Monday, July 4, 2011

Giving up on Lionel?

In previous posts I have documented my experience with opening up the Lionel Legacy BNSF ES44AC and related build quality and wiring issues inside.

After re-assembling from the last repair, the engine ran OK for a few short sessions and then the rear coupler would no longer fire.  I took it apart and found a broken wire going to the rear coil coupler.  I was able to manipulate the coupler free from the pilot, unwind the tape, re-solder the wire and put it all back together.  During this process I found ALL the wires going to the coil couplers were installed too tightly in the guide slots in the pilot, not allowing the couplers to sway from side to side without putting too much pressure on the wires and eventually tearing them from the coupler.  Simply removing these wires from the slots they were in to add slack proved to be more difficult than first thought, resulting in torn wire insulation that needed repaired.

After fixing all this up and reinstalling the shell, the ground lights did not work.  I opened it up again to find one of the the tiny wires going to the ground lights had broken off…re-soldering this was not fun.  Now after reinstalling the shell the front pilot did not swing smoothly.  I had to monkey with the tightness of the screws holding the shell on.

I’ve only had this for three months but I am reluctant to return for repair because I hear many stories of stuff coming back from Lionel repair with other problems.  And truthfully I see why this happens; things inside are so fragile that every time you remove and reinstall the shell to make a repair you break something else.  Furthermore, my 3-month old Legacy remote never fully charges and I understand I need to return that for service.  Also I still continue to have intermittent ground plane problems with Legacy/TMCC which makes consistent reliable running of command Lionel products on my layout nearly impossible. I love the heft, detail, and sounds of the ES44AC…otherwise everything that says Lionel on it would be sold right now.

And to add insult to injury, my MTH’s just keep on going.  The only problems I ever had with DCS was electrical interference from Lionel engines.  Now I run TMCC and DCS on electrically separate mains and DCS is flawless.  All this without any modification to my current layout wiring or magic light bulbs.

Is it time to just give up on Lionel completely until they take a few years to get their act straightened out?