You did not come up with this buffer. ERR was using it before GRJ Plus, it was modified with recommendations from Jon Z. He also thought 3904 was a better transistor to use.
Having said that, I have been running into issues with ERR upgrades and sound lately too. Almost every upgrade has issues to work around. I have a feeling some components on the ERR boards must have been changed. Leaving serial data more susceptible to degradation with RS 4.0.
On my latest upgrade, I did not use the serial data from the Cruise CDR 4 pin connector. I used that for powering sounds, but feed Serial Data directly from R2LC pin to the RS system. That eliminated the buffering ERR uses on their boards. That worked.
ERR Products with ERR Products no issue. The composite assemblies where ERR integrates with Lionel RS 4.0 which is what K-Line is has caused the issues with the current boards I get from ERR. It is funny ERR says to use the diode, which I have tried with no success when K-Line and Lionel products are still the same as when ERR first started with this. G