To get there I wouldn’t have started from here!

First post of the New Year and I’ve come over all philosophical with nonsense like “if I knew what I know now I wouldn’t have bothered” and “if I were going there, I wouldn’t have started from here”.

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.

Here is an example of how it could be. This Bachmann WD Baldwin is about 2/3rds the size of a Manning Wardle. It comes just as a DC model but has a speaker built into the bunker so is sound ready.

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.

With that I need some therapy. Tomorrow these granite wagons had better watch out as its a BINGE* wagon bash day and they’re in for some big hammer treatment.






*BINGE = Beamish Industrial Narrow Gauge Engineers



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8 thoughts on “To get there I wouldn’t have started from here!

  1. Thank you for all your hard work. Having already fitted a different, non-Manning Wardle sound, solution to one of these beasts I know just how difficult it is to fit everything in and get the body back on! I shall shortly be fitting your solution in a MkII engine and after reading the instructions together with Paul Chetter’s article in Hornby magazine I was feeling reasonably confident. Until, that is, I took all the components out of the box to look at them! My heart sank when I saw the size of the adapter connections as soldering most certainly isn’t one of my better skills. Great care will have to be the order of the day. Also I may well just go with two Stay Alives fitted at first. I’ll post how I get on – always providing I haven’t wrecked the beast. 🙁

    • Thanks for the comment Peter. All being well having got past this weekends open day event and getting the VAT quarter sorted tomorrow I’ll get back to installing and photographing a second Mk2 and a Mk1 install. As you note the soldering is small and fiddly. I have to be in the right frame of mind to do it. Trying when you’ve not got your eye in is just asking for disaster.

  2. Hi Paul – just completed my MK 2 install and by following the instructions and photos – really recommend the Hornby Feb 20 photos – I have a running and great sounding MW. Need to add to the 2 capacitors already fitted for the stay alive to work, but don’t foresee any issues. As you say, you have to be in the right frame of mind…with plenty of breaks in between the soldering!

  3. Hello Paul – well I’ve just spent a fraught afternoon using my ham-fisted soldering lack-of-skill and am pleased to say that like Jeremy I now have your MW sound kit installed and working. A break or two, a couple of cups of tea and a slice of fruit cake all helped.

    I wired the motor leads the other way round from your instructions so that the engine would move in the correct direction. I chickened out of fitting the additional four Stay Alives which may always be retro-fitted should I feel they are needed. With just the speaker wires to go to the cab there’s no need to grind down the body.

    I have fitted the speaker that comes with the kit but am going to replace it with a smaller one as the one provided almost fills the cab and requires the brake column to be relocated.

    To anyone thinking of installing this I would say do go ahead – if I can do it then almost anyone can. You do need a small bit on your soldering iron though as the solder pads on the adapter are very close together – I used a pointed bit. Oh, and lots of patience! 😉

    • Hi Peter, Glad you’ve been successful. I am wondering if there is some lack of consistency in the Heljan wiring as I wired my Mk2 up as shown in the pictures and it goes the same way as my Bachmann Baldwin. The speaker supplied doesn’t require the brake column moved, well it hasn’t in the two, nearly three, locos I have done. Speaker is always a compromise, smaller will be quieter but if you are just running at home that will probably be fine.

      • I think you have hit the nail on its head with your comment about Heljan’s lack of consistency! It certainly doesn’t conform to the NMRA rules but so long as that is understood all should be well. I know that Jeremy had the same situations with his install regarding wiring and brake column.

  4. Hi Paul.

    I have finally been in the right frame of mind to install the sound decoder. I have fitted it very much as per your instructions together with using the article in the Hornby mag. All capcitors have been installed.
    I haven’t had to remove the brake column even moounting the speakerside on nos a lower profile in the cab, held in with Blutak which also helps reduce any resonance.

    I have just come back from the shed after running it on the new 009 layout ‘Blackmoor’. It sounds superb.

    I think that I have a tiny bit more grinding work to get the body fully back on but its almost there.

    I will be after a few more of these as funds permit.



  5. Have successfully installed into a mk2 this week, can’t quite believe that I now have a beautifully working MW with excellent sound!

    Having the Hornby Magazine article on my tablet was a very useful addition to the workbench. It was the article that spurred me on in yhe first place.

    My loco ran back to front as installed but adding 1 to the value of CV29 (which was 38) sorts things out without the need to change the wiring.

    To reduce the bulk of the pickup wiring joints I removed Heljan’s hefty sleeves and unsoldered their joints. These were then reassembled with new wire to the adaptor and very fine heat shrink insulation.

    I sincerely hope that Heljan’s “Lyn” will match Bachmann’s reliability & user friendliness and that Gaugemaster’s appointment by Heljan brings with it a reliable source of spares…better still if Heljan get it right first time.

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