MTH HO Little Joe

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Rick Abramson
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MTH HO Little Joe

Post by Rick Abramson » Thu Sep 02, 2010 4:25 am

I just got the new MTH Little Joes, MILW E20 and the GE demo. They are beautiful models. Watching the pans go up and by themselves under the wire is spectacular! MTH scored a hit with this. Its also nice to see an affordable "sparker." The brass Joes are over a grand and do nothing compared to the MTH model.

Rick Abramson
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Re: MTH HO Little Joe

Post by Rick Abramson » Fri Sep 03, 2010 4:06 am

Here's a shot of the Joe under the wire.
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Otto Vondrak
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Re: MTH HO Little Joe

Post by Otto Vondrak » Mon Sep 06, 2010 4:47 pm

Rick Abramson wrote:Its also nice to see an affordable "sparker." The brass Joes are over a grand and do nothing compared to the MTH model.
Pardon my asking, what is the going price for one of these MTH units?
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netrain
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Re: MTH HO Little Joe

Post by netrain » Wed Sep 08, 2010 5:44 am

Otto Vondrak wrote:
Rick Abramson wrote:Its also nice to see an affordable "sparker." The brass Joes are over a grand and do nothing compared to the MTH model.
Pardon my asking, what is the going price for one of these MTH units?
per the online MTH catalogue, the MSRP on the electric little joes is $399.

Rick Abramson
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Re: MTH HO Little Joe

Post by Rick Abramson » Thu Sep 09, 2010 7:01 pm

Otto:

I've seen them on ebay for $324.00. . .depending on the roadname.

Rick

ApproachMedium
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Re: MTH HO Little Joe

Post by ApproachMedium » Sun Sep 12, 2010 6:03 pm

Are these offered without their useless DCS system installed and just DCC ready? Id be interested in purchasing some Ho electrics from MTH if they are going to be offered this way as I dont care for their system.
No good deed goes unpunished.

Rick Abramson
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Re: MTH HO Little Joe

Post by Rick Abramson » Mon Sep 13, 2010 4:49 am

The engine is not avail w/o their DCS. My layout is DC; only sound I get from the engine are the blowers. Have no clue what the bell and horn sound like. I also removed the MTH couplers and installed Kadees.

byte
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Re: MTH HO Little Joe

Post by byte » Sat Jan 01, 2011 3:18 pm

I bought a CSS&SB little Joe a month or so ago. #803, incidentally shipped from a seller in Huntley, IL which is maybe six miles from the real #803 at IRM...

I don't have a layout of my own, but a buddy of mine does have one which is DCC-equipped, and I've run it around there a few times. Some thoughts:

- There are a ton of functions on this unit. Front pan up, down, rear pan, radio chatter on/off, etc. But, you need a fairly new DCC system & controller to actually access them all.
- Due to the articulated nature of the locomotive, there is no flywheel in it, and I believe the motors are of a smaller variant which is integrated with the trucks. So if you hit a dead section of track it won't just skate over it.
- Because the motors aren't huge & torque-y, this locomotive doesn't have all the pulling power you might expect. More weight might do the trick, but it already weighs a lot and still tends to slip on grades with a long train.
- The automatic couplers are really neat, with some bugs still to be worked out. They make it really easy to kick cars around a yard. However, their shanks are longer than a typical Kadee, and can jackknife a car if you're pushing a train uphill. Still good to see someone putting these on a locomotive.
- Some compromises in detail have been made between the CSS and MILW models to create a model which is probably a little cheaper to mass-produce. For example, the Milwaukee models have both cabs intact, whereas in real life one was blanked out and the locomotives run in pairs, with blank ends facing inward. On the other hand, the CSS Joes have their pantographs elevated a few (scale) feet off the carbody, a modification only the MILW did in real life, due to their high catenary. All units available (CSS, MILW, FEPASA and GE demo) have buffer mounts on the pilots, which only the GE demo unit had (a holdover from their Russian design, later removed from all units, except on the blanked out MILW ends).

Don't take this post as just a bunch of criticism, though. The operating pans and couplers are two really neat items which will probably be improved on future models. The unit's power is great for "kicking cars around Michigan City" (typical CSS duty) and if you were simulating a Milwaukee run, you'd probably want two Joes anyway, as they typically ran in pairs. And for all intents and purposes, this is a brass locomotive, with plastic accessory parts (the metal shell is brass). $400 for a new brass locomotive with DCC and sound isn't bad.
That old car might be worth money!

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Re: MTH HO Little Joe

Post by ApproachMedium » Sat Jan 01, 2011 5:27 pm

Glad to hear your review there.. This has dual motors? I am surprised its not good for pulling. I guess its a good thing I saved my cash, Ill just get another BLI GG1. Thouse things with their cast shells, and dual motors will haul anything you put behind them, much like the real thing. I dont see why flywheels would make much of a difference, except maybe in DC.. The action of flywheels is mimicked by what a DCC decoder can do with motor control and momentum. I have a few DCC non flywheel engines I can prove this with, including an IHC/Rivarossi 4-4-0 American.
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byte
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Re: MTH HO Little Joe

Post by byte » Sat Jan 01, 2011 5:48 pm

I think flywheels would help in DC mode (which I probably won't use very often, but that's just me) and also help add a little weight - which relates to my remarks on the pulling power: This locomotive really isn't a bad puller, but just doesn't quite deliver when you consider its size. More weight is needed to give the engine the traction it needs. My benchmark for pulling power is the Athearn "super weight" F7, which admittedly might be setting the bar a little TOO high, given that one of those could pull down wallpaper...

I also wouldn't expect much trouble on level track. The layout my #803 was tested on has quite a few grades.
That old car might be worth money!

ApproachMedium
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Re: MTH HO Little Joe

Post by ApproachMedium » Sat Jan 01, 2011 5:57 pm

Do you know what the length/% of the grades was? My club layout is 3.5-4% on the main and 4%-5 on the branchlines. The GG1 goes up and down all that with no issue hauling over 50 NMRA weighted frieght cars.
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byte
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Re: MTH HO Little Joe

Post by byte » Mon Jan 03, 2011 2:51 pm

I was running the Joe last night over on my buddy's layout last night and the grades on his layout aren't terribly severe - between 1.4 and 1.8% as per his layout plans. The Joe was having no trouble lugging around 20 40' coal hoppers around. Would have liked to try more hoppers to see where the stall point is, but that's all we could scrounge up from the rolling stock on the layout. After looking at the locomotive and getting a feel for its center of gravity, I rescind my comment about how it should have flywheels. There's little room in the carbody for them due to the electronics and the fact that each pantograph has a motor in there to make it go up and down. And putting flywheels in the unit would be impossible anyway because the propulsion motors are mounted in the trucks - no room for flywheels there. If they wanted to increase the weight of this unit for better adhesion, the best way might be to cast the trucks out of metal rather than plastic. It would increase the weight and keep the center of gravity low.

We were doing some DCC programming last night as well, and just for the heck of it, put the Joe on the programming track and tried to access the decoder with JMRI DecoderPro. No dice, appears the only way you can program it is with mainline programming, and all you can change are the addresses. Still, the default speed/momentum/function settings aren't bad.

After observing the Joe moving about the layout for the evening, we reasoned that despite its size the unit seems to be a better switcher than a road engine - and a very good switcher at that, with its automatic coupling abilities, and quick acceleration. Basically ideal for modeling what they were used for on the CSS&B. Someone interested in Milwaukee operations should ideally get two so they can lug a ton of cars (or get one, convert it to DCC, and power-match it to a couple of Milwaukee diesels).

I might be back at the layout later this week and will try to get some photos.
That old car might be worth money!

ApproachMedium
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Re: MTH HO Little Joe

Post by ApproachMedium » Mon Jan 03, 2011 5:33 pm

Sounds good. I guess this is one of them features over function kind of locomotives. Its too bad they don't have a less featured more functional version along the lines of the BLI GG1. The electric couplers and fancy pans are nice, but the powered pans I really don't think are totally necessary. From what your telling me about the DCC programing there it is one of the MTH DCS decoders thats DCC compatible. Do they sell this engine as a straight DC model?
No good deed goes unpunished.

superior1980
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Re: MTH HO Little Joe

Post by superior1980 » Sun Jan 16, 2011 8:48 pm

I also bought one of the MTH Little Joes, and I have very mixed feelings about it. First of all, in my opinion, the price of the thing is absurd. This is the most expensive locomotive I've bought, and I only did so because I've wanted an HO Little Joe ever since the first time I saw a real one. But since we all have differing opinions on what a fair price and an absurd price is, I'll say no more in that regard.

As for the locomotive itself, it LOOKS wonderful! If I had purchased it to put in a display case on a shelf, I think I'd be one of the happiest model railroaders out there.

But I did not purchase it to just look at it, I bought it to run it, and in that regard, I'm rather disappointed. Fact is, the thing is so frustrating, that despite the absurd price I paid, I have been so tempted many times to yank it off the track and throw it against a wall. I have a home layout with conventional DC power, and I'm a member of a club with DCC, and my locomotive has seen run time on both layouts on multiple occasions. My experience with the locomotive has been the same regardless as to the powering system used.

I wonder if there is an electronic glitch in my locomotive, or if all the fancy stuff MTH put into it doesn't talk well amoung themselves, because my locomotive is a real pain to operate. I would say that maybe 35% of the time, it behaves just as it should, but the other 65% of the time, it just won't take commands. This has varied from it just not doing anything at all, to it running with one or more features not working, such as sound or lights or the power pantographs. Another repeating issue I have with it, is that it frequently ignores direction commands. I have had it light up and start making sounds when I power it up, but it won't move in either direction. I have had it run perfectly fine in one direction, but then it won't change direction. When that has happened, I have had it both continue running in the same direction despite having thrown the direction switch on the throttle, and I have had it just sit there and refuse to move at all. Weirdly, I have even been in the process of running it fine, then make a stop to rerail a car or something, and then have it not want to start up again.

My power pantographs have also never worked properly. Fresh out of the box, I had one working pantograph, and one that did nothing. I discovered that one of sliders inside the shell that make the pantographs raise and lower was off its track. Well opening up the locomotive and placing the slider on its track was quite easy, and after doing that, my pantographs worked for maybe two dozen cycles, and then started acting up. At first it was an intermittent problem, where sometimes they worked and sometimes they didn't. Then the times that they didn't work became more and more frequent, until now my pantographs don't work at all. Where as before it was a simple mechanical issue, this time its an electric/electronic issue. I've opened up the locomotive again, looking for a loose or broken wire, but all the wiring looks good, yet the little motors for the pantographs just aren't getting power. Apparently whatever it is on the circuit board that tells the motors when to work has failed.

Quite frankly, I would be much more pleased if this was a simple, plain-Jane locomotive without all its fancy nonsense. All I really want to do with it is put it on the track and run trains with it. I don't need sound, I don't need working pantographs, I don't need remotely operated couplers, and even directional lighting is something I could do without. But the fact that it has this stuff, and it doesn't work properly, annoys me no end. And the fact that many times it won't even respond to throttle commands to just run down the track without having to figet with it, makes it one of the most bothersome locomotives I've bought.

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Re: MTH HO Little Joe

Post by ApproachMedium » Mon Jan 17, 2011 10:39 am

Why didn't you get one that's just the dcc ready model? It would have saved a lot of the fancy headaches. Aslo who's dcc system are you using? The mth engines with their factory sound and control have quite the history of not working well with dc. Interesting to see it doesn't work well on dc either.
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