Command Control Without DCC

Discussion in 'DCC & Electronics' started by Scott M, Sep 9, 2005.

  1. Scott M

    Scott M New Member

    I had originally posted this question in the HO Forum, but I feel that it should be posted in this Forum as well.

    I am re-entering the hobby after not being involved for over 10 years. I have quite a bit of HO equipment, all purchased prior to the mid 90s. None of my locomotives have decoders, and I (at this point) do not wish to purchase and install any.

    My question is: Is there a way of utilizing Command Control to operate these conventional locomotives? In other words, can I vary my track voltage with a wireless remote of some type?

    I guess that I am looking to operate in a similar manner which O gauge operates their conventional locomotives with Lionel's TMCC or MTH's DCS.

    Thanks for any and all input.

  2. MasonJar

    MasonJar It's not rocket surgery

    Hi Scott,

    Welcome to The Gauge!

    I think you are asking several quesions here, so I will try to clarify to make sure I am giving the answer you want...

    1) Is there a "Command Control" set up that is not DCC?

    Yes, but they have more-or-less been replaced by DCC. If you remember the CTC-16 articles (and similar) that MR published in the 1980s - that is one such system.

    2) Are there wireless/remote DC control systems?

    Yes. There are still ads for these systems in e.g. MR, so they are available. One friend runs such a system, but I am afraid the name escapes me right now...

    Can you tell us why you are reluctant to convert your exisiting locos to DCC? It is not that difficult, especially if you are good with soldering (or can find someone like I did... ;) ). Almost all locos can be converted - just the amount of work varies.

  3. Scott M

    Scott M New Member

    Thanks for the reply.

    To answer your question, I am not a good solderer by any means, but that's not the main reason. Although it certainly is important, as I do not want to take a chance on damaging anything (electronics, plastic, etc.) with the heat of the solder.

    The main reason would have to be the cost. I have dozens of locomotives (mostly Athearn, Bachman Spectrum, and Like-Like Proto 2000) and I don't have any clear favorites. I would want to convert them all so that I would be able to run any one of them at any time.

    I am speaking out of school though, because I have not looked in to what is involved in installing a decoder, whether it be the labor or the cost.

    I thought that if a system existed for operating my trains as they are, that that would be the least costly and least labor intensive route.

  4. MasonJar

    MasonJar It's not rocket surgery


    Decoders are dropping in price all the time. Ones like the DH123D have a msrp of US$20, but can probably be found for less at on-line retailers.

    Speaking of Digitrax, their Zephyr starter DCC unit (and their other systems too) have the ability to run one non-decoder equipped loco along witha number of DCC locos.

    I think that you will find by the time you wire a layout for blocked DC operation with all the electrical switches and connections, you will be just as far ahead going with DCC. You may have to convert your locos in batches (3-4 at a time) but you'll get there... :D


    Note: No, I do not work for Digitrax ;) I have a Zephyr at home, my modular club runs with Digitrax, and a good number of friends' home layouts are also Digitrax. That's where my experience is.

    Note 2: I removed your duplicate to this post in the HO forum. See your Private Messages (PM) by clicking the link at the upper right of any screen.
  5. Scott M

    Scott M New Member


    Thanks again for your prompt replies.

    Installing a decoder looks a bit intimidating to me. But the Digitrax system looks inviting as it allows you to run one conventional locomotive with any number of DCC equipped ones.

    I suppose, like anything else, that the intimidation factor will lower once I install my first decoder. If I go this route, I'll chose a lesser used locomotive as my first "victim".

    In the mean time, I appreciate the information. As I have stated, I've been away from HO for awhile and I'm not quite sure what's available in order to operate without DCC.

    Your point is well taken with regard to wiring and blocking a layout without DCC. My goal is to create the least amount of work as possible, while maximizing the enjoyment. I have to balance the cost and labor of a conventional layout with the cost and labor (and intimidation) of DCC.

    Thanks again, Scott

    PS: Thanks for letting me know about the deletion of the thread in the HO Forum, I was wondering what had happened to it.
  6. baldwinjl

    baldwinjl Member

    Very true. As they say, "Just do it!"

  7. MasonJar

    MasonJar It's not rocket surgery


    I agree with Jeff - just do it. My first decoder install was a Soundtraxx decoder for my P2K 0-6-0. I enlisted the help of a guy at the modular club who is a bit of a guru. Things went very well. :D

  8. Scott M

    Scott M New Member

    Thanks for all of the help and support guys!

    I'll keep you updated of the progress. One more thing: Once I install a decoder, will the locomotive still operate in a DC environment if it is not picking up a DCC signal?

    Thanks again, Scott
  9. baldwinjl

    baldwinjl Member

    I don't know about all, I just looked at the Digitrax manual and it says that most decoders can be operated on DC. It is a feature that can be enabled and disabled. Don't know about other brands.

  10. MasonJar

    MasonJar It's not rocket surgery


    Many non-sound decoders have a setting to allow them to operate on a DC layout. Sometimes this feature has to be "turned on" on your programming track, so if that is the case (check the decoder and system manuals) do it before you take it to a DC layout... :D

  11. seanm

    seanm Member

    Running dcc engines on a non dcc layout is not always fun even if it is possible. DC engines make some amazing noises while running on dcc and some dcc equipped engines will not play well with pulsed power packs.

    All that being said, once you have 1 or 2 dcc engines running on a dcc system, you will be hooked !! it is so natural say "i want engine 9800" dial it up and take contol, you won't want to mess with DC anymore.
  12. 60103

    60103 Pooh Bah

    Scott: Do you have any Athearn locos with the metal strip wiring? You can get decoders for these that fit straight in. Some also have lights prewired. There are also drop-in units for lots of other popular locos. (I stand to be corrected on the Athearns -- it may be more work than that.)
  13. Scott M

    Scott M New Member

    The majority of my locomotives are Athearn. I haven't had the shells off since I had first assembled them (which was before I had given any thought to DCC), so I don't know about the wiring. They are all from the mid to late 90s though, so they may be wired accordingly.

    My other locomotives are Bachmann Spectrum and Life-Like Proto 2000, also from the mid to late 90s.

    I definately know that none of these locomotives have decoders. But since they are all relatively recent productions, the wiring may be "user friendly" for installing decoders (I'm hoping, anyway).

    I'll be checking them out soon.

    Thanks, again.

  14. steamhead

    steamhead Active Member


    Bachmann Spectrums (at least the ones I've bought) are DCC ready, that means they've installed a plug for you to plug a DCC decoder in there. It's the ol' Plug 'n Play set up. Just ask at your nearest HS for the proper decoder for your loco. If no HS near by, go online to, they've got all the info you need + very good customer service (no, I don't work for them...).

    Good luck!

  15. steamhead

    steamhead Active Member

    Oh, by the way, DCC requires very CLEAN track for good performance. Check out HO TRACK GUARD on eBay. Do yourself a favor...You'll be glad you did! (Yes, I do work for them (me)).


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