Athearn DCC ready locos

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csxfan

Member
Hi, I'm planning to buy these locos and I'd like to know what decoder I should use. Is this Digitrax DH165IP HO Scale Mobile Decoder OK ? What's the difference from this Digitrax DH163P HO Scale Mobile Plug 'N Play Decoder, except the price ? Will it work with my Bachmann Dynamis DCC ? I use only Bachmann decoders so far. Do you think one can fit the decoder without special tools or skills ? Thank you

Athearn HO Scale C44-9W CSX YN2 #9001 DCC Ready
Athearn HO Scale AMD103 P40 Amtrak #13 DCC Ready
Athearn HO C44-9W Norfolk Southern #9746 DCC Ready
Athearn Genesis HO SD60M Burlington Northern #9270
Athearn HO Scale GP60M Conrail #3525 DCC Ready
 

galaxy

Member
I bought an Atheran Plug-n-play and the proper decoder to go with it.
First of all it is sitting half apart as the "jumper board" they have in the socket WILL NOT COME LOOSE. I have tried everything short of clamping the jumper board in a mounted vise and placing my foot against the vice and YANKING.
SO to me it is a DUD.
Fortunately {i guess} I have the Bachmann EZ Command system and I can run one DC loco, but I find it to much trouble to bother with,. I have many more Bachmann DCC On Board locos I can play with.
 

bnsf971

Gomez Addams
Staff member
Athearn Plug and Play locomotives will accept either the 9 pin or the 8 pin connectors. If you use the 8 pin, leave the jumper board connected in the 9 pin socket.
The DH163xx is all pretty much the same decoder, with different connectors or pigtails. DH163P has a standard-length pigtail, DH163PS has a short pigtail, DH163IP has a long pigtail with no socket. That being the case, you'd have to unplug the pigtail, and connect to the 9 pin socket on the board. Also, the price on that decoder you linked to is only a couple of dollars less than you would find it at your LHS, and shipping would probably be considerably more than $2.
 

ICG/SOU

HO & O (3-rail) trainman
Is the first one ok? Yes
What's the difference? I don't think the xx63s are being made anymore, and the x65s are the latest ones I purchased a year ago.
Will it work with Dynamis? Maybe. I don't have that system so I can't be certain. However, if Dynamis follows NMRA, then at least some of the features of the Digitrax decoder will.
Will it fit in those locos without special tools or whatever? Yes.

On most Athearn RTR light/DCC ready boards, there are both a 8-pin NMRA plug and a 9-pin JST harness. These decoders are set up to use the harness. To remove, hold on with your index finger and thumb on the jumper board (already plugged into the 9 pin JST harness) and your other hand's index finger and thumb on the wires of the harness. If you slightly rock (laterally, not vertically) the jumper board as you pull it from the harness, you can get it to come off easier. The decoder only fits one way on the harness, so look at the sides of the harness without anything on it, and you'll see two stubs that are higher than center, telling you what side is the top. The top of these decoders are where the writing is. (I'm explaining all this because we had a customer recently put a decoder on upside down, which I didn't think was possible, as you REALLY have to force it on).
 

diburning

AlcoHaulic
Athearn Plug and Play locomotives will accept either the 9 pin or the 8 pin connectors. If you use the 8 pin, leave the jumper board connected in the 9 pin socket.
The DH163xx is all pretty much the same decoder, with different connectors or pigtails. DH163P has a standard-length pigtail, DH163PS has a short pigtail, DH163IP has a long pigtail with no socket. That being the case, you'd have to unplug the pigtail, and connect to the 9 pin socket on the board. Also, the price on that decoder you linked to is only a couple of dollars less than you would find it at your LHS, and shipping would probably be considerably more than $2.
Yes and no. If you're using the 8-pin, REMOVE the jumper from the 9-pin. Some Athearn RTR boards appear to have an 8-pin socket, but are not actual sockets (rather 8 holes that do not hold the decoder's plug in place) so look carefully before you buy a decoder! If all else fails, just get a 9-pin. Every manufacturer makes one.
 

cdouglas

Member
I have an Athearn AC4400 dcc ready and I put in a NCE D13srj and it works great. And they are only $15.

But, I first tried a Digitrax SDH164D with sound. It quit working after 15 mins. Sent it to Digitrax for a replacement, got it 2 months later. Put it in and it lasted about 30 seconds before dying again. It went in the junk box and I am giving up on those. I then put in a Digitrax DH123 and the lights wouldn't work, but it would move. The voltage output on the board connects for the front and rear lights was only 1.15v and wouldn't light the bulbs.

Not sure if its something with this specific loco or what, but since the NCE works fine, I am thinking its not the loco.

I have a mix of Bachmann, digitrax and NCE decoders, most of which are hardwired, and never had one blow except the SDH164D.
 
Last edited by a moderator:

diburning

AlcoHaulic
It's probably the engine, or a really bad decoder. I've only had one bad Digitrax decoder, and I bought that one used (came with the engine).

I did have a problem where an Athearn engine would not move even though the lights came on. I took the motor out, and put a piece of tape between the motor and the frame (which was supposed to be isolated already since it's DCC-ready) and my problems went away.

Athearn's idea of DCC-ready is to use clips without prongs on the bottom and hope that the bottom clip never touches the frame. They didn't actually insulate the bottom clip!
 

jeffrey-wimberly

Dr Frankendiesel
I have an Athearn AC4400 dcc ready
I used to have one of those. First thing it did was smoke it's light board 5 minutes into a test run. Caught fire is more like it. The light board was replaced but the wiring throughout the loco was bad. Loose solder joints and the push on clips were a nightmare. Soldering the wires to the board helped a lot. As someone else mentioned there was a dummy plug that had to be removed. I had to grab it with a pair of pliers and rock it out. Shortly after installing a decoder the motor decided to die. Shortly afterward I tore the whole thing down and used the wheels, axle gears, decoder, shafts and flywheels to rebuild a SDP40F from blue box to hex shaft drive. Haven't had a problem since.
 

diburning

AlcoHaulic
I don't know if it's a widespread issue, but the AC4400s that I've programmed for another member of the club had trucks that moved forward before the rest of the loco does (prototypical in a few years!)
 

Rico

BN Modeller
I picked up an Athearn Genesis loco and bought a decoder made specifically for that unit, so I was told.
Got everything together, fired up the track power and proceeded to blow all the lights out of it, even the ditch lights!
Turns out when a manufacturer makes a loco specific decoder it isn't specific for the lights I guess! Lesson learned.
Just a heads up.
 

jeffrey-wimberly

Dr Frankendiesel
I picked up an Athearn Genesis loco and bought a decoder made specifically for that unit, so I was told.
Got everything together, fired up the track power and proceeded to blow all the lights out of it, even the ditch lights!
Turns out when a manufacturer makes a loco specific decoder it isn't specific for the lights I guess! Lesson learned.
Just a heads up.
Been there and done that! I had two Genesis locos and they were nothing but trouble right out of the box. Neither came with a decoder. The problems were purely mechanical in nature. The F unit had a bad motor and half the lights didn't work. All the 4-6-2 light pacific learned to do was break gears. I got rid of both of them as fast I could and haven't bought another Genesis loco since. I can't afford things like that. If I want locos that are going to fail right out of the box I'll buy Life-Like standard line.
 

skyliner

Member
I did have a problem where an Athearn engine would not move even though the lights came on. I took the motor out, and put a piece of tape between the motor and the frame (which was supposed to be isolated already since it's DCC-ready) and my problems went away.

Athearn's idea of DCC-ready is to use clips without prongs on the bottom and hope that the bottom clip never touches the frame. They didn't actually insulate the bottom clip!
Zombie thread alert! I was in the process of crafting a thread asking for help on my Athearn F59PHI quick-plug DCC install, and I came across this. Same situation, ran fine under DC, but under DCC, lights worked but motor would not turn. Pulled the motor after seeing this, added a strip of electrical tape on the bottom, and presto! She runs!

Naturally, I bought another decoder, thinking that was the problem at first....

But thanks to any of you above that might still be here.
 




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