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For those who are interested, I'm going to keep all my BR and battery mod stuff in this thread.  I'll be posting lots of photos when I get around to it, but for now I figured I'd start with my overall wiring diagram.  At the advice of some who know better than me, I'm going to run some questions by the guys at BR.

What I started with:

A really gorgeous MTH Premier R-2 2-8-8-2 with articulated chassis.  Like my S1 project , It came from the MTH warehouse auction unfinished and mostly unassembled.  Unlike the S1, this one did NOT include any of the electrical guts save for a couple harnesses and beat up speaker.  However, this one DID come with a complete mechanical drivetrain, including  a strong Pittman motor, so I thought this would be the perfect chance to fill it up with the electronics that @Ron045 and @gunrunnerjohn have posted about recently. Ron's AEM-7 and John's Camelback with battery conversions are my go-to threads to try to fill in my blanks as I go along.

What I'm stuffing in there:

  • Tsunami 4400 4amp Decoder from Soundtraxx
  • Bluerail 5amp board w/external antenna (everything in my loco and tender is cast, no plastic.  So I needed the antenna)
  • MTH PS1 smoke unit...still figuring out the plan for chuffing but it's coming along
  • LED Headlight
  • Front LED Marker lights (these were the only lights that came preinstalled)
  • Switch to allow running on AC track power or DC battery power
  • Cab Light
  • Firebox Flicker Light
  • Rear Backup Light
  • Visaton 4-Watt SC4.6FL-8 1-1/2" x 2-1/2" Low Profile Full-Range Driver 8 Ohm Speaker
  • Rear backup LED
  • Rear automatic coupler

I'm building my own wiring harnesses, some of them are Molex SPX connector and some are Hirose connectors.  Finally bit the bullet and bought a proper heat torch to heat shrink everything when making connections as well.

I've already spoken with George at Soundtraxx a couple times about the Tsunami and some things I need to look for, I might wait a bit to close everything up because there may be a problem with the current limiting circuit.  They are looking into it as we speak.

Here's the overall wiring diagram for starters.  I don't show the resistors in line with the LED's yet, but they'll be in there.  The decoder puts out 10.5 volts from the outputs and a max of 400ma.  I could run incandescent lights, but I'm worried about my max draw since I measured the Pittman at 3.08 amps and someday I need to run a relay for smoke as well, so I figured LED's are going to be a good pre-emptive strike against maxing out the Tsunami in the future.

I've also created a couple of 3D Printed parts to replicate some small detail parts that were missing on the loco.  They turned out really good, shocking how detailed some of these technologies are now!  The smallest feature on one of the valves was 0.2mm diameter (yes two-tenths of a millimeter) and they resolved quite well!  Photos attached.

Some photos of the overall chassis and tender are shown, as delivered and in the box.  I don't know why I didn't take any pictures with the boiler on, but I do have it.

R2 Schematic-Model3D R2 Valve and Boiler Cover



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Last edited by Jeff_the_Coaster_Guy
Original Post

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A little couple hour job I took on this weekend was replacing the incandescent headlamp with an LED. 

Turns out it wasn't as easy as I figured it would be.  The replacement required disassembling the entire front end to get at a tiny screw that held the lamp assembly on.  There's an opening in the assembly on the top side that allows light to pass through into where the number boards should be (which I don't have, but will figure out someday).

Making things even tougher, there was an EACT 3mm diameter hole through the front portion of the chassis and up into the lamp assembly that the 3mm bulb could just squeeze through to install.  On my LED's the little flange at the base was *just* wide enough to prevent from passing through the small hole in the chassis, so I had to open it up a bit.  Eventually, I ended up just cutting it and using it like a tie-town bracket.  It's hidden when assembled so I'm OK with that.

But since the LED can't go all the way up into the lamp assembly, I had to create a stiff "mount" that had enough tension when mounted to force it as far up into the assembly as possible.  I ended up building a little harness / light piece that I could connect to the front portion of the disassembled chassis and left just enough wire to not get jumbled or pinched when installed.

Traced my positive leads all the way back to the original harness, and I yanked them out to prepare them to get wired into the new configuration some day soon.  But after a couple hours, it was all reassembled with the LED shining bright!

Pics of the little custom light harness and the final assembly shown below.  The resistor is in the wires prior to the molex joint.  There was no way for me to fit it in right at the light and make the bend around out of the lamp assembly.



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Thanks Ron. I assume you meant to say something like "Cool Project" instead of "Jeff Project" but you'll get no argument from me that "Jeff" and "cool" are synonymous anyway.😉

For now I'm just using an inexpensive 12VNiMH battery from Tenergy. If this works out well, I might ditch that battery and get one of the LiIons from MTO or somewhere else, but I'm on a budget and that system with the charger is pretty salty. I'm not worried about form factor that much, my tender has tons of room reserved for battery. Even with the big speaker.

Thanks Ron. I assume you meant to say something like "Cool Project" instead of "Jeff Project" but you'll get no argument from me that "Jeff" and "cool" are synonymous anyway.😉

For now I'm just using an inexpensive 12VNiMH battery from Tenergy. If this works out well, I might ditch that battery and get one of the LiIons from MTO or somewhere else, but I'm on a budget and that system with the charger is pretty salty. I'm not worried about form factor that much, my tender has tons of room reserved for battery. Even with the big speaker.

Ah... I did mean Cool.  I have no idea how I did that.

I was just curious if 12V would be enough to move all that metal and anything behind it?  I have an 11.1V in my 44Ton but that is small and light.  I have 14.8V in each of my F7's and together I have more power than I know what to do with.


So as part of building the wiring harnesses for the Bluerail / Tsunami hookup, I had to verify that the motor leads were isolated from frame ground or I would risk frying the board.  Everything looked OK there, but by chance I just happened to check continuity between the pickup and ground since I've seen pinched wires end up wreaking havoc.

Sure enough, I get this when I clip onto either pickup and touch frame ground:

If you can't tell, that says 0.8 ohms.  Not good, so something is touching something.  I disassembled both pickup roller assemblies, pickup rollers, removed the motor and the mount frame, tore out the pickup wires, but could not find the ghost.  Until I got to the rear connection to the pickup roller screw.  Took me about 15 minutes to find but then I saw this:

Do you see it? 

Neither did I the first time.  But just behind the loop is a tiny little bit of heatshrink worn off that was allowing the crimped connector to touch the corner of the chassis.  And I do mean TINY.  Almost microscopic.

After re-doing the eye crimp and new heat shrink, I have vanquished the ghost.

Now my chassis harness looks like this, and all wires are checked and in their correct pin locations!

Got the Track / Battery switch installed, and both sides of the harness ready.  The forward side will connect to a boiler harness where all the connections to the Tsunami will go.  The rear side will connect to the tender harness where the Bluerail card and speaker / lights go.

I asked a question in another thread...need to figure out how to fire the rear protocoupler.  It's a PS2 coupler.  Also need to figure out how to switch on the PS1 (yes, PS1, not PS2) smoke unit.  Unless anyone knows of a good off-the-shelf smoke driver that can take advantage of the existing encoder.

Up next, speaker.


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Ok, so I made some progress on wiring today. Got the rest of the Tsunami wired up and the harness built and test-mounted in the boiler.

Also got the cab light and firebox light installed and secured.

Finally, I finished off the custom baffle for the speaker in the tender and got all the wiring cut to length and the harness built. I'm proud of my cardboard baffle that also acts as a secure mount for the Bluerail board!

Now I'm waiting for a Super Chuffer from @gunrunnerjohn to stuff in the boiler.

All that's left is the backup light!

Also need to get my iPad up and running. Ever lose your Apple password? Yeah... They promised me they would let me reset it by end of next week!



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@Ron045 posted:

Great job Jeff.  Did you figure out the coupler?  You should be able to assign it to one of the FXs.

BUT... In the BR app make sure that slide button for that FX is slid over to the left for momentarily on when pushed.  Else you could fry that circuit with the default "push for on ... Push again for off".


Thanks Ron.  Haven't gotten that far yet.  Still need to get the BR app running once Apple lets me use my 8 year old iPad again.

I was wondering if there are ways to "lock" certain functions as momentary for the reason you mention.  And I also haven't figured out how to wire the coupler yet.  Have you been able to use your Tsunami with any couplers?  Still thinking a relay of some sort.  I also have a few coupler circuits I've cut off of old PS1 boards (with the big capacitor).  I wonder if there's a way to use those.


If you have an output from the DCC decoder for the coupler that does a momentary pulse in the 1/4 second range, there's an easy way to fire the coupler.  Use that pulse to actuate a relay and use track power to fire a PS/1 or Lionel coupler through the relay contacts.  Either of these couplers will work fine with 18V as long as you don't leave it on for more than around half a second.

If you have an output from the DCC decoder for the coupler that does a momentary pulse in the 1/4 second range, there's an easy way to fire the coupler.  Use that pulse to actuate a relay and use track power to fire a PS/1 or Lionel coupler through the relay contacts.  Either of these couplers will work fine with 18V as long as you don't leave it on for more than around half a second.

If the 4400 is receiving the momentary signal from the BR app (Let's assume FX5 is connected to the coupler), then what purpose does the relay serve?

I'm not challenging you or trying to be a smart a**.  I just really want to know the benefit.


@Ron045 posted:

If the 4400 is receiving the momentary signal from the BR app (Let's assume FX5 is connected to the coupler), then what purpose does the relay serve?

I'm not challenging you or trying to be a smart a**.  I just really want to know the benefit.

It carries enough current to actually fire the coupler.  If your decoder is good for several amps, then you don't need the relay.

Ron, the Soundtraxx documentation says the function outputs are only good for 400mA.  I'm thinking those couplers would fry it.  There's a PS2 coupler currently installed, but I think those are designed to fire at lower (6V) than the Ps1 couplers which can eat track power.  I think that's why John is suggesting going to a PS1 coupler.  I read elsewhere on this forum that the PS1 couplers can draw more than an amp, and the Ps2 couplers even more than that.

John, can you suggest a small inexpensive relay that I can try?  Most of the ones I'm coming up with on Mouser that have 1amp rated contacts are pretty large.  Is there a solid state relay that could work, especially since the duty cycle will be so low?

John, decoder outputs 10.5V on all outputs.  Well at least in my case they will.  The spec says Vinput minus 1.5 volts.  I assume there's diodes in the circuit to effect a 1.5V drop.  My source will be 12V battery, or track power.

I found similar to the little guys you posted, although I just remembered that I have a couple dead dPS1 boards, maybe I can steal a relay from those.  They're 9Vdc, right?

Update 2021 05 01:

Ok, we're functional. After all the outputs and terminals between the BR, Tsunami and accessories were double checked, I connected the battery and flipped the switch...

And things started happening! I was able to wipe my iPad from 10 years ago and installed the BR app. After booting up, the app found my board without any problems, and she came alive!

Also got the Super-Chuffer and the chuff-generator installed and calibrated, although I have no way to check it yet since I'm waiting for a relay to compete my smoke circuit. I don't have any input voltage to the "Smoke In" pin on the chuffer, but strangely the smoke motor runs constantly even without the prompt. Still gotta troubleshoot that, so I just disconnected the smoke motor for the time being.


As I was experimenting with outputs and features (firebox flicker! Cool! Dimmable LED headlight! Cool! Different whistles! Cool!), I came upon an unfortunate but not totally unexpected realization: my Tsunami2 4400 appears to be part of a bad batch that has a defective current protection circuit.

As I throttled up, all of a sudden the motor quit and all the the lights flashed. This happened a couple times in rapid succession, then everything just stopped.

To make sure I wasn't jamming anything and drawing too much current, I hooked up the Fluke and replicated the issue manually. Sure enough, the circuit protection kicks in at just over 1.4-1.5 amps, instead of 4 amps which the board is rated for.

Soundtraxx told me this might happen, and that they're working on it but don't have a solution as of a couple weeks ago. I've ring their bell again with the attached video. Will let y'all know if I hear back.

I will say, the sounds and features are pretty awesome as they work!


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Last edited by Jeff_the_Coaster_Guy


After talking to Soundtraxx, they convicted me to take another look at my stall current before sending the Tsunami2 back. When I first tested the stall current, I didn't have my battery in hand yet, so I attempted to create 12.5VDC using my AC transformer and a full wave bridge. I just turned up the AC legs until I read 12.5 V across the DC legs.

I know that without any sort of capacitance the DC is really jagged, but I thought that the "True RMS" description on the Fluke meter was telling me that my DC volts were pretty close to 12.5V rms.

So I checked stall current this way, and I showed just over 3 Amps. Maybe not so bad.

However, I now know that measuring DC current this way is cheating, because at the urging of the Soundtraxx guys, I re-checked the current with my actual 12Vbattery now that I have it, and the result (as @gunrunnerjohn suspected... Should have listened closer) was actually 7.5 Amps!

So it's very possible that the Tsunami is not at all to blame here. Even though I've heard from others that the current protection circuit is tripping prematurely, in my case it wouldn't matter anyway sauce I'm well beyond the capability of the Tsunami 4400.

Oh well, I suppose I'll move it over to a different steamer at some other time and start the search for a decoder that can handle this motor.

Moral of the story: listen to the experts. It will save you time and money!

Video of the battery test attached.


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Ok so getting back to this project... Anyone familiar with the smoke outputs on the TCS WOW card? I replaced the Tsunami, and the TCS card actually has a smoke coil and a smoke fan output.

@gunrunnerjohn: could I just feed the signal from the chuff generator directly to this terminal and skip the Super-Chuffer? Seems like I can, as long as the PS1 smoke unit is OK with the 12V output from the board... Might start to get close to the 5Amps though (although TCS says it's rated for 10A temporary spikes)

Would be awesome to save the room and keep the super chuffer for another project. IMG-20210923-WA0047


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So I got her all closed up but not quite buttoned down yet. Smoke unit is not active until I get a Zener diode installed to drop the fan voltage a little bit.

The TCS controller was pretty tricky to program using the Bluerail interface, but once I figured it out things got easier.

The smoke unit works right off the TCS decoder, and there was no need for a separate chuffer board or cam / chuff generator. IMO that's a huge benefit of this decoder over the Soundtraxx (which I started with). All-in pricing is less using the TCS board not having to buy the additional components (I got mine from @gunrunnerjohn, now I've got them set aside for some other project some day)

I also programmed one of the light functions to trigger a relay that pulses the rear PS2 coupler. Works like a charm!

Still trying to figure out why it's not working properly on AC track power. Bluerail says this large board has a built in bridge that allows it to run off AC power when the battery is disconnected. I can get some sounds, but the fan motor runs constantly ( ! ? ) And I get no motor control.

But Battery power works perfect!

So now I have a fully functional Premier R2 engine from MTH, with really good sounds, all the lights I need, chuff-synced smoke puffs, functional coupler, literally all the bells and whistles!

It wasn't easy, and maybe a bit more than I expected, but a battery powered fully functional engine like this is something I never thought I'd own.

Now I need some big curves to run it on! Anyone in Cincinnati want to share their layout with 072 curves?



Videos (1)
Last edited by Jeff_the_Coaster_Guy
@Hudson J1e posted:

Wow! She really runs and sounds great! Very impressive.

Is the TCS Wow card you used a DCC decoder? If yes, what is the part number?

That is a really nice engine too! Do you plan to paint it?

The TCS WOW is a DCS sound decoder / motor controller. It takes the output signal from the Bluerail Board and runs all the motors, lights, sounds. And there's TONS of options for sounds. Something like 40 different whistles, 6 different engine types, option to have articulated sounds (the R4 is articulated, two different sets of drivers, and the sounds can be set to sound like an actual articulated setup).

The Bluerail Board just takes whatever power you've got (either DC battery power or AC track power) and uses Bluetooth to talk to your iPad and control the output wirelessly. Then it sends DCC commands to the TCS decoder.

The one in using is the TCSWOW Steam 501. It's rated for 5 amps continuous and 10 amps peak. My big engine with a Pittman motor needed the big amps. I started with a Soundtraxx 4400 but that couldn't handle the load. (Theres info in this thread about that failed experiment).

No plans to paint the engine. It was a naked engineering sample I got from the MTH warehouse auction for dirt cheap. I added all the electronics, the motor, made my own wiring harness, added all the lights, added the speaker and a custom speaker enclosure, built a custom smoke mount for the PS1 smoke unit and added a PS2 proto coupler.

I've probably paid a little less all-in than I would have if I bought a similarly functioning engine retail, but I learned A TON during the process.  And it's literally one of a kind!

So I’m just about ready to wrap her up!

At @gunrunnerjohn’s suggestion, I dialed down the smoke voltage using a zener diode. Unfortunately, it dialed it down a bit too much, since the timed pulses were happening so fast the fan wasn’t getting enough speed between pulses, and the smoke just kind of barely belched out on each puff.

So I experimented with a few normal diodes in series. I settled on three, which drops a little over 2 volts, so now I’m quickly pulsing right around 7 volts to the smoke motor and that seems to work the best.

heres a video!


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@Hudson J1e posted:

Jeff, thanks for the explanation. Great job on the locomotive.


@BOB WALKER posted:

Overall, how did you compare operating results between SoundTraxx and TCS?  I've installed both and the differences are interesting and many?

I didn't get to play much with the Soundtraxx controller, so I'm not really sure.  Overall the Soundtraxx was easier to program by quite a bit, but I feel like the variety of options for every different type of sound in the TCS software is more interesting.

I can say that just to my untrained ear, the sounds from the TCS are much more satisfying with more bass definition and a crisper overall feel.  I felt like the Tsunami sounded good, but at louder volumes would crackle quite a bit more.  I can turn the TCS WAY up and it's really too loud by a factor of two, but still very clear and satisfying.  And I didn't even take advantage of the second speaker output on the TCS, which I feel would be way over the top but would probably sound amazing!  It's strange because the Tsunami actually has a 3 Watt driver, the TCS only 2 Watt, but I really like the sounds from the TCS better.

The TCS unit is rated for 5AMPS continuous and 10AMPS (Total) peak, the Tsunami was only rated for 4 amps peak.  The Tsunami had no chance of running my Pittman motor, the TCS decoder does it with no issues at all.

I think the biggest differentiator and probably why I would only use the TCS for steam in the future...FN5 and FN6 function wires are dedicated to smoke.  The BEMF circuit in the TCS does a really good job of calibrating the chuff rate without any encoder or photo-eye needed, and it has the capacity to deliver enough juice to the smoke coil on my harvested PS1 smoke units without any issues.  So I just hook up FN6 wire to my fan leads (using a couple diodes to drop the FN output to around 7 volts for the fan motor) and hook up the FN5 wire right into the heater coil circuit, and Voila! I've got synced smoke chuffing with no more chuff-generator boards and no super-chuffer boards.  So the total cost if you want synchronized smoke ends up being more than $150 bucks less using the TCS card (and doesn't require a custom encoder mount, doesn't require extra space for a chuffer board)...For steam with smoke the TCS is a no-brainer.

@BOB WALKER posted:

Would like your opinion. Do you see a role for DCC in OGauge where there are two firmly entrenched control systems (Legacy/DCS)?

Man, if I wasn't limited by cash, I would convert all my locos to Bluerail DCC right now.  But with 20 or so locos of varying types, not really an option.  The more I play with the customization, the control (turning on and off and doing Rule 17 lights and setting sounds just how I want) is so much fun.  The motor control is especially impressive, though it might be the same for the more advanced DCS and Legacy motors, but watching the loco chuff along effortlessly at something like 1 foot per second scale speed is really impressive.  The motor runs quiet enough to not be noticed above the awesome low speed sounds.  I don't know how much different the DCS or Legacy systems are (up to this point I ran all conventional) and I don't know if they all allow this much control over the models, but I'm starting to be a believer in the DCC.

Caveat: it seems like my excitement is limited really exclusively to the Bluerail DCC (and maybe not DCC in general) because it's over Bluetooth and doesn't require a whole bunch of extra equipment (TIU, extra work on wiring, having to wave aluminum foil over my locos to keep them running lol). And the deadrail option in DCC is also cool as heck.  I would be 100% battery power if I was starting my collection from scratch.  So convenient.

I think it needs a little more smoke volume!


I don't think it's my fan that's not giving me a satisfying puff...I think my heaters aren't making enough smoke fast enough.  Do you know at what point the onboard PS1 smoke circuit switches the resistors from parallel to series?  I wonder if I'm right at the point in my voltage ouptut where it goes from too much voltage to run in parallel and it switches, so I'm actually running at the very lowest smoke output of the series connection.

In other words, maybe I should DROP the voltage coming off my controller board to make sure the PS1 smoke unit is always operating at the highest end of the FIRST smoke step?  Or does it make a difference?

I get 9.2 volts at my function wire.  If the circuit switches to series at 9V, maybe one diode would do the trick.

It actually should switch around 12V I believe, there's a 13V Zener in the switching circuit.  I've never actually tracked it to see when it switches.  Is this AC or DC?

Everything coming off the TCS board is DC. The Bluerail Board takes battery or AC track power and sends the DCC signals / DC power to the TCS. If it switches at 12V then it doesn't matter, I can't get 12 V from the TCS unless I move to a 14.4V battery. And if I do that, I figure I'll leave everything as-is so the extra voltage doesn't hurt too much.

Anyway I'm happy with my smoke output. It's a little light but the basement fills with that stuff quickly anyway!

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