New York Central 4-6-4 Class J3a Hudson 5426 (Alco, October 1937). 5426 was originally delivered as a standard non-streamlined locomotive. In preparation for the 1941 edition of New York Central’s new lightweight Empire State Express, two J3a Super Hudsons (5426 & 5429) were selected for a stunning streamlined makeover similar to the Dreyfuss Hudsons of 1938 (they were most commonly found on the flagship Twentieth Century Limited). The appearance of these Thoroughbreds certainly complimented the modern stainless steel Budd equipment found in the two new sixteen-car coach and parlor car streamliner sets.
Now, those who know the Empire State Express are aware that this train was split in Buffalo (#51, westbound, from New York City). One section, with the streamlined J3a, would continue with nine cars to Cleveland (#51) while the other section (seven cars) would go to Detroit (#351) by way of the Canada Southern Railway using a J1 Hudson. Eastbound sections from Cleveland (#50) and Detroit (#350) would join at Buffalo for the return trip (as #50). So, what’s 5426 doing at the Fillmore roundhouse? She could have had a fault and was promptly exchanged with a standard J3a Hudson; at least that’s my story…
MTH makes solid, well made, high-quality HO Scale models. They are die-cast, but the level of detail is quite good and well represented. They, however, do things their own way. While their DCS command system is compatible for use with standard DCC systems, the customization of cv’s is extremely limited. 5426 ran quite well as supplied, but I have standardized with Soundtraxx Tsunami TSU-1000 decoders (now surpassed by the Tsunami 2). I like how all my Fillmore locomotives behave and sound the same way and it makes programming them easier for me.
An interesting thing about MTH steam locomotives is that they have a decoder in the locomotive and one in the tender. The speakers are in the tender. The drawbar has two rigid wires that provide track power from the wheel pick-ups to both decoders. This makes for a very easy connection for coupling the tender to the locomotive. For me, it is not as reliable as direct-wire quick-connectors though. The wheel pick-ups are excellent: all six main drivers on the locomotive and all twelve wheels of the tender! The wheels themselves are semi-scale (~.095”).
The factory decoder in the tender was hung in a raised tray screwed to the tender chassis. This provides a very nice big space below for the extra wire slack I put in to make the connection comfortable. Seen below are pictures of the Soundtraxx installation.
With the decoder and smoke system removed from the locomotive boiler, I replaced their combined weight with stick-on weights (1-1/2 oz). There was room to install a speaker in the boiler, which would be the cat’s meow, but I did not want an extra pair of wires to make another connection at the tender. If I want I can revisit this easily at another time in the future.
Here is a summary of the work done to make her Fillmore-ready:
Engine & Tender Chassis
- All pickups and contacts cleaned and adjusted.
- All wheels cleaned and gauged, faces painted Grimy Black.
- Automatic Train Stop Receiver installed on leading truck, trailing wheel position (engineer’s side) – this is a 3D printed part designed by me and made by Shapeways.
- All trucks soda blasted, painted Engine Black, weathered: sprayed thinned Grimy Black, dry brushed Testors enamel Dark Gull Grey.
- Wheel bearing and rod journals have a drop of 10-wt Nano oil applied, gear box has Nano-grease.
- Pilot and tender truck wheel bearing faces have pencil lead lubrication applied inside the journal bores.
- Soundtraxx TSU-1000 Medium Steam Decoder installed.
- Factory speakers re-used.
- Factory LED’s re-used.
- Locomotive completely rewired.
- New locomotive-tender quick connectors: pick-ups and motor Soundtraxx 2-pin connectors (#810012), headlight is Miniatronics (#50-001) two-pin connector. Dots (Miniatronics) and added painted strips (Soundtraxx) on connector ends help ensure correct polarity when assembled.
- Cab back sheet below the deck plate has rectangular hole added for the quick connectors. This was done by drilling holes into the metal wall and then using a carbide ball cutter in my Dremel tool to clean it up. Similarly on the tender, the area below the deck plate is cut away. This was done with a cut-off wheel in my Dremel tool to slice either vertical end and the carbide ball cutter to hog out a horizontal line from the inside of the tender. Then with a pair of pliers I worked the section to be removed loose. Edges were smoothed with a small file.
Engine & Tender Detailing
- I used the factory drawbar which has a close coupling option, however I removed the rigid wires as they became redundant.
- The model came with a deck plate for the close-coupling option.
- Molding lines on locomotive and tender cleaned up with file and/or paper.
- Added Sergent Type F Tight Lock (#FC87K) coupler in a specially made box which includes two air hoses (see posting in CATEGORY: TECH – LOCOMOTIVES “TIGHT LOCK COUPLERS” for more info).
- The coal load is as-is from MTH.
Locomotive & Tender Finishing
- This model was weathered lightly with enamel black wash thinned with Varsol. Details very lightly dry brushed with Testors enamel Dark Gull Grey.
- An application of acrylic flat clear was airbrushed to produce a dusty effect.
In JMRI DecoderPro, I simply copied the decoder settings for a BLI J1 Hudson to this model. The only adjustment made was to the chuff rate. She runs and sounds excellent.
This is definitely an eye catching model when compared to the usual steam power found down at the old roundhouse.