Tag Archives: diesel

Atlas MP15DC Decoder Install

Atlas MP15DC Decoder Install
I recently purchased this used Atlas MP15DC, and of course it needed a decoder. Since I’ve been more or less standardizing on Digitrax for my “run of the mill” decoders, I chose the Digitrax DN163A3, which is a “drop-in” version for this locomotive. TCS also makes a drop-in decoder, and of course a wired decoder can be used.

At low speed, this is one of the smoothest running locomotives in my fleet, even with the factory-default motor settings. There is an audible whine at higher speeds, but… this is a switcher. It’s not supposed to run at high speeds.

The install is so straightforward (and so typical of modern Atlas locos) that I won’t go into much detail here.

  1. Remove the shell
  2. Loosen the two frame shell screws
  3. Slide the light board out of the frame
  4. Place the decoder in the frame, with the large, wide end facing away from the cab end of the loco. Make sure to place it component side down, or LEDs up.
  5. Tighten the frame shell screws
  6. Replace the shell

The most important part of the install is to make sure the components face down when placing the decoder in the frame. The fit between the decoder tabs and the frame slots was quite tight, and required some force to get the frame to close up. If yours is loose, adding a little bubble of solder to the pads can take up the free space.

I also read in another install description that sometimes the motor tabs need to be trimmed or filed down just a bit to avoid incidental contact to the wrong tabs. I did not find this to be necessary on my loco, but be advised.

There was one thing that caught me off guard that I have not seen documented elsewhere, at least not with descriptive photos. There is a black piece of plastic inside the cab area of the shell that acts as part of a light guide for the rear headlamp. This piece is only press-fit, and seems to be able to fall out easily. Since I wasn’t expecting the part to fall out, I did not see where it fit originally, and it took some time to figure out where it went and how it fit into the loco.

To save you the trouble, here are a couple of photos:

The part is circled here.
Atlas MP15DC Decoder Install

This is where it goes… oriented upright like a chair, with the clear light guide poking through the hole in the black part.
Atlas MP15DC Decoder Install

One more tip… it’s easier to keep this light guide part in place if you flip the shell upside down and insert the frame into the shell, rather than placing the frame upright and putting the shell over it.


February Progress Update

I’m a little surprised that it’s been over a month since the update video! Looks like I should be getting the camera out again. Progress has been slow, and not always photogenic, but there have been a few changes worth reporting on in the last six weeks. Lots of “real life” things going on right now that are keeping me from moving forward, but even slow progress is progress!

This post will be something of a mixed bag of content, since there are several different work items going on, and I feel I need to get the blog caught up quickly.

Structure Mock-Up

First up, this is a construction paper mockup of the Commonwealth Paper Products structure that will be on the narrow shelf behind the entry door.
Commonwealth Paper

I drew the building structure in SketchUp, and then printed 2D views of the model to glue onto a core that I built from cereal boxes. I think it’s a pretty convincing stand-in, and I plan to do these for many of the structures on the layout.

Custom Electronics

Next we have a couple of different electronics projects… a trio of CDU-based Kato turnout controllers that I built for a friend, and the completed control circuit for my animated swing gate.

Kato Crossover Controls

The CDUs are based on an integrated design I have that incorporates a switch and indicator LEDs, but my friend wanted to mount these remotely from his control panel, so I provided connectors for the switch and LED. These are a very simple design (not mine, just adapted), and the selected capacitor is powerful enough to handle a double crossover.

Stepper Motor Control

The swing gate control board has screw terminals for all of the motor, sensor, and control connections, and sockets for an Arduino Pro Mini and a stepper motor driver. This is ready to hook up, once I solve the mechanical issues with connecting to the shaft of the swing gate itself.

New Power

CXST1141 Atlas MP15DC

This is the latest addition to the power roster, an Atlas MP15DC that I bought second-hand from a friend and that will be used in the yard. It’s DC for now, but I will upgrade it to DCC soon. I’ve tested it on the branch line, and it runs quite well.

Dixie Cup Factory Model

I’ve built up a SketchUp model of the Dixie Cup factory as well…

Dixie Cup Mockup

Dixie Cup Mockup

Dixie Cup Mockup

New Lighting

Finally, I replaced the ceiling fan in the room with a much, much brighter 4-tube fluorescent lighting fixture with 5000K daylight tubes. It’s almost too bright in here now!

New room lighting

As part of the lighting upgrade I also moved the wall switch for the room down below the layout deck. The “standard” switch location was behind the backdrop and would be impossible to reach once scenery was in place.

New room lighting

The new wall switch incorporates a very convenient outlet that will help with working on that part of the room.

That’s all for now! I have some track laying progress to report, but I will include that in a separate post after I take some better pictures with the new lighting.

Modern Power in the Area

While hanging out at Nolan yard today, I caught an unusual sight… a loaded CSX coal train rerouted through Glover’s Bend due to some track maintenance on the usual route.

New Road Power

These are two new GE ES44AC “GEVO” locomotives made by Kato that I picked up from a friend.  They won’t see much service in Glover’s Bend, but will be hard at work on the mainline in Frost River, once the trackwork is done.


More new Power on the CH&FR

The CH&FR museum has picked up an Erie Lackawanna EMD E8 to add to its collection

The CH&FR Museum just acquired an EMD E8 in Erie Lackawanna paint (a nice match to its F7!), which will be used on passenger excursions.  This is especially nice since now the passenger cars will have power and heat provided by the locomotive’s steam generator!

The CH&FR museum has picked up an Erie Lackawanna EMD E8 to add to its collection

The engine has completed DC testing, and will be refitted with DCC control as soon as the budget allows. There are also some minor repairs required to the rear coupler.

The CH&FR is looking forward to putting this streamlined classic passenger Diesel to work!


Kato Genesis P42 Diesel Decoder Install

Kato P42
Amtrak #188 crosses the road, leading the Cardinal.

It’s been a while since I posted a decoder install how-to, so it’s about time I did so.  A few weeks ago, as a reward for some good news at work, I splurged on one of the Kato P42 Genesis Amtrak train “starter sets”.  The P42 Genesis is a really, really nice locomotive, one of Kato’s best in N scale, by many accounts.  It comes in the set as a DC model, but is very DCC friendly.  Digitrax, NCE, TCS and MRC all have drop-in decoders for the model (the MRC decoder includes sound!), and the install for all of them is quite similar.  In this how-to, we will be installing the Digitrax DN163K0A decoder, but you should be able to adapt this process easily to any of the other brands.

Here’s the locomotive in its packaging along with the rest of the train set (and my daughter’s “pet cow” Bessie).

The starter set

Step 1: Shell Removal

Shell Removed!

To remove the shell, pry the sides apart gently and insert some toothpicks to hold them out.  Pull down on the front trucks (gently but firmly – the trucks will pop out) and lift the shell off in a front-to-back motion.

Step 2: Unclip the motor tabs

Remove the grey clip

Near the center of the frame is a grey plastic clip holding two metal tabs (the motor contact tabs) down.  Gently pry up the clip and set it aside.  You’ll need it again later.  Then bend the two metal tabs up to free the light board.  You might want to take a sharpie and mark the spot where these metal tabs (used to) touch the copper pick-up strips that run under the light board.

Lift the motor tabs clear of the light board

(sorry about the focus on that one!)

Step 3: Insulate the pickup strips

Insulate the contact strips from the motor tabs

I’m sure there’s a more technical term for these, but those two long copper strips that run along the sides of the frame under the light board pick up power from the trucks and deliver it to the light board.  Remove the light board, and then gently lift these two strips out.  With a small piece of Kapton tape, insulate the spot where the motor tabs would touch these strips.  Be sure to insulate all the way around the strip, but don’t use more than one layer of tape.  The fit is fairly tight, and extra tape will make it hard to close things up.  Don’t use regular black electrical tape. it’s too thick, and doesn’t hold up well when heated.  Kapton is the way to go here.

Here’s what the insulated strips should look like when re-installed.

Replace the contact strips. Make sure they’re insulated from the motor tabs.

Step 4: Install the decoder

Install the decoder over the contact strips.

The decoder just drops into place where the light board used to be.  You’ll have to be careful not to dislodge the pick-up strips.

Step 5: Re-clip the motor tabs

Replace the grey clip. Press hard. Some extra tape might help.

Bend the motor tabs down so they contact the pads on the decoder.  Make sure they do not contact the pick-up strips!  Replace the grey plastic clip to hold the strips in place.  You have to press pretty hard to get the clip to snap in firmly.  If the clip is broken, or if you want to be extra-sure, you can solder the tabs to the decoder.  An extra strip of tape over the clip is also good insurance.

Step 6: Bend down the headlight

Bend the front LED down at an angle.

The last thing to do before re-installing the shell is to bend the front LED to about a 30-45˚ angle.  This helps make sure the LED fits into the light guide in the shell.   Once that’s done, slip the shell back in place, install the extra parts provided by Kato, and enjoy your locomotive!

Here’s a “wide shot” of the completed install:

And, of course, some video!


CH&FR 7401 Maiden Run

[flickr video=8137620926 show_info=true secret=ca481d1f2e w=500 h=281]
CH&FR 7401 Maiden Run a video by BGTwinDad on Flickr.

After installing a new airhorn, the crew brought CH&FR #7401 out for a quick test run with her sister engine B&O #7413. Both engines will be assigned together to haul coal from the local mines to interchange at Williamson, WV and Russell, KY.

Both models are EMD SD35s, made by Atlas, as part of their Trainman line.  The Chessie unit is “out of box”, and the CH&FR unit has had a number of custom details added, including see-through vent fans, MU hoses, sun shades, grab irons and the new horn.  Both units have a Digitrax DN163A0 DCC decoder, though they have not yet been speed matched.

NSNX2012 Visits the CH&FR

Bachmann vs. Atlas GP7 by BGTwinDad
Bachmann vs. Atlas GP7, a photo by BGTwinDad on Flickr.

This week, another member of the nScale.net Traveling Fleet visited the CH&FR at Glover’s Bend… this time it’s a locomotive.  NSNX 2012 is an EMD GP7 (Atlas Master Line model), customized and weathered by nScale.net member “jpwisc”.  Shown here beside the CH&FR’s own GP7 #6411, the NSNX unit will spend another week or so performing helper service on the Glover’s Bend Subdivision before moving on to the next stop on its tour.

While here, I added MU hoses and trainline hoses to the front and rear pilots.  I hope my work does this fine locomotive justice.

Locomotive Roster “Complete”

IMG_2625 by BGTwinDad
IMG_2625, a photo by BGTwinDad on Flickr.

When I designed my Glover’s Bend layout, I put together a plan of the trains that would run regularly on it, including the motive power required to run those trains – or, more specifically, what would be used if it were the real prototype, of course.  I also planned for the type and roadname of the locomotive to be a visual cue to which train – and to/from which locations – each was.  This mean that I had a specific list of locomotives that I need to make the layout complete, just like I had a specific list of track pieces or structures or scenic details or electronics that I need.

As of my most recent purchase – a Norfolk Southern B23-7 by Atlas, lightly used, from a friend, that need list is now complete.  Not that I won’t be buying plenty more locomotives in the future – they are somewhat addictive – but they will be wants not needs, so to speak.

Front row (L-R):

  • Bachmann 2-8-0 Consolidation WM761 : excursion service
  • Bachmann 2-6-6-2 Mallet C&O 1397 : Coal and excursion service

Second row (L-R):

  • Atlas EMD SD35 B&O (Chessie) 7413 : Coal service (paired with CH&FR7401)
  • Atlas EMD SD35 CH&FR 7401 : Coal service (paired with B&O7413)
  • Atlas GE B23-7 NS 3982 : Northbound mixed freight from Norfolk Southern (Williamson, WV)

Third row (L-R):

  • Atlas EMD GP40-2 CSX 6218 : Southbound mixed freight from CSX (Russell, KY)
  • Bachmann EMD GP7 CHFR (Chessie, ex-B&O)6411 : Town branch freight
  • Kato EMD NW2 C&O (Chessie) 5278 : Yard switching

Fourth row (L-R):

  • Bachmann EMD GP40 ATSF 3500 : Out of service (soon to be repainted in Conrail)
  • Intermountain EMD F3A EL6611 : Excursion and general freight service


New addition(s) to the roster

Untitled by BGTwinDad
Untitled, a photo by BGTwinDad on Flickr.

Following extensive testing of a B&O unit borrowed from the GPF&F Railroad, the CH&FR has acquired two EMD SD35 locomotives for use in mine service in the Glover’s Bend area.  The first, B&O#7413, is painted in the Chessie System paint scheme, and is already in operational service.  The second has just been delivered, and is due for a heavy service and painting operation at the Frost River Locomotive Works.  This unit will be painted in a classic CH&FR paint scheme, and will be numbered CHFR #7401.

The SD35 is a six-axle Diesel unit produced by the General Motors Electro-Motive Division (“EMD”) from 1964-1966.  Its 16-cylinder 567D3A engine produces 2,500 HP, and its overall length is 60 feet.  This combination of good horsepower, short wheelbase and high traction makes the SD35 a good choice for pulling heavy coal trains on the sharply curved trackage in the Glover’s Bend area.

Both locomotives are slated for a full detailing, including detailed fans, grab irons, sun shades, windshield wipers, MU and airline hoses.  Stay tuned for more information on the detailing process.


CH&FR Tests Six-Axle Diesels

  by BGTwinDad
, a photo by BGTwinDad on Flickr.

Residents in Glover’s Bend were awakened by a new Diesel rumble from the nearby Nolan Yard. The CH&FR, in its search for improved efficiencies in its crucial coal hauling operation, has leased two six-axle units from the GPF&F Railroad for testing and evaluation on the Glover’s Bend Division’s steep grades and tough curves.

Arriving yesterday evening were EMD SD35 B&O#7414 and EMD SD50 C&O#8625. With their weight distributed across more contact points on the rail, thanks to the three-axle trucks, these engines can start a heavy train easier and drag it up the tough grades in the Glover’s Bend area more effectively than the four-axle Diesels currently on the roster. With shipments on the rise, this will be a critical change to operations.

The two units will be tested extensively over the next few days operating trains in a variety of situations, and will be studied and evaluated by the maintenance crews as well. If the tests are successful, the CH&FR plans to either purchase or long-term-lease two or three units for regular use on the mine runs. Initial reactions were mixed.

“That SD35 is a sweet machine… good power, good traction, and a comfortable ride. But that SD50? It’s just too darn big. I don’t know how we’d get it into the maintenance shops. It’d be a bear to run it all the way to Frost River every time we need to fix something!” , one engineer was quoted as saying.

The next several days should certainly be interesting for railfans in this area, as these two big engines ply the local rails.