recall, at least one person went ahead and machined them to 'spec' -- I think it was for a Cab-Forward similar to Mel's -- and discovered that the axle spacing had been jiggered for the smaller driver centers and the "corrected" drivers wouldn't fit.  So be careful to measure the center-to-center distance and cut your tires and flanges to fit properly...

I have a suspicion this task is now much easier with 3M lapping film and a glass disk on a mandrel...

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Posted by KLBird on Tuesday, February 22, 2022 8:13 AM

Rivarossi gave the modeler inexpensive yet supereb models starting in the mid-1960s. They offered models of Big Boys, Cab Forwards, Challeners, and other steam icons that were only available in high priced brass models. The early Rivarossi locos had the deep European flanges that did fine on code 100 but sat on the ties of code 83. In the late 1970s they adopted a smaller flange for the US market and those are those models best suited for today. Unfortunately the motors were not the best and they hade pick up problems on many of the models especially the articulated models. Rivarossi underwent and major shift moving its assembly from Itadly to Spain and due to storing the dies in an out door shed most were all ruined. Now owned by Hornby, the Big Boy is back in limited production and they have a Shay that I think is China made. Some parts are available from the US representaive, Ray Markle based in the Dallas area. His number is 972-272-0074 . Ebay is also a good source for parts. Just beware of the deep flanges and that installing decoders in them can be challenging .  

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Posted by RR_Mel on Tuesday, February 22, 2022 9:09 AM

Before turning down the Rivarossi flanges measure the wheel tire size.  The articulated wheels are measured outside flange to flange for prototype wheel size.  Removing the large flange makes the wheels look too small, the 63” Cab Forward driver wheel becomes a 55” wheel.  With the large flanges the wheel size looks OK.

As Overmod said trying to install the correct size drivers won’t work as the flanges will touch each other.

Like I said the large flange Rivarossi wheels clear OK using Atlas and Peco code 83 track and turnouts.  The flanges bottom out using code 83 Shinohara turnouts.


Mel


 
My Model Railroad   
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Turned 84 in July, aging is definitely not for wimps.

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Posted by snjroy on Tuesday, February 22, 2022 10:47 AM

Alternatives will depend a bit on how deep is your wallet. Bachmann's are a good buy if you are buying new (2-8-0s, 2-8-2 and 2-10-0). Good solid runners, if you don't mind the molded details. Older Bachmann's (pre-90s) were toy train quality, so avoid these (I see them regularly on Ebay...). On the used market, the 2-8-2 Mantuas can be found at reasonable prices, but they are not DCC ready. Good runners in most cases. I would recommend that you save up the money and get a Bachmann. Avoid the Athearn Mikado (and Pacifics). Their gears are fragile. At the higher end, the BLI Mike is a superb engine with DCC sound.  Trix also made an excellent one a few years ago.

There is also brass on the used market, but most are not DCC ready. The Oriental Powerhouse Mike is excellent, if you can find one. It has a metal boiler with brass details. The tender has a problematic truck arrangement - most modelers replace them. It's one of my favorites:

 20200927_135150 on Flickr

Going back to Rivarossi, according to Darth Santa Fe (in an old thread) the Rivarossi's changed their flanges in the mid 90s to conform to NMRA standards. I have a Big Boy from the later period that runs very well. In my opinion, only some of the unique models produced by Rivarossi in the earlier years are of interest. The Heisler (I don't think they ever produced Shays) is one of them. I have two and they run well for their age. I also have an older 0-8-0 that runs OK. I shaved off the flanges a bit with a dremel. The old can motors, while superb in their time, do consume a lot of amps. They are also a bit quick on startup compared to a modern can motor.

Simon

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Posted by John-NYBW on Tuesday, February 22, 2022 11:03 AM

KLBird

Rivarossi gave the modeler inexpensive yet supereb models starting in the mid-1960s. They offered models of Big Boys, Cab Forwards, Challeners, and other steam icons that were only available in high priced brass models. The early Rivarossi locos had the deep European flanges that did fine on code 100 but sat on the ties of code 83. In the late 1970s they adopted a smaller flange for the US market and those are those models best suited for today. 

I bought all my Rivarossi engines from 1980 until the early 1990s and they all still had the oversized flanges. They will run on code 83 but they graze the ties as they do making for a bumpy ride. If these are the smaller flanges, I'd hate to see the bigger ones. 

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Posted by crossthedog on Tuesday, February 22, 2022 12:42 PM

Lots of great info here, and thanks Simon for the recommendations on alternatives. I will be doing NONE of these flange surgeries, thank you. Don't have the tools, don't have the skill, and the time I have available to learn new skills needs to go toward other aspects of modelling. I can afford to buy quality if I'm deliberate about it, but I don't want any more DCC (I have a nice DCC Connie and a DCC RS-3 -- that's plenty for one operator with a small layout.) That's why I'm looking around at older models, to find something of quality in DC. There seems to be a sweet spot for used locos, maybe after the mid-nineties, when flanges became more suitable to Code 83 and locos got a little more detailed. I've been reading old posts about IHC locos being quiet and strong, for all their lack of exterior detail.

Thanks all.

-Matt

Returning to model railroading after 40 years and taking unconscionable liberties with the SP&S, Northern Pacific and Great Northern roads in the '40s and '50s.

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Posted by BEAUSABRE on Tuesday, February 22, 2022 2:55 PM

When AHM quit, IHC took over their line. Newer AHM = IHC

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Posted by John-NYBW on Tuesday, February 22, 2022 3:34 PM

BEAUSABRE

When AHM quit, IHC took over their line. Newer AHM = IHC

 

I have bought Rivarossi in AHM boxes, IHC boxes, and Rivarossi's own red boxes. I think a majority of my buys was the red boxes. All were bought after 1980 and all were suited for code 100 but scraped the top of the ties on code 83. 

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Posted by crossthedog on Tuesday, February 22, 2022 7:48 PM

John-NYBW
All were bought after 1980 and all were suited for code 100 but scraped the top of the ties on code 83

So when do Rivarossis start having RP25 flanges?

Lastspikemike
The later IHC models are quite fine locomotives. DCC plugs already there and RP25 wheel flanges.

That's what I keep hearing -- strong pullers, quieter than the average older DC locos. Is there an easy way to tell later IHC from earlier IHC in photos, for example on eBay? Box color? Product number series? Often a seller doesn't know when the product was made but they'll show the box, and the underside of the loco.

-Matt

Returning to model railroading after 40 years and taking unconscionable liberties with the SP&S, Northern Pacific and Great Northern roads in the '40s and '50s.

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Posted by gmpullman on Tuesday, February 22, 2022 9:11 PM

crossthedog
Is there an easy way to tell later IHC from earlier IHC in photos, for example on eBay?

Some were labeled IHC Premier Series. These had slight improvements over the basic line. Several I had included additional tender wheel pickups. I don't ever recall any kind of DCC plug installed. I think they were produced by Mehano but I may be wrong on that point. The flanges while slightly reduced in height were still not to RP-25 contours.

I think just before they went belly-up they released something called a "Command XXV 2-10-2 Premier Gold" which, I believe had a DCC 8 pin plug. 

 

Good Luck, Ed

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Posted by SeeYou190 on Tuesday, February 22, 2022 9:54 PM

The box for mine says it has RP-25 wheels. Did they actually fall a little short?

I did not measure them, or really look all that closely at them when I had it out for testing.

-Kevin

Living the dream.

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Posted by gmpullman on Tuesday, February 22, 2022 10:35 PM

SeeYou190
The box for mine says it has RP-25 wheels.

Oops, I meant to place that comment on the flanges above for the plain Premier Series, not the XXV Gold Series Embarrassed

* Fixed it...

Sorry, Ed

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Posted by crossthedog on Tuesday, February 22, 2022 11:12 PM

SeeYou190
The box for mine says it has RP-25 wheels. Did they actually fall a little short? I did not measure them, or really look all that closely at them when I had it out for testing.

Kevin, thanks for posting that photo. It helps to get a visual on the box in case one comes up for sale on the Bay. You said you tested it. Is it a relatively quiet runner? And did you run it on Code 83 track? Or did you purchase this after you "sundowned" your last layout? I recall you are in the process of planning your next.

-Matt

Returning to model railroading after 40 years and taking unconscionable liberties with the SP&S, Northern Pacific and Great Northern roads in the '40s and '50s.

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Posted by crossthedog on Tuesday, February 22, 2022 11:13 PM

gmpullman
Some were labeled IHC Premier Series. These had slight improvements over the basic line. Several I had included additional tender wheel pickups. I don't ever recall any kind of DCC plug installed. I think they were produced by Mehano but I may be wrong on that point. The flanges while slightly reduced in height were still not to RP-25 contours.

Ed, and these were in a narrow purple box, nez pah?

-Matt

Returning to model railroading after 40 years and taking unconscionable liberties with the SP&S, Northern Pacific and Great Northern roads in the '40s and '50s.

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Posted by gmpullman on Tuesday, February 22, 2022 11:50 PM

crossthedog
Ed, and these were in a narrow purple box, nez pah?

Yes, as so:

https://www.worthpoint.com/worthopedia/ho-scale-ihc-8-mikado-premier-series-1959933524

C'est certainement, Ed

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Posted by snjroy on Wednesday, February 23, 2022 6:27 AM

Yes, later IHC locos were Mehanos. Quiet runners but light on their feet and poor pullers...

Simom

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Posted by John-NYBW on Wednesday, February 23, 2022 9:37 AM

crossthedog

 

 
John-NYBW
All were bought after 1980 and all were suited for code 100 but scraped the top of the ties on code 83

 

So when do Rivarossis start having RP25 flanges?

 

I'm afraid I can't answer that. All my Rivarossi purchases were early 1990s or before. By the mid 1990s I took a hiatus from the hobby due to dissatisfaction with the layout I had and the knowledge I would be moving to a new home after I retired. I got back into the hobby in 2001 and by then, a lot had changed in the roughly five years I had been away.

Keep in mind that AHM and IHC were distributors for Rivarossi, not the manufacturers. I don't know if AHM distributed other makes of locos. I'm not positive but I think their freight cars were not Rivarossi but their passenger cars were. I'm pretty sure IHC distributed other makes of locos other than Rivarossi.

Somebody else can probably tell you the date Rivarossi switched over. Of course, the locos with the large flanges would have continued to be sold even after the conversion. It's possible that the conversion predated my purchase of large flanged locos in the early 1990s. I'm guessing the reason for the change was the gaining popularity of code 83 track. They wouldn't want to limit their sales to just code 100 users. 

I remember an article in the early 1980s either in MR or RMC about how to modify code 70 rail to handle Rivarossi steamers. I didn't read the article since it didn't pertain to me but I glanced at it and I think it involved cutting a groove in the ties for the flanges. Obviously one would have to be careful not to cut throught the ties and since I didn't read the article, I can't tell you how that was done. 

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Posted by crossthedog on Wednesday, February 23, 2022 9:54 AM

John-NYBW
Keep in mind that AHM and IHC were distributors for Rivarossi, not the manufacturers. I don't know if AHM distributed other makes of locos.

This was extremely helpful for me to note. Thanks.

I'm seeing that it may make sense to take some inexpensive exploratory risks, but that at a certain point you weigh how many inexpensive risks you're willing to take and may as well spend much more and get exactly what you want new. As someone in another thread exclaimed, "with all the [mild expletive deleted] you've bought you could have bought a really nice high-end locomotive!"

Returning to model railroading after 40 years and taking unconscionable liberties with the SP&S, Northern Pacific and Great Northern roads in the '40s and '50s.

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Posted by snjroy on Wednesday, February 23, 2022 10:40 AM

Low end or high end?  I think there is a lot to be said about buying lower end engines that are above toy train quality. When I returned to the hobby about 15 years ago, I bought a number of inexpensive steam engines (including Mehanos and Mantuas). They allowed me to learn all sorts of things, including painting, weathering, kitbashing and DCC installs, without the fear of ruining an expensive model. I now buy more high-end models, including bare brass engines, and can work with them with confidence.

I still run some of my early steam acquisitions that I still find worthwhile. Some were retired to the junk box for future projects. It's all part of the fun...

Simon

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Posted by SeeYou190 on Wednesday, February 23, 2022 11:12 AM

crossthedog
It helps to get a visual on the box in case one comes up for sale on the Bay. You said you tested it. Is it a relatively quiet runner? And did you run it on Code 83 track? Or did you purchase this after you "sundowned" your last layout? I recall you are in the process of planning your next.

I had been looking for this locomotive since 2007. I finally saw an undecorated one on eBay in 2021! Snapped it up!

I test ran it on Kato code 83 track. It ran beautifully, and it would go through an 18" radius S-curve with no tangent in the middle. It slips through #4 trunouts with no problems.

I only ran it for 5 or 10 minutes, but I was impressed.

-Kevin

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Posted by John-NYBW on Wednesday, February 23, 2022 12:05 PM

crossthedog

 

 
John-NYBW
Keep in mind that AHM and IHC were distributors for Rivarossi, not the manufacturers. I don't know if AHM distributed other makes of locos.

 

This was extremely helpful for me to note. Thanks.

 

I'm seeing that it may make sense to take some inexpensive exploratory risks, but that at a certain point you weigh how many inexpensive risks you're willing to take and may as well spend much more and get exactly what you want new. As someone in another thread exclaimed, "with all the [mild expletive deleted] you've bought you could have bought a really nice high-end locomotive!"

 

Buying high end is no guarantee you will get a quality locomotive. I have found numerous flaws in BLI steamers for example. The most common is the drivers on one side or the other don't have electrcial pickup. It appears to be a combination of a design flaw and shoddy assembly but I've discovered more than half my BLI steamers have this flaw. The only one that gives me a problem is the K4 Pacific and that is because I only get pick up from the front tender wheels and that causes stalls on insulated frogs or a dirty spot on the track. No excuse for such a common flaw in high end locos. 

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Posted by SeeYou190 on Wednesday, February 23, 2022 11:41 PM

John-NYBW
Buying high end is no guarantee you will get a quality locomotive.

Absolutely true. Expensive does not mean reliable.

-Kevin

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Posted by Wolf359 on Thursday, February 24, 2022 11:13 AM

I have eleven Rivarossi locomotives, all the older versions with the pizza cutter wheels, and I love them. They're all good runners for me, and all but two have the original motors in them. The only real problems i've had with a couple of them was the tenders losing electrical contact, but popping the shells off and putting some weight in fixed that.

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