Saturday, March 12, 2011

Lionel Vision Line "blind" to quality control?

After hearing about how detailed and awesome the Lionel Vision Line Genset Switchers were, and consequently discounting all the noise I've heard on the train forum about problems with this unit, I decided to take the plunge and get the Norfolk Southern Genset from my LHS. I was excited because this would be my first Vision Line purchase and I wanted to see what all the hubbub was about. I read the manual, unpackaged it, put it on the track, and powered it up. The excitement and fun lasted a total of about 1 minute.

The engine had many issues that were unacceptable to me, most of which were detailed in the OGR forum by other owners. The main problem was that the third smoke unit didn't smoke…the fan ran, but no smoke came out. Then the smoke exhaust caps stuck open, and then stuck closed. The stuck caps caused the blowing smoke vapor to condense into a liquid and collect around the exhaust pipes. When the engine sat on the track after shutdown, it emitted a very loud hum through the speaker. The hinged panel on the side that hid the switches for changing setting was bent and crooked, and the label inside it for switch identification was upside down. The hatch on top behind the cab didn't lay flat.  The unit was very limited in sounds as well.  In general, it was a disappointment and a let down.  And the horse on the logo is backwards! :)  Ok, we all know that by now, by I just had to add that because Lionel will allow you to get a refund on the unit based solely on this problem.

On the positive side, it is a beautiful engine, well detailed, and ran what I think was 1 scale mph or less very consistently and smoothly due to its low gearing.

Sure, if I really would have liked it, I could have swapped it for another unit at the LHS or had it sent back to Lionel for repair. But I couldn't get over that being the "Vision Line" this was supposed to be the Cadillac of trains and for the money it cost, it shouldn't have any let alone all of these issues.  It didn't make me feel good about owning it.

I ended up returning it and getting the BNSF ES44AC. More on that in the next post. 

One good thing came of this though.  I initially bought the Genset so I could finally upgrade to and experience the Lionel Legacy Control System. Setup was minimal with a slight learning curve, but in all I'm pretty impressed with the Legacy system.  It is new to me and there are a couple things that need ironed out, but nothing critical I know of yet.  It does make my TMCC locos run much slower and smoother with more speed steps.  I registered it on the Lionel web site and am waiting for my v1.3 software upgrade.

I now have both Lionel Legacy and MTH DCS remote systems.  Due to yet more issues, I have decided the best thing to do is to run these two remote systems on electrically separated blocks of track.  But that story is a whole blog post in itself!