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Peter's Model Railroading | Articles | Locomotives | PRR RS-1
Construction: Completion


For the headlights I have decided to use Surface Mount (SMD) LEDs, specifically the "Yeloglo White" ones produced by Miniatronics (part #12-625-04). These lights are extremely bright! I tried all sorts of glues, but finally settled on using 5-minute epoxy. I literally had to hold the LED in place for close to five minutes.
(external link: part #12-625-04)

Because these LEDs are so bright, light even comes out of the casing itself. In the photo I have covered it with paint, but even that wasn't enough (I was hand-painting the underside of the model with Floquil Brunswick Green to make sure nothing of the underside appeared unpainted). I wound up applying liquid electrical tape over the LED. It not only made it darker in the body, but it also provided electrical protection from whatever metal might be inside the body later on.

A quick shot shows that the LED is working.

When I asked the S-scale Yahoo Group about what kind of headlight lenses they would recommend for this project, the uniform answer was "MV Products" lenses. I measured the headlight cavity and then went online to find out what sizes are offered. I found none that matched. My final solution, shown in the photo (but nearly impossible to see), was to use a piece of thin clear styrene (used for structure windows), that has protective material on both sides of the "glass". I cut it into a square piece that matched the size of the diameter of the headlight opening. I then hand-filed the corners of that square piece to the rounded curve matching the inside of the headlight opening. I did two practice runs before I made the final two that actually fit the openings. They slid into the opening a bit, but that allowed me to apply "Formula 560 Canopy Glue" (bought at a local R/C hobby shop) around the inside of the headlight opening where the lens made contact. I applied the glue using a toothpick. Within an hour the glue dried and it became completely transparent (no yellowing). That's when I took the photo.

The first step in finalizing the cab was to install an SMD LED into the cab roof. For the headlights (above) I had bought and used some pre-wired SMD LEDs. However, for this application, all I had left was a package of individual SMD LEDs. I had bought these from Ngineering (part #N1022C-10). Like the Miniatronics' ones, these LEDs are extremely bright, and of the correct color. Ngineering is a great company, but I have since found that these SMD LEDs can be had for a lot less. I am sure that as these LEDs become more popular, there will be more online sources.
(external link: #N1022C-10)

I decided to use magnet wire (also from Ngineering part #N5038). I used referenced YouTube video as my guide for how to solder the magnet wire to the LED. It wasn't all that difficult. I then applied liquid electrical tape to the back of the LED. Next, I glued the LED and its wires to the underside of the cab roof using 5-minute epoxy. The tape in the photo was there to hold the wire down while the glue set.
(external link: Magnet Wire Solder Video)

The next photo shows the end result. I handpainted the LED's casing, the wires, and the glue with the same color as the interior of the cab. Note how the red wire has a resistor already soldered to it. Update: in retrospect, I should have made the magnet wires come down off of the cab roof near the ends of the stub molded in the roof piece, because that lines up about where the cab's wall is between two windows. That way the magnet wire could have been completely hidden from view. Mine is going to be visible inside the cab, if you look for it.

I spent a long Saturday night fitting, cutting, and installing glass into the cab. This is a tedious process and surprisingly time-consuming because of the odd shapes of the windows. I used clear styrene that I bought years ago that has a protective cover on both sides of the styrene. This protects the "glass" from damage from handling. I only removed the cover right before gluing. I used canopy glue to minimize the residue left behind. Most of the windows (there are 12 of them) had nice insets for installing the glass.

For the crew, I found these two crewmen I had bought a while back that were already painted (Arttista #701 and #710). I decided to use them instead of the ones that come with the kit. What I like about these is that they have hats, which seems more "prototypical". Here is a shot of Jack, the brakeman.

And a photo of Bill, the engineer. A lesson learned here was to be sure to fit the figure in the cab before gluing the seat down. I could only get him to fit by having him sit on the front edge of his seat. Both figures were glued down using 5-minute epoxy.

With the interior completed, the LED tested, and the crew properly trained, I could seal it all up by gluing the roof onto the model with 5-minute epoxy. After that I very carefully hand-painted the handrails yellow using Floquil's "Reefer Yellow". I followed prototype photos to determine how much of the handrails needed to be painted.

Playing around with my camera, I captured this dramatic shot of Bill intensely focusing on his job ahead. You might also be able to make out from the two photo, I have installed windshield wipers. I had only bought one package of two, so I installed both of them on the front-facing windows. I had bought them from B.T.S. (part #02081). I painted the part with Floquil "Brunswick Green" to match the body paint. I cut the "dangling" parts from the wipers and then glued them directly to the glass in the window, in the approximate position.
(external link: part #02081)

For the DCC decoder for this engine I chose the SoundTraxx Tsunami Alco 539T Sound Decoder.

After two days of messing around with the wires and trying different approaches, I will document how I installed the decoder and the speaker. Let me start with the speaker first. At the 2010 Sn3 Symposium held here in Houston, I bought the 23mm square High Bass Speaker and its matching enclosure from Jeff Smith (owner of Railmaster Hobbies). Since he sells the RS-1 kit (at least at the time I bought it), I figured that he would be able to recommend to me the correct speaker in the collection of speakers he sells. It turns out that the matching enclosure is too big for the interior of the engine's body. The speaker itself just barely fits in the body (speaker and its enclosure are shown below).

Therefore, I needed to build my own speaker enclosure. I read and studied the online article "Designing Locomotive Acoustics for On-Board Sound Systems" by Fred Severson, posted on the Tony's Train Exchange web site. This is a very thorough and interesting read for anyone wanting to install sound in a locomotive, and I highly recommend it. Like I said above, I experimented for two full days before I got things to where I'm happy with the installation. My solution was to build a custom speaker "cabinet" inside the short hood of the engine (the interior space of the long hood is taken up by the motor, flywheels, and the decoder). As a matter of fact, about half of the short hood is the speaker cabinet. Just like your home stereo or theater speakers, the cabinet behind the speaker must be airtight. I have wires running from the rear light to the decoder, so the first thing I did was superglue those wires up against the top of the short hood. I then routed the wires up and superglued them to the underside of the cab floor. This is shown in the photo. The irregularities inside the speaker "cabinet" are actually good for the sound.

Next, I needed to build a vertical wall to start enclosing the space for the speaker. I cut a piece of 0.040" thick styrene and shaped it to the interior cross-section of the hood. I then used 5-minute epoxy to seal the edges. I also used the glue to make sure all the tiny holes for the lift rings and grab irons were sealed off.

I wanted to maximize the space behind the speaker, so rather than making another vertical wall section on the other side upon which the speaker face would rest, I decided to just cut and superglue two styrene square blocks to the under side of the hood. Their height matches the wall section I glued, shown above.

My focus now was on how to actually mount the speaker. Note that I carefully measured how much clearance I had above the rear truck gear box tower. I cut a piece of leftover styrene to match the shape of the interior of the hood. Not shown in the photos, I then used a piece of paper and a pencil (held sideways) and made a tracing of the speaker opening (using the hard edge of the plastic that surrounds the speaker itself). I then cut out the tracing with a pair of scissors and placed it on the styrene. I traced the outline of the paper onto the styrene, and carefully cut out the styrene to give me a matching opening. Note that since the speaker just barely fits in the engine's body, the outside edges of the styrene are very thin, so be careful in cutting near that. I also drilled two holes matching the size of the speaker wire I used (by the way, that is flexible wire, 0.032" thick, able to carry about 640mA of current, plenty for a speaker; I think I bought that on Ngineering's web site also). I then very carefully glued the speaker to the styrene using 5-minute epoxy. Again, there must be no gap between the speaker and the styrene face piece; 5-minute epoxy is perfect for that. That's where I was when I took the photo.

I then applied 5-minute epoxy to the top of the two stands and the vertical wall, and glued the speaker face to them. I then followed that up with applying 5-minute epoxy to the edges of the styrene where it meets the inside of the hood. I also put glue around the wires. This completes the speaker cabinet. Later on when I tested the speaker, it was significantly louder than the speaker out in the open by itself. It also sounded a lot more like an Alco engine! I later came back and painted the vertical wall the matching green of the cab, because with the cab light on, that wall is visible. So were the headlight wires, so they were painted too. They are still visible, but now it looks more like engine "stuff".

And now for the actual decoder installation. My philosophy for the approach to installing the decoder into this engine is to allow the chassis to be removed from the body and still have a working chassis after disconnecting the wires to the lights. To that end I had bought micro connectors from Scale Shops (the company web site has gone away). However, I didn't plan my installation far enough in advance, so I only ordered four individual pin connectors, when I need 8 in total. I will hard wire the speaker and the cab light for now, but I will return to this engine at some later date to convert these hard-wired connections to plug connectors so that I can completely remove the shell from the chassis when I need to do so. I cut the four-pin connector in half so that I could use one pair of pins for each of the headlights. You can see one of the connectors in the middle of the engine body in the upper half of the photo. The connectors, by the way, have a very nice "snap" to them to let you know they are connected. They have just the right tension to keep them together, without being too difficult to disconnect.

There is a lot here in the photo, so let's go through some of the interesting points. Through testing and experimentation, I found the tough wires that are installed on the chassis connected to the trucks to be too hard to work with. They made it hard for the trucks to turn once soldered to the decoder. Also, they would wind up interfering with the universal joint. I replaced them with thinner, more flexible wire.

Also note that I installed two strips of styrene to the bottom of the cab floor, to help route the wires away from the universal joint. I superglued the speaker wires to the bottom of the cab floor, also to keep them from the moving parts.

I tried using velcro to hold the decoder board to the inside top of the long hood, but I found that I couldn't get it to reach that far in while trying to install the chassis. The stiffness of the wires holds the decoder far away from the moving parts. There is plenty of room in the long hood for the decoder.

Since the decoder sits very close to the front truck, I replaced its stiff wires with two sets of very thin and flexible wire (same as used for the speaker wires). I doubled them up so that there might still be enough wire to allow for 1-amp current to run through them (they only handle 640mA each).

I also tried velcro to attach the capacitor to the under side of the long hood. It had more success with that, but that made it difficult to remove the chassis from the body. I decided to use a piece of double-side carpet tape to hold the capacitor to the motor. The objective is just to keep that loose part away from moving parts. Below are a couple of photos of the final installation from a couple of different angles.

I used thicker wire to connect the decoder to the motor. However, those two wires are a bit of pain when installing the chassis on to the body. The body just barely clears the motor, so I had to superglue one of the wires (the one near the sheet metal of the chassis) down so that it doesn't get in the way when the chassis is attached to the body (or removed from the body; both gave me trouble before). Even after I wrote all of the above, I still wound up spending several hours messing with the wires. The rear flywheel is extremely close to the front wall of the cab, which doesn't leave much room for the wires going to the rear of the engine. I had to superglue some of them to the inside walls of the body to get them to stay away from the flywheel. I suspect further tweaking will be necessary in the future. I also needed to superglue the universal joint to the motor shaft and the flywheels, because under this heavy engine, they started to slip. I then fired up DecoderPro and made some adjustments to the decoder. I had to download the latest version to be able to get it to list the TSU-AT1000 decoder. Programming the decoder with DecoderPro is a breeze.

Finally, with the electronics done, I could focus on the last few exterior details I wanted to add to this model. First, I attached the truck sideframes. They required a very thin washer (they look like they're made out of cloth), from my spare parts box. The remaining details are very delicate, so I had to wait until I was done with taking the engine apart and putting it back together (which I think I may have done about 20 times!). The first detail part I tackled was the bell. I didn't even notice the bell until someone pointed it out to me! I received the bell from Fred Rouse (owner of S Scale Loco & Supply). The photo is an extreme close-up of the part.

I hand-painted it using Poly-Scale "Sand", because that seemed to match the color prototype photos I have. I then installed it with superglue under the engineer's side behind the front truck.

Next up are the couplers and the air hoses. For the air hoses I decided to use B.T.S. (part #02302), which have flexible rubber hoses. I really like those parts, and will probably start using those as my fleet standard. Installing the couplers was relatively easy. I used my standard Walthers Proto Max. The engine's body has holes in the coupler mount, so I used a 2-56 screw and just tapped the hole using the screw itself. It was easy to do. I then cut the screw to length, and installed the couplers. I simply superglued the air hose valve directly to the side of the body's coupler mount. That's not perfect, but good enough. The prototype engines had a piece of sheet metal going between the steps on the front of the engine, under the coupler, and that contains a hook onto which the air hose latches when not in use. Since the kit didn't have that, I decided to forego that and let mine hang down.
(external link: part #02302)

The absolute final detail on this engine was the chain on the rear truck used for the hand brake. I superglued a string of Clover House (part #384, 21 flat links per inch) chain to the front brake cylinder on the rear truck and then superglued the other end to the underside of the chassis. It took a bit of patience waiting for the glue to set (I had to try it several times), but I think the end result is worth it. The chain is relaxed, because the brake is not engaged while the engine is moving.
(external link: Clover House)