Newbie questions

Discussion in 'FAQs' started by MITBeta, Dec 14, 2001.

  1. MITBeta

    MITBeta New Member

    Hi all... first off, this is a great forum, I've been reading all the past posts and have learned a lot.

    Here are a couple of questions I have:

    1. I have a few locos that came from cheapo train sets over the years... one is 20 years old, and a few others are a little newer. Two of them are Tycos, and one is a TGV loco made in Hong Kong apparently. They questions are, were these made by any of the big companies that I've been reading about today? Is it worth taking the time to disassemble, clean, oil, reassemble, etc. to get them to work, or are they so cheap that I might as well throw them out and start fresh?

    2. I just bought a Bachmann Spectrum Acela train set. Now from the reading I've done around here, it seems like Bachmann isn't well liked, but if people have anything good to say about Bachmann it's generally to praise the Acela. The set is much higher quality than the cheapo trains from question one. Anyway, the questions I have about it are:

    a. The box says that it is "DCC Ready." Does this mean that there is a decoder installed already, or just that it's really easy to install one? Does anyone know if there are decoders in the other cars as well for controlling lights?

    b. The loco has a working pantograph. My impression is that when running on DC, the caternary would become the live wire and the train would still be grounded through the rails. If this is the case, then is it not also possible to run pantograph operations that utilize DCC?

    c. The set comes with a Spectrum series power pack/transformer. This pack is potentiometer controlled. Is this at least a half decent power pack? For the time being, I just want to run the train in a circle until I can build a nice layout and buy a DCC setup. Should I invest in a better pack for just short term use?

    I'm sure I'll have lots more questions in the weeks and months to come... but for now, thanks in advance for the help.
  2. roryglasgow

    roryglasgow Active Member

    Hi, MITBeta!

    I think that in general Tyco is considered to be one of quality manufacturers. They haven't made train sets for a long time, but for a lot of us, a Tyco train set was our first. It might at the very least get you started, but don't judge the quality of other locomotives by Tyco's performance. I had a Tyco loco (sounds like a drink, doesn't it?) when I was a kid and it ran just fine over my Apex and Hypotenuse layout (an Atlas plan). It's definitely worth holding on to!

    The rolling stock in the Tyco sets is a good start. Here is a thread where Catt! shows a Tyco covered hopper car that he weathered:

    Bachmann is a mixed bag, especially with N-scale. They've come out with some good quality stuff recently, and from what I hear the Acela is one of their good ones. Their Spectrum Series is their higher quality line.

    "DCC Ready" means that there is a socket somewhere that lets you plug in a DCC controller, as opposed to a non-DCC locomotive which usually requires that you take a soldering iron to it to install the board.

    Another good source of Bachmann information (besides this really great board) is the forum on their website:

    The Gauge is a great place to get information. There are a lot of folks here who have a lot of knowledge and experience, and they are always willing to help out!

  3. billk

    billk Active Member

  4. IMRL393

    IMRL393 Member

    Rory is correct (about the "DCC ready", if not about websites!).
    The only loco that I know of ...

    (notice nice legal disclaimer ?)

    ...that comes with the decoder already installed is the ATLAS Master Series.

    These can be run DC or DCC, so are nice to get if you are currently DC going to DCC later - plus they are GREAT locos!

    You can also get decoder installed locos via Tony's Train Exchange - they will install the decoder of your choice (or even a sound system!) - for a reasonable (considering the work needed sometimes) extra fee.

    (And no - I don't get paid by either of these companies !)

    Let us all know how the Acela works out !!!

    Happy Holidays !!!

    - George

    PS Seen my movie yet this season ????

  5. MITBeta

    MITBeta New Member

    I've found Bachmann's site to be pretty much useless in terms of getting information from it. I suppose that I could email customer service, but it's more likely that people around here would have the answer before a customer service person there would...

    Anyway... I had the Acela Locomotive apart yesterday and the shell is mostly filled with die-cast metal... there is a circuit board of some kind that may do nothing more than control the directional lighting, but not being an electronics expert may also be a decoder. In any event, there did not seem to be a socket for plugging one in, nor did there seem to be enough room to stick one in, especially considering that there is a vertical post that interfaces with the pantograph bus on the inside of the cover....

    Anyway... I guess I was hoping that someone would have more first hand knowledge with respect to this set...

    Ok... so after some poking around the "forum" at the Bachmann website, I found this quote from "the Bach-man":

    So does this mean it comes with a decoder? So confusing...
  6. billk

    billk Active Member

    This might be a dumb question, but did you try getting onto Bachmann's forum and asking? There's usually someone, either the "Bach-Man" or someone else, that can answer questions like this.
    (Although I agree that their forum is usually pretty worthless. Ninety percent of the posting could be avoided if the poster would just read answers to previous posts, there's too much "my train is broke, what should I do", and thank goodness the Harry Potter furor is dying down!)

    I just re-read your original post a little more carefully (too busy picking on Rory before). I really doubt if you need to use the pantograph for either DC or DCC (in fact I wonder if it really works - I don't recall them advertising the overhead cable stuff).
    Bill K
  7. MITBeta

    MITBeta New Member

    I have submitted a question to the Bachmann forum... I did not realize that it existed when I made my last post.

    Anyway, the pantograph does work, and there are modelers who have bought premade or made their own catenaries for them... take a look at this guy's site:

    My question, though, was not whether the pantograph is required for operation (it's not, there's an internal selector switch), but whether it CAN be used in DCC... Now I know that I could just build a non-working catenary, but there would be something really cool about having a working one AND being able to use DCC.
  8. roryglasgow

    roryglasgow Active Member

    OK, Bill (aka, Mr. Smarty Pants), is a legitimate link! But oddly enough it doesn't appear to be working today. Their site came right up with The latter address was the one that I used to get to the site with, but it kept redirecting me to the I thought I'd cut out the middle man and go straight to But lately I haven't been able to get onto their site...until I tried when I was trying to prove you wrong.

    Make sense?

    Uh, maybe I did have too many Tyco locos afterall... :)


    P.S. - MITBeta: The Bach-Man usually posts a response within 24 hours. They're actually pretty good at support, from what I understand, and they're a really good source of information for anything Bachmann.
  9. IMRL393

    IMRL393 Member

    MITBeta -

    I just went to the TTX site - he sells the Acela both as an individual loco and (for more money) with a decoder (that they install.)

    My factory decoder-equipped Atlas GP-40 is sold only "with decoder."

    I gather from this that the Acela is NOT usually sold decoder equipped, and you must replace the light circuit board with a decoder for DCC operation.

    For what it's worth .....

    - George

    PS: the TTX web site is:

    if you don't hear from Bachmann, send an e-mail to Tony!

    - G
  10. Drew1125

    Drew1125 Active Member

    Hello MITbeta, & welcome to the gauge!
    I'll start right off by telling you that I probably won't be much help to you, because I know nothing about DCC, or overhead wiring.
    But you asked about the quality of Bachman products...
    The Spectrum Series, in my humble opinion, are high quality models.
    As for the standard fare from Bachman...well...things can be a little sketchy in that area.
    You've probably got a good thing with that Acela...
    I hope you have some good responces to your electrical queries...
    With a moniker like that, you should be able to teach the rest of us a thing or two! ;)
    Once again, welcome to the club!
    Hang in there, & let us know how things are going!
  11. kf4jqd

    kf4jqd Active Member

    Walther's site

    Hello MITBeta:

    I like to use Athearn engines. They are in the middle. They run good and looks nice.

    Here is a good site to look for train stuff. They also have phone numbers and links to manufacturers.

    They have a HUGE catalogs for O scale, HO, and N.

  12. Railery

    Railery Member

    Hi MITBeta,

    What kind of DCC platform would u be refering too?
    Digitrax, Lenz.... And if it is decoder ready, U just have to add the decoder. Not hard to do, supposedly, not like athern, just joking, i do have alot of athern and some i have decoderized already, but i am a little piffed at the Genisis SD70i. Personally i like the Katos' for being decoder ready. i have a decoderized atlas but have not run it. But i have heard nothing but good reviews about it. Bachmann spectrum is also good. i've decoderized all mine already and my Walthers . Life like Proto Series is good too. What can i say, i like them all. i love my diesels, i wished i could run them all at the same time, boy would that be a nice size layout.:D
    ps, cannot help u on the power pack, greek to me.
  13. sealpup

    sealpup New Member


    The Acela is by far the BEST that Bachmann has to offer. As far as DCC, everyone that I have spoken to says it is the simplest to hook up. I am looking into running mine off of a catenary, but have yet to look into the DCC aspect of the set. I can ask the owner of the shop that I deal with and see if he knows anything about it....check back for another post from me in a few days.


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