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Model Railroading > DCC Decoder questions

Date: 07/01/19 09:53
DCC Decoder questions
Author: bath_wildcat

Hello all, 

I own two Athearn RTR locomotives, UP 3300 and Bluebonnet Sante Fe GP40X 3800 and two Genesis locomotives, NS 6920 and UP 1943. I am planning on getting DCC decoders for these four locomotives that gives me a bit more flexibility on the Eerie & Mad River Ho scale layout (I am the youngest member to date and they run DCC via Digitrax).  

The UP 3300 doesnt have the board in it for DCC conversion, so where would I start with that one to convert it to DCC operation?  

Sante Fe 3800 has the quick plug  8 pin Adapter and board in it. What decoder would I use? 

The two Genesis locomotives I know nothing about when it comes to DCC.  My NS 6920 came with a DCC/sound manual in the box however UP 1943 did not.  The questions here are do both of these have the DCC board already installed and all I have to do is get the decoder installed for both?  Both seem to take the 21 pin Decoder, so what would be the best to get?  Is it difficult to install the DCC decoder in any of these locomotives?  Once I get the decoders installed, how hard is it to program the decoders?  

Thanks to any that can help.  Im new at this DCC stuff, however I think a modern day invasion on the layout is a good place to start.  I would like to gedt these converted to DCC as soon as possible. 


Mike Fair
Sandusky, OH

Date: 07/01/19 10:12
Re: DCC Decoder questions
Author: fbe

Do you want sound or not? Sound adds about $100 or more to the price. Your choice of brand since any brand of decoder will work with the club Digitrax system. Are the Genesis boxes labeled DCC ready or DCC equiped? The ready version has a dummy plug in the 21 pin socket which needs to be replaced with a decoder while the equipped model is ready to go with address 3.

I like PNP style decoders for units like UP 3300 since all connections are clearly marked and readily available. The PNPs have 4 solder points on each end and a line of contacts on the sides for motor, lights and speakers.

You can download DCC and DCC/sound manuals from the loco websites and decoder manufacturers. There should be members of your club who can help. Getting started is going to take some help from friends.

Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 07/01/19 10:29 by fbe.

Date: 07/01/19 11:08
Re: DCC Decoder questions
Author: fbe

Your locomotives come equipped with 1.5v incandescent light bulbs. Some decoders have 1.5 v outputs other decoders will require you to add resistors to reduce their track voltage lighting output. If you convert to led lighting it is pretty certain you will need 1k ohm or 2k ohm resistors in series.

Date: 07/07/19 11:28
Re: DCC Decoder questions
Author: fbe


How is your DCC conversion "as soon as possible" coming along?

Have you picked a brand yet?


Date: 07/08/19 18:30
Re: DCC Decoder questions
Author: bath_wildcat

Since im new to DCC are there any brands that you guys recommend that work extremely well?  

The club has the software to program DCC, just the decoders are my hang up.  

Mike Fair
Sandusky, OH

Date: 07/08/19 21:21
Re: DCC Decoder questions
Author: fbe

For sound decoders I like the new Tsunami2 or Economi cheaper version. Others will go for Lok Sound and TCS Wow Sound decoders are popular.

For the unit without the board use a Tsunami2 EMD in the PNP format. This will be hardwired so you might save it for last.

There is a Tsunami2 and Economi in a 21 pin format for that one unit you have. Carefully pull the 21 pin dummy plug and gently push the decoder onto the pins.

If the units with the 9 pin sockets do not have dcc and or sound Tsunami2 2200 decoders are your choice. Note these have a wiring harness on both ends. The 4 wire harness is for the speaker and keep alive.

The 9 wire harness is mounted to the decoder with a 9 pin plug. If you trim back the shrink wrap on the decoder about 1/8" to the end of the plug. If you firmly pull the harness wires it will come unplugged. Then you can plug the 2200 decoder into the 9 pin socket on the mother board.

If you find a unit with a speaker then it is already DCC Sound equipped so you don't need to buy a new decoder for for those units. Get someone to help you change the address and set up the sound and operation. Any decoders you buy will need for you to buy speakers. All of the units should have factory mounts for 1" or 28mm round speakers.

You can download operator manuals from Athearn website to see how to remove the shell to get to the decoders.

Pardon me. For your unit with the 8 pin socket use a 9 pin decoder with an 8 pin conversion harness.

Edited 2 time(s). Last edit at 07/08/19 21:46 by fbe.

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