Author Topic: Installing DCC Sound in Brass Steam  (Read 779 times)

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thumpernickle

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Installing DCC Sound in Brass Steam
« on: January 13, 2022, 06:49:12 PM »
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Hi,
Getting back into the hobby and dusting off my SP Key Imports steam locomotives. I want to upgrade them to DCC with sound. I have done zero DCC installations. So I am looking for advice on how to do it myself OR who to turn to for help. My assumption is that DCC sound installations in brass steam is more complicated that a regular DCC with sound installation due to electrical pickup, the who model being made of metal, etc.

Dave V

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Re: Installing DCC Sound in Brass Steam
« Reply #1 on: January 13, 2022, 07:49:00 PM »
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That's correct, and every install will have unique challenges. However, the one overarching rule that every install must follow is to isolate the motor from the frame.

mike_lawyer

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Re: Installing DCC Sound in Brass Steam
« Reply #2 on: January 13, 2022, 08:00:00 PM »
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One thing to look for on Key Imports locos is how the electrical pickup is routed.  Some of them will be left rail via tender, right rail via the drivers (or vice versa).  To get bulletproof electrical pickup, I usually make it all-tender pickup with the super-flexible wires from Ngineering running to the loco. 

My first rule is to get electrical pickup as best as you can first, then install the DCC.

woodone

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Re: Installing DCC Sound in Brass Steam
« Reply #3 on: January 13, 2022, 08:11:49 PM »
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Brass can be tricky- Have you done any DCC installs before? Is this a prized locomotive of yours.
If the reply to these questions is yes, you may want to seek out a professional installer.
Sound decoders cost over $100.00 these days. Add in some lights and other upgrades you will invest a good bit of money.
   

thumpernickle

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Re: Installing DCC Sound in Brass Steam
« Reply #4 on: January 14, 2022, 09:21:23 AM »
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I have zero experience installing DCC. I have also heard that Southern Pacific Vandy tenders add an additional level of complexity to the install. So I am very open to a professional installer with experience installing DCC and sound in brass.

Kentuckian

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Re: Installing DCC Sound in Brass Steam
« Reply #5 on: January 14, 2022, 02:16:38 PM »
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Disclaimer: I have yet to install DCC in a brass steam engine.

Certainly there is no shame in using a pro installer. Some people have less time than money and paying for an installation is worth it to them.

I have installed DCC sound in plastic steam and if you work slowly you can probably do it. There is a thread on here on The Railwire (TRW) that shows installation projects on popular N scale engines. Look at The Best Of link at the top of this DCC/Electronics section. This will give you some ideas.

If you want to learn to do your own installs I would do a plastic steamer first. This will give you some experience, confidence, and let you tool up for future installs. If you use ESU decoders, their return policy is very forgiving, so even if you short a decoder they will replace it for you. Yes, I know this by experience. :facepalm:

I also have this 2-8-0 but I sold the SP tender and replaced it with a Bachmann that matches my prototype (C&O). I am not familiar with the Key Vandy tender on this model, so I can’t address its particular idiosyncrasies. However, I will second the recommendation to improve the power pickup first.

The best way to do this is to make the tender wheels pickup power from both rails, not just the left rail. The easiest way to do this is to find a pair of Bachmann Spectrum tender trucks. Bachmann parts department are long sold out of these. You may be able to find a Vandy tender for sale somewhere. I believe Model Power/MRC produced a similar tender that has power pickup from both rails. I have no experience with these MP trucks and can’t address their usefulness.

@mmagliaro, an incredible resource here on TRW, has an article in the 2016 steam annual of N Rail, formerly N Trak https://www.ntrak.org/ that shows how to electrically isolate the stock brass trucks to achieve tender pickup from both rails.

You could do both: improve the electrical pickup yourself and “subcontract” out the DCC install.
Modeling the C&O in Kentucky.

“Nature does not know extinction; all it knows is transformation. ... Everything science has taught me-and continues to teach me-strengthens my belief in the continuity of our spiritual existence after death. Nothing disappears without a trace.” Wernher von Braun

jdcolombo

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Re: Installing DCC Sound in Brass Steam
« Reply #6 on: January 14, 2022, 03:03:37 PM »
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I've done over 200 sound installs for myself and friends (I don't do them as a business), but only one in a brass engine: my own Key 2-8-4 Berkshire.  And I personally wouldn't touch another brass steam locomotive (diesels, maybe).  Between the weird electrical pickup systems used on most brass steam, including a lack of dual-side tender truck pickup, and the fact that these things are VERY touchy about being messed with in any way, down to the real possibility that if you make a mistake, you can seriously f***-up a VERY expensive model, I'd never do it, even for a close friend.

There are pro installers out there who I am sure would do this, but be prepared to pay $300 or more for parts and labor.  I'm not going to recommend anyone because I've never used a pro installer myself, but some that I am aware of are Streamlined Backshop (sbs4dcc.com); Tony's Train Exchange (tonystrains.com); and Top Hobby Trains (tophobbytrains.com). There are also individuals who post here who do installations for a fee, but I'll let them contact you directly.

John C.

woodone

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Re: Installing DCC Sound in Brass Steam
« Reply #7 on: January 14, 2022, 05:41:00 PM »
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Thumpernickle— I sent you a PM.

thumpernickle

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Re: Installing DCC Sound in Brass Steam
« Reply #8 on: January 15, 2022, 12:00:49 AM »
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Thank you everyone for the replies. It is really helpful. I will look through the DCC section (I originally posted in the N section) to better understand how to do a DCC install.

wvgca

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Re: Installing DCC Sound in Brass Steam
« Reply #9 on: January 15, 2022, 10:10:11 AM »
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DCC installs in steam take a bit more than the install in diesels ... more cumbersome parts to take off or work around ...
and brass is a little harder still, mostly in changing the tender from single to dual sided pickup, if you are going to spend the time time doing it yourself, may as well spend a bit more to get it 'right' ... it really doesn't take much more when you're at this point ..
i found one of the harder things to do was installing the 'bump' gear on one of the driving axles to give the right 'chuff' to it all, even more fun on mallets!
So far probably around 200 sound decoder installs, about half plastic and half die cast / brass, mostly HO scale though, so my eyes are still okay , lol..
ps.. motor doesn't have to be insulated from the frame, but the brushes do ..
« Last Edit: January 15, 2022, 10:12:08 AM by wvgca »

woodone

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Re: Installing DCC Sound in Brass Steam
« Reply #10 on: January 15, 2022, 05:12:39 PM »
+1
When you say bump gear, I am guessing that you are referring to what is called a chuff cam. Most new sound decoders do not use a chuff cam any longer. They use BEMF feed back to control the rate of chuffs. So that is something you no longer have to fuss with.
Makes installs into steamers a little bit easier .

peteski

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Re: Installing DCC Sound in Brass Steam
« Reply #11 on: January 16, 2022, 02:22:37 AM »
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i found one of the harder things to do was installing the 'bump' gear on one of the driving axles to give the right 'chuff' to it all, even more fun on mallets!
So far probably around 200 sound decoder installs, about half plastic and half die cast / brass, mostly HO scale though, so my eyes are still okay , lol..
ps.. motor doesn't have to be insulated from the frame, but the brushes do ..

You are installing chuff cams (bumps?) in N scale steam locos, or are your installs H0 or lager models?
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wvgca

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Re: Installing DCC Sound in Brass Steam
« Reply #12 on: January 16, 2022, 09:01:59 AM »
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You are installing chuff cams (bumps?) in N scale steam locos, or are your installs H0 or lager models?

probably less than a quarter of these are N, the rest are HO ... none larger ..  i find the better installs do include a chuff cam though, well mostly, lol

Maletrain

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Re: Installing DCC Sound in Brass Steam
« Reply #13 on: January 16, 2022, 10:08:28 AM »
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I think a "chuff cam" or some equivalent physical measure of the axle rotation speed is at least helpful, it not absolutely necessary to make the chuffs sync properly at all speeds.  Then the decoder could look at BEMF and momentum and brake inputs just to decide how to make each chuff sound.  My experience with syncing chuffs is that I can make it work well enough to look good at low speeds, but, if I really pay attention to moderate speeds, I can see that the chuffs are not really the proper number for each axle revolution.  In N scale, nobody is really going to notice that, so it doesn't bother me.  But, at larger scales, especially above HO, I expect it would be noticeable.

jdcolombo

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Re: Installing DCC Sound in Brass Steam
« Reply #14 on: January 16, 2022, 10:38:41 AM »
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I've never used a cam in N scale.  Maletrain is correct that the electronic chuff timing on an ESU LokSound isn't quite perfect, but it is darn good, and above 20 smph, the chuffs start to get rapid enough that only someone concentrating solely on the chuffs and valve gear could tell the slight mis-match.  On my layout, that person better be paying attention to running the train, not watching the valve gear! :) It may be more noticeable in larger scales, but if you view some prototype video of, say NKP 765 on an excursion run, I can't really "count" the chuff timing once the engine gets above about 20 mph.  And there isn't much chuffing at all unless the engine is laboring.  That's the one thing models don't really get correct: a prototype steam loco that is properly fired just doesn't make much of a chuff sound at track speed.  If you want to hear the chuffs, better do so when the engine is starting the train or laboring up a hill with a decently-heavy consist.

John C.