Posted by: Roger | January 14, 2015

Arnold U25C – Part II

Well, I didn’t anticipate a part II, but I really think there will be a part III after this.

Did I mention I lost HALF of one coupler after putting in a decoder? That’s right. The coupler boxes exploded when I pulled the screw out to remove the shell. After many frustrating attempts to reassemble one coupler, I watched the lower half slip out of my tweezers and fall to the carpet between my feet. I’ve searched 150 square feet of carpet on my hands and knees for hours with a bright light and a Ryobi handvac. I can only conclude that it disintegrated in the 30 inches between the table top and the carpet. Either that or it went to Never-Never Land and some urchin has put it on a shelf next to Tootles’ marbles.

So, what do I do now, since these proprietary couplers are more rare than unobtainium and a ticket on the Andromeda Galaxy Love Boat? Well, let’s try putting a 1015 coupler into the Arnold coupler box. WRONG! MT N-scale coupler shanks are too thick.

Okay. Let’s try shoving a 2004 box into the Arnold. WRONG! I would have to file out .003 in height, and .017 in width while trying NOT to get the opening off center.

I whined for days about my $121.49 (plus shipping) shelf queen, and then my friend said, “I have some Micro-Trains Z scale 903 couplers. Do you think they will work?”

They will work better than nothing, I thought. So, let’s try the 903.

Paul put it together, but he swore off any thoughts of ever going to Z scale in the process. It fits, sort of. It works, sort of. I can’t rely on it, for sure, so I put it at the front of the loco, and I will be sure to run that at the front of the consist so I never have to use it, because it doesn’t move. I may have to grind off the back end of the coupler box so the loco can go around a tight corner…. and bend the Z scale trip pin so it doesn’t bind on the snowplow, etc.

BAH! This rivet counting BS has to go! Use standard couplers, manufacturers! All you are doing is pissing off your customers and ruining the hobby for the majority so the teeny tiny minority will stop bitching about the fact that the 37th rivet on the left rear truck doesn’t have enough rust on it for March 3rd, 1965, at 2 am.

Sigh. Rant off… temporarily.

So, after all that I got a decoder into one with two functional couplers. I put it on the programming track and programmed it correctly. Of to the Pacific Northwest Railroad.

Give it some throttle.

Okay, give it more.

Hmmm, is it going to move?

Try Warp (step) 75. Well, it’s moving, sort of. Snails move faster in the Antarctic, however, on cold mid-winter days.

“Let’s try Warp 99, Mr. Sulu.”

“Mr. Sulu, I said Warp 99, not micro-minimum baby fart pulse power. Let’s GO! We need to get out of the space dock this year at least!”

“I’ve got it at Warp 2 million Captain! She just won’t go!”

After two hours of running at Warp 2 million, and a standard dousing of Atlas Conduct-a-lube on all the axles, it had almost doubled its speed from 36 scale mph to 59 mph at step 99. As the cranky people say…


Okay. Lousy photos to come.

Here's a closeup of the goofy electrical contact between the trucks and the circuit board.

Here’s a closeup of the goofy electrical contact between the trucks and the circuit board. This is the front of the loco.

When those contacts become tarnished, it is not going to be fun removing the exploding couplers so I can remove the shell to clean the brass contacts. The upside is that it looks like there is room to add a couple pounds of weight or some 150-watt JBL speakers, etc., for sound in there. I have not tested pulling power, but after running on the PNWRR’s 2.2% grades, we will need a pair of locos to pull a 15-car train up the grade.

Here's a complete look at the chassis with the shell off.

Here’s a complete look at the chassis with the shell off. Front is left, rear is right.

Oh, almost forgot. In the previous post, I mentioned a problem with the handrail that I thought was isolated. Well, it seems to be an intrinsic failure with the handrail on the left side. I used a round toothpick to dab a tiny amount of Hob-E-Tac into each hole to secure the left-side handrail on both locomotives. Yep. It’s finger-sticking GOOD, but that handrail is going to stay there!

Yes, this post is full of snark, but I paid $30 or $40 more than the typical price of a superb Kato for these locos, and I got Austrian-quality Atlas circa 1980 (which cost me $19.95). I am not happy. Yes, I still remember that Austrian Atlas GP-9 with the red plastic gears. I’ve got the parts of one around here somewhere.

Note: I am so glad I am not relying on advertising for a living. But, I get to tell it like it is and not worry about living out of a stolen shopping cart next week after an advertiser tells the publisher to fire me for not writing sweet nothings about his crap.

‘Nother note: I reserve the right to temper my comments after I have cooled down. Or not.

Programming Addendum: I used DecoderPro to set step 1 to 20.  From there I used the log curve to ramp up to 250 at step 28. The next chance I get, I will set it to 255 at step 14 in a straight-line. I do not like cranking the throttle-knob like a pepper-addict asking for more pepper on his salad at the restaurant. Yes, I’ve known a few.

I’m done. Comments are welcome.



  1. ARNOLD U25C- NP 2520

    I once had an ARNOLD N ice-reefer way back. I thought that was it.
    And I heard something about an iffy S-2 loco way back. Then nothing.

    Got my NP #2520 ARNOLD U25C N scale today, test ran it on DC with my Blue Series Hogger test setup on code 55 Atlas. Straight throttle no momentum. Low throttle setting, slow creep speed superb. Top speed surprisingly slow, and welcome. Since only a few people have layouts where 60 or 70mph is needed to get the thing from Nscale Minneapolis to Nscale Duluth in anything like a 1:1 8 hour operational workshift, and 1:1 freights rarely avg anything close to that speed anyways, what with the fishing and berry picking stops in long sidings while waiting for another train, I liked it. When it’s decodered, Decoder-Pro programming will NOT have to limit the top speed of this thing much, if any. Possibly same said for any speed curve setting. Some N locos must become neutered rabbits so as to live peacefully with others.

    I only have a scale 3.15 miles to run, end to end, so maybe a U25C is actually kinda ridiculous, when a single Alco S2 poking along pulling 12 cars would be more logical. Even with as many stops as possible thrown in for switching, to approximate the real world, an S2 isn’t really getting much exercise on any home layout. When I actually get the Atlas S2’s I ordered over 2 years ago, I should probably ebay one of ’em immediately as excessive “Authorization for expenditure”. Guess I should also dispose of my SD45s and U33Cs since they aren’t justified on a run that’s shorter than my actual drive to Jack-In-The-Box. But hey, who gives a rip? This is supposed to be fun. It’s TOY TRAINS, done kinda accurately. And the older I get, I’ve noticed that I’m having the same fun as before, only while going slower. I noticed the same with skiing and motorcycles.

    …So what I’m trying to say is… N scale locos (like Arnolds U25C) that creep along smoothly without cogging, briefly cheat death itself. And, partly for that, I am willing to pay another $34.(see me wink) Seems like going a little slower might be a strategy against the inevitable. And when watching the train actually go by, what most people think is N scale 60mph is actually closer to N scale 90mph. These things are small. So is the speed. So is the distance. SLOW IS GOOD.

    BTW Roger, I have no quibbles with your heartfelt comments, rant or otherwise. Your comment about the 2am rivet counter stuff made me RoFL out loud. Funny Shtuff.
    Getting manufacturers to standardize couplers is probably pie-in-sky in our lifetime. What do you want to be standard? Micro-Trains? McHenry? Accu? Posi? Hyper? Schlage? Trojan? ….Better mousetrap syndrome is always at work. It’s usual motivation is a competitive edge. All the current coupler offerings work way better together than Rapidos ever did alone. What about body vs. truck mount? Anyway, I’m just really thankful that the NMRA standards for DCC are being followed where it counts by manufacturers, well mostly. That’s probably the most important standard we should concern ourselves with in modern model railroading, besides gauge adherence between wheels and track. The rest of the small details seem to be falling into place with each new offering. If the PC gamers realized the sheer audacious & complex depth of model railroading as a hobby, their thumbs and pointers would lock up with charley-horse at the prospect. Is PC gaming a hobby? Anybody? Does the average participant think creatively? I digress….

    “Spookshows” U25C website analysis of gorgeosity & handrails is accurate. I read his review, bought it last week, ran it today, and pretty much agree with him. ARNOLDS electrical pickup design obviously works great, since my U25C barely crept along, smoothly & with NO COGGING, straight from the box. Kato SD45 N old style or new, & Athearn F45 N, while all beautiful, didn’t creep quite like this U25C is doing today 04-14-15. I’ll rank this amongst the best Atlas creepers i.e. C630, U25B, Trainmaster, U23B, SD7/9 etc. Only long term testing will prove the concept here, electrically and traction-tirally. Oh yeah, traction tires. Whatever. I really like that I can pop-off the truck sideframes to paint & weather ’em without fussing about the wheel surfaces. Come to think of it, I’ll be able to do the wheels too with a 3/0 brush, without obstruction! The more I soak it in, I think this thing looks like a winner. Looks like the euro-gineers thought it out innovatively, just to show the nippon-gineers that there’s always another way to get from A to B. ….and the music goes round and round,.. oh,oh,oh,oh… oh, oh and the products all come out of China.

    DETAILS….Nuts. Putting a single (versus CB&Q side by side) red nose light (non-op for now), snowplow and mu-hoses on an N scale NP diesel without having to add that stuff later is yes, state-of-the-art expectation. Road specific detailing. But those separate number board lights? New Cool. That’s happily part of my extra $34. I’m reminded of the Atlas H-16-44 class lights, or Kato RDC taillights. But numberboard lights are of universal usage amongst diesels, and the separate constant on feature in DCC really is something different. You might never move it during an op-session, but those boards’ll be lit, showing that it’s ready to go. I do see the numberboards light separately from the headlight on DC power! (DISCLAIMER: I have not done this yet with DCC- blame Spookshow review if it is wrong) And, reading “wt 360,000″ under the cab side window is amazing (with a loupe) but even that print quality is becoming standard expectation. The exhaust and side screens look of etched fineness. The airbrush & Pan-Pastels are gonna love dirtying this loco up. All this detail level speaks to the photo-ability of this loco. The 6-LEDs in this little engine are of excellent whiteness. This really IS the golden age of N. Each year brings new cool stuff. Too bad we all gotta die sometime. So put on your skates, head down to the shop, get yer toy, stop for a pineapple shake, play with yer toy. Do what you want. Repeat. And, Good Luck.

    I bought my first Bachmann GP40 and Atlas F-something or other back around 1976ish, so I’ve seen fat detail and one-size-only speed. The U25C handrails kinda-do make Kato & Atlas handrails look chubby. Not bad, just chubby in comparo. And if/when the handrails pop-loose, I’ll be ready to send #2520 straight to the diesel shop so my 3/8” tall minions can “weld them back on”. And I’m looking forward to snapping a decoder in it. 6-pin? It is euro after all. Soundtraxx makes a neat little 6-pin soundless decoder that’s cheap, or maybe a 4-function DN143 so I can futz an LED into Rudolph’s nose, and maybe add a rotating beacon, too, a la early BN. (Have you seen Ngineering for LEDs, resistors and wiring? You can barely see the parts without a loupe). Skip ESU here, I don’t need any more sound, since there actually is a scale saturation point for that on any given layout. But somebody will do that, and it’ll be cool. And I want to hear about it. Heck, this might be the first N diesel that a TSU-750 might actually fit into, though I’m not holding my breath. Did ARNOLD consider that? Hmm. Maybe do that to an NP U28C!

    So I pay $123.98 total for this thing, new. Add $27.99 for the 4-function Digitrax bit and it still holds it’s own against new $75-90 discounted Atlas & Kato units, also sans decoders, and of which some models still require wiring hi-jinks to install said decoder. Did I mention 4-functions? Make it $20 for 2- functions then.

    My thanks to you early-birds about the ARNOLD explodi-coupler heads-up. Proprietary shouldn’t mean unobtanium for long. Unless ARNOLD is gonna be dumb about parts? ..Twenty years ago I got to where I could assemble a 1015 from parts with my fat fingers and an Exacto blade to fit the spring. Then I’d pinch it, apply heat at corners and voila, a non-exploding coupler box. (I could even do the coupler assembly sometimes without looking at it… back in the day). My eyes are getting harder now, so I’ll be careful and wear my magni-goggles for those perty l’il Arnold gizmoes. And say what you will, those are nice looking couplers. “Unobtanium”. Shoot Roger, you’re a funny guy. Unless they are.

    So, I do recommend the ARNOLD U25C. The first time I saw it in person was when I opened the box this afternoon. I’d do it again. I’m happy I went for it sight unseen (except for pictures and reviews). I think I saw an NP U28C on the euro HORNBY site getting ready for release. I think. These things are like girls used to be to me. (I Mean Way back dear…Before I met you)

    My Tetonka Park & Wilburton Division is NP based in name, but heavy on GN too. I grew up looking out my bedroom window, down west to the Wilburton trestle a mile away. I could see and hear the NP trains on that thing. I didn’t know it then that the NP would become important to me, but the NE 8th St. grade crossing also created memorable car stops for a little kid in the fifties and sixties. I do remember it was always Black & Yellow in front. I also had an older first cousin who was a GN engineer (BN) and his run was Stevens Pass for 30+ years. He grew up in Skykomish, where Aunt Edna and Uncle Marvin lived. My dad’s folks lived by Auburn, so there was NP, all over the place down there and in Renton by Boeing and PACCAR. Oh yeah, new strings of yellow reefers.
    But dad didn’t buy me any trains. I never asked for ’em. So I bought a few of my own.
    It’s all good.

    -Mark B

    Don’t get me started about my hopes for the Athearn NP & SPS Z-8s coming in 2016. HO & N. Geez, big bucks! I dunno.

    My first post, reply. Maybe only. Sorry it’s so long.

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