New BLI F3 and F7 - Read this review before purchasing!

kverdon Jun 11, 2018

  1. W Neal

    W Neal TrainBoard Member

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    Kinda makes you question the sd40s they are working on eh?
     
    drbnc likes this.
  2. Tom Middleton

    Tom Middleton New Member

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    I purchased the PRR F3 a-b unites and this is my first BLI purchase. First I tested them at the Hobby shop due to the warnings posted and the powered A unite ran well. I then brought it home and have been running it with a few cars for some time now. The first thing I did was to add weight to any open areas in the frame, I even removed the cab interior and filled it with weights. I was able to add a full ounce which improved the pulling power greatly. I will probably add thrust washers to the sloppy idler gears in the trucks in the near future. So far I am pleased with the BLI N scale F3's but time will tell.
     
  3. drbnc

    drbnc TrainBoard Member

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    What did you use for weights? I have some tungsten putty due in today, was going to try that.
     
  4. drbnc

    drbnc TrainBoard Member

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    Yup... and Nope! from me. IM, FVM and Kato from now on.
     
  5. drbnc

    drbnc TrainBoard Member

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    Thrust washers - 0.004" thick aluminum with a 0.040" hole. You can see these towards the bottom of the truck. Fiddly to install. I have another idea I want to try - a shim on each side of the inside of the truck, shimming all loose gears at once.

     
  6. drbnc

    drbnc TrainBoard Member

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    Well. Just got a response from BLI.

    "Contrary to what you might have read on the internet - there is not a tooling issue with the gears, I just looked at a complete truck inside and out. We leave side-to-side play on the shoulders so the model can negotiate curves, but even at the most extreme scenario (shoving one gear all the way to one side and shoving the other all the way to the other side) there is still 50 percent or more of the width of the teeth meshing.

    "We have not had a single call or Email about this to date, but if you'd like to send one or both of your models in for us to examine the gears under warranty we would be happy to do that."
     
    BNSF FAN likes this.
  7. Tom Middleton

    Tom Middleton New Member

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    I used a combination of Tungsten weights from "Maximum Velocity" and Tungsten 1/8 rod which I had to break off into lengths to fit in recesses, plus 1/8 sheets of soft (lead type material) weight which I cut to fit. The 1/8 rod and sheet material I have had for years and may be hard to find. The tungsten putty was not heavy enough for me to obtain a full ounce but I'm sure it will help. I hope this helps.
     
    drbnc likes this.
  8. jbonkowski

    jbonkowski TrainBoard Member

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    Tungsten 1/8" rod is used in welding, so it is not hard to find. Both it and lead sheet are readily available online.

    I find it odd that BLI is claiming zero complaints have been made to them when Spookshow found problems so easily. Has no one complained to them directly? Maybe Spookshow has some kind of pre-production samples? Or maybe the trucks that BLI have are pre-production and don't have the problem? My units arrive today so I can see for myself.

    I have first run PCM sound equipped engines that misbehave (stopping and starting again) on track that is not absolutely perfect. I can't run them at all on my club layout. This is not a new issue. I took out the decoder once and replaced it with a different brand (non sound), and the engine ran well. I've thought about adding a "keep alive" capacitor to one to see if that makes the sound decoder handle bumpy track any better.

    My theory is that the bubble wrap is used to keep the antenna wire away from the circuit board underneath in an attempt to improve the range of the DC master sound triggering device. This may have been done with no thought given to potential longer term thermal issues. If you are not planning to use the remote control DC sound device, go ahead and remove the bubble wrap and even the blue wire if you want. The wire has insulation like almost all wires do, so the bubble wrap is not keeping anything from shorting. Many may find the space better used to increase the weight for pulling power.

    Jim
     
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  9. drbnc

    drbnc TrainBoard Member

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    As far as I know, Spookshow got his about the same time as I did, release versions. I've been wondering about that sound transmitter. RF at 915 MHz. Could play nasty with decoders if it's not shielded properly, and that antenna is really close to the dcc board. And why not Kapton instead of bubble wrap?

    Based on their email to me, 50% gear face mesh is acceptable (the wandering gear shafts must also be acceptable). So be it. I'll fix them myself, and be done with BLI.
     
  10. umtrr-author

    umtrr-author TrainBoard Member

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    Considering that Mark gave the venerable Minitrix F-units-- first manufactured in 1966!-- a "B" an "F" on these is really saying something.

    Mark usually pays for these out of his own pocket and sometimes resells them on eBay. I'm grateful that he's willing to take a huge hit on the resale value of these items in order to provide his review for us.
     
    mtntrainman likes this.
  11. randgust

    randgust TrainBoard Member

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    o be perfectly honest, on a B-B unit you don't need any lateral gear movement. You might on a C-C so that the middle axle has some help, but on a B-B all it is is trouble. And separate gear shafts that can travel laterally out of the holes, well, no excuse there. Trix did that since 1968 and made it difficult to test run chassis with the shell off as truck pins loved to wander off sideways.

    I do have to say though, being the resident Luddite DC user, that while I was at my table at Altoona last year, I kept hearing air horns in the distance, and it was so realistic I thought the hall doors were open to the outside and I was hearing NS. It was really good. I finally couldn't take it any more and searched it out, as even with all the sound-equipped units in the room, this was different. It was over on one of the big portable layouts, and was an L&N E6 unit, apparently BLI, with the most outrageously realistic air horn features I've ever heard. The kid that was running it was having a ball, and he knew how to use it, too. And he ran it all afternoon, hard.

    My own theory of reliability:

    Performance = ((Pickup wheels + drive wheels) * Weight ) - (unnecessary features * difficulty of maintenance)
     
    Last edited: Jun 13, 2018
    drbnc likes this.
  12. santa fe 56

    santa fe 56 TrainBoard Member

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    Again thanks Mark and Spookshow…. Had the $$ and one in my hot little hands Saturday in Omaha…. decided to wait to go home and see what Mark had to say… already had read his first review and now very glad I did not pull the trigger….. I wonder though if you could run these with other units to make up for the problems…?
     
  13. jbonkowski

    jbonkowski TrainBoard Member

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    Kapton tape is very thin. They are probably using bubble wrap to get the antenna a few millimeters up away from the board to improve reception. That would take many many layers of Kapton tape.

    The antenna won't effect the decoder by being close to it. The antenna is for receiving, not broadcasting, so the signals at 915 MHz are very low.

    Heh. It just occurred to me that some DCC users are offended by the bubble wrap, which is present to make a DC function work better. It's like when the DC-only guys are annoyed that weight was removed to make room for DCC decoders, but in reverse!

    Jim
     
  14. drbnc

    drbnc TrainBoard Member

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    The DCC board/antenna in the loco is _transmitting_ - that's why there are transmit power level adjustments (via CV). DCC board sends the motor load to the subwoofer. Nothing comes back to the loco.

    915 MHz can affect the small SMD devices on the board. As to the bubble wrap, that's just odd. Too may alternatives available.
     
  15. randgust

    randgust TrainBoard Member

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    Given that the easiest thing in the world to do to improve N performance is to add weight for both tractive effort and electrical reliability, it's rather odd that there would be any space left over inside at all.

    If you managed to find enough space to get another full ounce of weight in there, I'd add that in as a design flaw in my book.
     
    drbnc likes this.
  16. EMD F7A

    EMD F7A TrainBoard Member

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    Received mine from the big store back east... must have been DROPPED as the lift rings were splayed, and the numberboard whacked, front step missing paint, nose grab tweaked (white plastic flashing showing). UGH. Ran fine on a 2’ rest straight but god knows about real running...
     

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  17. drbnc

    drbnc TrainBoard Member

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    Wow. Those have to be returned, no exceptions.
     
  18. drbnc

    drbnc TrainBoard Member

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    Just one last thing from me on this. I did receive a follow-up email from them after my second email (somewhere above). I will say that they are VERY responsive to customer satisfaction, going so far as offering to replace BOTH of my A/B sets with new, tested units. Maybe because I was nice in my response...

    Anyway, I turned them down (but thanked them for their offer and responsiveness), since my F7 set in undergoing mods for weight and gear alignment, F3 set soon to follow. I don't want to nullify any chance I might have with them in the future should I need repairs, and I don't think the person I was corresponding with was responsible for their engineering. Customer service is not fun, so I just made it easier for them to go home and forget the day. [​IMG]

    I hate being on the other end of "those" phone calls, deserved or not.

    In the end, it's just a hobby.
     
    Pie39 likes this.
  19. MK

    MK TrainBoard Member

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    No question I would send it back. That doesn't look like new to me!
     
  20. W Neal

    W Neal TrainBoard Member

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    Had some nice correspondence with BLI today. They are offering to fix my problem postage paid.
     

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