DCC Decoder

Discussion in 'Getting Started' started by TruckLover, May 18, 2006.

  1. TruckLover

    TruckLover Mack CH613 & 53' Trailer

    I am planning to add running trains to my HO Scale layout and I was looking at all the different engines and noticed that some say DCC Equipped, some say DCC Ready, and some say DCC Plug In. I know that you need them to control each engine but thats about all I know about them.

    Can anyone help me and tell me what I need?:cry:

    If I need to buy a DCC Decoders, can someone tell me who has them?

    The engines I will be getting are Athearn. They are:

    GP38-2, GP40-2, GP60M, SD45T-2, SD50, SD60, C44-9W, AC4400

    Any info. would be nice!!
  2. Russ Bellinis

    Russ Bellinis Active Member

    If you go to the sticky at the top of the dcc forum, you should find info on where to buy decoders. I think dcc plug in and dcc ready are two ways to say the same thing. The engine is wired with the motor isolated from the chassis and wheel pickups. There is a receptical with a jumper plug installed to run on dc. If you want to run dcc, you get the correct decoder, (all decoders will interchange electrically, but specific ones are made for different models due to differences in space available to house the decoder) and remove the jumper plug and plug the decoder in its place. Dcc equipped locomotives have the decoder installed from the factory, you just put them on the track, program the decoder, and play. If you want to run dcc, dcc equipped locomotives are less expensive than buying a dcc ready locomotive and buying a decoder to install in it. If you aren't running dcc, but will in the future, dcc equiped locomotives will work on dc. As soon as the decoder recognises that there is no dcc signal in the track, it will default to dc operation. If you are not running dcc and don't plan to do it in the future, you can save money by buying dcc ready locomotives. You may find some older locomotives at a swap meet, ebay, or for sale used on sites like this one that are not dcc equipped or dcc ready, but virtually everything currently manufactured is made dcc ready.
  3. MasonJar

    MasonJar It's not rocket surgery

    Some engines have lightboards or other circuitry in place of a simple jumper - still has the same effect though. you just pull one part out, and plug the decoder in instead.

    The definition of DCC ready means different things to different manufacturers, so you might look up the website(s) of the company before you buy. Same goes for the decoders - look at the websites to make sure you get the recommended decoder for the particular locomotive.

    A good all-around source for decoder/DCC info is Tony's Trains. They'll even do the installation for you if you need/want.

  4. TruckLover

    TruckLover Mack CH613 & 53' Trailer

    On my new layout I am going to have 20 + engines. Do I need to buy decoders for all of them if they are DCC Ready or can I just run them?
  5. Russ Bellinis

    Russ Bellinis Active Member

    It is going to depend on the manufacturer's definition of "dcc ready." I think most manufacturers define "dcc ready" as having a plug installed in the locomotive, so you just unplug the factory jumper plug and install your decoder. If that is the case, yes you will need to buy decoders for all 20 locomotives. I think generally if the locomotive has a decoder installed, it will say "dcc equiped."
  6. TruckLover

    TruckLover Mack CH613 & 53' Trailer

  7. Russ Bellinis

    Russ Bellinis Active Member

    I'm going to check with Hobby Warehouse. I didn't know Athearn was coming out with Gp40x's. I've been wanting those forever! What you might do is go on the link to Arnie's trains at the top of the page here on the gauge. They are in Westminster near the Westminster Mall 714 area code. Give them a call and ask them. They can probably tell you if that means those locomotives come with dcc installed or not. The last order of Athearn r-t-r that I helped Eli receive at Hobby Warehouse, some locomotives came in dcc equipped and some were dcc ready if I remember correctly. There is a market for both types so many manufacturers are filling both markets. The guy running dc on a layout who doesn't want to spend the money for a dcc system, doesn't want to pay the extra price for a dcc equipped locomotive. The guy running dcc would rather have the dcc already installed so he can program it and start running.
  8. TruckLover

    TruckLover Mack CH613 & 53' Trailer

    I am going to Arnie's Trains on June 3rd cause that is when they are restocking there entire store so I will have to ask them about it. Thanks:)

    Can you tell me what the differance between dc and dcc is? I guess what i am trying to say is do I need anything else exept for what the engine comes with to run multiple engines at the same time?

    I am so confused :confused: and I feel like an idiot hamrcause I cant seem to understand this. :curse:wall1 wall1 wall1

    Can you help me Russ Bellinis
  9. Russ Bellinis

    Russ Bellinis Active Member

    Dc puts the power to the track from you power pack/throttle and the locomotive picks up the power directly from the track. The newer power packs since the 80s or maybe even into the 70s use transistor controlled throttles to modulate the voltage, lower voltage = lower speed, higher voltage = higher speed. If 2 or more locomotives will run at a reasonably close speed you can run them together on dc. Unless you have your layout wired into blocks, and have separate throttles, you can only run one train at a time. If you have it wired into separate blocks that are isolated from one another, and either have a separate throttle for each block and move from throttle to throttle as your train moves around the layout, or have rotary switches that will direct each block in turn to one or the other throttle, then you can run more than one train at the same time. My experience with trying to run multiple trains is that one train is enough for me to keep track of. It is one of the advantages of being in a club or having some model railroad buddies to come over and operate trains. That is a "down & dirty" description of dc.

    With dcc, a constant 14 volts is supplied to all of the tracks all of the time. There is a decoder inside the locomotive. You put the locomotive on some sort of programming track and assign an address to the decoder in a specific locomotive. The dcc system sends a high frequency digital ac signal through the tracks. You would have a throttle that will also program. The most common way to address a locomotive is with the number of the locomotive. Let's say you have a model of a Santa Fe Gp40x. From Athearn it will come with #3802 or #3808. For the sake of the example we'll say your locomotive is #3802, and you programmed the locomotive decoder to recognise #3802 as it's address. That locomotive will sit on the track with 14 volts going to it, the light will be lit, but it won't move until you pick up a throttle and tell it to control 3802. Now if you push the forward button on the throttle and turn the dial to power up the locomotive, that throttle will wake up #3802 and tell it to start moving forward, and 3802 will start moving.
    If #4556 is sitting on the track 5 feet in front of #3802, but it hasn't been commanded to move, #3802 could run into it just like the prototype. You are no longer restricted to running one train per block. In the modular club that I belong to, we used to run dc control, and the layout would be divided into 8 blocks, for on the inside main and 4 on the outside main. We could run a maximum of 4 trains at one time. If the locomotives of two trains got int the same block simultaneously, both would slow down, but one would usually be faster. If the faster train was in front, we could just wait for it to clear the block without a problem; but usually the only reason 2 trains got into the same block was that one was overtaking the other. When the faster train was in the rear, the only way to avoid a rear end collision was to stop both trains. Reverse both trains until the faster train had backed clear of the block. Then stop that train in the previous block and run the other train forward until the space between them was restored. Now with dcc, we don't have to worry about spacing, relative train speeds or anything. We do need to pay attention to what we are doing so we don't run into the back of another train, but if there is room on the mainline to fit a train, we can bring it out and run it there. We are building a yard for the layout now. When it is completed, with dcc, we can have two switchers working independently of each other in the same yard at the same time. You just can't do that with dc. Dcc requires a starter set that will consist of a power supply, a command station, throttles (either tethered or wireless), and decoders in each locomotive. Thanks to the NMRA setting standards for dcc, decoders are universal. All decoders will work witrh any dcc system. The rest of the system is not compatible, that is you can't use a North Coast Engineering throttle with a Digitrax command station and an Ezdcc power supply. If you buy dcc, get one system. For decoders, you can use whatever the locomotive manufacturer put in, or whatever fits.

    When you go to Arnie's in June, ask them to demonstrate dcc and ask any questions you have. I haven't been to Arnies in a long time, but I think they do a lot with dcc.

    I'd also like to invite you to come see the Orange County Module Railroaders at the National Orange Show in San Bernardino. We are setting up on Wednesday May 24, and will be operating through the Memorial Day weekend. I'll be there Wed & Thur and I'm sure that whoever is there when you come by will be glad to talk with you and answer any questions you might have. If you want to check us out a bit www.trainweb.org/ocmr/
  10. TruckLover

    TruckLover Mack CH613 & 53' Trailer

    Thanks so much Russ Bellinis!!:) :)

    I think I finally got it now. :D :D

    And thanks for telling me about the show next weekend. I will try to make it out there.

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