Broadway Limited Imports (China) PRR P5a

Introduced: 2022

As pictured above, these models are available in either passenger service or freight service configuration. The most noticeable differences are that the passenger service locomotives have classification light details at the roof corners and a smokestack over one of the cabs. Each type is offered in six different paint schemes. All come equipped with factory-installed Paragon4 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 main chassis is metal. The decoder is screwed to one side and the open-sided motor (five-pole / skew-wound ) sits in a pocket on the other side. The speaker is mounted underneath the decoder. A PC board is screwed to the center of the chassis. Said PC board receives track current from the trucks and drivers (via wires) and routes it to the decoder (via wires) and the lights (via metal pins). The motorshaft is equipped with a small brass flywheel. A short plastic dog-bone connects the flywheel to a notched cup on the wormshaft. The worm lives inside a box underneath the central PC board.

All three driver axles are geared. All gearing (apart from the brass worm) is black plastic. The driver axles are held in place by round bushings that insert into notches in the gear box. The gearing (as delivered) is heavily lubricated. The gear box is actually comprised of two separate metal halves that are electrically isolated from each other and the rest of the chassis. The center pair of drivers is blind (no flanges). The couplers (BLI's no-name in-house couplers introduced on their 2-8-2 and 4-6-2 steamers) are mounted to the chassis. The wheels are blackened and low profile (no problems on Atlas Code 55 track). And ignore the white spacers for the moment, we'll get to those shortly.

All of the drivers and truck wheels are wired for pickup. However, one of the outer sets of drivers is equipped with traction tires and the center pair of drivers doesn't even touch the rails (go figure!), so no actual pickup there. Truck pickup is of the "low friction" ilk (via either dimples or holes in the axle wipers, I'm not sure which). Wires from the trucks transfer current to the gear box halves and wires from said halves transfer current to the main PC board. Note that a spare set of traction tires is included in the box.

All of the electronics for the lighting is mounted inside the all-metal shell (receiving current from a pair of sticky-uppy pins on the main PC board). The panatographs are sprung and moveable (they can either be all the way up or locked down flat). They are non-functional insofar as they do not conduct current.

These are gorgeous looking models with fine paint and detailing. Unfortunately, there is a design flaw in the trucks that will (sooner or later) render them useless as runners. As noted above, pickup only comes from two of the six drivers. Consequently, it is critical that the trucks provide solid pickup - and, unfortunately, they do not. The problem is the flimsy plastic arms that hold the trucks to the chassis. Equipped with springs, said arms are supposed to place firm downward pressure on the wheels. Unfortunately, the arms prefer to bend (and with the end-result being virtually no downward pressure on the wheels).

Out of the box, a lot of these models simply won't run at all (I guess depending on how clean the wheels were when installed at the factory). Mine actually ran flawlessly for the first several hours of operation. However, the wheels inevitably attracted some contaminants, at which point the thing became a stuttering and stalling annoyance. Now, about all can I can get out of it (after a good track and wheel cleaning) is maybe an hour of running before it starts stalling out again (and this is on track that other locomotives have absolutely no problem traversing). And honestly, who wants to deal with all that cleaning? Not me, that's for sure.

The simple solution here is to attach something to the chassis that those skinny arms can brace themselves against (and thus eliminate the bending). EG -

The above spacers were gifted to me by a generous contributor (an installation video for said spacers is available on youtube). For those who can't whip up anything quite so nice, I imagine that just about any old piece of appropriately sized styrene glued to the underside of the chassis would get the job done too.

Once so modified, mine ran flawlessly- smooth, quiet, great slow-speed creep, reasonable top-end speed, excellent pulling power, nice sound, and all with nary a stutter or stall. Unfortunately, I cannot recommend purchasing one of these (not unless you're up to the task of modifying it). Quite frankly, the only reason I don't give the lot of them an "F" rating is because the pickup problem is relatively easy to fix.

FWIW, BLI does not believe the problem to be widespread and has no plans to revise the model or create spacers of their own. Their suggested solution is to pull down on the outer trucks and then tighten the screws that hold the truck wires to the chassis.

Note - when the locomotive is first put on the rails there is no sound and no headlight (regardless of whether F0 or F8 are selected). The sound and directional headlight come on once the locomotive starts moving (and stay on until you mute the sound with F8, turn off the headlight with F0, or recycle track power). Also, the decoders in these locos are programmed to go through a rather protracted sequence of "start up" shenanigans before they start moving. To eliminate this behavior (if you're so inclined), simply disable "DCC Brake Release Throttle Stop" by changing CV210 from 1 to 0.

Prototype -

The PRRs class P5 comprised 92 mixed-traffic electric locomotives constructed 1931-1935 by the PRR, Baldwin-Westinghouse and General Electric. Although the original intention was that they work passenger trains, the success of the GG1 meant that the P5 class were mostly used on freight. A single survivor, prototype #4700, is at the Museum of Transportation in St Louis, Missouri. The first P5s were built with box cabs. A grade crossing accident in which the crew were killed led to the substitution of a streamlined steeple type cab in later production, a design which was also applied to the GG1. Orders were placed for 90 production locomotives classified P5a due to minor changes from the prototypes. Production was split between General Electric and Westinghouse. The GE examples were assembled at GEs Erie, Pennsylvania facility, still a locomotive assembly plant today - while final assembly for the Westinghouse order was subcontracted to the Baldwin Locomotive Works.

Features -

- Paragon4 Sound & Control System featuring ROLLING THUNDER
- Integral Dual-Mode Decoder with Back EMF for Superb Slow Speed Operation in DC and DCC
- Precision Drive Mechanism Engineered for Heavy Towing and Smooth Slow Speed Operation
- All Wheel Electrical Pick-up, including the wheels on the leading and trailing trucks
- Die Cast Body with Die Cast Chassis for Maximum Tractive Effort
- Premium Caliber Painting
- Prototypically Accurate Paint Schemes and Road Numbers
- Operating pantographs (unpowered)
- Many Separately Applied Details such as Handrails, Grab Irons, Smokestacks, Class Lights, Horn, and Bell
- Prototypical Light Operation
- Prototypically Accurate Sounds for the PRR P5a Electrics
- Two Operating Microtrains-compatible Couplers (2)
- Will Operate on Code 55, Code 70, and Code 80 Rail
- Minimum Operating Radius: 9 inches

Paragon4 DCC Features -

- Operates in DC & DCC with improved DC speed control (use DCMaster for DC Sound)
- Built-In extra capacitance to navigate imperfect track
- Pro Lighting Mode offers individual control of all lights on model
- Switcher Mode for precise low speed control
- Record & Play Operation - Records and plays back sounds and movements once or repeatedly for automatic operation
- High Resolution Audio
- Quillable Horn for various 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
- Multiple realistic passenger and crew sounds play on command
- Grade Crossing Automatic Signal
- Automatic Forward / Reverse Signal
- Prime Mover sound intensity varies with load
- Individually adjustable sound volumes for each effect
- EZ Reset Button for quick return to factory default settings

Shell Removal -

To remove the shell, first disconnect the handrails from the steps (the four handrails that attach to the ends of the shell). Next, unscrew the four small screws on the underside of the chassis. Once the screws are out, the shell should lift up and off readily. When putting the shell back on, be very careful with the loose handrails. They are easily bent and/or broken if they get jammed up (and don't ask me how I know this).

Grade: D (as delivered, although a solid "A" with the spacer modification)

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