Bachmann Message Board

Discussion Boards => Large => Topic started by: DChinn on April 05, 2007, 04:11:43 PM



Title: new locomotives
Post by: DChinn on April 05, 2007, 04:11:43 PM
If there should be a new large steam loco in the process, might we expect it to be 1:20.1 scale or some other?    Dan


Title: Re: new locomotives
Post by: JerryB on April 05, 2007, 06:41:19 PM
If there should be a new large steam loco in the process, might we expect it to be 1:20.1 scale or some other?    Dan
Do you mean after the previously announced 1:20.3 scale (Fn3) K-27?

Some wish lists and suggestions go by from time to time, but I don't think Bachmann has made any specific announcements of new LS locomotives. The arrival date for the K-27 seems to be somewhere in the foreseeable future.

I'm hoping for a 1:20.3 scale, modernized version of the 4-4-0, the Centennial 2-6-0 or a 2-8-0. Can anyone say NCNG #5 or #8? Lots of room on my RR for a 1900s engines to pull those 1900 to 1930s boxcars and hoppers.

Happy RRing,
Jerry Bowers


Title: Re: new locomotives
Post by: Tim Brien on April 05, 2007, 07:36:06 PM
Dan,
       all of Bachmann's projected locomotives will be in 1/20.3 scale.  The K-27 has been announced but due contractual comitments with Soundtraxx (Blackstone) the company is unable to discuss the project.  anticipated release is late this year,  in time for Christmas.


       Bachmann has also announced a rerelease of their excellent 4-4-0 locmotive in actual 'period' pant schemes.  Although many over the past few years have requested a modernised version of the loco,  Bachmann has decided to release this loco with just a new coat of paint,  without any tooling alterations.



      Apart from the K-27 release,  I would not expect any new production items to be announced,  other than repaints of existing tooling.   The K-27 will certainly tax the budget dollars for Bachmann and this loco,  will,  I believe,  curtail future new production for many years to come.


Title: Re: new locomotives
Post by: Guilford Guy on April 05, 2007, 10:37:34 PM
WOW TIM PANT SCHEMES! MUST BE WORTH A  LOT ;D ;D ;D
I am anticipating the K-27 even though I am a standard gauge modeler. I hope the price won't skyrocket though  :-[


Title: Re: new locomotives
Post by: Tim Brien on April 06, 2007, 03:01:15 PM
Alex,
       I certainly hope that the engineer and fireman are suitably attired with the correct period 'pants' to go with the new period 'paint' scheme.


Title: Re: new locomotives
Post by: traindude109 on April 06, 2007, 05:49:06 PM
I really want a K-27. I hope they do come out by Christmas. Throw in a Sierra Sound System and perfect!


Title: Re: new locomotives
Post by: Tim Brien on April 06, 2007, 07:22:53 PM
Matt,
        unless Bachmann have 'learned their lesson' on the 3-truck Shay,  then the sound will be more like a Bachmannierra sound.   I fail to see,  apart from sound system manufacturer reluctance,  why a manufacturer cannot install a quality aftermarket sound as an option.  Why do we have to get a system which is simply not up to the task (and apparently badly installed in the first instance)?


Title: Re: new locomotives
Post by: Tony Walsham on April 06, 2007, 08:41:49 PM
Matt,
        unless Bachmann have 'learned their lesson' on the 3-truck Shay,  then the sound will be more like a Bachmannierra sound.   I fail to see,  apart from sound system manufacturer reluctance,  why a manufacturer cannot install a quality aftermarket sound as an option.  Why do we have to get a system which is simply not up to the task (and apparently badly installed in the first instance)?

Tim,
That is a rhetorical question, right? :'(


Title: Re: new locomotives
Post by: Tim Brien on April 06, 2007, 10:06:11 PM
Tony,
        many are aware that the current stock sound system from Bachmann is simply not adequate, with lack of adjustment,  restricted remote control capability and generally not what was anticipated from a respected sound unit manufacturer.  How much of what we did get was a result of politics or economics, from either manufacturer,  will be shown, if the K-27 arrives with the 'basic' sound unit.



      The 1/20.3 scale market is quickly establishing itself as a ready scale for remote control operation.  If the mikado arrives with no such capability then Bachmann's intent will be obvious.


Title: Re: new locomotives
Post by: Steve Stockham on April 07, 2007, 12:10:32 PM
For myself (and I suspect, a great many r/c battery folks), the issue is not whether the K-27 will come with a Tsunami option but whether this "option" won't be optional! :o  As it currently stands, the DCC sound system "utilizing Tsunami technology" doesn't have any way to interface with r/c systems and doesn't have any external triggers.
  It has been feared that Bachmann will offer the K-27 with the new DCC sound system on all of their models! If this indeed happens then it could be even more of a problem for those of us that use r/c  than we first believed. Some DCC experts have purported that the unit (I'm going to call it "Quasinami") is integral to the correct running of the motor. In essence, if you rip out the "Quasinami" then the motor won't run right! :(
  Johann, please please please, if you are reading this thread, please convey to the main office our grave misgivings if this is indeed the plan! Use this new system if you must but please give us the option for K-27's without sound included!


Title: Re: new locomotives
Post by: Bud Steinhoff on April 07, 2007, 03:16:17 PM
I am anxiously waiting for the K and would hope that it is available without any sound or DCC goodies.
I just want a plain K so I can put my stuff in it.
Bud


Title: Re: new locomotives
Post by: JLyans on April 09, 2007, 01:30:34 AM
If anyone at Bachmann cares or is counting, I would like to put in a vote for NO sound system or at least an optional sound system. There are just too many variables, individual preferences and system requirements to make everyone happy. Spend the money on a great motor and drive train and leave the sound system to the buyer.  

John Lyans


Title: Re: new locomotives
Post by: Barry BBT on April 09, 2007, 01:42:22 AM
I second the motion/notion that no sound is better than having to pay for the wrong or inapplicable sound.  I too am an R/C devotee (see: Mafia member), any electronic hardware coming my way that I have to pay for will discount the attractiveness of the item I am wanting to purchase.

The R/C group is not as vocal as we should become.  It is not significantly noticed that we are an active group of some number who are not as avidly represented by the likes of the nmra folks who are promoting DCC.  This makes the nmra adversarial to us and not representative of the hobby, in our case.  If my feelings about nmra are negative, it is because they are promoting an aspect of the hobby which does me no good, in fact may effect my purse strings.   

Barry - BBT 


Title: Re: new locomotives
Post by: Hunt on April 09, 2007, 02:25:58 AM
It is truly unfortunate that much of what is posted here and a few other places by some of the large-scale model railroading R/C group is adversarial in tone and theme. A lot of opinions sadly are blunt threats.

Why can not the R/C members state their requirements and concerns in a constructive manner to a manufacturer without the slurs and attempt at intimidation?   

 Yes, I have some large-scale trains that I enjoy.


Title: Re: new locomotives
Post by: Tim Brien on April 09, 2007, 09:44:44 AM
Hunt,
        I see nothing adversarial about asking for the same arrangement that DCC users seem to have with upcoming Bachmann releases.  I have no need for R/c or for DCC for that matter and yet I am required to pay additional for electronic equipment that I simply do not intend using.  I have many wizz-bang decoder-equipped LGB locomotives that will never see a digital command.  By supplying a decoder, LGB implies that the user will use their dcc variation and so use of their sound system in analogue degrades the quality of the sound and the company removes the stationary sound capacitors so additional expense is required,  unless minimal voltage retained at the railhead to activate those sounds.


        I would hope that Bachmann does not go the way of LGB and only offer dcc equipped locomotives, with their own 'modified' version of what a budget sound system should be.  Requesting a baseline analogue loco is not being intimidating or being adversarial.  Implying that it may be so, is in itself intimidatory.


Title: Re: new locomotives
Post by: Kevin Strong on April 09, 2007, 12:29:36 PM
... Some DCC experts have purported that the unit (I'm going to call it "Quasinami") is integral to the correct running of the motor. In essence, if you rip out the "Quasinami" then the motor won't run right! :( ... 

I'd have to disagree with the "experts" on this one. (A) A simple DC motor doesn't care what the voltage looks like coming into it, it merely needs to be some form of DC. (B) Anything other than a simple DC motor would cost significantly more money. (C) Bachmann ain't about spending money. Is the motor in the DCC-compatible Shay any different than any of the other motors? Probably not in the least.

That's not to say the electronics controlling the motor wouldn't be particular, but if you're installing R/C, chances are good you're going to rip out all the electronics anyway.

Later,

K


Title: Re: new locomotives
Post by: Steve Stockham on April 09, 2007, 01:06:18 PM
  Obviously, we will have to wait until Bachmann is cleared to talk about the K-27 (absolutely incredible that WE can discuss it, know it's approximate arrival date, argue about what will or won't be included, make suggestions, etc... and Bachmann is precluded from even mentioning the K-27!! :-X)
  It's interesting that DCC pundits see our postings of our reservations as "hostile"(!) "Threats?" No threats. Just a simple statement of our position and our probable reaction should Bachmann ignore a significant portion of the largescale buying public!
  Other manufacturers have tried to introduce "proprietary" systems only to have the buying public reject them! I would hope that Bachmann's executives would not make the same mistake as those other manufacturers. Since I'm not going to change your opinion, I guess we will just have to agree to disagree.  :)


Title: Re: new locomotives
Post by: David Buckingham on April 09, 2007, 05:01:13 PM
Hi Folks
I have a very large system indoors with 60+ locos and 20+ railcars I run 2 3 or four engine trains often from storage tracks started by closed circuit television there is NO way I can have DCC and if a loco has it fitted new I wont buy it.

Having said that I have bought four Bachmann railcars so far but to bash them to what I want must rip out all the electronics

I have four engines with soundtraxx and have to keep them at the edge of the baseboard because of the switches the 25 others with full sound are Phoenix because they do not need switches and I like them anyhow
Dave


Title: Re: new locomotives
Post by: dougdodd on April 10, 2007, 12:07:02 AM
Everyone has their preferance and we want the manufactures to build what we want. The reality is that Bachmann will build what most people will buy, not what a small group insists upon having. Any one group of railroaders, weather they are into DCC, battery, DC or RC is a minority and we all must make a buying decision based on what fits our needs best.
If Bachmann makes something that you don't want or can't use then don't buy it. But don't be mad because it wasn't built to your specs. My buying decisions are made by looking at a model and seeing if it can be modified to work for me.

Just my thoughts on the subject
Doug Dodd


Title: Re: new locomotives
Post by: Steve Stockham on April 10, 2007, 07:20:28 AM
Doug,
  With all due respect, the only thing I am advocating here is for a K-27 to be built without sound as an option! Anything more and I'm paying for something I don't need or want! If Bachmann wants to promote this new OEM DCC sound system then that's what they will do but it doesn't work with my r/c battery set up! Please don't forget our segment of the "buying public"! That's all.
David,
  Can you clarify why you need switches for Soundtraxx but not for Phoenix? (I'm confused...)


Title: Re: new locomotives
Post by: Matthew (OV) on April 10, 2007, 03:07:46 PM
Steve:

He's talking about the Phoenix auto shut-down, vice the power switch on the Sierra system.

Others:  If the K-27 arrives with a proprietary drive system and sound that cannot be removed to allow conventional or R/C operation, as rabid a fan of the project as I've been since its inception, I will not buy one.  Instead I'll take the money it'd take to buy and throw away equipment I can't use, and put it with the money for the major surgery to replace things like the motor and/or gearbox, and buy a locomotive that doesn't require that kind of headache.  And, that the proprietary DCC sound and control system allows some limited functionality or use with conventional control, or some kind of limited adaptability to R/C will not change my mind.

I can't imagine that while it's certainly not applaudatory, that my position could be construed as a threat of any kind. 

I suppose that if there really were an overwhelming majority of large scalers who used traditional track power and/or R/C compared to the number of those who use DCC,  that there might be a problem... but if there really were any chance that this locomotive's success would be jeopardized by making it impractical for the majority of potential customers and users, there's no way Bachmann would ever even consider making it that way, right?

What I don't get is why DCC people can't add their decoders and sound the way everyone else adds R/C and/or sound.... or not.  That way nobody has to feel threatened, and everyone gets what works best for them .... though I suppose the proprietors of the proprietary stuff might have to find another avenue to make money. 

Tell you what.  Just to be sporting... I'll sign up to pay a $25.00 surcharge NOT to have proprietary unremovable DCC in my locomotive.  It's not the $100.00 that a quasainami would fetch, and it's not however much more than that the exclusive proprietary drive would bring in .... but on the bright side, the proprietors would get their money without the expense of actually designing and building anything ... and who knows, we might actually get our locomotives by Christmas that way too!

Sheesh.

Matthew (OV)


Title: Re: new locomotives
Post by: David Buckingham on April 10, 2007, 05:22:59 PM
Phoenix do not need an off switch
Soundtraxx drain battery very quickly so switch is needed.

As I cant reach most of mine I use Phoenix

I dont mind if DCC is included as long as provision is made to bypass it.

Same with the cut down sound system would bypass that.

OK if did not have to pay for it as it is scrap to me.

Still the vast Mojority are DC
Dave


Title: Re: new locomotives
Post by: Steve Stockham on April 15, 2007, 08:35:54 PM
Ah! Thanks for the clarification on the Phoenix/Sierra issue. Kevin, I've done some research and apparently there is something called SUSI which is used in 0 Scale in which the DCC system interfaces with the motor! It is an integral part of the motor and when removed, seriously degrades the operation of the motor!
  If anybody has any experience with this please chime in! There have been "rumblings" that certain people are pushing Bachmann to introduce something like this in Large Scale. If this is indeed the case and there are no provisions for models without this system, then it could be a fiasco of major proportions! This K-27 is a BIG gamble for Bachmann! They need this one to be a grand slam and foisting off a new system that alienates a segment of the buying public would be........."inadvisable" in the extreme!


Title: Re: new locomotives
Post by: Hunt on April 16, 2007, 12:45:43 AM
Steve,
Using DCC … a  DCC decoder interfaces with the motor’s brushes and output from the decoder controls the motor --- always has.

The purpose of the SUSI interface is to facilitate a connection to a locomotive decoder and provide better control of sound and other function modules. The quality of the sound effects depends on the SUSI module used and not on the decoder controlling the locomotive’s movement.  This allows select of the motor control for the model and the sound one wants even if they are from different manufacturers provided each supports SUSI .  Thus SUSI is a way not to have all the controls of features and functions built into a single DCC decoder.

Here is some technical info about SUSI (Serial User Standard Interface)  http://www.tonystrains.com/download/man_susi_1.31.pdf (http://www.tonystrains.com/download/man_susi_1.31.pdf)

Steve, I again suggest you, and the like minded, drop the adversarial tone and theme. State in a positive manner the specific features and functions you would like a large-scale product from Bachmann to have.


Title: Re: new locomotives
Post by: David Buckingham on April 16, 2007, 01:45:57 AM
I would like to see a central board in a loco for plugs or screw connecters.
You plug in
Motor
Track/battery/radio control/DCCetc
Sound

This would mean you covered all bases without having to rip out most of the wiring.
If all were routed through the plug board it would be very easy to change opitions.
Another point if the manufacturer wanted to supply sound and  or DCC
separatly all you would have to do is plug it in

I think it would also be easier for the manufacturer as he could say it is ready for everything without hassle and maybe even cheaper to produce this way.
Any thoughts on this method folks
Dave


Title: Re: new locomotives
Post by: Steve Stockham on April 16, 2007, 12:20:23 PM
Hunt,
  Adversarial to whom? Bachmann? No. IF there are certain individuals that are pushing to have this new system installed in every largescale model engine (starting with the K-27) then I would like to positively state my objections!!!
  Seriously though, my only request is that the models come with a soundless option so that we "neanderthals" can still use our Sierras with r/c battery without having to rip out something that we had to pay $$$$ for simply because we had no choice! I think it's great that this new technology is being developed! I'm all for those of you that wish to utilize it to have it but please allow those of us that already have something that works well for us to have ours as well! There, that's as positive as I can get until we have some clarification from Bachmann!


Title: Re: new locomotives
Post by: r.cprmier on April 20, 2007, 06:59:33 AM
Guilford Guy;
For what it is worth, I have always maintained that there are two checks and balances in this hobby; one is going to be the demand/supply, but the other is that the majority of hobby spent money is discretionary-that is, I don't know too many people that would spend money on a hobby that should be spent on a higher priority expenditure.

Now, that, coupled witih the aspect of competition-which I am sure can be cutthroat, considering there are at this time, no train-based cartels-should keep the prices pretty well in check.  Maybe I am wrong, but I do have faith.  You and I live in a fairly high-priced part of the country (CT?) and as such, some judicious shopping should be the "mode d'jour".

RIch

RIch


Title: Re: new locomotives
Post by: samevans on May 10, 2007, 08:05:03 AM
I think a vital point is being missed here.  A non X- fitted loco can be fitted whith WHATEVER system after market, that the purchaser desires.  It therefore is more flexible and one is not paying for what one does not want or need.

By all means offer an OEM fitted version at extra cost for those that want it but I would go for a non fited version so that I could tailor the add ons to my specific situation. 

Fitting passive sockets for systems, providing that they do not interfere with the running of the loco if not required is one thing but.....I f I gather correctly not all control/sound systema are compatible (ah  standardised sockets).  Some one will most likely have their nose put out of joint whatever is done.

Sam E   


Title: Re: new locomotives
Post by: Tim Brien on May 11, 2007, 07:31:45 PM
Sam,
        no one is missing anything.  The 'problem' boils down to what camp you are on.  Those with a DCC prediliction are want to favour everything coming out of Bachmann with DCC onboard.  Those who favour track or battery power are saying to Bachmann before you tread this path think of the damage to potential sales.  Part of LGB's woes may be directly attributable to Lehmann stuffing mandatory 'DCC' in our faces and not offering analogue equivalents.  DCC afficiandos are in the minority and yet it seems that a very vocal lobby group is pushing hard for standard fitting of onboard DCC.



            For the majority track/battery power hobbyists,  the 'modified' Sierra-based sound system is woefully inadequate and for battery power followers the sound unit is incompatible.  The future of manufacturers in this hobby is giving the customer what he wants and not making him pay for what the sound manufacturer wants.  A battery user will need to gut the DCC and original factory supplied sound before converting to radio control.  A track power user will need to tolerate the inadequacies of the factory-supplied sound unit (regardless of the positive views expressed by some of the supposed quality of the factory onboard sound unit).



               All people are asking for is the ability to make a choice.  To offer some models only with onboard DCC and sound fitted, as standard, will limit potential sales.  There is no predjudice here about one operating system or another,  simply the right to be able to make a choice and get what one pays for,  without having to gut a loco of redundant factory-supplied 'extras', at cost to the consumer.


Title: Re: new locomotives
Post by: ggbp on June 07, 2007, 10:21:16 PM
I would prefer the option for with/without sound.  I like to watch them run, the sound doesn't really matter to me.  I have no interest in paying extra for something I will not utilize.


Title: Re: new locomotives
Post by: CCSII on June 07, 2007, 11:56:18 PM
A question that I have is:

We have all seen "Bachmann can't talk about it."

The question I have yet seen answered is "When the heck will they be able to talk about it?"

Anyone with an answer to that one?




Title: Re: new locomotives
Post by: Steve Stockham on June 08, 2007, 07:04:01 AM
Well, he would tell you when.......but he can't talk about it! (It's worse than the Govt. and Homeland Security!) ::)


Title: Re: new locomotives
Post by: Skip on June 15, 2007, 07:10:19 AM
One of the significant business decisions for Bachmann in this dcc or no debate is  warranty liability. Offering a loco without their own supplementary electronics, but intended to accept aftermarket equipment is devilish difficult to stickhandle from a cost control basis. If the marketing intention is offer a high end product with state of the art (always relative to price point), then the manufacturing decision has to centre around a stable product with as a low a mean-time-to-failure as can be reasonably achieved for the market value.  High warranty costs mean no profit, or a return on investment so far down the road as to not be an appropriate investment at all.

This is the danger of offering a bare-bones model, equipped with plugs for other things.  Few companies are willing to make the investment to exhaustively test all of the possible combinations that consumers might come up with.  Making simple warranty statements that your warranty is void if you do this or that, is not enough protection in most places. Legal wrangling over whether or not the combo didn't work, and whose fault the damage is, is very costly.  The computer industry learned this the hard way, and is why you get no help usually when you've mixed and matched.

The optimum situation would be a model with an electronics package that is independent of motor systems (ie not integral with the motor system), coupled with a design that gives room and board or plug access, and GOOD documentation as to the wiring and electrical characteristics of the motor system that is plug and play for the dcc users.  This model could be sold both with and without the electro package, and the package could be an option.  The key is engineering forethought for acccessibility.

  From a marketing/manufacturing perspective, the difficulty is how clear is your crystal ball - how many combo units will be sold, how many plain, how many add-on kits.  Add-on kits from your own house add A LOT to the support cost of the product, because you don't get to train the installers.  Most of these products are sold at deep discounts from MSRP - that means there's no extra cash for hand holding, and the offshore manufacturing deals that make it all possible have little provision in the business plan for fall back on the manufacturer to fix the current line -they can only retool for the next runs.  If the first runs return no investment, there may not be subsequent runs.

The reality for the makers of plug and play DCC trains is they are building for an entirely different market than most of you guys - In most hobby areas where modern computerized electronics are coming in, most buyers want ready to run - they have neither the knowledge, skills or time to be bothered messing with the hardware - they just want it to run reliably.  Same logic as currently exists with the family car- not many of us anymore spend much time under the hood if we drive anything made since 1990.

Then end result is fast becoming "disposable" hardware with a higher price point.  Meade did it with their ETX series telescopes and its happening in the ham radio area, and the current state of the radio control hobby reflects exactly the same thing.  The sad reality is the hobby tinkerer is no longer a viable market - the hardware sophistication has outrun the competence of most consumers.


Title: Re: new locomotives
Post by: Tim Brien on June 15, 2007, 08:27:58 PM
Skip,
       all very profound,  but the bottom line is no matter how complicated we make things,  manufacturers are really unable to service those items that do fail.  Many found out the hard way with the 3-truck Shay when they were shunted between Bachmann and Sierra when their sound system failed.   Bachmann was the only supplier of the sound board as it is unique to Bachmann.  Purchasers believed that they were buying a Sierra sound board,  not a corruption of Sierra technology.


      It seems to me that you are stating that a fully sound/DCC equipped factory supplied locomotive is going to be more reliable than a consumer 'optioned' model.  This I find a little difficult to swallow.  I do not want DCC on any model.  If a sound unit is supplied then I want it to be a quality sound board,  not a manipulation of another manufacturer's technology.


     Today's hobby is certainly more user 'ready to run' mentality and with the increase in complexity,  the 'modellor' (for want of a better word) is no longer able to rip a loco apart and do what he wants to it.  The production standards set by the current 3-truck Shay lead me to believe that with increasing complexity will come increasing unreliability.  Is this the route that modellors have chosen or are manufacturers trying to compete with the computer technology world of ipods, mobile phones, computer games, etc.?  It seems more of a technology ego-based trip for manufactuers and a downslide for the end-user.


Title: Re: new locomotives
Post by: Skip on June 15, 2007, 09:47:36 PM
Skip,
       all very profound,  but the bottom line is no matter how complicated we make things,  manufacturers are really unable to service those items that do fail.  Many found out the hard way with the 3-truck Shay when they were shunted between Bachmann and Sierra when their sound system failed.   Bachmann was the only supplier of the sound board as it is unique to Bachmann.  Purchasers believed that they were buying a Sierra sound board,  not a corruption of Sierra technology.

Being unable to service is the consequence of either a bad business decision, or economies of scale that simply didn't allow for sufficient reserve for the product issues.  I can't speak directly for Bachmann about the Sierra situation, but the experience is consistent with designing a product using third party expertise to to value add certain features within a target price point/manufacturing/distribution cost.   I would guess that customers were buying a Sierra sound board (don't own one myself), just not a Sierra retail board, but one custom engineered for Bachmann by Sierra, and likely to meet a lower price point for the overall package as compared to installing a retail package.  I have no knowledge where the boards are installed (or even made), but an engineering trade-off may have had to have been made if the boards had to be shipped to the manufacturing plant in China for installation by "unskilled" assemblers, or the cost of installation of the board separately into units arriving from offshore factored into the final pricing.  I doubt Bachmann has released the sales figures - its difficult to know if the overall satisfaction of the combo unit is better or worse than has been experienced within the range of satisfaction of some unhappy users.   

Quote
      It seems to me that you are stating that a fully sound/DCC equipped factory supplied locomotive is going to be more reliable than a consumer 'optioned' model.  This I find a little difficult to swallow.  I do not want DCC on any model.  If a sound unit is supplied then I want it to be a quality sound board,  not a manipulation of another manufacturer's technology.

 That is, or is expected to be, the situation in an properly engineered and executed loco within a certain price context, simply because the manufacturer has considerably more control over the design and compatibility factors in the product's manufacture.  Sometimes, the engineering doesn't get done. Reliability is higher, generally,  when the match-up of components has been carefully and properly done.  What has been eliminated are the variables of installation, and product performance due to unit variation. Of course, it doesn't always work out that way.  But from a manufacturing perspective, the failure variables of an in-house match-up can be better known, costed and accounted for, all of which is important to the company's bottom line during the product life cycle. Additionally, the value-added component that you install yourself and configure and set-up (assuming you want sound too), on a priced comparison is worth more at the manufacturing level, usually, than what the comapny is offering, not necessarily because they are trying to cut corners, but because the marketable price distribution requires a lower production cost than what your homebrew equivalent would be.   

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     Today's hobby is certainly more user 'ready to run' mentality and with the increase in complexity,  the 'modellor' (for want of a better word) is no longer able to rip a loco apart and do what he wants to it.  The production standards set by the current 3-truck Shay lead me to believe that with increasing complexity will come increasing unreliability.  Is this the route that modellors have chosen or are manufacturers trying to compete with the computer technology world of ipods, mobile phones, computer games, etc.?  It seems more of a technology ego-based trip for manufactuers and a downslide for the end-user.

All of the above, I would say.  Reliability in the face of complexity is always a cost/benefit trade-off, and this is very difficult for manufacturers.  The most reliable product in the world is of no use if you can't sell enough of them to cover the cost to make them, so there are always value point decisions to be made based on the best guess marketing can come up with on who will buy it, and what it will cost to support the sales during the market cycle.  The exceptional interest in sound-mimic locos should be enough to convince you that that is where the market demand is indicated.  The part of the market that pays the bills (and its not the forum members here...:) continue to be attracted to funny noises and bright lights, in everything, and thus it has become the technology maker's nightmare to find the right mix for what is an increasingly short market cycle.  You'll note Bachmann's MSRP prices on their product website, and you'll note the huge difference between it and what customers frequently pay.  The MSRP is normally calculated to accommodate the manufacture, distribution, sale and support of the product during its life cycle, and leave a healthy enough margin of return on investment to absorb the indirect cost of doing business along with the direct.  But customers are not paying the MSRP, so products are often short cycled to move inventory at the expense of reserve profit.  Good deals for you and I, but not good for R&D - the part that gets you the better, more reliable product.

I agree with you that the plain unit should be the fundamental sales unit, to which you add the kits you want.  For Bachmann, however, I expect the bigger market in the shay, for example, wants a a no-fuss wannabe mimic that's plug and play.  Ultimately you have to ask yourself - what am I prepared to pay for the unit in the form I want, and can the manufacturer fund the production run from what I want?  For hobbyists, those two things often don't coincide, so in order to supply the hobbyist, the mass market has to pay the bills, and it frequently doesn't want what you want, at the price you're willing to pay.