Installing decoders


Neither wiring track, nor connecting Tortoise switch machines nor Installing sound decoders are the subject of interesting pictures. In the end there is no visual change for the hours of work invested. Rather than show a bunch of opened up locos with messy wiring, here are pictures of the decoders I'm using.

The Purple decoder is a Tsunami and the white one is similar to the DSX.

This is a Lenz Gold that I rather like. I use it with engines that draw over an amp but less than 2.5. This is a Lenz Gold-Maxi, I'm using in larger locos with a high current draw, especially the Y-1 electrics.


I really like the Soundtraxx Tsunami decoder but heed the warning of one amp maximum motor draw. most of my locos draw over an amp and require a second decoder to drive the motor. This arrangement is called dual decoders and means forfeiting the Tsunami's Dynamic Digital Exhaust feature.

To power the motor I've tried several decoders and learned lessons I'll share. With Dual Decoders, I program the motor decoder to a primary address of one and the sound decoder to two. This is in every engine so I can remember it. Then I program both to the loco's number for the extended address. That way by changing CV 29 I can program either decoder without effecting the other. I can get away with the same primary address in every loco because it is only set to one engine at a time as I'm programming it. This was not my Idea, I read it in an article by Don Fiehmann but it really works well.

Since the DDE feature was not being used, I tried a Soundtraxx DSX sound only decoder. What a disappointment! Perhaps IF I had tried it after only hearding PFM sound it might have been acceptable. In fairness, I also installed a DSX in an Atlas SW-8 switcher and I'm very pleased with it. Now if only I could find a reasonably priced box cab electric sound decoder.

To drive the motor, ten Digitrxx DH123D, (i.5 amp 2.0 max) decoders were purchased. I bought ten because there was a price break at that quantity. I figured I would be using them in dual decoder applications and in the Z-1 and Y-1 electrics. I don't believe the Digitraxx amp rating is accurate. Although my amp meter showed the engines drawing just over an amp, eventually all the DH 123D's were fried. Each went quickly without warning, just a puff of smoke. I also found the instruction manual much more complicated than necessary. I guess if I had a Phd from MIT ---- but I digress. I have not used a Digitraxx product since.

Next I tried an MRC 3 Amp decoder (Sale price from Micro-mark). These also burnt up before the three amp threshold was reached. they seemed to be level one or two decoders and were tough to program because not much programming infomation is furnished. They also did not have all the features I wanted.

Next I tried a Lenz Gold and found a winner. They are rated at 1.8 amps and are a bit more expensive. But rather than burning up, they just stop when they get too hot. All you have to do is wait a few minutes and then reset CV 30. For locos that seemed to get hot too often I've Swapped out the Gold for a Lenz Gold Maxi and have not had any trouble. When you factor in the cost a fried decoder vs just resetting it, these are much more reasonably priced.

I guess I could have tried NCE or TCS products, but once I find something I'm happy with I quit looking. QSI is releasing what they call a Magnum decoder that is rated for 2.7 amps. They also list a GG-1 electric as coming. Time should tell.................