Full Version: Which Decoder Should I Pick?
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I have made the plunge into DCC finally. I am using NCE. My daughter got me the NCE Power Cab Starter Set for Christmas a couple of years ago. I have set it up and have been using it comfortably for a while now. I have even begun some basic programing such as assigning addresses to specific locomotives and will be trying to create a consist.

Since I have a large number of DC locos the layout is wired for both. I still have a lot of wiring to do. Currently only half the track is wired using drops and the layout is sectioned into two blocks. I do have a surge protector between the track and the cab/transformers. I have a toggle which controls whether the layout is in DCC or DC mode.

Now for the true purpose of my post. I am ready to start converting my DC locos over to DCC. I am going to start with the DCC ready ones first. I need to work on my soldering skills before I try the others. I have an assortment of Walthers Proto, Proto 2000, Atlas Silver, Bowser, Athearn, and Bachmann. I have searched for mobile decoders. At this time, I am not interested in sound. To my dismay I have seen a gazillion different types of decoders to choose from. As a matter of fact there are so many I am overwhelmed to the point of indecision. I was pleasantly surprised, however, that the costs of many decoders is not outrageous as I had feared.

My question or request is what decoders should I consider using in these DCC ready models?
Most DCC manufacturers have a "decoder selector" on their websites, here is the Digitrax one, https://www.digitrax.com/products/engine...x/decoder/

   I have converted over 80 locomotives and some of them were not easy but not impossible. Remember #1 the locomotive motor brushes must be totally isolated and supplied only with power from the decoder. wires to the track for pickup are red and black and it does not matter what side they come from it is the proper attachment of the orange and gray wires that determines forward and reverse The blue wire is positive and common to all lighting and the white wire is front and the rear light is powered by the yellow wire. there are other lighting terminals available too. Some are not wired. A good flux helps in all soldering I find the newer solder lacking in flux so I have a liquid flux pen that I use 
For decoders I like the Digitrax DZ123PS which has a plug for DCC ready locomotives, just remove the dummy plug in the locomotive and plug it in. It will plug in 2 ways so make sure you do it right. I think the lights don't work properly if it isn't plugged in. If you shop around these can be had for less than 20 bucks each and some stores give a big discount if you buy 10. 
The other locomotives that are not ready for DCC I like the NCE D13W. Pricewise under 20 bucks and sometimes you can buy 10 for less than 16 including shipping.  They are small and rated 1 amp but I think they will tolerate a little more briefly. I generally take the time to lube all the locos and make sure they are free runners before I do the install, I also convert all of the locomotives to LED lighting which requires a resistor in line with the LED, I use 1/8 watt 1000 ohm.  
You have to be careful that nothing touches anything it shouldn't of you will let all the smoke out of the decoder. The first couple hard wires will be a little hard until you get the feel.  Having strippers that will do 30 ga wire, a good soldering station, good flux and shrink wrap are a must. Some guys use hot glue to attack the decoders, I prefer thin double sided foam tape. 
       There are many great videos on you tube watch a couple then do a decoder and rewatch the video. After doing one it is easier to understand the video 

        I know you have BLI locomotives too so they only need some programing (address) and start voltage etc. that is pretty easy and there is a program to give the settings for the two cv's that need change for a long address on some of the BLI locomotives 
         There are many here that will help you out. It seems like gobble Ly gook in the beginning but like everything else it comes easy after a little time using it. 

Feel free to PM me if you need help and I will give you my phone number that you can call most anytime and I will walk you through stuff if you need help.
Thank you. I have been looking over the website and now have some idea of what to use.

Thanks. I will definitely be pm'ing you once I start.
Now that I have done some research thanks to Charlie and Dan a couple of questions have arisen.

With the decoders I have looked at have 9 pin connectors and the locomotives have 21 pin. Does that mean I have to get an adapter?

I noticed on some of the decoders a resistor is recommended. Does this refer to the installed headlights or are they talking about additional light features?

If you haven't taken the plunge and bought any yet, if the locomotives have a 21 pin connector, my recommendation would be to buy one that's already 21 pin. My last 21 pin was a Soundtraxx unit. I believe they do make adapters to the 9-pin connectors, but the fewer the connections, the more reliable the connection in the long run.

Resistors would be for lighting features only, and resistance values would depend on the bulb or LED you select. If I use an LED, in general the resistance is about 1000 Ohms.

Thanks for the info.

The locos I am considering first are an Athearn Genesis F3A and a Walthers Mainline F7A/F7B. Both state they have NEM21 sockets(?). The other locos are four Atlas Silver C420's. I am not sure what type of connections they have.

I guess I am going to see what 21 pin decoders there are.

In the instructions for the Walthers Mainline f7's it says that you can use an adapter to go from the 9 pin to 21 pin.
So far this is the adapter I have found. https://www.walthers.com/dcc-decoder-har...54cm-wires
I am no help on the 21 pin. I have not run into that but Todd is the man for sure on that I don't think any of my locomotives are newer than 2015 if that new. The Kato SD45 and SD80MAC and the bachmann spectrum steam locomotives were good with the digitrax decoder mentioned above as well as some of the Proto locomotives that were DCC ready I did add sound decoders to 3 Proto PA's and used the MRC drop in 1802 I think was the number and I installed a MRC sound decoder in a steam switcher and they worked well. I am waiting for a TSU 2000 decoder I ordered for a PRR Q2 and I hope that goes well I have done all the wiring so it should be a matter of putting a jst micro plug on it to mate with the harness installed. I also used the NCE in 3 brass steam locomotives and several diesels and I didn't especially need sound in them. All preform well but I did replace the motors
You will do fine. You can for starters use a 1156 auto bulb in series with a track lead to make power districts. These limit the current to a district to 1 amp and won't shut down the whole layout. I am guessing you have blocks for the dc which can easily be made power districts. I used these for several years until I found out about voltscooters a reasonably priced dcc circuit breakers that can be made for various current up to 3 amps and so far are preforming well on my layout. 

There seems to be an overwhelming amount of information and decoders to choose from and at times my brain feels like it is going to expose. However, reading the responses and following them I am getting something of a better understanding. Electronics and electrical things are not my forte but this is helping and I ask for you to keep the information coming. I am a real novice at this and need all the help and reassurance that can be provided.
In my browsing the web I stumbled upon this; DCCWiki
Reading all of this can be a good thing, but it can also make it seem so complicated. When I built my layout I soldiered every joint, thus I have at least a 12 gauge buss running under every train. I also used 12 gauge wire running under the layout and I plan on adding a few more feeders. You can never have too many feeders, but at some point it gets ridiculous. I really figure with soldiered joints a drop to the 12 gauge wire bus every 20 feet is enough and it has been fine for 12 years now. for the first 3 years I just had the 2 wires to the track on each of the 4 blocks. You will learn more and understand it better if you start running the trains and then fix the problems  Keep your wiring in phase which means the same wire goes to the same track on the entire layout. with DC in order to run trains in opposite directions on a two track main the tracks have to be isolated and the wiring reverse on one track. If you have a cross over it requires some complicated wiring. with dcc you keep the same wires and only need insulated joints at the crossover switch, the direction switch is in the decoder. LED lighting will work on cars because the LEDS will be using the AC current (actually flashing 60 times a second). 
Charlie for me reading helps. I guess it comes from years of reading design manuals. Reading helps me feel me comfortable with a subject I am unsure of. However, what real helps is examples, pictures, and talking to those who have done it before. Technical reading is text and is somewhat lifeless. It is a good start but nothing beats experience and learning through being shown, and trial and error.

I am running feeders every two to three feet. I agree every connections is ridiculous and overkill. I currently have two tracks halfway done with feeders. I have them et up as two separate blocks/districts, inside track, outside track. The third track which I have not completed designing or laying out is currently part of the inside track district. Eventually I want each track broken into two districts for a total of six. I figure this will make it easier to diagnose any problems when they arise.

Last night I remembered I have a decoder. I got as a throw in item when I purchased something else. It is a Digitrax DH126P 1.5A with a medium plug. I looked through my DCC ready locos and I think I found the one I will try first. It is a Bowser Executive Line PRSL AS16. I have had the shell off this one before because I had to make some repairs to it as a result of layout to floor incident. I think this should be a plug and play scenario but we will see once I get the shell off.

I may need to run out and get that double sided sticky foam that Charlie recommended.
Here is the foam I bought and I used it last night and it is perfect and really sticky. 1 roll will last a lifetime.  Icon_e_biggrin   https://www.ebay.com/itm/353393402342?var=622553892174

What size are you using? 1/2 inch, 3/4 inch, 1 inch?
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