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Decoder Installation By Roger James, Otter Valley Railroad. So you decided to install a DCC decoder, tips and tricks!!. What is the Loco?. Is the loco worth the DCC decoder? Issues with reworking the drive? For example:

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Decoder installation by roger james otter valley railroad

Decoder InstallationBy Roger James, Otter Valley Railroad

So you decided to install a DCC decoder, tips and tricks!!

What is the loco
What is the Loco?

  • Is the loco worth the DCC decoder?

  • Issues with reworking the drive?

  • For example:

    • An older Athearn Blue Box loco might be questionable for installation due to the work.

What do you want to do
What do you want to do?

  • The more functions, the more options

  • Basic Decoders – standard 2 functions

  • High End Decoders – as many as 8 functions

  • What is a function?

    • Additional lighting or accessory options

      • Ditch lights, strobe light, Mars light, number boards, fire box, etc.

Decoder selection
Decoder Selection

  • Amp to motor

  • Size of location in the shell

  • Hardwire, plug in play, solder in board

  • Sound or Non sound decoder

  • Replace lights?

    • Issues with 1.5 v bulbs, suggest 12v led’s

  • How much do you want to spend?

    • Prices range from $20.99 to high $40’s

Pre test engine
Pre Test Engine

  • Does the engine move?

  • Check lights –Why?

    • It helps during installation

  • Test on a DC track.

Pre wiring research
Pre Wiring Research

  • Review the installation guide for the decoder, ie. NCE N13sr

  • Manufacturer’s website for additional reference material

  • Youtube video’s on installations

  • Local modeling group

  • Is there is no stupid question!!

Removing the shell
Removing the Shell

  • Sometimes the hardest part.

  • Refer to the loco’s instruction manual

  • General tips

    • Proto’s have 8 screws to remove

    • Kato’s - couplers to remove

    • Atlas - couplers and occasional frame screw

    • Athearn – couplers and body screws

Hard wire decoders
Hard Wire Decoders

  • Solder the colour coded wires

    • Follow the instructions

    • Engineer sit on the right side

  • Front light go to Front headlight

  • At the bare wire joints, cover with heat shrink tubing, found at “A Counter Parts”

Plug in play
Plug in Play

  • Remove the dummy plug

  • Plug in 8 pin or 9 pin decoder

  • Snap shell back on and program

Solder in boards
Solder in Boards

  • Recommended over hardwire decoders

    • Less work to install and generally saves space, then milling away weight

  • Follow instructions with decoder instructions

    • Tricks

      • Kato’s have 4 side wires coming to the board, do not solder them.

      • The older Kato’s solder the metal clips

Installation tips
Installation Tips

  • Keep the wire away from moving parts

  • Use electrical tape to keep the wires in place

  • Leave yourself enough wire incase a wire breaks or needs to be re-soldered.

  • Place your shrink tubing in place before you solder the open joints.

Additional functions installation
Additional Functions Installation

  • Use LED’s as mentioned

  • Set all additional function wiring in place.

  • Most loco’s will need housing made for ditchlights or modifications to light panels

Testing the loco
Testing the Loco

  • Place on the test track with D.C. power pack

  • Check lights and movement

  • No movement, the decoder is wired wrong!!

Programming the decoder
Programming the Decoder


  • Place on programming track

    • Set system to programming, Digitrax flip a system

    • NCE on the throttle, depending the system used

Decoder fails
Decoder Fails

  • What’s wrong?

    • Either the decoder is defective

    • Wired wrong and can not be read

    • A wire is loose

    • Decoder blew up, which is not uncommon with Athearn switchers with small decoders.

Programming issues
Programming Issues

  • My loco is not responding?

    • First thing is find the manual and refer to the last page of the decoder installation and look for the reset Configuration Variable

      • Digitrax – CV 8 value 8

      • Lok – CV 8 value 8

      • NCE CV 30 value 2

Everything works
Everything Works

  • The loco should respond to Address 03, the standard NMRA default address

  • Modifying CV’s can be tricky

    • Use either the programmer track or on the main

    • Other options are Decoder Pro, or Lok Programmer if it’s a Lok Pilot decoder




Otter Valley Railroad