Summary: Some locomotive packages seen in the hobby shop display a badge proclaiming "DCC Ready." It indicates the modeller may install an NMRA DCC decoder later, without difficulty.
DCC Ready can mean a number of things. One primary feature is a motor isolated from the frame, making it easier to wire when installing a decoder.
What Does DCC Ready Mean?
A simple installation which will not require a lot of skill or special tools. Installing a multifunction decoder should not be difficult, although some older models may be more challenging.
There may be a light board that requires modification (by breaking the connections to the motor) or replacement with a decoder. Or there is a socket used with a matching connector on a suitable decoder.
See the article on the various connectors used, both current and proposed.
Usually indicates the model comes with an OEM DCC multifunction decoder installed at the factory. The multifunction decoder is often a basic generic version. It may be sound equipped as well. Keep in mind that OEM multifunction decoders are often are stripped down versions with limited feature sets. The CVs available may not be equivalent to the retail version of the decoder.
Some multifunction decoders allow firmware upgrades, but OEM versions may impose limits on making changes. The locomotive manufacturer may offer software upgrades which are specific to their product's decoder, and will not work with other decoders. The decoder may have to be returned for upgrades. Aftermarket versions tend to more flexible.
Some manufacturers use an OEM multifunction decoder from a well-known supplier with exclusive features, such as lighting effects and custom sounds. The only way to get a decoder like this is to buy it installed in a locomotive. The OEM will not sell them and may provide limited support, referring you to the manufacturer of the locomotive. Some manufacturers have decoders specific to their product, and may offer them as upgrades.
Plug and Play
The multifunction decoder can be installed with a minimum of work. It usually just plugs into a connector and is ready to play.
This is a cousin of DCC Plug and Play, meaning that you can install a multifunction decoder, often a drop – in type is available, without a lot of fuss. Some decoders replace the light board. With a screwdriver and a few minutes, conversion is easily accomplished. The packaging or instructions often mention the interface it is equipped with. Older locomotives sold as DCC Ready may require a much more involved installation process.
Turnout - DCC Compatible
It is not impossible to convert this locomotive to DCC, but it will take some time and effort to do so. Just about any locomotive can be considered DCC capable. The only real issue is the size of the decoder.
- You should still check the wiring to make sure that the motor is indeed isolated from the chassis.
- Not all multifunction decoders are available with matching NMRA 8 or 6 pin connectors, ask your dealer.