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Author Topic: Upgraded to DCC, are my DC locos safe?  (Read 5727 times)

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« on: October 08, 2010, 02:13:32 AM »

Hi, i just bought my first DCC controller. The Bachmann EZ command controller. I programmed my two DCC locos to the controller but running my old DC locos are bothering me. So when i place the DC locos on the track they humm really loud and their lights turn on super bright~ should i be worried? Another thing, i have some Amtrac cars that have lighted interiors. Is it ok to run these light cars or should i open them up and disconnect the wiring to their lights?

- Here is a link to the Amtrak cars, hopefully thats enough info on the lighting
- Here is my DCC steam Loco
-here is my other DCC loco. (bought it used, has a dcc installed. Mines bigger than the one here though???) I'll open it and look around. I think its not Bachmann.

-Sorry for being a noob to all of this, i just don't want to have anything break from me being stupid.
« Reply #1 on: October 08, 2010, 02:23:19 AM »

The E-Z Command can run 1 DC locomotive, but it is not advisable to do for any extended period of time. DC locomotives can overheat or be damaged if they are sitting on live track for more than a few minutes and still should not be run very long to avoid trouble. There is nothing you can do about the sound short of converting them to DCC, which may be difficult. The passenger cars can be used with the lighting, just don't leave them on live track all the time.
CNE Runner

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« Reply #2 on: October 08, 2010, 09:58:02 AM »

Matayoman - I don't think I can recommend running a DC locomotive (or lighted passenger car) with a DCC controller. The loud hum and super bright lights should be your first warning. You could run power through a SPDT switch - wired such that one position allows DCC power to the layout; and the other position would render the layout DC. Naturally this means you would run either DCC or DC...short of converting (or replacing) your DC equipment to/with DCC. I am sure there are other clever posters who have other solutions for your problem.

My Monks' Island Railway is DC (but easily convertable to DCC), and I run Bachmann Spectrum locomotives (45 Tonner or occasionally one of my beloved American 4-4-0s) without any problems on DC. Perhaps a dual-mode transponder equipped locomotive would be the answer? Yes, it may be time to start saving for a DC/DCC locomotive...check out the Bachmann line.


"Keeping my hand on the throttle...and my eyes on the rail"

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« Reply #3 on: October 08, 2010, 10:22:45 AM »

On my RR I run my 2-6-2 prairie on occasion but for display purposes it will sit on a separate electrically isolated siding now that my layout is being rebuilt
Jim Banner

Enjoying electric model railroading since 1950.

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« Reply #4 on: October 08, 2010, 10:42:16 AM »

Yes, you should be worried.  When a dc locomotive is stopped on a DCC track, it will hum.  That hum you hear is ac running through the motor, trying to turn it one way then the other.  This happens so quickly that the motor ends up not turning at all.  The electrical power is converted into heat but because the motor does not turn, it does not set up a flow of cooling air.  The heat builds up inside the motor.  This MAY damage the motor, depending on the type of motor and several other factors.  On the other hand,  this MIGHT NOT damage the motor.  Again, it depends.  Running the motor on a DCC track is much less likely to harm it because when it (and the locomotive) are in motion, there is cooling air flowing through the motor.  The usual wisdom is that you can run a dc locomotive on DCC but do not park it on a DCC track for more than about 10 minutes.  Having said all that, I know of no authenticated case of an unmodified dc locomotive actually being damaged by DCC.

You should also be worried about those bright lights.  Not only will the bulbs burn out more quickly, the heat from them may be enough to soften and distort the plastic shells of your coaches.  If your coaches are lit by LED's instead of incandescent bulbs, this will not happen.

Bottom line, if you insist on running dc equipment on DCC, carefully monitor the temperatures to make sure nothing is over heating and remove any equipment that is over heating right away.  A much better solution is to convert your equipment to operate on DCC.  There are many low cost decoders out there that will work in your locomotives.  As to your passenger cars, you can add resistors or diodes to reduce the lighting levels or change to higher voltage bulbs. 


Growing older is mandatory but growing up is optional.
« Reply #5 on: October 08, 2010, 12:49:02 PM »

The two or three DCC manufactures who sell controllers that can run locos with no decoder will not tell you about the hum issue as it is hard on some of the motors. If there is a warning, most new users miss it.
I was aware of the issue before DCC, as some motors would buzz when I operated DC locos with a power pack that delivered pulsed DC power to the layout. I had to adjust the pulse width of the power pack.
Some of the older generation decoders use to cause some motors to buzz, but the newer decoders usually do not cause buzzing. All decoders deliver pulse power to the motors.


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« Reply #6 on: October 08, 2010, 02:01:31 PM »

Thanks everyone for the fast response. I just ran two of my dc loco's on the track and they ran pretty good but well. . . in response to this quote.
... The usual wisdom is that you can run a dc locomotive on DCC but do not park it on a DCC track for more than about 10 minutes.  Having said all that, I know of no authenticated case of an unmodified dc locomotive actually being damaged by DCC.
I placed the third Dc loco on the track and well, manually moved the power forward and the train went about a foot, stopped, and gave a huge puff of white smoke. Sad I remember hearing somewhere that "all electric motors run a white smoke, when you see it come out the engine no longer works." so that sucks, it was a brand new Amtrak DC loco.
  Other than that, the dcc loco's are both pretty awesome and i hope i'm understanding this right... SO... It would be ok to run my light cars on the track, they may become damaged after prolonged use and this will not damage my brand new DCC controller???
   Last question, people are talking about low cost decoders, what would be a good example of one for converting one of my locos? and what would be an example for one that would be good for lighting?
_Thanks once again for the awesome support.
« Last Edit: October 08, 2010, 02:07:06 PM by Matayoman » Logged

That IS Flying Scotsman (Not a photshop!!)

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« Reply #7 on: October 08, 2010, 02:29:40 PM »

I have  used  DCC  since  1998  in  scales  from  N  to  G  ( tried  it  with  Z but  its  too darn  small!!)

I would  definately  agree  with  the  previous  comments  on  here,  Dont   use non decoder   fitted  locos  on  DCC systems,  apart  from  the   noise which few folks can tolerate  for  long,  the  motors  generally  dont  like  it  and  they   overheat.

Coach/car light  will usually  work  OK  but  there  is  a  risk of  lamps  butning out  more  quickly with  the  higher voltage, cars   fitted  with  LEDS  should  be   checked as the internal voltage limiting  circuitry may  also be  affected by  the  higher  voltage present in DCC systems

Decoders  can  be  fitted  to  most  locos,  but  some  take  more  effort  than  others,  I have   fitted around  400  locos  with  decoders over  the  years,, I  used  to  enjoy  doing  it  but   these days it  becomes  a  bit  of  a  chore!!


Close  to  the  Great  Little  Trains  Of Wales!!
« Reply #8 on: October 08, 2010, 04:25:32 PM »

Avoid the lower-end/cheaper decoders if at all possible and go with a decoder with bemf.

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« Reply #9 on: October 08, 2010, 06:28:02 PM »

You let the magic smoke out that keeps all electronics Running Smiley  I personally think it is irresponcible  for the manufacturers to say you can run a DC loco on dcc, sure it will run... But not correctly.
I think it's their sneaky way of selling more loco's, you run it smoke it, you replace it.


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« Reply #10 on: October 08, 2010, 06:58:41 PM »

<snip> SO... It would be ok to run my light cars on the track, they may become damaged after prolonged use and this will not damage my brand new DCC controller??? <snip>

". . . damaged after prolonged use . . ." could be anywhere from a few minutes to some hours. Light bulb life is seriously affected by high voltages. You are taking a risk of having to replace the bulbs frequently. I wouldn't leave anything that I see the ". . .  lights turn on super bright . . ." on the track.

Of course if you like "super bright" and don't mind finding and installing new light bulbs, you can ignore these warnings. BTW, there is still the potential danger for heat damage to the plastic cars. It just (usually) takes longer.

Happy RRing,


Sequoia Pacific RR in 1:20 / 70.6mm
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Pacific Northern

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« Reply #11 on: October 08, 2010, 09:26:53 PM »

I am one of those who maintain both a DC and DCC layout.

While I have a roster of DCC engines I also have a number of locomotives that are DC, these are mainly old Rivarossi,  MDC and Mantua steam engines all which date back to the 1970's.

I have no intention of converting these engines to DCC and for that reason built the layout with a switch to allow powering the layout with either system.

To date I have had no problems switching between DCC and DC. However, I did choose a DCC system that does allow the user to run a single DC engine. To date have not used this feature since trying it out when I got the system.

Yes, the DC engines did buzz noticeably when tested, and that certainly did make me nervous about the compatability aspect of DC/DCC., hence, the main reason for the two systems.


Pacific Northern
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