Decoders in cheap locos - worthwhile?

Discussion in 'DCC & Electronics' started by basementdweller, Jul 22, 2004.

  1. I am just getting started in DCC, my Prodigy should be here soon, while I will be adding decoders to the Athearn, Hornby, and LL2K locos, my son has several Model Power locos, is it worthwhile adding decoders to these cheaper locos or just run them in DC mode?
    He does enjoy them and the're don't run bad at all (8 wheel pick up), if anything they run too fast.
    I appreciate your thoughts.
    Thanks martin.
  2. Just an additional thought, the only issue I see is adding a $20 decoder to a $10 locomotive, but if he enjoys them then why not?
  3. jwmurrayjr

    jwmurrayjr Member


    My limited experience is that most locos run better on DCC. You can set the CVs to "tune" the way the loco runs. Even the top speed (Very handy when you have kids operating.) Most (All?) of my locos (steam) are relative inexpensive.

    If you can spring for the decoders then you'll be able to run them all with out using the "00" address DC feature.

  4. Gary Pfeil

    Gary Pfeil Active Member

    I have an old Model Power C628 or some such, (sorry I've had a few vodkas) anyway, I did a lot of work on it 20 years ago and it has sentimental value, so I installed a DH121 in it many years ago. I choose the decoder based on cheap, and other than Soundtrax, all non sound decoders are the no frills type. However, in a loco such as this, if you intend to run consisted with others, consider getting a slightly more expensive decoder which allows speed tables. Like you mentioned , the loco runs faster at a given viltage than other locos. A decoder which allows speed tables will allow you to run the loco with other, more "suitable" locos. Yes, you can alter starting voltage even with the DH121, but in the case of this loco that's not sufficient. If you're not concerned with consisting then any decoder will do. To answer your question, if the loco means something to you (or your son) yes it's worth it. BTW, I paid 3.99 each for 4 of those Model Power locos, back in the late 70's when no other Century units were available. Now Stewart has really nice units for about $100, but I don't need them! I'm about to buy a better decoder for it so I can run it in consist with a brass Alco unit I bought, which, BTW, doesn't run nearly as well! I need to play with speed table to do so. The DH121 will wind up in Stewart F units, which will run quite nicely with it, thank you.
  5. Fred_M

    Fred_M Guest

    It's suppose to be fun, so go for it, you can always use the decoders in something else. That's what we use to tell ourselves when we put $800 worth of mags and tires on a $100 car so we could look cool while listing to our $600 stereo. The oil light came on at every stop sign because we couldn't afford a 69 cent quart of oil, but we looked cool and could really jam. :D Fred
  6. shaygetz

    shaygetz Active Member

    Go for it, I myself love the looks on club member faces when Thomas takes a lap around the club layout. Rulez is rulez and as long as they's got a decoder, Thomas and Percy can run with the big dogs. :thumb: :thumb:
  7. siderod

    siderod Member

    This guy is looking into my future i bet ya!

    Only change is the car is $33 000 new. :D

    That, or i could get one of those ninja bikes and outrun ya'll! :thumb:

  8. N Gauger

    N Gauger 1:20.3 Train Addict

    :eek: :eek: :eek: :eek:

    shaygetz: You're my idol! :D :D You must have some sort of idea of the comments I get when The G gauge Thomas rolls around the Layout :) :) :)

    That's a "Kids' Toy"

    My "Standard reply": ... I have to get old... I Refuse to grow up!" :D :D :D :D

    My Inventory: Climax, U25-B, The Eggliner, an Aristo Trolly, The Redesigned Deisel, The "Outhouse car", Mr Rodgers Neighborhood Trolly, and Thomas :) :) You can see by my manefest - that my layout is slightly abnormal :)
  9. Alan B

    Alan B Member

    One modular layout around my home town has a memeber with a decoder equipped Thomas and a decoder equipped Hogwarts Express. Both are big hits with the younger set. The Hogwarts has a huge LED and looks like a rolling flashlight! But, the Hogwarts Express in the movie has a bright headlight too.

    I'd put in a cheap Lenz LE1000W in your son's locos. That way he can run with the big system. And, you might be able to improve their running. If he's old enough for power tools, now's a good time to teach soldering.
  10. Allen, my son is 10, and has had a crack at some soldering, this might be something for him to tackle, so far it has just been basic stuff.
  11. siderod

    siderod Member

    A guy in the group i'm in has an N-scale TOMIX Thomas and 2 coaches (forget the names as of now) and he runs 'em senseless at shows and such...the kids love it. I swear, i didn't see him there when i rammed him with 3 SD90's and a 30-car container train (whoooppss)
  12. jwmurrayjr

    jwmurrayjr Member

  13. Railery

    Railery Member

    Hi Jim. You won't go wrong in installing decoders in your older locos. When DCC first came out thats what I had to do. The wiring is not that difficult. I even used some N scale decoders for a couple of engines. All engines had a remarkable improvement in running after converting. Don't forget to replace the headlights bulbs.

  14. shaygetz

    shaygetz Active Member

    ...werkin' on one o' those myself :thumb: :thumb:
  15. racedirector

    racedirector Member

    Oh am I happy to find this thread :) I am going to build my 4 yr old son a layout and populate it with Thomas, Percy and co. It is good to know that decoders can be put into them.....

    How about Kadee's? :)

  16. shaygetz

    shaygetz Active Member

    They make Kadees for everything now. I'm sure Thomas and Percy have one out there. I went out last week to see if they made a conversion kit for the Tyco Talgo truck mounted couplers that this oil can had. It simply could not have body mounts. They do...

    Attached Files:

  17. Freelancer

    Freelancer Member

    racedirector, Digitrax had this link on their website. Engines/thomas.htm

    As for installing decoders in cheap engines. That is exactly what I do :oops: , I see it this way, it is a $20 locomotive, and I add a $20 decoder to it, it doubles the value. Now I have an expensive $40 locomotive. :D

    When the engine wears out, or you get your son a new engine, just take the decoder out, and put it into the new engine. I would definitely suggest putting the time and money into making your son happy!

  18. Matthyro

    Matthyro Will always be re-membered

    A word of warning, don't expect a decoder of any price to improve the way a loco operates. Get it running at its best on DC before you even think about putting a decoder in.
  19. racedirector

    racedirector Member

    Thanks Freelancer

    Good info about Thomas and DCC.

    My son is mad about trains so my plan is to keep him interested as long as possible. I'd rather have him playing trains than watching TV or on a computer - MRR is more stimulating. He's getting a 4x8 in his room that he and his sister (6) can scenic while I do the track and wiring.

  20. 60103

    60103 Pooh Bah

    If Thomas and Percy are Hornby models, you may have trouble fitting Kadees to them. If they are Bachman, it could be easier.
    If the old couplings are molded onto the underframe or bogies, it will be a hack and fit job.

Share This Page