Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Lionel Legacy BNSF ES44AC internal wiring build quality issues

While troubleshooting Legacy/TMCC signal issues, I decided to open the shell on my Legacy ES44AC.  Note that this is essentially a Vision Line Evo Hybrid diesel without the charging lights and without the Vision Line coat-of-arms; and therefore, not being an "official" Vision Line product, I am apparently allowed to open it up for repair without voiding the warranty.

In any case, what I found inside as far as assembly and build quality was not quite up to par.  This subject has been beaten to death on my thread on the OGR forum, but I will summarize the standout assembly quality issues here.
  1. An amazing nine (9) ground wires were twisted together under one small gray wire nut, which would not fit over and bite into that size mass of wires.  At least one of the wires had pulled loose from the bundle and the wire nut was laying inside the chassis. Why these weren't shorting against the chassis or inside of the shell is a mystery, although maybe they were and since it was ground it didn't do much harm.

  2. Three (3) small gray wires coming from the radio board were twisted together but not soldered under a small gray wire nut which was too large and fell off when I touched it.

  3. Furthermore, the one small gray wire coming out of the bundle (which apparently had once gone to the side handrail for antenna) was loose in the engine and shorting against whatever it could hit.  This could explain some of my signal quality issues.  My quest to determine the exact location of where this wire is supposed to attach is the subject of another blog post.

  4. A component I believe to be some type of rectifier is attached to the bottom of the chassis for heat sink purposes. The radio board is mounted above it, crooked, and resting on the bent wires attached to the rectifier.  Although the wires are covered with shrink tubing and it shouldn't affect performance, it would not have taken any additional effort to do this right the first time.  It's just sloppy workmanship.

  5. The small wires going to the electrocouplers were pulled too tight in the channels on the chassis.  Luckily I reseated these to give more play in the wire before they broke loose due to use.

  6. Most of the tape holding the wires away from the motor flywheels inside is separated and pulled away from the shell, thus serving no purpose.

  7. Plug-in boards are loose and wobble.  At one point, everything on my loco worked except for the squealing brake sounds.  Reseating all the boards solved this issue.

  8. Exhaust fans on top are very noisy.  See picture as to where to place a small spot of oil on each post.

  9. Lastly, although not really needed for command use, both this loco and a previously returned Vision Line Genset Switcher have a small clip under the shell for a 9-volt backup battery for sound.  There is no way I could fit a standard 9-volt battery in these clips and still put the nose or hatch back on the locomotives flatly.
In conclusion, for a "Vision Line" locomotive and the associated cost, this is unacceptable workmanship.  Actually for any product this is unacceptable workmanship.

Lionel's CTO Jon Zahornacky caught wind of my thread on the OGR forum and has forwarded these photos and problems to the factory and necessary departments for review.