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Hornby R2491 & R4238
Harry Potter "Hogwarts Castle" Express Locomotive & Composite coaches
Review & DCC Decoder installation - Text & photos by Doug Teggin

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The engine used for the Harry Potter film was originally GWR "Hall" Class 4-6-0 No.5972 "Olton Hall". Built at Swindon in 1937, No.5972."Olton Hall" was one of a class of 330 versatile mixed traffic locomotives, designed by Charles Collett for the Great Western Railway. No.5972 is now set to find new fame as the "Hogwarts Express" locomotive in the Warner Brothers' film of the phenomenally successful Harry Potter stories.

Renamed "Hogwarts Castle" and repainted into fictitious Hogwarts Railways bright red livery, No. 5972 appeared in the first session of filming at Goathland, on the North Yorkshire Moors Railway.

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More filming took place at Kings Cross (on "Platform 93/4") in early 2001, taking No.5972 further into new territory.

The most recent films have used part of the West Highland line. The scene of "Hogwarts Express" traveling across a viaduct was filmed on the Glenfinnan Viaduct, some 16 miles west of Fort William.

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This was a fun project for one of my kids who's birthday is coming up. So he'll be getting this lovely 4-6-0 Hogwarts Castle locomotive and two Hogwarts Express Composite coaches. This was an eBay purchase and there was no brake coach.

The loco is very well detailed and made to the excellent standard of recent Hornby locomotives coming out of their production center in China. Likewise the corridor coaches are well made, sturdy, with a weight that will give the loco something to do to the track.

Overall the ensemble is very pleasing.

I'm not sure if Hornby modeled the model from the "Olton Hall" as there are a few difference that are clearly visible. Perhaps they had moulds from a similar locomotive and used those. Anyway, there is no point in counting the rivets as this is a fantasy train. The kids won't mind I'm sure.

The locomotive (with tender) can pull 1.68 kg (6 x 150g coaches + 6 x 130g coaches).

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DCC Decoder Installation

Follow the supplied instructions to take the loco apart. One screw to remove the front bogey, then one more under the front bogy and the screw to the rear under the cab to remove the chassis and you're done. You don't have to force anything - if you do it right, it comes apart easily.

I installed a Arnold Digital 81201 decoder into the Loco. As there are no extra functions required by the locomotive a simple, but robust decoder is fine. The 81201 can handle 1.5 amp.

The installation was a little bit tricky, not as easy as the previous installations due to the lack of NEM 652 (NMRA Medium) socket and more importantly: a lack of internal space for the DCC decoder. Where installing a DCC decoder in a loco that has a NEM socket may take about 10 minutes, this installation takes over an hour because you have to do some trial fitting and adjustments.

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Note: The TV interference suppression capacitor and in-line resistors have to be removed for DCC use. A capacitor is only needed for conventional operations to prevent radio interference. With DCC operation a capacitor corrupts the data format and the error free data transfer is disturbed. A snip with a small cutter does the job.

Cut off the NEM Plug from the decoder if it has one and following the wiring diagram, attach it to the pickup wires and motor terminals. The red decoder wire is attached to the wire from the right wheels on the loco and the black to the left. The orange decoder wire goes to the motor terminal that was connected to the right wheels and the grey decoder wire going to motor terminal that was connected to the left wheels. I somehow got this mixed up. So my orange and grey wires are the wrong way around in the upper right photo. Either switch them around or add an extra point to CV29 which reverses the direction (therefore fixing the direction) I usually have CV29=2, so for this loco: CV29=3.

The DCC chip sits attached to the top of the ballast weight, inside of the boiler roof in front of the motor. I cut a section away from the lead weight with a metal hacksaw to make space for the decoder. Cutting the lead is very easy if it is held in a vice whilst cutting. A few layers of double-sided tape keeps the decoder secure on the lead, also insulating the components from the metal. Tape everything in place with black electrical tape and close up the body. This may sound complicated, but I tried the decoder behind the motor and on the side of the motor - all to no avail - there is simple not enough space. If you ever get around to installing DCC in this type of loco, trim the ballast and put the decoder there.

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Note: This locomotive does not have lights so the function wires are not used.

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DCC CV Settings
for the Hogwarts Express
CV172Address (The loco number)
CV22Minimum Speed (V Min at step 1)
CV34Acceleration delay (0-15)
CV44Brake Delay (0-15)
CV5160Max speed (V High)
CV640Acceleration Curve (V Mid)
CV293Decoder Configuration***
CV490Decoder specific values
CV5020Decoder regulation
The rest of the CV's are left
untouched (factory default).

A very attractive model. Beautifully made with the good detail.

The kids love it and they can have plenty of fun running it with the other locos on the layout. I let my kids use the DCC controllers as they are very simple to use and are very robust. The kids don't have to worry about isolated sections and the limitations of a conventional DC layout. What a wonderful time to grow up.

- April 2005

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All text, photos & graphics ©2005 Doug Teggin - All rights reserved.
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