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Replacing the Two BLI Blueline Decoders With a Single Sound Decoder

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Replacing the Two BLI Blueline Decoders With a Single Sound Decoder
Posted by richhotrain on Wednesday, August 31, 2016 7:55 PM

For anyone familiar with the Blueline series of BLI locomotives, they come factory equipped with a sound and lights decoder for DC operation. You can add an after-market motive decoder for DCC operation.

I have two F7A Blueline locomotives and, suffice it to say, I have had it with the dual decoder system. Tonight, I had to remove the motive decoder on one unit to reprogram the sound and lights decoder. Just the latest in a long string of problems. Consisting is the worst of the problems, but so is just trying to program the motive decoder without losing sound and lights.

So, I am ready to dump the two decoders and replace them with a single sound decoder. Has anyone done this with Blueline locos, particularly diesels?

Rich

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Posted by rrinker on Wednesday, August 31, 2016 8:40 PM

 Never bought any of the Blueline locos, but it should be fairly easy to do since all the wires should come right up tot he factory board. If they don;t use standard colors, just tag them as you remove each wire, then remove the factory board and attach a sound decoder to the approriate wires. The stock speaker(s) should be fine for most common sound decoders.

                       --Randy

 


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Posted by gmpullman on Wednesday, August 31, 2016 9:13 PM

Hi, Rich

Yes, I have made the switch on four six F7s and one Light Mikado. Very easy to do. I used Loksound Selects on two four of them, WOWsound diesel on the other two F7s and the WOWsound steam on the Mikado.

They are among my best performers now, especially that Mike. It pulls beautifully and once you get the hang of programming the WOWsound the results are excellent.

I got pretty good Ebay deals on these engines. In the Mikado's case, the decoder was fine but the speaker was bad so the seller was "unloading" it not knowing that the problem was a cheap speaker.

Now I have a box of Blueline decoders with nowhere to go.

I also did a few Broadway "Silent Service" or whatever they called their short-lived non-sound series. §

On the diesels it is pretty easy to see where the wiring has to go. The steam only taked a few minutes to ring-out the wire assignments. In most cases, the outer two pins are track pickup, next pair in are motor leads and the middle three are headlight — headlight + and chuff. 

Broadway likes to use plugs on their boards. I could look later to see what the wire assignments are on the board, but I agree with Randy, it is pretty simple to trace the wiring.

Good Luck, Ed

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Posted by richhotrain on Thursday, September 1, 2016 5:02 AM

rrinker

 Never bought any of the Blueline locos, but it should be fairly easy to do since all the wires should come right up tot he factory board. If they don;t use standard colors, just tag them as you remove each wire, then remove the factory board and attach a sound decoder to the approriate wires. The stock speaker(s) should be fine for most common sound decoders.

                       --Randy

Thanks, Randy, I agree that the removal of the dual decoder and replacement with a single decoder should not be that big of a deal. What I am looking for, though, is someone who has done it to discuss the type of decoder used in the installation and any issues encountered in the installation.

Rich

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Posted by richhotrain on Thursday, September 1, 2016 5:09 AM

gmpullman

Yes, I have made the switch on four F7s and one Light Mikado. Very easy to do. I used Loksound Selects on two of them, WOWsound diesel on the other two F7s and the WOWsound steam on the Mikado.

Ed, thanks, that is what I am looking for because I want to replace the dual decoder on each of the F7A's.  As in your case, I assume that I will be stuck with the removed decoders, but that is a small price to be paid for the elimination of all of the frustration involved with the Blueline dual decoder system.

The worst part of it is consisting which is all but impossible. No, scratch that last comment. It is impossible to consist Blueline locomotives. As soon as power is turned off and then back on again at the next session, the sound and lights are gone and re-programming has to take place. Incredibly annoying.

Rich

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Posted by richhotrain on Thursday, September 1, 2016 6:00 AM

gmpullman

Broadway likes to use plugs on their boards. I could look later to see what the wire assignments are on the board, but I agree with Randy, it is pretty simple to trace the wiring.

Ed, if you get a chance to look, if you could check on the number of wires feeding into the sound and lights board, that would be appreciated. Since I still have the shell off of my F7A, I can look closely as well.

Thanks.

Rich

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Posted by tstage on Thursday, September 1, 2016 6:31 AM

richhotrain

As soon as power is turned off and then back on again at the next session, the sound and lights are gone and re-programming has to take place. Incredibly annoying.

Rich

Yea, that would be annoying, Rich.  Thankfully, I never had any issues with my Blueline Niagara or the Lenz Silver MP decoder that I installed into it.  Worked everytime.

Tom

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Posted by rrinker on Thursday, September 1, 2016 7:47 AM

 I always wondered about Browadway's timing on introducing BlueLine, since by then the dual decoder thing was rapidly disappearing due precisely to issues with programming them, plus advances that allowed the motor control circuitry to coexist on the same board as the sound circuitry without being too big to fitTo be fair, Digitrax also came out with the Soundbug about the same time, but they also had a line of motor decoders specifically designed to work with it. You can connect a Soundbug as a second decoder in anything, but you take your chances like any other dual decoder install unless you use the specific Digitrax motor decoders made to work with it. Broadway had suggestions on which decoders worked best alongside the Blueline sound decoder, but there never were any guarantees.

 My point on the install is basically, use your favorite. Since the wiring is easily accessible, anything will work. Someone who prefers WOWSound is going to say they work the best, someone who prefers Loksound is goign to say they work the best, etc. So pick whichever one you like, the install process will be the same no matter what you pick. Despite the complete interoperability with decoders, there are advantages to sticking with a limited number of different brands across your fleet.

                               --Randy

 


Modeling the Reading Railroad in the 1950's

 

Visit my web site at www.readingeastpenn.com for construction updates, DCC Info, and more.

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Posted by richhotrain on Thursday, September 1, 2016 7:45 PM

richhotrain

 

 
gmpullman

Broadway likes to use plugs on their boards. I could look later to see what the wire assignments are on the board, but I agree with Randy, it is pretty simple to trace the wiring.

 

 

Ed, if you get a chance to look, if you could check on the number of wires feeding into the sound and lights board, that would be appreciated. Since I still have the shell off of my F7A, I can look closely as well.

 

Thanks.

Rich

 

I took a good look at the wiring on the Blueline diesel.

Nine wires, five black and four gray connect from the light board at the front of the loco to the BLI circuit board.  There are four lights, each powered by a black and gray wire and one extra black wire (?).  There are also four pickup wires, two left and two right.

The BLI circuit board is huge, at least 4" long, and it is loaded with plugs for the motor wires, lighting controls and speaker.  

The after market motor decoder is an NCE N14IP with an 8-pin plug-in connector.

Rich

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Posted by gmpullman on Thursday, September 1, 2016 8:03 PM

I was just headed into the workroom to get some photos, Rich. Yes, there's tons of room inside the F7s and even more in the B unit which is set up for two speakers.

I can't say if the BLI speakers are "top-quality" or not. They don't seem to be but I'm planning to replace them with TCS #1555 28mm round speakers. I had a bunch on hand.

I'll post them here in the next hour or so. I had already clipped off the plugs. I rang out the headlight, cab light and number board LEDs. There's 2 that go to blue + and the other three are the function ones.

Personally, I have no use for the cab light, I might wire it to one of the lighting functions but then again...

For many of my diesels I have the number boards lit all the time, directly off of track power, why waste a function for those? I like seeing them lit all the time. It seems BLI has a higher value resistor already on the board for those since they are a little dimmer than the headlight.

The motor plus is the tan wire and minus is black. On mine, black was Right rail, gray, left rail.

I'll get on to photos soon.

Are you saying you are using the N14IPs as the decoder in the "rebuilt" BLI engines, Rich or are you using a sound decoder? When I was trying to get my Bluelines programmed I was also using the N14IPs. Never had any luck with them and I believe neither one of them is working anymore. I'll have to check them again.

Above is the array of the recent conversion. I had already clipped the plugs off the chassis wiring.

Above, you see the two blue + wires clipped to my LED tester and the one headlight minus wire connected and the headlight lit.

Motor PLUS is the tan, or left side wire.

Here's the B unit with the two TCS speakers and a Loksound Select Direct board sitting in the cavity.

Here is how the light board wiring works out on my F7.

From Left: Number Boards — :  Headlight — (wire on bottom): Cab Light —

Right hand wires both + to decoder common Blue.

No Mars Light. I'll probably add a back-up light and wire the number boards directly to the rail A-B pickup wires.

Hope that helps...

Regards, Ed

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Posted by richhotrain on Friday, September 2, 2016 4:48 AM

gmpullman

Are you saying you are using the N14IPs as the decoder in the "rebuilt" BLI engines, Rich or are you using a sound decoder? When I was trying to get my Bluelines programmed I was also using the N14IPs. Never had any luck with them and I believe neither one of them is working anymore. I'll have to check them again.

Ed, when I bought my Blueline Santa Fe consist (two pairs of F7A/B locos) from Factory Direct Trains, I had them install N14IP decoders in the two A units. The N14IP decoders are boards with 8-pin connectors that fit into the BLI sound and lights decoders. That is the current dual decoder setup that I am struggling with, especially when it comes to consisting.

Rich

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Posted by richhotrain on Friday, September 2, 2016 4:56 AM

gmpullman

 

Here is how the light board wiring works out on my F7.

From Left: Number Boards — :  Headlight — (wire on bottom): Cab Light —

Right hand wires both + to decoder common Blue.

No Mars Light. I'll probably add a back-up light and wire the number boards directly to the rail A-B pickup wires.

Hope that helps...

Regards, Ed

 

Ed, that is a great set of photos. Thanks for posting. The photo that I include here doesn't quite show all nine of the wires (five black and four gray) that feed to the BLI board from that smaller front light board. 

You identify my mystery wire (?) as the Number Board Minus. I remain a little confused on that one. As I count them, there are five lights up front on the F7A, a dual head light, a Mars light, a cab light, and a pair of number board lights. The cab light provides the illumination for the number boards. So, there are a pair of wires (one black and one gray) for the dual head light, the Mars light, the cab light, and the number board lights. That seems to me to leave a fifth black wire unaccounted for.

Rich

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Posted by rrinker on Friday, September 2, 2016 6:52 AM

 You may have to just dig in and see where that extra wire goes to on the circuit board and see what LED it's wired to. Since it appears BLI uses a black wire for the positive , there may be an independent line to the second headlight with both sharing a common negative side, thus one more black wire than grey wires. Seems like belt and suspenders unless thre's an option in the functions to lighjt just one headlight indepdently of the other. Unless the second headlight is not mounted to the PC board and thus cannot share the same black wire with the first headlight.

                          --Randy

 


Modeling the Reading Railroad in the 1950's

 

Visit my web site at www.readingeastpenn.com for construction updates, DCC Info, and more.

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Posted by rmgoat on Saturday, March 27, 2021 2:39 AM

rrinker

 I always wondered about Browadway's timing on introducing BlueLine, since by then the dual decoder thing was rapidly disappearing due precisely to issues with programming them, plus advances that allowed the motor control circuitry to coexist on the same board as the sound circuitry without being too big to fitTo be fair, Digitrax also came out with the Soundbug about the same time, but they also had a line of motor decoders specifically designed to work with it. You can connect a Soundbug as a second decoder in anything, but you take your chances like any other dual decoder install unless you use the specific Digitrax motor decoders made to work with it. Broadway had suggestions on which decoders worked best alongside the Blueline sound decoder, but there never were any guarantees.

 My point on the install is basically, use your favorite. Since the wiring is easily accessible, anything will work. Someone who prefers WOWSound is going to say they work the best, someone who prefers Loksound is goign to say they work the best, etc. So pick whichever one you like, the install process will be the same no matter what you pick. Despite the complete interoperability with decoders, there are advantages to sticking with a limited number of different brands across your fleet.

                               --Randy

  

I think they were stii afraid of a long legal battle with the MTH guy who claimed to have 'invented' combined DCC/Sound decoders. Until the MRIA and NMRA won against him.

 

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Posted by Overmod on Monday, March 29, 2021 11:00 AM

rmgoat
I think they were stii afraid of a long legal battle with the MTH guy who claimed to have 'invented' combined DCC/Sound decoders.

That may well be.  I always looked at it as sort of an Intel 486 strategy: at that time no one knew whether there would be 'more' of a market in the near term for DCC vs. "operate in silence no more" so why not design a 'modular' architecture that allowed either as determined by demand or price level?  Certainly there is more than enough carryover of (to me, overpriced and of decidedly little worth) toy-train features like cab chatter and "environmental noises" that might appeal more to the kid's side of modeling than the computerized and expen$ive early DCC...

We are only now getting to the point where good sound management is provided without proprietary tools and resources.  And 16-bit processing cores and available memory to serve them become cheap enough to implement in a default 'single decoder' package... with all the controls needed to 'do it right'.

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Posted by richhotrain on Wednesday, March 31, 2021 5:58 AM

richhotrain

I have two F7A Blueline locomotives and, suffice it to say, I have had it with the dual decoder system. Tonight, I had to remove the motive decoder on one unit to reprogram the sound and lights decoder. Just the latest in a long string of problems. Consisting is the worst of the problems, but so is just trying to program the motive decoder without losing sound and lights.

So, I am ready to dump the two decoders and replace them with a single sound decoder. Has anyone done this with Blueline locos, particularly diesels?

Rich 

That was the crux of the matter when I started this thread a few years back.

At the time, I was ready to pull out the factory installed sounds and lights decoder and the after-market motor decoder and install a single sound decoder, but I never did.

The big problem with the dual decoder system was programming a consist of two or more Blueline locos. It is next to impossible. My solution was to simply program the same long address in each loco in the consist. That has worked well for me ever since.

Rich

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Posted by railandsail on Saturday, April 3, 2021 11:59 AM

richhotrain

 

 
richhotrain

I have two F7A Blueline locomotives and, suffice it to say, I have had it with the dual decoder system. Tonight, I had to remove the motive decoder on one unit to reprogram the sound and lights decoder. Just the latest in a long string of problems. Consisting is the worst of the problems, but so is just trying to program the motive decoder without losing sound and lights.

So, I am ready to dump the two decoders and replace them with a single sound decoder. Has anyone done this with Blueline locos, particularly diesels?

Rich 

 

 

That was the crux of the matter when I started this thread a few years back.

 

At the time, I was ready to pull out the factory installed sounds and lights decoder and the after-market motor decoder and install a single sound decoder, but I never did.

The big problem with the dual decoder system was programming a consist of two or more Blueline locos. It is next to impossible. My solution was to simply program the same long address in each loco in the consist. That has worked well for me ever since.

Rich

 

I have that same set of Blueline F7's. AB & AB, that I have yet to modify in any way from the factory condition (no completed layout at the time, but I'm getting there soon).

I have read of numerous problems with 'duel decoders' in these blueline locos, but I had hoped that solutions would be sorted out by the time I needed to do so.

I do understand that many folks just take the 'sound only decoders' out of these engines and replace them with all new combo 'sound & dcc' decoders.

What I am asking Rich, is about your work-around. Are you saying that you are able to operate your ABBA Santa-Fe consist by simply using the same long address for the decoder equipped A units in that consist?    In other words this works for this particular consist, but still won't allow these locos to be consisted with others??

I might be able to live with this plan for these particular locos, and it might save some money?

If so is there are more up-to-date motor/motion decoder one might put in those stock blueline locos (rather than the ones Rich utilized a number of years ago??

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Posted by railandsail on Saturday, April 3, 2021 12:09 PM

richhotrain

The worst part of it is consisting which is all but impossible. No, scratch that last comment. It is impossible to consist Blueline locomotives. As soon as power is turned off and then back on again at the next session, the sound and lights are gone and re-programming has to take place. Incredibly annoying.

Rich

 

Are you saying the decoder(s) lack the capability to remember the settings that have been 'programed' into them?

(Please excuse my ignorance of this subject)

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Posted by richhotrain on Saturday, April 3, 2021 1:54 PM

railandsail
 
What I am asking Rich, is about your work-around. Are you saying that you are able to operate your ABBA Santa-Fe consist by simply using the same long address for the decoder equipped A units in that consist?    In other words this works for this particular consist, but still won't allow these locos to be consisted with others??

I might be able to live with this plan for these particular locos, and it might save some money?

If so is there are more up-to-date motor/motion decoder one might put in those stock blueline locos (rather than the ones Rich utilized a number of years ago?? 

Yes, I simply use the same long address for the two A-units. The B-units are unpowered dummies. This works fine, but I am not sure that the lighting operates like a consist on the prototype. But, since I am not all that fussy about the lighting protocols, I just have it set up so that the headlights toggle on and off with the FL/F0 key, and the Mars lights toggles on and of with the F7 key.

I have never tried to run the Blueline A-units in a non-Blueline consist, but you would not be able to use the same long address in both Blueline A-units, at least not very easily.

The Digitrax N14IP decoder is still available. That is the motor that I used.

Rich

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Posted by richhotrain on Saturday, April 3, 2021 1:59 PM

railandsail
 
richhotrain

The worst part of it is consisting which is all but impossible. No, scratch that last comment. It is impossible to consist Blueline locomotives. As soon as power is turned off and then back on again at the next session, the sound and lights are gone and re-programming has to take place. Incredibly annoying.

Rich 

Are you saying the decoder(s) lack the capability to remember the settings that have been 'programed' into them?

So it seems. The sound and lights decoder is factory installed in the Blueline, and one would think that powering down and powering up again would not require the sound and lights to be re-programmed. So, maybe it is the interplay with the motor decoder. Dunno. That is the main reason that I started using the same long address in both A-units and bypassing Advanced Consisting.

Rich

Alton Junction

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