Monthly Archives: December 2015

NPC No 21 Wiseman Parts Set in HOn3

I was searching through eBay on Christmas and came across a listing for a HOn3 parts set to assemble NPC No 21.  This engine is my RR Holy Grail.  I have a partially built version in Large Scale.  I’ve felt building one from scratch in HOn3 is beyond my capabilities.

NPC No21-9

This sequence of images is from Wiseman’s eBay listing for this kit.  As they do not contain a copyright, I assume I am not out of line posting them here.  It is my hope that those reading this page will find them useful in assembling an engine from the kit.

NPC No 21-3

The kit is unpowered.  But the driver wheels and truck wheels appear to be of a quality that could be powered.  There is also that nice drive gear surrounding the front driver axle.  As you will see further down the page the original intent appears to have been to deliver a powered version.

NPC No21-2

This view is from the other side.

NPC No21-12

This shot of the engine is from the rear.  Remember, this is a cab forward.

NPC No21-10

The shot from the front shows the back head.  I think I can do better than this given the drawing David Fletcher, Keith Christensen, and I collaborated on that is posted elsewhere in this resource.

NPC No21-13

The tender was unusual.  One tank for oil and the other for water.

NPC No21-11

Tender shot from the side.  As presented in this sequence the tender is missing a number of air, water, and oil lines that appeared on the prototype.

NPC No21-6

A shot from the top.

NPC No 21-8

Here are some of the the parts bags.

So I’m going to build this engine in HOn3.

What the parts set gives me that I didn’t have as a result of my prototype research is an exploded parts diagram and a set of parts in 3D that can be used to design a 1:20.1 version.  So as I proceed with construction of the Wiseman model, I’m going to take of dimensions and convert them to large scale narrow gauge (1:20.1).  While I’m at it I’ll also convert them to 1:1 dimensions.

The Wiseman Parts Set Arrives

The above photo shows a box containing the parts set.  What I received is a plastic zip lock bag jammed full of parts along with four photocopied pages.  Two contain prototype photos that also appear in higher quality in this resource.  One page contains a drawing that was published in a railroad publication.  The final page is an exploded parts diagram for the kit.

So I dumped the parts out of the bag and started sorting them and comparing them to the parts diagram.  Guess what?  There are parts in the diagram that aren’t in the kit.  There are parts in the kit that aren’t on the diagram.  There is no parts list that names the parts that are numbered on the diagram.  The major inconsistencies are where the drivers are attached to the engine.  Now that’s a pretty crucial area of the engine to have a variance.

NPC 21 Parts Drive

In the above diagram of the drive area of the kit, there are a number of parts with X’s drawn through them and no parts numbers.  Those parts don’t come with the kit.  They include a worm screw with the male portion of a universal coupling, a universal coupling, the motor mount block, the cap over the motor mount, a yoke and the plate that screws into the bottom of the motor mount to secure the drivers.  Instead the kit includes a number of unidentified parts that presumably perform the same function without mounting a motor.   Some of these parts can be seen on the engine photo of the engine on its side in the photo series at the top of this page (photo 2).  Presumably the changes resulted from the decision not to release this as a powered model.

As soon as I have this sorted out, I’ll post a photo of the parts and a description of how they go together.

Project Goal

I’d love to produce a working running NPC No 21.  But the parts aren’t in the Wiseman parts set to do so.  So I could order parts and fabricate.  Assuming the Wiseman drivers and truck wheels are properly insulated, that is a possibility.  The following shot shows the wheels and axles for No 21.  The drivers are clearly insulated with cockle silver tyres, plastic centers and steel axles.  Presumably power could be picked up from these drivers with wipers.  One issue is the gdrivers are out of round.  I’m not sure whether this is a centering or quartering issue.

The middle set of four wheel sets are the tender wheels.  They are nickel center with plastic centers and steel axles.  With appropriate wipers, power could be picked up from these wheels.

The third pair of wheels and axles are for the lead truck.  These wheels appear to be plastic so would not be a good source of electrical pickup.

NPC No 21 Wheels

This photo is of drive line parts.  Side frames, cylinders and yoke, and piston rods appear to be white metal.  The rest of the parts (side rods, cylinder fronts, cylinder rears, and the parts that ride in the cylinder rear assemblies all appear to be brass.  Off to the left are some brass parts that are part of the connection between the motor (not provided), the gear box (not provided), and the center brass gear in one of the drivers.  It remains to be seen whether these parts and the out of balance drivers can be converted into an operating drive train.

NPC No 21 Drive Line

I could purchase a variation on the same upgrade parts I’ll be using for NPC No 14 which would provide a moor and the gear box as well as linkage between the two.  I wouldn’t be going for sound on this loco but would want DCC.  However, those two tanks may be large enough in diameter to hold a sound board and speaker.

A safer variation on the plan is to purchase a second FED Spartan HOn3 4-4-0 and use it for parts for the lower half of the engine.  I will have been through upgrading the 4-4-0 so I will know where the weaknesses are and how to address them.  And the parts would all be designed to work together in an engine that actually ran.  Assuming I can get a second FED for around $130, project cost lays out as follows.

  • FED Spartan HOn3 4-4-0 – $130
  • Wiseman Parts Set for NPC No 21 – $190 (already in hand)
  • NWSL upgrade parts – $90
  • DCC Decoder with sound and speaker – $140
  • Total budget – $550 – not too bad for a unique Holy Grail engine that is at least half brass using DCC and sound.  It might be the only running NPC No 21 in the smaller scales.

I might be able to use the surplus parts from the FED (boiler, cab, tender, etc.) in another project.  That is especially true if the surplus Wiseman lower end parts (trucks, wheels, tender, etc. are functional (electrically isolated and smooth running).   Or I could auction off the surplus parts on eBay to recoup a portion of the cost.  Until I work through the companion NPC No 14 project,  I’m going to proceed with superstructure assembly of the Wiseman parts set.

Tender Assembly

Given that the lower end of both engine and tender is up in the air, I thought it best to attack assembly of the tender superstructure first.  Here’s an exploded tender diagram.

NPC 21 Parts Tender

These parts all appear to have been shipped with the kit.  I’ve located the major parts.  Some of the smaller parts are still hiding from me in my parts pile.  I do find it amusing that one of the parts (a valve) has a question mark next to it.  I don’t know whether that means they couldn’t come up with a part number or whether the part is not supplied.

The first step in working with a kit where the majority of the parts are white metal is removing and filing down flash left over from the moulding process.  The white metal parts are of good quality and flash removal on the tender only took a few minutes with one of my modeling files.  This photo shows the parts that make up the major portion of the tender.  The white metal parts have been cleaned up.  I have a bit more work to do on the bronze parts.  The wheel sets are still in their parts bag.

NPC 21 Tender Photo

The following is the takeoff and conversion of major tender truck parts.  For example, in ON30 the oil and water tanks will need to be 1.604″ in diameter and 1.243″ tall.  The truck wheelbase will need to be 0.979″ which translates to 46.98″ in 1:1.  The wheels are 23.925″ in diameter.  Once I have these conversions I can begin looking for parts.

NPC21 Takeoffs

Here are two images of the completed Wiseman tender to this point.

Wiseman Tender1

This image shows some additional tender parts including the wheels, oil and water tank support brackets, a second air tank, and end beam.  The truck side frames are shown in the earlier drawing.

More No 21 Tender Parts

Note that the tender wheels appear to be electrically isolated.  If I could use a complete Wiseman tender without borrowing FED parts, I would have a complete 4-4-0 tender to either use in another project or sell on eBay.  I’ll need to fashion tender electrical pickups in either case. makes N scale electrical tender pickups.  I’ll bet they can be made to work in HOn3.

PC&N Duncan Mills Scene – Russian River Bridge


The Russian River Bridge as constructed to serve the lumber mills on the other side of the river from Duncan Mills.  This bridge was 300′ long which would convert to around 6′ in O scale.  Because this bridge will play the role of connecting two sides of one lf the layout rooms across a door way, I’ll shorten the length to around 35″.

A set of plans would be really helpful.  A few years ago, I purchased a Howe Bridge Jig from Black Bear Construction Company.  In poking around the Black Bear web site I came across a Truss Bridge Clinic conducted by Michael Barrett.  In his clinic he used a Fox River Bridge kit once offered by Midwest Products as an example of an early well thought out kit.  Here is a drawing of the bridge.  This is Figure 1 of his clinic which was taken from the kit instructions.  The similarity of the bridge in this kit to the Russian River Bridge is amazing.  The two portals are different but the rest of the bridge is nearly identical.  The portal issue is easily solved by modifying portal construction to match the Russian River Bridge.

Fox River Bridge

In his clinic Michael compared the Fox River Bridge to a number of others as shown in Figure 3.

Fox Rv Bdg Scale

At this point I had a parts list (except for quantity and a drawing,  But I didn’t have step by step construction.  So I went on eBay and ran a search on this kit which has been out of production for years.  I found an unopened package for $35.

Midwst Prod - Fox Brdg

Now I have the instruction book to build my bridge.  What about the HO scale parts included in the kit?  I’m going to build this bridge as described in the kit with the HO parts and place it in an appropriate section of the layout.

The kit has arrived and is complete.  I’ll post a step by step covering its construction, then use the jigs developed to build the kit to build the longer Russian River bridge.

PC&N Mini Layout – Battery Power Experiment – Components

Tam Forney Harness

Receiver Harness

The above screen shot is of the wiring harness in the Tam Valley Forney modified by Duncan McFee.  His Company, Tam Valley Depot sells the DRS1 receiver.  The receiver receives DCC signals via radio from the transmitter I will discuss a bit further down the page.  Here is a screen shot of the receiver from the Tam Valley Depot web site.  As you can see, it is quite small – 1 5/16″ x 3/4″.

DRS1MkII Receiver


Modelers source their own batteries, but Gordon makes a number of recommendations in his e-book.  Individual Lithium Polymer battery cells have a nominal voltage of 3.7 volts.  Two wired in series give you 7.4 volts (above image) and three give you 11.1 volts.  I hope to standardize on 11.1 volts.

Basically, there are two choices.  One is to buy a battery pack from a radio control dealer or hobby shop with the appropriate voltage.  The second is to buy individual cells and assemble the packs yourself which gives more control over pack footprint.  Wiring within a battery pack wired in series is not daunting (red to black, black to red, etc.)  One of Duncan’s recommendations is of a Polymer Lithium Ion Battery – 400mAh from the SparkFun web site.

400 ma LI-Po

These 3.7 volt cells are around $7.00 apiece and include a PC that provides over current, over voltage and minimum voltage protection — the three conditions that are leading causes of Li-Po failure.  Height is 35.5 mm, width is 25.5 mm and thickness is 6.7 mm.  A stacked pack of three would have a thickness of a bit over 21 mm.  For those of you that are metric impaired, there are 25.4 mm per inch.

SparkFun also offers a 3.7 Volt 110 mAh Li-Po battery.  Its dimensions are 28 mm high by 12 mm wide by 5.7 mm thick.  A stack of 3 would have a thickness of just under 18 mm.  The pattern also has a PC that protects against ver current, over voltage, and minimum voltage.

110 MAH Li-Po

A third option is a 240 mAh 3.7 volt Li-Po offered through manufactured by Tenergy,  It also has PC board protection,  Dimensions are 25 mm high by 20 mm wide by 6 mm thick.  A three battery stack would be just under 19mm thick,

240 MAH Tenergy Li-Po

In summary, three different batteries at three different footprints offer three different capacities.  The best battery will be the one that offers the greatest run time given size constraints.  Run times are very dependent on the current draw if the engine,.

Power Switch

One thing the above harness doesn’t show is a switch to turn the power off from the battery.  Duncan recommends a switch that is displayed in the following modified harness image.  The switch os from and includes a push button to toggle on and off.  Gordon recommends substituting a reed switch which can be turned off by a magnet.

Harness polulu

The switch shown in the harness is an earlier version.  I plan to go with the later version which is the Mini Pushbutton Power Switch with Reverse Voltage Protection, LV.  This switch is 0.6″ x 0.7″ x .0.12″.  You can see the mini push button in the lower right portion of the board.  The Polulu switches go for around $4.00.  Depending on the Loco, I may use the mini push button switch and skip the reed switch which is available from

Polulu Switch

Transmitter Wiring – Existing DCC

Tam Valley Depot also sells the DRS1 MKIII Transmitter.

This is a two wire device.  It can be wired directly to the track inputs in the lower right corner of the NCE PCP board.  Pretty simple!


Transmitter Wiring – Full Wireless DCC

The disadvantage of the above approach is that the NCE throttle would be tethered at multiple points along the layout facia.  While NCE offers a wireless radio throttle, it uses the same frequency as the DRS1 Transmitter.

A second option involves using a CVP Airwire T5000 wireless throttle.  It sends a full DCC signal to the receiver and supports up to 16 channels and multiple engines per channel.  Rather than using an existing DCC system, it functions totally independently of any form of track power.  Apparently on Channel 16 it can communicate with the DRS1 Receiver.  However, if multiple throttles are being used and ll set to Channel 16, there may be interference.


On the other hand CVP makes a receiver called the Convrtr that accepts signals from the T5000 and performs the same function as the DRS1 except it supports all 16 channels.  The board is larger and nearly twice as expensive.  Dimensions of the Convrtr are 0.8″ x 2″.


In theory a mix of both receivers could be used with the Airwire T5000 functioning as the transmitter.

Transmitter Wiring – Full Wireless Non-DCC

DelTang of the UK makes a system that transmits using the 2.4 Megahertz radio channel.  It is a proprietary non-DCC system.  The receiver costs $46.  It is very small as shown in the following image.



The transmitter can be bound to up to 12 locomotives.  It is available in kit form for $38.

This is a fairly ideal system for powering locomotives that are non-DCC, or for which only basic functionality is needed.  One of my Shays is non-DCC.  All of my garden railroad engines are non-DCC.

The fact it operates at 2.4 megahertz is also a major plus in that there would be no radio interference with either of the other two systems.  It supports 2S and 3S Li-Po packs so my standard battery pack configurations would work with this setup.

Would it make sense to run a hybrid system?  I think it might.  Use the DelTang to power engines that are non-DCC or where bypassing DCC would still allow the level of functionality I desire,  Also use it in situations where space to store a receiver and batteries is very limited.  I think of the critters I want to run.  Use a system like the NCE/Tam Valley Depot combination to power locomotives where more space is available and where the use of sound is a plus.

Battery Charging

Of course, battery powered engines need to have their batteries charged periodically.  Li-Po batteries are very sensitive to how they are charged.  In addition, individual cells in multi-cell packs need to be balanced.  There are three charging choices here.

  1. Charge through the track.  This means at lest a portion of the track needs to be powered.  It also means that track voltage would need to be rectified and the charge rates managed.  I am not crazy about this option as I have no experience with Li-Pos and don’t want to be building circuits.
  2. Charge through a connector in the engine.  This might be a viable long-range solution.  But over the short haul I want to inspect the Li-Pos on a regular basis.
  3. Remove the batteries for charging.  This is the approach I am going to take over the short haul.  Thought needs to be put into how to make removal easy.  But the advantage is that a discharged battery pack can be swapped quickly for a charged pack for longer sessions.

The above decision means considerable thought needs to be put into not only space for batteries and other components but ease of swapping.  Duncan recommends going with a sophisticated battery charger.  He likes the HiTek X1 but is not specific about the version.  I like the HiTec H4 AC/DC.  It is capable of balanced charging on 4 battery packs simultaneously.  If I buy this $200 charger, I guess I’m pretty committed to battery power.  However, I do have a garden railroad hiding under mulch in my back yard.  That railroad will be brought on line this summer and will definitely be a battery powered railroad.  Of course large scale locomotives have a lot more space to hide batteries that will need to be charged.


This page has laid out a number of available options.  There are many others.  As additional work is done on the approach I will take, links to those posts will be added below this post.

PC&N Mini Layout – Battery Power Experiment

Tam Forney

Tam Valley Battery Powered Forney

One additional experiment I want to conduct on the mini layout os to power some engines using battery power.   Can DCC coexist with battery power.  Yes, if the right add on components are used,  Battery power in the smaller scales is still at what I would refer to as the “bleeding edge stage.”  There are no turnkey solutions at this point.  But a group of loosely organized San Diego battery enthusiasts have formed what they call the Dead Rail Society to promote the concept and encourage research and development of what they consider to be the future of model railroading.  Click the link in the previous section and pay them a visit to lear more.

Modelers wishing to experiment with this approach are left to pull together components from a variety of sources to implement their systems.  A variety of approaches are out there.  Because I already have an investment in NCE DCC, I feel the components and approach delivered by Tam Valley Depot makes the most sense.  Here are the features:

  • The system provides an alternate route for the signals generated by any DCC system to an engine.  Rather than running through the track. the signals are transmitted through the air via radio waves.   In my case that means I can use my NCE Pro Cab to communicate with my engines, either through the track or wirelessly.
  • A receiver in the engine catches the signals and transmits them to the engine’s decoder.  The decoder is not aware that they came via radio signals as opposed to track power.
  • The engine is powered electrically via a battery pack rather than through the track.  Battery pack size was a major problem in years past in the smaller scales but the emergence of Li-Po batteries has changed everything.  Li-Po packs are small enough to be concealed in On30 engines.
  • Because the power is delivered via batteries, there is no need for boosters, circuit breakers and other expensive component add ons to a DCC system.  In fact there is no need to wire the track or turnouts at all — Thus the name Dead Rail.  I have not been looking forward to wiring a layout.  I’ll wire the mini-layout.  But the decision  whether to wire my big layout can be left until after my battery experiments are complete.
  • Cost looks to be a push.  What I save on track wiring will be spent on components to power my engines with battery power.  I could support both on the large layout but make some districts battery only.  Obvious candidates are mining and logging.  Track powered engines couldn’t operate in the battery districts.  But battery powered engines could operate anywhere.
  • There is no need to clean track with a battery powered layout– another task I dread.  There are no problems with track continuity, turnout frogs and reversing loops.  It is more prototypical for an engine to pack its own power.
  • With my experience assembling radio shack electronic kits like amplifiers in my early years, the circuits needed for battery power look simple unless I try to build them from scratch — which I won’t.  Somehow working at my bench to convert a track powered DCC loco to battery power feels as though it will place less stress on my body than wiring a layout from underneath.

In the following posts, I’ll take you through the components and wiring needed to implement my battery powered experiment.  My approach mirrors closely that outlined by Duncan McRee in his 42 page e-book on the subject.  The book is available for around $5.00 through his Tam Valley Depot web site.  The image at the top of the page is from his e-book.