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Sound and Smoke for a G Scale Steamer

Pat Pettett




PAT PETTETT talks us through installing these two modules to a locomotive.

Piko G Scale Locomotive

With the days getting longer, us garden railway people are starting to clear away the effects of winter, and thinking about getting the garden running again – and working out what we can do to improve the line for the coming year. For many of us, this could be a new branch line, a town extension, or possibly new rolling stock. However we can also take the opportunity to upgrade models we already have! With many new models coming factory fitted with sound and smoke, some of our older locos can find themselves unwittingly relegated to the back of the stock shelf...

However it is entirely possible to give those locos a new lease of life, with fairly simple modifications. In this article we will be adding an analogue sound unit, and a smoke generator to a Piko PK38202 0-6-0 Saddle Tank Locomotive.

We will need three items – the PK36221 American Steam Analogue Sound Kit and PK36142 5v Smoke Unit, as well as a PK36143 Voltage Regulator for Smoke Unit - this enables you to leave the loco stationary, but still have the smoke unit running. Here we have the decoder itself, the speaker top right, the control board that fits in the front of the loco and the track sensor bottom right:

Fitting a Piko Decoder

The smoke unit and controller look like this:

Fitting a Piko Decoder

First of all we need to get into the loco – you will need a crosshead screwdriver! If you have the polystyrene packaging the loco came in, this is ideal for holding the loco safely. The first two screws to remove are those holding the cab steps on, as these obstruct the others:

Fitting a Piko Decoder

These screws do not need to be removed completely, the steps will slide out when they are loosened. You can now remove the four corner screws under the cab, the screws hidden by the steps are arrowed:

Fitting a Piko Decoder

Next, remove the screws holding the bufferbeam/cowcatcher from the front – this gives us access to the screw holding the front of the boiler on:

Fitting a Piko Decoder

Next remove the horizontal screw:

Fitting a Piko Decoder

There are still two screws holding the boiler on at the back – we need to remove the cab to get to these. Tilt the cab upwards at the back:

Fitting a Piko Decoder

And slide it backwards:

Fitting a Piko Decoder

This reveals the final two screws – remove these and we are ready to take off the boiler:

Fitting a Piko Decoder

The boiler is still held in place by the steam pipes under the chassis – these clamp around the bottom of the boiler. This is much easier to remove if you place a finger behind them and gently pull outwards:

Fitting a Piko Decoder

The boiler can at last be removed! The four offset screw holes towards the left are ready to accept the sound module – to the right we can see the speaker holes, and in the recess the wires connecting the motor and track power can be seen – we will not be needing these, so they can be removed. The rear light wires can be seen running across the cab floor – the front light wires can also be disconnected. Keep the wiring you remove as this may come in handy in the future!

Fitting a Piko Decoder

We can also remove the firebox door – this will house the control unit:

Fitting a Piko Decoder

Now we can start fitting the components, starting with the sound module itself – the four small screws in the little bag are what we need – screw the circuit board gently onto the inside of the boiler, with the large terminal block to the rear:

Fitting a Piko Decoder

Now connect the track and motor power wires to the terminals in the speaker recess as shown – as the speaker itself will be sitting here, bend them out of the way towards the circuit board:

Fitting a Piko Decoder

Next we fit the speaker itself – make sure that the black and red wires are not pinched, there is a recess in the plastic speaker box to allow them through without damage:

Fitting a Piko Decoder

The two larger screws in the plastic bag hold this to the chassis – carefully screw them in, making sure nothing pinches. The speaker wires now plug directly onto the circuit board – the plug and socket will only fit one way, so pay attention to their orientation:

Fitting a Piko Decoder

The final part of the sound unit to install is the track sensor – this detects the presence of a magnet fitted in the track. When the loco passes this magnet, it will trigger a bell or whistle sound, so by installing a Piko PK35268 Track Magnet near crossings or places where people walk, you lessen the chances of someone being run over! There is a recess under the front of the loco designed to accept this sensor – remove the screws at the front to access the hatch:

Fitting a Piko Decoder

On the underside of the hatch is a little spigot, that fits into a hole on the sensor – fit the sensor over this, and replace the hatch and refit the screws:

Fitting a Piko Decoder

The wires are now passed up into the boiler cavity – connect the wires to the three way terminal on the circuit board:

Fitting a Piko Decoder

With the sound unit installed and connected, we can turn our attention to the smoke unit and the control switch that fits in the front of the locomotive. I found this easier to fit through the open front of the smokebox. The smoke unit slides down the chimney, wires first. The brown and white wires are then connected to the output terminals of the voltage stabilization unit. To give more freedom in where I could mount the stabilizer (I didn’t want it touching the decoder) I extended the wires that connect this to the switch at the front of the loco – I soldered these together as it takes up less space, but you can use any method you prefer. Finally I wrapped the soldered wires in tape to prevent any short circuits, and connected the last two wires to the input on the stabilizer:

Fitting a Piko Decoder

At this point I would recommend testing to see if everything is working – you can use a set of jump leads with crocodile clips at the end. Clip these onto the pickup shoes on the bottom of the locomotive and this will let you test the it without needing to place it on track.

The last thing to do is the part I found the hardest, reassembling the locomotive! There is now quite a lot of circuitry in there, so carefully fold the wires as necessary, and place the boiler back on the loco – it may take several attempts to get all the wires in there without any trying to escape! You can now screw it back together – simply follow the steps used to dismantle it in reverse.

We are done! In an hour or so we’ve taken a basic Piko train set loco, and turned it into a much higher specification machine. Piko offer a good selection of parts for upgrades, pretty much any loco you have can be fitted with these, giving you a fleet to be proud of!

Adding a sound unit eliminates the need to make the noises yourself!

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