What’s brought this on? Bloody Heljan 009 Manning Wardle’s that’s what.
They have dominated my Christmas and whilst I started with the view that they were just difficult to install sound in because no provision was made for sound I have now developed a nervous twitch at just the sight of one and become convinced that someone set out to deliberately frustrate the attempt.
I’ve been up a number of blind alleys trying to sort this install out with all the features I want which includes the sound decoder, speaker and keep alive.
I am writing this having achieved a partial victory in my quest. As I type TAW is going round and round my test oval being noisy on DC having previously done all its tricks on DCC. All I have got to do now is get the body back on which may be easier said than done.
Why is it so difficult? The first thing I’d say is that they are unnecessarily fragile. Bits drop of just as you look at them and they have a reputation for running problems, poor pickups, valve gear that falls off, pony trucks that hate point work and bits of body detail that just drop off.
To make matters worse there are two versions, so this isn’t one quest for a solution but two. Initially they released the model and its was a woeful performer with more going back the shop than stayed on a layout. Reliability was so poor that they changed factory and retooled a lot of it before releasing the second and subsequent batches.
To install sound (or just plain DCC) you unclip some pipes from the side tanks, undo a screw and the tanks come off. Take out the blanking plug, stick a next18 decoder in and put it back together. Less than ten minutes and no nervous breakdown. OK, it doesn’t have keep alive’s installed but its pick ups are much more reliable than the Manning Wardle.
When it comes to the MW the Mk1 really gets my nervous twitch going. This version didn’t allow for DCC let alone sound and its proving to be “interesting” to get anything to fit. I think there is a solution for it but its theoretical at the moment. Progress will eventually be reported on the instructions page of this blog. Whilst the speaker goes in the cab with some loss of visibility I think the keep alive solution may have to involve further loss of see through cab. The picture shows a MK1 chassis with some items placed to scope out the spec.
The Mk2 chassis produced in a different factory to the Mk1 is better but only a bit.With some of the die casting that goes in the tanks removed and the motor casting cut back there is a bit more room to manoeuvre. There still isn’t a way between the cab and the inside of the boiler for wires without taking a grinding disc to it. A straight sound fit without the keep alive would be less of an issue but the keep alive is really essential for reliability of the sound. Basically, if a loco has pickup issues either as a result of design or dirty track on DC or DCC silent it will get over some of them up to a point without you noticing. Adding sound just gives these issues a voice that makes it very obvious there is an issue. Adding even a small amount of keep alive adds a little support for the decoder and adds a little delay that hides the effects from bothering the sound.
You will get people that say “keep alive is no substitute for good pickups and clean track”. I agree with them that they are basic good things but why wouldn’t you do things that improve/support/maintain the good running if you can. We all set out with the cleanliness intent but it doesn’t take long for the operating environment making it harder to sustain.
*BINGE = Beamish Industrial Narrow Gauge Engineers