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dcc/sound installation

Started by choochoopapa, May 31, 2013, 01:53:25 PM

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Has anyone done or know of where I can find information on installing dcc/sound in a athearn sw1500. I know it would be a project, but I would maybe like to give it a try. Any links to a how to page?


One way:

  Click Here          for a PDF of SoundTraxx Tsunami Digital Sound Decoder Installation Notes for an HO Athearn RTR SW-1000/SW-1500.


On mine I used the board style decoder # 828058. This is set up for 1.5V bulbs.To get it to fit, I mounted the board up-side down. I removed the cab interior to put in a 20MM speaker with an encloser on it. I trimed the tab on one of the truck where the power wire is to clear the decoder. Where the old board was, I put a piece of plastic on the frame. This pprevents the decoder from shorting out. Joe


I have been trying to add a Soundtraxx Econami sound decoder to the Athearn SW1500 "Blue Box" chassis for my On30 Backwoods Miniatures Center Cab Whitcomb Diesel kit.  I have had problems with two decoders with this installation.  The Athearn SW1500 chassis motor checked out at just over 1/2-amp stalled/locked rotor.  I isolated the motor from the frame so that the wheel pickup and motor input are independent.  I first used a Soundtraxx ECO-100 decoder and it ran about 5 feet and stopped (burned out ????).  I next tried a ECO-200 decoder and it ran for about two evenings of light running, and then it stopped.  I returned both decoders to Soundtraxx for repair/replacement.  Soundtraxx is very good about repair replacement issues and has so far returned another ECO-100 decoder.  There is minimal space in this project for any larger decoder.  Other folks have installed DCC sound decoder to these chassis.  Why am I having such a problem with this modification?


Have pictures to post of how you have been installing them?
Also, you working with the motor with the gold can and brass flywheels or grey magnet and other-than-brass flywheels?
Keep Calm and Carry On


I tried upload a few very small format photos of the chassis and motor isolation, but for some reason there was a "file is full" error.  The tabs of the motor bottom grounding bar were flattened out so it wouldn't make connection to the chassis.  The tabs of the front and rear power trucks were trimmed short and soldered together with wire.  I put electrical tape between the chassis and bottom of the motor. 

I didn't have any photos of the DCC Sound installation.  For both the ECO-100 and the ECO-200 DCC sound decoder installations, the black wire was connected to the chassis frame terminal and the red wire to the power truck tabs, the orange and grey wires were connected to the brass motor bars.  The LED headlights were connected to the decoder white, yellow and blue-common wires.  The purple sound wires were connected to the speaker.  The Econami decoder installations were double-stick taped to the inside of the cab with a thin piece of plastic to insulate it from the motor (a really cramped fit).


How 'bout my question about which type of motor you are working with here?
Keep Calm and Carry On


I'm sorry, I got distracted when my photos didn't upload.  The motor is the typical gold can and brass flywheels "Blue Box" type.  With test leads and Ammeter I powered up the motor, and stalled it at full power, to get a reading 0.58-amps (just over 1/2-amp).  Restricting the motor to a slow roll at full power, I got 0.62-amps.  Both scenarios would never happen during locomotive operation as the wheels would slip way before any lock-rotor occurrence.


Got it.  Just a point of info; describing it as "Blue Box" doesn't really pinpoint it bc "Blue Boxes" spanned decades and had different motors during that time.  For the future, it's not necessary to have to clip the tabs off the bottom motor contact; instead switch the top motor contact with the bottom one and use the tabs on what is now the top motor contact as solder points.  Just have to remove the bronze motor contacts carefully so as not to lose the motor brush springs.  Speaking of that, before you started the project, did you disassemble the motor and clean the brushes in alcohol and clean the commutator?  If I can remove the flywheels, I do and take the motor/windings out of the can and gently chuck the back shaft in a drill, turn the drill on and use a soft track cleaning block (not a Bright Boy) to clean the commutator till it shines like a new penney.  Then I take a #11 Exacto blade and clean out the groves in the commutator. This may lower the amperage.  I also disassemble the trucks, clean the gears in soapy water, dry them, check them for flaws and reassemble and put some Teflon based grease in them.  Check them on the track to see how they roll, should be very freely.  Also check the worms for play band and forth and for lube.  Anything binding after you put the shell on?
I am sorry I can't help you with your DCC wiring.  As had been mentioned here previously, there are tons of YouTube videos out there that cover installation of a chip in one of these.  If I think if anything else, I'll post.  Otherwise, good luck :)

PS:  I have read that Kapton tape is better to secure things than foam tape bc it will not generate or trap heat (bad news for decoders I have read) like foam tape.  It is also thinner in thickness.

PSS: Almost forgot about the wheels.  Are they the stock sintered metal ones?  2 choices, either replace with nickel silver ones or you can disassemble the stock ones, drag out the drill again and chuck the half axle in the drill.  Then take a piece of dry sponge and dip it in a little into Mother's Mag and Aluminium Polish.  Turn on the drill and use the sponge with polish on it to clean/shine the wheels.  I use a little stick of balsa wood against the wheel tread to shine up the wheel tread.  They will look like nickel silver wheels when done.  The sintered wheels have better traction than the nickel silver but will get dirty faster.  I got this from a YouTube video and it works like a charm to clean the wheels.  You will need a wheel gauge (NMRA Standards Gauge) to get the wheels back together in gauge.  While you are at it, I would also clean the axle gears in soapy water and then inspect them.  The do tend to split and are easily replaced.
Keep Calm and Carry On


OK thanks.  It has sintered wheels and yes they do get dirty faster.  I clean them with a "Ruby Stick".  A rubber stick impregnated with very fine grit used to clean commutators of large motors and/or slip rings on generators.  I have used these for years on sintered and brass wheels.  I just hook-up test leads to the motor, apply some power, and lightly touch the wheels with the ruby stick - shiny clean and no grit. I've also used the same technique but use a cotton cloth dipped in concentrated lime juice against the running wheels (caution: run to fast or to wet and the juice will get onto things you don't want it to).

Anyway, my motor and chassis is new (old stock) and runs great on DC/Analog power - I just don't know why it is blowing-out my sound decoders. 

I'm wondering if I need to install a capacitor bridge across the brushes like I do with my radio control electric boats to prevent RF interference. The motors in my R/C boats do run better with the capacitors on them, beside preventing RF interference.


I am reading through your posts and it sound as if you've done everything correct. I am  wondering whose DCC system you have. I have done these mods on Athearn BB engines numerous times without incident . One thing that could be the problem is track power is too high . ...just a thought as you've appeared to do everything else correct . On my Digitrax system, using the AC scale on a meter               (although it is really not an AC source), you should get about 12-14 volts   ...also, I would think the low end Soundtraxx ( Econami ) should  easily handle the .58 amps....for what it is worth ...good luck !


I'm using MRC Prodigy Advance and Express systems.  SoundTraxx was very good about replacing the decoders.   When I last checked the track voltage, it was about 14-volts, but I don't know if the system could be spiking the voltage somehow. 

I had a mysterious LED headlight circuit blowout with the SoundTraxx warranty decoder, and I wasn't sure if it was defective LEDs or defective decoder headlight circuit.  I tested a new LEDs and replaced the blown ones, but they still didn't work.  Everything works with that warranty decoder except the headlights.  So now, I don't know if the issue was defective LEDs, a defective headlight circuit, or a DCC system voltage spike.

Has anyone experienced sporadic voltage spikes in their DCC systems?