Friday, November 1, 2013

Lenz Silver Mini in an Athearn F59PHI

Years ago I had presented an installation for the Athearn F59PHI on my old web site and later included it in this blog as a post.  In that installation I had used the original PC board that was in the engine and the decoder I used was the Digitrax DZ121 which at that time was one of the smallest decoders available.  Here is a link to that post.

Recently I was asked to replace an existing installation of a Digitrax DN121 decoder with a new Lenz Silver Mini.  The PC board had been removed from the locomotive.  So this post will show a different method to install a decoder in this loco that was not available in a DCC version and that no after market decoder board has ever been offered for.

The original installation is seen in this photo.  On this installation, the LED's were not in alignment to get any light into the lenses, particularly the ditch lights that are on this model.

For that reason I felt there would be an advantage to having the LED's and resistors mounted on a board of some type.

This is the Lenz decoder.  Notice how it does not have any heat shrink over it.  That means care must be taken in it's placement so it does not short on any part of the frame.  Also, the wires are more easily broken off from this decoder than those with heat shrink.

My solution to the wire problem is to place a small length of 3/16 inch heat shrink over all the wires near the decoder as shown here.  This acts as a strain relief and will protect the wires being broken off from the decoder during handling.

After removing the motor from the motor saddle and marking at least one of the sides of the motor to keep it's correct orientation, I removed the little tabs that would have held the board in place if there had been one.

A stock board from an Atlas GP40 fits just right into the top of the motor saddle and with some modification it can be used as a replacement board.

I aligned the board so that the front LED is at an equal distance from the front of the frame as on a stock Athearn F59PHI. The black line across the board and saddle mark this alignment.

Notice in the photo above that the little bars on the motor saddle that go across the motor contact wipers on the stock mechanism are gone on the saddle we are using.  This had been removed in the original DN121 installation.  If the loco you are working with is a new installation, this should also be cut.  Too see this step refer again back to the earlier post on this model.

This photo shows the modifications made to an Atlas GP40 board to make it fit into the frame of the Athearn F59PHI.

The polarity of the front LED is reversed so that the anodes of both LED's will be tied together.

I use E6000 adhesive from Tap Plastics to secure the board to the motor saddle and then the decoder to the board.  Because there is no heat shrink on the decoder, it must be placed on a spot where there is no exposed circuitry.

The white, yellow, and blue wires are soldered to the board as shown in this photo and the other wires are trimmed to 2 inches in length.  Keeping them long will make it easier to put things back together.

Route the wires down through the openings in the saddle.  Remove the brush holders from the motor, solder the wires to the brush holders, then after they have cooled, re-install them in the motor. Then connect the red and black wires to the contact strip.  Keep the solder joints small, if needed make the openings in the saddle a little bigger.

On this model the top of the shell is removable so in this photo the installation can be seen after the shell is re-installed on the mechanism.

Several areas to to watch out for are pointed out.

Done !

Saturday, October 5, 2013

TCS Z2 in an Atlas H16-44

The Atlas H16-44 is an unusual model because it has green and red marker lights on each end in addition to a LED head light.  The green markers come on at the leading end of the engine along with the headlight.  The red marker lights are lighted come on at the trailing end.

At the time they were available for sale they came in a DC or DCC version. None of the decoder manufacturers ever came up with an after market decoder for this one so if you want to add DCC to one it's going to be a wired decoder.  I chose the small and reliable TCS Z2 with functions rated at 60ma driving 3 LED's should be no problem.

After some experimenting, I determined that to get the red and green LED's to light using a DCC decoder, both of the 3 lead LED's on the stock board are going to need to be replaced.  This is because they are a common cathode type which means the center or common lead is connected to the negative side of a power source.   On a decoder's function outputs, using the blue wire as a return, it's the blue wire that is positive relative to the white and yellow wires.  Because the LED cathodes are tied together on the PC board, the headlight LED's will also need to be reversed.

I drew up this schematic to show these connections.

I got my 3mm common anode, 2 color ( red / green ) LED's on line from LED-Switch,  Their item number was L033RGDCA.  It was only $1.50 for a bag of 10 plus shipping.  They are worth checking out anyway as they have quite a few good items for model railroaders.

I could not determine any difference between the common anode and common cathode types of this LED from looking at it.  The only way seems to be to test it.

The method I use is shown in this photo.  If it lights with the + side of the 9 volt battery connected to the center, then it's common anode.  Don't forget the resistor !

There will also need to be some minor modification to the frame so start by fully disassembling the locomotive, placing all the small parts in a plastic bag.    Always put the motor assembly in a separate small plastic bag so no small metal objects will get into it because they are attracted by the motors magnets.  But before putting the motor away see the step below.

There is little plastic part that fits over the end of the motor shaft inside both flywheels.  I found several of these to be quite loose.  This is intended to engage with the worm gear shaft and if it's loose, the mechanical energy won't be properly transferred to the worm gear.

Check both and use adhesive if needed.  I used the E6000 product that I have mentioned in other posts.

I will use the original light board but will cut a section out in the middle to make room for the decoder.  It will end up being two boards with one being longer than the other.

Three diodes and one capacitor will be removed.  The LED's with 3 leads will to be replaced with the common anode ones. The LED's with the heat shrink need to be swapped from one end to the other.

One circuit trace needs to be cut.

The modifications required on the original LED light board are all shown in this photo.

This photo shows  what is now two separate boards should look like after the modifications and where the decoder wires are going to connect when we get to that step.

When installing the new common anode LED's it is important to keep the flat edge of the LED facing the same way as the old one was.  On this type of LED, the flat edge indicates the side for red.

On the the frame modification, I have temporarily placed the PC boards into the frame to gauge the spacing.  The decoder will fit into the wide opening in the top of the frame but that opening needs to be made longer as shown in this photo.

After the material is removed from both frame sides they should look like this.  This is the most time consuming part of this installation but it is important to take the time to be careful working with the frame.

To get the decoder ready for this locomotive cut the red and black leads to 1/2 inch, cut all the others to 5/8 inch.  Strip about 1/16 inch from each of the decoder wires and from one end of the blue, white, and yellow scraps.  Then twist the scrap ends together with their matching color wire from the decoder.

This photo shows what the decoder should look like after this step is completed.  Tin the ends of all the wires, this will keep those twisted ends together.

The next step is to connect the motor to the decoder.  I used a combination of two techniques that I have used on other installs.  The orange wire gets soldered to the wrap around contact to the bottom motor brush and 3/64 inch heat shrink placed over it.  The gray wire gets soldered directly to the top motor brush cap. Remove the brush cap first to do the soldering and then re-install it afterwards.

Put the motor back in it's mounting saddle and re-assemble the mechanism. It should now look something like this photo. Check that both the orange and gray wires are not touching the frame. The heat shrink tubing should protect the contact strip and the orange wire from the frame.

Test fit the shorter PC board, it should fit tightly on both sides. If it is loose on either side, remove the board and tap lightly a few times on the top of the frame at the spots indicated by the blue arrows.  Re-check the fit of the board.  Go slowly and repeat as many times as needed until satisfied that the board is making solid contact with the frame.

Connect all of the wires according to the photo shown several steps back.  When connecting the double yellow wires, place a small length of 3/64" heat shrink over it as there are exposed points on the board very close.  Solder all other wires as shown.

This is what the completed mechanism should look like.  The decoder fits into the little pocket on the top of the frame.

Test run in both DCC and DC modes to verify the lights are all working the way they are supposed to and are synchronized with the direction the locomotive moves.

Monday, August 26, 2013

TCS Z2 in a Kato JR 117 series motor car

Well it's been quite awhile since I've posted any new installs.  It's not that I haven't been doing any, it's just that the types of installs I've been doing I had already covered.  But here's something new, how about a Japanese train.

This Kato set is typical of Japanese passenger trains.  It's a double ended train with a control car at each end and the motor is inside one of the middle cars.  So it actually takes 3 decoders to activate the head and tail lights and the motor.  In this post I'll install the decoder for the motor and will address the end cars later.

The plastic interior comes off by carefully prying off the outside tabs on each side on both ends.  Then pry the interior from the frame at the point shown in this photo to release the interior tabs.

I took a look at the decoder offered by Kato for their Japanese prototype trains but could not see how that would work with this model.  That decoder seems to be designed to use with some of the later releases that have a hatch on the bottom to install the decoder.  I settled on the TCS Z2 for this installation.

After getting the car all the way apart I was able to identify 3 possible locations that the Z2 could fit into.

A - There was room within the roof under the raised part but the wires would be very visible inside the windows.

B - There is a large pocket in the frame here but I was afraid of the decoder rubbing on the drive shaft.

C - I took the conservative approach and chose to just place the decoder inside near one of the ends.

To get the motor out, remove one of the trucks by releasing the 4 tabs as shown in this photo.  Then remove the assembly while pulling the drive shaft out from the motor.  The motor can then be removed while pulling it away from the other drive shaft.

The front and a rear ends to this car need to be established so that when we later add decoders to the end cars so the lights will be coordinated with the motion of the motor car.  To do this I referred to the instruction sheet that comes with the set.  These sheets are in Japanese but I have found the drawing shown below to be very helpful. The cars of this train are numbered 1 to 6 with the motor being in car number 3.  These types of trains are bi-directional and when they reach the end of their run, the operator walks to the control cab at the other end so there really is no front or back. For DCC purposes I like to think of car 1 as being the front.  The writing and arrows under the end cars refer to a destination.

Drawings like this one are in the instructions of each Japanese train set I have seen and are very useful in assembling your train in the correct order.

The orange and gray motor wires are cut at 2-1/2 inches.  These motors are identical to the ones in Kato's American prototype locomotives except there are no flywheels.  The brush assemblies are removed from the motor and these wires soldered to the brush caps.  Then the brush assemblies are re-installed in the motor.  The white magnet on the motor faces down.

After the decoder wires are connected to the motor brushes and the motor is re-installed, the plastic interior piece can be placed between the motor wires as shown here.  Then carefully guide the interior into place on the frame while guiding the orange and gray wires to pass through the gaps between.

The red and black wires can then be cut to the length needed to reach the exposed part of the contact strips and soldered there.  Red to the right and black to the left.  The decoder and wires are held in place with a small amount of adhesive.

Here is the completed motor car.  At a low angle the decoder should be barely visible.  To hide it further, the decoder and wires could be painted a color to match the interior.

OK, so that takes care of the motor car.  This train and ones similar to it also have end cars with both head and tail lights in each one.  that will be covered in a future post.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

DZ123 in a Bachmann H16-44

Recently I had an N engine model to install a decoder into that I had not seen before and as I did not see very much on the web about this model I thought it would be a good one to post on.  Here's how it went.

First step was to remove the shell from the frame.  This model used the bumps on the sides of the frame to position the shell plus it has the ledges along the bottom the the frame for the shell to rest on.  I needed to remove one of the couplers first then I was able to pry the frame up out of the shell by the ledge.

After removing the shell, this is what the mechanism looks like.  There is a board with LED's that is intended to have a wired decoder connected to it.  I was very concerned about the reliability of the connection between the board and the frame.  Also, notice how far the front LED is from the front end of the engine.

Here is a closeup view of the board showing the jumper / connection points that are intended to connect a wired decoder to.  For the reasons stated above I decided not to use this board at all and wire the decoder in directly.

Removing the two screws at the ends of the frames, I opened the mechanism. The way the wires are connected to the motor made me decide to leave them where they are so I cut the motor wires off from the board.  I will be drilling and tapping some holes on the frames so I then removed the motor and the trucks so I have just the frames.

For more detail about how I drill and tap holes in frames to get a secure connection for the decoder input, see the post DZ125 in a Kato F3/7B from January 2011.

Here are the two frame half's after the holes have been drilled and tapped.  Notice how the removable weight toward the rear overlaps both sides.  It seemed so close to being a potential short that I put Kapton tape between the weight and the left frame.

After drilling and tapping the holes, I re-assembled the motor, trucks, and frames before continuing.

With situations like this when I have the motor wires connected I will first check with an ohm meter that both wires are isolated from both sides of the frame and then place the mechanism on the test track and connect the wires as shown to test that the motor is working correctly.

The wire lengths on the decoder are not too critical on this one as there is room to fold over any excess.  I cut the red and black wires to 2 inches and attached motor contact tabs from a Kato install and covered the connection with heat shrink as shown.  The remaining wires will be connected after the decoder is secured on the frame.

Lately I have been using a product call E6000 from Tap Plastics to secure decoders, wires, LED's, etc.  It sets up faster than the Walthers Goo that I had been using for many years.  Here I made a clip from a scrap of brass strip to hold the decoder in place while the E6000 sets.  At this point the red and black wires are secured to the frame with short 2-56 screws.

After the E6000 had set, I spliced the red motor wire to the gray decoder wire and the black motor wire to the orange decoder wire covering each splice with 3/64" heat shrink tubing.  The white and yellow decoder wires are cut to the desired length and connected to T3 size bright white LED's through 1.5K ohm, 1/8 watt resistors.  The blue decoder wire goes first to the front LED and then to the rear LED.

Here is a view of the completed mechanism.  The LED's have also been secured with E6000 taking care to have them aligned toward the headlight lenses.  Any excess wire length is folded over and secured to the top of the frame with Scotch tape.


This is a view of the short hood or front end of the engine on the layout.  The new LED in its location closer to the end of the frame now gives a bright head light.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

TCS CN-GP in a Life Like GP60

Recently I saw on the TCS web site that the CN-GP decoder would fit in the Life Like GP60 and as I had a couple of those to do I thought I would give it a try.  I've installed wired decoders in several of these models before but had to have the frames milled.  That type of installation was presented in the post Digitrax DZ123 in a Life Like GP60.

In that earlier post I had not mentioned removing the shell so I will cover it here.

The shell fits rather tightly on this model and the best way I have found to remove them is to pry the shell up from the tab located under the rear of the cab on each side with a jewelers screwdriver.

This installation is going to be similar to the others using the CN or CN-GP decoders. If I seem to skip over something or something is not clear I suggest also checking the other posts that use these decoders.  After getting the shell off I fully dis-assemble the mechanism.  This is necessary because the decoder wires are going to need to be connected to the motor.  When removing the motor, I always mark the top to keep the polarity correct.

The TCS web site seem to suggest that no frame modification at all was needed.  After carefully examining things I came up with the steps shown in this photo as being the minimum needed to ensure a solid installation.

A pinched wire may not show up for quite some time until the insulation breaks down and the conductor comes in contact with the frame.

It only took me a few minutes with a Dermal tool and cut off wheel. I smoothed things out with a jewelers file. The areas I worked on are pointed out by the blue arrows in this photo. The two areas near the ends can be done on either frame half. The frame needs to be free of any loose metal filings. I use a stiff brush and low pressure air to do this.

I like to remove the orange and gray wires from the decoder and connect them to the motor brush caps first.  This motor does not use a plastic saddle so it's a tight fit between the motor and the shell.  I file the groove to recess the gray wire into the motor body.

There is just a small amount of space between the motor brush caps and the frame so I wrap around the motor 1 and 1/2 times with Kapton tape with the overlap being at the top.  It's been my experience that Kapton tape sticks best to itself so that why the extra 1/2 turn.  The wires are folded under the tape then a slot is cut to allow them to come through on the top.

After re-installing the worm gear assemblies, the frame halves can be put back together using the bushings, screws, and nuts and this is what it should look like.

At this point I will apply the output of a DC throttle to the orange and gray wires and check how the motor is running before proceeding with the final steps.

Plug both decoder boards into the frame.  If needed to get a snug fit on the front board, tap lightly with a small hammer on the tabs with the board out, then plug in again. On the rear board use the solder method on the bottom of the board if needed to get a snug fit.  Connect the wires as shown and test run.

These engine don't have any kind of a hood or light shield around the inside of the cab windows and the LED's mounted on these decoders are quite bright so I ended up removing the cab and painting the inside of the windows with 2 coats of Floquil engine black.

Friday, January 25, 2013

DZ123 in a Kato GP38 or GP50

This material first appeared on my old web site in 2004.

In the late 80's Kato introduced some nice models of the GP38-2 and the GP50 that were built on very similar mechanisms.  These mechanisms were an improvement over what had been available up to that time and another stepping stone to get to what is available today.  It is possible to install a decoder in these older engines and here's how to do it.

The locomotive must be completely disassembled and the frame milled to make room for the decoder.  I sent mine to Aztec Mfg. for milling.

For this project I am using the TM3013 frame to modify a GP50.  This frame would also work for 2nd run of the GP38-2 model.  The TM3011 frame would be used for the 1st run of the GP38-2.

This installation uses the original PC light board. This photo shows the modifications I made to the board.  Cut the board just behind the rear mounting screw holes.  The remaining board should be about 1-7/8 inches long.

Remove the diode from the front end of the board.  Using the Aztec frame as a guide, file a notch to match the slot on the left side of the frame.

On this particular installation I had used the Digitrax DZ123 decoder.  Digitrax has replaced the DZ123 with the DZ125.  Other decoders that would work include the TCS M1 or Z2, The Zimo MX621, or Lenz Silver Mini.

This photo shows the decoder wired to the board and the motor brush caps installed on the orange and gray wires.  The lengths of the wires are as follows:

Red & Black = 7/8 inch
White & Gray = 1 - 7/8 inch
Orange = 2 - 3/8 inch
Yellow = 1 inch
Blue = 1/2 inch

In this example I used the original light front light bulb and connected the white wire directly.  If an LED is used then put a 480 ohm resistor between the LED and the white wire.  Do the same for the rear LED using the blue wire for the return path.

To give extra protection against any possibility of short circuits, place kapton tape on both the upper and lower parts of the frame, and on the inside of the metal cover as shown in this photo.

Run the orange wire down the left side of the engine to the lower motor brush.  The gray wire goes to the top motor brush.  They both use the notch on the left side of the engine. Install the metal cover being careful not to pinch any of the wires on the guide tab at sticks up from the frame. There will be enough room for the wires between the frame and the metal cover.