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Bachmann GE 44 tonner switcher - On Members Workbenches. - More Practical Help - Your Model Railway Club
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 Posted: Mon Apr 24th, 2017 07:06 am
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BCDR
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Hi All,

I bought a Bachmann 44 tonner switcher in Great Northern colors (what else) at the local train show last week. Just what I need for the switching layout (read plank) along with the Atlas/Kato RS-1. Beloved of management, hated by engine crews, it only needed one crew member in the cab. Most were powered by 2 Caterpillar diesels. The Great Northern had 2 of these in the late 1940's-early 1950's, so it fits nicely into my modeling time-frame of 1950-1956. This one only cost me $20, haggled down from $30 (runs fine says the seller, no way sez moi), so I knew there would be issues.

First photo shows the 44 tonner, minus truck sides as it's already been half-dismantled to see that the damage to the axles was.



Test run showed the dreaded "click and lurch" - split axles!. Apart from that the motors seemed OK (not a mistake, it has 2 motors). Now this is a Bachmann Industries/Kader model made in Hong King, first generation, old as the hills (1980's) so it's no surprise there are some problems.

For those not familiar with this model, it's powered by 2 axle-mounted motors (one of those "seemed like a good idea" designs). Partially dismantled truck on the left. This model is extensively used in On30 narrow gauge bashes (I've done a few over the years). Latest generation has one motor and 2 geared trucks.




This is one of the problem axles. Usual design of a geared axle carrier and stub axles.




And this is the issue - yes, the plastic is split, the gear rotates, the axle doesn't. Lurch, click, every trip.




And this is the other end, split, but in a different position. It's almost impossible to repair these splits, CA, Loctite or epoxy is a temporary fix at best. The other axles on both trucks are all split.




The Bachmann spares site shows that axle/wheel sets are available, but only for the 2nd and 3rd generations of the model. Come on, Bachmann, how about a bit of product support? Off to North West Short Lines, who conveniently have an axle/wheel set (set of 4, 2 for each powered truck) that fits all 3 generations of the model. $45.90 including shipping and postage. Hmm. Throw in a non-sound decoder for $25 and that's getting on for a $90 investment and 40-year-old carrier gears and motors.

Next stop is my favorite model train store, modeltrainstuff.com. I'm in luck, 10% off all Bachmann products this week. Even better, a brand new, single motor, DCC equipped 3rd generation 44 tonner for  $59.99, minus 10% . That's $54, and includes a decoder. Yellow with black stripes, definitely not in Great Northern colors. Who cares, I have a donor body and the chassis can go on eebygum for spares along with the new body. So I placed the order today, and await the brand-new 44-tonner with a year's guarantee which should be here this week. Hope it fits...course it will...won't it???

Nigel

 
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 Posted: Mon Apr 24th, 2017 08:59 am
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MaxSouthOz
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That was a common trait of the Walthers Proto 2000 diesels as well, Nigel.

I've still got a box of replacement axle sets from my HO days.



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 Posted: Mon Apr 24th, 2017 05:11 pm
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Ah well Nigel, you pays your money for second hand and you takes your chances.  I don't think I've ever bought a second hand loco that I've been happy with.  As long as you assume that you'll have to do some work, and yes, spend a few bucks, you won't be disappointed.  I don't know what these cost new but I reckon you stilll have a decent deal even after buying the new axles.

John



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 Posted: Mon Apr 24th, 2017 06:10 pm
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BCDR
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Hi Max,

Yes, I've done a lot of those as well. Anytime I buy a PK2000 GP with B-B trucks I expect to replace them. Even unused out of the box (old stock of course). Walthers who took over PK2000 seem to have resolved the issue. Usual optimism from sellers - runs fine. Yes, sideways.

The issue only seems to affect the 2-axle trucks though, 3-axle trucks on for example SD's or E7's seem to be immune. The fix in this case is simple and cheap - replacement geared axle carriers from Athearn for their SD-40. Around $6 for 6 (part number class="productnamecolorLARGE colors_productname"60024, 2 packs repairs 3 locomotives). It's a quick 10 minute job. I've noticed a number of sellers are now stating "replacement gears".

Nigel



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 Posted: Mon Apr 24th, 2017 06:31 pm
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Brossard wrote: Ah well Nigel, you pays your money for second hand and you takes your chances.  I don't think I've ever bought a second hand loco that I've been happy with.  As long as you assume that you'll have to do some work, and yes, spend a few bucks, you won't be disappointed.  I don't know what these cost new but I reckon you stilll have a decent deal even after buying the new axles.

John

Hi John,

As long as the homework has been done it's not an unexpected surprise. Something that anybody buying a used model should do. The 2 issue with these are split gears and burnt out motors (from over-lubing, the bottom brush is next to the gear trains with no protection) . The new ones with DCC installed go for $90-$110 (MRP is $129), and finding a Great Northern one is hen's teeth time. A brand new one with DCC installed for $54 and using the chassis makes more sense than half-fixing 40-year old mechanisms, and then still having to buy a decoder.

They can only pull around half a dozen freight cars, ideal for a switching layout. I'm not sure about sound, as there is not a great deal of room for a speaker. I've seen it done though, those twin caterpillar diesels sound nice. Future project maybe.

Nigel



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 Posted: Mon Apr 24th, 2017 07:46 pm
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Petermac
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I had a spell of buying locos on eebygum Nigel but gave it up for exactly the sort of reasons you've stated.

They look decent and are often (but not always :shock:) a reasonable price.  I ran out of patience with a V2 I bought and chipped having almost completely re-wheeled it - you might have read the sad saga with John Dew holding my hand throughout.  I have another tank engine that sounds as if every moving part is as dry as a bone and a 3rd, chipped Bachmann GP40 that sounds like there's some kind of animal stuck inside.

Rolling stock is a slightly different matter but no more "previously loved" locomotives for me. :sad:



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 Posted: Tue Apr 25th, 2017 12:12 am
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Hi 'petermac,

Previously abused is often nearer the mark. My last purchase off eebygum was a P2K SD-7 with "light scuff marks on roof". Which turned out to be major gouges through to the plastic on the roof and short hood. I offered $25. Why not? It came with a $25 direct plug-in decoder (that's the one where the chassis hit the floor with the coupler mount snapping off, all fixed now). Quick paint job and a bit of weathering and it passes the "3 feet" standard. Needs a wiring harness as it's the wrong decoder, but that's an easy job and I nearly always rewire locomotives with a new one anyway.

Researching the known faults and issues before buying these "golden oldies" is a must. And remembering that many descriptions are way-off. Otherwise they are money pits.

Nigel

 



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 Posted: Tue Apr 25th, 2017 01:59 am
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Fixing the plastic post-split may require mastery and considerable patience and care, but apparently CA application makes for good preventative medicine if you can catch them before they split.



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 Posted: Thu Apr 27th, 2017 04:44 am
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Hi Brendan,

These are long past the point of no return. The issue is the plastic used shrank and split. Not sure how some CA would have helped.

Nigel



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 Posted: Thu Apr 27th, 2017 05:11 am
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Hi All,

The 44 tonner came today, bumblebee yellow and "DCC on board". My GN body is exactly the same as the new one, so it was a straight body swap.

First photo shows the new chassis and body shell. Single motor and 2 powered trucks, hard-wired 6 pin decoder (apparently a re-branded Lenz one). It's all snap fit construction these days. One of the drive shafts had come loose during shipping, so I got a good run through on how it goes together. Runs very nicely in DC and DCC.




Next photo shows the new chassis with the old GN body shell on.




Last photo shows the new chassis in the GN body shell from underneath. Not sure about that exposed gear train, although it would give prototypical weathering of the ties.



This must be the fastest DC to DCC conversion I've ever done.

Nigel



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 Posted: Thu Apr 27th, 2017 05:25 am
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Nice to see Nigel, great to get a good running loco.  One good 'un from two.  You might have mentioned this, is the new chassis the same method of construction as the old one - ie split axles?

John



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 Posted: Thu Apr 27th, 2017 09:46 am
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...................................."One of the drive shafts had come loose during shipping, so I got a good run through on how it goes together"............................


On a brand new loco !!!?  :shock: :shock: :shock:

Sorry Nigel - in my book, that's totally unacceptable.  I'd have returned it with a rude letter.  I had generally rated Bachmann quite highly but it seems the usual shoddy workmanship expected from China is endemic.

Maybe we can't afford quality any more today ..................... :roll: :roll:

Regardless of the quality, it's a nice l ooking loco. :thumbs



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 Posted: Thu Apr 27th, 2017 03:12 pm
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Petermac wrote: ...................................."One of the drive shafts had come loose during shipping, so I got a good run through on how it goes together"............................


On a brand new loco !!!?  :shock: :shock: :shock:

Sorry Nigel - in my book, that's totally unacceptable.  I'd have returned it with a rude letter.  I had generally rated Bachmann quite highly but it seems the usual shoddy workmanship expected from China is endemic.

Maybe we can't afford quality any more today ..................... :roll: :roll:

Regardless of the quality, it's a nice l ooking loco. :thumbs

You didn't read his post fully, Petermac. He clearly states that A. it was a secondhand (at least) train show acquisition and B. Is of 1980s vintage. The Kader-developed chassis used by Lionel and Bachmann for their HO locos of the time were an experimental design, which had a split frame, and two-piece axles joined in the middle by plastic gears with protruding sleeves. The purpose was to allow both sides of a wheelset to pick up power, while retaining the benefit of axle-to-chassis pickup (this was especially beneficial for steam locos, letting them pick up power with all the drivers instead of drivers pick up one side, tender picks up the other). The problem came with the fact that eighties versions used this sort of milky clear plastic for the gears. It's a plastic commonly used for toy motor gears and also electric clocks, but it can be easy to get the mix wrong, leaving the plastic vulnerable to shrinking over time and subsequently splitting (especially if it's on something as fat as a train axle), and Bachmann did so on several batches (though they wouldn't be the only company to do so). Earlier models from the '70s used a heavier black plastic that's notably less prone to the problem.
Bachmann moved on from their split-chassis and split-axle designs some time ago, but the American modelling community continues to sneer at them because of it.

Nigel, the purpose of the CA is to form a protective, reinforcive coat on gears to prevent them splitting, if they're still intact in the first place.



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 Posted: Thu Apr 27th, 2017 03:39 pm
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............................"First photo shows the new chassis and body shell. Single motor and 2 powered trucks, hard-wired 6 pin decoder (apparently a re-branded Lenz one). It's all snap fit construction these days. One of the drive shafts had come loose during shipping, so I got a good run through on how it goes together. Runs very nicely in DC and DCC."..............................

I understand this refers to the new loco, not the one bought at the train show ......................... :roll:



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 Posted: Thu Apr 27th, 2017 05:13 pm
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Petermac wrote: ............................"First photo shows the new chassis and body shell. Single motor and 2 powered trucks, hard-wired 6 pin decoder (apparently a re-branded Lenz one). It's all snap fit construction these days. One of the drive shafts had come loose during shipping, so I got a good run through on how it goes together. Runs very nicely in DC and DCC."..............................

I understand this refers to the new loco, not the one bought at the train show ......................... :roll:
Oh, my bad. But I don't know if Bachmann is really to blame for that. After all, they're not in charge of how retailers pack and ship things, or how the post office treats those things in transit.



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 Posted: Thu Apr 27th, 2017 06:33 pm
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In my book, if they can't stand shipping in the original box, it doesn't look good for their longevity on the layout.  My last purchase came in the box with specially shaped polystyrene packing snuggled around the loco inside the box.  The shipper added bubblewrap and an outer box.

To me, it's poor quality control at Bachmann's end and that's simply not good enough.  If I asked my customers to "repair" any of my "product" before they could use it, I'd soon be out of business.  China may indeed be cheap but in the end, you get what you pay for !!!



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 Posted: Thu Apr 27th, 2017 08:52 pm
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Exploitatively cheap manufacturing labor has nothing to do with weak design. Or with a package getting bounced around in the mail truck and then tossed into the yard as if it were a children's ball and not valuable goods.



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 Posted: Thu Apr 27th, 2017 09:49 pm
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Brossard wrote: Nice to see Nigel, great to get a good running loco.  One good 'un from two.  You might have mentioned this, is the new chassis the same method of construction as the old one - ie split axles?

John
Hi John,

No idea, I didn't look. :oops: Under a 1 year warranty, if they go after that it's NWSL at $45 or $25 for Bachmann to fix it or supply a new one. I shall check.

Nigel



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 Posted: Thu Apr 27th, 2017 10:08 pm
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Hi Brendan,

I am somewhat dubious about a thin layer of CA protecting against inherent shrinkage of plastic. The issue is that the manufacturer uses "young" plastic which is still out gassing and shrinking. Unstable and of variable quality. The only thing I've seen that protects is a tight fitting sleeve of brass.

Delrin is intrinsically more stable, and expensive. Blame the bean counters and lack of QC/QA. That said, what do you expect from 40-year-old locomotives?

With a bit of lateral thinking and a dose of Scrooge, I have an old but very servicable GN body shell on a brand-new chassis, a brand new bumblebee body shell, and an old 2-motor chassis in need of attention. I must check the diameter and number of teeth on those split axles. Ever since John Athearn invented the concept it's been copied by many others without modification. If what I'm thinking pans out, I may yet have a new body shell on a serviceable old chassis. Win-win for a change.

A set of new wheels and axles from Bachmann is $16 (and they don't fit the older models), from NWSL it's $40. That's the difference between China-made and USA-made. The difference in wheel sets from Bachmann in the UK and Ultrascale is even greater.

Nigel



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 Posted: Thu Apr 27th, 2017 10:10 pm
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Nigel, I was thinking that if you want to double head, you could make the old chassis a dummy (no cheeky remarks please).

John



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