So, I buy two GP-15s and 1 Budd RDC. The Budd, I know, will have to be converted using the long route but the two GP-15s are labelled as DCC Ready. Now this normally means that they have a socket. Do these - OH NO! - what they have is all the electrics on a single circuit board which can be swapped out. Leaving the Budd, let us concentrate on the GP-15s as they will be easy - or not.
I speak to Digitrains and ask advice because there are three replacement boards available - NCE (cheapest), TCS and Digitrax. The advice I am given is - you get what you pay for, so I buy the Digitrax boards - £52 in total. When they arrive, it seems that the instructions miss out some important facts. The descriptions on the Internet talk about some tape and also mention that, for some reason, Digitrax have made their boards thinner than the Atlas ones so the contacts need beefing up with solder to make contact - a good start. It also appears that the two motor contacts should go through some slots to make full contact but I can't see how to do this as they are underneath the board and I am not that good a threader. Eventually, after using some masking tape to ensure that the motor contacts don't touch the chassis halves, I put one together - put it on the track - and I get a nice puff of smoke out of the loco. Now I wish I had bought the TCS one as they have a no-quibble return policy that includes events like this - £26 up in smoke as they say.
I then take the two Gaugemaster mini-decoders that I bought 'in case'. I cut some plastic card to the same shape as the circuit board and use that as a spacer. I then hard wire in the mini-decoder and - guess what - it worked first time! Plus I still have space to fit a couple of LED lights and get them working - but I will save that for later.
Then I need to tackle the Budd RDC. I find some good instructions on stripping the thing down to its essentials and, ignoring all the chip fitting instructions (remember, we used to chip locos professionally when we were ZTC agents and owners), carefully fit a ZTC mini decoder which we had lying around. Once again, this worked first time - but with no lights - same old excuse.
I used a SPROG to set the loco addresses as I don't have a programming track set up on the railroad yet. I then ran all three of them (as you can see in the picture).
Now comes the BAD news :-(. Where the old part of the layout meets the new part. there are two new connecting tracks. One of these is flat but the other has a bit of a ridge (or so I see now). The GP-15s make it fine. Yesterday, I didn't use the RDC through here because the wiring wasn't complete so this is the first time through. The RDC bottoms out on the ridge - the RDC has a metal plate underneath - goodness knows why! - and promptly shorts out the decoder with a small burst of 2.6amps - according to the short reported by the ZTC 505 controller.
Guess what - there is no longer a ridge there, but I wll have to fit a replacement decoder tomorrow. Luck we used to sell these things so I have quite a few lying around - all with varing parentge but mostly usable.
I now have two Digitrax Atlas decoders which I will put on EBay - any one want to buy a single one? You will get two and have to work out yourself which one is the busted one. Everything goes on EBay, doesn't it?
I have opened up another Twitter account just for the model railroad. With my new iPad, I am twittering away keeping everyone informed of progress on the railroad in 60 character bites. Get onto Twitter and find LongHairedDavid for a wonderful experience - grin.