American Z Line AZL Mikado first impressions & DCC'd

Carlsbad92009 Jul 21, 2013

  1. Carlsbad92009

    Carlsbad92009 TrainBoard Member

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    THE LONG WAIT IS OVER!!!!!

    I dissected the long awaited AZL Mikado today. Gave it a good test run on DC and it was rather impressive for this lightweight, highly detailed product.

    AZL Mikado rightside_01.jpg AZL Mikado leftside_03.jpg AZL Mikado breakdown of motor-tender_02.jpg

    On MY first impressions using the Rokuhan DC controller and on Rokuhan 270mm track, it ran great, both directions, no derailing. The speed range is quite enlightening as this loco will run creep speed low and super zinger fast. The traction tire keeps it from slipping and gives it some real tact to stay glued to the track when running. I proceeded to load it up with a Pullman consist that first started with six cars and finished with fourteen cars! My test-loop had to be extended as the front of the train was meeting the back. Hot Dog, this is exciting!

    AZL Mikado lightpiperemoved_04.jpg AZL Mikado lightpipe_front_view_off_06-II.jpg AZL Mikado lightpipe_05-II.jpeg

    The excitement peaked to the point where I could not take it apart fast enough as I was headed for DCC'g this baby. In short, I tore the whole thing apart. It was rather self explanatory and not complicated at all. I started with the tender and the bottom of the tender removes with ease. There is some two sided adhesive tape used when it was assembled, so you just have to go slow to remove the injected plastic cover. Tender cover taken off, it exposes the full "covered" style zinc weight. The weight is held to the tender base frame by four tabs at each corner. Carefully take a small flat-blade screwdriver to the tabs and remove the weight cover to expose the motor drive assembly. Once you have the motor exposed, you can disconnect the drive shaft. Remove the trailing truck from the loco/boiler. If you decide that you want to remove the trucks from the tender, be very careful as the tender has "spring loaded" power pick-ups. Don't let the springs fly out to no-mans land. This is a very well engineered product in that the boiler assembly is separate from a heavy brass weight that fits over the drivers in a plastic assembly that includes concealed brass gearing. Very nicely done.

    You simply pry with a non-marring tool between the boiler cover and the chassis weight or between the weight and the drivers assembly, the components will slide out. It is a perfectly sng fit, not tight, and certainly not loose. The LED lighting wires and driver wheel wiper power pick-up wires make up for the tethered wires that go to the tender. The LED worked OK on DC but I was not impressed with the LED light board for a couple reasons. One, the chip LED was soldered in facing up to the sky. There is a 1/2 inch plus molded lightpipe that goes forward to push out at the boiler door on the front of the engine. It was an easy change over for me to put in a new LED that I soldered in forward facing. Let there be light! It looks perfect and really enhances this loco.

    AZL Mikado lightpipe_front_view_lighted_07-II.jpg AZL Mikado frontview_08.jpg AZL Mikado headlight-modification_09.jpg

    Not to be long winded on this LED and headlight, but upon reassembly my new LED lit up the headlight like a "glow stick" protruding from the front. Upon further inspection I noted that the light-pipe being a molded component, had a very light painting of green that was all but transparent and therefore, light came out from the sides of the pipe at the front of the engine. I removed it and very carefully painted it with Floquil CNW Green. While I was at it, I added some shrink tube for the inside of the boiler where the light-pipe extends and put a dash of Tamiya clear Orange on the light end of the pipe. Check out the pictures where you see the pipe removed and non-lit as well as lighted to see what I am talking about the transparency of the paint. The last two pictures above are after I painted the pipe end and then the test drive on the track after DCC'g.

    AZL Mikado view of tender components_12.jpg

    The wiring from the Tender to the Boiler and subsequently to the headlight seemed to me to be a heaver gage wire then what could have been used. But it is fine and does not interfere with performance in any way. If you are going to add another light or firebox flicker for example, you may want to consider rewiring with a finer gage wire. I wired the forward headlight wire and the reverse headlight wires together as you can elect to dim or switch on-off the headlight depending upon your direction of travel. This was a 1st impressions look at DCC'g this loco so I did not want to get too fancy with wire gage and options. Save that for next time.

    More pictures and continuation information will be shown in the next post.
     
  2. Carlsbad92009

    Carlsbad92009 TrainBoard Member

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    Be careful when taking your loco out of your jewel box as I discovered one of my grab irons was off the loco. I only found it by accident and was happy that it was not lost. Further, I was slightly disappointed as one of the stirrup steeps on the tender and a tab on the tender that holds the weight in place were both broken. See detail in the pictures below.

    AZL Mikado tender w-DCC-installed_13.jpg AZL Mikado broken_styrup-step_10.jpg AZL Mikado broken_tab_11.jpg

    DCC Installation was rather fast. Start to finish it was about an hour. You have very limited space at the back of the motor. Thank you to Hans and Rob for asking to leave space for the decoder board as there is a nice cavity left open on the Zinc weight for this facility. Use some capton tape for short circuit protection and yer all set. The decoder fits snug and the weight holding tabs snap back into place nicely when you reassemble the tender components. I like too that the forethought was made to make the coal load removable. I thought long and hard about getting a sound decoder in this one and there is just no room for the speaker. Maybe chase that dream at some later date.

    AZL Mikado tender w-DCC-installed_topview_14.jpg AZL Mikado motor tender detail DCC'd_15.jpg AZL Mikado DCC'd_tenderweight_removed_16.jpg

    I used a CT DCX74zD decoder........size is perfect. This Is The Smallest 1 Amp Decoder Available Today Size: 0.35 x 0.28 x 0.11 Inch (9 x 7 x 2.6 mm)
    You can fit others, no problem. TCS Z2 should work fine. Also the CT DCX76zD will be the easiest. I chose the 74zD because it is the perfect size for the cavity.
    The motor is strapped in to the tender frame via a wrap around the motor strap. But......you cannot remove it. It is plastic welded in two places on each side. I would have thought that would get micro screws or a spring type holding device. It is a non-issue.

    AZL Mikado tenderweight_17-II.jpg AZL Mikado tender w-DCC-installed_sideview_18.jpg AZL Mikado installed_DCC-board_19.jpg

    Be careful when you handle this loco as the boiler to tender is a permanent coupler that uses the trailing truck to couple to the tender. It is a robust device that is oversized to prevent breakage. It also nicely hides the driver power pick-up wires and LED connection wires for the headlight. The careful part mentioned here is if you handle the loco so that it is not even in line with the boiler and tender, the motor drive shaft to the loco will "pop-out" on one of either connections. This is easily pushed back into place. Use a blunt tweezers and watch so that the "universal-joint" lines up properly to get back into place.

    AZL Mikado tight-fit_DCC-board_20.jpg

    The above picture shows the "sandwiched" DCC board that snugly fits the space at the back of the tender.

    Continued in the next post/reply.
     
    Hydromike likes this.
  3. Carlsbad92009

    Carlsbad92009 TrainBoard Member

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    Below are detail pictures showing the permanent couple from the engine to the tender. Coal load fits snug but is nice to remove and detail your own coal load. Optionally if you need more room, you can open up the top of the tender to facilitate. The third picture or picture on the right shows what your loco will look like when the drive shaft disengages.

    AZL Mikado trailing_truck_coupler_21.jpg AZL Mikado pop-out_coal-load_22.jpg AZL Mikado driveshaft_alignment_23.jpg

    What is really really nice about this loco is that it will run at a crawl at speed step one. It will also fly down the rails for you speed demons. This loco is a hugely welcome addition to Z-Scale. It will exceed your expectations. I have been running mine on DCC today all day, forward, reverse, fast slow, loaded to the gills and she just purrs. It is also nice and quiet! There is a very very small amount of chatter from the side rods etc., but it is all but meaningless to mention.

    AZL Mikado four wires & drive shaft detail_24.jpg AZL Mikado four wires to cab-boiler_25.jpg

    For this my first Impression and initial running, I am extremely happy and highly recommend this one for your steam stable. I sure hope they produce enough of these as once the word gets out and bug hits you for this loco, you'll get more than one. I cannot wait until the heavyweight version is released and of course when the Western Railroads come out to pull my passenger cars that are eagerly waiting.

    Hope this has been helpful information for those that are considering this one as well getting your DCC'd.

    Full steam ahead!
     
  4. markm

    markm TrainBoard Supporter

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    Thanks for the ton of info.
     
  5. minzemaennchen

    minzemaennchen TrainBoard Member

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    Great report, looking forward!
     
  6. ZFRANK

    ZFRANK TrainBoard Member

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    Don,
    This info makes a great tutorial, I could not resist to catch it in a pdf file for the benefit of all here @Trainboard. I hope you don't mind. Enjoy the document.
     

    Attached Files:

  7. jim29t

    jim29t TrainBoard Member

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    Does there appear to be any way to add more weight to the engine?
     
  8. Carlsbad92009

    Carlsbad92009 TrainBoard Member

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    Hi Frank,

    Yep, nice to have something to reference and print out. Highlight the key points for hen you get into your own loco for the 1st time. So thanks for the PDF, this report is for all to use for their interest and needs. Maybe someone can do a maintenance instruction as these loco's come with no directions or recommendations for servicing. I am running a 10 car Pullman consist right now as I write this. On a 128 speed step it likes to run and looks great running at speed step 50. It seems to improve with run time, as in breaking in the wheels sets/drivers. Wheel gage is right on but a little tight when it rides over Marklin 8592 expansion track. I am running on a module.

    I have also taken more detailed pictures as well have made a short movie.
     
  9. Carlsbad92009

    Carlsbad92009 TrainBoard Member

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    Jim,

    This loco is very well thought out and the design is best in class for sure. There is a heavy brass weight that saddles the drivers tucked under the full length of the boiler. And.....of course already seen in the pictures posted, there is a cover weight that is Zinc that shrouds the motor and decoder board in the tender.

    Your only options to "add-weight" is to cut the plastic out of the coal load deck on the top part of the tender. Fill that space in with tungsten. And......if you are really savvy, re-cast the Zinc weight, the Brass weight and maybe even the coal load using tungsten. That will be your only chance to increase weight and downward force.

    As I get more into this, I may very well do the above amongst other modifications. This loco is a 9 out of 10 rating in my book, right out of the box.
     
  10. Loren

    Loren TrainBoard Supporter

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    Don,

    The other guys beat me to the punch, but I do want to add my kudos to your excellent tutorial and info. You have certainly jump started the positives for this apparently excellent offering from AZL.

    Congratulations to Rob A and Hans for offering this much needed addition to Z scale.

    This loco and your information Don are exactly the shot in the arm that Z scale needs.

    Now........MTL............your turn.
     
  11. zscaler

    zscaler TrainBoard Member

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    Well with this information...
    Have to get one first and we will see about some sound.
     
  12. Carlsbad92009

    Carlsbad92009 TrainBoard Member

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    Sound Possibilities.........

    David,

    If you remove the Zinc weight and shave the top of the tender where the coal load goes.......it'lls till be a tight, very very tight fit and then you have no downward weight-pressure to the tender wheels which are the power pick-ups besides the drivers. Maybe the heavy Mikado's will afford some more room, or not. Lot's of cool possibilities ahead.
     
  13. SJ Z-man

    SJ Z-man TrainBoard Supporter

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    So the tender weight is nothing more than to enhance power pickup. I wonder what it would pull with that much less weight ?

    Thanks for the DCC and run report ! Dying to get the WP and Santa Fe's.
     
  14. RobertAllbritton

    RobertAllbritton TrainBoard Member

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    The tender weight also keeps the motor's torque from lifting the tender off the track.

    I've tested it without the weight. The motor literally lifts the wheels off the rails.
     
  15. Loren

    Loren TrainBoard Supporter

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    What if........you hollow out the coal load as much as possible, make a mold and cast the load in some sort of metal. Could be done. Reduce factory installed tender weight for room or eliminate completely if the cast metal coal load would about equal the original tender weight. Result is more room for speaker and maintain the weight if not even more. Thoughts?
     
  16. Carlsbad92009

    Carlsbad92009 TrainBoard Member

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    Increasing weight load.

    Loren,

    It is only but a dream. Rob Allbritton says it correctly in that the weight is there for the torque, also for the power-pick-up on the tender. You can mold and recast the Zinc tender weight in Tungsten, a marginal gain at best, but still a gain. Add to that the cutting out of the top of the tender opening where the coal load sits. Fill in that whole top cut out area area including the coal load with tungsten. That will be the best performance gain but still no room for sound. You will have to tether from the tender to a speaker car behind if sound is what you want here.

    This is an excellent loco free standing by it's own right. Great that the DCC goes in perfectly and may I say easily the first time with little to no modifications.

    Happy for me as I am looking forward to doing many of these in DCC.
     
  17. Loren

    Loren TrainBoard Supporter

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    Don,
    I agree, this loco looks to be the 'nuts' as Don Avila likes to say. That means the idea or subject matter is top notch.

    Z scale has waited a long time for something as cool as this little beast is.
     
  18. SJ Z-man

    SJ Z-man TrainBoard Supporter

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    I'd still be curious how it runs without that tender load. The motor itself should be enough for power pick up.
     
  19. Loren

    Loren TrainBoard Supporter

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    Well, as Rob said concerning the tender without the tender weight......

    "The tender weight also keeps the motor's torque from lifting the tender off the track.

    I've tested it without the weight. The motor literally lifts the wheels off the rails.
     
  20. Carlsbad92009

    Carlsbad92009 TrainBoard Member

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    Brother Jeff,

    Yer missing the bigger picture here. As Rob Allbritton stated earlier, the motor causes the tender to "torque-over" without weight to hold it down to the track. Picture a prostock drag racing car at launch off the starting line without wheelie bars. A sudden start will literally cause the tender and loco to do a right rotation roll over.........endo.
     

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