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New BLI Challenger bad decoder

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Posted by rrinker on Wednesday, February 12, 2020 7:54 AM

 It's maybe a good market for one of the decoder manufacturers to get into, a drop in/plug in replacement board for the BLI decoder, no soldering required (all the power pickups and so forth plug in to the BLI decoder, and the connectors are just standard parts, not something proprietary). Yes, your Rolling Thunder would no longer work, but you'd get a decoder that would work.

 Of course, all BLI would have to do is change the location of one or more of the plugs, and make sure the wire is too short to reach the old location, and now that plug in replacement decoder won't work.

                                          --Randy

 


Modeling the Reading Railroad in the 1950's

 

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Posted by PC101 on Wednesday, February 12, 2020 8:31 AM

rrinker

 It's maybe a good market for one of the decoder manufacturers to get into, a drop in/plug in replacement board for the BLI decoder, no soldering required (all the power pickups and so forth plug in to the BLI decoder, and the connectors are just standard parts, not something proprietary). Yes, your Rolling Thunder would no longer work, but you'd get a decoder that would work.

 Of course, all BLI would have to do is change the location of one or more of the plugs, and make sure the wire is too short to reach the old location, and now that plug in replacement decoder won't work.

                                          --Randy

 

 

Randy, I thought this same thought this morning with my last past post, but I also thought if BLI made boards available they could recoup some money and maybe customer satisfaction in the long run.

I have a friend that say the ''Rolling Thunder'', that blue wire (?) on top of the decoder, causes some kind of interfernce of some sort. Way over my head to understand.  

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Posted by maxman on Wednesday, February 12, 2020 9:22 AM

Blue wire on top of the decoder?  That wouldn’t happen to be the antenna, would it?

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Posted by riogrande5761 on Wednesday, February 12, 2020 10:22 AM

PC101

With my past experence lately and all this I am seeing about these BLI power products, it is making me shy away from BLI power. How does one know if they are buying a ''NEW'' or ''REFURBISHED'' product? I wonder if we will start seeing redesigned/upgraded replacement OEM BLI DCC/Sound circuit boards on the LHS shelf's? The one year warranty will go by fast.

Would these decoder/motor problems be considered a Manufacturing Defect?

I've had four out of eleven that needed repaired so far. Not a good track record.    

I'd be shy too after reading much negative feedback regarding BLI electronics in engines.  I realize many just rip them out and replace with a better brand, but it would suck to pay the higher price for a DCC/Sound equipped engine only to have to throw that in the trash and replace.

I have a couple of RSD15's that I'm hoping I won't have to do that with but aside from brass, IIRC, BLI is the only game in town for RSD15's.

Rio Grande.  The Action Road  - Focus 1977-1983

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Posted by PRR8259 on Wednesday, February 12, 2020 11:13 AM

 

See updated post including info from repair tech below.

John

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Posted by PC101 on Wednesday, February 12, 2020 2:16 PM

maxman

Blue wire on top of the decoder?  That wouldn’t happen to be the antenna, would it?

 

I will say ''Yes''.

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Posted by gmpullman on Wednesday, February 12, 2020 2:19 PM

PC101
I will say ''Yes''.

 

X2

 IMG_5182 by Edmund, on Flickr

Ed

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Posted by PC101 on Wednesday, February 12, 2020 2:40 PM

PRR8259

 

1.  Locate extra long box and pay the shipping fees etc. to send it back to BLI, then wait for a repair.  (Oh, I don't even know if the dealer I bought it from is an official BLI dealer, but I do have his card.)  1a. Contact dealer and see what he says.

 

John

 

 

Ok, well what did he say?

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Posted by PRR8259 on Wednesday, February 12, 2020 3:53 PM

See update post below.

Be careful what you buy at train shows.

John

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Posted by PRR8259 on Saturday, February 22, 2020 10:54 PM

Charles--

Special thank you for recommending Train Service Depot.

They actually received the challenger on Tuesday, and had it "mostly" fixed that very afternoon, except for likely needing another replacement part (see below)

For some of the folks wondering "why" I didn't want to deal directly with BLI on an engine less than 1 year old, when they sometimes do honor the warranty despite purchase not being from an official BLI dealer, I have learned and offer, respectfully, the following:

My opinion:

Several sources have told me that some Paragon 3 models have had to make multiple trips to Florida to get fully sorted out and fully repaired by BLI.  I cannot really afford multiple shipments to Florida (big box cut down to barely fit long BLI box equals $40.75 for USPS ground shipping one way with NO extra insurance), nor do I want to deal with that kind of hassle and multiple trips.  So I opted to deal with Train Service Depot instead.  My son also didn't want 10 weeks likely times 2 without a working steam engine on hand.

Facts learned about the UP #3985 4-6-6-4 model in question:

Date stamped inside box lid is on or about 18 April 2019.  That is actually the date of manufacture of the model, not the date of any refurbishment in Florida as I erroneously surmised above.

When received by Train Service Depot, the motor control circuit was 100% fried.

Motor control circuit was fried because the BLI motor was drawing 3.0 amps!

Seneca of TSD installed a "new, upgraded" BLI decoder that, allegedly, will handle the high amperage requirements of the BLI motor.  The model then worked just fine for him.  

Model, with new decoder installed, and original BLI motor was STILL drawing 2 amps after replacement of the decoder.

 

Seneca's assessment was that the BLI motor is the real culprit, and should also be replaced in order to assure no problems in the future.  Waiting on replacement motor (which will be tested before model goes out).  Model expected back home within a week or so.

 

My opinions:

So, what sometimes happens in the Paragon 3 models is that customers ship them back for repair, after the high amperage drawing motor fries the motor control circuit.  BLI then installs the new decoder, which can handle the higher amperage, at least for "most".  However, for some people the motors are so bad that they apparently cause additional issues and eventually have to be replaced anyway.  Unfortunately, this sometimes requires the second trip to Florida for repairs.  This has been happening for too many people.

I do not appreciate paying $440 for a brand new engine, to then turn around and have to shell out $41 for shipping and another $119 for repair and return shipping (though the repair is very fast and I cannot fault Train Service Depot in any way whatsoever - they have been awesome!)  Bottom line is I could have spent that $600 elsewhere and gotten at minimum a more reliable steam engine be it brass or otherwise.  (I have 2 recent brass purchases at less than $600 each that run much better and have no decoder to fry).

Will I ever even consider buying and running a BLI model of anything again?  I really don't know.  My son will learn to love that the diecast body challenger can actually be handled without stuff breaking loose, so that does count for something.

We just bought another challenger, this time from Athearn Genesis.  Comparison might get interesting.

Why is BLI using craptastic motors that draw so much current in the first place?  Maybe consider something made somewhere else?

John

 

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Posted by gmpullman on Saturday, February 22, 2020 11:22 PM

I recently picked up three of the PRR P5a electric locomotives. One gave me trouble right away. At first it simply acted goofy, sometimes running fine, other times skipping and jumping. The programmed settings would get scrambled.

I contacted BLI and they said the repair backlog is ten-weeks. They were waiting for a shipment of decoders and that would be only three weeks. I opted to wait the three weeks. They said they were going to send a new motor, too.

I'm glad I replaced the motor. Although not drawing three amps it was drawing about 1.6 amps while running free on test rollers. The replacement motor only pulled about 350 mA.

The replacement decoder and motor arrived in slightly less than three weeks and I replaced both. No more problems.

On another P5a the housing (shell) gets slightly warm to the touch and I'm hoping that one doesn't cook, too. It has been running roughly eight hours off and on, so far it seems to be doing OK.

I used to be a stallwart BLI enthusiast but they are certainly losing credibility since the Paragon 3 "upgrade". Roughly half of the P3 locomotives I've bought in the last two years have had decoder problems. Some, I bite the bullet and install another brand of decoder. I really don't want to do this if the motor is drawing too much current.

Rapido has had their share of recent motor/decoder problems but Jason has been upfront about the issues and what needs to be done to correct it. I wish BLI would come out and tell the customers exactly what is going on and what to look for with signs of trouble.

Good Luck, Ed

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Posted by PRR8259 on Saturday, February 22, 2020 11:40 PM

Ed--

Thank you for the comments.

All--

Please:  IF your BLI engine starts flashing the headlights repeatedly, that IS the warning sign that the motor is drawing too much current and you are in danger of cooking the motor control circuit.  If you see the flashing headlights, you need at minimum a new/upgraded replacement decoder, and you may need a new motor.

John

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Posted by ATLANTIC CENTRAL on Sunday, February 23, 2020 8:03 AM

John, a few thoughts.

I do understand your reluctance to return the loco to BLI for service, I have had friends with those similar long repair times and multiple attempts.

I could be wrong, but I think you will have a better experiance with the Genesis product, I never hear any complaints........

You made the comment about the "handling friendly" die cast boiler. Ironically that is what I don't like about BLI or MTH in many cases.

First, everyone should enjoy this hobby as they see it, not as others see it. So, just my view, but the people heading up BLI and MTH come largely from the O gauge high rail world. It seems that to them, rugged handling, and features like sound are often more important than the "scale model". I am a scale modeler........

I only have a limited list of BLI products, with mixed results regarding quality. But I do not consider any of them at the top of the industry in detail. For the most part, my Spectrum, Proto and Rivarossi steam are all better detailed.

Slightly off the central topic, the MTH 2-8-4 is the most toy like high end loco I have ever seen....... the cast on boiler details look like a piece of post war O gauge shrunk down to HO.

Not being a western modeler, I don't have any Genesis steam. If Athearn made a prototype I was interested in, I would be all in.

Unless something changes, I think the high water mark has come and gone in this hobby regarding a balance of detail, accuracy, quality, selection and price. Especially regarding steam, and as it relates to selection and price, same is true of diesels. Not as much selection at any given moment, prices out of this world......

I am happy I bought what I did 10-15 years ago. Admittedly, my feelings are effected by my lack of interest in DCC or sound, and a lack of interest in "collecting" a random list of "famous" locomotives.

Hope all goes well with you models......

Sheldon

    

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Posted by Trainman440 on Sunday, February 23, 2020 1:12 PM

ATLANTIC CENTRAL

the people heading up BLI and MTH come largely from the O gauge high rail world. It seems that to them, rugged handling, and features like sound are often more important than the "scale model".

Correct me if Im wrong, but BLI never made an O scale model, and the people heading them didnt come from O scale...?

ATLANTIC CENTRAL

Slightly off the central topic, the MTH 2-8-4 is the most toy like high end loco I have ever seen....... the cast on boiler details look like a piece of post war O gauge shrunk down to HO.

Do you mean Lionel's HO 2-8-4 by chance? MTH's berk is the second most detailed non-brass berk produced. IMO, Proto 2000 is the most detailed, followed by MTH, Bachmann, Rivarossi, then Lionel, which is basically a shrunken prewar berk that looks like a toy. 

I'm by no part a MTH fan, but I dont believe they deserve this much flack. 

Charles

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Posted by selector on Sunday, February 23, 2020 1:43 PM

The people who launched and who are still running BLI do have an O gauge background, but I forget how involved they were.  I know that they have a bitter history with Mike Wolf and Mike's Train House.

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Posted by ATLANTIC CENTRAL on Sunday, February 23, 2020 3:33 PM

Trainman440

 

 
ATLANTIC CENTRAL

the people heading up BLI and MTH come largely from the O gauge high rail world. It seems that to them, rugged handling, and features like sound are often more important than the "scale model".

 

 

Correct me if Im wrong, but BLI never made an O scale model, and the people heading them didnt come from O scale...?

 

 
ATLANTIC CENTRAL

Slightly off the central topic, the MTH 2-8-4 is the most toy like high end loco I have ever seen....... the cast on boiler details look like a piece of post war O gauge shrunk down to HO.

 

 

Do you mean Lionel's HO 2-8-4 by chance? MTH's berk is the second most detailed non-brass berk produced. IMO, Proto 2000 is the most detailed, followed by MTH, Bachmann, Rivarossi, then Lionel, which is basically a shrunken prewar berk that looks like a toy. 

I'm by no part a MTH fan, but I dont believe they deserve this much flack. 

Charles

 

Robert Grubba, one of the founders of Broadway Limited was the director of engineering at LIONEL in the 1990's, right before starting Broadway Limited.

No, I am very familiar with the MTH Berkshire, that is the one I mean. The one with the running boards that are a scale foot thick so they could be cast on to the boiler and not break off. The one where they use the same boiler for C&O, NKP, and Pere Marquette, even though the sand domes and tender are only correct for NKP. The one where the detail is there, but much of it is oversized and cast on.

The Proto model is without question the best non brass model of those locos. But the Bachmann model is very good for its price with correct different cabs, tenders, pilots, and proper sand dome placement for each roadname.

While the Bachmann does lack some of the finer details, the details it has are both correct, and not oversized like MTH.

And there is room in the Bachmann model to add weight, making it pull much better.

Add some weight, install a premium sound decoder if you are in to that, add a few missing handrails and you have a better detailed, more correct loco than the MTH, for way less. And no DCS decoder issues.....

I converted five of them to freelanced heavy Mikados:

 

 

  

Sheldon 

    

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Posted by Trainman440 on Sunday, February 23, 2020 6:04 PM

Ah, I stand corrected. I guess there was a reason why the MTH berk was discountinued...but I heard they're bringing it back for some reason. 

All I know is that I got 3 proto 2000 berks(and to be on topic, an Athearn Bigboy) and I couldnt be happier :D

Charles

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Posted by PRR8259 on Sunday, February 23, 2020 10:27 PM

New MTH Berks are indeed coming; I thought it was also new tooling, but I could be wrong or could have misread the advertisement.  I was actually thinking the NKP one in the ads looked pretty good, and I might actually consider looking at one because the beautiful Precision Scale 2-8-4's (which I personally remember were very decent and usable when new without too many issues) are nearly impossible to find now.

Sheldon--

Thank you for your comments.

My perspective is coming from two things that happened:

I once had a circa 1982 Key Imports DRGW L-105 4-6-6-4 brass engine.  This was from a time that Samhongsa allegedly was "baking" models in an oven to melt the solder, for "neatness" of joint/workmanship.  The model was fairly heavy, and the running boards broke loose far too easily.  Someone had done a nasty glue job on it to repair one of them (it needed stripped, resoldering, and complete repainting)...so I sold it (actually for a slight profit).

One of the recent runs of Athearn Genesis challengers had at least some that were poorly made, where even with my very careful handling, the running boards and other stuff literally were coming loose (It was the first run of early version UP challengers).  I sold one at a loss, honestly representing what it was on Ebay, to a dealer in Australia, who was glad to get it at the price.

I totally get not wanting scale 1' thick running boards on ANY engine, plastic, diecast, brass or whatever, but there also has to be a balance there, too.

I only pick up articulateds by the second set of cylinders and placing fingers gently on the sides of the cab (or a finger inserted into the cab itself).  However, I want them to stay together and intact, and models do have to go on and off my layout (though the cat now is getting to the model shelves).

In the future some of the largest steam will just stay on the layout, on whichever siding is handy, rather than going on and off layout.

Keeping in mind that I'm not happy with BLI, the running boards on the challenger, which are attached to the bottom part of the boiler, do not appear to be too thick.  Though thicker than scale for sure, I found them a "reasonable" compromise, even considering that I prefer brass.

John 

 

P.S. You are justifiably very proud of your Bachman Berkshires, and the relatively easy (at least for you) modifications to customize them for your road, and I am not in any way whatsoever trying to demean what you have achieved with any of them.  It's just that, where possible and not outrageously costly, I prefer models of some perhaps lesser known engines, that might offer more detailing, which tends to lead me to brass or hybrids.  Some of the hybrids have been very nicely done, with paint jobs that I cannot get done in America for any kind of reasonable price.  I just don't want P3 electronics.

To each their own.

 

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