Bachmann’s On30 0-4-2 Porter with sound was a dream come true for narrow gauge Porter fans. You plunk down a couple hundred bucks and get a great looking model ready to run right out of the box. Carefully driven home in the front seat, you unpack your prize, gently place it on the track and listen to those great Tsunami sounds. As you ease the throttle up one notch, your prize catch goes silent. Time for the hand of God to wiggle life back into your new loco. Notch 3, this time. After a quarter turn of the drivers, and another wiggle, notch 5. Okay. Maybe it’s just dirty. After about an hour of Flitz-cleaning until every metal surface is now a light reflective death ray, it still doesn’t run better at anything less than 30 knots.
Then there’s the websites that tell you it’s a short wheelbase locomotive that needs extra pickups to run well. So off you go, building little trailers with power pickups with excuses like it’s a tiny little engine so it needs more fuel. The trailers help, but derail often because of the tiny little wires helping your prize Porter run better and you’re stuck running the trailer behind your loco forever – still not great.
How do we know all this? Because we’ve tried all the easy solutions. Here’s the truth. All the electronics Bachmann puts into their Porter loco is junk, except for the power pickups, LED headlight and the motor. That’s right. The PCB board (non-sound), the Tsunami sound board (sound equipped), the mini board mounted over the motor and all the wiring has got to go. All these are low bid items. Nothing works with them. How do we know? Years of experience. We’ve tried it all. The LED headlight, motor and power pickups (which aren’t the best but work) are the only thing worth keeping. Great quality motor, good LED headlight and workable pickups. Strip everything else out and throw it away if you’re honest, or sell it to some unsuspecting schmuck on eBay if you’re not.
Now what? Now you rebuild the guts, wiring and all. Only one aftermarket Soundtraxx Tsunami decoder will fit into the tiny compartment in the 0-4-2 Porter coal bin. The Econami #881001. Be warned. This tiny decoder DOES NOT have any resistor protection for your LED headlight. You MUST install an inline resistor on the white (-) lead to the LED headlight or you will blow it out. Once you take all the electronic junk off the motor, there’s plenty of room in the motor bay to hide the resistor next to the motor.
Let’s talk wire. You need the best, tiniest, highest flexibility decoder wire on the Planet. You MUST HAVE ESU LokSound Hi-Flex .6 mm AWG36, 2A, wire in every color of the decoder rainbow. It comes in 10m long packets and that’s enough to easily rewire dozens of locos. NO other wire will work. There simply isn’t room to spare. You will also need a Train Control Systems (TCS) KA4 (KeepAlive version 4), a 28 mm speaker and the short speaker enclosure circle (minus the back) from a Soundtraxx 810110 speaker baffle kit. Why these specific items? Because you’re going to glue the speaker with baffle ring to the inside roof of the open cab, stuff the TCS KA4 between the boiler head and the coal bin (running the KA4 wires under the cab floor with all the other wires back to the decoder). No, no other combination will fit. We’ve tried them all. Remember?
When you’re done, you will have a reliable, smooth running, great sounding 0-4-2 Porter loco with a giant 28 mm speaker stuffed into the roof of the cab with tiny wires running down the front wall of the cab, joining the rest of the wiring from the boiler and from the KA4 glued between the boiler head and coal bin, all running under the original wiring pan channel under the floor to the Econami decoder inside the coal bin where the original board was removed. Nothing to it, right?
Wrong. Unless you’ve rebuilt a few hundred locomotives with sound, don’t try this at home. Not an expert at micro-soldering? Forget it. Have a few success stories with plug & play sound installs? Don’t even think about it. It takes years of practice, patience, and piles of burned out hulks to acquire the skills needed to rebuild a Porter. We know. Remember? We’ve made all the mistakes. Do yourself, and you’re blood pressure a favor. Buy one of the Porters we’ve already rebuilt for you. Yeah, they’re expensive. Yeah, they run and sound great. And, yeah, you’re going to spend a lot more money and time trying to build one like it. How do we know that? Because we’re FineTrains. That’s what we do. We make the thousands of very expensive, disappointing, heartbreaking mistakes every day, so you don’t have to. It’s what we do.