Rockershovel, the tender pickup piece DOES NOT come with a pickup roller: ONLY the copper strip that rubs on the wheel axles. This is normal and how they were made. The sound board gets the "positive" power from the tether wire between the engine and tender.
Might be nice for you to know if your tender sound board works. Take off the shell of the tender. There will likely be a piece of worn out foam between the frame and circuit board. Pull the circuit board loose carefully as to not break any wires. Cut a piece a of cardboard larger than the circuit board size and place it between the board and tender frame.
With the engine and tender on track now, hook up the wire that runs between the engine and the tender. Give it power and if the board isn't already shot, you'll get an electronic "chuffing" sound. If it works, then you can go about a more secure mounting of the circuit board. Double sided tape and foam core board will work just fine.
Also, if you have any, Lionel Premium Smoke Fluid will give you improved smoke from the engine. You may not use the sounds, but it'd be nice to know they work. Likewise with the smoke. There's a wire with a clip below the smoke unit. You'll see one of two screws that holds the front pilot frame to the engine shell. One of these screws has a small wire attached to it. If you unhook that wire and insulate it with masking tape, the smoke unit won't get power. Drawback though, neither will the headlight.
Glad to hear you are coming around to enjoy the engine. I didn't realize you are in Britain, so yes, I can see how your purchasing options would be more limited as compared to here in the States.
The MPC stuff certainly has drawbacks, but as well has advantages. One of them as you've already discovered, is the purchase price. The other, which you will discover, is the simplicity of working on them as compared to the newer more electronically loaded locomotives.