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  1. #1

    Need advice on DCC with my current Locomotive stock

    Hi all, I recently re-entered the hobby after 15 years or so away. I basically bought out someone who was leaving the hobby and got the following locomotives:

    KATO EMD SD40-2 (Union Pacific #3379)
    KATO EMD SD90/43MAC (UP #8104)
    KATO GE C44-9W (UP #9702)
    LL 7518 SW9/1200 (UP #1828)
    BACHMANN EMD DD40AX (UP #6922)

    All the loco's run and look brand new. I've built a small 36x80 door layout and am currently trying to finish up the landscaping (it's a Christmas present for my two young boys...oh ok, it's for me too!).

    I'm thinking of getting a DCC system (DCC is completely new to me but I've been reading). Mostly, I just want the lights and sounds which will appeal to the boys so I don't need too much in the way of options. I was considering the Bachmann EZ DCC system due to it's inexpensive price. (One Question on this: is there a concern that low end DCC systems can hurt your loco motors???)

    So, my main question is which of my locomotives would be good candidates to convert to DCC. I might sell off one or two to pay for the DCC system as well. The big DD40AX is HUGE and it is a bit much for a door layout! I'd love to put a decoder on the 2-8-8-2.

    I guess I'm just looking for advice in general about DCC and my locomotives. I am pretty mechanically inclined but soldering electrical components was never a strong suit of mine. I don't really know what's involved in converting to DCC so I figure a safer bet is to start with a locomotive that lots of people have converted and use their experience to guide me.

    Thanks for any help or advice!

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Apr 2007
    Cincinnati, OH
    The DC component on a DCC system will usually give the engines running on it a loud buzzing noise. That has not been a viable option for me. Bachmann's DCC system is wonderful because 1) it's easy to use 2) uses the same DC plug system. I have both the DC and the DCC system and I EASILY swap out the controllers. The part that plugs into the controller is simply a 1/8" jack. I would recommend using this system.

  3. #3
    If you are uneasy with soldering, I wouldnt try and install a decoder on a non-dcc ready locomotive yourself. Find someone local that has done several, and do it together until you feel confident. Practice soldering on your own too. Just take some small gauge stranded wire, maybe decoder scraps, and practice "tinning" the wire. The secret to succesful soldering is flux, flux flux. The biggest mistake is, trying to heat the solder onto a surface. that is a no no. You heat the surface to get the solder and touch the solder to the heated surface, and not the iron itself. Solder will flow in the direction of the heat. Use a good solder paste available at any electronic store, or radio shack. Put small amount of paste on the surface, and on the tip of the iron before soldering. This can get more detailed, if ya want more soldering tips, let me know so I dont write a book here, hahhah..

    oh yeah.. Another common soldering mistake, is blowing on the hot soldered joint to cool it. Do not do this. Even your breath will contaminate the solder joint, and cause what is called a "cold solder joint". A cold solder joint does cause higher resistance, and can cause things to heat up resulting in damage. Cold solder joints are also brittle, and crack under vibration, causing premature failure down the road. Always let solder cool naturally. Joint should be silver, and shiny. Cold solder joints are dull and more grey.

    Good luck..
    Last edited by Tudor; November 17th, 2007 at 01:58 PM.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Apr 2001
    DFW, TX

    My 1/50th of a Dollar

    Quote Originally Posted by Augy View Post
    KATO EMD SD40-2 (Union Pacific #3379)
    KATO EMD SD90/43MAC (UP #8104)
    KATO GE C44-9W (UP #9702)
    LL 7518 SW9/1200 (UP #1828)
    BACHMANN EMD DD40AX (UP #6922)

    ...Mostly, I just want the lights and sounds which will appeal to the boys so I don't need too much in the way of options.

    ...I was considering the Bachmann EZ DCC system due to it's inexpensive price.

    ...I'd love to put a decoder on the 2-8-8-2.
    My advice (which is usually unpopular around here) is this:
    1. Do NOT buy the Bachmann system. If you want to do sound, you'll find the Bachmann just won't cut it. (on the other hand, it won't hurt locomotives, FYI)
    2. Buy a Lenz Set 90, Digitrax Zephyr, or NCE PowerCab.
    3. Keep your Kato's. They are excellent locos and are "board-swap" DCC ready, meaning no soldering required. I think MRC has drop in sound boards for these but I'm not 100% certain of that.
    4. I'm not familiar with the DCC and Sound prospects for the 2-8-8-2, but I seem to recall that it is not a major deal to convert to DCC...sound always complicates things a bit. I'll try to find a turorial online. (may even be one on Trainboard) Regardless, if you like the loco, find a way to get it converted because it sounds like that's the one you'll really love to run.
    5. The SW1200 is a great little loco and can be converted, but it's gonna be a little bit more of a project than the others. There are a couple of tutorials online, but most are a little dated and much smaller decoders are available now to make it a little easier. (Check out the Lenz Gold Mini or Silver Mini) Sound is probably not an option for this one unless you like microsurgery and working with radioactive metals. ;-)
    6. The DD40 is the problem child. Probably a lot of work to convert to DCC, and it seems a common theme is that these things will break easily. (gears, dead motor, etc.) Since you've already noted it isn't ideal for the smaller layout, I would sell it or use it for static display.

    Enjoy! Sounds like you are already having fun and that's the important thing.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Apr 2007
    Cincinnati, OH
    Try this site. It has a wealth of information on DCC and conversion.

    Despite the previous post's statements on the Bachmann system, if you are looking for an easy almost idiot proof system, go with that. The Digitrax would be a close second. Keep in mind that the non-Bachmann systems can have a convoluted or complex set of programming procedures. I personally own several of the Digitrax DCC systems and the Bachmann systems. The Digitrax is the more "professional" approach, but equally complex. I guess your choice depends on how serious you are about converting to DCC. The non-Bachmann systems do not lend themselves to DC operation. Do some DCC conversion research and see which direction you want to go.
    Also, running a DC engine on a DCC system that is set to DC operation CAN cause an overheating problem. That is a fact. I have personally had this occur. This event occured on a Digitrax high-end system. This isn't an issue with the Bachmann system because you simply changeout the controllers. Does it "hurt" the engine? I'll leave that up to you to decide.

  6. #6
    Oh yeah.. I forgot to mention, the 2-8-8-2 is also not friendly with smaller layouts with tighter radiuses. So, I will simply PM you a mailing address you can send it.. lol..

    The DD40 like mentioned is a trouble child, and notorous for it's cracked gear problems. HOWEVER, ebay loves them, and you can pay for other projects with them. I bought about 10 brand new, or like new condition of those awhile back from an estate, just to sell off to fund other things. I was getting over $200 ea for those junky things, and the lowest I got for one was $80, and that one was used, with 7 of 8 broken drive gears. It was listed as such and for parts only, and still sold for $80. Prices have dropped for them on ebay bow, but for the plus, and spectrum versions, they still bring better prices than they sold for new. EBAY it, and use that torwards your DCC.

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Jul 2006
    Blog Entries
    Of the locos you list, there are Plug 'n Play decoders available for the 3 Katos. Not quite as simple as it sounds but doable by following the instructions and no soldering involved. The LL locos will require soldering. Not sure about the Bachmann.

    My soldering skills were always questionable and some paralysis in my soldering hand from a stroke has not improved these skills. I can achieve most PnP installations with the help sometimes of my wife's right hand. I have done numerous Katos and some Atlas. The rest I bite the bullet and pay a professional installer.

    Edit: Dang, 3 posts while I was only typing. No wonder I don't solder.

    I'm not a child. I'm a hobbyist!
    -WKRP's "The Big Guy" as his N Scale train travels a loop of track on his office desk.

  8. #8
    Wow, thanks for all the responses. I will get the DD40 on ebay pronto and based on what I can get for it might go a long ways toward deciding which DCC system to purchase.

    I'll keep the 2-8-8-2 (thanks for the offer though Tudor!) and the other loco's for now and see about those Kato conversion decoder boards.

    Guess I better get busy....

  9. #9
    On the DD40, pm me if you would like some ebay tips with it. I was very successful selling those, I credit to marketing, and honesty. I can show you a template or example I used that got alot of hits. The biggest thing is concentrat on it's strong points. Be VERY honest with what it is, and if it is a plus, or a spectrum poiint out clearly that it is the 2 motor, 16 wheel drive version. The older standard versions only had one motor, and only two of the trucks on one end were powered. VERY weak, and could barely pull it's own weight, let along adding cars. The Plus and spectrum was still not as strong as it should have been, but MUCH better than the earlier. The $200 a pop days are gone I am afraide, but, the later versions still bring more than they sold originally for, if marketed right.

    BTW: Welcome to the forum..

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Mar 2000
    Sydney, NSW, Australia
    Blog Entries
    Welcome to TrainBoard, Augy!

    Also check the capabilities of the various DCC starter systems to program sound decoders without modifications to the programming track mode. There seems to be a lot of discussion currently regarding the limited power available on programming tracks to support a sound decoder.
    To this, NCE's PowerCab appears the only DCC starter system out-of-the-box to handle the power requirements of some sound decoders.
    Whether this includes the MRC sound decoders I can't say - sound's not of much interest to me.

    For the Katos, non-sound boards are available from Digitrax and NCE (some?).
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