SP 1234 is a one of the larger S-12 class switchers on the SP, and probably a common locomotive around San Jose and on the Vasona Branch. This particular model was a 1970's Sunset brass import. Its tiny open-frame motor meant it wasn't a good candidate for remotoring, and the soldered-shut tender discouraged me from installing a sound decoder.

234 curves onto Fourth Street for the street running down to industries south of San Jose. The large building behind the locomotive is the Richmond Chase Cannery.

Decoder mounted on top of motor

Adding DCC to this locomotive was easy, but there was simply no way to put sound in it. The cylindrical tender can't be opened as far as I can tell, so I instead had to put the decoder in the engine. The N-scale Lenz decoder (I don't remember the exact model)is placed just above the small open frame motor. Only the front headlight is powered. The back headlight isn't powered because there was no good way to route a wire to it. On the positive side, because the decoder's in the engine, there's no need to run any wires between the engine and tender -- the drawbar connection supplies the power from one rail. On this locomotive (and all the others), I use a microconnector for the headlight lead so I can separate the boiler and frame for maintenance and painting. The other lead from the bulb gets soldered to the locomotive body -- usually the back of the smokebox.

I bought this locomotive secondhand, and did very little work on it -- I even kept the pure black paint job, even if the locomotive's darker than any of my others. My one change was to put a bulb in the front headlight. Rather than drill a hole into the existing solid headlight, I instead unsoldered it and replaced it with a Precison Scale hollow headlight, then placed a bulb inside that. The smokebox got a new coat of graphite paint after the soldering.

Unsoldering the headlight was a bit of an adventure. My pistol-style soldering iron couldn't generate enough heat. The previous owners of our house had helpfully left a plumbing-style propane torch, so I tried that out. As soon as I lit it and pointed the torch at the locomotive, the huge flame made the old headlight casting glow red then fall off. I'm amazed more parts didn't fall off the locomotive.