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Author Topic: Always with the dim headlights Bachmann!  (Read 145 times)

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« on: February 17, 2021, 01:49:57 PM »

I have a new 2-8-0 with Econami DCC/sound, the headlight initially was so dim you had to have a dark room to be surel the light was on. I replaced the LED with a larger, warm white surface mount LED and replaced the light tube and lens with a larger fiber optic strand and home made lens. That made things better but barely acceptable.  Recently I swapped tenders and decoders with a 4-6-0 that I had fitted with an ESU Loksound V5. That 4-6-0 initially had a dim amber LED out of the box with it's OEM Bachmann non-sound DCC decoder which I replaced with the ESU. I changed the LED to a warm white and it was very bright with the ESU decoder.

 I did this decoder exchange as the 2-8-0 Connie is a much better model that deserves a better decoder than an Econami. Out of all 16 Econami whistles, only one was not grating/jarring to my ears and the slow speed response was OK but not great.

To my surprise, the tender/decoder "swap" (really not a swap, a lot of black wire identification, desoldering and resoldering) resulted in an extremely bright headlight on the 2-8-0, so much so that I had to turn down the intensity using programming. 

OTOH, the tender with the Soundtraxx/Econami and Bachmann electronic board that came with the 2-8-0 and now was grafted on the 4-6-0 caused the formerly bright headlight to go very dim, as bad as it was out of the box. 

So it would appear that the PC board to which Bachmann's DCC decoders and Econami decoders are the culprit. Someone has decided that dim headlights are a good thing apparently, or more likely, no thought at all was given and somewhere on that board are very high resistance values in the lighting circuit for no good reason.

Not a problem if you are ripping out the whole shebang including the stock speaker to put in an ESU or other high quality sound decoder but disappointing otherwise. Paying a premium price for a downgraded Soundtraxx decoder also gets you very dim lighting to boot.   

I don't know if the 2-8-0 has a coreless motor like the 4-6-0 but it runs much more smoothly with the Loksound than with the Econami. And the 4-6-0 runs justs as well with the Econami as it did with the Loksound, probably because of that coreless motor.

I am disappointed with the business model that Bachmann (and BLI also) has chosen, ie. you get their product only with DCC/sound and it is not a high-end sound decoder but you do pay a high-end price for it. I imagine that 95%+ of N scalers are happy enough so there is no pressure to change this practice.


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« Reply #1 on: February 18, 2021, 06:59:06 PM »

In case anyone is interested, I've checked the circuit board of the 2-8-0 Econami tender now attached to the 4-6-0 and all I see are two 1500 ohm resistors near the back.  There are 9 pins at the back of the board where the decoder plugs in.  I identified the headlight pins with a multimeter, going from L to R on the decoder,  pins #4 is L- or F0 (white), #5 is L+ (blue common).  I took off the decoder and used a 9V battery with leads to touch these pins.  I got a nice bright light with the battery, but not when the decoder is reinstalled and track power is used.

So I clipped off the headlight leads going from the loco into the 6 pin connector at the front of the board and using ESU decoder wire for extra length, bypassed the circuit board completely, soldering the headlight leads directly to the decoder pin terminals at the back of the board (there is actually a small solder pad at the base of each). I experimented with different resistance values attached to one of the leads.  I scrounged up a few surface mount resistors from old decoders and got a bit more brightness with 500 ohms but not enough, then 270 ohms, better but still not enough, then 210 ohms, no real change. I had a resistor marked 470 which is 47 ohms and went for broke with that.  Figured it would either blow the LED or work. 

So 47 ohms worked! Decent bright headlight, not as bright as I had when the ESU Loksound was wired in to the original 4-6-0 tender but quite acceptable . It seems to me that it is the decoder itself that is putting a low voltage or low current into the lighting circuit and not the circuit board's fault.  They give you 1500 ohms and  you have to reduce it to 47 ohms to get a reasonably bright headlight.
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