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Thread: Bashing UP #618 from A Bachman 2-8-0: Phase 1. Vandy tender DCC install.

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    Default Bashing UP #618 from A Bachman 2-8-0: Phase 1. Vandy tender DCC install.

    Last fall I mentioned in a thread that I had “won” a MP Vanderbilt tender on eBay, and planned to use it in a tender/decoder swap with my Bachmann Sound Value 2-8-0. The goal was to make my 2-8-0 more closely resemble (it won’t be perfect) UP #618, which ran on the Oregon Shortline, and now pulls tourist trains (or will again, once it’s boiler rebuild is complete) on the Heber Valley Railroad in Utah.

    0-UP #618.jpg

    There are a bunch of pics I took on my various visits to the HVRR here...

    This was to be my first decoder/sound install, and I started working on the tender last winter... But the project got pushed to the back of my bench (literally) when I decided to buy Moose’s surplus 4-6-0 and install a sound decoder into a short USRA tender, which I documented in this thread.

    Once the 4-6-0 install was done (and my railroad’s capital improvements balance replenished), I again focused my attention on the Vandy tender for my 2-8-0. Phase 1, which included converting the MP tender to all-wheel pickup and installing a Tsunami 2 steam 2 sound decoder, was completed this week. I thought I would share some pics taken during the building process...

    First, here is what I started with: The MP Vandy tender has 4 wheel pickup... the front truck picks up the right rail, the rear truck picks up the left rail.

    1-underside.jpg

    2- exploded top.jpg

    Converting the tender to all-wheel “drive” (pickup):
    I wanted to convert the tender to all wheel pickup. To that end, I purchased a pair of 2-8-0 tender trucks from Bachmann. I clipped the “ears” of the spring metal (phosphor bronze?) contacts fairly short, bent them over, and soldered 36 wires to each, as shown in this pic:

    3-trucks.jpg

    Unfortunately, the trucks could not be directly mounted to the tender body... the MP trucks were held on by narrow diameter screws which act as kingposts for the trucks to swivel around, but the Bachmann trucks mount over “king posts” that are integral to the tender floor/frame, and the screw head only acts like a retainer. I initially tried to modify the trucks to use the mounting method of the MP tender, but after several failed attempts, decided to modify the tender to accept the Bachmann trucks. After a bit of trial and error, I ended up with styrene king posts to fit the trucks over.

    4-kingposts.jpg

    You might notice that the front post is longer than the rear... this is because I am also using a Bachmann draw bar, which mounts between the tender frame and the front truck. I decided it would be easier to adapt the tender to mate with the Bachmann drawbar than to modify the MP drawbar to mate with the Bachmann loco. That also means the tender floow had to be filed down a bit more in front, so the tender would ride level.

    Here’s a view of the inside floor of the tender, with the weight and all the factory electrical works stripped out. You can see two of the holes drilled for the pickup wires from the trucks:

    5-inside.jpg

    I saved the cast metal weight, trimming it so that much if it can be fit back into the tender under the decoder... you will see that in later pics.

    Continued in next post...
    Last edited by NDave; 3rd Aug 2019 at 09:03 PM.

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    I then cut out the slot at the front of the tender, where the factory draw bar connected, to make a hole for the wires from the decoder (in the tender) to the loco:

    7-front end mods a.jpg

    And also cut a bit of a notch in the tender’s “subfloor” (for lack of a better term), to make a little flex space for the wire connections between tender and loco:

    7-front end mods b.jpg

    Another view from the underside... I blackened the king posts with a black Sharpie, and then sprayed the whole thing lightly with “Engine Black” acrylic paint:

    8-painted.jpg

    The drawbar...
    I didn’t actually take pictures of the drawbar, but those of you with Bachmann 2-8-0 or 4-6-0 (or other Bachmann locos) are aware that the drawbar incorporates two stiff wires that transmit power from a split peg on the split frame loco, thru the contact “ears” of the forward tender truck, and thence to the spring metal contact busses along the floor of the tender. This arrangement is actually redundant (but does have some benefits, as will become clear later in the story), as track power is also carried by wire leads from the loco to the tender. Remember, I modified the trucks by removing the contact ears... so couldn’t use a stock Bachmann drawbar. So, I clipped the spring contact wires short, bent up the (tender side) ends, and soldered 36 ga wires, which I planned to feed into the body of the tender thru the wire port in the front. In the end, this didn’t work out for trivial reasons, which I will go into later... I may someday go back and re-add those wires. So, in these next two images of the tender body with trucks attached, you can see 6 wires, 3 ea red and black, coming from the rear truck, front truck, and the drawbar, respectively. You can also see how much of the original tender weight that I managed to fit into the final build:

    9-inside wired.jpg

    10-front view wired.jpg

    These wires all needed to be connected, reds to reds and blacks to blacks, and then connected to the decoder. Thus...

    Continued in next post...
    Last edited by NDave; 3rd Aug 2019 at 01:29 PM.

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    The tender power busses...
    I decided the best way to connect all the wires was to create two tender busses, one on each side, to connect all the various reds and blacks. I happened to have a supply of PC board tie material, from my forays into hand-laying track for Nn3 (40+ years ago!) and HOn3 (30+ years ago!)... so I ground and filed recesses along the top sides of the tender weight to recess the PC board busses (vertical space is at a premium). I brushed the top of the weight with liquid electrical tape (much heavier in the actual slots), and made sure there was no short circuit between the busses. I pre-tinned spots for wire connections on the PC board busses, and then “glued” them to the weight with liquid electrical tape. In the next pic, I have connected the truck and drawbar leads to the busses:

    11-bus wired.jpg

    The speaker...

    After a lot of measuring, I decided it should be possible to fit an 11mm x 15mm sugar cube speaker from SBS into the oil bunker of the tender, but none of the speaker baffles/enclosures would really fit. After considering modifying one of the SBS enclosures, or building a custom wedge-shaped enclosure, I hit upon the idea of using the oil bunker itself (or at least, a good portion of it) as the enclosure. I built a frame that would fit around the speaker and glued it into the top forward corner of the oil bunker:

    12-speaker enclosure frame.jpg

    The frame and speaker had to clear the edge of the tender floor where it mates with the oil bunker.

    After sealing the edges with liquid electrical tape, I used the same to mount and seal the speaker into the frame... You can see the microconnector that will connect to the decoders speaker wires. (I later added strips of lead ribbon... old fishing weight that is no longer legal in most western states... about 2" worth) in some extra space along the upper left edge of the speaker):

    13-with speaker.jpg

    The decoder...
    With the speaker (and stay-alive capacitor, you will see this in a later pic) in the oil bunker, the decoder fits into the water tank, sitting on top of the remaining tender weight.

    14-separated.jpg

    In this image, you can see the resistors for the headlight and backup light, and the microconnector for the backup light (which will be mounted in the top of the water tank shell). The loco connections are all (temporarily) routed thru the front wire port. I mounted the decoder with the component side up, which apparently is upside down, because it put the red and black track power inputs on the wrong sides... so you can see where the red and black wires cross over the top of the decoder, and where the red wire is connected to the right side power buss. Also note the tape labels on various electrical leads from the loco... placed before each wire was cut to separate the factory tender from the loco.

    This image shows a top view of the factory decoder in the old tender (sorry for the limited depth of focus)... to separate the tender from the loco, I cut the wires, leaving just a short length of each attached to the connector (which is still plugged into the tender board in this photo) for a future connection.

    15-factory decoder connections.jpg

    The wiring connections are labeled on the board... for others reference, I have labeled the connections using the standard NMRA color scheme, from bottom to top: red (R), Orange (O), Blue (B), White (W), Grey (G), and Black (K). Tho’ I didn’t test them, I assume the two contacts labeled with asterisks are for connecting a backup light.

    I pulled the wires from the loco thru the wire port in the front of the tender, and made the appropriate solder connections. Rather than insulate with shrink tubing, I just used a couple good coats of liquid electrical tape. I know some may frown on this practice, but I in the two installs I have completed, I have found that the smallest shrink tubing I could find still takes up too much space when you have to make/stuff 6 connections into the limited confines at the front of the tender.

    Continued in next post...
    Last edited by NDave; 3rd Aug 2019 at 01:56 PM.

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    Almost done (with phase 1)!
    Here’s a shot showing the newly connected loco and tender, with their shells off:

    16-connected.jpg

    You can see the layout of the decoder in the water tank, with the capacitor extending forward under the oil bunker, and the connectors, and the microconnectors for the speaker (in the oil bunker) and the backup light (on the top of the oil tank). Not visible is a chunk of tungsten putty I placed under the rear of the decoder, to (partially) compensate for removing so much of the cast tender weight.

    After soldering all of the wires, it became clear that the Bachmann drawbar I had modified to carry track current from the loco back to the tender was too short... I can’t remember which drawbar I started with, it might have been from the 4-6-0. Altho' I was trying to close-couple the tender, it was so close there wasn’t room for the wires between loco and tender to flex and bend. Fortunately, I had several other Bachmann drawbars. I first tried the drawbar from the factory tender... I removed the spring wire contacts (since they weren’t of any use making electrical connections). That worked OK, but the coupling spacing was a little too wide. So I used another that I had shortened by about a mm when I was working on my 4-6-0 project. Again, I had to remove the spring wire contacts from the drawbar (more about that in a minute). That gave a nice coupling distance.

    To this point, there have been NO modifications to the loco itself... so you might ask, why is the loco shell off? Well.. When I placed the loco with its new tender and decoder on the tracks, everything worked great... the loco responded to the throttle, I had lights, sound, etc. until it came to a turnout... and then it stalled. Not every turnout, but it would consistently stall on a couple turnouts when running at low speeds, with the tender in the turnout (frogs or points) and the loco on the entry rails.

    I first thought this might be due to a lack of weight affecting tender wheel contact to the rails. To test this idea, I piled a stack of pennies on top of the oil bunker to see if that would help. It didn’t.

    I took the loco/tender back to the bench, and tested the continuity between the wheels on each side of the loco and tender with my meter... since all the wheels on the right side should be connected to the right tender buss, they should all show electrical continuity. And they did.

    All the wheels on the left should be connected to the left tender buss... both tender trucks checked OK, but there was no continuity between the loco left side drivers and the tender (the Black wire)... At first, I though I had a bad solder connection... so I clipped that joint, and tested continuity between the black lead from the loco and the loco frame or drivers. No joy!

    My next thought was that somehow I had broken the black wire, or pulled it loose from its connection in the loco... finding/repairing the connection necessitated pulling off the loco shell (the worst part was working the power reverse detail free from the shell w/o breaking it), and tracing the black wire to where it connected to the frame. Fortunately, the connection was pretty obvious... the screw marked with an arrow in the last pic anchors a lug attached to the left rail (Black) lead (there is a corresponding screw on the right side)...

    and THE SCREW WAS NOT TIGHTENED against the frame, so there was no (or only an intermittant) connection. Prior to swapping tenders and drawbars, this “factory error” was masked by the drawbar connection. The lack of a wired connection between the left side loco frame and tender via the wire explained why my 2-8-0 always had squirrely pick up issues... the drawbar and its contact to the front truck had to be adjusted just right, or the loco would stall on turnouts. Once I swapped tenders and drawbars, I lost the redundant power connection thru the drawbar, and the loco consistently stalled on turnouts. The fix was simple... I just tightened down the screw, put the loco back on the tracks. NO MORE STALLING!

    So, here’s the loco with it’s new tender after completion of phase I. I think it looks pretty good with it’s new Vandy tender, even if it isn’t yet a match for UP #618 (and apparently, it’s a S.P tender, to boot!):

    17-End of phase 1.jpg

    Again, I really like the Tsunami 2 steam 2 decoder. The loco is running great with the factory default motor settings. My 2-8-0 always had a very slight hitch between 5-10 smph, that smooths out a bit, then comes back between 10-15 smph, then is gone above 15 smph. It was so slight, I think I heard it more than saw it, due to the slight change in rhythm of the exhaust chuff. I think the Tsunami decoder must have better low speed motor control, since I think the hitch is even less noticable (over the factory Economi decoder). I am hoping that I might improve it even more by adjusting the CV that controls low speed motor performance. I also really like the sound and sound control (tho’ it took a while going through 80+ whistles, 10+ exhaust chuffs, and all the bells to find the ones that 1. I liked; and 2 distinguished it from my 4-6-0). The Tsunami 2 adjusts the sound to the engine load... I really like that feature, as well being able to set the cylinder cocks to open automatically for a defined period of time when the loco starts moving.

    continued in next post...
    Last edited by NDave; 3rd Aug 2019 at 01:56 PM.

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    One last side benefit of the decoder swap: From the factory, the headlight on my 2-8-0 was almost non-existent. You could barely see an orange glow thru the lens when the loco as directly facing you. Swapping the decoder had a dramatic effect... suddenly, there was light! I think the resistor that drops current for the LED in the factory board must have too high a value...

    Another issue with the brightness of the factory headlight is evident in this pic:

    18-headlight reflector.jpg

    The LED (arrow) is an SMD mounted to shine upward, recessed back into a cleft in the frame that houses the light board. Of course, all of the frame is painted or powder coated black. Thus, only a small fraction of this light gets collected by the light pipe and directed out the headlight. I tried to improve this by (1) painting the surfaces silver, to try and get more light forward, and (2) fashioning a small hemicylindrical “reflector” from a piece of styrene tubing cut in half and painted silver (inside) that I wedged behind the LED to try and direct more light forward. I honestly don’t know how much effect the reflector had (the most substantial change was by changing the decoder/resistor)... but it brings the headlamp output to something I can live with until I get to phases 2 and 3 of the project.

    So here’s the teaser for phases 2 and 3... the cosmetic changes to the loco shell and tender to more closely resemble UP #618 (it won't be a perfect match, but hopefully a reasonable facsimile).

    19-Phase 2 and 3.jpg

    I obtained a spare boiler shell and cab this week from someone on the Bachmann forum... and hope to start bashing it later this summer or fall. Stay tuned...

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    Initial tests indicate that changing the low speed compensation (CV 211) from the default of 180 to a value of 75 seems to have eliminated the slight hesitation I was seeing at slow speeds. Here's a video...


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    Pretty sure I heard a Moose bellow with joy! That lokey runs sweetly and sound great!

    You really should consider submitting this as an article to one of the mags -- MRH or one of the N scale mags. It's good stuff.

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    Wow. That tsunami sounds is incredible. The loco looks and performs great. These conversions are fantastic and your article worthy posts are so helpful for at home work.

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    So, ahem, what are you going to do with the old tender?

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    Quote Originally Posted by Paul Schmidt View Post
    You really should consider submitting this as an article to one of the mags -- MRH or one of the N scale mags. It's good stuff.
    Thanks! Let's wait and see the final product... the tricky part (moving domes and piping) is still to come!

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    Quote Originally Posted by gatrhumpy View Post
    So, ahem, what are you going to do with the old tender?
    Hadn't made any serious plans... drop me a PM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by NDave View Post
    Thanks! Let's wait and see the final product... the tricky part (moving domes and piping) is still to come!
    Do you plan on removing the valve gear?
    Cheers,

    Russ

    CEO of Devil's Gate Mining Co.



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    Quote Originally Posted by mosslake View Post
    Do you plan on removing the valve gear?
    I have considered it on both this and my 4-6-0... that would make them resemble their prototypes more closely. For now, I think I will leave the running gear alone, being afraid I would screw something up. As I said in the intro, I am looking for a something that resembles the prototype... and have made/will make compromises.

    (plus, watching the rods and valve gear is one of the joys of running steam!)

    I actually looked at what it would take to remove the valve gear from the 4-6-0, and it looked pretty straightforward. I haven't really looked at it for the 2-8-0, yet. That might be "phase 4."

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