Introduced: 2012 (original version), 2014 (revised version) and 2018 (Paragon3 version - see warning below)
With these gorgeous and fine running E6 models, BLI finally finished off their "EMD E's in dribs and drabs" project (following on the heels of their equally impressive 2009 E7 and E8 units). As of this writing, BLI has not (for whatever reason) released any DC-only E6's. All of the A units come with factory-installed "dual-mode" DCC-sound decoders, as do most of the B units (and with the rest of the B's simply being non-powered dummies). Internally, these models are virtually identical to the earlier E7's and E8's (the sound-equipped ones, that is) -
The chassis is a one-piece chunk of metal and quite hefty. The motor is a closed-sided / skew-wound 5-poler. The driveshaft is equipped with dual flywheels, although said flywheels are somewhat undersized and appear to have little or no affect on starting and stopping. Ten of the twelve wheels provide pickup (with the rearmost two wheels being equipped with traction tires).
Current is transferred from the axle wipers on the trucks to the decoder board by lots and lots of wiring. Decoders are either Paragon2 (prior to 2018) or Paragon3 (starting with the 2018 production run). The Paragon3 decoders provide support for BLI's "Rolling Thunder" external sound system (a large blue wire on top of the decoder serves as the antenna for said system). The decoder controls directional lighting as well as providing a socket for the speaker wiring. All wheels are geared and all gearing is plastic. All couplers are Micro-Trains. The pilot coupler on the "A" units is mounted to the chassis, whereas all the rest of the couplers are truck-mounted. Wheels are low-profile. "A" units have a cab interior detail insert that holds a small LED-equipped PC board for the headlight. Oddly enough, the E6's LED board lacks the little shroud found on the earlier E7 and E8 models, so it lights up the entire cab interior.
The E6's trucks changed quite a bit between the first and second run. The original pickup scheme was a modified version of the pickup found on BLI's first-run E7's and E8's. As pictured below, additional pickup was provided on the E6 in the way of wheelback wipers (with current transferred from said wipers to the metal sideframes by way of metal tubes). I'm assuming this measure was taken to help ameliorate the "dirty track" finickiness exhibited by some of BLI's earlier diesels -
The E6's truck gear boxes were completely redesigned with the 2014 release (old E7 on top, revised E6 on the bottom) -
Additionally, the old stainless steel axle wipers (with the tiny washers and the axle holes drilled all the way through) were replaced with more traditional dimpled phosphor-bronze wipers. Also, the extra wheel-wipers were left off -
The wiper change was a very good idea (making for much more effective and reliable pickup). As for the gearing changes... well, about all that served to do was drastically increase the top-end speed (up to nigh Kato-esque levels). Consequently, if your idea is to run one of the older models with one of the newer ones, you're going to have to tweak the decoder CV's in the newer one in order to slow it down a bit.
Dummy models use the same basic metal chassis as the powered units, just sans motor, driveshafts, flywheels, gearing and lighting. Unfortunately, said metal chassis does tend to turn them into boat anchors -
Included in the box (along with some spare tractions tires) is a pilot cover; allowing one to remove the pilot coupler and run one's E6 in elegant "as delivered" style -
Important safety tip - be careful how much force you use when flexing said snap-fit cover into place. Too much elbow grease will stress the plastic and screw up the paint (and don't ask me how I know this).
The DCC sound on these models is quite impressive (hey, at these prices it'd better be). All the various sounds are advertised as being "authentic" and, as far as I can tell, they are (not that I'm any kind of expert, mind you). The enclosed speaker makes for nicely beefy sound affects (or at least as beefy as you're ever likely to find in something this small). And being "dual mode", these locos should run (and sound) the same on both DC and DCC layouts. However, non-DCC users will need a special add-on widget (pictured below) to take advantage of the non-automatic sound features (ringing the bell, blowing the horn, etc).
Note that the Paragon2 decoder is not compatible with all DC power supplies. For example, my MRC Railpower 1300 will not operate these locos at all (the lights come on, but no sound and no motor). BLI informs me that the only solution to the problem is to either purchase one of their DC Master boxes or switch power supplies. MRC's Tech 3 and Tech 4 throttles reportedly have no problems running these locos
Overall performance is exceptional - smooth, reasonably quiet (when the sound is off), nimble throttle response, superb slow-speed creep, reasonable top-end, and with pulling power to spare. Like BLI's earlier PA and PB models, the wheels on these E6s are not blackened (a good choice on BLI's part as said blackening tends to wreck all sorts of havoc with pickup until such time as it wears off the surfaces of the wheels). Given the shiny wheels and additional pickup, I've never had any problems with stalls (even through turnouts). These locomotives will run reliably on curves as narrow as 11"-radius, although any sharper than that and the pilot truck is prone to derailing. The problem here seems to be how close the the ladder stirrups are to the truck sideframes (basically limiting how far the pilot truck can pivot). Sanding the back sides of the stirrups a bit reportedly solves this issue (for those keen on running their E's on super sharp curves).
On the downside, I'm not real impressed with BLI's continuing devotion to wires, wires and more wires when it comes to transferring current from the trucks. Honestly, it's like a friggin' rat's nest in there. OK, I've been running my various BLI diesels for years and haven't experienced any wiring-related problems. Still, you just never know with those things. And in any case, all that wiring makes truck removal a much more arduous task than it needs to be. Another minor gripe is that these models do indeed have that BLI gear "buzz" as they roll along. No, it's not a horrible racket by any stretch of the imagination, but it is a distinctive (and noticeable) sound that all of BLI's diesels do seem to make to one degree or another.
Minor quibbles aside though, these are very impressive models that look great and (overall) run extremely well.
A note on paint removal - the paint on BLI's models is quite unusual (some sort of powder-coat or plating scheme, I'm not sure), and traditional paint removal methods simply will not work (believe me, I've tried them all). I checked with BLI and they informed me that it is virtually impossible to strip the paint off their models without damaging the shell in the process. So, if your idea is to custom paint one, you're either going to have to go with an undecorated unit or paint right over the top of a decorated unit.
A note on the 2018 (Paragon3) release - I purchased two of these and had just all sorts of problems with them (to the point that I eventually gave up and returned them for a refund). In a nutshell, I simply could not keep them running for any reasonable amount of time (IE I was having to re-clean the wheels and the track practically every hour on the hour). And beyond the extra sensitivity to dirt, the decoders were doing all sorts of strange things (randomly ringing the bell and tooting the horn, for example). Now, I own other Paragon3 locos and none of those models ever had these sorts of issues, so I dunno. Maybe I just got a couple of bad ones, or maybe something changed with the 2018 version of the Paragon3 that somehow makes it incompatible with my DCC system (a Lenz Set 100, FWIW). In any case, I would recommend a lengthy testing period for any newly purchased 2018 E6's so that any problems can be identified sooner rather than later.
Prototype information -
Most of the premier passenger trains, including the AT&SF Super Chief, various CB&Q Zephyrs, Great Northern's Empire Builder, New York Central's Twentieth Century and Pennsylvania Railroad's Broadway Limited, were pulled by EMD "E" unit diesel locomotives from the 1940's to the 1970's. The E3 was introduced in 1939 and became the first "standard" road diesel locomotive that could be ordered off-the-shelf. The E6 was essentially the same locomotive as the E3 and differed little in appearance.
Model Features -
- All new Paragon2 (or Paragon3) sound and control system
- Integral DC/DCC dual mode decoder for ease of operation
- Industry best slow-speed operation in DC and DCC
- Prototypical light operation with headlight and cab light
- Authentic EMD E6 sounds! Controllable in DC and DCC.
- All-wheel drive and all-wheel electrical pick-up
- Operating knuckle couplers
- Near brass-caliber detail at a plastic price
- ABS plastic body with heavy die cast chassis for maximum tractive effort
- Precision gearing
- 5-pole can motor with skew wound armature and dual fly wheels
- Locomotive Length (coupler to coupler): 5.5 inches
- Locomotive Weight: 4 oz
- Many separately applied details such as handrails, ladders, whistle
- Will Operate on Codes 80, 70, 60, and 55 rail
- Recommended Minimum Radius: 9.75 inches
Sound Features -
- Operates in DC & DCC (use DC Master 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 Horns
- Alternate Whistle / Horn where applicable for locomotive with air horn and steam whistle - 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
- EZ Reset Button for quick return to factory default settings
To remove the shell, simply spread the sides apart and lift. Removing the pilot coupler from an "A" unit is not necessary, although it does simplify things.
Grade: A (except for the 2018 release, which rates an "F" as far as I'm concerned - YMMV)