DCC for an HO ALCo S2

My friend Stephen Gardiner asked if I could install a LokSound decoder into one of his locomotives while he took notes. I was happy to oblige, so he came over yesterday and following a quick brunch at Harbord House, we got down to it.

The locomotive in question is an Atlas HO scale ALCo S2 – one of the newer series that’s set up for DCC and sound, but was wired for straight DC operation (no decoder). I’m glad that I’d recently finished doing such an installation into an HO scale Walthers EMD SW-1 model (which I have posted about previously on this website), because that experience gave me the foundation I needed to tackle this project. Over three or four hours, I shoehorned a LokSound Select Micro, a PowerPack electronic flywheel, and two sugar cube speakers into Stephen’s model.

Stephen has written more about the day, on his website. You can visit his site and read his report by clicking on this photo of me at work…

I have no idea what I'm doing

Overall, the project went really smoothly – there was plenty of room under the hood and in the cab for everything. With the wiring done, we downloaded the appropriate file from ESU and discussed other things for the 20 minutes or so it took to write into the locomotive. I then did loaded CVs from the decoder I used in the SW1 and adjusted some values for the S2. The finished locomotive runs very smoothly and sounds great. It’s now up to Stephen to paint it.

It’s the first time I’ve had two people working together in my workshop, and I’m really pleased with how that worked out. A most enjoyable afternoon!

4 thoughts on “DCC for an HO ALCo S2

  1. You sold the lack of knowledge with aplomb, I look forward to having a fully painted model in the near future now that it runs and sounds good, it just looks like a weird ghost in white primer!!

    Stephen

    • I’m fairly certain that the team at ALCo would have tested their DCC installation before they sent their diesels through the paint shop. You’re obviously modelling this S2 in its “in-production” phase…

    • Hi Blane:

      Not really – and here’s why.

      First, there are more than 100 values one can adjust. And I don’t adjust them by the CV – but by using a LokProgrammer and computer interface. So I do not know what the values are and while I’m sure the LokProgrammer could spit out a file with that info, it would be a royal pain to post to my blog.

      Second, and more importantly, it wouldn’t do anybody else any good. The adjustments I make to locomotives are adjustments that suit me – but may not suit another modeller. It would depend on the specific model, the quality of the drive train (which can vary from unit to unit, even in the same model), the type of layout the locomotive is going to run on, etc.

      As an example, Stephen Gardiner’s layout is small, with no grades, and set at chest height. We turned down the master volume quite a bit on his model, because the model will be right in one’s face. If the layout were lower, he might want to increase the master volume a bit. He may also want to adjust it further once he actually has the S2 running on his layout: maybe his house is quieter than my workshop, or maybe it’s louder, and he needs to adjust the volume to compensate for the room in which it’s located. Until he runs the locomotive on his layout, he won’t know.

      Similarly, the SW-1 I’ve done for Pierre Oliver’s layout may get some adjustments once I take it to his place and actually run it on his layout. For now, it’s fine – for my test track. But until it’s actually used on Pierre’s layout, I won’t call it finalized.

      The same arguments can be made about the motor settings, etc. As an example, I have set up both locomotives to work with a ProtoThrottle, because I have one. I’ve written about some of the CVs for that elsewhere on this blog (and you can find those by filtering on the ProtoThrottle category). But neither Stephen nor Pierre own one, so some CVs might have to be adjusted to make the locomotives more suitable for their layouts.

      For your locomotives, my CV values won’t actually tell you anything – because your layout will be different than mine, and Stephen’s, and Pierre’s. How you operate will be different, too, probably.

      My best advice to you is, use a computer interface for programming – DecoderPro or, if you’re using ESU decoders, LokProgrammer – so that it’s easy to adjust values. And then experiment – a lot. With computer interfaces, it’s super-easy to save configuration files as you go, so you can always back out of anything you get into that you don’t like.

      For LokSound, I like to save the downloaded file from ESU, then copy it and rename it for the locomotive. That way, if I really mess up, I can reload a fresh copy of the original file and start again.

      Cheers!

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