American Z Line Converting Alco PA-1 to DCC, can it be done?

drken May 12, 2022

  1. drken

    drken TrainBoard Member

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    Upon opening up my new PA-1, I noticed that it uses a different PCB setup for its electronics than previous locomotives. The board is attached to the chassis by screws and the motor attaches to the board by way of copper wires that poke up through holes in the board rather than using tabs as before. That's all fine and good, but I can't find anything on-line on how to convert this loco to DCC. I'm worried that the wires poking up through the board are connected to the motor under tension and that once the board is removed, I'll never get them back again, but there's no way to know without going in blind and I'd rather not risk it at this point. AZL customer support hasn't responded to my questions and nobody on their message board seems to know. Has anybody here converted, or at least attempted to convert the PA-1 model to DCC?
     
  2. tjdreams

    tjdreams TrainBoard Member

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    Yes I have put decoders in my PA1 PB1 set
    Its easy took me about 15 minutes. you just have to do a little soldering and cut one trace
    I used a D&H PD05A it fits nicely behind the rear board mount. A ESU LokPilot 5 Micro DCC will also fit in the same spot

    PB1
    Remove the shell
    Unscrew the board
    Have 3 people and 2 large magnets standing by to catch the springs, brushes, gears, armature, motor housing, wheels, axles, washers, ladders, smoke stack, and Santa Claus Hat that will go flying woops Just kidding I was thinking of the wrong model :LOL::LOL::LOL::LOL:
    Nothing will go flying just make sure you put all 4 screws in a safe place so you don't loose them
    Lift the board off, flip it over and remove the 2 large green resistors.
    Solder the orange and gray motor wires to where the resistor was attached in the middle of the board
    Solder the red and black wires to where the resistor was attached at the end of the board
    Put board back in place and reinstall the screws
    Put the shell back on
    Program your decoder to your desired Number and have fun running it

    PA1-PB1.JPG

    For the PA1
    Unsolder and remove D1 and C1
    Cut the trace Next to the R1 resister
    Solder the Blue wire to the pad where D1 was and the white wire to the pad where D2 would be.
    Wire the rest the same as the PB1

    PA1-1.JPG
     
    Last edited: May 14, 2022
  3. Zscaleplanet

    Zscaleplanet TrainBoard Supporter

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    Dave, thanks for blazing the trail yet again and for always sharing your knowledge.
     
  4. drken

    drken TrainBoard Member

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    Thanks a lot! I knew I should have gone here first. I don't have any D&H or ESU decoders, but I assume a Digitrax DZ126 or DZ126T (which I do have) should do the job.
     
    rray likes this.
  5. drken

    drken TrainBoard Member

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    Thanks a lot! I knew I should have gone here first. I don't have any D&H or ESU decoders, but I assume a Digitrax DZ126 or DZ126T (which I do have) should do the job.

    Oops! Sorry for the double post.
     
  6. tjdreams

    tjdreams TrainBoard Member

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    A few pictures of a ESU decoder installed in my PA1

    5.JPG

    6.JPG

    7.JPG
    Screws were removed so i could take it back out to photograph the wiring.


    For more pictures of various decoders that will fit Check out my post in the First release of The PA1 / PB1 thread back in February 2022 on the AZL forum
    https://azlforum.com/thread/2147/azl-february-2022-items-pa1s
     
    rray, Kez and husafreak like this.
  7. SJ Z-man

    SJ Z-man TrainBoard Member

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    In a few weeks, TCS and a bit later, Digitrax will be supplying ‘screw-in’ ones. The Digitrax model will have the upgraded 126 series chip.
     
    sumgai, Rio Grande, drken and 3 others like this.
  8. drken

    drken TrainBoard Member

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    Now things start to make sense. It would have been nice to hear about a new decoder when they released the loco. What advantages will a 126 series chip give? I don't think I've ever heard a DCC electronics company mention what chip they used.
     
    Last edited: May 16, 2022
  9. markm

    markm TrainBoard Supporter

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    It’s not actually the chip they’re talking about, it’s the programming. As I understand it, the 126 decoders have additional lighting functionality which are programmed different than the older versions and has motor short circuit functionality.
     

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