Graham Farish 350 - DCC Fitting
Posted 19 September 2012 - 19:48
I have to say I'm impressed with the end product. But getting there was a bit fraught, expensive and overly difficult.
Firstly, we have end lights on the driving cars and the motor (unprototypically) mounted in the pantograph car. Farish have fitted standard Rapido couplers between the cars, so no power connectors. So youre looking at 3 x 6 pin decoders for this job. Ouch.
The cynic in me says this is an attempt by Farish to flog more of its decoders. I suspect Farish will claim that in trying to get end lighting, provision for DCC sound and realistic interiors something had to give, and there wasn't the room to fit a motor, lighting and sound in an end vehicle. I don't think that the N sound market is large enough to justify the necessary provisions on the unit, and I'd certainly forego the interior details as in all honestly you can't really see them through the windows.
Lets get on with the installation. Armed with 3 decoders, I decided to take the powered car apart, so that all three chips could be coded on the load of the motor. I'll admit to it being a real struggle. Instead of th ebody being a straight "lift off", you need to prise the body an underframe apart by running your nail or a knife along a seam just above the bottom of the body. Contrary to the instructions, I found the best way was to put a nail in the seam underneath the passenger doors and work inwards and outward. Its very hard though.
The underframe came off fine at the "trailing" end, but despite best efforts ( and the "chassis" bending like a banana) the motor block end wouldn't budge. After easing it to and fro, it seems that the PCB near the top of the chassis block was sticking to something inside the body. It finally popped out after more force was applied.
now the really tricky bit. the 6 pin socket is easy enough to see, and the blanking plug just slides out. But, just where your fingers would lie when holding the decoder horizontally, some fool at Bachmann has put in two metal "towers". Somehow you have to slip the chip into the socket with it lying between these raised bits. You cant really hold it by its end as the rest of the motor block fouls your fingers. Maybe its my chipolata fingers, but boy is it hard. I'm sure they could have orientated it to face into the saloon but that precious seating won over practicality (even though invisible in normal use....)
So, in goes chip one. Nothing. Nothing reads or writes. After a lot of head scratching, it looks like I've moved the motor block away from its contacts. A little downward pressure on it, a hint of movement and a little snapping sound, and it works. It must have moved just enough when the PCB was stuck in the body. Success. The Bachmann chip is programmed, and with more difficulty slipped out from the socket and ready for the driving cars.,
Access into the driving cars is just as "easy" as the powered car, requiring nails and dexterity. SNAP ! Oh dear. One bit of plastic that's representing the inter-car control and power cables has snapped off the inner end of one vehicle. I'll put it to one side and glue it later.....
The body comes off eventually, and reveals an interesting PCB layout. There are two contacts on the floor of the "chassis" that meet downward fingers from the PCB in the roof. this then has mor fingers at the other end gong back down to the floor. No cables to get in the way, but reliable in the long term ? At least access to the chip socket is easy, and in goes the chip.
Repeat this programming for the other driving car (and no need to reverse direction on the chips, the front/rear changeover works fine). Although the Bachmann 6 pin decoder was ok in the motor car, I tried a Zimo 621 chip which seemed to give even better control and smoothness. It is a very nice runner, although its only been used on a bit of straight test setrack. The radious 1, 2, 3, and 4 temp loops at Grandads house haven't been tried yet.
So, that's just short of £65 for the three decoders,
An hour to get the job done,
A bit of plastic broken off.
Oh, a small scratch on one car where my nail slipped out.
Obviously, none of this is mentioned in any trade press review.........best of luck to you all.
Seriously - it seems another downside to RTR EMU's. A lovely model, but expensive to chip. Farish - I reckon you could have sacrificed sound and fitted lights and the motor in one of the driving cars. You'd still have three different "chassis" to design, but you'd save us a chip. This design makes a DCC fitted 350 cost around the £200 quid mark.
And the box and other descriptions just have the "6 pin" decocder symbol. No mention there of 3 x 6 pin decoders..........
Posted 11 October 2013 - 17:17
They could learn an awful lot from Kato.......EMU/DMU units battery box unclips from under the main body and you slide the decoder in and clip the bb back on, job done.....about a minute if you sup some tea while doing it!
Edited by boxbrownie, 11 October 2013 - 17:17 .
Posted 11 October 2013 - 18:10
In my review of the Farish 350 in Model Rail June last year I wrote:
"The model is powered by the now-familiar Bachmann unit mechanism of a "half chassis" with a single bogie driven, though pick up is from both. The model is smooth and controllable, though DCC users will need three chips - one in the power car and one in each end car - for full operability.
"Accessing the interior is a little fiddly, mainly due to the very close fit between the body and the solebar. I found the best way was to start at the door recesses and work along, easing the body off the chassis."
So I don't think it's fair to say that none of the reviewers mentioned the issue with the tight fitting bodyshells. You may feel that I did not flag this up adequately, but writing a review I try to remember that modellers have different skills and what may be easy for one person could be awkward for another.
Having said that, I agree that it would be nice to find a neater and easier way of DCCing such models - perhaps a vertical chip mounting accessed via the floor and hidden in the toilet or other area without large windows.
Posted 02 December 2014 - 22:36
Didnt enjoy DCCing this one bit. Serves me right for trying to set it up "on the main". I bought one of these second hand DCC fitted. The power car ran like a dog and all of the lights were on on the driving cars. It really does feel like you are trashing these coaches to get them open. I ended up pulling the inner buffers out first and then running my nails along the sides of the coaches but it is a bit fraught since if you dont do both sides at the same time the other side seems to pop back in. I also had the problem with the motor end of the power car not coming out easily. I think the pcbs get caught above the window mouldings. I am surprised that the body side paint is not ruined but the paint seems to have survived.
It turned out that there were no decoders in the driving cars so a couple of Bachmann decoders later I had the driving car lights flickering all of the time and the decoders in the driving cars buzzing quietly. None of the decoders would program easily and I couldnt use the section my layout I'm working on as a programming track because all of the stationary decoders complained by rattling their relays! In the end I set up a seperate piece of track as a programming track. I still had problems with the lights flickering and it wasn't until I cleaned the wheels carefully that I could finally program the decoders properly. I also had to pull off each bogie in turn and clean the contacts on top of the bogie towers and the contacts in the bottom of the body. Then the lights were on solid and the train would crawl at a slow speed. I finally had the rear lights on permanently one end. That was cleared by swopping the two end bodies - there must have been a slight misalignment fixed by disassembling and reassembling.
Edited by davepallant, 02 December 2014 - 22:37 .