- - - Only Applies If Running On 15" Radius Or Tighter Track - - -
This is NOT an issue on 18" or broader curves. If you’re running a Bachmann HO scale GP9/7 with DCC or DCC/Sound on 15" radius or tighter track, get it off the track right now! There’s an inherent design flaw with this locomotive that will FRY the circuit boards and permanently ruin your locomotive. Yes, we’re talking CATISRPHOIC FALURE!
Recently, our engineers fielded a number of complaints that appear to be symptoms of a burned out motor. After weeks of testing, we finally determined it has nothing to do with the motor. In fact, with units that suddenly stopped running or slowly needed more power until they stopped running, we completely removed the motors from the chassis and they all tested fine. The problem we found is as old as the hobby itself.
Bachmann’s thirst for low cost locomotive assembly methods backfired on this locomotive. Bachmann failed to properly insulate the motor body from the negatively grounded chassis. Anyone familiar with DCC systems will tell you the sure fire, fastest way to turn a perfectly fine running locomotive into junk is a split second short across the metal motor housing and the chassis. All this could have been avoided, but it would have added the cost of some Kapton tape and a few precious assembly seconds for each locomotive.
At first glance, the motor appears to be perfectly centered in the chassis, on its seemingly well engineered plastic motor mounts with a gap between the chassis and the metal motor housing that you could easily fit a piece of paper in between. Now, we all know motors spin. And, in HO scale locomotives, they spin pretty hard while the drive shafts push back against the motor as the trucks swivel, especially on tight curves. The idea was that if Bachmann engineered the motor mount to such high tolerance, there was no way the motor could ever touch the chassis. To do this, they engineered a tiny flange ridge on the plastic motor mount. Properly installed, this ridge abuts the cut metal edge of the motor housing. You can see where this is going.
The slight plastic bump ridge is no match for the spinning motor forces inside the tight fitting shell body of the locomotive. Eventually, the motor rotates just enough in its mount to repeatedly discharge a short across the DCC system through the metal motor housing contact with the negatively charged chassis. A more devious person might think this is a clever method of planned obsolescence, whereby you buy a low cost, low level Bachmann locomotive with DCC or DCC/Sound at a bargain price that quits on you within a few months so Bachmann can sell you another. Given that motor shorts as a cause for DCC system burnouts goes back to the beginning of time in the hobby, it’s tempting to think this may be true. It’s not like Bachmann has ever had a history of being deliberately devious, right?
Anyway, here’s the easy fix. Take the locomotive apart all the way down to the separated motor & chassis. Cover the metal motor housing with Kapton tape, paying particular attention to the sharp notched end of the motor that fits into the chassis body. Use just enough Kapton tape to cover the metal with a single layer. Too much, and the motor will not fit into the chassis, too little and poof goes your DCC system. Simple, right?
Well not really, unless you’ve taken hundreds of locomotives apart and put them back together like we have. The right way. So, they run well, again. It does takes some time, planning and a well-organized workbench. If you are careful, and keep track of where everything goes while you are disassembling the locomotive, you should be able to do it.
Don’t rush. Give yourself plenty of time. Tapping a few brain cells during disassembly will make reassembly easier. You will also need a complete set of small jewelers straight and Phillips screwdrivers. A hemostat - the tiny locking Pliers surgeons’ use – available at almost any hardware store now - is extremely helpful in reassembly. You’ll also want to have your best, narrow tip, low wattage, 25 watt or less, soldering iron on hand. You will find at least one cold soldering joint and/or break a micro wire off in the process. In a few hours, when you’re all done, you will have the reliable locomotive Bachmann should have built right for you in the first place. I’m sure the Bach-Man would love to hear how well it goes for you. Be gentile.
We’ve all seen it. Unbelievably LOW, low prices on brand new highly detailed MTH, Walthers, and Athearn HO scale locos with DCC & Sound on eBay. Forget it. Don’t be fooled. Take it from a fellow fool. We TRIED to buy several of these locomotives from Non-U.S. sellers. We got fake China EMS tracking numbers, notices from eBay that the seller had been removed but not to worry, the sale should still go through just fine. What we didn’t get? You guessed it, NO locomotives. Just a refund on all but one, so far. Thanks to some creative arm twisting between our PayPal & eBay accounts.
But, you say, a $300 HO Scale locomotive with ProtoSound 3.0, or FULL rich Tsunami sound for less than $50 bucks delivered free from central China or South Korea in only 2 months sounds great, right? Not if you don’t get it. Not if someone else gets to use your money for free for 2 months. That’s assuming you get ALL your money back. Remember when you were a kid and you mailed in $3 cash to some P.O. Box listed on the back of a comic book hoping to get a full working miniature replica of the Lost in Space robot? Remember how that turned out? Yeah, you didn’t get that either. Once a scam, always a scam.
So, what is the scam: LOW, low, lowest ever offered prices on MTH, Walthers, and Athearn HO scale locomotives, brand new, with DCC and digital sound on eBay? It’s slick, for one, just like Dan the barely used car man. Hell, I’ve been doing this for +30 years, and I decided to roll the dice. But, just like in the casino, I lost. And, I’m not the only one. Think about it. You sell a product you don’t have, for a fraction of the price, say $50 for a $300 locomotive, to 5 people. That’s $250 in your pocket for very little effort. Then you repeat it with 10 fake friends and you’ve hit the big time, $2500. Pocket the cash and take off never to be seen again, or use the money for some other illegal activity, and refund it all back after folks complain two or three weeks or even months down the road. Sounds like a pretty good money laundering scheme.
Now, eBay will tell you it’s just a coincidence and that most sellers on eBay are honest. Ok. When you’re done laughing, I’ll continue. Ready. No, not yet? A little more? Ok. That kind of coincidence, requires an awful lot of prior planning. At one point, we counted over 10 sellers on eBay selling these unbelievable HO locomotive deals. That’s no coincidence. That’s a marketing plan! Now, I would never suggest that eBay was bumping up their profit margin to mitigate an imbalance in cash flow by encouraging this behavior. No, I’d never say that while I’m still waiting for my last refund, now 30 days overdue. If I sound bitter, it’s only because I am.
I’m sure this marketing plan isn’t limited to model trains. It’s more likely infected eBay worldwide. If you see an irresistible price on anything from an obviously foreign seller, ask yourself. Do you have the money to spare gambling on some flim-flam artist? Do you want to spend what little free time you have on hold with eBay customer service? Do you want to become a bitter blog author waiting for their last 30 day overdue refund with one finger hovering over the cancel account button on eBay? Let the buyer beware. It’s a den of thieves on eBay. Nothing new under the sun. Be careful out there.
- From all of us at FineTrains.