Broadway Limited Imports (China) USRA Light & Heavy 2-8-2 Mikados


Introduced: 2019

BLI's gorgeous and smooth-running light and heavy 2-8-2's were released at the same time and share the same basic internals. They all come equipped with factory-installed Paragon3 DCC Sound decoders. They run equally well on analog and DCC layouts (although analog users will need one of BLI's "DC Master" control boxes in order to take advantage of all the sound features). Support is provided for BLI's "Rolling Thunder" external sound system.

The locomotive shell is metal (with numerous press-fit plastic detail parts). The chassis is metal and split-frame. The motor is a closed-sided can, so I can't really comment on its internal specificities (although one would assume that it's a five-poler with skew-winding). The motorshaft is equipped with a large brass flywheel. A plastic "notched cup" u-joint on the end of the motorshaft spins a "spiked donut" connector on the wormshaft. A plastic clip on top of the worm tower holds the worm in place.

Current from the locomotive chassis flows into a PC board screwed to the top of the worm tower. Two wires from the PC board transfer current to the motor and an additional two wires transfer current to an LED board mounted inside the front of the shell. The headlight is white and very bright. Six wires (for track power, motor control and lighting control) run from the PC board, through the drawbar, and ultimately to the decoder in the tender. The wires to the headlight LED board are distressingly short, so it's difficult to get much separation between the locomotive chassis and the shell. Fortunately, the wires are attached to a plug that connects to a socket on the PC board, so disconnecting them looks to be a simple operation. Similarly, the wires running between the locomotive and the tender are fixed inside of a plug that connects to a socket on the decoder board. So, to completely separate the tender and the locomotive you would remove the tender shell, pull out the wiring plug, and then disconnect the drawbar.

All eight drivers provide pickup, although the rearmost pair of drivers is equipped with traction tires and so are probably only marginally effective at collecting current (if they do at all). Current flows from the drivers, to the axles, and then ultimately to the chassis by way of round brass bushings that seat inside cutouts in the frame. The pilot and trailing trucks are electrically neutral. The #2 and #3 axles are geared, whereas the outer two driversets are turned solely by the running gear. Apart from the brass worm, all gearing is plastic.

The pilot is equipped with an operating coupler (I'm not sure what brand, but it looks something like an Accumate). A plastic stud holds the front of the drawbar to the locomotive chassis. The rear of the drawbar has a small spring hooked to it, which is then looped over a post on the tender chasses. The wheels are blackened and low-profile (IE no problems on Atlas Code-55 rails). The pilot and trailing trucks are sprung (whereas the tender trucks are not). Each cylinder has a small notch cut into it that provides extra pivot room for the pilot truck. A small baggie in the box contains a couple of press-fit plastic detail parts that can be used to fill in the notches (for people who don't have narrow radius curves). Said baggie also contains a couple of spare traction tires.

The tender chassis is metal (unlike the tender shell, which is plastic). The coupler is chassis-mounted (and once again, sort of like an Accumate). All-wheel tender truck pickup comes courtesy of pointy-ended axles and dimpled axle-cup wipers. Wires soldered to the axle wipers transfer current to the decoder.

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The Paragon3 DCC-Sound decoder is screwed to two posts inside the tender. As noted previously, wires to the locomotive are attached to a plug that connects to the front of the board. A second wiring harness plugged into the back of the decoder transfers current to the speaker. There is no backup light. There aren't any speaker holes in the chassis (or shell) either, but to be honest, it doesn't really need them. Previous Paragon3 locomotives came with a rather large wire antenna attached to the decoder board (for the Rolling Thunder system) , however I'm not seeing one here. So, I guess that's changed?

The speaker is mounted to a plastic enclosure that seats inside the tender shell -

To remove the speaker enclosure from the shell, simply pull on the wires (don't worry, the wires are glued in place so you can't really hurt them) -

Note that the behavior of the headlight is a little strange (as least as compared to what we're normally used to). When the locomotive is first put on the rails there is no sound and no headlight (regardless of whether F0 is selected or not). The sound comes on once the locomotive starts moving (and stays on until either you mute it with F8 or recycle track power). As for the headlight, that doesn't come on until about three seconds after the locomotive has started moving (and then, like the sound, stays on until you either deselect F0 or recycle track power). The headlight is directional insofar as it will get brighter when moving forward and turn off when moving backward.

Be it in analog or DCC mode, these are impressive runners in virtually all respects. Right out of the box, mine performed flawlessly (no preemptive wheel cleaning or lengthy break-in period required). It ran smoothly and whisper quiet at all normal operating speeds. Slow speed creep (at speed step 1) is one-tie-at-a-time and the top-end speed is reasonable and realistic. Pulling power is respectable, with mine able to handle around 32 assorted freight cars (mostly 40') through curves on level track. Pickup is superb, with mine able to creep through non-powered frog turnouts without so much as a stutter. I didn't have any problems with any of the wheels derailing (even on 9.75"-radius curves). The sound feature is impressive, although most folks may find the default volume settings a bit excessive (as delivered, the thing is obnoxiously loud to my ear). The new couplers seem to function quite well (they readily auto-couple and don't spontaneously come uncoupled).

The only minor issue I encountered with mine is that it runs just slightly unevenly at max throttle and with no cars in tow (exhibiting little micro-surges in speed as it rolls along). I suppose this could be a BEMF thing (although I did try disabling BEMF by setting CV10 to 0). Either that, or I suppose it could be due to the fact that the rear drivers (the ones with the traction tires) are turned by the cranks instead of the gears (thus adding a bit of eccentricity to the drivers). Still another theory is that the issue is caused by one or more of the driver screws being slightly loose (again, resulting in a bit of eccentricity). But in any case, it is such a minor issue that it's barely worth mentioning (and from I've read, most people don't have the problem at all). Overall, these are outstanding lookng models that perform admirably well.

Prototype -

There were 233 original USRA Heavy 2-8-2's built plus another 957 copies (covering 23 railroads). It was an extremely successful design. The USRA Heavy Mikados used pretty much the same running gear as the Light Mike's, but the boilers were 10 inches larger in diameter and they had larger cylinders as well. Tractive effort was about 10% higher for the heavy 2-8-2's. As for the Light Mikados, the USRA built 625 total, with 641 copies built after the USRA ended control. With copies, over 50 railroads used the USRA Light 2-8-2's.

Locomotive Features -

- Paragon3 Sound & Operation System Featuring "Rolling Thunder" with Authentic Sounds and Prototypical Operation in both DC and DCC environments
- Integral DCC Decoder with Back EMF for Industry Best Slow Speed Operation in DC and DCC
- Precision Drive Mechanism engineered for continuous heavy load towing and smooth slow speed operation
- Premium Caliber Painting with Authentic Paint Schemes
- Prototypical Light Operation with Golden White LED Headlight
- Die Cast Body with Die Cast chassis for Maximum Tractive Effort
- Couplers: Microtrains #1015
- Separately Applied Handrails, Ladders, Whistle, and Brass Bell
- Will Operate on Code 55, 70, and 80 Rail
- Recommended Minimum Radius: 9.75 inches

DCC-Sound Features -

- Operates in DC & DCC (use DCMaster for DC Sound)
- Record & Play Operation - Records and plays back sounds and movements once or repeatedly for automatic operation
- 16-bit Sample Rate for exceptional high frequency sound clarity
- Playback Whistle for multiple whistle lengths and patterns
- Choice of 3 selectable Whistles
- Alternate Whistle where applicable - both the main whistle and alternate can be easily played
- Adjustable bell ringing interval for faster or slower bell
- Numerous user-mappable functions with available keys
- Johnson Bar Sound at Direction Change
- Passenger Station Ambient Sounds - Controlled with Function Key
- Freight Yard Ambient Sounds - Controlled with Function Key
- Lumber Yard Ambient Sounds - Controlled with Function Key
- Farm Ambient Sounds - Controlled with Function Key
- Crew Radio Communications - Controlled with Function Key
- Maintenance Yard Ambient Sounds - Controlled with Function Key
- Demo Mode for display and demonstrations
- Grade Crossing Automatic Signal
- Simple Programming with Integral DCC Decoder
- Automatic Forward / Reverse Signal - When activated, stopping triggers and stop whistle toot. When moving forward from a stopped position, toots twice. When moving in reverse. toots three times
- Chuff sound intensity varies with load
- Individually adjustable sound volumes for each effect

Shell Removal -

To remove the locomotive shell, first unscrew the two screws underneath the trailing truck and the single screw underneath the pilot truck. Next, pry the shell away from the chassis back by the cab. At this point the shell should lift up and off readily (although it may be necessary to slide the shell forward a little bit in order to clear the PCB on the chassis). Be aware of the wires that run from the PCB to the lightboard inside the smokebox (IE, don't carelessly yoink them from their respective boards).

The tender shell is held on by simple friction. To free it from the chassis, stick a screwdriver in the opening at the front and pry the shell up and off.

Grade: A


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