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Can I Fit a Decoder on My Own?

David Thompson author of the DCC Help e-book contributed this article to share:

Can I Fit a Decoder on My Own?

Yes, you can! Installing a decoder on a locomotive is not a very difficult task, once you get the hang of the basic concepts involved in its operation.

However, it is advised that the first time you operate on a DCC layout; you get a decoder-fitted train to work on the model.

This will give you some time to learn about the working of the equipment and get familiarized with it before starting from scratch. Once you attain the knowledge and get familiar with the working criteria, you are all set to try the installation on your own!

In a nutshell,
• Decoder is like the working muscle in the DCC layout.
• It is responsible for assigning an address or loco number to the train.
• It also detects the signal incoming from the command station on the track rails and decodes it into the requested action for the locomotive.
• The decoder commands and powers up the motor for controlling its speed and basic direction settings.
• Optional commands that can be controlled by a decoder include controlling the back EMF and momentum and updating the speed table.
• The decoder also acts as a switched outlet and functions to power up the additional equipment like the driving headlights, any special light effects, and the sound.
• It is packaged as a chip, ready to be installed in the locomotive with a ‘plug and play’ action. Many locomotives also come with the ‘DCC fitted’ option, which means the decoder is already installed in them and they can be used as it is by the user. Such systems are ideal for beginners. Advanced users can program and install the decoder themselves as well for defining more custom functions and features.
• The price for the decoders depends upon the number of features it offers.
• When selecting the decoder, it is a good idea to go for NMRA compatible models so that they can work in conjunction with any throttle or command station you are using. Also, look at the power consumption of the decoder before adding it on to your locomotive.
• You can easily install and fit a decoder on your own, but opt for assistance from a friend or a technical professional in case you are confused about the different steps involved. You can also seek online help in this regard, there are a number of resources available that guide on the model and type of decoders that you should go for.
• There is no specific decoder that can be termed as the best choice for your locomotive. Different versions and brands seem to work for different people. So, at the end of the day, it is all about what you seek from the equipment and your own requirements that make the layout work like a charm for you.

For more help on DCC go here

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