Author Topic: Example of Atlas Shay DCC decoder install  (Read 2708 times)

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peteski

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Example of Atlas Shay DCC decoder install
« on: December 21, 2015, 06:52:50 PM »
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I originally posted this info on the Atlas forum several years ago. The post is still there in the archive, but the photo hosting website decided to cancel their free accounts, so all the images were missing.  Here is a copy of that post with photos hosted elsewhere.



I recently decided to finally install a decoder in my Shay.  My goal was to install it without any body modifications and to also improve the illumination of its headlights.  By chance there was a recent thread about Atlas possibly reissuing this wonderful jewel of a locomotive so this information is quite apropos.

I think that this is the best steam locomotive Atlas has ever produced!  Its level of detail rivals brass models and that is explained by the fact that Ajin of Korea made these locos for Atlas.  They are die cast metal locomotives with add-on lost wax brass castings. They have a *HUGE* motor with well-made precision worms and gears which explains why they perform so well and why they have excellent slow (more like "crawl") speed.  Their fully articulated and animated drive shafts, universals and connecting rods are all fascinating to watch as the loco moves down the track.  All of that for a price closer to a plastic model than to brass model!  I sure hope that Atlas does re-run them.

Sorry for gushing, but I really like these little Shay I was able to squeeze a Digitrax DZ125 decoder inside the body shell.  While similar installs were posted on other forums I think that mine is different enough to be documented on its own.

I measured loco's internal cavities and I determined that I could build a brass "shelf" for the decoder above the rear drive worm.  The shelf itself is made of 0.015" brass.  Its shape resembles squared off letter "U" with the bottom of the "U" pointing to the rear.  Top of the worm is inside of the "U".  Unfortunately I didn't take photo of the shelf before I assembled everything.  The ends of the "U" are fastened to loco's frame with 2 000-120 screws.

This photo shows holes in the frame drilled and tapped for 000-120 screws.  This is bottom of the frame with the plastic insulator removed for drilling.  Since I was going to modify the frame fully disassembled the model.



I also decided to improve the headlights using white surface mounted 0603 LEDs and 0.040" fiber optics directing the light into headlight housings.  I etched my own tiny circuit boards to hold the LEDs and their current limiting resistors while keeping them insulated from the metal frame.

Here is the DZ125 decoder with the wires removed (I'll be using different wires). Next to the decoder are front and rear circuit boards I made and surface-mount 1K ohm resistors and white LEDs (the yellow components).  A 1/64" resolution ruler is in the photo for size reference.



This photo shows the decoder, circuit boards with the LEDs and resistors soldered onto it.  Also shown are original headlight lenses (short clear pieces) and two 0.040" plastic fiber optics.  Fiber optics were bent while heated and softened over soldering iron's tip.  Then I trimmed and polished the short ends.  The long end is still not trimmed to its final size or polished.  For polishing I use a 4-sided disposable fingernail file available in beauty shops.  Those have 3 grits plus a polishing end.  They do a great job polishing plastic fiber optic ends.



Here is the front LED board glued to the frame using 5 minute epoxy.  I also cut grooves into the frame (using a Dremel with a cutoff wheel) into the frame to route the LED wires so that they do not get pinched between the frame and body.  The wires I used are very fine wire I normally use on my 1:24 scale model cars to simulate electrical wiring. They are sold by http://www.protechmodelparts.com .  It actually is a real insulated wire which comes in very handy in situations with limited space.  The wire was then sealed into the groove with 5 minutes epoxy.



Here is the DCC decoder installed and wired.  There is a 0.005" styrene insulator between the brass shelf and decoder.  This photo shows how the worm sits inside the open "U" brass shelf.  I used 30ga. solid-copper wire wrapping wire for the track and motor hookups because is is easy to solder and it retains its shape. Since wire is routed so close to moving parts it needs to stay in place.



Next 2 photos show overall photos of the mechanism after the decoder was installed.





A close-up of the rear LED board and of the decoder. This photo also clearly shows the 0.005" white plastic insulator under the decoder.  Both insulator and the decoder are attached using 5 minute epoxy.



This photo shows front fiber optic glued in in its final position with the LED end also polished.  The piece of white styrene is just a spacer to position the fiber optic directly over the corresponding LED.  I had to enlarge the hole leading to the headlight in order to accommodate the fiber optic.  I also painted the inside of the headlight with white paint.  The original headlight lenses had to be shortened (cut off) and polished after shortening them.  Everything was glued using 5 minute epoxy.  The epoxy does not adhere to the fiber optic very well so I used enough epoxy to go around the strand of fiber optic.  It is not going anywhere now!  I took a yellow sharpie to tint the end of fiber optic to make the headlight glow look less bluish.  The black line drawn along the fiber optic was a reference I used while gluing the fiber optic. That gave me reference to properly aim the end of that fiber inside the headlight housing.



Same procedure was used on the rear headlight.



Here is the final photo with the oil bunker removed to show how the decoder clears top of the body.



That's it!  Now I have a digitally controlled great little loco!  It took some extra effort but it was worth it!

EDIT: Photobucket fix
 
« Last Edit: July 17, 2017, 04:24:51 AM by peteski »
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Chris333

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Re: Example of Atlas Shay DCC decoder install
« Reply #1 on: December 21, 2015, 08:09:28 PM »
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What gauge is that yellow wire?

peteski

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Re: Example of Atlas Shay DCC decoder install
« Reply #2 on: December 21, 2015, 08:53:03 PM »
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What gauge is that yellow wire?

I don't know Chris.  It is sold to represent ignition wiring on 1:25 scale model cars (not as electrical wire).  But it is a real fine insulated wire.  I suspect it is in high 30s AWG.  I can measure the bare wire diameter and we can figure out the gauge.  I also think it is silver rather than copper (to be able to handle more current).
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jdcolombo

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Re: Example of Atlas Shay DCC decoder install
« Reply #3 on: December 21, 2015, 09:16:36 PM »
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Very impressive work, Peteski.  I don't have hands steady enough to solder SMT resistors or LED's to a circuit board, at least not using a conventional 15W soldering iron.  How do you do that?  (maybe if I glued the parts to the board first and THEN soldered . . . )

John C.

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Re: Example of Atlas Shay DCC decoder install
« Reply #4 on: December 21, 2015, 10:09:56 PM »
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John, I thought the same thing.  The trick is good flux and tinning the components and the board.  Just a touch of the iron does the trick. Once one end is soldered the other end is a breeze.

peteski

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Re: Example of Atlas Shay DCC decoder install
« Reply #5 on: December 21, 2015, 10:36:25 PM »
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Thanks guys!  I have been involved with soldering SMT components for decades (both professionally and as a hobby).  I'm in my 50s now and have slight tremor on my hands, but I'm still lucky enough to be able to hand-solder small components.

I also own a professional rework station which includes a desoldering tool and even a hot air nozzle. But for most jobs I still use a standard 40W temperature-controlled soldering iron with a pointed tip. I religiously use Radio Shack electronic rosin past flux paste.  I dab some on the PCB's copper pads where the LED will placed. Then I pick up a small dab of solder with the iron's tip. With the other hand I hold the LED in place using a wooden toothpick. Then I touch the liquid solder to the copper pad on the PCB where the LED sits.  That instantly wicks the solder onto the solder joint area.  Repeat for the other side.  I often utilize some sort of 3rd hand device to hold the PCB while I'm soldering. Often it is nothing more than a piece of masking tape glued with the adhesive facing out on a piece of wood.
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Lemosteam

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Re: Example of Atlas Shay DCC decoder install
« Reply #6 on: December 22, 2015, 06:38:23 AM »
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I piped in here because I was utterly terrified of managing such small components.  If you saw my hands, you would understand why.  They are friggin huge. 

@peteski , for me it is the tinning, I have never been able to straight solder without it, so for me the extra time spent doing that is invaluable.

peteski

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Re: Example of Atlas Shay DCC decoder install
« Reply #7 on: December 22, 2015, 06:27:33 PM »
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What gauge is that yellow wire?

The diameter of the insulation is 0.007" and the wire itself is 0.004" in diameter which works out to 38 AWG.
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peteski

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Re: Example of Atlas Shay DCC decoder install
« Reply #8 on: December 22, 2015, 06:31:26 PM »
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I piped in here because I was utterly terrified of managing such small components.  If you saw my hands, you would understand why.  They are friggin huge. 

@peteski , for me it is the tinning, I have never been able to straight solder without it, so for me the extra time spent doing that is invaluable.

LOL John, I've seen your hands in some photos.  One of my co-workers has hands similar to yours - we call him "sausage-fingers".  No disrespect meant.  :D

Actually, I have a lot of respect for large-handed people like you who can still perform all that miniature work. I'm lucky to have hands smaller than your so I don't have too much trouble dealing with small parts.  I agree that pre-tinning parts to be soldered makes the task much easier. But pre-tinning contact areas of a 0402 SMD LED is also not for the faint of heart.  :)
« Last Edit: December 22, 2015, 10:08:14 PM by peteski »
--- Peteski de Snarkski

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carlso

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Re: Example of Atlas Shay DCC decoder install
« Reply #9 on: December 23, 2015, 05:32:52 PM »
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peteski,

awesome work on that install. It is certainly obvious that you do small work professionally. I have a question for you.

Is there enough space in the boiler's front cavity to mount a small, Knowle's type, speaker on a shelf over the worm as you did for the decoder ? I have a Knowles Dumbo that measures 13mmx18mmx4.5mm. I believe I read that ESU Loksound select micro has a shay sound file. That would be real nice. I think the ESU decoder would fit with no problem. Just not sure about the speaker. Possibly I could put decoder over the front worm and speaker in the rear position ? ?

What do you think ?

Carl
Carl Sowell
El Paso, Texas
Southern New Mexico N Scalers, Las Cruces, New Mexico

peteski

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Re: Example of Atlas Shay DCC decoder install
« Reply #10 on: December 23, 2015, 06:27:10 PM »
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peteski,

awesome work on that install. It is certainly obvious that you do small work professionally. I have a question for you.

Is there enough space in the boiler's front cavity to mount a small, Knowle's type, speaker on a shelf over the worm as you did for the decoder ? I have a Knowles Dumbo that measures 13mmx18mmx4.5mm. I believe I read that ESU Loksound select micro has a shay sound file. That would be real nice. I think the ESU decoder would fit with no problem. Just not sure about the speaker. Possibly I could put decoder over the front worm and speaker in the rear position ? ?

What do you think ?

Carl

Thank you Carl!
I did this install 6 years ago and haven't taken the model apart since, so I don't remember how the inside of the shell in the boiler area looks like.  But if you look at this photo:


The boiler is pretty much filled with metal with just enough space to accommodate the worm.  I'm sure this was done to maximize the weight of the model.  You might be able to grind out some of the metal (and sacrifice the electric pickup reliability), but I really don't think there is enough room there for a speaker.  If you review the photos, there really isn't much room anywhere inside.  The cab and the coal/water bunker is the most open area of the model.
« Last Edit: July 17, 2017, 04:25:42 AM by peteski »
--- Peteski de Snarkski

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jdcolombo

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Re: Example of Atlas Shay DCC decoder install
« Reply #11 on: December 23, 2015, 06:38:30 PM »
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Hmmm.

but . . . there IS the water/coal/whatever bunker top that fits behind the cab on the top of the shell.  I don't know the dimensions of that part, but the DZ125 was about 10.5 x 8.5 mm.  You can see the DZ through the square "hole" where the bunker top sits.   Would an 8 x 12mm speaker fit there?  I'm thinking that one might recreate that top piece as a speaker enclosure with the speaker firing down into that hole, with sound egress out the bottom, through the door, etc.

????

John C.

UPDATE:  Actually, someone already thought of this.  See the following: https://www.therailwire.net/forum/index.php?topic=37758.msg454351#msg454351  I'd probably do the speaker somewhat differently, but the basic idea is what I had in mind.

« Last Edit: December 23, 2015, 06:54:41 PM by jdcolombo »

peteski

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Re: Example of Atlas Shay DCC decoder install
« Reply #12 on: December 23, 2015, 09:29:50 PM »
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LOL John!  The reason I reposed my install was because of that thread - he asked for DCC install ideas for this model.

The stock oil bunker is rather small, and I'm away from home and won't be able to measure it until the weekend.
--- Peteski de Snarkski

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woodone

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Re: Example of Atlas Shay DCC decoder install
« Reply #13 on: February 15, 2016, 02:09:45 PM »
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Peteski- Your light boards look like the new run of the Atlas Shay's. They must have been looking over your shoulder when you did this. LOL
Very nice. The way the first run Shays were, the lights were always a pain to get lined up and not too bright either.
Not very much room in these guys to do DCC but you have shown it is possible.
Thanks!

peteski

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Re: Example of Atlas Shay DCC decoder install
« Reply #14 on: February 15, 2016, 03:07:12 PM »
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Peteski- Your light boards look like the new run of the Atlas Shay's. They must have been looking over your shoulder when you did this. LOL
Very nice. The way the first run Shays were, the lights were always a pain to get lined up and not too bright either.
Not very much room in these guys to do DCC but you have shown it is possible.
Thanks!

LOL, that is quite possible - after all that DCC install was first posted on the Atlas Forum several years ago (2009 IIRC).  So, it had excellent visibility to the Atlas Forum moderators who were also Atlas employees.  I agree that the original yellow LEDs were pain in the butt to work with, and rather dim.
--- Peteski de Snarkski

-"Look at me, I'm satirical!!!"
-"Look at me, I'm anal retentive!!!"
-"Look at me, I have the most posts evahhhh!!!"
-"Look at me, I'm snarky!!!!"
-"Look at me, I have OCD!!!"
-"Look at me, I'm a curmudgeon!!!!"
-"Look at me, I'm not negative, just blunt and honest!!!"