In this article I will explain the steps I followed while converting a new-in-the-box Accucraft AL88-136 C-19 electric into a battery operated, radio controlled model. Part 1 will cover the tender conversion. Part 2 will cover the engine conversion. Part 3 will cover the detailing and weathering.
- 08/15/2011 – Updated Tender Wiring Diagram and added clarifications to Part 1.
- 08/16/2011 – Added firebox video in Part 2.
- 08/22/2011 – Completed Part 2 (removed draft status) and added comments regarding reassembly issues and programming. Added Part 3 (draft) text without photos.
- 8/28/2011 – Added a few photos of weathering progress thus far. Added internal link to my “Weathering” post.
- 9/01/2011 – Added photos of the smokebox weathering in progress.
- 9/02/2011 – Added photos showing weathering in progress around the air pumps, steam dome appliances, and on the undercarriage behind the drivers.
- 9/06/2011 – Completed Part 3 (removed draft status) and added a few photos of final details.
Part 1 – Tender Conversion
Determine if your model is from the first or second production run. An easy way to determine whether or not your C-19 is first or second run is to look at the electrical connector between the locomotive and tender. The first run used a six-pin connector; the second run used a twelve-pin connector. Also the first run used incandescent lamps; the second run used LEDs. The first run will have a single PCB in the tender; the second run will have two PCBs. My model is from the first run, so all steps from here on are geared toward modifying a first-run unit. If your model is from the second run, adapt the steps accordingly.
- As with any conversion of a new model, always begin by rigorous testing in its factory condition. This means running the locomotive on pure DC track power and getting rid of any little kinks or discrepancies that may not have been caught at the factory. According to Accucraft, the C-19 was one of their more problematic models, particularly with the first run. Many had to be sent back to the manufacturer for rework. Lube the model according to the manufacturer’s specs and break it in by running at slow speed both forward and reverse for about an hour. Check for any binding in the mechanism. There was a tendency for some of these first run models to have quartering issues with the drivers. Make sure you have all of the mechanical components working in tip-top condition before you start the conversion process.
- Remove the coal load and coal pocket dump door. These lift out and do not require tools.
- Disconnect all of the wires connected to the circuit board mounted to the floor. Remove the circuit board. It is attached to the floor with three machine screws and nuts. You may need to lift the capacitor slightly to access the screw heads.
- Note: If you want to keep the option to run from track power, skip this step and simply connect the blue and gray track pick-up wires to the TRK terminals of switch S1 (labeled as N/C on the wiring diagram.) I removed the track pick-ups from my model to eliminate the drag. Turn the tender over and remove the trucks. Cut the blue and gray wires leading from the electrical pick-ups where they go through the tender floor. Remove the four electrical pickups. There is one set of pick-ups on each wheelset. Two small screws hold each pick-up onto the truck frame. Re-install the trucks and turn the tender right side up.
- Note: If you want to keep the back-up light, skip this step and simply replace the incadescent bulb with an LED, add a suitable current limiting resistor (390 0hm, 1/2 Watt) in series with the LED, and connect the wires to the REVLT and UNREG terminals on the QSI Aristo PNP Board later. Observe proper polarity for the LED (UNREG is + and REVLT is -). I removed the back-up light from my model as it was not prototypically correct. Remove the back-up light and its mounting bracket from the top of the tender. It is mounted with four 2MM machine screws.
- Remove the factory installed 6-pin connector(s) and wiring harness.
Note: The following two figures contain the new wiring diagram and electronics parts list for the tender. Refer to these figures as you convert the tender.
- Drill four ⅛” holes for the speaker mounting screws as shown in the photo. To determine the correct position for the speaker mounting holes, turn the tender upside down, center the speaker over the large 3-inch opening, and mark the four mounting hole positions.
Remove about ⅛” from the end of the toggle handle of switch S1 with a cut-off tool. De-bur and smooth the cut edges with a file. Shortening the handle will allow the water hatch cover to close completely after the switch is mounted.
- Solder the red, blue, and black wires to P10, J11 and S1 (and the blue and gray wires from the track pick-ups, if you left the pick-ups attached.) Mount J11 and S1 in the two holes under the water fill hatch as shown in the photo. Solder the speaker lead wires (included with the Aristo PNP Board) to the speaker.
- Attach jacks J12 and J13 to front of tender as shown in the photos. Route the wires into the tender through the grommet under the truck bolster where the original factory-installed wire harness ran. For easier access when routing the wires through the grommet, remove the four 3MM hex head machine screws on each side of the truck bolster. Slide the bolster out of the way and route the wires through the grommet. Then move the bolster back into position and replace the hex head machine screws.
- Mount the internal battery pack to the floor at the rear of the tender with double-sided tape as shown in the photos. Do not connect J10 to P10 at this time.
- Mount the reed switch in the left front corner of the tender with double-sided tape as shown in the photos.
- Mount the speaker on the tender floor with four ⅜” long, 2-56, machine screws, washers and nuts.
- Plug the Aristo PNP Board into the Magnum adapter. Cover the bottom of the adapter with electrical tape. Connect wires to the screw terminals on the adapter per the tender wiring diagram and attach it to the floor at the front of the tender with double-sided tape.
- Attach the G-Wire receiver to the inner left side of the tender shell with double-sided tape. Connect the G-Wire Receiver to P5 on the Aristo PNP Board with the five conductor ribbon cable supplied with the receiver. Note approximate location of antenna wire from radio receiver and mark on dummy coal load.
- Splice the appropriate wires from J12 to the chuff cable (included with Aristo PNP Board.).
- Plug-in the speaker cable to P9 on the Aristo PNP Board.
- Plug-in the cable from the reed switch (included with the Aristo PNP Board) to P1 on the Aristo PNP Board.
- Plug-in the chuff cable to P2 on the Aristo PNP Board.
- Place switch S1 in the center OFF position. Connect J10 to P10. Place switch S1 in the BATT position. You should hear start-up sounds from the speaker.
- Insert plug P11 into jack J11 with battery charger not connected to AC input. Sound from speaker should stop. Turn switch S1 to the center OFF position.
- Connect battery charger to AC power. Verify that battery charges properly. Remove plug P11 from jack J11 after battery is fully charged. Disconnect the battery charger from AC power.
- Drill a small hole through the dummy coal load for the radio receiver antenna at the location marked previously. Reinstall the dummy coal load, carefully threading the antenna through the hole. This antenna will be hidden later in Part 3 when I get to the weathering.
- Reinstall the coal pocket dump doors. The tender conversion is now complete. Set it aside while you work on the locomotive. The engine conversion will be covered in Part 2.
Part 2 – Engine Conversion
Here is a short video of a glowing firebox effect like the one I will be installing in the C-19. In fact, it is being driven by the very same circuit board that I will be putting in the C-19 engine. The only difference is that this is a backhead and firebox door from a Bachmann “Annie” that I converted in the same manner.
This part of the article deals with the conversion of the engine. At first glance, it would seem to be rather straightforward. It’s just simple rewiring, exchanging the light bulbs for LEDs, and adding a new circuit board. How hard can that be?
The hard part is that to do these things you need to take the engine apart. The dis-assembly can be a bit intimidating if you have never taken one apart before.
Actually, it is not as hard as it might appear. The key is to go slowly, think about each step in the process, keep track of the parts and small fasteners you remove along the way, and to eliminate or minimize any scuffs, scratches, and other collateral damage you might inflict during the process. You will need some type of cradle to support the engine in various positions as you work on it. I used a piece of soft foam salvaged from a computer shipping box.
I should also add that it helps to have a bit of expert advice from folks who have been through it before. I’ll admit I made a couple of calls to the tech support folks at Accucraft (a great group, by the way) and to George Conrad, the contractor who did much of the work on the C-19s and other Colorado NG locomotives for Accucraft in the past.
While you have the engine apart, it is a great time to do some preventive maintenance and other enhancements that you will thank yourself for later on – things like applying thread-locker to some of the critical set screws and other fasteners. You can also add some additional weight inside the boiler to improve tractive effort. If you plan on weathering the locomotive later, you will find that it easier to weather the frame and drivers while the boiler is removed. You can also add figures and other details inside the cab much easier while everything is apart.
Begin by removing the cab.
- Remove the four 3MM hex head machine screws under the cab floor at the corners of the cab and the 3MM nuts from the bottom of the two cab handrails.
- Remove the two thin wires attached to the whistle and sander valve lever. These two wires go through the front wall of the cab and will be removed with the cab.
- Gently loosen the cab by pulling it to the rear while lifting slightly. Several steam and water pipes penetrate the front wall of the cab from the boiler. These are all just press-fit into holes in the cab wall.
- Go slowly and be careful not to bend any of the piping connected to the turret inside of the cab. The water injector pipe on the engineer’s side of the cab was extremely stubborn on my model and needed to be coaxed out with a gentle tap using a dowel rod inserted through the cab as a punch.
- When the cab is clear enough to reach inside, cut the wires connected to the cab light on the underside of the cab roof. At that point the cab can easily be removed and set aside.
The remainder of the engine dis-assembly is relatively easy but involves a lot of sub-assembly removals. In order to remove some of the parts, you may need to disconnect some of the piping (particularly on the running boards.) Work carefully and the brass lines will usually come apart at a junction without unsoldering. For example, the air lines can be gently pulled out of the air pumps. Other small lines can be clipped if necessary and later reconnected with a small length of shrink tubing or the addition of a pipe union casting or other fitting. Here is the basic order I followed in the removals:
- Pilot truck (2 screws)
- Rear running boards (four screws each)
- Backhead (two screws)
- Headlight, headlight mounting platform, and platform handrail (five screws)
- Smokebox front (one screw)
- Pilot braces (four screws)
- Reverse linkage (two screws)
At this point you can lift the boiler from the frame. Be careful with the thin sanding lines that extend downward to the drivers. Make sure you strip out all of the factory wiring as you disassemble the engine. The only wires that I reused were the black and red motor leads. After you separate the boiler from the frame, you can remove the following:
- Motor and 90 degree gearbox (six screws)
- Firebox and ash pan (four screws)
- Track pick-ups from 1st and 4th driver (two screws on each)
- Carefully remove the headlight lens.
- Remove the incandescent bulb and replace it with a 5MM warm-white LED.
- Add the headlight resistor in series with the LED. It can be added anywhere between connector P12 and the LED, and on either the + or – side of the LED.
Note: I used a 390 Ohm, ½ Watt resistor based on the parameters of my battery voltage and LED specifications. If you use a different battery voltage, or use a different LED, make sure you size the resistor accordingly. Here is the method for determining the size of the resistor: (1) Subtract the LED forward voltage from the battery voltage. (14.8 – 3.2 = 11.6) This gives you the voltage to be dropped by the resistor. (2) Compute the resistor value by dividing this number by the desired LED current. (11.6 / 0.03 = 386.667) This gives you the resistor value in Ohms. Use the next higher standard resistor value, in this case, 390 Ohms. (3) Compute the power for the resistor by multiplying the square of the desired LED current times the resistor value. (0.03 x 0.03 x 390 = 0.351) This gives you the power rating for the resistor in Watts. Use the next higher standard resistor power size; in this case ½ Watt.
The following steps deal with installing the auxiliary lighting circuit board in the boiler and installing LEDs in the classification lamps, the firebox, and the cab. Refer to the Engine Wiring Diagram as you wire the engine.
Note: Refer to my separate article, titled “Auxiliary Lighting Circuit”, for detailed information on how to build the circuit board and how to install the firebox LEDs and the cab light in typical large-scale locomotives. The firebox LED installation described in the article works for locomotives like the Bachmann “Annie” or “Connie.” It cannot be used on the C-19 due to the position of the motor. The following link will open the article in a separate window:
- Remove the classification lamps from the smokebox front. The brass rods connecting the classification lamps to the smokebox front are threaded at each end.
- Remove the incandescent bulbs in the classification lamps and replace with 3MM warm-white LEDs.
- Reinstall the classification lamps onto the smokebox front.
- Wire the classification lamp LEDs to each other and to connector P3 per the engine wiring diagram (LEDs are in parallel.)
- Remove the incandescent bulb attached to the underside of the cab roof and replace it with a 3MM warm-white LED. I used a dab of silicone caulk to secure the LED to the roof.
- Ensure that the leads from the cab light LED are long enough to thread down through the boiler shell and reach to the leads connected to connector J3 on the auxiliary lighting module. Do not splice these wires together yet; wait until you are ready to reattach the cab later.
- Install the four firebox LEDs inside the firebox behind the backhead. Wire the firebox LEDs to each other and to connector P2 per the wiring diagram. Do not use the plastic vial for the LED housing described in the “Auxiliary Lighting Circuit” article as there is not enough room for it in the C-19. I attached the firebox LEDs behind the backhead with silicone caulk rather than fabricating the LED housing described in the article.
Note: The firebox door doesn’t actually open on the C-19, I plan on replacing it with a working detail casting later.
- Remove the firebox door from the backhead. (2 screws)
- Drill a hole through the backhead behind the firebox door position. This will allow the firebox LEDs to be visible through the firebox door. Size the hole according to the door casting you plan to use.
- Reinstall the firebox door on the backhead.
- Route the wires from plugs P12 and P13 through the hole in the ash pan where the original factory wiring ran.
- Reinstall the firebox and ashpan.
- Fabricate the Auxiliary Lighting Module circuit board per the separate article.
- Splice the leads from plug P12, pins 3 and 4 to plug P1, pins 1 and 2 (green to red and brown to black.)
- Splice the leads from P2, pins 1 through 5 to the firebox LEDs. Add wire extensions if needed.
- Splice the leads from P3, pins 1 and 2 to the wires going to the cab light LED.
- Splice the leads from P3, pins 3 and 4 to the classification lamps.
- Connect the leads from J12, pins 1 and 2 to the chuff cam contacts.
The remaining steps will get you back to an assembled engine:
- Connect the motor leads to plug P13 (red to red and black to black.)
- Reinstall the motor.
- Thread wires for the auxiliary lighting board power and the headlight from J15, pins 3 through 6 through the boiler from the rear and exiting the front.
- Thread the wires for the firebox LEDs from P2, pins 1 through 5 through the boiler from the front to the rear.
- Thread the wires for the cab light from P3, pins 1 and 2 through the boiler from front to the rear and exiting through the small hole on the top of the boiler in the cab area.
- Reinstall the boiler onto the frame.
- Reinstall the backhead.
- Plug-in connectors P1, P2, and P3 to the auxiliary lighting circuit board.
- Attach the auxiliary lighting circuit board to the inside of the boiler with double-sided tape or silicone caulk. Make sure you insulate the underside of the circuit board to prevent short circuits.
- Attach the cab light LED to the underside of the roof of the cab.
- Splice the cab light leads to the wires coming up through the small hole in the top of the boiler (from P3, pins 1 and 2.) Observe proper polarity of the LED.
- Reinstall the cab.
- Splice the wires for the headlamp from J12, pins 5 and 6 to the headlamp LED and the headlamp resistor. Observe proper polarity for the headlamp LED.
- Reinstall the smokebox front onto the boiler.
- Reinstall the headlamp.
- Reinstall all remaining components.
Okay, you are finished with the engine modifications. Take a break. Pat yourself on the back. The hard part is done! Now check everything out and program the engine:
- Connect the tender onto the engine drawbar.
- Connect P12 to J12 and P13 to J13.
- Place the engine drivers on roller stands.
- Remove the coal load from the tender.
- Disconnect the internal battery and pug-in the cable connected to the QSI Quantum Programmer.
- Disconnect the five-conductor ribbon cable between the QSI Aristo Plug “N” Play Module board and the G-Wire Radio Receiver.
- Place switch S1 in the BATT position.
- Download the desired QSI soundset to your PC. I decided to use a QSI C-16 sound set (-542).
- Modify all desired CV settings using the QSI software.
- If you decide to use the automatic chuff sequencing feature of the QSI Aristo PNP rather than the mechanical chuff cam, perform the chuff calibration per the QSI documentation.
- Save the modified file on your PC.
- Upload the modified file to the Aristo PNP.
- Run the locomotive through its paces using the cab control interface on the PC.
- Verify all lights, sounds, and motions are correct.
- Place switch S1 in the center OFF position.
- Disconnect the programmer and reconnect the internal battery.
- Reconnect the five-conductor ribbon cable between the QSI module and the G-Wire radio receiver.
- Replace the coal load.
- Run the locomotive on roller stands or on the layout with the hand-held radio remote for a while to verify all settings are correct. Tweak the CVs as needed for optimum performance.
Comments regarding reassembly and programming:
There were a couple of minor things I encountered during/after reassembly that are worth noting.
- I added a couple of micro connectors to the two wires going to the cab light so that I could easily disconnect and reconnect them if I needed to remove the cab again.
- After reassembly, I noted a significant drag on the drive train that was difficult to isolate at first. It turned out to be a dragging brake shoe against the number 1 left driver. The brake hangers pivot from the frame, so ensure you don’t accidently nudge a brake shoe up againt a driver during reassembly.
- I found it convenient to route all of the individual wires that run through the boiler in a sleeve.
There were a couple of minor things I encountered during programming that are worth noting.
- The programming current from the QSI programmer is limited. I found that I was getting occasional drop-outs in the communications between the PC and the locomotive. I temporarily disconnected the power to the Auxiliary Lighting circuit board by removing the leads from J12 to the Aristo PNP board while programming to solve the problem.
- Since the headlight is now a LED rather than an incandescent bulb, the dimming feature while in reverse in inoperative.
- I found the valve rod clank sounds to be interesting, but somewhat annoying, so I turned the volume setting down considerably for this feature.
- I decided to use the automatic chuff sequencing feature of the QSI Aristo PNP rather than connecting the mechanical chuff cam. I calibrated the chuff per the QSI documentation at speed steps 5, 3, 15, 20, 25, 30, 40, 50, 60, 70, 80, 90, and 100. After calibration, I changed the value for chuff rate scale factor from 32 to 90 in CV 56.12.
- The forward/reverse functions were backwards. I corrected this by changing a CV setting in the QSI Aristo PNP.
Part 3 – Detailing and Weathering
Let me begin by emphasizing that this can be a very subjective matter. The opinion of what constitutes a “good” detailing and weathering job can vary greatly from one modeler to another. Much depends on the railroad and the timeframe being modeled, the prototype photos and records that are available for reference, and the personal likes/dislikes of the modeler.
I told you in the introduction to this article that I wanted to represent a hard-working locomotive from the waning period on the RGS. During this timeframe (late 40s – early 50s), routine maintenance was almost non-existent and only the most critical repairs were performed. This part of the article explains how I attempted to achieve that effect.
Detailing is one thing, but many modelers do not want to attempt weathering. Some say that it is an “art” rather than a “science.” Those who do attempt it each have their own tricks of the trade that they rely upon. Ask ten different modelers how to do it and you will get ten different answers.
There are many extremely good modelers who have mastered the weathering process. Many of the concepts I use were taught to me by Steve Amitrano, an outstanding Sn3 modeler. Steve has presented clinics on the subject and has graciously posted his excellent clinic handout for “Weathering Narrow Gauge Steam Locomotives” on the Oklahoma Narrow Gauge web site. Click on this link to open a copy of the clinic handout in a separate window. I highly recommend that you print out a copy of this handout for reference.
Okay … enough philosophy and background. Here is how I did it — I basically followed Steve’s methods. Rather than repeat Steve’s process in a step-by-step fashion, I’ll just explain the major differences between his methods and mine. Keep in mind that Steve specializes in Sn3 models (1:64 scale.) I have the advantage of using materials that would inappropriate in the smaller scale.
- I was not able to use my standard gun bluing method for darkening the wheelsets on the C-19 because the wheels are made of stainless steel. I replaced the wheelsets on the tender with standard Accucraft AMS steel wheelsets from a freight car. These regular steel wheels darken nicely when the gun bluing solution is applied. See my post on weathering for specific details about the gun bluing solution I use. The following link will open the post in a separate window.
- I ended up painting the wheels on the leading truck and the tires on the drivers.
- Before starting the weathering, I add details such tool boxes, re-rail frogs, chains, tools, ropes, hoses, and any other clutter I happen to have in my junk box.
- I use acrylic paints and washes rather than the oil-based Floquil brand paints that Steve recommends. I generally thin my acrylic paints with airbrush medium, retarder, water, and/or isopropyl alcohol for airbrushing (depending on the color being used and the effect I am trying to achieve.)
- I use ultra-thin washes of India ink diluted with isoproply alcohol on top of the acrylic. India ink is available in a wide variety of colors. I use black, brown, red, yellow, and white.
- I use “shake-the-can” clear flat or matte spray paint for a top coat.
- I use nylon fabric rather than tissue paper to make cab curtains.
- I use activated carbon (aquarium filter material) for building up coal loads in the tender and for spilled coal on the deck and below the firebox door. I glue it down with white glue. I also crush some of it to a fine powder and scatter it in logical places where cinders would accumulate.
Here are a few photos taken during the weathering process.