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Author Topic: DC to DCC Conversion  (Read 14413 times)
MathewWorley


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« on: May 21, 2009, 10:31:26 AM »

Hello everyone.
     Im sure this question is on here somewhere, but. What Ive been tryin to find out is how to convert my HO scale loco's from DC to DCC. I have 6 of Bachmanns Gp50's that Id like to make the switch to DCC with but I have no clue on what to get to make the switch. Any advice or help will be greatly appreciated.
« Last Edit: May 22, 2009, 03:10:24 PM by MathewWorley » Logged
Stephen D. Richards

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« Reply #1 on: May 21, 2009, 10:37:30 AM »

Check Tony's Trains.  They have quite a few detailed instructions.  Also a very good source of info on electronics is Jim Banner.  Contact him either on line or off line and he can take you through it step by step.  It's more intimidating than difficult.  Stephen
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rustyrails
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« Reply #2 on: May 21, 2009, 11:20:34 AM »

Matthew,
Like most technical and semi-technical subjects, DCC becomes much less intimidating when you understand the jargon.  There are several very good introductory books on the subject.  My favorite beginners book is "The DCC Guide" by Don Fiehmann, published by Kalmbach.  Your LHS should have it.  Most DCC manufacturers have very informative web sites. 

Moving to DCC is not inexpensive, but it's not like buying a new car either.  Plan on spending a few hundred dollars to get off the ground.  You can spend a lot less, but the bottom line is that you get what you pay for.  Compare systems and see what you can live without. It is better to spend a little more now than to spend less now and later realize that you have to spend a lot more to start over because you can't run your railroad like you want to.  Just my two cents worth.

Rusty
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Yampa Bob

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« Reply #3 on: May 21, 2009, 02:24:07 PM »

Hi Mathew, welcome to the forum.

Ask 10 modelers about DCC controllers, you will likely get 10 different recommendations. That's why you need to do a lot of research and study before purchasing a controller.  I also recommend "The DCC Guide" by Don Fiehmann.

As for locomotives, the general consensus is that the Bachmann standard line of diesels are not good candidates for upgrading to DCC. This is evidenced by the lack of information regarding decoder installs in these locomotives.

The question you have to ask yourself....is it worth $20 and considerable effort to upgrade a $35 locomotive?  I just talked to the decoder install technician at Caboose Hobbies, installs in the Bachmann standard line are possible but not recommended. The cost of a custom install by a qualified technician is prohibitive.

However, since you have 6 of them it would be a waste not to consider upgrading them. It's your choice, just wanted you to be aware of possible complications and expense.

Bottom line, it's your money and your railroad, no one else can tell you how you should run it or what equipment you should purchase.

Regards.
« Last Edit: May 21, 2009, 11:08:32 PM by Yampa Bob » Logged

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Rule Number One: It's Our Railroad.  Rule Number Two: Refer to Rule Number One.
jward


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« Reply #4 on: May 21, 2009, 03:59:58 PM »

bob,
i need to disagree here about the bachmann upgrades. the ones with split frames are not difficult to do, they all follow pretty much the same procedure. detailed in the following link:
http://members.shaw.ca/sask.rail/dcc/tmaster/tmaster.html

so, if you get a locomotive for $35, and install a decoder for another $20 you have a dcc equipped locomotive for $55. what's wrong with that. keep in mind that a new bachmann locomotive is going to run as well as if not better than top of the line stuff from 25-30 years ago.....

for those of us on a budget, this is a godsend. there are always going to be those who turn up their noses at the less expensive stuff, but to be honest, we've reached the point in model railroading where there really isn't any new junk on the market, everything out there pretty much runs well.
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Jeffery S Ward Sr
Pittsburgh, PA
Yampa Bob

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« Reply #5 on: May 21, 2009, 10:13:43 PM »

Jeffery,
Upgrading these locos may not be difficult for you and me, but to modelers just starting up in DCC it might be a daunting task, especially if they don't have an electrical background or test equipment.

The first impression of a new venture needs to be that of success. We don't know if Mathew is up to the task, only in his words, "I have no clue on what to get". This indicates to me that he hasn't done sufficient research yet. This forum is a good place to start. He can take all the comments, weigh them against his skills, (and wallet) and make sensible conclusions on how to proceed. 

If you read my post again notice I didn't say, "I think they are poor candidates", because I rarely express opinions about anything train related. I base  my statements on experience, either my own or that of professionals.

As for the "budget" aspect. I have 8 Bachmann DCC equipped diesels, all purchased at $40 or less each.  Of course, since Mathew has 6 DC locos, he finds himself between a rock and a hard place. I'm glad it's his decision and not mine to make.

With my background in modeling and electronics, I would be tempted to try at least one for my own edification. But with my eyesight and growing impatience it would probably be frustrating. (It comes with old age)  I have to weigh expense and effort against my blood pressure.  Cheesy

Whenever someone asks about an upgrade, I always refer to this site first:
http://www.tcsdcc.com/HO_Search/search.html

If I don't find a loco listed, I become suspicious of the practicality. It it was easy and economically practical, then everyone would be doing it. In response to Mathew's question I spent hours searching the net, and didn't find a single documentation on the questioned upgrade.

Regards. 
« Last Edit: May 21, 2009, 11:11:34 PM by Yampa Bob » Logged

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jward


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« Reply #6 on: May 22, 2009, 08:27:16 AM »

my son and i have about 6 dcc onboard locomotives, and another 6 or so that i've converted using the link in my previous post. i don't know much about tony's or the other websites, i really don't consult them that much.

what i do know is that, using those directions, i have had less trouble getting things like headlights working properly than some of the so called plug n play installations i've done.

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Jeffery S Ward Sr
Pittsburgh, PA
Jim Banner

Enjoying electric model railroading since 1950.


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« Reply #7 on: May 22, 2009, 02:49:00 PM »

I don't know if Mathew is still following this thread that he started, but please let me put my 2 cents worth in anyway.

If Mathew is happy with the way his GP-50s run on dc, then I expect he will be equally as happy with the way they will run on DCC, even with a low cost decoder.  If he is willing to go a few dollars extra on the decoders, I think he will be thrilled with the low speed performance he can get with BEMF decoders.

I am not sure if Mathew has N-scale or H0-scale GP-50s so here are some thoughts on Digitrax decoders for both scales:

N-scale -  DZ123 (low cost) or DZ125 (includes BEMF)

H0-scale - DH123 (low cost) or DH163 (includes BEMF and four extra function outputs)

BEMF stands for Back ElectroMotive Force, which is the voltage generated by a motor when it is turning.  This voltage is measured by a BEMF decoder and compared to a voltage that represents the speed you set via your throttle.  If the motor is going too fast or too slow, the decoder makes the required corrections.  In this respect, it is rather like cruise control in an automobile.

Where BEMF control really shines is at low speed.  With most locomotives, you have to set the throttle to about 30% to get the locomotive to start.  Then it runs, but often faster than the slow crawl you would like.  But with BEMF, you set the throttle to say 1%.  If the motor does not start, the decoder ups the voltage until it does.  When it does start moving, the decoder will reduce the voltage before it moves too fast.  The result is a locomotive that starts smoothly and runs smoothly throughout its speed range, including the all important low speeds.  This is ideal for switching freight cars and just as great for pulling a passenger train out of the station without spilling a single bowl of soup in the diner.

If they were my GP-50s, I would buy one decoder and see how the installation went.  While I have talked about Digitrax decoders, there are many other good ones on the market, both with and without BEMF, that will do the job.  Most of them will require removing capacitors but that 2 second effort with a pair of cutters is the price of quieter operation.
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MathewWorley


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« Reply #8 on: May 22, 2009, 04:11:32 PM »

Hello again everyone. I have been following the thread and I appreciate all the advice so far. I wanted to express that I understand I have a lot of research to do on my behalf but I also thought I could find out just as quick by asking. With the job I have (truck driver) I dont have a lot of free time to sit down and browse the internet. I havent made the official switch over to DCC yet but when I do, Id like to take my loco's with me. The only use Im looking to get out of DCC is the ablility to have multiple engines running, the ability to turn off/on headlights and maybe a beacon light on top of the cab.I am tempted to do the installs myself its just that I needed to find what parts to get to do the install. If it works it works, if it dont it dont, If i blow one up I'll learn not to do it again lol. I only have the 6 bachmanns and If i can upgrade them and it works than I dont have to worry about re-buying my fleet. I know some of you  probably have quite a few loco's but with what little area id like to model I only need maybe 15 if that. But with this thread and from some of the others I have found information that may help and will try once Im able. Again, Im not wanting to offend anyone at all
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Yampa Bob

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« Reply #9 on: May 22, 2009, 05:09:28 PM »

Mathew,
Please be assured you aren't offending anyone here. We just want you to have as much information as possible. More information from you will help.

1.  Are the locos HO scale?

2.  How old are they? If they are the newer release with 8 wheel drive, then they are probably good runners. This is probably the most important factor.

I have been told by professional installers that the main problem is lack of room for the decoder. Installers usually have a milling machine to cut down the metal chassis to provide space for a decoder.

Suggest removing the shell of one loco and see how much space you have. If you can post a few pictures that would help.

The main thing I gather from your last post, is that you have the right attitude to do the job yourself.  "If it works it works".  You have just a little to lose, but a whole bunch to gain if you can pull it off.  I think most will agree, in model railroading "attitude is everything". If you need more motivation, I would say "GO FOR IT!"  Of course I have nothing to lose. LOL

Good luck. 
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Rule Number One: It's Our Railroad.  Rule Number Two: Refer to Rule Number One.
MathewWorley


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« Reply #10 on: May 22, 2009, 06:12:00 PM »

Yes they are the newer 8 wheel drive type and are HO Scale. If i can get the pictures smaller than 128kb Ill try to post them. another alternative would be to email them.
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jward


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« Reply #11 on: May 22, 2009, 06:40:00 PM »

here are some of my experiences with dcc.....

1. we have 5 gp40/gp50 type locomotives. all are dcc on board. none have flywheels. the lack of flywheels is not objectionable to me as they are otherwise smooth runners. you could probably compensate for the lack of flywheels by adjusting the momentum settings in the decoder.....

2. we also have 1 each gp30 and gp35 that came with dcc on board. these have flywheels.

3. we also have numerous h16-44, gp30, gp35 and sd45 type locomotives that we converted to dcc  using the instructions from the link i posted earlier. all conversions were similar to the one shown, the only difference being the size of the locomotive frame involved.

4. in addition, we have numerous locomotives by athearn, model power, broadway limited, atlas and proto 2000. some conversions were plug n play, some were hard wired. only the atlas s2 needed a milled frame for the decoder i installed. it, and the athearns, also needed the motor isolated from the chassis, complicating the installation.

5. the decoders installed have been digitrax dh123, and a single dh163. i am not that impressed with the dh123 as several of them have gone into thermal shutdown. when a decoder overheats, it will shut itself and the locomotive down until it cools. digitrax will replace bad decoders for $17 each, but the dh123 retails for not much more than that price. the big advantage of the digitrax decoders is that they come shrinkwrapped in blue plastic, and this protective coating prevents accidental shorts of the decoder components against whatever they may come into contact with inside the locomotive. the single dh163 i have has caused me no trouble and i will probably buy more of those.

6. the other make of decoder i have used is nce. i believe they are model da13-sr. i have experienced no problems with these, and nce will replace ANY decoder for $15 regardless of make. the nce decoders are not shrink wrapped and it would be a good idea to wrap them in electrical tape when they are installed.


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Jeffery S Ward Sr
Pittsburgh, PA
Yampa Bob

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« Reply #12 on: May 22, 2009, 07:27:21 PM »

Mathew,
I just remembered that NCE has a decoder designed specifically to replace the DCC board in Bachmann DCC equipped GP35, GP40, and GP50. If your locos have the usual light board, then this might also work as a direct replacement without requiring additional space. 

http://www.ncedcc.com/bachdv35.pdf

Once you remove a shell, see if this looks like your setup. You will need a low wattage (15 to 25 watt) pencil soldering iron and solder.

The PDF file has instructions to install, read it through. Note on page 3 that the capacitors must be clipped from the motor for proper operation. (note warning, don't clip the "dog bone" inductors) See bottom picture, capacitors are on top under the board on the GP series.  LED lights are included.  This might be the perfect answer for your upgrades.

Caboose Hobbies has the decoders in stock at $15.55.
http://www.caboosehobbies.com/catalog/product_info.php?cPath=346_349&products_id=29411

Several members use NCE decoders and seem very pleased with them.

Hope this helps.
« Last Edit: May 22, 2009, 08:12:29 PM by Yampa Bob » Logged

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Rule Number One: It's Our Railroad.  Rule Number Two: Refer to Rule Number One.
MathewWorley


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« Reply #13 on: May 22, 2009, 08:07:46 PM »

That looks very close to what these have, the biggest diffrence is the circuit board. The ones in myne dont have all the extra stuff, just a plain board with strip of copper down each side of the board with 6 connections. most of the wire colors are on the same side - all red wire connection are on left side of board, black on the. It sounds like you may have found my solution. only one way to find out for sure Smiley
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Yampa Bob

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« Reply #14 on: May 22, 2009, 08:49:42 PM »

The red wires are usually on the right side of the locomotive (engineer's side). Of course it is possible the loco was wired incorrectly at the factory. It happens.

I just read through the PDF again, something you should know.

If you look at the default CV values table, CV29 is set to "2" at the factory, means "analog" operation (DC) is disabled.  If you want to continue running the loco on DC power, you need a DCC controller capable of changing the value to "6".

Sort of a "catch 22" huh?   They want (all) your money!  Cheesy  I won't recommend any particular controller (unless you ask what I use LOL), you need to buy one that will suit your needs and wants.

Since the decoder is an "upgrade" (their words) for the Bachmann DCC board, they probably assume one already has a DCC controller. Isn't this fun?  Well, I'm enjoying this, I like helping others spend their money.  Cool
« Last Edit: May 22, 2009, 08:56:39 PM by Yampa Bob » Logged

I know what I wrote, I don't need a quote
Rule Number One: It's Our Railroad.  Rule Number Two: Refer to Rule Number One.
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