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My brother got into N gauge last year and gotten into DCC.  I have been impressed, and decided to give it a try.  I found a great deal on the NCE 10amp command system and got it.  I also bought a LokSound L v4.0 decoder to install in my Lionel 0-6-0 Docksider.  I went with NCE for command as that is what brand my brother had, and I liked using it vs. the others at the club he joined.  He also researched decoders and is using LokSound v4.0 for his locomotives and I find their feature set and sounds to my liking, so that is why I went with them.  What I'd like is some help setting things up and getting through my 1st install.

My layout is not complete, it's going to be a dual loop with various spurs and a return loop.  It's all Atlas 3R track.  I am currently powering it with a ZW-C and four 180W bricks.  I  have a Legacy command base on it now, and only have the outside loop done.  I currently run TMCC/Legacy or conventional on it now (Using the Cab remote to control the track voltage via the ZW.).

My first question is can I use the ZW to power the NCE 10A booster and command base?  If I understood the manual correctly they will take AC voltage, so I am good on that, right?  Is it as simple as move the track leads from my ZW to my booster, then run new leads from the ZW to the booster power in and I'm done?  Also, for future reference, if I want to run my Legacy and power the track directly from the ZW again from a different handle, do I need to disconnect the booster, or can I leave it attached to the track, but just now power it up?  In other words, is it okay to see a voltage on the track with out it being the one providing that power (I will not be using DCC in this case.)?  Or will I need some switching of some kind to remove the DCC booster from the track when I plan on running TMCC/Legacy?

Now for the decoder install in my Dockside, ESU doesn't have the best documentation, or rather not something I find all that helpful.  They have an addendum for the LokSound L for the basic pin out, but for any details it says to see the LokSound v4.0 manual.  That manual was printed before the LokSound L was released, so it has no reference to it for any unique features it may have.  So I'm hoping for those that have used them can help me (Mostly later on with more feature rich locomotives that have fan smoke and electrocouplers.).  I'm waiting on a couple things to get here, like LEDs for the lights and for wire (The Dockside didn't have any extra slack so I couldn't really reuse the wire.), and then I'll be at it.  For the lights, the LokSound v4.0 manual says to use 470 ohm resistors with LEDs, which I have ordered.  If I think that's too bright, I need to get a higher value resistor, correct?  What values do others use?  As for the smoke, since it's a cam powered puffer, I wasn't going to worry about wiring it to the decoder at this time, or is it an easy enough thing to do and set up to work? 

And if there are any tips or tricks when it comes to decoder install that you are willing to share, thanks.  I do plan on using the standard wire colors as much as possible, and will ask about more details in a different thread.  I'll post follow ups in this thread as I get going on my locomotive.

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I can answer a couple of your questions but not all. I have an NCE 10-amp system but I use it for two-rail G gauge. I power it from my ZW-L, one handle at 16 volts. It works fine. Where possible, use 14 gauge wire for hookups.

I installed a couple of LokSound 4.0 XL decoders and a couple of TCS WOW501 decoders in my locomotives. As someone recently posted, “DCC is a hobby itself!” And so is decoder installation. Sometimes you have to gut the locomotive on which you’re installing new electronics. You should like soldering!

If you haven’t already, check the “Wiring for DCC” web site. There are yahoo groups for that site as well as NCE. Lots of experts on both.

The NCE cab is one of the most ergonomic. And they have lots of support products for DCC as do other manufacturers. Despite being proprietary, Legacy and DCS have lots of options, too, and are much simpler to set up.

I‘m building a three-rail O gauge layout now and and am very happy not to use DCC nor worry about decoder installation!

Hi Sinclair,

Congrats on picking up the 10A NCE system, it is a good robust and expandable system.  To answer some of questions, see below:

My first question is can I use the ZW to power the NCE 10A booster and command base?

Sure, any AC or even DC power source with the rated amperage can be used to power the NCE booster and command station.   Even if it is below the rated amperage, it would still work as long as it has the proper voltage, the caveat with lower amperage is that you just can’t run as many locos off that booster as you would with an input supply capable of putting out the rated amperage.

If I want to run my Legacy and power the track directly from the ZW again from a different handle, do I need to disconnect the booster, or can I leave it attached to the track, but just not power it up?

You need to disconnect the DCC system to the track and vice versa when switching between control systems.  Bad things can happen if you back feed a different power source into the output of the DCC booster.  Same goes for a decoder, e.g. never back feed power into a decoder motor output – that is the quickest way to smoke a decoder.  Moral of the story… only have one system going to the track at one time.  Either have a master Double Pole Double Throw (DPDT) toggle switch with the center terminals going to rails and outer terminals connect to each of the respective control systems or manually swap the wires from one system to another.

Or will I need some switching of some kind to remove the DCC booster from the track when I plan on running TMCC/Legacy?\

Yes, as stated above, you need some switching to remove the DCC output from the rails when another system is in operation and vice versa.

For the lights, the LokSound v4.0 manual says to use 470 ohm resistors with LEDs, which I have ordered.  If I think that's too bright, I need to get a higher value resistor, correct?  What values do others use?

Resistors values for bulbs/LEDs is really somewhat of a personal preference.  By that I mean, 470 ½ watt resistors are a good starting value for most golden white LEDs but since the plus voltage going to bulb/LED on a decoder follows with the track voltage that you select in your DCC booster, then the bulb will burn brighter or dimmer accordingly.  Probably best to buy several resistor values around that 470 ohm range and experiment to see which one gives you the bulb/LED brightness you desire.  Some decoders also allow you to control the bulb brightness buy configuring a CV value in the decoder, I know the ESU 4.0 XL decoders do but can't remember if the ESU 4.0 L decoders do that too.

And if there are any tips or tricks when it comes to decoder install that you are willing to share? thanks

I would recommend getting the ESU Loksound programmer.  It makes programming ESU decoders much easier although it will set you back ~$150.  JMRI free decoder programming software can handle some tasks but the ESU programmer covers a much wider range of features on the decoder and it also gives you the ability to upload any sound file you want on the decoder.  Lastly, I would recommend (if you have the physical space) is to add the ESU Power Pack or ESU Power Pack Maxi (better for larger scales) to absorb momentary electrical pickup interruptions, e.g. dirty track, especially on a short wheelbase locomotive like a dockside.

Have fun, I think you will really enjoy the improved speed control and great sounds that DCC brings with it.


Thanks for the replies.  I did get the ESU Power Pack Maxi. As for the programmer, if I really like how this conversion goes, my brother and I will probably go in together to get it.  Thanks for the feedback on the layout wiring.  I'll have to look into switching between the command setups.  Fortunately I'm not very far along in my layout building that I can make the changes.  I'll also have to check out those user groups and sites to see what info they have.

I don't have experience with the ESU Loksound programmer, but like using free downloadable JMRI Decoder Pro software.  It makes decoder installations and programming a whole lot easier than through your handheld plus you can store different profiles for each engine if you want, run the engine from the software to confirm changes you've made are what you want, etc.  The breadth and depth that you can get into DCC is up to you.  It is nearly endless, and ever expanding.  I'd say take it to the point that you want, get comfortable with that, and enjoy running your trains.  You can always go back for more complexity and flexibility if you get bored.  

Last edited by Sgaugian

The LokSound L and XL have the same features so changing the brightness of a bulb or LED is accomplished the same way on either decoder.

I've installed 6 L's but the XL has the convenience of screw terminals which eliminates any soldering. I went with the L because Atlas locomotives do not leave much room for anything bigger.


The L was also designed specifically for O scale engines with a current rating of 3 amps continuous. I'm guessing that peak is around 6 amps but these locomotives draw very little current especially with the smoke units removed. The Lionel/Train America Studios smoke units are not compatible with the decoder anyway.

An XL can be mounted on it's side either on the frame or attached to the shell if it can't lay flat as I prefer to do with all of my installations. Either is fine for O scale but I prefer the neater look of a board that lays flat. Other makes may allow more room for the XL. My only experience is with Atlas.

I don't really follow any standardized protocol for wire colors, I just use what Atlas uses then splice in my own wires when needed. Track power is red and black, motors are blue and yellow and lighting can be either black (ditch lights) or white (headlight/back light). I know where all of these wires go anyway so color isn't all that important to me.

If you are installing an L then I wouldn't go above 24AWG wire. The motors and track pick ups tend to be 24 or 26. The outputs on the adapter board are about 2 or 3mm wide so a heavier gauge wire will make it more difficult to solder.

Not that it applies to a single can motor engine, but since all of my engines have twin vertical can motor setups I wire the motors in series. The top speed is sacrificed (about 45 smph maximum) but the slow speed operation is outstanding. These are exceptionally smooth runners, even when MU'ed 2 or 3 at a time.

Lastly, on the topic of lighting, I use 750 ohm 1/2 watt resistors. My NCE booster is set to about 16.2V and using that value for my LED's has worked great.


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Thanks so much for the information.

I bought a 10 color set of 24 AWG wire off of eBay.  The 10 colors happened to also be the DCC colors.  With each color being 25 foot, I'm pretty sure it'll last me a long time.

I think I have everything for the install now, unless I want to use new eyelets to connected to the pickup rollers and frame.  As for the smoke unit, I'm going to leave it installed and keep it's current setup, powered by the track with a micro switch on the bottom to turn it on and off.  I'll mess with decoder controlled smoke some other time.  My only problem is I'm an assistant scoutmaster and we have an overnighter this weekend, so I can't start on my locomotive until late this weekend.

Power the smoke unit off track power like you mentioned.  Tie it into a relay off the decoder if you want remote control.   In any case make sure you can isolate it or the decoder will "see" it as a short in programming track mode.   Amperage rating of the decoder with a smoke unit does not matter when wired right.  That's for motor stall current draw.  Test for that and choose a decoder rated higher.  

Well, after some blood, sweat, and tears, I go it all put together.  Here I am at the start. The art stuff is my 5 year old joining me at the kitchen table.


I remember someone saying that he LokSound L was too big, but I gave it a look anyway since I had that in hand before being told that.  I thought I was lucky as the holes in the solder board even matched up with a mount pin and screw hole for the OEM board.


But sadly no go when the boiler goes back on.  It's so close too.


So being too impatient to wait for another board to arrive I went in full on mod mode.  I decided to solder right to the pins on the decoder itself.  If I had the right tolls I would have removed the headers all together and soldered right to the board.  Probably should have as I learned later.


Here it is with all the wires I needed.


Some double sided tape and the decoder is in place.  I got the motor and track power wired.  That is how I ended my Saturday night. 


Sadly I never took any more photos on Sunday as I finished it up.  Lets say it wasn't pretty.  Wires were longer then I needed so stuffing was "fun."  I really had to push the shell back on.

Now as for trying it out.  At first it really didn't want to do anything on my test track.  I had to keep pushing it to get it to move.  It seems to ignore light and sound buttons.  So I put it on my layout to run AC analog (aka conventionally).  At power up it made sounds and the headlight came on.  Then after a few seconds it started to more, or at least try.  It was really jerky, lots of sparks on the center rollers.  So my track is dirty.  I ran my Legacy locomotive around with a train for 30+ min to burn all the junk off of my track (I live in AZ, the land of dust.  If I don't run trains daily the track gets dirty.  Just a fact of life.).  Now the little locomotive would light up, sound up, and slowly accelerate to top speed and go, then die at switches.  I haven't set any CVs, so I'm sure the power cap CV is set to off.  But it was running and making sound.  But it didn't change directions with power interruptions.  Hopefully that's just another CV I need to set.  I then put it back on the DCC test track and now the lights work, and the sounds, and it runs smoother, really nice forwards actually.  But backwards it really growls and lurches.  So I guess I'll run it backwards on the layout conventionally and see it that works things.  I can see into the shell and know it's not having mechanical issues, the motor is clear and all the drive train in enclosed.  It just seems like it needs to be broken in.  My brother will come over later this week and help me set the CVs for the LEDs, and to adjust the chuff rate (Currently have about 3 per rev instead of 4.), and turn the power cap on. 

But all in all I'm happy.  I learned a lot with this mod, and it's the smallest and most simplest one I will do (Unless I do my PCC trolley.).  Now I just need to get to know my NCE command system better to be comfortable running and programming locomotives.  Then I'll decide on my next victim, um, upgrade.


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Well, my brother came over, but we didn't get any programming done.  Instead it locked up and wouldn't run backwards at all.  So I took it apart again and figured out that the running issue was caused by the smoke unit's piston catching.  So I removed it and now it runs quiet and smooth as glass.  Pity I lost the smoke unit, but I'd rather have a good runner then smoke.

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