Author Topic: BLI M1a/b performance issues  (Read 1636 times)

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Cajonpassfan

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BLI M1a/b performance issues
« on: February 28, 2018, 08:29:44 PM »
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I just bought a new BLI M1. It is a stunning looking model, and the variety of the Paragon 3 decoder sounds is amazing. Very impressive.

But, out of the box, in DCC, I find its running qualities marginal. Not terrible, but uneven. Even if I can get beyond the multiple cutouts (and I assume this will take some time till the blackened wheels wear off and perhaps some more weight is added to the tender) the loco does not run smoothly at any speed. At low speed, it emits a weird whine (with the sound off) and at medium speed, it still exhibits an annoying unevenness. I tried it on DC and it gets worse. I also tried turning off the BEMF and the results were terrible, very uneven running. My conclusion is that the BEMF helps overcome some mechanical issue, but whatever that is, it's not obvious to me.

Again, this is not a bad running loco, with BEMF on, just marginal. Did I get a lemon, or are they all like this and I was expecting too much? I need to decide whether to send it back or try to work on it...
Otto K.
« Last Edit: March 02, 2018, 10:47:03 AM by GaryHinshaw »

OldEastRR

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Re: BLI M1a/b performance issues
« Reply #1 on: February 28, 2018, 10:47:29 PM »
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Best idea nowadays is send back anything that isn't working properly. Forget about fixing it yourself. Besides, the old loco may become a donor loco at the plant to replace other busted parts.

draskouasshat

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Re: BLI M1a/b performance issues
« Reply #2 on: February 28, 2018, 11:21:03 PM »
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Otto, remember to give @Lemosteam your pennsy leftovers! It convinces him to make cool santa fe stuff that we need!

Drasko
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I want a 3800 class santa fe 2-10-2!
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ek2000

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Re: BLI M1a/b performance issues
« Reply #3 on: February 28, 2018, 11:43:30 PM »
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I dont know if the cutouts go away with run time. All BLI diesels I own have shiny silver wheels yet are very finicky and stall where other models dont. Thats the only reason I haven't bought any further BLIs including the M1, Ac6000 ans GEVO. Not everyone has this issue though maybe Im plain unlucky 3 times in a row.

Cajonpassfan

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Re: BLI M1a/b performance issues
« Reply #4 on: February 28, 2018, 11:59:11 PM »
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Otto, remember to give @Lemosteam your pennsy leftovers! It convinces him to make cool santa fe stuff that we need!

Drasko

Yeah, lol, if I don't send it back I might have a coast to coast PRR tender and an M1 loco shell... :D
But I'd want him to do a UP project for a change, a Big A$$ UP tender like this to put behind the Malleys, 2-10-2's and 4-10-2's, among other UP power... :D

draskouasshat

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Re: BLI M1a/b performance issues
« Reply #5 on: March 01, 2018, 12:04:51 AM »
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Im good with that! I need those too!

Drasko
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reinhardtjh

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Re: BLI M1a/b performance issues
« Reply #6 on: March 01, 2018, 12:43:21 AM »
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I just bought a new BLI M1. It is a stunning looking model, and the variety of the Paragon 3 decoder sounds is amazing. Very impressive.

But, out of the box, in DCC, I find its running qualities marginal. Not terrible, but uneven. Even if I can get beyond the multiple cutouts (and I assume this will take some time till the blackened wheels wear off and perhaps some more weight is added to the tender) the loco does not run smoothly at any speed. At low speed, it emits a weird whine (with the sound off) and at medium speed, it still exhibits an annoying unevenness. I tried it on DC and it gets worse. I also tried turning off the BEMF and the results were terrible, very uneven running. My conclusion is that the BEMF helps overcome some mechanical issue, but whatever that is, it's not obvious to me.

Again, this is not a bad running loco, with BEMF on, just marginal. Did I get a lemon, or are they all like this and I was expecting too much? I need to decide whether to send it back or try to work on it...
Otto K.

My experience is with the first run Paragon2 equipped models.  I have seven of them and none of them have the problems you are experiencing. They are all smooth runners, no dropouts (on my Unitrack test layout), no whines, etc.

I'd say you probably have a lemon, but, again, I don't know about the second run locomotives.

John H. Reinhardt
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Cajonpassfan

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Re: BLI M1a/b performance issues
« Reply #7 on: March 01, 2018, 01:07:04 AM »
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Thanks John. Good to hear. I have the P3 version, and while the sound is great, the mechanicals and pickup, not so much. I did some testing tonight, flipped it upside down, and discovered that the left side of the loco picks up current on all drivers and both tender trucks. Great. The only thing that picks up current on the right is is the front tender truck. The rest is dead as a doornail. It's difficult to test the mechanical components when electrical pickup sucks like this :facepalm:
Tbc I'm sure...
Otto K.

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Re: BLI M1a/b performance issues
« Reply #8 on: March 01, 2018, 02:37:25 AM »
+1
I just bought a new BLI M1. It is a stunning looking model, and the variety of the Paragon 3 decoder sounds is amazing. Very impressive.

But, out of the box, in DCC, I find its running qualities marginal. Not terrible, but uneven. Even if I can get beyond the multiple cutouts (and I assume this will take some time till the blackened wheels wear off and perhaps some more weight is added to the tender) the loco does not run smoothly at any speed. At low speed, it emits a weird whine (with the sound off) and at medium speed, it still exhibits an annoying unevenness. I tried it on DC and it gets worse. I also tried turning off the BEMF and the results were terrible, very uneven running. My conclusion is that the BEMF helps overcome some mechanical issue, but whatever that is, it's not obvious to me.

Again, this is not a bad running loco, with BEMF on, just marginal. Did I get a lemon, or are they all like this and I was expecting too much? I need to decide whether to send it back or try to work on it...
Otto K.

I recently bought one too and am not too impressed with BLI at the present.  This was my second purchase of their products, both fairly recent, and so far their performance record is 100%.  NOT in the good way. :x  I hope this isn't getting too far off topic but I will cover the first problem I've had and then the M1.  You could skip it and get right to the M1 but I think it's helpful if only as background to my experience, in spite of many glowing reviews which is what I based my purchase on.  Maybe I'm/ we're the lucky only ones. :| 

The Alco's:

I'm still fixing one of the ALCO PA-1's trucks that was skipping gear teeth (it had a cracked truck retainer on one side) and then locking up and will still have to find whatever is vibrating/ buzzing in both of them.  BLI has been supportive with parts even if it takes two tries because the first part they sent was an obviously salvaged truck assembly and had a broken axle gear (tooth missing) on one axle as well as the idler gear apparently being forced out of another, therefore having its axle stub mangled and nearly broken off and as a result, wobbling and binding as it rotated.  I have to figure that along the way somebody was in there trying to fix something. 

I also found a patch piece made of clear plastic in the four trucks of both new units, but not in the salvage truck with the broken and mangled gears.  Three pieces of .020" thick shims neatly cut and glued, one under each axle, inside each of the truck axle retainer/ frame.  It makes me believe they were chasing a problem that I may still have to figure out. 

They have since sent more new components although no replacement truck assemblies were available.  With those components and salvage (as well as a pretty well equipped machine shop) :facepalm:, I should be able to fix whatever is found.  The only good thing is I now have some extra axles to get rid of the traction tires.  BLI was very accommodating and gave no grief about sending the parts but....


Now for the topic at hand, the M1b:

The very first thing that I had, first move on the track fresh out of the box, was the connecting rods from the crossheads to the wheels had an ABSURD amount of side to side play in them at the wheel crankpin and allowed the rods to directly engage, with a vengeance, the crankpins on the forward wheels, binding then snapping abruptly loose.  I remember seeing somebody's picture of their linkage all balled up as well as the crosshead guide broken out of the cylinder and, after seeing this, suspect this is what happened to his.  It bound and instead of finally snapping over just ripped the guide apart.  This was beyond just a typical check for slightly bent rods that were interfering but was extreme.  The pins in all of the interfering parts seemed to be seated and in fact had now been very aggressively tested for tightness by crashing into each other. :facepalm:  I don't know how or where you could have pushed the .036"+, on each side to take that up anyway.  As a result I just machined a couple of very tiny spacers, .036" long, and split them lengthwise so they could be snapped over the pin, between the back of the rod and the wheel face.  They don't show and very effectively fixed that issue to my total satisfaction.  And maybe there was supposed to be such a part but it was missing.  Missing on the loco AND from the exploded view parts diagram. ;)  No, I think it was an inexcusable screw up. :facepalm:  But stay tuned, we're not done. ;) :D

I'm not having cutout issues with mine but I do have what I would describe as surging issues.  It is at its worst between speed steps 35-45 and diminishing to nearly imperceptible the further away from that range that you get.  Turning BEMF off did seem to help some but the action was still present.  It seems like it finds the sympathetic frequency of the slinky effect of the couplers and at its worst is REALLY unacceptable.  It isn't nit picking when, in a ten car train, the caboose nearly stops and then blows forward, then nearly stops, then.....  About the only time I've ever seen that effect is when slowly backing down a grade, until now. :  Maybe I've just been lucky with about fifty other locos. ;)

One thing I am suspicious of is the traction tires not seated well although a quick inspection isn't seeing anything glaring in that area.  The loco doesn't have a huge rocking motion like a twisted or really displaced tire might have, but there is the slightest hint of rocking if really looking close, what could be called "being picky".  The real tell that makes me suspicious of the tires is by putting a slight drag on the train with a finger placed on a car in the train, it exhibits a distinct grip then momentary loss of grip, rhythmic with wheel rotation.  And while I'm at it, let me mention that when giving the tires a close look and this issue aside, both tires look like what you might expect on an old, dried out and starting to crack, piece of rubber.  That doesn't give me any warm feelings for the long haul but... :|

I suspect the traction tires will be an issue some day and sooner than later, but also suspect that there may still be a very subtle mechanical issue in the drivers (maybe the traction tires as mentioned above).  I did take a 9 volt battery and while holding the thing upside down, ran it and watched the drivers turn with nothing evident and then used the battery to jog it around in small increments, checking that all axles are free, not bound, and nothing troubling surfaced with that inspection.  Then, because I was changing the pilot to the coupler assembly, a nice feature (credit where it's due), I went ahead and split the frame, took the worm out, reassembled and rolled the wheels.  Nothing seemed awry, rolling freely.  I'm not absolutely sure that if there was a slight quartering issue in the rear axle drivers (none visibly evident), because they have the traction tires and are only driven by the side rods, if that could cause a slight rhythmic bind enough to cause these issues.  I don't have any strong feeling that there's anything there but as the obvious possibilities are exhausted that may need to be revisited. 

Additionally, I'm not really impressed with the start and stop.  It runs at a decently low speed but it does start and stop to that speed abruptly.  I did try setting the start voltage to 0 from the factory setting of 1 and it changed it but didn't really work well, smoothly.  My four DCC Bachmann steamers with their infamous factory decoders will put this to shame in that regard.  Really! :)

That pretty much describes where I am at this point and what follows is where I expect to go next, when I get the time and the ambition.

I will look at BEMF parameters but in their guide the only mention of settings for that is on or off.  I am pretty new at this DCC stuff.  I'm OK at using the controller to change CV's and following instructions but my limited experience (and Digitrax and BLI's instructions) has me fearing going too far there.  My layout as purchased came with a PR-3 for connecting to the computer and I just started to get that set up to use for programming.  I've downloaded JMRI but haven't set the drivers nor connected to the track yet.  I'm suspicious that BEMF parameters MAY be able to be identified and possibly adjusted with that setup.  From what I've been able to read it may be the answer to the start abruptness and maybe even the surging, although I haven't completely ruled out the possibility of some mechanical issue as well. 

That's my story.  :D

Oh, and both of these models do look really good!   8)
« Last Edit: March 01, 2018, 03:16:25 AM by narrowminded »
Mark G.

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Re: BLI M1a/b performance issues
« Reply #9 on: March 01, 2018, 02:58:06 AM »
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Narrowminded, if you want to be messing around with the M1, you might want to take the decoder out of the equation (bypass it), because even in DC mode, the motor is still driven by the decoder's PWM motor driver.  Run it as a straight-DC loco. That will show you which are the real mechanical issues.
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narrowminded

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Re: BLI M1a/b performance issues
« Reply #10 on: March 01, 2018, 03:32:33 AM »
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Narrowminded, if you want to be messing around with the M1, you might want to take the decoder out of the equation (bypass it), because even in DC mode, the motor is still driven by the decoder's PWM motor driver.  Run it as a straight-DC loco. That will show you which are the real mechanical issues.

Very good idea.  I won't be messing with it again too soon because I've got a small vacation I'm heading out on and have enough other things occupying time even when I get back but that may very well be the next step.  It sure would prove which side of that line the issue is on. 8)  Thanks, Pete. :)
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Re: BLI M1a/b performance issues
« Reply #11 on: March 01, 2018, 10:39:53 AM »
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I'm thinking to buy the BLI M1 but reading this I now wonder if others are find issues with this loco and if so what concerns should I have.
Rick

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Re: BLI M1a/b performance issues
« Reply #12 on: March 01, 2018, 02:23:03 PM »
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I'm thinking to buy the BLI M1 but reading this I now wonder if others are find issues with this loco and if so what concerns should I have.
Rick

Maybe follow this thread a little and see what develops.  It would not be my intention to totally bad mouth their products and the thing IS a nice looking model.  The sound seems decent although that's not something I have a lot of experience with so don't put too much stock in my opinion on that.  The shame is, for all that's right about it, the thing like the rod clearance just becomes a WTF moment.  Then add the "surging" and.... 

I HAVE seen a lot of very satisfied purchasers' reports which is what I based my purchases on.  It might also be of note that this far, the two of us who have posted with some problems have the second run(?) Paragon 3 units where just above there is a very satisfied purchaser of multiple units from the first run(?), Paragon 2. 

If the rod spacing proves to be a repeat problem (it's a hard part problem and the same on both sides on mine so suspect it will be) I think there will be an easy factory fix for that and if not, I have one and could help somebody with that.  I would not recommend just bending them because the amount of bend needed (over 1/32") will be a LOT and will show IMO.  If it was a very slight interference, sure, bend it a little but that's not what mine was.  And the surging issue may be just a program issue, maybe the decoder, or maybe mechanical as noted above but that's yet to be finally diagnosed, at least by me.  Watch and see what happens.  Again, it's a very nice model otherwise which is part of what makes this such a shame. :|
Mark G.

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Re: BLI M1a/b performance issues
« Reply #13 on: March 01, 2018, 04:12:42 PM »
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All of that critiquing, especially on a model with so many good reports, could make a soul seem to be a little over the top, nit picking, and just plain cranky. ;)  In this case a picture is worth a thousand words and I think they will show the validity of the raised issues. 8) 

In the first it shows the spacer.  Look at the second wheel on both sides where the piston rod connects.  The side rods are against the wheel then there is a space, then the piston rod connects.  That space which is black is the spacer I made.  Without the spacer that rod floated in and out on that drive pin by that amount  It's .036" long which still left ample free running clearance.  If you follow that rod forward to the cylinder you will notice that it is bent outward slightly, by me, and take note of the forward wheel pins that those rods have to clear.  I think the problem becomes evident if you envision removing that spacer and allowing the rod to drift inward towards the wheel by that amount and with a straight rod.  Also keep in mind that those crankpins on the front wheel do turn and must pass the rod twice per revolution, once much closer to the cylinder end and once much closer to center wheel end.  You could not bend the linkage far enough to clear at both ends without it looking seriously messed up (techy speak). :)  It hit enough to bind solidly and is what I suspect happened to somebody else's M1 with the crashed crosshead and linkage photos.

The second picture hopefully is clear enough to show what I was talking about with the traction tire looking like old, dried out rubber, starting to show cracks.  That is a concern for the future.  I may investigate getting a wheel without traction tires although the pulling power may be too badly compromised.  I will have to look at that in better detail later due to the intermittent grip and surging issue that is not resolved yet.  If they ultimately fail I will probably make new ones rather than screw with factory parts.  We've seen what they look like and how they act. ;) :D

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« Last Edit: March 01, 2018, 04:33:26 PM by narrowminded »
Mark G.

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Re: BLI M1a/b performance issues
« Reply #14 on: March 01, 2018, 05:31:06 PM »
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And I finally found the older thread where the crashed linkage was discussed and I was referring to from memory. Here it is.

https://www.therailwire.net/forum/index.php?topic=43153.0
Mark G.