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Author Topic: Questions on Adding DCC and 3-Way Polarity Switches  (Read 908 times)

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« on: June 30, 2019, 01:35:59 PM »

Hey all, I'm making some changes to my Large Scale railroad later this year and upgrading to DCC.  That being the case, I want to modify all my models to be compatible, but at the same time want to also change out polarity switches while I'm in there.  The first thing I'd like to bring up is some DCC conversions I'm looking into, but am unsure where exactly to start.

Most of my higher end models have the option for Plug-and-Play electronics, but models such as my Bachmann Big Hauler, 2-6-0 Mogul, and Speeder do not have this.  What I need to know is what would be the best option to add DCC to these models.  Sound is not a major concern at this time, but I am curious about what may happen to the speed synchronized sound which the models already have.  Some of the other models I have like the 0-40- Davenport and Long Caboose give the option to install Bachmann's 8 pin decoders which come in packs of 3.  I'm curious also if these same decoders can be used on models such as the 0-4-0 Porter, Rail Truck, and 2-4-2 Lyn.  Also, what would people recommend for a DCC module for the Bachmann C-19?  Something that possibly offers sound as well.

The last thing I want to bring up is that I would like to install 3 way polarity switches in some of my models to allow them to be switched to either NMRA STD or Large Scale settings, but at the same time I'd like to have the option to shut the motor off all together just like with my Spectrum models.  So the question (or questions) here are...

1. Can it be done?
2. What would be the best way of doing it.
3. Can I purchase 3-way switches from Bachmann?

Basically I just want the motor to shut off and not the lights on the models.  As I said before, my Bachmann Spectrum models offer this feature, so I'm aiming for the same results in my conversions/modifications.

Considering I've had very little experience with DCC, I'm still pretty much learning as I go along, so I haven't much of a clue what the easiest way of going about these modifications would be.  Switching over to DCC is something that I've wanted to do the last couple years, and considering most of the model I have in my collection these days are either DCC ready and/or DCC on Board, I've decided that now is time to make the change.  If anyone can help shed some light on the issues I've stated above, please do so.


"If you can't beat them, hire someone to do it..."
Loco Bill Canelos

Model railroading since 1947

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« Reply #1 on: July 02, 2019, 07:27:07 PM »


I know very little about DCC, but I don't think you will need to worry about the switches.  With DCC many functions are available.  Changing polarity is one of them I think.  Also you should be able to control the lights on a loco in a way that they can be on while the loco is stopped. 

I am only responding in the hopes one of our DCC experts will be able to respond. Kevin Strong is one of the best in knowledge of DCC there are others whose names I am forgetting right now.  Stan Ames is also very knowledgeable.   

Good luck with your very large DCC project.

Loco Bill,  Roundhouse Foreman
Colorado & Kansas Railway-Missouri Western Railway
Official Historian; Bachmann Large Scale
Colorado RR Museum-Brakeman-Engineer-Motorman-Trainman
There are no dumb or stupid questions, just questions!
Kevin Strong

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« Reply #2 on: July 04, 2019, 12:46:29 AM »

First, with DCC, there is always power to the track, and the system is designed specifically to allow independent control of multiple locomotives on the track at the same time. As such, there's no reason to have switches to control the polarity of the power going to the motor, or to turn the motor on and off independently. So don't worry about that. The biggest challenge with DCC is installing (and programming) the decoder.

Each locomotive has a unique address, and the lights, motor, and sound are controlled by various function keys and knobs. For example, the headlights are commonly tied to the Function 0 key. When you hit that, the lights will turn on or off. On steam locos, you may also hear the sound of the steam dynamo spin up when you turn the lights on. The handheld controller will only control the specific locomotive whose address is dialed up on the handheld controller.

With respect to the decoders themselves, the decoders that typically plug into the 8-pin sockets are low-current (usually 1 - 2 amp) decoders. I would not recommend these for most Bachmann locos. They'll be fine for the small 0-4-0s and such, but not the 4-6-0 or C-19. For most large scale locos, you'll want to use decoders with at least a 3-amp capacity. Manufacturers include Sountraxx (Tsunami2), TCS (WowSound), Zimo, ESU, Massoth, and QSI. Phoenix (the sound system folks) also just introduced a plug-and-play decoder designed specifically for Bachmann locos. It's pricey compared to the others, but you literally plug it in and you're off and running. (ESU, Zimo, and I think Massoth also offer plug-and-play forms for some of their decoders designed to fit in the 23-pin socket in Bachmann's locos.)

I'd definitely recommend getting a book on DCC. I wrote a 4-part series for Garden Railways a few years back which you can download. (I don't get any residuals from those sales.) This is geared towards large scale applications. For general information, though, I'd recommend getting a more general DCC book. These are going to be more tailored towards small scales, but the technical information is certainly applicable.

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« Last Edit: July 04, 2019, 02:48:16 AM by Kevin Strong » Logged

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