"DCC Ready" - what does that really mean?

Tuna Apr 22, 2008

  1. Tuna

    Tuna TrainBoard Member

    I see this on many ads for locomotives - DCC Ready - but what does that really mean?

    Is the locomotive 'plug-n-play' as far as the decoder is concerned?

    In the past, I've paid my local hobby shop to install decoders. Now that they are closing, I've got to figure it out for myself.
  2. justinjhnsn3

    justinjhnsn3 TrainBoard Member

    Yes it is plug and play. All you have to do is take the dummy plug off and plug in the decorder.
  3. Tuna

    Tuna TrainBoard Member

    Any particular decoder?
    I'm running a Digitrax Zepher currently in HO locomotives.
  4. dstuard

    dstuard TrainBoard Member

    It may or may not mean plug 'n play, but for sure means that the motor is electrically isolated from the frame. If it is "DCC ready" you will not need to isolate the motor, mill the frame or any of that other dire stuff.

    Depending on the scale you work in and individual loco, there may be a drop in light board replacement, or a decoder with a multipin plug that replaces a jumper plug in the loco, or even an installation that requires some wiring and soldering.

    BTW, most of my N-scale locos are "plug 'n play" and there's not a plug, socket or jumper to be found (they use light board replacement decoders).

    Check the websites of the major decoder manufacturers and that of your loco manufacturer to see if they have a specific decoder (not "decorder") recommendation for your loco.
  5. Lownen

    Lownen TrainBoard Member

    Decoders depend on the model and manufacturer of the locomotive itself. Manufacturers list the decoders specific to locomotives on their sites. If none is listed you have to install a generic hard-wired decoder. This is not nearly so difficult in HO as it is in N scale.

    Digitrax.com: Product Listing Mobile Decoders

    That's Digitrax' list.
  6. sandro schaer

    sandro schaer TrainBoard Member

    in my understanding :

    - dcc-ready : plug-and-play
    - dcc-capable : installation means some work (such as disassembling the drive)
    - no dcc : installation means milling the frame, hardwiring of a decoder.

    so for n-scale :

    - only kato offers dcc-ready locos
    - all atlas are dcc-capable since the drives have to be disassembled to install the decoder
    - old atlas/kato engines were no-dcc. frames had to be milled and/or decoders had to be hardwired

    this is only how i specify dcc-ready and such.
  7. AB&CRRone

    AB&CRRone TrainBoard Supporter

    Not all Atlas have to be disassembled completely even though decoder instructions tell you to do this. After disassembly of a GP-7TT and having to reassemble it several times to quiet the engine noise I looked for a better way.

    For the next two GP-7TT's I did not remove the frame screws, just loosened them to the point I could spread the tops of the frame halves enough to remove the light board and slip in the decoder. Using toothpicks to hold the spread frame halves helps. The decoder installation worked fine and no engine noise after pushing the frame halves together and tightening the screws.

    Because of some newer, thinner decoders, some Atlas installations will not make contact regardless of the method. Solder has to be added to the decoder pads, or plastic shims have to be inserted under the decoder, in order for the decoder to make proper contact. This makes me shy of adding additional Atlas locos to my roster.

  8. sandro schaer

    sandro schaer TrainBoard Member

    it's still not plug-and-play.

    i need to loosen the screws, disassemble the drive or add solder to the decoder.

    these are not tasks for beginners. also i expect a company like atlas to get rid of the design flaws :
    - noisy 4-axle locos (ron bearden modification necessary)
    - not really plug-and-play decoder installation
    - some quality issues with their 3-axle-trucks
  9. mfm_37

    mfm_37 TrainBoard Member

    "DCC Ready" means what Doug said. The motors brushes are isolated from the frame. (Except the GS4 but only sometimes)
    Isolating the motor brushes from the frame is a major part of a decoder installation so if that's been done, the balance of the install is relatively simple.

    "Decoder Ready" doesn't mean plug and play, or that the lights are isolated from the frame or even that anyone has actually introduced a decoder specific to it.

    Martin Myers
  10. Tuna

    Tuna TrainBoard Member

    Hi Martin,
    That's what I'm beginning to realize. I really don't want to become a DCC installer expert either.
    My problem is that my favorite local hobby shop (with my favorite DCC technician) is closing and I'll probably have to learn stuff that I didn't want to learn soon. Or I'll have to buy only stuff that is already DCC and sound installed.
  11. jeffrey-wimberly

    jeffrey-wimberly TrainBoard Member

    DCC Ready means different things to different manufacturers. On some locos it means simply that the motor has been isolated from the frame. On some others it means that it's ready for DCC and may even be equipped with a plug. DCC capable in many cases means that the loco can be made DCC with only a little reworking. Athearn Blue Box locos are DCC capable
  12. SteamDonkey74

    SteamDonkey74 TrainBoard Supporter

    There should be more standards on what phrase can be used for what loco when, but not all manufacturers use the terms in the same way.

    What might be a good thing for you to try is to see if the guy who does their DCC installations is willing to do yours AFTER the shop closes. I am sorry to see your favorite LHS close. The thing is, that guy who does their DCC installations will likely still be around, unless he plans on moving somewhere else for work, and would probably appreciate some extra income for doing something he is already doing.

    Good luck!

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