Decoder recommendations for DCC beginner

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Giraffe
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Decoder recommendations for DCC beginner

Postby Giraffe » Tue Oct 16, 2018 7:00 pm

I have unexpectedly received an Amazon voucher, and been cleared to spend it on what I want ( :wink: ), so I'm planning to purchase the parts to build a DCC Base station running DCC++ (I'm quite comfortable with arduino projects) and upgrade my locos to DCC. With the left over I'll be purchasing a matching rake of coaches as something for my locos to pull as I've never really had that before, so I'd like to not unnecessarily overspend on the decoder chips. (Although I'd like to not spend too little and get something not up to what I need)

I've noticed there is a Gaugemaster GM-DCC26 decoder for ~£13. This seems worryingly cheap given equivalent looking decoders are consistently around the £20 mark. A few of the reviews suggest it burns out fairly easily, although others suggest they've had no trouble at all. It doesn't seem to state its max current on the Amazon site, but I'd guess it's a little underpowered?

The alternatives include the Hornby R8249 (v1.3) - I understand the hornby decoders have improved considerably over early versions, what are current feelings towards them? Is a lot of the negativity just anti-Hornby bias? Reviews seem largely positive but still a few mentions of limitations.

It seems that an 8-pin 4 function will be fine for my needs. I currently have 2 little tanks that just need the motor function, a mainline steam (tender drive) that I'd like to investigate the possibilities of adding running lamps on one function, coach lamps via a plugged connection and maybe a smoke generator, a very old tender engine (loco drive) that needs repairing before it cpuld run, and a diesel that has some form of sound installed (it screeches when it runs) and lights, I'd aim to wire those up to function keys too. Is this within the sorts of capabilities I'd have available? What other considerations do I need for potentially adding sound chips in the future?

Another thing that occurs to me is people talk about upgrading non-dcc loco by cutting off the plug and soldering in the decoder. Is there a reason people don't solder in the sockets and then plug in the decoders? I'd assume this would be a better way to handle future maintenance, so is there a good reason not to? Space restrictions perhaps?

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End2end
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Re: Decoder recommendations for DCC beginner

Postby End2end » Tue Oct 16, 2018 7:56 pm

Giraffe wrote:Is a lot of the negativity just anti-Hornby bias? Reviews seem largely positive but still a few mentions of limitations.

I don't know about the v1.3's but Hornby were reknowned for NOT being fully NMRA compliant. Perhaps thats what the reviews mean.
I think only Hornby and thier die hard fans would regard thier DCC controllers and DCC chips any good.
This is NOT a comment on thier DC controllers though. I only use one of those for running in a DC loco BEFORE converting it to DCC.

Giraffe wrote:It seems that an 8-pin 4 function will be fine for my needs. I currently have 2 little tanks that just need the motor function, a mainline steam (tender drive) that I'd like to investigate the possibilities of adding running lamps on one function, coach lamps via a plugged connection and maybe a smoke generator, a very old tender engine (loco drive) that needs repairing before it could run, and a diesel that has some form of sound installed (it screeches when it runs) and lights, I'd aim to wire those up to function keys too. Is this within the sorts of capabilities I'd have available? What other considerations do I need for potentially adding sound chips in the future?

If you only want motor function have you considered a 6 pin chip? I managed to squeeze one into an old 0-4-0.
Coach lamps - These can be added WITHOUT the need for the loco to power them. This gives you the option to run the coaches, still lit without the need for the loco (and associated wiring) to power them.

My lit, short 4 wheel coaches lighting project viewtopic.php?f=1&t=50754&hilit=competition

Here is my St. Blazey's Works and Depot thread showing the lighting for longer coaches and DCCing the 0-4-0 project.
viewtopic.php?f=49&t=51555

Failing that, the easiest way to add lighting to coaches is by using a strip with a CR2032 battery holder at one end.
I have one in my bubble car that when it detects movement it turns the light strip on. It's a Train-Tech version:- http://www.train-tech.com/index.php/lig ... h-lighting

Giraffe wrote:Another thing that occurs to me is people talk about upgrading non-dcc loco by cutting off the plug and soldering in the decoder. Is there a reason people don't solder in the sockets and then plug in the decoders? I'd assume this would be a better way to handle future maintenance, so is there a good reason not to? Space restrictions perhaps?

I'd only ever cut off the plug due to space restrictions (I've never had to do it yet), but even my aforementioned 0-4-0 has an added 6 pin socket as well as the DCC chip itself, both installed by me.
This will be useful if the DCC chip ever goes lady-bumps upwards. Just take out the chip and insert a new one. :D
Hope it helps
End2end
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Giraffe
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Re: Decoder recommendations for DCC beginner

Postby Giraffe » Tue Oct 16, 2018 9:07 pm

End2end wrote:If you only want motor function have you considered a 6 pin chip?

I had not . Thanks for that thought!

End2end wrote:Coach lamps - These can be added WITHOUT the need for the loco to power them. This gives you the option to run the coaches, still lit without the need for the loco (and associated wiring) to power them.


Hmm interesting. I'm fine with the electronics side of things, but the modifications to add pickups would be utterly new territory for me, I'll have a good read of your threads.

End2end wrote:This will be useful if the DCC chip ever goes lady-bumps upwards. Just take out the chip and insert a new one. :D

Exactly my thoughts, good to know others have done this.

End2end wrote:
Hope it helps

Very much! Thanks for your input :)

Mike Parkes
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Re: Decoder recommendations for DCC beginner

Postby Mike Parkes » Tue Oct 16, 2018 9:29 pm

Locos vary significantly in the amount of space for a decoder - its best to check what decoder others have used in a particular loco; a google search normally turns up a link or two - dcc [make] [loco class]. Some articles will be quite old so if you fond out the size of the decoder than has been used you can then look for a current decoder of the same size or less and equivalent current rating- the decoder selector at https://www.coastaldcc.co.uk/decoderselector.php is a useful start but does not cover all decoders.

Suzie
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Re: Decoder recommendations for DCC beginner

Postby Suzie » Tue Oct 16, 2018 10:11 pm

See if you can find a Zimo decoder. The entry level ones are £19 and that is money well spent.

Buy a decoder which has a plug to match the socket in your loco. If I have a loco without a socket I fit a PluX-22 socket and plug in a Zimo MX600p12. Infortunately NEM652 8-pin sockets are a bit bulky so sometimes people remove them to make a bit of space for things - but there is really no need to remove the socket as it is really handy to have it.

Suzie x

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End2end
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Re: Decoder recommendations for DCC beginner

Postby End2end » Tue Oct 16, 2018 10:55 pm

Giraffe wrote:Hmm interesting. I'm fine with the electronics side of things, but the modifications to add pickups would be utterly new territory for me, I'll have a good read of your threads.

This can be REALLY easy using these - https://www.dccconcepts.com/product/pic ... s-48-pack/
Slide one wheel off, add the spring, slide the wheel back on the axle and make sure the back to back (the gap on the axle between the backs of both the wheels) is correct using a Back to back gauge - https://www.ebay.co.uk/i/123319579795?chn=ps
Then "tin" and solder your wire to the spring.

I will advise ALL new members, get yourself a back to back gauge anyway. Some rolling stock new from the box are out of gauge and will constantly derail. It's a MUST HAVE tool. :mrgreen:
Thanks
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