10/29/15- This is a model of the German steam-powered express train that ran for a few years before WWII, at a time when train makers were busy trying to set speed records. It's considered a legendary train in rail history.

Although I'm not currently in "Reichland" mode, I thought about getting this set when I was. It appears to be discontinued, and although orderable at some websites, you never know if or when you'll receive it. A website that bills when goods are shipped is a good thing, but I get apprehensive when I don't see a ship date estimate. (What if it ships after I've hit rock bottom and have sold everything I owned? "Well... At least I have my Henschel Wegmann twain set!") I like to be in control when I spend stupid money, so when I saw this offered on eBay by a reputable U.S. seller, I seized the opportunity.

It's an era II train with an odd streamlined shape; it's not as elegant and iconic as the Pioneer Zephyr, but the Henschel locomotive has a unique look, kind of like... an eclair? (Yum) The cream and purple color scheme looks nearly identical to Arnold's Rheingold coaches; The four Wegmann coaches are nicely detailed with full creme-filled interiors and some painted seating.

Arnold doesn't seem to be a top-tier company these days, even though they've been around from the beginning (and are given credit for the Rapido coupler that many seem to hate). According to Wiki, they filed for bankrupcy and were acquired by Rivarossi in 1995 who also went bankrupt and were bought by Hornby in 2004.

So... I got this not knowing if it was a good runner, or whether it would even be able to navigate the tight curves of my track. I didn't find much discussion or any reviews (in English) about it. What sold it to me were the looks, and the mention that it had a digital decoder socket. I found a parts diagram of the locomotive, and it looked like it had a lot of interior space; I started thinking, "sound decoder?"

I must stress that I bought this used. I later got a black 61-001 locomotive (new) which helped me figure out which criticisms were likely fair, and which were probably specific to the used locomotive.

It Arrives, and the Verdict Is... It's like an old locomotive from the DC-only days. Being currently on a Kato binge, I really wanted it to run like them. I wanted to fix its shortcomings, but the locomotive's innards and performance are considerably different than a locomotive of modern design and manufacture.

This might have been a great offering twenty or thirty years ago, but for performance, it doesn't compare well against contemporary offerings from Kato. Since it's branded as Arnold/Hornby International, it must have been produced after 2004... so although I did buy it used, it's really not that old. After all, it does have a NEM decoder socket and SMD LEDs for headlights.

Although it's made in China, you can't hang its problems on that. The exterior is very nicely produced, with great castings, paint job, and crisp, detailed printing. Similarly, the guts don't show especially sloppy production or workmanship. The problems rest on its design-- the original German design and construction was standard for its time, but the updating to modern 2004+ standards was superficial. Instead of doing a thorough re-design, they appear to have done as little as possible to improve it, other than grafting on some modern features that look good in sales literature. So... what are its problems?

The Motor/Drivetrain: At high speeds, the locomotive is noisy, louder than any of my other locomotives. The gears are all brass, so that probably contributes to the noise. Breaking it in does help lessen the noise somewhat. I don't know if the motor itself is an archaic design-- I have Fleischmann and Minitrix locos with brass gears that are much quieter, and probably aren't that much newer.

The low gearing gives it quite a bit of torque and strong low speed. At crawling speed, it's acceptably quiet-- it hums like a transformer and you can hear the clicking of the brushes on the commutator. It's apparent that the noise comes mainly from the motor, not the gears. Judging from the sound, it's probably a fairly high-torque motor that draws more current than the average modern motor, albeit with a coarse feel at low speeds. There's no flywheel and even if there were, it probably wouldn't change the way it drives much due to the gearing and the motor.

While I was hoping to put a LokSound decoder in the locomotive, I saw that it would be nearly impossible to fit a Sugarcube speaker, so I installed a LokPilot instead. A sound decoder would have to be done as a sound car.

Locomotive Power Pickup: The locomotive has brass strip power contacts on every single wheel; on the leading and trailing trucks, on the drive wheels, and even on the traction wheels. That should make it practically invulnerable to any power loss, right? In a perfect world, it would. However, as the locomotive occasionally shimmies from side to side within the tracks, it sometimes stops at very low speed.

The main drive wheels' brass strip contacts are attached to the bottom of the primary circuitboard and press against the flange. They're fairly exposed so they're easy to adjust... but easily sprung when you're working on the innards. The truck-mounted contacts were not as accessible or as robust, so seemed less reliable..

It's a heavy locomotive due to iron frame pieces below the PC board and above it. They focus most of their track contact weight onto the three pairs of drive wheels, a fairly compact area of about 3.5 cm, edge-to-edge. The two trucks widen that contact area but are much lighter and pressed against the track by thin springy metal strips, so they don't get as much downward contact force.

Power pickup is good, but not perfect as one might expect from having power tapped from all wheels.

The Decoder: Originally, there was a 6-pin NEM socket for a plug-in decoder. I tried to use it but couldn't get my programmer to read it, perhaps due to all the DC stuff on the circuit board (this was true of the new 61-001 as well). The ESU LokPilot decoder was tested in another locomotive and worked fine. Plan B was to wire the decoder directly to the places where I knew the wires should go and grind off all the unnecessary stuff. I left only the SMD resistors preceding the LEDs. Tracing their circuit paths wasn't easy and they didn't conform to what I expected. The VOM was helpful for figuring this out to avoid frying the LEDs. Installing the decoder wasn't hard but it was more difficult than it should have been, due to the difficulty of reading the traces on the PC board and all its SMD capacitors and other RF-reducing components. There were some solder points that seemed vulnerable to shorting and were insulated by a factory-installed patchwork of adhesive strips. It looked like a post-production fix to take care of design problems.


Chaotic Innards: After removing the top, the first thing I noticed were the long black wires that connect to the leading and trailing wheelsets. They're loose and they're just there out in the open, with no discernable wire routing plan. Sure, they're largely concealed with the top on, but you have to poke and prod the visible excess back under the cover and try to avoid their interfering with and rubbing against the wheels and drive rods, while leaving the wires with enough slack to allow the trucks to follow the track curvature. A very home-made looking design solution. The jumble of black wires in the interior added to the aggravation of trying to figure out the circuitry. (The wires on the new Henschel locomotive were less chaotic looking, but only because they were scrunched together.)

Close Coupling: The Wegmann coaches are designed with some unusual features that one may love or hate. The passenger cars are close-coupled, which you don't often see in European trains fitted with Rapido couplers. In fact, the passenger cars aren't fitted with Rapido couplers: They're connected with coupler bars that plug into the sockets of adjacent cars.

The front and rear ends of the cars are spring-loaded pieces that compress when adjacent cars contact each other while going around curves, to prevent the cars from derailing. I think this is one of the best features of the set. This is basically what the buffers do in 1:1 German trains. The coaches don't have buffers and I don't know if they should (accuracy-wise). None of my German trains have working spring-loaded buffers, perhaps because they'd have to be at exactly the right height and position to avoid the edges locking and derailing cars.

The coupler bars hold the cars together very securely-- they're not intended for any on-the-fly coupling/decoupling. Removing a car almost always causes adjacent cars to derail because the couplers require quite a bit of tugging to separate. It's difficult to couple the cars while they're on the track because the coupler bar and sockets have to be perfectly aligned before pushing them in to snap them in place. To see what you're doing, it's easier to couple them all together while the cars are turned upside down or sideways and off the track. It's a hassle and can expose the cars' finish to some risk of damage. Re-railing them is fairly easy with a re-railing ramp, but you do need a fairly long section of clear track to feed the cars over the re-railer. It's an odd way of doing it, but once you get the hang of it, it's not difficult.

The coupler bar and the socket aren't NEM standard, even though the concept is similar. The Rapido couplers on the locomotive plug into the same kind of socket, so they aren't standard either. They may be unique to this set and if you lose a coupler bar, finding a replacement could be difficult. That makes it harder to experiment with irreversible modifications to the couplers.

Overall, the couplers are a hassle, even though they couple closely. I prefer being able to remove/add a car to a consist quickly and easily without having to re-rail the entire train (especially when working on the train). I saw a German video demonstrating a magnetic coupling modification; it seemed to work very well.

The Skirts: To model the look of the original, Arnold includes four skirt parts to attach to the front and rear of the locomotive and the first and last passenger cars' curved ends. They also include four Rapido couplers with their proprietary pocket connectors and cosmetic plugs for the skirted ends of the locomotive and passenger cars when the couplers aren't installed. It looks like the locomotive's skirts can attach to both ends with the couplers in place. The last coach gets a skirt with the coupler removed, and the retaining plug installed. (You can't install the skirt on the coach that couples with the locomotive because it won't fit with the coupler in place; I don't know why they provide two skirts and plugs since you wouldn't be able to couple the locomotive unless one of them had a coupler.)

The coupler pockets are truck-mounted so on a tight radius with the skirts installed, the locomotive's coupler could bind against the edge of the opening through the skirt, lock the truck and derail the train. This wouldn't happen on a wider radius curve. I think that Kato's R249 radius is right at the limits, which is probably why it's an optional installation.

If you have derailing problems with the locomotive's rear skirt on, you may need to remove it to see if it solves the problem.

Lighted Passenger Cars would be nice, but not going to happen easily. Although the coaches have detailed interiors with painted seats, they aren't set up with anything to conduct power from the rails. There are openings in the trucks and the underside of the body that look like they're designed to hold Arnold's brass contact plates and axle-wiping springs (like their Rheingold coaches), but you're on your own to find the parts that seem to be discontinued/unavailable (I suspect that such a kit was never made for this train set). I was surprised by this because I expected a fancy passenger car set to have lighting, or to be easy to light.

The wheelsets are the traditional style with a plastic insulator fitted to one wheel, commonly used for axle wiper power pickup. That design usually taps power from one rail for each truck via a conductive strip pressed against both axles; half of the potential wheel-to-rail contact points aren't used when power is tapped from the axle.

That's not the bad news though: Friction is. Since the coaches are streamlined with a skirt at the bottom, the trucks needed to be narrower than normal so that they could swivel within the body shell to follow curves in the track. To fit the narrow truck width and keep the standard flange spacing, the wheelsets don't have the usual needle point axles. Instead, the wheels are flat at the ends and the axles are retained by three snap-in plastic mounts on the underside of the truck. In addition to these three friction points, the axle can move slightly side-to-side causing the wheels to rub against the sides of the truck. Altogether, this creates considerably more rolling friction than a pointed axle with the tips pressed against the brass pickup contacts in the side wall. It's not easy to feel the difference in friction but the difference is pretty obvious with a rolling test on a slight incline.

Arnold's trucks are considerably narrower than the Kato trucks despite the flange spacing being the same.

Flat-ended wheelsets. The hole under the axle is where the Rheingold's contact springs go. The slots in the truck area of the body are where the Rheingold's pickup plates are mounted. It looks like they thought about lighting this car.

Rolling friction makes a heavier load for the locomotive. Even though the Wegmann coaches are only a four-car consist, my Kato D51 locomotive (which is a light locomotive) spun wheels in tight curves when hauling them. In contrast, it doesn't have any problems hauling the 8-car Orient Express by Kato.

This makes it difficult if you're determined to install lights. A modern power pickup truck replacement would need a narrow profile and be fitted with Arnold's proprietary coupler socket. You're not likely to find that at Walmart.

Trix has a different solution for their HO-scale HW set: The body has openings where the trucks swivel and the cut out exterior panels swivel with the trucks. If you did the cutting, this might let you use standard-sized trucks. But then, there's the problem of the proprietary coupler socket. Sigh... Batteries, anyone?

It looks like, realistically, the only way to get track power is to devise a home-brew solution around the design of their trucks (see below).

It's a shame that Arnold didn't take the opportunity to design a power conducting feature in their coupler bars and sockets, especially since they weren't conforming to a standard and had a blank slate.

Final Thoughts: It's a unique-looking train that does have some problems, some good points, and some things that depend on your preferences and expectations. Yes, I was initially disappointed; After running it for a while, I realized that it actually runs okay on my track and I do appreciate some of its "old-school" qualities. It's not an outstanding performer but that's to be expected since the locomotive is hauling four cars that should roll much easier than they do. My complaint about the noise was something I had to rethink because while I like quiet-running locomotives, I add sound decoders to them so that they can make fake noise! As I've run it more, the motor has become a little quieter, and doesn't bother me as much.

If you're not a tinkerer, you can accept the shortcomings and move on. If you really hate it, sell it.

If you're someone who likes to tinker, who appreciates stiff challenges and who is willing to spend lots of time and energy on problems, this should provide many hours of entertainment! I believe that some of its deficiencies are correctable through creative design improvements and hard work.


(This was written incrementally as a work-in-progress so the solutions were arrived at over a period of time, with lots of missteps and changes of direction. To bypass all of that, I recommend that you skip to the end of the article where a lot of the fog is lifted!)

I was on the verge of accepting the marginal performance of the stock train set and moving on, but powering the passenger cars seemed like an interesting challenge.

Getting power inside the cars is the basis for doing the cool and fun tinkering. No power, no interior lighting or sound decoder. I consider that to be at least as attention-worthy as, or maybe more attention-worthy than the problem of a loud motor.

As I mentioned above, there's no easy solution for this, and the only realistic option is for you to design the power-tapping functionality around what you're given-- the stock HW trucks. (I don't know of or have any other narrow, low-friction trucks that could be adapted to replace the Wegmann trucks.)

For a home-brew solution, there are actually two main problems that need to be addressed: (1) How to tap and distribute the power and (2) how to do it without adding more friction. There are plenty of examples of ways to do #1, but #2 is the real thorn.

The design of the Wegmann coach trucks introduce so much cumulative friction that the 4-car consist will make some locomotives struggle. This can mean wheels slipping, inhibiting the locomotive's momentum through a section of dirty track, or the dragging of cars across a curve instead of around the curve. Adding a contact pickup to each axle or wheel will just make it worse.

Modern power-pickup trucks use a needle point at the ends of the axle which solve two problems: They hold the wheels in the trucks with low friction (tiny area of metal-to-metal contact), and they pick up track power. The Wegmann trucks need to be narrow so they can't use the needle point axle solution (unless you can shorten a standard axle and grind a precision needle point on its ends). The challenge is to find an alternate way of retaining the wheelset in the truck and tapping the power-- without introducing two separate sources of friction.

I learned this lesson from failed design effort #1, when I put pickup strips in the side frames to pick up power from the outside edge of the wheels. Although it picked up power reliably, the wheels didn't turn very freely. With the added friction, the locomotive was essentially dragging a carcass. The wheels need to turn freely when navigating curves and turnouts, or you get derailments and short circuits. I had these problems after doing the mod to just one car.

I came to the conclusion that the wheelset retention and power capture had to come from the same place, just like the needle point axle solution. This meant grinding off the wheel supports and retainer on the bottom of the trucks. They were replaced with a brass tube to hold the axle and conduct power from the wheels. Even though the brass tube has more friction than the needle point axle pickup, at least it's not wasted friction: Every bit of it contributes to power-gathering from the track.

The next step was solving the problem of getting the power into the car from the swiveling trucks. In this case, the challenge is doing it without interfering with the swivel (another friction issue) while providing good electrical contact to the interior circuitry.

Kato's design uses brass tabs from the truck contacts that protrude upwards through cutouts in the body, and press against brass strips on the interior of the car. This is similar to Arnold's design in the Rheingold coaches, where the springs that press against the axles press against a brass plate mounted to the underside of the body. The good thing about this design is that there's no favored position for the swivel. If you swivel the trucks off center, there's nothing that tries to make them return to center. The trade-off is that there's an additional point where two separate electrical circuits need to make good contact for the power to be transferred reliably.

My first unsuccessful design ran a wire through a hole drilled through the center of the truck mounting pin into the body. The thinking was that the thin, super-flexible wire would provide more reliable electrical contact through bypassing a complicated interior contact strip system. The center of the truck would move the wire less than the outside radius, plus it would be simpler to do. One of the problems with this design was that the truck mounting pin had a slit across it that the wire would need to avoid (by keeping the wire centered until it cleared the pin), or it would bind the swivel. The other problem was that where it entered the body, the wire was tightly sandwiched between the body's floor and the plate that the trucks were mounted on. Therefore, the wire was pinned at the opening and would have no "elbow room" to move with the swivel. I didn't realize this until I tested the design: The lights worked fine, but the car derailed because the trucks couldn't swivel freely and wanted to return to the centered position. Back to the drawing board.

Swivel design #2 came from the observation that the weight bar and upper car body both had a large hole located near the center. I had assumed that it was solely to aid in aligning the two when the body was assembled. I then noticed that the underside of the body had a channel from the hole to the front of the car, with an opening at the end into the interior of the car. My guess was that the car had been designed for lighting, and this was intended to serve as the power conduit for the red direction lights (The front and end cars are fitted with red lenses).

This "design breadcrumb" led me to notice that the weight didn't lie flush against the floor of the bottom section, but that there were four nibs at the corners of the space that created enough space for wires to live under the weight with "elbow room". I'm not sure what Arnold intended for this, but it pointed to cutting openings at the ends of the bottom-protruding box so that wires could be routed to the trucks. The power would exit the trucks via a wire soldered to one end. Although the travel through the swivel arc was greater at the ends than at the center, the wires were free to move underneath the weight, so the travel was spread out along the length of the wire without binding.

Finally, success (of a sort). The car traveled behind the locomotive with lighting and without derailing or shorting the track. As expected, this design has more rolling friction than a car with needle point axles, but at least the friction is being used to draw power, unlike the original design.

Frankly, I don't know if this power-tapping design modification lessens or increases the friction over the stock design with plastic wheel retainers. This affects the decision to fit all four of the cars with trucks modified for power. This is a critical decision, since grinding off the wheelset retainers is irreversible. I've used the term "marginal" to describe the performance of the stock train set because before modification, the locomotive was able to haul the four passenger cars around a flat track with R249 curves, but not consistently without a stoppage or slowing down from spinning wheels in a curve where the track sections weren't perfectly aligned flat. I was hoping that the modifications to the trucks would lessen the friction over the stock design and tap power from the tracks. If the design increases the amount of friction even slightly, it will affect the performance of the train, which was not great to begin with. Performance would not be a worthwhile sacrifice for lighted passenger cars.

Given the unknowns of an irreversible modification, a much safer route would be to leave the other cars with the stock trucks, and use the power tapped car for a sound decoder. If you decide to light cars, you're committed to lighting them all, whereas a sound decoder only needs to be in one car. Personally, I think sound is a more valuable addition than lighting. It's also more fun to operate sound.

Sound Decoder: This was relatively easy since the car had good spaces to fit the decoder, Sugarcube speaker, and load resistor without cutting anything. I could have added some light effects to the car, but chose not to since the rest of the train didn't have any lights. I programmed the decoder with ESU's 54809 Mallet sound set; it has a slightly muffled chuff, which sounded similar to a YouTube video of the original. The locomotive's loud electric motor tends to overshadow the decoder sounds at faster speeds, but few decoder sounds are at 100% volume because I prefer it quieter. I rarely run it above 50% throttle.

I wasn't too concerned about stuff showing through the windows since the car is unlighted.

Power Sharing: Reliable power pickup is important, but with a sound decoder it's especially obvious when there are glitches-- you can hear them. I didn't notice any glitches when I was testing with a lighting circuit, but I did when I replaced it with a sound decoder.

I haven't had much luck with "stay-alive" capacitors (which take a lot of interior space). I've fared much better with sharing power/pickup points between cars. Simply, the power pickups of two cars are joined together to share track power. The benefit comes from increasing the number pickup points and space between where the wheels pick up power. This is usually sufficient to ensure that the wheels are constantly picking up power from both rails between the two cars. It improves the performance of the sound car and the locomotive.

While there appears to be enough room to squeeze a plug/socket between the cars, it couldn't be positioned sideways, diagonally or vertically without interfering with the swivel of the trucks.

I first tried to share power by adding a mini plug/socket, but the plug/socket was too stiff and bulky and interfered too much with the swivel of the trucks, causing frequent derailings. I then hard-wired the two together without a plug/socket, and it ran much better. Unfortunately, to program the decoders I had to desolder one of the wires. I added a single-conductor barebones plug/socket to solve that problem. It didn't interfere with the truck swivel, but looked awful.

Third attempt to share power (The space between was later reduced).

The set came with two "spare" Rapido couplers with the proprietary plug end (from the locomotive front and last car rear), which gave me the courage to do an irreversible modification. The coupler knuckles were snipped off and replaced with a plug and a socket to make power-conducting "couplers". The plug/socket connection is tight enough to tow the whole train (and more). They look even less like real couplers than the Rapidos, but look and work much better than a pair of wires running parallel alongside the coupler.

The Slippage Problem: Everything seems so interconnected and tentatively balanced-- fix one problem and that causes a new one to pop up to take its place. I'd described this train's performance as "marginal", meaning that there was a delicate balance between the performance of the locomotive and the friction "weight" of the cars it hauled. With a slight increase in the friction/weight to haul, at low speeds the locomotive began stopping with wheels spinning at certain places on the track: Usually in curves, and sometimes at joints in the sectional track where there was a slight incline.

The locomotive has a pair of rubber traction tires at the rear, which apparently don't give it enough traction to drive through these sections at slow speed. I gave them a coat of "Bullfrog Snot" (Google it), thinking that might give them a slight boost. It didn't help. I coated the middle wheels, with no improvement. It turns out that the front wheels are the ones that matter most, and it can now crawl around the track without stopping or slipping... that might make me reconsider lighting the other passenger cars!


Finding a workaround for the slippage problem was more significant than I'd realized at the time. I'd been focused on the problem of the rolling resistance of the cars, but hadn't devoted much thought to the other side: The locomotive and traction. Brute force isn't an ideal way to handle a situation with underlying problems, but sometimes it's the only way. In the end, it lets you say, "it ain't purdy, but it works."

I didn't trust how far I'd be able to run with that philosophy, so I planned another modification that didn't commit me to lighting all the cars: Lighting the rear car's taillights. I felt that the improved traction could handle at least one more car with my homemade power-tapping trucks.

I used the opportunity to test whether the power pickup would be improved by splitting pickup from a single rail between the car's front and rear trucks. In other words, each truck would pick up power from both rails, one wheel per rail per truck. It meant running two wires per truck, and my concern was that it would inhibit the trucks' swivel.

The rear car has a slightly different construction than the first car-- there's no channel running from the hole in the weight to the front of the car, so one needed to be cut. The wires need a recessed channel so the lower plate can be clamped to the upper body with the wires in between. They travel over the weight to the end of the car and enter the interior.

I used Streamlined Backshop's 3-LED lighting kit to power the tail light LEDs. It has an anti-flicker capacitor and all the other stuff needed for a lighting circuit.

Test Results: The locomotive handled the load of the additional homemade power trucks without any noticeable problems. The swivel of the trucks wasn't affected by the additional wire from the trucks. The split-truck power pickup didn't help, in fact the power pick up for the tail lights seemed worse than the first car had been when I first tested it.

Even with the anti-flicker capacitor, the performance wasn't acceptable. Speculation: My brass axle sleeve pickup design depends on weight to get good electrical contact with the axle (vs. a springy contact). Bummer. I'm reluctant to give the locomotive any more weight to pull.

The New Plan: Power sharing via the couplers. This has worked extremely well for the locomotive and sound car, with rarely a glitch. Since the stock coupler bars aren't easy to couple and decouple, replacing them with plug/socket power couplers doesn't cost anything. I'd wanted to experiment with magnetic coupling to make coupling/decoupling easier, but reliable power to all cars is a higher priority.

I was going to wait until an order of mini connectors arrived, but impatience drove me to revisiting the large-ish connectors I'd planned on using for lighting buildings. I'd ruled them out before because there was no way that I could graft the plug and socket onto an Arnold connector bar-- the gap between cars would be too wide. It dawned on me that I didn't need to use the connector bar at all; the plug/socket itself could be used as the connector bar since it's the perfect length. (The plug/socket are cut from a 2.54mm male/female pin header set- an economical way to get lots of plugs and sockets.)

To fit the truck-mounted socket, the pins are bent inwards with an outwards hook, similar to the way Arnold's connector bars hook in place. Wires are soldered at a right angle at the inside tips of the pins, then threaded through the opening in the coupler pocket. The plug/socket are inserted diagonally then twisted flat. The styrene plug is inserted underneath to prevent the plug/socket from twisting diagonally. The plug/socket is swivelled side-to-side to cut a slight bit of "elbow room" on the interior of the pocket. This gives a coupled set of trucks a little bit of additional independent swivel when going around curves.

(The top plug doesn't really have black contacts; they just photographed that way).

The shared power is routed through the underside of the car (as discussed above) to the plug/socket on the other end. Where the wires pass the hole in the weight, a pair of leads tap in and bring power to the interior of the car, where it can be used to power lights.

Opening and channel cut for the pickup wires.

Success? Finally! Not only does it fix the tail light flickering, but it lets me add light kits to all the cars, without having to modify them with my homemade power trucks. Although the homemade power trucks don't provide reliable power individually, when connected together with the locomotive's power taps, the power supplied to all cars is rock-solid. With the locomotive's front wheels converted to traction wheels, it needs the additional power taps to run smoothly.

The plug/socket coupling is definitely easier and more convenient than the connector bar. Coupling can be done with the cars on the track, simply by lining up the socket and pins and pushing them together. It requires less force than the connector bar, so the train doesn't need to be turned on its side or upside down. The socket/plug connection is tight enough to keep the cars coupled; if they should become loose due to wear, I think I can just bend a pin to tighten it.


This is a unique trainset with a unique problem: The streamlined design of the original makes it a challenge to scale down accurately for the n-scale layout with its typically compressed dimensions and small radius curves. I've harped on this in one form or another many times in this article, but it's taken me the whole article to see the big picture.

The original designers at Arnold were smart guys who had a lot on their plate. They had to balance many issues and make some compromises to produce this set. It looks like they wanted to make lighting for the cars, but their priority was to make a train that could navigate fairly small radius curves, without distorting the shape of the body to accommodate wider trucks. Truck width and the needle-point truck design were sacrificed, which caused more friction and added to the difficulty of getting power to the cars. The locomotive had to be beefy enough to pull four friction-heavy cars around tight curves.

Complaints about it derailing on small radius track or it being too wide and inaccurately proportioned were probably harder to justify to the consumer than complaints that there wasn't a lighting option. When they originally designed this, I'm sure that they didn't anticipate that power in the cars would someday be used for sound decoders.

Note the thinned section on the inside of the skirt. Arnold tried every trick they could to make the cars navigate small radius curves.

This isn't the only streamlined train out there: Kato's Shinkansen (0-2000) is an example of an N-scale streamlined design that uses low friction needle-point wheels and power tapping in the trucks. There, the compromise is that the Shinkansen can't run on tighter radius track (minimum is R315), because the trucks can't swivel far enough within the streamlined body to navigate a tighter radius. It's a fairly wide train. At first, I didn't realize this limitation and thought the derailings on R249 track were a design/quality problem. Since I learned of this, I accept its limitations. However, it sees very little track time because I can only run it on my outer loop.

Trix's and Marklin's HO-scale Wegmann coaches are lighted and have sound, but have swivelling cutouts in the body at the trucks-- that isn't a feature of the original (and not a good idea in the real world for a streamlined design), so fidelity was sacrificed to make it work. I saw that feature in action on a YouTube video, and thought it looked odd.

Given the options that Arnold had, I'm okay with the choice that they made-- it runs on my track with tight radius curves, and I was able to work around the friction-heavy trucks to come up with a way to bring power into all the cars. It's been a fun and interesting project!

Fantasy HW zug: Another way to improve traction.

The additional traction powers through any challenges in the track; however, since the black locomotive isn't connected to the power-sharing bus, it's more vulnerable to power glitches, which affects the smooth movement of the train. The brief and jerky stop/starts can cause transient glitches in the power to the rest of the train. Just shows to go ya, it's always sumpin'...


Video Clip: I cheated a little bit in the video below: The black Henschel locomotive's skirts fully enclose the trucks, so they derail on tight curves. Not a problem for my video, and it looks much better wearing the front skirt.



11/25/15- Forget everything I said. I recently found LocGeek's website, which covers his/her modifications (sound decoder and lighting) to an Arnold Henschel Wegmann set. Best of all, it's done in a much less wordy way, with far less angst! Not only that, but there's an extremely helpful article about "Better Power Feeders for N-Scale Coaches", which gives links for parts that I didn't even know existed! Interesting and informative website, run by a very knowledgeable and talented person.

I visited the German sites mentioned in the article and with the help of Google Translate, hopefully placed orders for the right parts. I must say, it wasn't easy, especially since you can't copy/paste text from buttons, so it has to be typed in. (German has some very long words that are difficult to transport in my brain's tiny memory buffer.)

If I was successful in placing the orders, this project may enter yet another phase. At any rate, visiting LocGeek's website made me aware of Kato's older "Flying Hamburger" set... which I sought, ordered, and have a sound decoder set aside for. I'm looking forward to playing with a diesel soundset!