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I have become a fan of MTH steam engines. They were definitely ahead of the curve when it came to details and features but some things always bugged me, in particular the tether loop. MTH's wireless tether is a big improvement in appearance but as anyone knows who has an engine with one they are a PITA to couple up. MTH has also added more detail to their current releases. This prompted me to start upgrading my older MTH engines.

First on the block was this NYC ESE from 1996. I had added PS2 a few years ago. They still hold their own with the newest releases in terms of detail and features IMO.

Here is how it looked before I started:


Here is how it looks today:


Besides the tether change cab curtains were added and a deck apron. The cab curtains were cast using a set from a PS3 Hudson. The deck was fabbed using PSC diamond plate brass sheet.

Here are some pics of casting the curtains:



One of the concerns with eliminating the tether loop is it will want to pull out or break on curves. By adding some play in the engine connector and opening up the tunnel in the tender the tether has plenty of room to move around.

Connector holes were oval-ed and screws changed to allow free movement. The channel below the connector was also widened.



Tender mod before:


After machining.


Here is the source of the cab curtains.


Finally a NYC Niagara I did a while back. This one will get cab curtains now.









Images (10)
  • ESE_Before
  • Mold_Before
  • Mold_after
  • Tether_Mod1
  • Tether_Mod2
  • ESE_Tender_Before
  • ESE_Tender_After
  • MTH_J1_5330
  • MTH_Niagara
  • ESE_After2
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Thanks guys. Sam, I will try and get some more pics soon. Thomas, I still have a few more details I want to add. The newer engines have a lubricator linkage that is missing from this engine. Precision Scale shows them but I am holding off until I find more items  that I will need. Also when I had the shell off I noticed MTH had taken some shortcuts on the piping where pipes don't connect. They used the streamlining to cover that up. I plan to make corrections.

The tether I used from MTH has connectors at both ends (part number????). One is straight and the other angled. I like these instead of getting the one with only one straight connector as that one is meant for diesels and uses a different color code. The double ended tether uses the same colors as the steam tether making splicing easy as well as troubleshooting later.


Last edited by Norton

From the perspective of a Lionel guy, another reason to like the "old" PS1 steam engines from MTH is that you can have Gun Runner John's TMCC and a Super Chuffer installed....or do it yourself.

Lionel has never made a C&O 614....and I have one with GRJ now.  The other MTH steamer that I'm after (for conversion) is the Great Northern S-2......which Lionel has not yet offered either.

Lastly, I really like the deck plate/apron that MTH offers on their steamers now. It's a nice touch, IMHO.

I started making aprons after picking up the Lionel Niagara. That dieast apron is usually found broken due to the material and the fact it cannot move above horizontal. Irregular track or sudden grades will raise the tender forcing the deck to support the weight of the engine. The deck loses that effort.


Here is the one I made for the MTH Niagara. I got the idea for using big door hinges after seeing a few steamers at the PRR Museum in Strasburg.



I am moving to using this style which uses eyelets, music wire, and hypodermic tubing. I am able to solder the tubing to the brass using zinc chloride flux. This was made for a 3rd Rail Hudson that had lost its deck. The one for the MTH ESE was made in a similar fashion.





Images (5)
  • Niagara_Lionel_apron
  • Niagara_Apron_before
  • Niagara_apron_after
  • Apron_before
  • apron_After

Oh, yeah - I also love those old (often NIB), beautiful PS1 steamers in general, and they just cry out for an ERR kit.

That "swiveling circuit board" is something that I had not envisioned - good idea. It may find its way into one of mine one day (I have an MTH Niagara that doesn't run right...Cruise Commander and RS may show up there).

Anyway, great work; good ideas. And they're NYC locos. Win-win-win.

Speaking of beautiful, NIB MTH Steamers, this is what I won on Da Bay a few weeks....and have since sent it to GRJ for TMCC and Super Smoker:

$410 with the PS2 upgrade, not that I needed it.

On the down side, there are still a shockingly high number of people still trying to get $600-$800 for their PS1 engines....which, typically "ain't gonna happen".

Lots of great deals on older MTH PS1 and PS2. Like Marty noted most all came with big Pittmans and a sturdy drive train so they make a good platform for upgrades. I put MTH in the title for the tether mod but I plan to eventually add the apron and curtains to all my steam engines MTH or otherwise. To tell the truth if I had been able to find easily the MTH part numbers for the curtains I may have just ordered a bunch but I have little luck ordering from them. Now I can crank out a set in about ten minutes for about 40 cents in materials.


Thomas, I pick them up at York from MTH which is why I don't have the part number. No doubt some of the MTH techs know the number.  Its sold with a connector at both ends, one straight and the other a right angle. I cut off the right angle one. MTH also sells a tether with just one straight connector and bare wires at the other end but its meant for diesels and for reasons only known to MTH uses a different color code than the steam tether????

By using the double ended one I can easily spliced the new tether to wires in the tender, no ringing out of the wires to the connector and keeping track on paper required. Its a few bucks more but worth it both to me and next guy.


PS, I found an old email from Midge. I am pretty sure the part number for the double ended tether is BC-0000217


Last edited by Norton
gunrunnerjohn posted:

Pete, I love the swiveling connector, that's a very nice touch and doubtless really helps with the straight tether.  I'm going to have to try that.

I originally was planning to use a part K-Line uses on their diesels. Its simply a rectangular housing the engine connector fits into and has a pair of nubs top and bottom the fit into slots in the engine. If you worked on K-Line diesels you may have noticed them. It turned out they fit the MTH 10 pin (sans PC board) connector perfectly even though the K-Line connector is only 6 pins. I used them when I added cruise to my E8s. If you go to Brasseurs site and search on K2800-X014AH in K-Line Parts a poor picture will come up. If I get a chance I will post a better pic.

It turned out it would have taken a lot more work to use that part so I settled on just enlarging the PC board holes. In retrospect the swiveling connector might just be icing on the cake. Widening the tender tunnel may be all thats needed.


Diesel Harnesses.

10 pin flat, PS2 BC-2100033 B unit to Lead A unit, ref. F-3 20-2307-1
10 pin flat, PS2  BC-2100035 Trailing A to B unit, ref. F-3 20-2307-1
10 pin flat, PS2, universal BC-2000000 B-unit to Lead A unit
10 pin flat, PS2 (B unit pass thru) BC-2100070 B-unit pass thru harness

Tender Harnesses.

PS2 & LocoSound, 10 pin BC-1000002 Universal type
PS2 Steam, 10 pin to 10 pin, universal 10" BC-0000217 angle 10 pin to straight 10 pin

I have used the ERR TMCC / RS to upgrade many of my PS1 steam and diesel locomotives.  Also, some K Line steam that is scale, very detailed and runs great with the upgrades added. Also used the ERR CCM to correct/upgrade my K Line St Fe Berkshire when it failed.  I have more MTH to upgrade, but waiting until I can do so and not relinquish the engine unique sounds they have, particularly the various turbines.

Jesse    TCA  12-68275

Last edited by texastrain

For those needing to upgrade/chance the engine mounted ten pin board connector, the MTH part number is AG-0000039.  I have found these very useful for upgrade of Williams engines to TMCC and have enough return to the engine for control of the headlight, smoke, etc. with the Cab 1, and the use of ERR products.

While on this subject, my LHS no longer carries WS Deans manufactured multi-pin connectors.  Looking for another source, but with not enough good fortune with this endeavor.  Have looked into a couple recommended sites on line, but they, too, appear to no longer carry them.  Any assist will be most appreciated.  Looking for parts numbered 1006, 1008, 1241, and the "wet noodle" wire numbers 1430, 1431, 1432, all manufactured/distributed by WS Deans.  Yes, I have contacted Deans, and they referred me to the sites I have checked.

Jesse   TCA  12-68275

I’m just waiting for the postman to bring the MTH K4S tender, rebuilt by Chuck of this forum to eliminate the PS1 system (which appears to have led to this loco changing hands several times in quick succession, at ever-lower prices). 

Whether this is an “upgrade” I’ll leave for members to argue about. Suffice it to say that over here in the “land of DCC”, PS1 is a non-starter and if it runs reliably, I’m good with that. 

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