As much as I love the big steamers like the Big Boy or Y6B, I love the vintage streamliners like the Dreyfuss Hudson or GS4 in Southern Pacific’s Daylight colors. This Pioneer Zephyr truly symbolizes the golden age of passenger train travel.
The Zephyr was a diesel powered locomotive that entered service in late 1934. Earlier that year, the Zephyr set a speed record for travel between Denver and Chicago at an average speed of 77mph. It’s max speed hit 112.5mph, just shy of the land speed record held at the time of 115mph.
Con-Cor’s HO version of the Zephyr is a plastic model that comes DCC ready. The train is sold as a three-piece set that includes the loco, baggage car and observation lounge. One can also purchase individual coaches to add to the consist.
The detail is decent on the Con-Cor Zephyr. Not as detailed as the brass versions I’ve seen, but considering the price differential, that’s expected. The locomotive has a good amount of weight added to it, but the cars are very light and could probably use some added weight to help them handle the occasional uneven track. I won’t add weight until I see it pulling my entire consist that includes three add-on coaches.
Adding a decoder is fairly simple. Adding a sound decoder gets a little more complicated. Whatever decoder you decide to install, it must go inside the locomotive. The first step is to remove the locomotive shell. It’s only snapped on, so you can pry it off fairly easily, working from the body’s overhang at the rear. I use a few wooden baking skewers to assist in removing the shell. Once the shell is off, there is ample room for the decoder. The top circuit board has a 10-pin DCC plug, in which an 8-pin decoder plug fits just fine. Just make sure that pin 1 of the plug and socket line up. I didn’t realize the socket was 10 pins and accidentally plugged the decoder in offset by a row of two sockets, so pin 1 was actually in socket 2. Took me a minute and then a palm to the head to realize what I had done when I puzzled over why the loco wouldn’t run.
There was a bit of internal “body work” to be done in order to accommodate the decoder’s 1-inch speaker. The supports within the circle, and a good deal of the green plastic “floor” had to be removed in order to give the speaker a clear shot of the pre-drilled speaker “grille” in the bottom of the loco chassis. I would have been able to fit a smaller speaker under the green floor into the shallow alcove provided, but I’m not crazy about the sound coming from a sub-1 inch speaker.
Using nippers and a Dremel, I cut the supports, ground the remains flat, then opened up a good sized hole in the floor to give the speaker a clear shot. I also used the speaker enclosure to help amplify the sound a bit. The enclosure had to be nipped and ground too in order to make room for the drive shaft and bearing assembly. After all the cutting and grinding, I used compressed air to blow the plastic shavings out of the chassis. Then a little hot glue gun action to set the speaker in place.
Here’s some footage of the Zephyr running on our club layout, including some track-level “pace-car” footage.
Here’s the older, original test footage. I got the QSI Revolution decoder from Tony’s Train Exchange, loaded with the correct sounds for the Zephyr. I’ll have to take their word for it, because I’ve never heard or seen a real Zephyr run.
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Originally posted 2015-05-18 12:44:25.
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