DCC and Steam

Papa Apr 1, 2010

  1. Papa

    Papa TrainBoard Member

    I am new to N scale and have a small (5) engine roster of all diesel engines. I decided to go DCC from the start. I also have an O Scale layout which has all command engines of which the majority are steam. The reason I have not entered the market for N scale steam engines is that I want DCC and it seems it is a little more complicated go put decoders in steam than the easy DCC Ready diesels. Is my intimidation warranted? Papa
  2. CSX Robert

    CSX Robert TrainBoard Member

    N-scale steam runs the gamut from difficult to relatively easy to simple plug in to DCC equipped. Some of the difficult ones are the Bachmann 4-4-0, Athearn 2-6-0 and 2-8-0, and the Atlas Shay. Some that are hardwired but still relatively easy are the Model Power 4-4-0, 2-6-0, 4-6-2, and 2-8-2, and the Bachmann 2-8-0, 4-8-4 Light Mountain and older runs of the 2-6-6-2. Some drop-in or plug-in include the Intermountain Cab Forward, Kato GS-4,and Con-Cor 4-8-4 and 2-10-2. Some that come DCC equipped are Athearn Challenger and Big Boy(both with sound and DCC), Walthers 2-8-8-2(also with sound), and Bachmann 4-8-4 Heavy Mountain, newest run of 2-6-6-2 and coming but not here yet is a new run of 2-8-0 that is DCC equipped.
  3. BedfordRob

    BedfordRob TrainBoard Supporter

    I had similar trepidation and I've certainly not got through the range of DCC fits to steam locos that some here have.

    However, recently I've converted

    IM AC-12 - easy peasy plugin
    Spectrum 2-6-6-2 - soldering required, space issues not quite so tight
    Spectrum 2-8-0 - most fiddly so far, required a bit of soldering but nothing too demanding. Space was the primary issue.

    It's not as daunting as I imagined. I find I just need to go slowly and be careful.
  4. jdcolombo

    jdcolombo TrainBoard Member

    I'd add the Walthers 0-8-0, which also has an NMRA plug in the tender and is a relatively easy DCC conversion. Avoid the first run, though, which had a few QC problems.

    The other issue with N scale steam, frankly, is whether a particular model runs well and will pull a realistic-length train (I view "realistic length" as 25 forty-foot cars; you can adjust your own expectations accordingly). My personal choices for easy DCC conversion PLUS excellent running/pulling characteristics would be as follows (in no particular order):

    Kato GS-4 (drop-in decoder available from Kato)
    Intermountain AC-12 Cab Forward (NMRA plug)
    Athearn Challenger (factory DCC and sound equipped; new run available within a week)
    Athearn Big Boy (factory DCC and sound equipped)
    Walthers Y3 2-8-8-2 (factory DCC and sound available)
    Bachmann Heavy Mountain (4-8-2) (DCC on board)

    I don't yet have any experience with the brand new DCC-on-board Bachmann 2-8-0; nor do I have any experience with the newest version of the Bachmann Spectrum "J" (although others have recommended it highly).

    John C.
  5. kmcsjr

    kmcsjr TrainBoard Member


    What steamers are you looking to convert? Let us know and I'm sure you'l get instructions or someone will let you know it can't be done.

    Also, here's a great reference for fining out if DCC is practical for your model. It also contains great info on about every US n scale loco out there dating back to the 60s

    oops I still gotta work on my reading comprehension... I thought you had a few already
    Last edited by a moderator: Apr 1, 2010
  6. Bigboy4884

    Bigboy4884 New Member

    Although not currently available (you can still find them on eBay though) the Con-Cor newer 4-8-4s and the 2-10-2s are both easy tender plug-in decoders and both run quite well.
    I am no expert at soldering and am well into the bi-focal stage but I have 3 of the early Life-Like Y3 (pre-Walthers) that I hardwired with very little difficulty. The biggest problem I have had after doing several steam and older diesels is finding the space for the decoder. Once you identify a good spot for it, it really is not hard.

  7. Nick Lorusso

    Nick Lorusso TrainBoard Member

    Welcome to train board bigboy4884.
    I'm new to doing N-scale steam. So far I have a CC GS-4 in WP plug and play decoder.
    B-mann spectrum 2-8-0 I just wired a dz123 into it. And a Kato GS_4 waiting sound. And I'm starting to look for more steam, since the quality is getting better.
  8. Papa

    Papa TrainBoard Member

    Thanks, guys for all the input. I may yet venture into the deeper waters of DCC steam. Papa

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