Newb questions about decoders for HO engines

Discussion in 'DCC & Electronics' started by Dorkmaster Flek, Jan 6, 2007.

  1. I'm basically just getting started here, but having a background in computers, I understand what's going on with DCC and it's very cool I must say. I've already decided on Digitrax as my system of choice, mainly because of their network architecture and transponding features. However, from what I understand about transponding, you need Digitrax decoders to make use of it. So what I'm looking for is some information about installing Digitrax decoders in engines, since I'm working in HO scale.

    Now I know Atlas is highly regarded with their engine quality, and some of their trains come equipped with decoders already, but others are simple "DCC-ready". This means they're ready to have a decoder installed but they don't have one yet, correct? I've read that there is kind of standard "slot" in some of these DCC ready engines that allows you to take a compatible decoder and simply drop it in the slot, kind of like installing a CPU in the motherboard socket.

    Basically, what I'm looking for is information about what to look for when examining engines and how this supposed slot installation works. It sounds like the easiest way to go, easier than doing a wired installation anyway. Is there a particular slot I should look for on an engine, and then look for decoders that match that slot that can be dropped into place easily? It's also possible I could be totally misinformed about this too. :p Thanks in advance, any help is greatly appreciated!
  2. Nomad

    Nomad Active Member

    Hello, I am no expert at dcc, but I think the best way for me to answer your question is look at decoders. All of the better decoders conform to NMRA standards. When you look at decoders, you will see some with plugs on the wiring, and others just have the wires. Most locos that are dcc ready will have the mating plug to fit the decoder plug. These are considered plug and play type. Other locos just have the motor isolated from the frame. That is also considered dcc ready. Those take a bit more work to install, but usally not to dificult.
  3. oldtanker

    oldtanker Member

    There is an on-board board to control directional lighting on DCC ready engines. You unplug and remove the board and replace it with the decoder that plugs into the same receptacle. All you have to do is make sure you are plugging it in right, they can be plugged in backwards.

  4. Ah, so this plug is what I'm looking for then. You just plug the decoder in. Brilliant! :thumb: Thanks for the help!
  5. NYNH&H

    NYNH&H Member

    As far as transponding, you do need to have Digitrax decdoers. I am not sure if you can remove the Atlas decoders that come with the locomotives, and put a Digitrax one in. If a decoder does not do transponding (like it is not made by Digitrax), then you can still detect that something is in the block, you just can't figure out what it is. Start out without the transponding and detection, and then move up to the more advanced stuff so you are no overwhelmed. You should, however, wire the layout with terminal strips as if you are using the BDL168s, and just use terminal jumpers in place of the BDL168s until you get them.
  6. Yeah that sounds good. I definitely want to be using some BDLs and probably eventually transponding since I'm moving towards layout control and automation. It's quite cool and I find it very interesting. :)
  7. hooknlad

    hooknlad Member

    MIchael has a question for the gang here? Are some DCC companies proprietary and require their decoders and their controllers to be matched? As long as the NMRA standards are followed by the manufacturer, DCC is DCC is Dcc, is this correct? I do understand that sometimes a "garbage" decoders' function's will not fully function properly.
  8. From what I understand, that is correct. All DCC compliant decoders support certain key functions as mandated by the standard. However, they can provide extra functionality beyond the standard that is supported only by that manufacturers equipment as well, such as with transponding with Digitrax systems. If your decoder doesn't support Digitrax transponding, you have to add an extra small chip or replace the decoder with a Digitrax one.
  9. NYNH&H

    NYNH&H Member

    Yep, thats pretty much it. A transponding layout can run with both types of decoders at the same time, Digitrax and non Digitrax, but only the Digitrax ones can be transponded with.
  10. UKSteam

    UKSteam Member

    DF There is another option. Check out the software from RailRoad & CO. I was going to go down the transponding path until someone pointed me in the direction of the software. It negates the need for transponding and the inherent cost and restriction to one manufacturers encoders. One caveat though, the cost benefit will depend on your layout size. A small number of locos and the RR&Co software does not balance out the cost of initially going the transponding route. A large number of locos, and the cost is offset substantially, AND you can use more manufacturers encoders. You say you are a computer person so go DL their trial version and play with it a bit, I'm very impressed with what I've experienced with it so far and it is going to be the heart of my layout as it allows a mix of auto and manual control.
  11. Yes, I ran across that software in the course of my research. I definitely want to try this out with my layouts. Transponding is still in its infancy, so I'm probably sticking with just occupancy detection for now since this software can run trains without transponding just fine. The Digitrax BDL168 actually lends itself nicely to wiring blocks and detection sections for that software as well.
  12. NYNH&H

    NYNH&H Member

    RR&Co works well in combination with transponding. It does not replace it.

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