Newstalgia: Bachmann Steam Whistle Warehouse upgrade

Onizukachan Feb 4, 2019

  1. Onizukachan

    Onizukachan TrainBoard Supporter

    If you were a kid with an N-Scale train in the 80s like me, you probably have very fond memories of this $9 Bachmann whistle warehouse. For me, it gave my boxcars somewhere to go and a reason for a spur siding to exist. Plus it had SOUND!


    Now we know it isn’t “prototypical” and it looks like plastic and it doesn’t sound right etc etc etc... but you know what? None of that matters... I knew my daughter (age 2) would get the same kick out of pressing that buttton that I always did.
    I bought one, near mint on eBay (they are very cheap!) and thought, let’s do this with a twist. Let’s take the core of this building and bring it up to date, to the 21st Century. If this were released in 2010 or 2015, what would it have looked like, what might it have featured?

    After it arrived, I noted it had a ton of dust, and wasn’t “new” but “like new”

    While I was cleaning it up and lubing the motor, I noticed that the motor’s carbon brushes were about 1/32nd from being totally wasted, so to keep it working meant changing it sooner, rather than later. Indeed, as we used it over the next few days, it began running slower and thus whistled more softly. This was the same thing that ended the life of mine back in the mid 80s.

    Time to new-stalgia the warehouse!

    I started by carefully cutting out the whistle and motor assembly from the walls themselves, using a dremel and cutoff wheel. This left me with a hollow building. I got a dual sugar cube speaker and enclosure from Bowser, and connected it to an AudioFXmini and mono 2.5w amp from adafruit, which I loaded a Leslie A200, a bell, and a Hancock whistle sound files after tweaking them in Audacity for length and to mono. I then wired it all up with an old USB cable whose end had failed so it can run on a standard USB phone charger.


    I put the parts under the hollow building and tried it out. Volume was far better than the original as was the sound. Then I did some focus group testing, and it was a big hit.

    Now that I knew the idea was sound (pun intended), it was time for lighting and interior, and some weathering to tone down the plastic look... as I do my weathering with acrylics and water, and water and electrics don’t mix, I started there.
    I started the initial weathering which I did with Apple Barrel acrylics from Walmart in pavement, burnt umber, and spiced berry. I used a wash first, then added the various colors to places, using a water wetted brush to feather the color out, and some dry brushing also. This toned the brick down and added some soot and dirt to it. Though I am happy, At some point i’d Like to try Tamiya panel line accent in grey and see if it emulates grout lines well. Has anyone ever tried this?

    I then cut a section of styrene planking from plastruct to fit snugly in the open area as a floor. Knowing that every mm was going to be critical to fit the bowser housing under floor I filed and trimmed around the doorways until I could mounted it flush with what would be the bottoms off the loading doors. Once satisfied, I painted the floor top and bottom, adding some weathering and streaking to the inner face and glued it in using WS scenic glue. I left it overnight to dry, and then shaved the bowser down as fitment was still tight by sanding the rear with a 220 sanding block until the lettering was gone, saving me 1/2 mm in height and glued it using 560 canopy glue to the floors underside.


    Once the speaker was in place, I was able to mount the amp and FXmini under the floor as well with thin double sided tape, and a drop of canopy glue on the corners as well for the FXmini.


    Once dry I flipped it over and proceeded to start the warehouse interior. I used card stock to form the walls of the Customer Reception / Entry /Office (However you want to imagine it). I also added a couple of pictures to the walls for visual interest (made from the tape squares from the ends of resistors and a scribble of black sharpie) , a small piece of textured card stock as a carpet, and a small HO LED light fixture as office light. An HO scale kitchen hanging lamp translated nicely visually as an Nscale industrial light fixture, not that you can see it in the office thru the window... but I had them for the warehouse portion so why not?
    I also used the thin clear packaging from a sams club bakery pack of croissants cut into strips as window glass and affixed it in place with canopy glue.



    I also found these cool little working metal gooseneck LED lamps on eBay, and replaced the original non-working plastic ones with them.



    I then installed a strip of plank flooring painted silver as a “catwalk” so I could mount the 3 hanging lights in the warehouse and still be able to remove the top.


    I realized I don’t have to fill it with goods, just have something for the eye to see if you look in the windows. The mind fills in the rest where it can’t see.

    With the base and first floor accomplished, it was time to start on the second floor office space.

    Very similar idea except the plank flooring (light wood painted this time) simply sits atop of the first floor, (just above the “catwalk”) and the view blocks and 2nd floor hanging lamps are attached to the detachable roof with a 1.25 Jst connector so you can still open and remove the roof.


    Continued below...
  2. Onizukachan

    Onizukachan TrainBoard Supporter


    (Since this picture I’ve gone back and painted the long styrene viewblock a soft green, and the short ones light grey)


    I can see in the following pic i will need to do a little light blocking in between roof alignment tabs (a thick line of paint would be sufficient) as the warehouse light is escaping there but overall the effect is quite nice for a little time invested, $8 for the building, and recycling a few bits and pieces I had.

    The things that I bought for this project were the styrene sheet plank floors, the gooseneck exterior lights, and the wehonest HO/OO hanging lights, none of which were very expensive. The sound stuff I already had on hand, left over from monorail projects.


    Think you can easily spot a car here at either door using the light as a guide...


    Thanks for reading this far!
    Do you have a favorite accessory from your childhood you’d like to have again as-is, or would like to new-stalgia to improve? Tell us about it below!
  3. MK

    MK TrainBoard Member

    Great "renovation"!!! And I'm sure your daughter will love it! Just keep it away from the town tax assessor. The taxes on that property will jump sky high once they see it. :D

    Goes to show that you don't to spend big bucks. Your imagination and inventiveness can go a long way. Great job!
  4. Carl Sowell

    Carl Sowell TrainBoard Supporter

    Very cool Richard.

    Onizukachan likes this.
  5. umtrr-author

    umtrr-author TrainBoard Member

    This could have been a magazine article... nice work!
    Onizukachan likes this.
  6. WM183

    WM183 TrainBoard Member

    Very cool! The lighting really looks great and adds a ton of mood and realism.
    Onizukachan likes this.
  7. Onizukachan

    Onizukachan TrainBoard Supporter

    I thought I had posted this earlier but must not have hit submit.

    I got to do a little table top playing after installing the FL4 in the GS-4 for lighting, and also measured the height of the dock compared to the boxcar doors. Looks like I can run non Kato (non roadbed equipped) track right across the apron to put the rails right against the dock and have perfect loading height.
    I used a sheet of thin foam from michaels to make up for the Kato’s height just to get an idea of how railheight would compare and shot a ‘night video’ to share.
    I only realized afterwards that I hadn’t gotten the boiler all the way back down on the Gs-4. Sorry!

    JoeTodd likes this.
  8. urbanex12

    urbanex12 TrainBoard Member

    Very cool!
    Onizukachan likes this.
  9. Onizukachan

    Onizukachan TrainBoard Supporter

    Thanks Nick!

Share This Page