Locomotive Roster: BLS Class 420; Minitrix 12781
Its been a while since I've talked about any of my locomotives so - while the layout is still a mess - I thought I would try and catch up. This Minitrix BLS Class 420 is my second BLS locomotive, but like my first one, I love the color scheme and the lines of both of these a lot. The color scheme is striking to me...the use of that funky neon green against the silver/metal body, with the bold, dark blue stripe has such an awesome modern look to it.
Additionally, the BLS is a Swiss railway I've only barely begun to understand, but it has a really fascinating history and one that seems to me to be quite unique (its history sounds very...American, if you will, compared to most of the railway histories in Europe - reminds me a lot of the competiton between the Great Northern and the Northern Pacific here on the Pacific Coast of the US). The brief history on Wikipedia of this unique line is pretty fascinating reading.
Although I have not had much time to run it given the ongoing layout renovations in the past year, the motor is whisper quiet with smooth acceleration and deceleration.
While it is quite easy to bemoan the high cost of Minitrix compared to say, Kato, there are differences which should be pointed out in all fairness. First, as I mentioned above, the low noise factor indicates some level of modern engineering expertise that I don't expect can come cheaply to any firm. Second, a look at the underside of this locomotive reveals the metal gears and other metal parts, which represent a level of quality (one assumes) that is much more expensive to produce than with plastic gearing and parts. Does this mean this locomotive will have a longer life expectancy? Let's hope so given that the costs of these are so high compared to a similar Japanese locomotive! And as is typical with European N scale locomotives, you have the option of using overheard catenary to pick up electricity, which is also a feature which adds to the cost (note the red switch in the below photo).
N-Gauge Blog. The decoder installed in this locomotive is the Trix 66838. This is not my first choice as they tend to be more expensive than Lenz or ESU decoders, but this was all that was available at the time of purchase!
So...here's the bad news. Despite the ease of adding a decoder I ran into some issues when I first attempted to read the decoder,; that is....an error. Even attempting to communicate to the decoder using the default address of "3" resulted in no response from the locomotive. I took it back to Walter at Euro Rail Hobbies and he couldn't get it to work at his shop either. Leaving it in his reliable hands for several weeks, he later returned it to me in good working order, but had to make some soldering repairs to the circuit board where (apparently if I recall correctly) it was not properly soldered.
Unfortunately, this issue with Minitrix circuit boards, specifically regarding the contacts of their NEM 651 sockets is not an isolated case, as I've read of several other owners having similar quality issues on some of the European Railway message boards. Let's hope Minitrix gets this quality issue sorted out quickly (if they haven't already) - its really not at all acceptable given the prices they charge not too mention the damage this does to the brand's reputation.
The good news is that I got this locomotive through a dealer who can also service these locomotives and the fact that Minitrix does have a 2 year warranty on its products.
It works fine now and I'm looking forward to seeing it stretch its wheels out on my new viaduct in the near future as the messy parts of my layout expansion get completed!