Review: PIKO G 36220 American Steam Sound Kit

Published: 15 May 2016


Introduction:

I own a PIKO Mogul steam loco for already a few years now (read my review here), which I wanted to convert to DCC. PIKO offers the #36220 ‘American Steam Sound Kit DC/DCC’ for their American 0-6-0 and Mogul locomotives, so I decided to buy that.

PIKO’s American sound kit (developed by SoundTraxx!) works on both analog DC and digital DCC. The decoder detects which kind of power is being supplied and responds automatically. Sound works on both DC and DCC. The sound kit includes a sensor (reed switch assembly) to trigger bell and whistle sounds when the loco passes over track magnets.

The manual states the following: “This sound kit is made for easy installation into PIKO steam locomotives, such as the Mogul or 0-6-0 with Tender. These locos have been factory-prepared for this sound kit. This sound kit can also be installed in other PIKO locos, as well as other brands of steam locos, with varying degrees of ease“. So, it should be straightforward install!


Product Information:

Manufacturer: PIKO
Article Number: 36220
Product Description: American Steam Soud Kit DC/DCC
MSRP (2016): € 160,99 / $ 199.99


Review:

A small box arrived from Germany:

PIKO G 36220 American Steam Sound Kit DC/DCC Review

Everything is packaged well.

PIKO G 36220 American Steam Sound Kit DC/DCC Review

Here are the contents:

  • Decoder / Sound Board
  • Loudspeaker
  • Volume Control/Smoke Generator Circuit Board
  • Bell/Whistle Trigger Board + Plastic Housing
  • Some screws, short piece of green wire, small piece of double-sided tape

PIKO G 36220 American Steam Sound Kit DC/DCC Review

The manual contains detailed instructions. I linked it as a PDF file at the end of this review.

PIKO G 36220 American Steam Sound Kit DC/DCC Review

I followed the instructions in the manual for the install, and also watched the following video from PIKO America:

I wanted to install the volume control / smoke generator circuit board first, which should be mounted on two mounting posts located inside the tender shell under the water filler hatch.

Well, my loco (#38210 D&RGW Mogul) doesn’t have those mounting posts… I looked in the manual, and I found this: “Attention! On early production PIKO #38210 D&RGW Mogul Locos, there are no mounting posts inside the tender for the volume control circuit board.” 🙁

So I didn’t even bother installing it, as I didn’t plan on using it anyway. I prefer switching the smoke generator On and Off using my DCC controller, and the sound volume can also be changed in the decoder settings.

PIKO G 36220 American Steam Sound Kit DC/DCC Review

Moving on, the reed switch assembly needs to installed on the rear tender truck. Another small difference on my loco, the small hole in the chassis is also in a different place. It should be where the screw driver is pointing.

I didn’t install the reed switch assembly either, as i don’t have track magnets installed in my track to active the sensor. The bell and whistle functions can also be controlled from the DCC controller, so that’s perfectly fine for me.

PIKO G 36220 American Steam Sound Kit DC/DCC Review

Mounting the speaker was easy with the provided screws. I removed the old analogue circuit board…

PIKO G 36220 American Steam Sound Kit DC/DCC Review

… and wanted to replace it with the decoder. #@$%!&, it doesn’t fit either. Another difference on my loco, it seems. The hole in the chassis for the cables is too far back, and with the limited flexibility of the wires, I cannot secure the decoder in place with the screws.

PIKO G 36220 American Steam Sound Kit DC/DCC Review

I hooked up all wires according to the diagram, and I had to be creative to attach the decoder to the chassis. A bit of (double-sided) tape saved the day. It’s not pretty, but it’s secure.

PIKO G 36220 American Steam Sound Kit DC/DCC Review

A slightly frustrating install, but the sound kit worked perfectly. No additional programming was needed, although I adjusted the chuff rate to get a perfect 4 chuffs per wheel revolution.

The sound decoder is factory-set with the following ‘default’ function assignments:

  • F0 – Headlight On/Off
  • F1 – Bell On/Off
  • F2 – Whistle On/Off
  • F3 – Short Whistle
  • F4 – Steam Release (Hiss)
  • F5 – Not used
  • F6 – Smoke Unit On/Off
  • F7 – Headlight Dimmer On/Off
  • F8 – Mute
  • F9 – Inertia Override (temporarily overrides momentum settings)
  • F10 – Half Speed (for switching/shunting operations)
  • F11 – Brake Squeal (when moving) / Brake Release (when stopped)
  • F12 – Not used

A sound demo:


Conclusion:

Installing PIKO’s American steam sound kit was a bit frustrating, as it didn’t seem to be a perfect match for my early production D&RGW Mogul. For all other PIKO 0-6-0 and Mogul tender locomotives, the install should be a lot easier, so no worries!

I am really happy with the performance and the sound quality of the sound kit, which is the most important thing.

Before installing the sound kit, I recommend you to take some time to read the manual completely, and PIKO America’s video also proved very useful.


Links & Downloads: