Engine manufacturer ID and decoder suggestions?

Discussion in 'HO Scale Model Trains' started by Twindad, Aug 7, 2007.

  1. Twindad

    Twindad New Member

    Attached are pictures of a few engines I recently bought at a fire sale. I was wondering if anyone could tell me who makes them, what type of engines they are, and what would be appropriate decoders for them. (If they're junk that's going to give me headaches, that would be useful to know too!)

    I know the steam engine was made by Mantua--says so on the bottom. So for that one, I'm interested in decoder recommendations.

    If the pictures aren't clear enough or of an angle that's helpful, let me know and I'll shoot some more.


    Attached Files:

  2. eightyeightfan1

    eightyeightfan1 Now I'm AMP'd

    The two top diesels look to be old Athearns.
    The top pic looks like an Alco Passenger loco. The second pic is an SD45.
    Unfortunatly, they were manufactured before the DCC craze. You can get decoders for them, but they aren't "drop-in" like model locos sold today.
    Takes alot of work, isolating the motors, cutting wires and soldering.There may be a hobby store near you that can direct you to someone that can do the work for you, or they may even be able to do it themselves.
    Good luck. Keep us posted.
  3. Russ Bellinis

    Russ Bellinis Active Member

    Actually the old Athearns are among the easiest locomotives to install dcc decoders in. The red and silver model is an Athearn Alco PA.

    You are going to need to take the drive system apart regardless because the basic design of the Athearn drive is good, but the use of various slider type contacts makes them unreliable, but easy to fix.

    Here is a link to my friend Jim Furhmann's web page on fixing common problems with Athearn diesels.

    Tune Up for HO Athearn Drives

    The next page is his directions on how to rewire the Athearn diesel with what he calls his 5 wire system.

    Five Wire System

    When you take the motor out of the frame, you need to isolate it from the frame electrically. If you follow Jim's directions on the 5 wire system, you will notice that the first thing he eliminates is the steel slider contact on top of the motor that picks up power from the top of the trucks. Notice that Jim removes the motor and carefully swaps the top brass clip holding the motor together with the bottom clip. When you do that, and put the motor back into the plastic motor mounts, the motor is automatically insulated from the frame.

    The five wire system, is shown for dc, to use it for dcc operation, you don't hook those wires to the motor. Instead for dcc, elimintae the 5th wire and make a 4 wire system. You don't need the wire that connects the frame to the motor. Every decoder includes instructions on how to wire it up, and you should read those instructions first. You should have 2 wires on the decoder that hook up to the positive and negative sides of the locomotive. The wire that should go to positive (this is when the engine runs forward, when running in reverse it is opposite) is soldered to the wires that are coming off the top clip of the trucks. The negative wire should be soldered to the wires coming off the side of the trucks. You then solder the wires that go to the motor to the top brass clip and bottom brass clip respectively. If you are going to wire in lights sound or other functions, just follow the instructions included with the decoder.

    On the Mantua steam engine, I think the Mantuas used the same system of power that brass steam engines used where in the locomotive picks up power on one side of the locomotive drivers and the oposite side of the tender wheels. You can use virtually any decoder with a steam engine because you have a lot of room in the tender to hide the decoder. Again the secret to getting a decoder to work in the steam engine is to insulate the motor completely from the frame so that the decoder can pick up power from the wheels/frames of the engine and tender, and then control the amount of power it actually applies to the motor. As far as specidic decoder reccomendations for the steam engine goes, what do you want? Do you just want dcc control? Do you want sound?
  4. Twindad

    Twindad New Member

    Thanks so much for all the great info and the links. This forum truly has been a phenomenal resource!

    Russ, you're right about the pickups in the tender being on the opposite side as the loco. As far as decoders, at this stage, I think basic dcc operation is all we need. I see what you mean about the tender holding the decoder, although it would mean a bunch of wires running between the locomotive and the tender, no? I was wondering if there were decoders small enough to fit in the loco--although I would expect it to be pretty tight.

    Thanks again!

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