Christmas is coming so I ordered an NCE Powercab to try DCC. Now I am uncertain as to which DCC boards to purchase for my loco's. I currently own two pairs, AZL GP7'S and ES44AC's. I would like to convert either of those pairs to DCC. I see some old threads for the TCS AZL4 boards and other threads for a Digitrax DZ123Z0 board. I got the impression somewhere that there was only one option. Oh I finally found that reference in a conversation from last summer. That the only decoder board for AZL is Digitrax DZ123Z0. But since i see references and ads for the TCS board it left me wondering.
Last Edit: Dec 6, 2019 2:54:58 GMT -5 by husafreak: Found old conversation.
Post by ProgressRail on Dec 6, 2019 9:18:32 GMT -5
Everything you need is right here, just gotta look and read: TCS Z_scale Decoders. TCS has a 100% "goof_proof" one-year warranty...meaning that if you accidentally *poof* your board, you can send it back and they will replace it, no questions asked; Digitrax basically has the same thing, but they call it "no worries" warranty. Go with TCS AZL4 or Z2...pairs very nicely with NCE Power Cab.
The decision is sort of like Ford vs. Chevy. The DZ123Z0 is a 2 function board (head and tail light). The AZL4 is a 4 function (2 additional functions you can wire in for ditch lights, etc.). If you just want to plug and play, no real difference.
If you've read through all the posts, you know that people have had problems using speed tables with the AZL4.Its been a while, so I don't know if this has been fixed. Not a big issue unless you are into precision speed matching your locomotives.
The DZ123Z0 has had some problems with excess solder on the frame contact pads, making it tight to install. This can be fixed with a small soldering iron and solder wick or a little bit of sandpaper if you are careful to clean up all the loose solder. I don't know if this is still a problem, but I have two new boards on my workbench that I can check over the weekend.
Ford VS Chevy, now I understand! Glad to hear about warranties because the first day I ever saw or heard about DCC train control (at a show) I saw a board burn up after installation! I do plan to run my GP7's or ES44AC's in pairs, which I assume need "precision speed matching" so it sounds like the DZ123Z0 may be the best choice. Maybe someone out there knows if this has been fixed. Cleaning solder blobs off the board won't be a problem, thanks for the heads up. The 4 functions availability of the AZL4 sounds nice in theory, but I don't know what it takes to add "ditch lights". I'll look it up but would that entail wiring and positioning additional LED lighting in the loco? Or does the factory installed light just flash in ditch mode? Thanks again
Last Edit: Dec 6, 2019 13:15:20 GMT -5 by husafreak
Post by ProgressRail on Dec 6, 2019 13:04:25 GMT -5
Forgot to mention: make sure you invest in a roll of kapton_tape...get either 1/4" or 1/8", or both. It's thin electrical insulation tape you will wrap around chassis post's/segments to keep from shorting out; do this now...a roll is about $13-15.
I read about ditch lights just now and so now I know why they are only on my newer loco's. And why they only flash at crossings or with the horn. I'm no trainspotter, just a modeler. So my ES44AC loco's have them. But I do not know if they are separate LED's from the pair of floodlights mounted higher on the centerline. I'll know when I open it up. Hopefully the instructions with the AZL4 board explain it. Cool feature.
What GP7 are you asking about? The first run with 4 digit model #'s #6202 Chesapeake and Ohio, #6203 Nickle Plate Road, #6204 Pennsylvania, #6205 Union Pacific, have solder pads on the board to allow hard wiring of a TCS Z2 decoder. You can find the instructions on how to install the Z2 on Zscalemonster.com look under TCS then click on the Z2 picture
I got two of the Z Track Center starter kits with the Union Pacific EMD GP7 locomotives, AZL part numbers are 6205-1 through 3 for those. So it sounds like I could do that. I'll check out the instructions. If that is what I have then I'll put the AZL4 decoders in my AZL CP ES44AC's. Which have ditch lights, and save the GP7's for the Z2 boards. Can all of these boards run on DC only as well as DCC? I'm pretty sure that I read that the AZL4 can but I don't know if they all can. I'm planning to keep my Marklin and European stuff DC, with Marklin couplers. But I plan to convert my American loco's to DCC with AZL/MTL style couplers.
Repeating: The ES44's ditch lights are plastic optic and common with the Forward light. They are not separated so you only need a 2 function decoder, unless you want to learn how to mount 0402 LED's with very fine wires in the angle box behind the lens (that you will shave off of the light pipe) or mount elsewhere in the Cab at the cut-off end of the light pipes. It is not easy to separate the front deck and cab pieces to access the entire light pipe.
NOTE: the ES44, SD45 and some other new versions have a very shallow relief under the motor PC bd (where you will be putting either decoder). Components on the both DCC products are 'taller' than the gap so presses on the frame/circuit board as you are trying to 'wedge' it into the frame board notches. This tends to lift the board at the motor contact end so you may have a loco that 'won't run'. The motor tabs are marginally long enough. Their design is to 'drop in' beside the motor tab and then ride up a bit as the board continued to pressed into the wedge and completely drop down into the rear step.
Once you know that your loco is running properly, remove the DC board. Lift up at the back and PULL. Some are really wedge in and there is no place to get a wedge in up front to help.
Look at the 2 motor tabs sticking upwards. Rounded tops. Note the insulation tape on the chassis frame next to the tab. Oh, snap, its not next to the motor! Move it or add Kapton tape. This is why the decoder at the show toasted.
As Mark mentioned, there is too much solder on the PC board. (this came from US vendors realizing that the new thin PC boards are metric so they put solder on to thicken them up). Solder wick or sucker leaves about as much as you need.I can use an Xacto knife to do it but you must be aware there are VERY small components nearby, primarily the LED's resistor. DONT FORCE OR USE A SCREWDRIVER TO MAKE THE NOTCH WIDER. Hint: to check your solder removal amount, slide ONE contact into 1 notch by placing the board NEXT to the chassis. Now try and wedge in the decoder board, all the way so that back of the board sits all the way down.
Now, before you put it on the track with DCC Main power on, use an Ohm meter to check for shorts from the motor tab to the frame. Use a digital meter (very lower current used to create the reading, NOT an analog meter on Rx10 or Rx1 which uses much higher current to make the meter pointer move). If you have fine micro-point test leads, you can check for continuity of the motor tab to the PC board tab.
The Programming Track is for this as it is power limited to detect shorts. For your NCE Power Cab, press PGRM, then 4 to jump to Programming mode, Enter to switch full power to limit.
If the Programming mode says 'Cannot Read' then 1 or both of you motor tabs are not making contact to the decoder board.
I am getting ready to have a go at this. Thank you for the very detailed instructions. Now I understand that the kapton tape goes on the frame, to isolate the DCC board and the motor contacts from the frame. I'll check for shorts and use the NCE Programming mode. I'll just use 2 functions of this AZL4 decoder for now, I don't want to mess with adding ditch lights yet. My only question now is probably a dumb one, but I don't see any soldering on the TCS website installation pictures of AZL GP7 or SD70 so hopefully it is just a drop in and drive it installation. The manual with the AZL4 shows soldering pads for blue, green , and violet wires but I guess those are for other loco's.
Thanks Mark, The TCS website has installation pics for both the Z2 and the AZL4 into the GP7. So i guess I won't have to solder anything. And those pads will come in handy if I ever decide to cut the light pipes and instal ditch lights or sound.