Sound & Lighting Installation USA F3

    As I stated in a previous review, the USA F-3 is a gorgeous
locomotive that runs extremely well.  I have an SP A-B-A set, and after
breaking it in on my test loop, I decided that I wanted to put in a
sound system and upgrade the lighting.
    I chose a Sierra Sountraxx system to install in the USA F3 set that
I have.  This was primarily due to the fact that they have lighting
options  included with their system.   I ordered the system with the S5
horn because I like the sound of a multi-chime horn.  Based on past
installation experience,  I ordered a 2.5 " speaker from Phoenix.  I
chose the Phoenix speaker because it  has a large magnet which helps in
the bass reproduction of the Sierra diesel sound system.
    There is enough room in the fuel tank of the A-Unit to install the
speaker, the battery, and the sound board.  I chose the 2.5" speaker
size, because it fits the contours of  the USA fuel tank the best, and
can be sealed easily with silicone.  I also installed a remote volume
switch, a charging jack, and a reed switch to activate the horn. (See
photos).   These installations are not complicated, since Sierra gives
you a very detailed instruction manual..
    My next step was to option the sound system for my installation
using the instructions in the installation handbook.  I set the horn
option to be reed switch activated.  The bell is to be voltage
activated,  so I had to set the voltage on and voltage off levels, along
with the speed of the bell.   The  other options  I changed were the
lighting option to make one output a MARS light.  I also made this
output directional so that it would only work when the diesel is moving
    Opening the USA F3 is a major undertaking.  There are nine screws
that hold the shell to the chasis.  Four screws are hidden by the fuel
tank which is held in place with two screws.  The last screw is hidden
by the front truck, and can only be reached by removing the truck
The headlights on the F3 are satisfactory, but I wanted to improve their
appearance by installing a reflector in each so they looked more like
the prototype.  Since I was opening the shells  to wire the top
headlight to be a MARS light, I decided to upgrade the appearance of the
lights at the same time.  This headlight changeout was done following
an article in Large Scale Central. The writer has provided some
excellent photos along with his article.  See his website at
For reflectors I used Hubble Flashlight modules # 2202-2A-LM which are available
at Home Depot for around $3.98 each.
I retained the original bulb for the lower headlight, but replaced the
upper MARS light bulb with a 6 Volt grain of wheat bulb per Sierra's
instructions.  Once the installation was complete and tested, I closed
up the diesel and turned my attention the to the  trailing A Unit.  I
opened up this unit and changed out the reflectors using the same method
as the first unit.  Since this unit did not have sound like the first
unit,  I ran jumper wires from the first units using mini plugs.  I connected
6Volt buld in the upper headlamp.  The Sierra System was then programmed
so that this MARS light works when the unit is running at the head end of a train