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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