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Installing a Tsunami TSU 1000 in Athearn Blue Box GP9 and Big Boy system

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  • Member since
    June, 2012
  • From: Fernley NV 30 Miles East of Reno But Originally from NY, NY
  • 392 posts
Installing a Tsunami TSU 1000 in Athearn Blue Box GP9 and Big Boy system
Posted by pascaff* on Friday, June 29, 2012 11:21 PM

I have been using a Digitrax Big Boy system since around 1997 on my HO layout, with DH 121 series decoders, hard wired in my Athearn Blue Box locomotives. Two GP9, SW1500, SD9, and F7A. They all work fine, but I want to start using Tsunami TSU 1000 sound decoders. I thought I would start with one GP9.

Has anyone done this installation? If so what size speaker did you use? Any pitfalls I should be aware of? The Big Boy is limited and I am planning to upgrade to a Super Chief soon, but wanted to do the sound decoders first.

Thanks for any help or input.

     Paul     

Living in Fernley Nevada, about 30 miles east of Reno, also lived in Oregon and California, but born In Brooklyn NY and raised on Long Island NY

  • Member since
    January, 2011
  • 433 posts
Posted by PennCentral99 on Saturday, June 30, 2012 9:05 AM

I have not done a GP9, but I have done a GP38-2. The internal components under the shell are the same, but you may need to move the speaker slightly based on the shell/cab configuration. I used a Railmaster Hobbies - Narrow Base Reflex Speaker (18mm x 53mm).

Here's a video, which can help give a basic idea. You may need to adjust your installation to your particular loco/shell. I could have put the speaker in the rear and the decoder in the front. Always test fit first.....

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GlhGcChbOjc

I have other videos on other decoder installs, feel free to look around.....

See more on my YouTube Channel

  • Member since
    June, 2012
  • From: Fernley NV 30 Miles East of Reno But Originally from NY, NY
  • 392 posts
Posted by pascaff* on Saturday, June 30, 2012 11:00 AM

Thanks for the info and great video. I think I will get the decoder, speaker, and enclosure ordered.

Paul

Living in Fernley Nevada, about 30 miles east of Reno, also lived in Oregon and California, but born In Brooklyn NY and raised on Long Island NY

  • Member since
    March, 2004
  • From: Calgary, Alberta, Canada
  • 6,432 posts
Posted by davidmbedard on Saturday, June 30, 2012 11:04 AM

In a word, don't.  It isn't worth the install in the GP9

The Athearn Blue Box line of locos suffer from the live frame disease.  To make it operate at the best of it's ability you would have to;

1.  Bypass the electrical-mechanical connection between the trucks and the frame.

2.  Swap out the stamped-steel wheels with Nickle Silver ones.

3.  Isolate and possibly replace the motor.   They are Amperage hogs and can easily overload and destroy your 100 dollar sound decoder.

4.  Toothpaste the gears or you wont be able to hear the sound of the decoder.

5.  Install a larger capacitor to try and bypass the limitations of the Athearn design.

All of the above take time and the end result is still a loco that has a body that is too wide and still wont run as well as an Atlas or newer Genesis GP.   A sound decoder is an investment.  Installing one into a unit that wont give you great results is a waste of time.  When you run the loco, you will see it run and stall and run and stall.  That typically is ok with a standard DCC decoder, but with sound you will also HEAR it.

That is my advice from a professional installer.

David B

In terms of a Digitrax upgrade, consider the Zephyr system.  It will have more than you need in terms of operating capabilities.

David B

  • Member since
    June, 2012
  • From: Fernley NV 30 Miles East of Reno But Originally from NY, NY
  • 392 posts
Posted by pascaff* on Saturday, June 30, 2012 12:13 PM

David, Items 1 through 4 have been done a long time ago on all my Athearn engines.

Paul

Living in Fernley Nevada, about 30 miles east of Reno, also lived in Oregon and California, but born In Brooklyn NY and raised on Long Island NY

  • Member since
    June, 2010
  • From: Victor Harbor, South Australia
  • 308 posts
Posted by alexstan on Wednesday, July 04, 2012 3:01 AM
davidmbedard

In a word, don't.  It isn't worth the install in the GP9

The Athearn Blue Box line of locos suffer from the live frame disease.  To make it operate at the best of it's ability you would have to;

1.  Bypass the electrical-mechanical connection between the trucks and the frame.

2.  Swap out the stamped-steel wheels with Nickle Silver ones.

3.  Isolate and possibly replace the motor.   They are Amperage hogs and can easily overload and destroy your 100 dollar sound decoder.

4.  Toothpaste the gears or you wont be able to hear the sound of the decoder.

5.  Install a larger capacitor to try and bypass the limitations of the Athearn design.

All of the above take time and the end result is still a loco that has a body that is too wide and still wont run as well as an Atlas or newer Genesis GP.   A sound decoder is an investment.  Installing one into a unit that wont give you great results is a waste of time.  When you run the loco, you will see it run and stall and run and stall.  That typically is ok with a standard DCC decoder, but with sound you will also HEAR it.

That is my advice from a professional installer.

David B

In terms of a Digitrax upgrade, consider the Zephyr system.  It will have more than you need in terms of operating capabilities.

David B

Does that all apply for the newer RTR GP38-2's and GP40-2's?

-Alexander-

  • Member since
    February, 2002
  • From: Reading, PA
  • 17,228 posts
Posted by rrinker on Wednesday, July 04, 2012 7:21 AM

 Other than the live frame, which IS NOT a big deal, no.

All the live frame means is you have to make sure the lower motor contact is isolated from said frame. This is easy to do and not complicated at all, certainly no reason to discard the loco.

 The motors haven't been amperage hogs since the days of the old tan motors, before the gold sided ones.

I've had several AThearns and run many more at two different clubs and never have they been coffee grinders. The worst problem I can say with an AThearn Blue Box is that the motor magnets are nto glued in to those motors and it will amplify DCC frequencies if you don;t use a decent modern decoder with high frequency drive. Athearn motor with a cheap decoder will 'sing' just like plecing a non-DCC Athearn on DCC track.

 The newer RTR ones can be a little iffy on the pickup on the side that doesn't have a wire (ie, the side the goes through the bolster to the frame). Simply solder some flexible deocder wire to the metal side frame of each truck on that side and use that as the rail pickup on that side, bypasses any and all issues with the bolster pickup. You basically duplicate the other side, that already has wires.

                              --Randy


Modeling the Reading Railroad in the 1950's

 

Visit my web site at www.readingeastpenn.com for construction updates, DCC Info, and more.

  • Member since
    June, 2012
  • From: Fernley NV 30 Miles East of Reno But Originally from NY, NY
  • 392 posts
Posted by pascaff* on Friday, July 13, 2012 11:03 PM

Update: I did the Tsunami install yesterday. I did have to remove the old Digitrax decoder, and remount the can motor I had previously installed to just a bit lower in the frame. Easy fix just removed the cork I had used as a spacer. Drilled and tapped a 2-56 hole in the frame to solder wire to instead of the light mounting bracket. Drilled some small holes in the roof grill to allow the sound to get out. I took my time and planned every step.

   While perusing the forums I came across a discussion about cleaning track with the "Gleam" method. I Gleamed about 14 feet of track. My old Athearn BB GP9, bought new in 1981, runs and sounds great on the Gleamed track, even going through a crossover.

 When I got started with DCC in the 90's I never dreamed it would be this much fun operating trains. Clean track and sound are great. Now I just need to buy some more Tsunami's when the budget allows.

  Thanks to everyone who had input on sound decoders, installation of such, and track cleanng ideas.

   Paul

Living in Fernley Nevada, about 30 miles east of Reno, also lived in Oregon and California, but born In Brooklyn NY and raised on Long Island NY

  • Member since
    January, 2011
  • 433 posts
Posted by PennCentral99 on Sunday, July 15, 2012 9:07 AM

Glad to hear the conversion went well, congrats!

See more on my YouTube Channel

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