My Favorite Locomotive Gets an Overhaul

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.


Somerset County 4-H Trainmasters

TCA Member11-66911

LCCA 30247

ERR Upgrades and Custom Artwork


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Original Post

I never thought of using the LED on the C-G as a flickering firebox, nice dual use.

My only recommendation is perhaps a tuneup of the smoke unit for more smoke.  What smoke unit and resistor value did you use?

Thanks guys.

Here's the total list of the parts needed to do the upgrade:

  • Cruise Commander - $120
  • RS power and audio boards - $100
  • Timko can motor and fan smoke unit - $100
  • Super Chuffer  and Chuff Generator - $80 (York show special)
  • Electrocoupler - $10
  • Speaker - $10
  • Collector roller and ground strap - $7
  • LED - $3

There are some other small pieces like the white plug connectors and tether connectors that cost a few extra dollars along the way. Overall, the total cost was a little under $450, which even if I had paid for the locomotive myself, would still be less than a Vision Line 700E Hudson.

John - Frank was kind enough to install a 27 ohm resistor in the smoke unit, as I told him I was using Lionel electronics to control it. It may just be my layout's wiring, or the type of smoke unit why the smoke isn't as good as the one on my Southern Mikado in the same video.


Somerset County 4-H Trainmasters

TCA Member11-66911

LCCA 30247

ERR Upgrades and Custom Artwork

Thanks Harm,

And John, I probably will be getting a bunch of 20ohm's from Digi-Key soon, since my next project will be on upgrading the Lionel 28011 Allegheny to ERR Cruise M, Super Chuffer, and Chuff Generator...


Somerset County 4-H Trainmasters

TCA Member11-66911

LCCA 30247

ERR Upgrades and Custom Artwork


Correct me if I'm wrong, but did you program the Cruise Commander to 100 speed steps or is your preference 32?  Either way is o.k. but it sounds like 32. Nice job on the build and a beautiful Atlantic.

  Steam Forever


  Coordinator for The Raritan Valley Hi-Railers

  Member: N.J. Hi-Railers

gunrunnerjohn posted:
RickO posted:

Wow! That thing runs and sounds awesome! Once it got under way you'd swear it was a command control engine.

I think it is.

Your right, long day at work. I kinda skimmed through the post to get to the video and I heard something that sounded like a transformer handle deadheading to cycle a reverse unit.


Hi Thomas, 

Your project does run into some bucks, I can relate. A guy in the Raritan Valley Hi-Railers has a Williams Big Boy that he wants to put ERR products into, along with sounds,smoke unit, Super Chuffer & Chuff Generator into and the cost so far for parts is just shy of $400.00, so I know what you are spending. Nice job on the work done to the loco &  listen to gunrunner about the 20 ohm resistor. I did it in my EM-1 & WOW!. One guy thought it was an MTH loco at  Greenberg's.

Steam Forever

     John - Coordinator for The Raritan Valley Hi-Railers

     Member: N.J. Hi-Railers


I have these 22 and 25 ohm wax?-encoded resistors that I got from Bill when he worked at Millburn Trains many years ago. These take a little time to heat up and when they do, they get hot and smoke like crazy! What is nice is that the nichrome wire is covered and not exposed so it does not get crud on them.


Ted Bertiger Ocean County Society of Model Railroaders Lakewood, N.J.

Here are two that I commonly use.  For maximum smoke, go with the 20 ohm, if you want to go a bit more conservative, go with the 22 ohm.  For diesel upgrades, I usually stick with the 27 ohm factory stock resistor as diesels shouldn't pour out smoke like a steamer.

For either of these, I use my Dremel wire wheel to lightly knock off the powdered ceramic coating.  Run the wheel across the resistor in line with the winding or it'll likely break the nichrome wire windings.  With a gentle hand, I've done at least 50 of these with only one casualty, that was early in the process where I got a little careless with the direction of the wheel.

Yageo RES 20 OHM 2W 5% AXIAL

Yageo RES 22 OHM 3W 5% AXIAL

Both of these are for standard TMCC smoke outputs WITHOUT the smoke regulator.  If your locomotive has a smoke regulator, stick with the factory supplied smoke resistor.  The one exception for the smoke regulator equipped locomotives is if you have a 6 ohm resistor, I'd recommend changing it to an 8 ohm resistor.  The 6 ohm ones tended to take out the smoke regulator module a bit too often.

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