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Proto Pickup Improves
With Axle Wipers.


I have two Proto 2000 USRA 0-8-0 steam engines in which I have installed LokSound sound decoders in the tenders. The only problem is that these locomotives do not have any power pickup from the tender axles and rely only on the drivers. This makes them stall very easily on the dead frogs of turnouts and dirty track, not that any of us ever have dirty track!).

Paul Bailey, a member of our Nottawasaga Model Railroad Club (NMRC), has a remedy. He ran his own Proto 2000 engines on my layout during an operating session without a hitch. Here's how he did it in photos.

This is the Proto 2000 tender
Proto 2000 tender
View of the tender's bottom before any changes
Proto 2000 tender bottom

Proto pickup improves when wipers are installed on the axles in the tender. There is a slight wiring modification in the tender. The connections can be made directly to the decoder board by pulling off the small plastic tabs and inserting a second wire. You can wire one truck to the right rail and one to the left rail. Just be careful to wire to the correct side so that the right drivers are going to the right truck and the left drivers are going to the left truck. The insulation on the wheels can be used to indicate which way the truck is turned. The insulated wheels in one truck will face one way and the other truck will face the opposite rail. Sometimes this can be confusing because you are working upside down.

Top view of the tender's decoder and light board before any changes
Proto 2000 decoder board

Unplug the decoder board to solder new wires
Proto 2000 decoder board

Remove the light board
Proto 2000 light board removed

The chains need to be removed before proceeding so that you have easy access to the trucks. Put the small screws aside.

Remove the chains and take apart the trucks
Proto 2000 truck

Paul cut his wipers from thin 5-thousand thick brass stock. The larger ends are the wipers that slide against the axles. Here's the really clever part. The thin pieces at right angles will be inserted through the the holes in the truck frames to secure them so that the wipers will rotate with the trucks.

Axle wiper fabrication
axle wiper

The wire for the Proto pickup is soldered to the wiper. The other end will be soldered to the decoder board.

Axle wiper tabs inserted in the frames
wiper tab

Note that the tabs are bent over to securely anchor the wipers. This is the fiddly part. Paul used a grinding stone in a Dremel to do the final shaping to make them fit. The size of the wiper is less critical.

The wire for the Proto pickup is soldered to the wiper. The other end will be soldered to the decoder board.

Top view of the wiper and tabs
Proto 2000 wiper and tab

Here are the trucks reinstalled. Make sure the wheels and axles are oriented correctly. The insulated wheels must be on the same side in each truck.

Trucks and wheel sets reinstalled
Proto 2000 trucks installed

The wipers will change the coupler height slightly. If it is too much, consider using Kadee 22 or 27 overset or underset coupler shanks depending on what you are trying to correct. Shims can be used to lower a coupler. You can cut down a Kadee coupler pocket to make a shim. Kadee washers can be used to raise a coupler. Paul said he hasn't done anything. It depends on the thickness of the brass that you use. You can also use Taurus electrical pickups but that is a totally different type of installation. Those shoes slide along the rails. Paul's answer is to use the axles.

Sideview of installation
Proto 2000 tender sideview

Thanks to Paul Bailey for an ingenious solution. Paul also took the pictures so I could show you what he did.

Bottom view of the modified tender
Proto 2000 modified tender

Paul Bailey sent me an update when he read my description (above). I'll let him tell you in his own words:

"The wire used on the wipers should be 22 or 24 gauge multi-strand wire using red and black colour coding. Decoder harness wire works great and I borrowed the idea from you. The red wire is for engine right pickup and the black wire is for engine left pickup (multimeters work great but you have to connect the tender to the engine to check). The other thing to make things easier for people is that during the retrofit, the original wheels must be discarded due to the plastic axles installed by the manufacturer. New 33" wheels could be procured from Inter Mountain Railway Company (IRC 40050) that have metal axles. As a precaution, the 1.5 volt grain of wheat bulb installed in the engine should be modified. When a DCC decoder is installed, full track voltage will be applied to the bulb blowing the bulb immediately. I found by installing a micro bulb inside the engine light, better illumination can be achieved. In order to use a micro bulb, you need a dropping resistor. For a DCC system operating at 14.5 VAC and using a micro bulb pulling 20MA (ironically, most LEDs pull the same current), you need a 1/2 watt 680 ohm resistor [or two 1/4 watt resistors in series]. If someone were to use a 3mm white LED with a forward operating voltage of 3.3V and an a amperage rating of 20MA, a 560 ohm 1/2 watt resistor must be used. All DCC systems are not created equal. Some run at a higher voltage so before selecting a resistor, check track power. A larger resistor rating may be necessary."

Originally, I installed a 12v bulb during my initial decoder installation. The decoder wasn't a sound decoder. The heat from the bulb melted and distorted the plastic near the smokestack. My first workaround was to install some aluminum foil around the bulb to soak up some heat. I used some model putty to repair the damage. I would hate to see someone accidentally melt the boiler of their limited edition Proto 2000 locomotive as I did. Paul's solution is better.

Paul and I hope this information is useful to you. These are nice engines. They don't have a lot of pulling power but work great when double-headed. That's one of the beauties of DCC. Matching two steam locomotives and watching them puff up the grade in sync. Paul was doing this on my Utopia Northern pulling a freight up to South Point.


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