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Decoder Installation into a

HO Walthers Trainline FA-1

by Bob Farace

Walthers HO Trainline FA-1. Unknown vintage, found in antique shop. Probably not very old, though.

Possibly the Easiest Install Ever. I sat staring at the train, DVM in hand, saying, "it can't be this easy." It was. Sometimes the easy things are hard, only in that it's sometimes difficult to see (or believe) just how easy it really is.

The motor casing is electrically connected to the frame. But it doesn't matter,  the motor brushes are electrically isolated. And the power pickups (wheels) are also electrically isolated. (This locomotive is all-wheel-drive, and all wheels pick up power.) Nothing at all grounds to the frame.

Be sure to confirm this for yourself; you never know what changes may have been made in production.

Along the top of the chassis is a circuit board. Calling it a circuit board is actually being generous; it's basically two copper traces on a phenolic board, one trace running down the engineer's side, the other down the fireman's side. These carry the power. At the front end you will find one wire coming up on each side from the trucks. Each wire will be soldered to a terminal on its side of the board. The headlight is also soldered to these terminals. At the rear, same thing, except no headlight. About halfway down, you'll find the motor brush wires soldered to a terminal on each side. Everything is laid out left and right--you don't have to figure it out for yourself which power wires and which motor wires connect to the right and left tracks.

Leave the circuit board in place. It gives you something to stick the decoder onto, and helps keep the wires out of the way of the driveline spinning below it.

Remove the headlight. I cut the headlight wires right at the circuit board because there was no need to disturb the solder connection. Just be careful not to cut the power wires along with them.

The rest is basically a wire swap. Desolder the motor wire from the engineer side of the circuit board and solder it to the orange wire (motor +) from the decoder (I used an NCE D13SR; double check your decoder's wire colors). Solder the red wire from the decoder (right track power pickup) to the terminal you removed the motor wire from. On the fireman's side, desolder the motor wire on that terminal and solder it to the grey wire (motor -) from the decoder. Solder the black wire from the decoder (left track power pickup) to the terminal you just removed the motor wire from.

And that's it, other than installing the headlight of your choice, which is done the same as every other decoder install. After testing, I used double-stick foam to mount the decoder on top of the circuit board; you'll want to use something that will insulate the decoder from the copper traces on the board. Tape the wires neatly down, reinstall the shell, and you're done.

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