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Guide to DCC Stationary Decoders

by Don Fiehmann

More and more modelers are converting layouts from DC to DCC operation. DCC not only lets you independently control locomotives using mobile decoders, but you can also independently control switch machines (turnout motors) with Accessory or Stationary Decoders. If you are going to install new switch machines or convert old machines to DCC there are many decisions to make. Which Stationary Decoders match up with a specific switch machine, is extra power needed?

There are two basic types of switch machines. First is the older twin coil or solenoid type machine. The second is the motor driven switch machine. In the twin coil category there are the high current machines and medium to low current types. The motor types consist of stall type and also the cut off type, that cuts off the power when at the end of travel. Stationary decoders vary in the type of machine that they work with the best.

Below is a table of some of the popular switch machines and their types. These categories will be used below to match up the switch machine with the preferred stationary decoders.

Some stationary decoders are designed to either drive a particular type of switch machine, some are programmable and can match many types of switch machines. The power for the decoders to operate the switch machines can be either from the DCC track power to the decoder or from a separate power source, or both.

Motor driven machines need low power. Stall type machines need a constant power. The twin-coil machines need high power for a short time.

Motor Driven Twin Coil
Stall TypePower Cut OffLow to MediumHigh Current
(Type A1)Type (Type A2)Current (Type B1)(Type B2)
Tortoise™PFM, ScaleAtlasRix, NJI
Switch MasterShopsPecoTenshodo

Stationary Decoder and Switch Machine Compatibility

Type Digitrax Lenz DCC Specialties NCE T. Digital
Stationary DecoderDS 44DS52DS64LS 100LS 150HareWabbitSwitch-it/8Snap-itSwitch-KatSMD8
Switch motor Type A1YesYesYesOKYesTortoise™YesYesNoNoYes
Switch Motor Type A2NoYesNoNoYesNoNoNoNoNoNo
Twin Coil Type B1NoYesYesYesYesNoNoNoYesNoYes
Twin Coil Type B2NoYesNoYesNoNoNoNoYesNoYes
Kato or LGBNoYesYesNoYesNoNoNoNoYesNo

Stationary Decoder Comparison:

The table below gives a quick comparison of the various features and capabilities of some of the popular stationary decoders and significant differences among the various models. Stationary decoder selection should be based on your intended application. There may be a “best choice” for certain functions, but generally no stationary decoder is “one size fits all”.

Decoder Basic Data Output Types Available Prg. Modes Specials
Size (Inches) MSRP Outputs Address Range Cab Bus Feedback Plug’n' Play Separate Pwr Input Type of Output (1) Variable Pulse Contin’s Alternate Flash Program Method Specials (3)
DCC Spec. The Hare 1.5 X 2.8 $29.95 1 1 - 2044 Yes Yes No SM (2) No Yes No Jumper Yes
DCC Spec. Wabbit2.75 x 1.37$29.9521 - 2044YesNoNoSMNoYesNoJumperYes
Digitrax DS44 1.63 X 0.69 $39.99 4 1 - 2044 No No No SM No Yes No Wire No
Digitrax DS522.0 X 1.75$24.99 21 - 2044NoNoNoPRFix’d OnlyYes NoJumperNo
Digitrax DS54 (4) 4.0 X 2.7 $79.99 4 1 - 396 Yes No Optional PR Yes Yes Yes Jumper No
Digitrax DS64 (4)4.7 X 3.4$59.9941 - 2048YesNoOptionalPRYesYesYes ButtonNo
Lenz LS100 3.5 X 3.5 $79.00 4 1 - 1024 Yes No Optional PR Yes Yes Yes Button No
Lenz LS1504.7X2.4$49.9561 - 1024NoNoYesPRYesNoNo ButtonNo
NCE Switch-It 2.1 X 1.3 $24.95 2 1 - 2044 Req. AIU-01 No No ST No Yes No Jumper No
NCE Switch-8 3.5 X 2.38 $59.95 81 - 2044Yes NoYesSMYes Yes No JumperNo
NCE Snap-It 1.8 X 1.5 $19.95 1 1 - 2044 Yes No Yes TC Yes No No Jumper No
NCE Switch Kat2.45 X 1.03 $24.95 21 - 2044YesNoNoSpecialYesYes No JumperNo
Team Digital SMD8 3.25 x 4.25 $89.95 8 1 - 2040 Req. SRC8 No No PR Variable Yes No Jumper No

(1) SM = Stall Motor, TC = Twin Coil, PR = Programable for either; (2) Plugs into a Tortoise; (3) Specials include Auto Throw, Auto Return, Smart Default, Lock-Block, Locked Route Control, Switch Speed Control, Semaphore Operations, and others.

Tech Info
AHD
Athearn
Broadway Ltd
Circuitron
CMX Products
DCC Specialties
Digitrax
Generic / Other
Lenz
Miniatronics
MRC
NCE Corporation
Pricom Design
Soundtraxx
TDP Associates