Broadway Limited Imports (China) GE ES44AC

Introduced: 2018

These smooth running and fine looking models all come equipped with factory-installed DCC Sound. 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). Internal support is provided for BLI's "Rolling Thunder" sound system. Said system consists of a large external subwoofer-type speaker and a receiver that locomotives talk to via radio signals. I've personally never witnessed the Rolling Thunder system in operation, but I guess its purpose is to reproduce the beefy low-frequency sounds that tiny internal locomotive speakers simply cannot render.

These are very nice looking models, with crisp paint and fine detailing -

Internally, these models are quite similar to the BLI AC6000CW (albeit a bit shorter, as per the prototype). The chassis is one big hunk of metal (IE not split-frame). The motor is an open-sided 5-poler with skew-winding. Each motorshaft is equipped with a smallish flywheel. The plastic driveshafts have hex ends on the flywheel side and plastic ball-with-pin / notched-cup U-joints on the wormshaft side. The brass worms mount between bearing blocks that seat inside of slots in the chassis (held in place by plastic clips).

All six axles are geared and all gearing is plastic. The wheels are blackened and low-profile (no problems on Atlas C55 track). A single speaker is provided for DCC-Sound (mounted inside the fuel tank). The couplers are chassis-mounted Micro-Trains 1015's. There are no traction tires.

All twelve wheels provide pickup. The axle ends insert into holes (as opposed to dimples) in the axle wipers. Vertical extensions on top of the axle wipers contact flexible metal strips firmly mounted inside the chassis. Wires soldered to the tops of said metal strips transfer current to the decoder board. Plastic collars on top of the truck gear towers clip inside round openings in the chassis. The trucks pull off and go back on very smoothly and easily. As delivered, the gearing is very lightly lubricated.

The Paragon3 decoder board is screwed to a plastic bracket that mounts on top of the motor. Wiring harnesses for track power, lighting control, motor control, and speaker control plug into sockets on either end of the board. A couple of pieces of black tape cover up some of the wiring (presumably to prevent it from moving around and causing trouble). A small LED board for the backup light is wired up on the rear of the chassis. For non NS-type locomotives, there are two separate boards (with individual LEDs for the headlight and ditchlights) wired up on the front of the chassis. NS-type locomotives evidently lack a nose headlight, so they only have one LED board on the front. A small wiring harness plugged into a third separate board runs up into the shell and provides current for the cab and numberboard lighting. A small button on the decoder board allows you to reset the decoder to factory defaults (for situations where writing CV8 doesn't fix your locomotive's problems or you don't have the ability to write CV's at all). I'm assuming the large blue wire is the radio antenna for the Rolling Thunder system.

F0 controls the LEDS for the headlight, backup light and numberboards. F7 controls the ditchlight LEDs. Once turned on, standard behavior is for all seven LEDs to be lit when the locomotive is parked. Once you start the locomotive moving, the headlight and backup light become directional (IE, move forward and the backup light turns off). The cab interior light stays on until speed step 3, at which point it turns off (if you don't want a cab interior light at all, set CV208 to 0). An interesting feature of the ditchlights is that they will start strobing (alternately) when the horn is blown. All lighting is white and very bright. When the locomotive is put on the rails, all sounds are off. However, once you start it moving, sound comes on and stays on until you either mute it with F8 or pull the locomotive off the rails.

Performance on these models is quite impressive, although it may take a little bit of tuning before optimum performance can be achieved. As is generally the case with locomotives that have blackened wheels, a certain amount of wheel cleaning seems to be a requirement. Out of the box, mine barely ran at all (stuttering and stalling every couple of inches). So, I hooked up a track cleaning car to the front, put some cleaning fluid on the roller and then babysat the locomotive around my layout until it was able to run unattended. After about 10 minutes of pushing the track cleaner around, all of the balkiness went away.

One other potential source of trouble relates to the axle wipers. For whatever reason, the axles seem prone to squeaking after they've broken in a bit (I ran into the same thing on my AC6000). The solution here is pretty simple - just apply a little bit of conductalube to the axle ends (where they insert into the axle wipers). Additionally, the bendy metal contact strips in the chassis (similar in function to the ones used by Atlas, et al in their diesels) may require some tweaking in order to get optimum current conductivity. I like to bend mine downwards a bit to get firmer contact with the axle wiper tips.

Once suitably tweaked, these are extremely fine running models (be it analog or DCC). Mine runs whisper quiet and super smooth at all throttle settings. Slow speed creep is one-tie-at-a-time and the top-end speed is very realistic (IE not too fast). Mine can creep through insulated-frog turnouts at yard speeds, so no problems with pickup or current conductivity. Pulling power is exceptional, with mine able to effortlessly haul 30+ assorted 50' freight cars through curves on level track (and probably a whole lot more than that). No problems on sharp (9.75" radius) curves. The sound is robust and nicely rendered (even without bringing a Rolling Thunder system into the equation). Overall, these are terrific looking models that run exceptionally well (and represent a nice comeback from BLI's problematic AC6000 release).

Prototype -

The Evolution Series 4400HP DC Traction locomotive is part of GE Transportation System's line of diesel locomotives that were built to meet the EPA's 2005 Tier 2 locomotive emissions standards. All Evolution Series locomotives delivered to the North American market are six axle locomotives equipped with Nathan-Airchime K5HL-R2 Evolution airhorns. The GE ES44AC is still in use today serving the entire nation through a variety of hauling tasks including traffic resulting from the Ethanol mandate. CSX has some 200 units on or coming onto its roster, while Iowa Interstate ordered 14 units. Norfolk Southern purchased 24 units, receiving the first of its allotment in 2008.

Model Features -

- NEW 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, Rear Light
- ABS plastic body with heavy die cast chassis for maximum tractive effort
- Precision gearing optimized for smooth operation
- Separately applied hand rails, ladders, whistle and bell
- 5-pole can motor with skew wound armature and dual flywheels
- Will Operate on all currently available N scale track, Minimum radius 9.75" or greater

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
- 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
- Passenger Station Ambient Sounds - Controlled with Function Key
- Freight Yard related radio chatter - Controlled with Function Key
- Lumber Yard Ambient Sounds - Controlled with Function Key
- Farm related radio chatter - Controlled with Function Key
- Crew Radio Communications - Controlled with Function Key
- Maintenance Yard related radio chatter - Controlled with Function Key
- Demo Mode for display and demonstrations
- Simple Programming with Integral DCC Decoder
- Individually adjustable sound volumes for most effects

Shell Removal -

The shell is held to the chassis primarily by its coupler screws, so your first job is to unscrew those and get the couplers out of the way. Next, four bumps in the metal chassis seat inside of dimples in the shell. So, once the couplers are removed, it's just a matter of using small screwdrivers to spread the sides of the shell apart (thus freeing up the bumps) and then gradually working the shell up and off. Note that a wiring harness runs from a socket on a small chassis-mounted PC board towards the front of the chassis to an LED board inside the cab, so you won't be able to completely separate the shell from the chassis until you disconnect that.

Grade: A

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