Analog powerpacks with DCC locomotives?

Discussion in 'DCC & Electronics' started by cbuttre835, Jun 9, 2005.

  1. cbuttre835

    cbuttre835 New Member

    Been lurking here for awhile, decided to finally register. Have always wanted a model railroad, and now that the 3 yr. old has expressed an interest in trains I have a tad more ammo for justification.

    I read in another thread elsewhere that the trains I have are "toys"; and I agree. (2 Bachmann very flimsy lighweight plastic ones that came with 2 sets I have.)

    My question is; if I purchase a "real" model locomotive, such as a Bachmann Spectrum or another DCC-ready loco, is it absolutely necessary to run it on a DCC controller or can it be run on my existing analog transformers? (my "layout" as it is right now is only one electrical zone and I only run one train at a time).

    I assume DCC-ready implies that the decoder is not in place? When time to go to DCC comes, I must install the decoders? Is this correct?

  2. ravig

    ravig New Member


    Your understanding is right.

    You should be able to run a DCC locomotive on your (analog) pure DC power supply. Same for your Bachmann DCC-ready locos, all of which can be run a pure DC power supply. Most Bachmann Spectrum locos are sold in a DCC-Ready condition - this means that the loco has the wire harness (NMRA Plug'N'Play 8 pin socket) already put into the loco by the manufacturer; the socket has a jumper in it that lets the loco work on the analog supply. When you later get a decoder (Plug'N'Play), you just remove the jumper and plug the decoder in. Now the loco is DCC Equipped or DCC Onboard as some manufacturers call it. In some cases, the locos may require some additional tinkering to ensure that the decoder fits snugly inside the loco.

    My first foray into model railroad was, 2 years ago, when I decided to get a gift and I landed up purchasing a Bachmann Spectrum Amtrak train set for myself. Since then, this hobby has drawn me in. The spectrum locos by Bachmann are reasonably good though my recent purchase of a Broadway Limited loco blew my expectations apart. I plan to work on Bachmann (by equipping them with DCC) so I don't have to worry if I mess up a loco with my mistakes as I equip it with a DCC decoder.

    Hope this helps.
    Have fun.
    -- ravi
  3. cbuttre835

    cbuttre835 New Member


    OK, cool.

    I read the "DCC Laws" in one of the links in the sticky above, and what I'm boiling it down to is that there's an NMRA std. for DCC control, and also the decoder - loco (or other equipment that accepts a decoder) connection - the 8 pin Plug-n-Play.

    He (railwaybob) indicates that all decoders must work with all command stations, but command stations of one mfr. don't necessarily have to play nicely with other mfrs' boosters, throttles, etc (system components). That is, there's a universal decoder to command center interface, but the control / booster/ throttle system should be checked prior to purchase for compatibility.

    Is this correct?

    Any other tips for a HO model RR newbie?
  4. ravig

    ravig New Member


    You right on the track

    DCC Decoders should work with most DCC Command Systems (I say most since I haven't tried them all); anyway, that is what the NMRA specs define. However, the components attaching to the DCC command station such as throttles, booster may not work across manufacturers - Another way of saying the same, would be that you are locked into a particular manfacturer once you procure a DCC Command Stystem for expansion: adding extra throttles, boosters etc. When did some research early on, some manufacturers mentioned support of third party vendors for the protocol they use; but I did not explore these options further as I wanted to stick with one manfacturer initially and learn the DCC ropes: installing decoders, programming CV's, desing the layout etc.

    I installed Digitrax decoder (w/o sound) DH163IP onto Bachmann Spectrum HO Amtrak F40PH loco, SoundTraxx DSD-B280LC decoder (w. sound) onto Bachmann Spectrum HO Explorer 2-8-0 loco easily after I figured out how to open the loco. The 2-8-0 required a bit of effort to make holes, cut a bit of the plastic support at the bottom to put back the tender top - no wiring was required. I am installing SoundTraxx DSD-B3TSLC on Bachmann Spectrum HO Three Truck Shay - this requires soldering of the speaker. All 3 locos, equipped with above decoders, ran fine with both the Bachmann E-Z Command and Digitrax Super Chief command stations. The E-Z Command worked out the box (5 min). The Digitrax required 30 min to set up (needed to procure some wires to connect to tracks).

    The following book helped me know about the architecture of DCC Command Systems from different vendors: ISBN 9185496499: Digital Command Control, Allt om Hobby. Digitrax has also published a book: 2. ISBN 096748300X: Digitrax Big Book of DCC. It is Digitrax-centric and very detailed.

    Hope you have fun exploring the options and the decision making. Visiting a club, or a hobby store and getting a demo can help you take the first plunge.

    -- ravi

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