Bachmann Heisler Modeling Tips

Bachmann's Heisler completes their offering of the "Big Three" geared locomotives. The detail is fantastic.

A problem reported with this locomotive is a "loping" gate. This is described as a catch or bind somewhere in the valve gear that causes an irregularity in the movement. I have observed this intermittently in my locomotive. When it is occurring, the Digitrax Chief power supply will also occasionally shut down for a few seconds. It appears that the mechanical glitch causes the engine to draw more power and overload the power supply. There is a discussion of the problem and a description of a procedure to fix it on Bachmann's Bulletin Board. Since it only shows up at times with my locomotive, I am going to run it for a while first and see if is smooths out. If not, I'll try the fix.

Noise suppression boards on the Heisler cause problems for DCC

The Lake Town & Shire is operated using Digital Command Control. We use the 8-amp radio-controlled version of the Digitrax Chief on our layout. Since the Chief can operate analog engines using address 00, the first thing we did was lubricate the locomotive and put it on the track. It shorted the system. Continuity testing showed positive between the left and right wheels. That didn't happen with a couple of other locomotives I had laying around that had not been converted to DCC yet. Bummer. But then I pulled out a Bachmann power supply and tried applying power directly to the wheels of the Heisler. It ran! Apparently the Heisler draws so much amperage that the Digitrax Chief thinks there is a short and shuts down the layout. Very interesting. I installed a Digitrax decoder (see below) and the locomotive ran beautifully on my layout. Operation at slow speeds is very smooth. However, new problems developed.

After the third or fourth operating session, the locomotive began to stop and start in fits. The Digitrax command station was shutting down just a second or two after the engine began moving. But the locomotive would run using direct DC. (The Digitrax DG583S decoder has an automatic analog mode that allows it to run on a DC layout.) Eventually, the locomotive would not operate on the layout at all, and it would only run in bursts of less than a second using a Bachmann DC controller. I began looking on the various bulletin boards for an explanation. On the Bachmann site, I found a message from John Singleton saying that he had the same problem trying to run his Heisler in analog mode on a Digitrax-powered layout. "The Old Curmudgeon"suggested that the problems was the noise suppression boards in the trucks, and Tom Lapointe gave instructions for removing these circuit boards. I removed the circuit boards from my Heisler, but I still had a problem. I decided that something had probably gone wrong with my decoder. So I took it out, wired the Heisler back up the way it arrived, and tried running it with DC. No problems. I put in a new decoder, and the engine is running properly again on my DCC layout. My diagnosis is that the engine pulls too much power with the noise suppression boards installed and that this damaged the decoder. I am hoping that I will have better experience with the new decoder. I will update this page when I have run the Heisler for a while with the new decoder and without the noise suppression boards. Tom Lapointe reports that he has run his Heisler with a DG583S decoder for a year without any problems AFTER he removed the noise suppression boards.

Anyone who plans to use DCC with the Heisler (and particularly anyone using a Digitrax system) might want to think about removing the noise suppression boards BEFORE installing the decoder. Of course, that may void your Bachmann warranty; so use your own judgment and don't hold me responsible! I'm just telling you what happened to me. Here are Tom Lapointe's instructions for removing the boards.

1. Remove the truck bottom cover plates. There is a small circuit board on the bottom of each plate.

2. Four wires go to each circuit board. Unsolder the four wires.

3. Solder the red wires together and solder the black wires together, using some small heat shrink tubing to insulate the joints.

4. Tuck the wires back into the truck so they don't foul the gearing and replace the cover plates.

5. Test to make sure both trucks run and that they both run in the same direction. If not, you connected the wires incorrectly.

6. Install your decoder.

Installing a Digitrax DG583S Decoder

We use Digitrax decoders in all our locomotives and have had very good success with them. But Digitrax has come out with a new 5-amp decoder, the DG583S, since the last time I bought decoders. This decoder is very different from the earlier large scale decoders from Digitrax. Their earlier decoders were smaller, shrink-wrapped in white plastic, and had four wires in place of the pins shown in the diagram to the left. The socket for the 9-pin wiring harness is still there. Digitrax provides the wired harness, but it does not provide wires to connect to the pins.

Bachmann's instructions for installing a decoder are not very clear. They include an exploded diagram of the Heisler wiring that includes a drawing of a LENZ LE4024 decoder labeled for various wires found inside the tender. Checking on the Web, it appears that the LE4024 has been discontinued. But I found a diagram at the SoundTraxx site that gave me the information I needed.

Follow the directions in the manual to remove the coal load or oil tank from the tender. You will find a circuit board inside with twelve pin connectors toward the rear of the engine. Unhook the white wire from Pin 5 on the Heisler circuit board and connect it to Pin 7 on the DG583S. Unhook the orange wire from Heisler Pin 6 and connect it to DG583S Pin 2. Use the brown wire provided by Bachmann to connect Heisler Pin 8 to DG583S Pin 1, and use the blue wire provided by Bachmann to connect Heisler Pin 7 to DG583S Pin 8. Switch the direction to Large Scale standard by pushing the top switch under the firebox door to the right, and the locomotive is ready to run. (The Bachmann instructions say to set the switch for the NMRA standard, but my locomotive worked backwards from my throttle when I did this.) If you are satisfied with having both front and rear lights on all the time, then this is all you need to do.

The Bachmann diagram says the yellow wire in the Heisler goes to the rear LED and the Digitrax instructions say the white wire on the harness is for the front LED; and the Heisler purple wire is for the front light but the yellow wire on the GD583S harness if for the rear light. I tried connecting front to front and back to back, and the lights worked backwards. If I switched the direction switch from Large Scale to NMRA, then the lights worked okay (according to the direction the locomotive actually was moving,) but the locomotive ran backwards (according to the throttle settings.) Clearly Bachmann wired the lights to work with the NMRA standard, but the directions for installing a decoder to the motor comply with Large Scale practice. Anyway, here's what to do to get directional lighting. Disconnect the yellow wire from Heisler Pin 1 and solder it to the white wire on the DG583S 9-pin wiring harness, then disconnect the purple wire from Heisler Pin 2 and solder it to the yellow wire on the DG583S 9-pin wiring harness. Be sure to insulate the connections with some shrink tubing or tape. Plug the harness into the DG583S, and you should have directional lighting.

I used a couple of pieces of double-sided tape to attach the DG583S to the weight in the tender. There's lots of room as the photo on the left shows. But there's not much room to add a sound system, nor is there an obvious place to install a speaker. From other sources, I understand there is room in the ash pan for a small speaker. There are two black wires and two white wires with their lose ends bundled together. You can see them at the top of the photo. According to Bachmann, these come from the cylinders and can be used to operate the chuff switch on a sound card. The Bachmann diagram indicates that you should connect Pins 3 and 4 to the bell and whistle controls on the LENZ LE 4024 decoder. I have no idea why since the Heisler has no sound system.

Since some of you may be trying to install some decoder besides a LENZ LE4024 or a Digitrax DG583S, here's a table of the functions of the various connections in the Bachmann Heisler. The chart provided in the Bachmann diagram is not very helpful. This chart is for a decoder like the DG583S that is set up for Large Scale direction.


Copyright 2006 Donald Nute

These pages last modified: 7/18/2006.

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