Subscriber & Member Login

Login, or register today to interact in our online community, comment on articles, receive our newsletter, manage your account online and more!

Running DC locomotives in a DCC environment

9 replies
1 rating 2 rating 3 rating 4 rating 5 rating
  • Member since
    February 2008
  • 28 posts
Running DC locomotives in a DCC environment
Posted by GKMDB on Wednesday, March 26, 2008 2:20 PM
I am just beginning to build a new layout and am thinking of DCC as the better way to go.  I know very little about DCC even after reading many posts and Model Railroader magazines.  A friend is selling all his HO locomotives and rolling stock, buildings, etc as a lot but none of it is DCC equipped.  Am I wasting my money purchasing these locomotives or will they run fine with a DCC system.  I am not even sure what I need to buy to set up a DCC system.
  • Member since
    April 2003
  • 305,206 posts
Posted by Anonymous on Wednesday, March 26, 2008 3:01 PM

Taking on a potentially very large batch of locomotives and converting them to DCC is a project not for the poor and faint of heart.

If the "Friend" does not have any DCC equiptment at all... it is a safe bet that you might find yourself in a sort of a money pit.

If all of those engines are already equippted with DCC etc.. well... one can dream.


Keep in mind that all DCC does is throw switches, call locomotives by name, helps run several locomotives as a single team, auto reverses etc... all under a logic system.

DC still has it's benefits, such as cost but is rapidly being eroded by falling prices and improving quality of DCC systems in GENERAL...

Personally, I have both DC and DCC. But when it is showtime, DCC is on the bubble, not the DC. The DC stuff is strictly for testing guniea pigs.. err.. looking for problems.

  • Member since
    January 2007
  • 180 posts
Posted by Otis on Wednesday, March 26, 2008 3:10 PM

 My 2 cents [2c] 

Well, if you go with DCC, which I would definitely recommend, then you would be wasting your time acquiring a lot of DC locomotives if you don't plan to convert them to DCC.

Why? Well, if your entire layout is DCC you can only run one DC locomotive at a time by setting it to address 00, and you can actually only have ONE DC locomotive sitting on the track anywhere in the layout at one time (because just sitting on the track even if not addressed, they hum as mentioned below).  That is a real nuisance.

Moreover, the DC locos when run by a DCC controller emit low to fairly loud hum/squeal from their motors as they receive the signal from the controller.  It is annoying (I have only one brand out of a half dozen makes of locos that have anything like a quiet hum.)

The only way to have several DC locos on your layout at one time is to wire blocks into your DCC layout which defeats the purpose of DCC making life simple.

On the other hand, if you will enjoy converting DC locos to DCC and would like to have a layout with as many locos parked or in use on the tracks as your controller can handle, then go ahead and stock up on the DC locos if they are of good quality.  That's what I did. 

The conversions have become the fun part...because I like to take things and make them run better.  But as noted elsewhere, it costs a bit.  I am into the hundreds of dollars for a mix of both sound and simple decoders for all the locos I acquired.


  • Member since
    June 2004
  • From: Orig: Tyler Texas. Lived in seven countries, now live in Sundown, Louisiana
  • 25,640 posts
Posted by jeffrey-wimberly on Wednesday, March 26, 2008 3:48 PM
If you get the DC locos pick out those that run best and do what you will with the others. The good runners can be converted to DCC usually for 15 to 30 dollars each. You don't need expensive fancy decoders, just a simple cheap 2 function decoder will do for the older units. Most of my DCC equipped locos have simple 2 function decoders from Lenz, NCE and Digitrax. BTW, two of my DCC equipped locos are around twenty years old and one is thirty years old.

Running Bear, Sundown, Louisiana
          Joined June, 2004

Dr. Frankendiesel aka Scott Running Bear
Space Mouse for president!
15 year veteran fire fighter
Collector of Apple //e's
Running Bear Enterprises
History Channel Club life member.
beatus homo qui invenit sapientiam

  • Member since
    September 2007
  • From: Charlotte, NC
  • 6,099 posts
Posted by Phoebe Vet on Wednesday, March 26, 2008 4:02 PM

For some reason the entire debate is about the locos.  I believe he said the entire layout was available.

I say take it.  Run one engine for now, put the others in a display case.  Then replace or upgrade engines as circumstances allow.  Locomotives are only a small portion of the investment in a layout.


Lackawanna Route of the Phoebe Snow

  • Member since
    June 2003
  • From: Northeast OH
  • 15,875 posts
Posted by tstage on Wednesday, March 26, 2008 4:23 PM


Without knowing the make, model and age of each of your friend's locomotives, it's difficult to give you a proper assessment whether they'll be easy or difficult to convert to DCC.  The rolling stock is of no consequence, as far as DCC is concerned.

Suggestion: Before doing anything, I would encourage you to read more about DCC so that you know exactly what you are getting into and what to expect.  Here's a couple of good references for you:

DCC for Beginners (Tony's Train Exchange web site) - A good primer on DCC.  You can either read it online or download it all onto your computer as a .pdf file.

DCC Made Easy (Lionel Strang/Kalmbach Pub.) -  Lionel has a wonderful ability to take a complicated subject and put it into understandable terms.

The other issue here is whether your friend's locomotives and rolling stock are of a roadname(s) and era that you want to model.  For you, this may be non-consequential.  Even so, it's still an important consideration in your decision-making.

Hope that helps...


Time...It marches on...without ever turning around to see if anyone is even keeping in step.

  • Member since
    February 2008
  • 28 posts
Posted by GKMDB on Thursday, March 27, 2008 10:25 AM
Thanks for the feedback.  I'm convinced DCC is the way to go so I am not going to buy a lot of DC locos.  Most of them are New York Central which I was not planning to use.  I think I will buy the DCC Made Easy book to get a better understanding of what I need and what to expect.  Money is not really an obstacle so I would rather invest in new equipment and buy what I feel is the best.  Around Findlay, OH, I see a lot of CSX so that will be my main road name.  I just wish there was a local club to join.  I'm sure I could learn a lot from an experienced DCC user.  This forum is my best source of information.  Thanks again.
  • Member since
    February 2008
  • 28 posts
Posted by GKMDB on Thursday, March 27, 2008 10:30 AM
I decided not to take the lot as I am very particular.  I'm sure the price was fair but if it is not what I want, then why buy it.  I was interested in some of the buildings but he wanted to sell the whole package which means I would be getting a lot of stuff I did not want. I appreciate your viewpoint.
  • Member since
    April 2003
  • 305,206 posts
Posted by Anonymous on Thursday, March 27, 2008 11:20 AM

I think you made the right choice, part of the great thing about the hobby is building things in your vision, and when you buy a lot of stuff from someone else it can be hard making their vision fit in with yours and you either end up using things that you wouldn't have, or letting those things sit unused.

I just converted from DC to DCC and it definetly takes a while to get used to, if you come from a block wiring frame of mind.

  • Member since
    April 2003
  • 305,206 posts
Posted by Anonymous on Thursday, March 27, 2008 1:11 PM

 GKMDB wrote:
Money is not really an obstacle so I would rather invest in new equipment and buy what I feel is the best. 

Wow, that is a nice idea.  Wish I were you. (I would say absolutely get your track, track accessories and scenery new rather than take on someone else's vision of a layout).

Glad you will go for DCC.  I started the hobby 16 months ago.  I soon found that I was going to get a lot more bang for my buck if I didn't buy new equipment from the hobby shop.  DCC sound -equipped locos of medium quality run from $129 to $299+ in the hobby shop.  I bought less than half a dozen this way and "plunked" them down on the layout rtr. 

Even DC locos that are DCC ready or not can be $70 to $200 depending on the road name availability

However, in my first month of the hobby I wanted a SW9 switcher.  The LHS price was $99.  I found one new in the box on eBay for $29 and never went back.

For the price of 25 locos from the hobby shop I have made a nice collection of 75 locos of mostly new to very good condition.  Maybe I am just rationalizing, but I also feel adding my own decoders is more fun than "plunking" down the rtr beauties from the LHS.

Of course this type of shopping has drawbacks....about 60% of my locos are not under warranty.  And I have had to make a few minor the old axels on some P2K.  But that in itself is good to learn.  Without taking things apart, how would I understand them?

As for rolling stock....I have picked up some used, but I would recommend getting new product in the road names you want.  The quality is much better than old models, and you won't have to spend time converting horn and hook couplers to knuckle type.

Here is a sample range of purchases:

Low End....... Ebay $14 new P2K switcher (no other bidders one Sunday morning)

High End..... Ebay $109 new P2K DCC with QSI sound powered E8/9A  & dummy B

Most are of this average: Ebay $56 as new Kato DCC ready SD38-2

With careful shopping some very good quality merchandise can be obtained for good prices.  Of course, shipping adds a bit....but if ordering new equipment from an out-of-town hobby shop there would be some shipping cost too.

Subscriber & Member Login

Login, or register today to interact in our online community, comment on articles, receive our newsletter, manage your account online and more!

Search the Community

Model Railroader Newsletter See all
Sign up for our FREE e-newsletter and get model railroad news in your inbox!