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Kato N Scale E7A

SoundTraxx TSU-KN1

DCC Decoder Installation


Last Updated 210216
 

Streamlined Backshop offers a variety of services including DCC decoder installations.


I have been blessed with more work than I can accomplish and simply don't have time to accept every opportunity I am presented.


One of my favorite proverbs is "give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime".


With these thoughts in mind, I present this information for those who want to give it a go but struggle with the how to.


For this group of modelers, this is how I do it.


The same basic products, tools and techniques can be applied to nearly any model of the same genre so be sure to look at the forest, not just the trees.

 

Be sure to visit my online train store, www.SBS4DCC.com today where you can purchase this model and everything you will need to complete the decoder installation as described!

 


The Kato N Scale E7A



In December 2020, Kato released the timeless NYC 20th Century Limited complete with Creek-series Observation, powered by a new model locomotive, the EMD E7A.

The new model is very similar in construction to current releases of the E5 and E8/9 models in a variety of road names.

The model can be reasonably labeled as DCC compatible although it was not intentionally designed for sound installations.

I am using a SoundTraxx 885032 TSU-KN1 Tsunami 2 DCC Sound Decoder - Kato E/F/PA/F40/P42 Installation Kit for this installation because it fits the model perfectly.

I modified the frame to use my Model 4119 SBS4DCC "Sugar Cube" Speaker 11x15mm w/ N Cab Roof Sound Chamber for this project because it sounds fantastic with the decoder programmed to the dual 12-567 sound set.

TCS and Digitrax both offer circuit board replacement "drop-in" decoders for the model but they are not sound decoders.

Other decoder brands including the ESU 58828 LokSound 5 Micro DCC Sound Decoder and WVD ESU LokSound 5 Micro NEM662 Next18 Adapter Board or Zimo MX646 can be substituted but you will need to make changes to this procedure as required.
 


Recommended Tools and Supplies


There are a few tools and supplies recommended for performing this decoder installation.
 
Tools:
Wire Strippers
Hobby Knife
Soldering Iron
Mill or Motor Tool to modify frame
Multimeter

 
Supplies:
SBS4DCC "Sugar Cube" Speaker 11x15mm 8 ohm 1 watt w/ N Cab Roof Sound Chamber
LocTite Gel Control Super Glue
Tinning Flux
60/40 Rosin Core Solder
 


Model Disassembly



Taking this model apart is very simple.

The shell simply snaps on to the frame.  Insert a couple of tooth picks in the gap between the frame and window inserts near the pivot point of the trucks and gently lift the frame out of the body shell.
 

Next remove the grey retainer clip that locks the circuit board in place.  With the clip removed, the circuit board slides out of the cradle.  Using a tooth pick as a pry bar, remove the two pickup strip retainer clips so the phos-bronze pickup strips can be taken out.


Be aware the front coupler and clip may come apart when you lift the shell off.  Try to handle it gingerly so as not to damage the paper-thin phos-bronze spring plate.


Speaker Modifications and Assembly


The hardest part of this install is fitting a speaker in the frame.  I like to modify the E-unit frame to install my Model 4119 SBS4DCC "Sugar Cube" Speaker 11x15mm w/ N Cab Roof Sound Chamber by milling off material from the rear weight block.

The trick on this project is to measure the available space between the shell and the ledge above the weight block at the back of the frame.
 
I like to begin this installation by modifying the circuit board.  

Since the front headlight is illuminated by LED and Kato went to the trouble of tinting the lens to an acceptable shade that produces a nice warm white, "incandescent" glow, I will just use the LED, circuit board and light pipe as supplied with a few minor modifications.
I like to begin this installation by modifying the circuit board.  

Since the front headlight is illuminated by LED and Kato went to the trouble of tinting the lens to an acceptable shade that produces a nice warm white, "incandescent" glow, I will just use the LED, circuit board and light pipe as supplied with a few minor modifications.

To measure a blind space, I place a piece of poster tack in the gap then reassemble the model to compress the tack to fit the space.  I disassemble the model and then measure the tack (3mm in this example) and the stock speaker assembly (8.7mm in this example).  Using this method, I have determined that the speaker is 5.7mm taller than the available space.
 

Next, I mark the frame at 5.7mm depth and 11.1mm from the back face so I have visual layout lines to use for reference in the machining process.


Machine out the speaker pocket with a milling machine or other method of metal removal. 

My secret to milling model train frames is to use an aluminum roughing bit.  The frames are made from a "sticky" metal, typically Zamac, that doesn't like to chip.  The roughing bit cuts them like butter. 

A spritz of WD-40 is about all I ever need for cutting lubricant and I do that sparingly.

I also don't get too hung up on absolute precision.  Just cut the frame...  0.1 ounces of extra metal will not translate to enough traction to pull a dozen extra cars.  I do try to be neat and tidy though.


I assemble the baffle to the speaker using Gel-type super glue.  Apply a bead of glue tot he rim of the baffle with a toothpick an



Apply a bead of glue to the rim of the baffle with a toothpick and assemble the speaker to the baffle.
 
I like to wipe the seam where the baffle and speaker meet to seal joint well.
 

Finally, I test fit the speaker in the pocket and reassemble the model to make sure I have the speaker right before going any further.

Finally, I attach (4) six-inch leads of black wire at the points shown. Two of the leads are for the headlight and two are for power pickup.

It is important to note that you do not have to add the two wires for power pickup.  

There are a few options for power pickup with this model since Kato has used a powered drawbar connection and included two-truck pickup in tender.

You could attach wires to the brass strips in the tender or you could connect to both chassis and tender for even better long-term performance.

I have elected to connect to only the chassis pickups since the drivers stay the cleanest, the model has a powered drawbar, and I will be adding a small "keep-alive" capacitor to the decoder.

You can substitute the appropriately colored wire per the NMRA spec but I prefer the look of the black wire since a small portion will be exposed between the cab and tender.

It is handy to mark the wires in some way or else you will have to try to figure out whats what later in the process.

Pre-Install Preperations


The next step is to prepare the decoder board for the installation.

For this install, I notice Kato has used a new light housing design that fits tightly over the new 90 degree SMD LED used on the OEM circuit board.  To keep the lighting simple on this project, I chose to  reuse the OEM Front Headlight LED.
 
 
As shown in the photo, the SoundTraxx 885032 TSU-KN1 Tsunami 2 DCC Sound Decoder is a bit shorter than the OEM board is.  I use the edge of the decoder board to scribe my cut line on the OEM board.
 

I cut off the end of the OEM board with a set of rail nippers.  I soldered the 3mm LED from the SoundTraxx 885032 TSU-KN1 Tsunami 2 DCC Sound Decoder - Kato E/F/PA/F40/P42 Installation Kit to the decoder board as required and cut the leads to length. 
 
 
Finally I soldered the leads from the decoder to the OEM board section to be able to reuse the original design without a lot of extra modification.
 
 
Next, I used the wire included in the SoundTraxx 885032 TSU-KN1 Tsunami 2 DCC Sound Decoder - Kato E/F/PA/F40/P42 Installation Kit to make leads for the speaker and attached it to the decoder board as required.

 
I used the Kapton tape included with the SoundTraxx 885032 TSU-KN1 Tsunami 2 DCC Sound Decoder - Kato E/F/PA/F40/P42 Installation Kit to wrap the phos-bronze pickup strips where the motor tabs intersect to isolate the motor circuit from the track power circuit.
 
 
Finally, I use another strip of Kapton tape to insulate the frame where the speaker will sit.
 

Installation and Final Assembly
 

Reassembly of the model is pretty straight forward. 

Spread the motor tabs wide and seat the pickup strips back in the gray plastic motor cradle

Be sure to reinstall the pickup strip retainer clips also.
 

Next, slide the SoundTraxx 885032 TSU-KN1 Tsunami 2 DCC Sound Decoder into place.  Be sure the board is seated snugly under the hook on the motor cradle or you will get poor contact with the pickup strips.
 

I use a blunt end of a tool to fold the motor tabs over the board and pin them to the SoundTraxx 885032 TSU-KN1 Tsunami 2 DCC Sound Decoder so I can solder them in place.

Technically you should be able to re-use the gray clip to pin them to the board but experience has proven the only reliable way to do this is to solder them in place.



Finally, seat the speaker and reinstall the shell.  Be sure to test fit and fold the speaker leads out of the path of the shell before closing it up.  Be careful of the phos-bronze spring strip; it is really pretty fragile.
 

The Test Run and Demonstration
 

So with that,  the install is complete.  Time to pour a glass and celebrate.

Or, if you are like me, curse, swear and try to sort out everything that wasn't quite as easy as it sounded here.

Once everything tests out and the job is done, you should be able to enjoy the sights and sounds just like the engine in this demonstration video.

N' Joy!
 


 
 

Alternate Speaker Installation
 


It doesn't sound as sweet as a SBS4DCC Sugar Cube Speaker (why YES... of course I am biased...) but it does sound good and it allows you to do the installation without having to machine the frame.

The SoundTraxx speaker is connected to the decoder same as shown prior. 
 
NOTE: You will need to modify the shortest baffle in the kit slightly as the assembly is too tall for this model.
 

Now just reassemble the shell to the frame and reinstall the coupler as required.
 


 
 

 

You can purchase most of the products used in this project today from my online train store

 

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