Staying Alive….

Firstly, I’m sure you’ll all enjoy the Beegees fuelled ear worm this post title has created…. Yeah, sorry about that.

A couple of years ago (I might be being kind to myself here, it’s probably more like 5) I picked up a couple of the then new Hornby 0-4-0 Sentinel shunters and repainted them to fit in with the rest of my British Steel fleet. Following a weathering session I was very pleased with how these came out.

I fitted the standard Hornby chips to these and they ran fine on the workbench. Unfortunately, the same couldn’t be said when I put them on the layout. For some reason, even though I keep the railhead clean, the weathering powder used in preparing the trackbed and blending it in did not suit a very short wheelbase 0-4-0!

I’m currently working through my collection of industrial locos and upgrading them with better quality chips, as well as fitting stay alives – the difference being remarkable. As part of this project I thought I’d dig the Sentinels out the ‘don’t know what to do with them’ draw and see if a stay alive could be squeezed in – below is how I did it!

First up, remove the cab and the long bonnet module so we can see the insides – this is going to be a squeeze so the Hornby 4 pin connector also needs to go – with this snipped off, trim the motor and pickup wires to a sensible length and strip the ends.

Next up, we need to make some space in the moulded cab interior to fit everything. Here I’ve hacked open a much wider slot than originally existed. The handbrake wheel is also sacrificed in the name of reliable running.

With space created, it’s time to deploy the new kit… a DCC Concepts Zen Micro 8 pin chip with the plug cut off and the wires cut back is perfect for the job here. This is coupled to a decent size Lais DCC stay alive (budgets and all that). Remember to pop some heat shrink around all the soldered joints!

There is just enough space within the short bonnet and under the cab floor to squeeze the stay alive and decoder sat next to each other. The wiring can then be tucked into the space previously occupied by the Hornby 4 pin plug. (yes I know the masking job I did on the motor when respraying the chassis is a bit ‘rudimentary’)

Finally, the cab floor can be clipped back into place and the loco put back together.

Fitting the new decoders and the stay alives has completely transformed the locos, and they are now smooth runners even over my dodgy (weathering powder covered) trackwork. As such they will be making an appearance at future shows…. All in all a successful side project!


4 Replies to “Staying Alive….”

  1. Out of curiosity, was it possible to try adding a stay alive module to the original Hornby decoder, even if it might not fit – would be interesting to know if it improved the performance of it.

  2. I missed this post – electrics aren’t my thing really, but I need to try this as my sole Hornby Sentinel suffers from similar issues following its conversion to P4.

    Great post!

    1. Thanks James – we had them running under exhibition conditions and they performed very well, so well worth doing! Having just taken one of the 0-6-0 Sentinels apart, it looks like a repeat performance for that too, but you can just use a 6 pin chip and plug it in rather than needing to hardwire.

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