My Lionel Class A just celebrated its 20th birthday with me this week. It was an awesome college graduation gift from my parents in 2000. At the time, it was big deal as it was one of the first large scale articulated steamers that had actual classification lights as prior units had molded in lenses like the first release allegheny and big boy. It has a great hooter whistle that can be turned up very loud. It was allot of fun and it has always been reliable.
Fast forward to today, and this engine had been sitting on the shelf for while, as it was not as much fun to operate as the newer stuff. It did not come with odyssey, and as I got older, the gap between the engine and tender really bothered me as it seemed huge. The two chuffs per revolution also seemed a bit outdated This last week I decided to do something about this and order a new ERR Cruise Commander M from Royz trains. I included some pictures of the upgrade for others if they might reference.
While the Cruise Commander is mostly a drop in replacement, it was not clear to me where the serial wire from it needed to land on the R2CL module. After some research here on the forum, I attached it to the existing board as shown below (it is blue)
All boards installed
I tuned up the smoke unit by drilling the intake hole to match the size of the whole in the gasket between the circuit board and cast pieces. I also tried a different approach with the smoke wick, where I unsoldered the Lionel resistor and threaded it into (inside the rope) a new rope wick and re soldered. Not sure if any one else is doing this. I liked this approach because there is an easy path for air to move above the resistor to the output hole, with the extra wick length fluid can easily be extracted out of the reservoir and lastly, it maximizes the amount of smoke fluid contact with resistor. Not sure how this will work out yet in the long run, but it seems to work great so far , with smoke output equivalent to a mth ps1 engine.
I also built a new draw bar that brings the engine and tender 1/2” closer, but still allows for O72. No brake here, I ended up using clamps to bend and limited set of Dremel bits. Pretty crude. First attempt at this was 1/8” too close, so I ended up cutting it and soldering an extender into it.
Lastly, I increased to 4 chuffs per revolution by adding a reed switch to the trailing truck and some magnets. I glued a piece of tube styrene that could hold and protect the switch to the truck. The chunk of tube missing is the side I glued to the truck. I then took the wires through the draw bar and into the engine.
Note: If I was doing this again, order a couple of reed switches as they are glass and very fragile. I broke two of them working through this process.
Tracing the black wire from the micro switch on the back set of drivers to the board set, determines where to land one of the wires from the reed switch after removing the existing black wire. The other wire from the reed switch is tied to any ground reference convenient on the engine.
I’m the end, I thought this came out really nice.
It is amazing what a different the cruise commander upgrade made. Shown is a video where it is moving in speed step 1, that includes the 4 chuff upgrade and reduced gap between tender and engine.
Follow my layout progress at:
Note: I am still editing this and adding notes.