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Removing a decoder from a big steamer

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Removing a decoder from a big steamer
Posted by SeeYou190 on Friday, May 17, 2019 5:30 PM

I have a Bachmann EM-1 with a dual model decoder, and I do not like the feel of the throttle with this type of operation. I can live with it on this locomotive, but I do not want to continue down this path.

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The other two articulcated locomotives I have decided I "need" are the NORFOLK AND WESTERN Class A 2-6-6-4 and Class Y6B 2-8-8-2. 

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Fortunately, these are both available, but not in DCC-Ready or DC, just DCC dual mode. I wrote to the manufacturer and asked if there was an instruction sheet to remove the decoder, and they replied saying that it cannot be removed.

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So... since the manufacturer will not help, does anyone here know how difficult this might be to do?

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I don't care about sound or lighting. I just want to hard wire the motor leads to the track pick-ups for the simplest possible installation.

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My gut feeling is that I should be able to unplug the decoder and just install a couple of jumpers to connect the motor to the track pick up, but I am afraid I might not know an important detail.

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Any ideas or experience with this?

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-Kevin

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Happily modeling the STRATTON & GILLETTE RAILROAD located in a world of plausible nonsense set in August, 1954.

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Posted by gmpullman on Friday, May 17, 2019 5:47 PM

Hi, Kevin

From what I gather you are saying you want to revert to straight DC operation on these locomotives?

I agree that using a DCC equipped loco on DC, especially one equipped with sound, is not a very good compromise. You actually only get motor control between ± 7.5 volts and 12 volts on the rails.

I have swapped many steam decoders and in the process am familiar with some of the wiring. Most of what you need can be sorted out visually, such as figuring out the right rail and left rail pickups.

The main pair you are concerned with are the motor leads. These you might have to "ring out" using a low voltage supply (maybe a pair of 1.5 volt batteries in a holder or a lab-type DC power supply). Bachmann is famous for using a choke/filter on their motor leads so that may help if you can identify that on the board then follow the trace to which wired it feeds on the tender plug to the locomotive.

You could even get the LED headlight(s) to have diirectional lighting if you wire the anode to the right (+) rail and cathode to the left, and keep at least a 1KΩ resistor in place. Do the opposite for the rear LED.

TCS has a good photo of the original board here:

http://tcsdcc.com/index.php/installation/ho-scale/bachmann-2-8-8-4-em1-steam/wsk-bac-3

It really looks quite straight-forward. Again, check the wire pair that feeds the motor and identify the + lead, this will go to the right rail so the loco moves forward when + DC is applied to the right rail.

I found a photo of the pin-outs of the locomotive. The 2 pin plug is the track pickup with right rail + being the outer-most pin and track - left rail being the pin closer to the boiler.

The other four pin plug is, from outside toward center:

Headlight +

Headlight —

Motor +

Motor —

 The RF choke circuit I mentioned above is on a board inside the firebox. It won't hurt to leave it in place for straight DC. 

It has been years since I've had my EM1s open (to install the sound card). What you want to do isn't impossible it will just take a little "sorting out" of the wire assignments.

Good Luck, Ed

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Posted by SeeYou190 on Friday, May 17, 2019 10:10 PM

Thanks for all the information Ed.

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Unfortunately, I cannot remove the decoder from my EM-1. I must have accidentally glued the tender floor in place somehow. I absolutely cannot get it off the shell. If the decoder ever fails, I guess I will need to attack it in that circumstance.

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I am more concerned with the planned purchase of the N&W Class A and Class Y6B.

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Yes, the intent is to revert them to straight DC to the motor and no lighting or sound. I like everything as simple as possible.

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From what you described. This certainly seems very possible to get done.

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I appreciate all the good help.

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-Kevin

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Happily modeling the STRATTON & GILLETTE RAILROAD located in a world of plausible nonsense set in August, 1954.

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Posted by gmpullman on Friday, May 17, 2019 10:21 PM

SeeYou190
I must have accidentally glued the tender floor in place somehow. I absolutely cannot get it off the shell.

There are four screws at each corner. You removed these didn't you?

I seem to recall they're recessed.

Take a good look.

The Bachmann J has an 8 pin plug but you are still going to have to make up a socket and feed the rail pickups to the motor.

Refer to these photos again at the TCS WOWsound site:

http://tcsdcc.com/installation/ho-scale/bachmann-j-class-4-8-4/wsk-bac-3

Cheers, Ed

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Posted by SeeYou190 on Friday, May 17, 2019 10:23 PM

gmpullman
There are four screws at each corner. You removed these didn't you? I seem to recall they're recessed.

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Yep, I removed the screws. The floor is 100% stuck in place. I took the tender apart to paint it a couple of years ago. Maybe there was some solvent or wet paint on the surfaces when I reassembled it.

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It runs fine, so I am leaving it together. I pried on it hard enough to deform the tender shell a little. I don't want to do any more damage.

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That model is the best running steam locomotive I have.

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-Kevin

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Happily modeling the STRATTON & GILLETTE RAILROAD located in a world of plausible nonsense set in August, 1954.

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Posted by gmpullman on Friday, May 17, 2019 10:27 PM

SeeYou190
It runs fine, so I am leaving it together. I pried on it hard enough to deform the tender shell a little. I don't want to do any more damage.

Well, that's a real conundrum. Sometimes you can find spare tenders available from Bachmann. Maybe...

Good Luck, Ed

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Posted by wjstix on Sunday, May 19, 2019 3:27 PM

Kevin, if the problem is with a DCC-Sound engine, keep in mind that not all "dual mode" decoders are sound decoders. Virtually all decoders on the market now - both sound and non-sound - are "dual mode" meaning they can be used on a DCC system, but can also be used on DC layouts with no modifications.

A sound decoder uses a lot of power, so on a DC layout the engine may not start to move until the throttle is up to 2/3rds or higher. With a non-sound DCC decoder, the engine works the same under DC or DCC. When I buy a non-sound DCC-equipped engine, I like to do a break-in run on DC first. The engine runs on DC just like a DC engine. The decoder just passes the DC through it to the motor and lights. You wouldn't even know there's a decoder in it.

I bet the engines you want (BTW you don't mention manufacturer?) are available in non-sound / DCC-equipped versions. If so, I would recommend buying them and using them with the decoder in place. Never know if in the future you might decide to go to DCC, or want to run the engine on the layout of a friend or a club that uses DCC. But in the meantime, the engines will run just fine in DC.

Stix
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Posted by richg1998 on Sunday, May 19, 2019 4:37 PM

Some of the HO steam loco diagrams show the six pin adapters for DC operation. I have seen them. They show the pins used. Go take a look. I do not remember the pins used.

I have a few in my long lost junk box somewhere.

Yes, using a decoder with DC is second best for sure. The NMRA idea.

Edit.

Ok, just found this if anyone needs it.

http://cs.trains.com/mrr/f/744/p/274494/3127947.aspx

Last I recall, the EM-1 has a decoder and a sound module that pluigs into the decoder that is already in the tender.

Rich

If you ever fall over in public, pick yourself up and say “sorry it’s been a while since I inhabited a body.” And just walk away.

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Posted by richg1998 on Sunday, May 19, 2019 5:03 PM

This might not be any help but from the Bachmann site. Trace the wires from the two pin connector and four wire connector to the connector for the decoder.

I have done that with a different Bachmann steamer. Not difficult.

I had to replace both connectors.

https://www.bachmanntrains.com/home-usa/dwg/dwgs/HOEM-1SoundModuleInstructions.pdf

Rich

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Posted by SeeYou190 on Sunday, May 19, 2019 5:28 PM

The NORFOLK AND WESTERN Class A 2-6-6-4 and Y6B 2-8-8-2 that I want are both made by BLI, and are only available with sound and dual mode DCC decoder.

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The EM-1 that I already own is another issue. I somehow permamently attached the tender floor when I reassembled it, so as long as it runs OK, that one will retain the dual mode decoder. It does not have sound.

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I will never run DCC. I don't want to go into all the reasons why, but that is my decision.

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I want to take the sound and DCC out, and just have straight DC locomotives. Motor only. No sound, and lighting is not desired.

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My big beef it this... how hard would it be for a manufacturer to include a jumper plug, or just have one available, to do away with the DCC decoder?

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If we have plug-in DCC ready locomotives, why can't we have un-plug DC ready locomotives?

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I fully accept the DCC is the future, and I am a dinosaur. I know that most all locomotives in the future will only be offered in DCC. Is "DC Ready" too much to ask?

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-Kevin

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Happily modeling the STRATTON & GILLETTE RAILROAD located in a world of plausible nonsense set in August, 1954.

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Posted by richg1998 on Sunday, May 19, 2019 6:00 PM

Look at the link I provided and you can see why it cannot be converted easily to DC. The decoder is somehow connected to the six wires the come from the two connectors from the loco. Maybe two for a tender light.

Make your own PC board connection. There have been a couple discussions here before about constant lighting with LED's.

Others have stripped this decoder out fot a different decoder. This is model railroading.

You would do better to ask the question to the manufactures but I know what you will get for an answer. The products are selling.

Rich

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Posted by SeeYou190 on Sunday, May 19, 2019 6:16 PM

richg1998
You would do better to ask the question to the manufactures but I know what you will get for an answer. The products are selling.

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I already asked the manufacturer. They said it cannot be done. That is why I asked the question here.

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I think these purchases will get pushed way back.

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-Kevin

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Happily modeling the STRATTON & GILLETTE RAILROAD located in a world of plausible nonsense set in August, 1954.

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Posted by richg1998 on Sunday, May 19, 2019 6:20 PM

Ok, but I have seen discussions were some have changed decoders which means ripping everything out. I figure they had the technical knowledge. At least one put in a Tsunami, maybe two or three years ago.

Whatever.

Rich

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Posted by gmpullman on Sunday, May 19, 2019 6:53 PM

SeeYou190
I am more concerned with the planned purchase of the N&W Class A and Class Y6B.

Yes, I have replaced several BLI decoders, older QSI and a few Paragon 2, and "upgraded" them to either TCS WOWsound or ESU Loksound.

As Rich points out, this procedure simply involves sorting out what wires go where. I have notes on several BLI engines and their tender plug wiring assignments.

I eliminate the smoke generator if so equipped. In one recent conversion, a New York Central 4-8-4 Niagara, I replaced the smoke puffer with a cube speaker. It is nice to hear sound come from the stack instead of the back of the tender Tongue Tied

As I mentioned in my first reply, you certainly can remove a decoder and feed the rail pickups directly to the motor. At the minimum you only have to connect the red (right rail) wire to the orange (motor +) lead and the black (left rail) to the motor – and you're done. Big drawback is both BLI and Bachmann use all black wire so you have to hunt and poke (with a test meter) to sort out which wires do what.

I noted the Bachmann wiring assignments also mentioned above. BLI uses a different arrangement depending on weather the engine has a smoke unit or not:

 BLI_T1_DCC2 (2016_08_17 08_08_12 UTC) by Edmund, on Flickr

 IMG_6425_fix by Edmund, on Flickr

 IMG_6416_fix by Edmund, on Flickr

As far as manufacturers catering to customer needs (or wants) we're not going to see much in the way of that anymore. Jason Shron of Rapido mentioned the price difference IIRC making "dummy" locomotives and he mentioned the cost difference wouldn't amount to any kind of savings for the buyer but the added expense of inventory and packaging negates any savings.

BLI tried their "Stealth" series and BlueLine, both of those flopped. Seems the buying public wanted all the bells and whistles (and smoke and depleting coal loads?) so the minority that wanted straight DC were left holding the throttle (bag).

Same way with DCC, so much cheaper to make one model, here it is, take it or leave it. Fewer SKU numbers, less inventory. Try going into a new car showroom and buying a car with no A/C and asking for crank windows. Whistling

Good Luck, Ed

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Posted by doctorwayne on Sunday, May 19, 2019 8:10 PM

The first thing I did when I got my Bachmann 2-8-0s (DCC-ready) was to remove the circuit board in the tender, along with the plugs between loco and tender..

The next job was to extend or replace the wires from the loco's pick-up wipers, re-routing them each directly to the motor, rather than to the tender.
Following that, I ran a separate wire, inside the tender, from each tender truck (one truck picks up from the left rail, the other truck from the right rail) to a mini plug, which in-turn plug into wires on the loco leading to the motor.  Couldn't be simpler.
I later bought, second hand, a Bachmann 2-6-6-2, equipped with a decoder with sound...snip, snip, gone!
Re-wiring for DC is the same as outlined for the Consolidations.

While this is an Athearn Genesis 2-8-2, the mini plug set-up is similar to that on the Bachmann locos...

Both brands use all-wheel pick-up on the drivers, and while Bachmann offers pick-up from opposite rails with their tender trucks, the Genesis tenders don't figure in power collection at all.  I change the latter situation by adding Bachmann axle wipers, along with the mini-plugs, to the Athearn tenders, making operation that more reliable. 
It's not all that difficult to add all-wheel current collection to these tenders, either, and it uses the same two plugs as used for otherwise unmodified tenders.
For the 2-6-6-2, I utilised the wipers on the two driver sets, of course...

...but also added all-wheel pick-up on the tender, and on the auxilliary tender, too...

Not a very clear photo, but these are the plugs from the auxilliary tender, on the left, to the main tender, and there's a similar set from the main tender to the locomotive....

Here's one of the tender trucks, showing wipers on all four wheels...

With 16 tender wheels and 12 drivers providing the electrical power, it's unlikely to stall due to lack of current, but the wipers need to be adjusted, as they put too much pressure on the wheel-backs, limiting train lengths...

Here's a LINK to the entire build of the 2-6-6-2.

I don't use lights on my locomotives, so you're on your own for that.

Wayne

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Posted by rrinker on Sunday, May 19, 2019 8:30 PM

 Maybe it's the wrong question - maybe you can't remove the decoder, but it's certainly not impossible to disconnect the wires and bypass the decoder!

 Given that people are being fooled both ways - buy the DCC Ready version of the loco thinking it actually has DCC, and just the other day someone posted on the ESU Facebook page that they couldn;t get their loco to work on DCC - they were sold MOTHERBOARDS and told that was all they need to make it DCC. Thought he had it wired incorrectly and posted pictures - all the wires were in the right place, it's just there was no decoder plugged in to the motherboard. No idea how much the dealer charged for the motherboards, but now he has to spend another $100 for an actual sound decoder. Dunno if the dealer was just an idiot and didn't understand either, or took advantage of the buyer who only recently started with DCC - more and more I think all we will see is DCC installed. As mentioned, BLI's Stealth series didn;t sell - and they would eb exactly what DC modelrs would want, the same loco, no decoder or anything, a straight DC loco. If that's what you want available, you have to buy the product, if they can't sell the models then they just won't make them that way any more.

 Mostly I just wait, and a year or so later pick up the DCC and sound model for what a plain DC one would cost - limited runs my rear end. Have yet to not be able to get something I wanted even though I didn't preorder. They ALWAYS show up on eBay after being "sold out". So that may be the only way to get the loco without paying extra for the sound and DCC you don't want.

 And I think finally people are realizing that DC and sound don't mix, there is a lack of control of the loco speed and limited control of any of the sounds. ANd they won't run with a plain DC loco.

                                       --Randy

                            


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Posted by ATLANTIC CENTRAL on Monday, May 20, 2019 5:37 PM

Kevin, I have both the Bachmann EM-1 and the BLI Class A and have removed all the decoders. It is just about tracing wires and possibly adding some head light constant lighting and resistors.

Ed seems to be providing you good help, and my locos and documentation is still packed up, so I will not confuse the issue.

In the case of my Class A, and a number of other locos from BLI, I simply replaced the tenders with Bachmann tenders, cutting the BLI plug off the original tender and wiring it to the Bachmann lighting board after tracing the wires.

If you need more help, let me know.

Sheldon

 

    

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Posted by ATLANTIC CENTRAL on Monday, May 20, 2019 5:43 PM

wjstix

Kevin, if the problem is with a DCC-Sound engine, keep in mind that not all "dual mode" decoders are sound decoders. Virtually all decoders on the market now - both sound and non-sound - are "dual mode" meaning they can be used on a DCC system, but can also be used on DC layouts with no modifications.

A sound decoder uses a lot of power, so on a DC layout the engine may not start to move until the throttle is up to 2/3rds or higher. With a non-sound DCC decoder, the engine works the same under DC or DCC. When I buy a non-sound DCC-equipped engine, I like to do a break-in run on DC first. The engine runs on DC just like a DC engine. The decoder just passes the DC through it to the motor and lights. You wouldn't even know there's a decoder in it.

I bet the engines you want (BTW you don't mention manufacturer?) are available in non-sound / DCC-equipped versions. If so, I would recommend buying them and using them with the decoder in place. Never know if in the future you might decide to go to DCC, or want to run the engine on the layout of a friend or a club that uses DCC. But in the meantime, the engines will run just fine in DC.

 

Respectfully, not true.

There are a number of different DC throttle designs that use pulse width modulated speed control (just like a DCC decoder). 

Dual mode decoders will not work with these throttles. Often the loco will just sit and buzz, or it will only have one speed - FULL THROTTLE.

I have yet to find the dual mode decoder that will run on my Aristo Craft Train Engineer wireless radio throttles.

Other DC operators I know have reported the same facts stated above.

Dual mode decoders only work with pure DC, any kind of advanced waveform DC throttle presents a problem for the dual mode decoder. 

The best DC performance is always acheived without a DCC decoder installed in the loco, with any kind of DC throttle.

Sheldon

    

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Posted by SeeYou190 on Monday, May 20, 2019 6:17 PM

ATLANTIC CENTRAL
In the case of my Class A, and a number of other locos from BLI, I simply replaced the tenders with Bachmann tenders,

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That might be the best final solution for me. I have a couple of "long USRA" undecorated Bachmann tenders. I wonder how one of those would look behind that N&W Class A.

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Thanks.

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-Kevin

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Posted by ATLANTIC CENTRAL on Monday, May 20, 2019 7:28 PM

SeeYou190

 

 
ATLANTIC CENTRAL
In the case of my Class A, and a number of other locos from BLI, I simply replaced the tenders with Bachmann tenders,

 

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That might be the best final solution for me. I have a couple of "long USRA" undecorated Bachmann tenders. I wonder how one of those would look behind that N&W Class A.

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Thanks.

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-Kevin

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It would back date the look some, but it would work.

Those later N&W tenders had a very unique look, I wanted more of a family look.

I had spare Bachmann C&O Kanawha (2-8-4) tenders from my Mikado conversions, because I only used the smaller Nickle Plate tenders and some long Vandy tenders on the Mikes.

The larger C&O tenders were just right for my two Class A's.

It really is not hard to rewire any of these locos to get rid of the decoders.

Think like this:

From the loco going to the tender you have the following:

Left wheel pickup

Right wheel pickup

Motor +

Motor -

Headlight +

Headlight -

And maybe a timing sensor wire or two, or a smoke unit wire or two you can ignor.

In the tender you have:

Left wheel pickup

Right wheel pickup

Backup light +

Backup light -

Standard DC practice says when the right hand wheel is + the loco moves forward. So connect both right hand pickups to the + motor lead.

Connect both left hand pickups to the - motor lead.

Then decide what you want for lights, some diodes and some resistors since most of these locos have LED headlights, there you are.

Yes the trick is in the tracing wires, but often the factory boards have markings that will help you.

See Ed's photos and drawings above.

A word or two about the family look of tenders.

Nearly all ATLANTIC CENTRAL steam locos have one of three tender designs.

The classic USRA tender:

The C&O style Vanderbilt tender:

Or this more modern large tender, typical of lots of east coast roads:

 

I have BLI Heavy Mikados, BLI Heavy Pacifics, and several brass USRA Light Pacifics, all with Bachmann USRA long haul tenders (and no decoders) to match my Bachmann Heavy Mountains and Light 2-10-2's.

I have my freelanced Heavy Mikes, Reading T1's, Proto 2-8-8-0 conversions, and the Class A's, all with the more modern tenders.

Then I have a few of the freelanced Mikes and Bachmann 2-6-6-2's with long Vanderbilt tenders.

Anyway, to get to the point, I do lots of tender swaps and therefor lots of rewiring and decoder disposals........

Sheldon     

    

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Posted by ATLANTIC CENTRAL on Monday, May 20, 2019 9:55 PM

Kevin, to answer one of your earlier questions, for many years Bachmann did include DC jumpers with their non sound DCC decoder equiped locos. Simply unplug the decoder and install the two jumper plugs in the 8 pin conncector.

But I believe they, and most others have gone to hard wired sound decoders these days, and few locos are being offered with DCC but without sound.

You mentioned you have a Bachmann long haul tender, open it up, you will see the 8 pin socket and it will have the jumbers installed. That is how they sold the individual tenders back when they were offered.

So, some of my decoder removals were really easy, other required rewiring.

Sheldon

    

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