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My first brass steamer to DCC: Thoughts and musings => Photos added

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My first brass steamer to DCC: Thoughts and musings => Photos added
Posted by tstage on Tuesday, June 30, 2020 11:10 PM

I just completed converting my first brass steamer to DCC: An Alco Models NYC M-1 0-10-0 switcher.  Along with isolating the motor, I also installed front & rear headlights using 0603 "warm white" SMD LEDs and 34 AWG magnet wire.  To make the connections between the locomotive and tender for the rear headlight, I used individual female round headers, which are smaller than regular headers but make a good connection and connect & disconnect easily.  I'd like to publicly thank Wayne (doctorwayne) for his tips and recommendations on the latter.

This was one of those projects that you have to think through first before starting it but also be flexible/creative once you get into it.  I will definitely replicate what I did and learned on this project when I convert my Alco Models NYC B-11L 0-6-0 switcher to DCC.  However, being smaller - I'll have to modify a few things to make it work - e.g. the placement of the TCS M1P decoder.  With the 0-10-0, I could mount it on top of the motor.  With the 0-6-0, there's not enough clearance between the boiler shell and the motor so I'll have to place the decoder underneath the motor bracket.

This is the first time I've used magnet wire for lighting a headlight.  Hand-drilling the #79 holes through the brass headlamp and shell took a little time but worked out great.  (The biggest challenge was making sure the hole was centered in the headlamp.)  And, actually, I found soldering the 34 AWG magnet wire to the 0603 LED much easier than flexible wire because it remained straight and rigid.  To deinsulate the magnet wire I used a used #11 X-acto blade to gently scrap the coating off then tinned it with solder.

The other thing I found is that I used much more resistance to tone down the 0603 LEDs than a 3mm - e.g. 10KΩ vs 1KΩ.  I really like the dimmer appearance of the LEDs with the larger value resistors and probably could have gone up 20KΩ or more.  I wonder if the smaller size 0603 LEDs trick the eye into thinking that there is a lot of light coming from that tiny source so it needs to be reduced to look correct?  But - even with 3mm LEDs, I'm thinking seriously of adding larger value resistors because they are just way too bright normally when used for headlights.

I'll try to post some photos in the next day or two, as well as comment on a few of the challanges I encountered along the way.

Tom

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Posted by hon30critter on Wednesday, July 1, 2020 3:26 AM

Hi Tom,

Congratulations on your successful brass engine decoder installation!

I agree that using higher value resistors for steam era headlights is a great idea. Using a 20k resistor would work very nicely based on my (limited) experience with LEDs. I used 30k resistors to get a nice glow reminiscent of early 20th century electric lamps for the interior lights in my McKeen Motor Car.

Dave

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Posted by RR_Mel on Wednesday, July 1, 2020 7:51 AM

Tom

Pictures, pictures please.


I too run higher resistance with my LEDs.  I rarely run them over a couple of ma.  Much closer to incandescent lighting.  The warm white 603s and 1206 LEDs still look bright at 2ma.

I use wide angle dispersion 3mm warm white LEDs in my passenger cars, most well under 1ma each.  6 to 8 wide angle LEDs spaced at 1” gives uniform well lit interiors.





Total current for this car 2ma at 4 volts, 4 table lamps and 6 over head wide angle LEDs.

I use the tiny round header connectors in all my passenger cars and a 2K trim pot to adjust the lighting level between 2ma and 4ma.


I still use #36 Litz wire for my micro LEDs, I’m to shaky to install magnet wire without dinging the paint insulation.  On occasion I even ding the Teflon insulation on the Litz wire.  The tiny wire doesn’t last long under a short.  They let off smoke and I haven’t been successful putting the smoke back in the wire, I replace the chard wire.

I bought some ⅛ watt at 2.5KΩ gaps from 1KΩ to 36K specifically for the micro LEDs, the smaller size gets them into tighter places.  A 10KΩ resistor in series with a warm white LED draws a whopping .008 watts.


Mel



 
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Posted by wrench567 on Wednesday, July 1, 2020 9:04 AM

Nice Tom.

Planning is paramount to a successful install. I have done 5 for myself and several members of my former club totaling around 20. Most have been sound and a few non sound. Some with can motors and a good portion with modified open frame motors.

 Most of my installations have been in the tender. I use the TCS 6 wire JST connector from locomotive to tender. I have one 0-6-0 that has a micro sound decoder under the motor because the speaker took up all the room in the tender.

  I would love to see what you have done for the connection between locomotive and tender.

  Have fun and stay safe.

        Pete.

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Posted by tstage on Thursday, July 2, 2020 5:18 PM

Here's a few photos of the installed 0603 SMD LEDs and connections: (Click photo to enlarge)

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Posted by tstage on Thursday, July 2, 2020 5:23 PM

The round female headers on the locomotive and tender ends:

Connections made:

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Posted by tstage on Thursday, July 2, 2020 5:28 PM

Wiring the rear headlight to the connectors:

Running the 34 AWG magnet wire to the headlights:

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Posted by tstage on Thursday, July 2, 2020 5:30 PM

Success!  Operational headlights:

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Posted by wrench567 on Thursday, July 2, 2020 7:57 PM

Nice looking locomotive. Leaving it brass or is painting on the planning board? Very clean installation. Great job.

    Pete

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Posted by SeeYou190 on Thursday, July 2, 2020 8:10 PM

Tom, that is a beautiful model. Congratulations on the successful installation.

-Kevin

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Posted by tstage on Thursday, July 2, 2020 10:22 PM

Pete and Kevin -

Thanks for the kind words.  Pete, I would like to eventually paint it but I wanted to see whether it was worth converting to DCC first.

There was definitely a learning curve since it incorporated some new installation techniques and materials I had not used before.  It is gratifying to see it come together and work properly.

Tom

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Posted by hon30critter on Friday, July 3, 2020 2:40 AM

tstage
Success!  Operational headlights:

Hi Tom,

Your workmanship is impeccable! The socket installations look like they came from the factory that way. You got the positions of the LEDs just right too.

Nicely done!

Dave

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Posted by RR_Mel on Friday, July 3, 2020 7:56 AM

Verry Nice Tom!!!!


Mel


 
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Posted by tstage on Friday, July 3, 2020 9:56 AM

Thanks for the encouragement, fellas.

Those small, round female connectors work quite well and make connecting & disconnecting a breeze.  I also used them as connects/disconnects for the headlight wiring inside the tender and boiler so that I could remove the shells entirely, if I needed to.  Otherwise, they would all be tethered to the chassis.

I used the socket end of the connector to attach the resistors.  The twin resistors give the connector a nice uniform appearance and feel:

The biggest challenge with the header strips is breaking them apart evenly.  I use a #11 X-acto blade to do that then clean the cut up with the blade or a file.  There just isn't much of a buffer inbetween should your blade veer slightly while cutting downward.

Tom

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Posted by doctorwayne on Friday, July 3, 2020 11:14 AM

I've found that making the cut in stages, alternately from both sides, usually yields a nice clean result, and less chance of the severed portion flying off to wherever that sort of stuff goes.

Wayne

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Posted by tstage on Friday, July 3, 2020 11:29 AM

I tried that approach as well, Wayne.  It helped some but sometimes the joint would still splinter and leave a gapping hole exposing the connnector socket.  I might have been using a duller blade at the time so I'll try that method again using a fresh blade.

Thanks,

Tom

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Posted by rrinker on Friday, July 3, 2020 2:12 PM

 I long ago gave up on getting good clean sets of header pins. I buy then in large quantities, in strips of 50 or so, big packs - and figure the one at the end of a section when I snap them off is going to be a wasted one. At probably less than 1 cent a pin, I don't worry about it. I've tried cutting, even sawing with a razor saw. 2 pair of needlenose, bend and snap - good enough. If I need a longer strip, like say 16 or so for something, I dispense with the needle nose and just snap it off.

                                     --Randy


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Posted by Overmod on Friday, July 3, 2020 2:50 PM

tstage
The biggest challenge with the header strips is breaking them apart evenly.  I use a #11 X-acto blade to do that then clean the cut up with the blade or a file.  There just isn't much of a buffer inbetween should your blade veer slightly while cutting downward.

Would there be any advantage to making a 'hot knife' with a #1 or #11 X-acto blade in a temperature-controlled soldering-iron handpiece, and then experimenting with one of those spot IR thermometers to figure out the temperature at the 'cutting edge' on the part of the blade that gives the best action?   Then use a guide like that on a chop saw to hold the blade vertical as 'the tool does the work' just a few degrees shy of the material's melting point?

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Posted by BigDaddy on Friday, July 3, 2020 3:51 PM

I score on both sides and snap.

Henry

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Posted by tstage on Saturday, July 11, 2020 3:01 PM

Thanks for that tip, Henry.  It has increased the amount of keepers but I still get the occasional dropouts.

I've found that you really have to make sure, when scoring, your score line is parallel to the groove between sockets.  Even a slight angle will increase the chance of exposing the embedded socket of the header.

Tom

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Posted by tstage on Saturday, July 11, 2020 3:07 PM

Brass loco #2 converted to DCC and working LED headlights: An Alco Models NYC B-11L 0-6-0 switcher...

I used the same installation technique for connecting the rear backup light to the decoder, as I did with the 0-10-0 switcher.  (3rd photo above)  However, I had to adapt the wiring inside the tender to navigate around the support bracing.  (Not surprising, every installation seems have its own challenges and mental puzzles.)  The decoder I did end up squeezing underneath the bracket that supports the can motor.

Currently on the RIP track and eventual DCC conversion: An NJ Custom Brass NYC DES-3 boxcab (ca 1972)...

I will most likely swap out the open-frame, double-shaft motor for a can motor.

Tom

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Posted by gmpullman on Saturday, July 11, 2020 6:15 PM

tstage
Currently on the RIP track and eventual DCC conversion: An NJ Custom Brass NYC DES-3 boxcab (ca 1972)...

Yes Yes Yes 

 NYC_DES-3_531 by Edmund, on Flickr

Cheers, Ed

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Posted by wrench567 on Sunday, July 12, 2020 11:15 AM

   Tom.

  I gave up trying to find suitable motors for repowering old brass and even Bowser locomotives. I am a firm believer in super tuning the open frame motor. With todays decoder motor control you will never know there is no flywheel or can motor. As an added plus there is a tremendous amount of low end torque. Some of my brass locomotives have as much lead in them as can fit. My brass K5s Pacific could and has started a 16 car train of heavyweight passenger cars on my old club's long straight grade that was very steep.

  Not saying you should do it just saying don't discount the option. The only downside i have found is getting a screwdriver near the motor without taking the precaution of something moving. And swapping steel screws for brass near the motor to make life easier around those magnets.

    Keep up the good work.

       Pete

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Posted by tstage on Sunday, July 12, 2020 4:39 PM

Thanks, Pete.  I really appreciate your suggestions on the benefits of keeping the open frame (OF) motor.  Along with the low-end torque, I hadn't considered the added weight of an older motor to increase its tractive power.  I'll keep those in mind for any future brass locomotives I might acquire with OF motors.

A quick question for you, Pete: Once you've super-tuned an OF motor, is it fairly quiet?  I did run the boxcab as is on DC and it was quite noisy.  All the gears - both the gear towers and trucks - are nylon.  Since it ran somewhat jittery, I atttributed it to the motor:

Even when I rotate the KMT motor shaft by hand, I can feel the "notches" as the rotor passes the stator.

I did find a suitable "in-house" motor solution that seems to be working well.  I have a brass Alco Models FM H20-44 road switcher (ca. 1981) that is awaiting Stanton drives because the gear towers are not worth re-building.  I took the Taneda can motor from that, centered and attached it to the boxcab chassis with silicone adhesive, and temporarily hooked it up to a decoder to test drive it:

I would have preferred mechanically securing the motor to the chassis utilizing the screw holes on the bottom side of the motor bracket.  Unfortunately, the underframe detailing prevented me from doing that:

The silicone adhesive seems to be working quite well so far.  I also use it for securing the metal weights in my boxcar and hopper kits.  The can motor is noticeably quieter than the original motor, too.

Once I locate a matching piece of siicone tubing for the other drive shaft, I'll be able to install the decoder and add the front & rear headlights.  There isn't enough headroom above the motor for mounting the decoder.  So, I'm going to mount it to the nearly flat ceiling of the shell - either to the left or the right of the motor - with 3M foam mounting squares:

I've read that silicone tubing can be had at pet stores that carry aquarium supplies.

Tom

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Posted by SeeYou190 on Sunday, July 12, 2020 4:42 PM

tstage
I've read that silicone tubing can be had at pet stores that carry aquarium supplies.

Most of the tubing in pet stores is intended as air line for aquariums. It can be pretty stiff.

I have had luck using fuel tubing from the R/C section of a hobby shop. It is much more flexible.

-Kevin

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Posted by tstage on Sunday, July 12, 2020 4:51 PM

Thanks, Kevin.  I'll keep that in mind.

The one piece of silicone tubing that came with the boxcab is fairly flexible.  The ID of the other piece is too large and slips on the smaller shaft of the can motor.  Challanges, challenges...

Tom

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Posted by SeeYou190 on Sunday, July 12, 2020 5:05 PM

I was once told that surgical tubing was great stuff to use for flexible couplings, but I never tracked any down to try it.

-Kevin

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Posted by rrinker on Sunday, July 12, 2020 8:23 PM

 I got silicon fuel line at the hobby shop - there are two kinds of fuel line, the cheap stuff and the good silicon stuff, at least at my shop. Don't use the cheap stuff. I used a section to fix the one end in my Alco Models RS3. Based on the typical length needed in a loco - one package should work for a dozen models or more.

                                      --Randy

 


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Posted by gmpullman on Sunday, July 12, 2020 10:35 PM

My first DES-3 and the later purchased second chassis both had an intermediate shaft between the soft rubber (that were anything but soft after fifty years!) sleeves.

 NYC_DES-3c by Edmund, on Flickr

You may have a little torque issue by using the longer length of silicone tubing, Tom. Then again, maybe not. For some reason Alco Models added the short length of shafting in there.

I had several donor Life-Like Proto FA-2s that happened to be a nice fit for the motor, drive shaft, flywheels, universals and slip couplings:

 DES-3_gear by Edmund, on Flickr

 DES-3_gear-3 by Edmund, on Flickr

I still don't have the smoothest operation I'd like for a locomotive that was primarily used for switching duties. I may use the trucks from a Broadway Limited SW-7 switcher. Still experimenting on that one.

Heres the BLI trucks fitted to the Alco frame:

 DES-3_gear-2 by Edmund, on Flickr

Good Luck, Ed

 

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Posted by tstage on Monday, July 13, 2020 1:12 AM

Ed,

So far the drive is smooth with the can motor I scavenged from the brass H20-44.  And, as mentioned, it's MUCH quieter than the open-frame motor that originally came with the unit.

One question for you, Ed: Have you tried installing a coupler gearbox onto the shell of your DES-3 yet?  If so, what did you end up using?

The Kadee gearboxes that I have either mount it too far back or too far forward.  The mounting hole in the photo below is uncomfortably close to the back edge of the coupler bracket:

Tom

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