Tech Talk: It can become a bit cramped in there!

Nigel Burkin concludes last month’s DCC Guide by looking at the specific challenges the modeller faces when fitting decoders to small tank locomotives.

Constraints on space in the average home can make the building of compact, or ‘micro’, layouts popular with many modellers. Such layouts are easy to store and quick to set up, yet with minimal impact on domestic space.

Small tank locomotives are a popular choice of motive power for such layouts, and DCC allows for a great deal of operating flexibility, with simple wiring, even when the layout has a small amount of track.

While perfect for compact layouts and those starting out in railway modelling, small tank locomotives – even those produced today – must be worked on with care when installing a decoder to avoid damaging delicate detail, but fortunately interface sockets make life a great deal easier.

Interest in small locomotive classes has been growing – particularly those such as the Hatton’s Model Railways Andrew Barclay 0-4-0 saddle-tank or Hornby Peckett that suit freelance industrial railways — and narrow-gauge modelling with 9mm track (OO9 gauge) is also on the up and set to enter mainstream modelling with the ready-to-run releases from Bachmann, kicked off with the beautiful Baldwin Class 10-12-D locomotive. Their small size makes them ideal for tight track formations and sharper-than-usual track curves.

All of these models are of contemporary standard, with DCC interface sockets, even though they feature fully-detailed cabs, sufficient weight for good haulage capacity and current collection, and small but powerful motors.

The new decoder is slotted into place after pin No.1 has been identified and the decoder correctly orientated. Decoder pins can be shortened a little if necessary to allow the decoder to be pushed fully home in the socket.

Designers are challenged more by an 0-4-0ST than something like a Class 47.

It should be noted that many small locomotive models are equipped with coreless motors to reduce size without loss of torque, so check the model’s instructions regarding such motors and the type of controller required to get the best from them. Users of analogue control systems should use a controller that allows feedback to be disabled, while DCC users should change the settings for feedback in the decoder CVs.

For the full article and to view more images, see the September edition of Modelling – available now!

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