I think it's no news to anyone that the New York Central Hudson is my favorite steam locomotive, and that Lionel's model is very special to my heart.
Although I don't have the spectacular Vision Line 700E and probably won't for awhile until I get more financially secure, I did have enough time and money to upgrade the conventional American model I got from my granddad years ago. This was the 18005 model that meant to me dearest, since I watched the Making of the Scale Hudson video as a teen and learned just how much time and effort it took to make it back in 1990. But even with its American made charm, some things were definitely showing their age.
This project started back in April this year right after York. At first I thought I would just upgrade the engine to an AC commander by ERR and run the old RailSounds with a sound converter. The problem was there was no room in the tender for the commander and the spacey, old electronics. So, I figured if I was going to go all out now to upgrade it - full ERR Cruise, RailSounds, and fan driven synchronized smoke.
The first step was to send the locomotive to Frank Timko for a DC can motor to replace the AC Pullmor, as well as a fan driven smoke unit. Less than 3 weeks later I got it back just as needed. I highly recommend Frank to anyone who wants to upgrade old engines to modern efficiencies. Now the locomotive's old constant voltage board and light bulb were replaced by an LED, and I installed John Will's Super Chuffer board and Chuff Generator - two other great upgrade pieces - in the remaining available space in the engine. The generator, in operation, kind of resembles a flickering firebox light which I like a lot.
While the engine was away, I took the time to properly plan how the electronics would be placed in the tender. When all the old stuff was out, the ERR Cruise Commander was place where the old volume pot was, and the sound board was mounted on a brass cylinder to give room for the wires. The speaker was hot glued in the center like the old one was. The plastic molded coal made it very easy to mount the antenna.
The hardest part, however, was finding an appropriate audio sound board. I know ERR makes a good variety of steam sounds, but none sound like a New York Central Hudson. Almost all of Lionel's old RailSounds 4 and 5 boards that belong to New York Central Hudsons, including the gold Hudson from 2000 which I wanted first, are no longer available. I tried to use the 6.0 board from the Vision Hudson, but as a topic in the TMCC/Legacy section showed that was a bitter failure. Fortunately, I did find the RailSounds 5.0 board from the NYC baby Mikado that Lionel made in 2007 was still available, and sounded the closest to the NYC 5/6 chime used on the Hudsons.
For a little insurance, I added a center rail pickup roller to the rearmost truck on the tender, and a ground lead to the front tender truck to ensure a solid, constant connection. Also, the usual 1.85" and 2" couplers that ERR offers were too short for the scale Hudson tender, so that had to be ordered from Lionel directly. This part, the same one used on the gold scale Hudson and the Commodore Vanderbilt, no. 6108045550 measures 2.44" long and is the correct length for the old scale Hudson.
The result is a really great improvement to an already beautiful locomotive, and I had just as much fun doing this as I did my Lionel Southern Mikado. I know some would say I would've saved money buying an MTH comparable model with PS2/3, but I always prefer the looks and feel of the USA made 1-700E.