So, for the last umpteen days I’ve been slowly installing a sound decoder into my little HO scale steam loco. In between, I’ve been building and also testing some Stay Alives and testing some commercial ones as well. A comparison will come another day, but for today here is the installation for my little side tank mining loco.
The loco is a Bachmann HO scale 0-6-0 Porter Side Tank, Midwest Quarry and Mining #12, that came with a Bachmann decoder already installed. It was on special a few years back and cute – so I bought one. It can be used on a small mine or with a repaint – a logging line. Because of the small space available to me, I decided on the latest SoundTraxx Tsunami 2, model TSU-1100, Steam-2 sound decoder (part number 884006). I also used an ESU LokSound 50321 Sugar Cube speaker with an 11mm x 15mm sound box. Since it is only a small loco and has a very modern tiny motor, I decided a 4 cell Stay Alive would work and make sure the loco wouldn’t stall on points and such. I have a few on hand, but decided to give the LaisDCC Stay Alive a go (part number 860009). So here are a few spec’s to start with.
The SoundTraxx Tsunami 2 decoder is 27mm x 10½mm x 5mm in size and capable of 1 amp motor stall current. It has a crap load of sounds built in and all sorts of wonderful features that will take me ages to play with. It just squeezed into one of the side tanks. I will have to play for a week or more testing the various loco engine sounds, bell sounds and such and program/select what I want. I few settings I know won’t be needed from the get go – the loco is definitely NOT a Heavy Loco or an Articulated one – so those sounds won't be needed.
The Stay Alive I got from LaisDCC in China and is made up of 4 cells, each being a 2.7 volt supercapacitor of 1 farad capacitance. Its size is 26mm x 11.4mm x 8.8mm. It was relatively cheap compared to the big named brands and so far, fingers crossed, it seems to do the job.
The speaker is an ESU LokSound 11mm x 15mm Sugar Cube and I used the 2mm baffle supplied with it to make the boom box for it. So the baffle bits were the top left, bottom left and of course the speaker. I glued them together with ZAP brand “Plasti-Zap” Medium CA. This seems to work nicely with most plastics. I then soldered on some very fine wire to the speaker. It was the same stuff that ESU sell but I got it from LaisDCC some time back – nice and fine and flexible and in all the colours you need for DCC wiring.
Now down to it – I took my time. Yes, I know you say I don’t and you would normally be correct, well this time I did as I didn’t want to bugger this one up like some I’ve done. I so hate having to revisit and fix something I have stuffed up - maybe that's why my new clothesline is yet to be installed.... So the work was spaced over 3-4 days in fact, with testing at each and every step. First of course was to give it a bit of running in, using the already installed basic Bachmann decoder. Worked nicely and if it wasn’t for the want of sound, it could have stayed in the loco.
After the run in, I stripped her down – always fun when you have no diagram to follow. But I got her down into the Boiler, the Cab, and the Mech. Next I ripped out the Bachmann decoder so I could put in the sound decoder. The circuit board had to go as well as it was too awkward to modify. Here is the original board and decoder:
So instead of that original board, I found a very old piece of veroboard kicking around in my old electronics parts boxes, and cut into a rough shape to match the said removed circuit board. This then sufficed for me to mount the resistors and terminate all the wiring. Also it allowed me somewhere to glue a surface mounted LED for the front headlight. It might look ugly, but it is solid, fits and works.
In the photo above, you can see that the loco has the smallest motor for a HO loco I have ever seen. Yes, that silver thing to the left of the blue and yellow wires is the motor – tiny it is and hence draws bugger all current – runs on the whiff of an
oily rag flat
As I said earlier, each step was tested. For example, when I soldered in the resistor for the LED, I tested it, then the LED was glued in and tested etc. This was so that I could pick up a stuff-up then and there and not get to the end and go “oh you piece of ….” Luckily the garage shields the noise of me swearing from the neighbours!
So then the decoder got temporarily wired in for testing purposes to make sure I hadn’t buggered up anything.
Anyway, then I glued the decoder into the loco in one of the side tanks. It was a tight squeeze and a few thou had to be taken off the decoder wrapping in the process, but it did fit. I just can’t believe how many times you have to put the shell on, take it off, measure that, adjust this, do it again, do it again, do it again… But that’s the way it is, isn’t it J While I was at it I tested a few of the Stay Alives I had kicking around to see how they went – A M A Z I N G ! 20-30 seconds! Happy chappie here.
It was then placed on my test track and JMRI fired up and testing performed. Once I was happy, I could progress further.
The next job was to fit a Stay Alive. As mentioned earlier, I decided to use the LaisDCC 4 cell unit as I reckoned I could get it in the cab along one side and not visible from the outside. It had to lose its heat shrink cover in the process though. Again the Dremel was out and about and few thou here and a few thou there were removed from loco and Stay Alive. But in the end I was able to get the Cab to go into place properly.
Here we see the temporary fit into the Cab to see the size of it all. Good, so now I can move forward.
Next I got the Stay Alive and positioned it carefully on the loco base and got out some Thick ZAP CA to hold the Stay Alive down. Because the Thick variety of CA takes 30 or more seconds to set, I used a lacky band to hold it steady while I went to wet the whistle – my whistle.
The usual temporary wiring was then done so I could test it all again and make sure I hadn’t broken anything.
Tested OK, so wires were shortened and tucked in and it was time to squeeze the main loco shell on. It fitted... Just.
Now the speaker had to be put in. I found through measuring and trial and error, that I could get it to sit on the floor along the side of the cab if I got the Dremel tool to part of the coal bunker. Not really visible, so I proceeded. Anyway a bit of coal will be added on top of the bunker and you’ll never know.
Again the ZAP Thick CA was used to hold down the speaker. Wires were then trimmed and soldered on and all was neat and tidy.
Except, from the outside, you could sort of make out the bits. So some matt black Tamiya paint was brushed on and voila – no can see from the outside.
The cab was then fitted and the job pretty much complete. It was of course tested and runs nicely. As a matter of fact, when the loco is bolting along at 50% throttle and the lights are on and the bell belting away and the chuff chuffing away, when you pick it up off the tracks you get about 25 seconds of action and sound before she stops. Dirty points and track can eat my shorts, as Bart used to say.
Here is the little girl in action: https://youtu.be/3GlfU6L4Ppc