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DT
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Added the following to the Hornby Forum, republished here for info.

Jim asked: Has anyone installed a decoder in any of the Thomas locos? I would be curious to know if there are any challenges/tips that could be shared!

Reply: We have installed decoders into Thomas, Percy and James.



Plenty of space inside for decoders. Our Thomas loco was bought about 7 years ago and the motor mode direct contact with the metal chassis.



Just make sure that the motor is isolated from the chassis and connect the red and black wires of the decoder to the pickup wire and the chassis. In this photo, the black wire is attached to the chassis and the red wire is attached to the copper pickup strip - then connect the orange and grey wires from the decoder to the motor.



Keep everything nicely isolated with electrical tape. The decoder for Thomas went into the base of the coal bunker.

Percy is a little more simple as the motor is already isolated.



Connect the wires that came from the pickups to the red and black decoder wires and then connect the orange and grey wires from the decoder to the motor. If the loco runs the wrong direction, simply reverse the orange and grey wires. The decoder for Percy went into the back of the cab, secured with double sided tape.

It actually makes gameplay a little easier for the kids who sometimes don't understand why you can't have more than one loco on the loop at once.

Program each decoder to the address of each loco.

Now the kids call up the loco number and they're off.
 

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I think the motor in current production Thomas is a little different. At least those pictures don't match my memories of the one I did for my son a couple of years ago. I taped the decoder to the inside of the tank.
 

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Sorry to dredge this one back up, but since it is my first post (!!!), maybe you'll forgive me!!

Like some other posters here, I find myself in a lucky position; my son is 4yrs old and just getting into 'proper' model trains - which is a great excuse for me to return to something I haven't touched in years.

Anyway, to the matter in hand. Can I just ask a couple of questions about the Percy upgrade?

I presume the motor was inverted just for ease of access to the brushes?

Is the insulating material separating the motor from the contacts specialised, or is electrical tape adequate?

Final thought - you have removed all the extra bits (capacitors etc), but what was the original purpose of the wires being soldered to the outside of the motor casing? I'm still a bit puzzled by that one...

Final, final thought - when the black wire from the pick up is connected to the red or black wire from the decoder, is the resistor (at least, i think its a resistor) on the black wire removed first?

Any thoughts or advice greatly appreciated - then I can go and play!!!
 

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DT
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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
Hi 5051, welcome to the forum.

Thomas under DCC is a great way for the kids to get into DCC. You will find that once it is working, the kids will love it.

- The motor in Percy can be installed any way as long as it fits.

- I use electrical tape to insulate where required. Remember you need two clean wires going to the pick-ups and two wires going to the motor. There shouldn't be any shorts between these wires.

- Remove all capacitors and resistors. The motor is a high-revving Scalextric motor and the resistor is there just to tone it down a bit. I would remove the extra wires soldered to the motor (what are they connected to?). The can motor should be free of any extra connections.

Let us know how it turns out. Feel free to ask more, and enjoy the forums.
 

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When I did Percy and Thomas I used Lenz LE1000 decoders. These don't give very good control and I intend to replace them, probably with the Bachman 3 function decoder which has BEMF and is cheaper than I paid for the LE1000s.

Possibly even better would be to purchase the Bachmann Junior locos and add your own face on the front, or import the Bachmann Thomas/Percy from the US. The Bachmann versions don't have the warp drive fitted to the Hornby models.
 

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Just to say thanks for the advice - Percy is now running fine on DCC!!!!

Thomas has arrived for Ryan's 4th birthday today, so I guess I'll be referring to your photgraphs again soon!!!

Thanks again

Jon T
 

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Just to add to this...

Duck is identical to Thomas except that the connector which is bent down to touch the chassis in Thomas is already bent up and isolated away from the chassis for you in Duck, other than that it's essentially identical.

Diesel (08 shunter) looks to be identical to Thomas / Duck also.

Gordon is pretty straight forward too, though siting the decoder requires some ingenuity, I got a space for the Bachmann 3 function decoder slotted in right at the back of the tender on its side, difficult to re-assemble but it does fit quite comfortably. Other than that, it's just a matter of bringing all the wires for the left/right pickup sides to two points and then soldering the decoder wires to those and then the other two to the motor, it didn't take me long to do and i'm a dangerous man with a smouldering iron.

I've not done Percy yet, having converted the Virgin 0-4-0 club shunter to DCC (with an LE1000 admittedly) and found it a complete disaster, I didn't bother with Percy since it's identical under the hood. Since using the bachmann decoders i've always thought that the back emf and other advanced flexibility ought to make it a much more drivable loco. My son isn't too fussed, he's got Thomas, Duck and Gordon - not to mention a bunch of non-thomas stuff and the beginnings of an Ernie collection (Circle) all DCC'd up.

The thing I like about DCC from a kids perspective is, it just doesn't cut it when they say "I want to take this one out of this loop and around here so it goes over the wiggly bits" (i.e. points) and you reply "well, i can't do that because this train is here, and that block is isolated from there, and the power from there is going over there so I need to move-" and they've gone off to do something that involves less talking and more doing


I had a great couple of hours this afternoon with my son (four at the end of March, and has been in to model railways since before three, has had DCC for about six months) - he was driving Duck and Circle, i was watching (as demanded), and I was telling him what points to change to make the trains go where he wanted and helping him via the computer (LI101 on the system via JMRI heehee) to make sure nothing crashed or derailed - but he was fine


We even had a minor "issue" where Duck obviously hit a bad spot and stalled shortly after its coaches derailed, so I sent a Class 25 around as a thunderbird, hauled it around to the front slowly so that I could re-rail the coaches. No need to actually get up and try reachhing 4ft to the other side of the layout, son was very happy and even said thank you to the diesel afterwards
I was quite impressed the 25 was able to gently haul the motionless 25 plus its coaches to be honest - dragging it around the layout


Sometimes I let him use my Raildriver to drive the trains too, using some software I wrote, that's a blast to watch


Tons of fun to be had with the kids using DCC, you can just enjoy the layout and stop worrying about difficult stuff.

Matt.
 
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