DCC installations into DC locomotives.

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NP2626

Well-Known Member
#1
This topic could have gone into the Wiring, Electronics and DCC forum. However, since there is so much more traffic in this forum, I thought I'd put it here, so many of us could discuss.

I am firmly into DCC, I also love DCC & Sound. I have 20 locomotives for my layout. Of these, 11 are steam locomotives and 9 are Diesels. All are DCC or eventually will be. Of all these locomotives on my layout, I have installed DCC; or, DCC/Sound decoders in 12 of them. Seven have been purchased with either DCC; or, DCC & Sound already installed. One is a dummy F-7A.

So my reason for bringing this up, is to ask how many of you DCC users, have installed decoders in your locomotives? What do you find fun about DCC installations and what do you find tiring? Thanks you in advance for your responses!
 

tootnkumin

Well-Known Member
Staff member
#2
Hmmmm, Fun? Comedic maybe in a Stephen King or Roald Dahl sort of way. I haven't installed any as many as you and there's guy at the club started after me and has installed more than me (he really MUST be having fun) Loksounds too! 6, I think I've done. I would call it more satisfying, but only if it goes as planned, otherwise frustrating as hell, but I will get better. Oh, I forgot a couple of NCE silents, so half a point for them, then as part of the others there is the P2k PA with LEDS and an operating MARS and teensy, weenzy SMD's for the number boards. Did I say teensy weenzy, these were Eenzy Teensey, teenzy weenzy 1mm x .5mm eenzy weenzy. They were bright though, even with 1K Ohm resistors.
 
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#3
I've installed a few decoders into DC locos. Some of them were relatively easy, others not so much.

The most difficult (so far) was a N-scale Life-Like SW9/1200. I had to mill the frame a bit in order to fit a TCS M1 decoder. It was somewhat challenging but very rewarding when completed. I suppose the successful completion of a challenging project qualifies as "fun" on some level!

- Jeff
 

bnsf971

AKA Gomez Addams
Staff member
#4
I've installed more decoders than I can count, in most scales, sound and silent.
Some are easier and more straightforward than others, but I can't think of any that I would consider "fun".
 

Greg@mnrr

Section Hand
#5
I install my share of DCC decoders, in fact most of DC locomotives that are still in their boxes have decoders in storage just waiting to be installed.

I started in DCC when hard wiring was the way to install most decoders and the amount of soldering perhaps steered a lot of modelers away from DCC until Ready to Run became common on the market.

Today's plug and play are so easy to install for just about any modeler.

I like the challenge of fitting some of the decoders like the Digitrax early series and finding the best place for the wiring. As I do more installations, the job becomes easier. I enjoy soldering electronics and this is part of the decoder installation process for many of the 30 plus decoders I have in stock.

I just recently purchase a Digitrax PR-4 for sound downloading and programming CV's. This tool is a joy to operate and to be able to determine what CV values are in the decoder, the name of the decoder and the ability to download sound files. Well worth the $80.00 for the tool.

Thanks.

Greg
 

Iron Horseman

Well-Known Member
#6
Like BNSF971 I have installed more than I can count. For myself, for other people, for the club. In fact, I have been installing sound units since 1983 and decoders since 1984 before DCC was even a wet dream. Back in those days decoders where the size of Ohio. CTC-16 first, then PMP-112, then Railcommand, and finally Lenz which became DCC. Cannot say that I enjoyed any of them. Some were down right NOT enjoyable. Maybe the experimentation with the speakers for sound installs was the closest thing to enjoyment. DCC standardization really made things easy compared to what it used to be.

After the install is the enjoyment. The best was when I installed a dual mode DCC sound decoder behind the Railcommand decoder. Someone had said that it was impossible to have sound with Railcommand, so of course I had to show that was a silly statement to make. I had a good design and plans for a much better implementation using a Phoenix sound unit, but then time went on and more and more of the Railcommand layouts were converted to DCC and it became a moot point.
 

NP2626

Well-Known Member
#7
Everyone seems to be getting hung up with one sentence in my original post; so, let's change the following sentences to be more realistic: "What do you find easy about DCC installations and what do you find tiring?" I used to find installing decoders to be O.K. Now I find the whole process to be drudgery and I would really rather purchase sound decoders already installed in my locomotives!
 

tootnkumin

Well-Known Member
Staff member
#8
Everyone seems to be getting hung up with one sentence in my original post; so, let's change the following sentences to be more realistic: "What do you find easy about DCC installations and what do you find tiring?" I used to find installing decoders to be O.K. Now I find the whole process to be drudgery and I would really rather purchase sound decoders already installed in my locomotives!
Ah! that's like working for a living, Mark, gets you down in the end. For me, installing decoders is still in the "challenge" stage, which is only just tempering the "Gee, I'm over this" part. All of my other DCC/sound locos are factory fitted. The others that need it and have to be converted yet are slowing down my enjoyment of them on the track, so a means to an end, not the prime object. To answer your more specific question. Not much is easy, particularly where frame/shell mods are needed, like they were with those PA/PB's, especially the PA, some of which were difficult, both in the figuring out of and the doing of.

The figuring part being the most taxing, potentially time wasting, especially after working out a course of action, doing it, and then realising there was a simpler, easier and better way, afterward. A lot of it too could be avoided if just "that's good enough" was acceptable, like the DC Kato SD80MAC I have sitting in a big plastic container, totally in bits, so it can be modded and painted/weathered and have the decoder fitted etc, etc because I was too silly to buy the second one, with ESU/sound that was on inventory clearance, cause I wanted a different color scheme.

But it's fun, I keep telling myself, but that can't be, because I keep on prevaricating.
 

Iron Horseman

Well-Known Member
#9
"What do you find easy about DCC installations and what do you find tiring?"
What I find easy is that there are so many different configurations of decoders, different connections, and they are so tiny these days, most of the time it is open the loco, pop one in and done. What I find tiring is when the locomotive doesn't have low voltage lighting and I have to change it out. Changing and installing lighting is the hardest part.
 
#10
What I find easy is that there are so many different configurations of decoders, different connections, and they are so tiny these days, most of the time it is open the loco, pop one in and done. What I find tiring is when the locomotive doesn't have low voltage lighting and I have to change it out. Changing and installing lighting is the hardest part.
Tell me about it! Especially modeling the SP, who ordered light packages and held them up with locomotives. Things got expensive enough that I bought several locomotives DCC ready and installed sound later. It got tiresome. At least Soundtraxx was kind enough to provide 1.5 volt outputs! To answer Mark’s question: I don’t really enjoy or dislike decoder installs. They’re necessary. Non sound ones go in pretty quick, even the ones that have to be hard wired in, which with brass is all of them.
 

NP2626

Well-Known Member
#11
It's amazing to me how people can zero in on one possibly ill chosen word; or, sentence, in some of my posts, here! To the point of missing the real purpose, point; or, question I'm posing. Although I have made a living writing reports, back when I was working for a living and consider myself to be a fairly proficient writer, obviously when attempting to express a thought, I fall short! I apologize for this short coming on my part!

I will agree with Iron Horseman that changing the lighting system is the most difficult and tedious part of installing DCC Decoders.
 
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tootnkumin

Well-Known Member
Staff member
#12
Not sure what that possibly ill chosen word was Mark, but I guess there are some that might cause a concentration in the mind of the reader, that relates to their experiencing of a problem or not so satisfactory event. As that PA is the first I have tackled the replacing of bulbs with LEDS, it was a highly attention concentrating exercise. That was extra (extrally?) complicated in that it also included, completely rehashing the whole installation because of getting cheated on the decoder I got (sold as new, but obviously not, but not apparent straight away, it's sound volume not matching the other 3 in the B units by a very noticeable margin.
This meant getting another which while the same brand and the same sound file was physically different (wrapped in purple, with wires instead of a board). The volume difference wasn't of course noticed till all engines had been finished, and running either, so the purple people eater, got put into the PA, the only one with the lights. I probably should have switched it with one of the boards from a B and used that to replace the dud in the A, but never let it be said I'm not a flagelest.. The wired type of decoders may have their advantages, I just haven't worked out what that is, must be something.
 
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Iron Horseman

Well-Known Member
#13
It's amazing to me how people can zero in on one possibly ill chosen word; or, sentence, in some of my posts, here! To the point of missing the real purpose, point; or, question I'm posing. Although I have made a living writing reports, back when I was working for a living and consider myself to be a fairly proficient writer, obviously when attempting to express a thought, I fall short! I apologize for this short coming on my part.
I have to agree with that for myself as well. I'll write something I think is perfectly clear and succinct only to have everyone read it with the emphasis on something unintended.
 

Iron Horseman

Well-Known Member
#14
The wired type of decoders may have their advantages, I just haven't worked out what that is, must be something.
I've always just thought it was price.

But now that you mention it - WIRES. On a decoder install one must leave the wires long enough to allow removal of the shell for other maintenance, but one doesn't want them so long that they twist and shift such that they make the shell hard to put on, push it up, or worse rub against some part of the drive train.
 

tootnkumin

Well-Known Member
Staff member
#15
I have to agree with that for myself as well. I'll write something I think is perfectly clear and succinct only to have everyone read it with the emphasis on something unintended.
The written word, while it can be very powerful, lacks the ability to have facial expression and body language, maybe, in this hi-tech world, written posts will get replaced by video, sort'a like a Harry Potter newspaper. Who shall I pick to represent me? o_O
 

tootnkumin

Well-Known Member
Staff member
#16
I've always just thought it was price.

But now that you mention it - WIRES. On a decoder install one must leave the wires long enough to allow removal of the shell for other maintenance, but one doesn't want them so long that they twist and shift such that they make the shell hard to put on, push it up, or worse rub against some part of the drive train.
The big attraction of light pipes from a centrally located decoder. If you ever get the chance to look under the skin of an MTH diesel, you'll be impressed, the SD70ACe's I have are a work of art, but they could only be produced in a factory, no aftermarket there.
 

Iron Horseman

Well-Known Member
#17
The big attraction of light pipes from a centrally located decoder. If you ever get the chance to look under the skin of an MTH diesel, you'll be impressed, the SD70ACe's I have are a work of art, but they could only be produced in a factory, no aftermarket there.
Sorry, MTH could be the most wonderful thing in the world, but I will never be impressed. When I look at their products all I can "see" is the broken products, companies, and people's lives they have left in the wake of their frivolous law suites.
 

tootnkumin

Well-Known Member
Staff member
#18
Sorry, MTH could be the most wonderful thing in the world, but I will never be impressed. When I look at their products all I can "see" is the broken products, companies, and people's lives they have left in the wake of their frivolous law suites.
I was giving credit to the engineers who designed them. Something I appreciate is good design. Even Adolf Galland asked Field Marshall Goring for a squadron of Spitfires. :confused:
 
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bnsf971

AKA Gomez Addams
Staff member
#19
In recent time, in most cases the hard-wire decoders seem to be about the same price as plug-in, or even board replacement decoders. Some of the silent decoders will have a difference in cost between two of the same brand, but usually that is because the more expensive ones have more functions, or a higher amp rating.
I recently purchased a trio of Proto engines (white box, ultra-limited edition) through that auction site, and ordered three 8 pin decoders to put in them. Imagine my surprise when I got the engines, popped the shells off, and found--not dcc-ready at all. I already had the 8 pin decoders, and was able to scrounge up three DCC ready boards to replace the old school OEM ones.
I also forgot that some Proto engines had 1.5v bulbs, not 12v or LEDs. So, after flashbulbing two of them, which I replaced with LEDs and resistors, I thought I was going to have to do the same on the third. The third one, though, I had used an Athearn board, which comes with bulbs. That engine is the only one to retain its bulbs. I may replace the bulbs in that one with LEDs, so all three are the same. The LEDs I used, though, are the really bright, blue-ish white ones, and the difference is extremely noticeable. If I ever have a couple of extra free hours, I may replace them with the warmer temperature LEDs that I had run out of when I put them together the first time.
 

tootnkumin

Well-Known Member
Staff member
#20
Terry, have you ever tried gluing the tiny SMD's onto the ends of optic fiber, I have both I intend to try. Just wondered what glue you might suggest.
 



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