Running Different Locomotive Brands with Piko DCC

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  • Member since
    March 2020
  • 2 posts
Running Different Locomotive Brands with Piko DCC
Posted by huntermcd on Thursday, March 12, 2020 12:55 PM

Hi all!

I've got a few questions regarding running different locomotive brands on Piko Digital Control System. I have a few USA Trains diesel locomotives, a few LGB locomotives, and a few Piko locomotives. I have the Piko Digital Comand Center along with the Piko switch decoders. Eventually I'd like to run all the locomotives at the same time on the Piko Digital Control System, but becomes problematic with the analog USA Trains locos, the LGB digital system, and Piko digital locos. I was wondering if its possible to install a Piko decoder circuit board in my USA Trains and LGB locomotives so that all are running on the same digital system? If so, what decoder should I install in the USA and LGB locomotives? 

To be specific, I have 3 USA Trains GP38 locomotives, 1 SD70Mac; LGB Mikado Steam locomotive and a F7A locomotive. 

Any advice is much appreciated! 

  • Member since
    April 2002
  • From: Wisconsin
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Posted by Rene Schweitzer on Thursday, March 19, 2020 7:52 AM

Hi hunter,

I reached out to PIKO America for you, and am pasting their answer below. I wanted to add that they have a YouTube channel with videos, so you might want to check that out.

The Wireless Receiver is strictly to connect the handheld Navigator Remote with the Digital Central Station.  The Navigator comes with a cable to connect to the Central Station, but most folks want to be able to walk around freely without a tether.  The current models go together, which is the 35017 Navigator Remote and the 35018 Wireless Receiver.  People who have the older 35021 Navigator need to use the older 35022 Wireless Receiver.


By the way, the system allows up to 8 operators, each with a Navigator in-hand.  That only requires the one original Wireless Receiver for the whole system, not another Wireless Receiver for each added Navigator.



Now, regarding locomotives and decoders…


Many PIKO American-style locos come with a SoundTraxx DCC sound decoder already installed.  Nothing else needed.  Put them on the track and run.  We also now have our first European-style locos with factory-installed sound decoders.  For any PIKO locos which did not come with decoders, we would recommend PIKO decoders.  For those, we provide some assistance for experienced installers.  Those with no experience are on their own, or should pay us or someone else to install the decoder for them.  Other brands of decoders can be installed, but we provide no support for that, of course.


Many LGB locos in the past 20 years or more came from the factory with decoders.  Most others in the past 25 years have come with some sort of socket for the decoder to plug in.  Here again, instructions recommend a certain LGB decoder and that is probably the way to go, for all but the most experienced installers.  Far as we know, customers are completely on their own for this process with LGB locos.


Also, the sound systems and decoders in some LGB locos require their old MTS “serial” pulses to activate the various functions.  This is sort of like comparing an old rotary-dial telephone with its series of clicks to modern touch-tone dialing.  The PIKO G Digital system is one of the few DCC systems that can also work with these old decoders and sound units.



Regarding other brands of locos, USA in particular…


This is a tough situation.  Regardless of the brand of decoder or DCC system being used, the fact is that USA locos require a lot of current.  A big USA diesel can easily need 3 to 4 Amps, just for one loco.  A large PIKO or LGB loco needs less than 2 Amps, and often closer to only 1 Amp.  For most users with PIKO or LGB locos, the limiting factor is not really the system capacity, but how many trains they can run without having a collision.


So, if you have a Digital Central Station that can only put out 5 Amps maximum, you can do the math and figure out that you could run several PIKO and/or LGB locos, but one or two USA locos could use up the entire capacity of the system.  This is why very few customers install decoders in USA locos.  On layouts where someone wants to run several of these locos together, pulling a long train, the power is usually something like a big Bridgewerks 20-Amp Analog DC power supply.



For DCC on larger layouts…


We offer digital Boosters for big layouts needing more Amps in-total.  The layout is divided up into two or more electrical “blocks” or sections, usually by using insulated (plastic) rail joiners on both rails.  The first block is powered by the Digital Central Station.  Each added block is powered by a Booster, each Booster also having its own transformer.  By this method, the whole layout can have up to 5 blocks, meaning up to 25 Amps total.


The principle of this is that it’s unlikely to have several trains all in one block at once.  They are usually spread out over the large layout.  But that does still mean that each block can be no more than 5 Amps.  So, even with Boosters, it’s not practical to put decoders into 3 or 4 big USA diesels and run them all at the head of one train, meaning all in one block at the same time.

Rene Schweitzer

Classic Toy Trains/Garden Railways/Model Railroader

  • Member since
    March 2020
  • 2 posts
Posted by huntermcd on Saturday, March 28, 2020 9:16 AM

Thanks Rene! This helped a lot!! 

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