Upgrade, Part Two

As part of the ongoing upgrades and improvements to the control system on The Hills Line, I made the decision to completely replace all the decoders in my existing locomotives. After several months of research, as well as rather frank discussions with modelers and operators whose opinions I value, I ultimately decided to go with ESU Loksound 5s as my standard. Fortunately my motive power roster is not so large as to make this a financial burden to complete.

I chose my model of IAIS 708 as a starting point, since it’s my version of Frankenstein’s Monster. The 708 is a combination of a factory-painted Athearn shell (with additional detail parts added) atop an Atlas drive, making it a somewhat unique if ungainly combination. I must have done something right, since it was my workhorse motive power for many years before being surpassed when Athearn came out with IAIS locomotives in their Genesis line.

The existing decoder was removed and replaced with a Loksound 5 Direct, since it’s a snap-in fit to the drive. I took a progressive approach to installing this decoder, wiring one aspect at a time before checking it on the layout. Soldering everything at once and hoping it all works is a recipe for disaster.

My indulgence for this installation came in the form of an ESU PowerPack. The capacitor provides additional power to the locomotive to get it over dirty sections of track. It’s kinda cool to pick up the loco while it’s running and watch the wheels continue to spin.

As part of my original installation, I installed a micro connector between the decoder and the lights. That way I could remove the shell if needed without disrupting the wires. I was able to reuse my existing connection to the new decoder, greatly speeding up installation time.

The shell was reattached to the frame, and everything given another once over. Back on the layout, I ran the locomotive through a brief shakedown cruise to make sure things ran smooth and didn’t bind or rattle. It was comforting to see all the lights continue to function as intended.

Of course, seeing the locomotive run is just half of the total equation. For this to truly be worthwhile, I need to hear it run as well as it looks.

More to come…

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