New Monthly Content August 2016: Conversions: How to Transform an Older Powered Unit into a Non-Powered Dummy Unit

New Monthly Content August 2016: Conversions: How to Transform an Older Powered Unit into a Non-Powered Dummy Unit

Like a lot of us, myself included, you probably have more than a few older locomotives in your collection. Maybe they are five-year-old DCC ready locomotives or maybe they are 35-year-old DC locomotives with motors beyond saving, and you want to be able to use them on your DCC layout. 2016-07-15

The good news is, installing a DCC decoder in a DCC ready locomotive is pretty simple. When it comes to older locomotives, like old Athearn blue box series, it is possible to convert them to DCC, if the motors are in good condition. But  sometimes the motor is broken or there is so much rust/gunk build-up that it would take more time and money to repair it and then upgrade it to DCC than you want to spend. In this case, converting it to a non-powered dummy unit is a great and inexpensive way to keep the appearance of extra power in your train consists.

In this month’s monthly report – Conversion: How to Transform an Older Powered Unit into a Non-Powered Dummy Unit, I’ll walk you through the steps for turning a powered unit into a dummy unit, using photographs of my own project to illustrate the process.

Dummy units used to be commonly produced by almost all manufacturers. Athearn, especially, was big on producing dummy units. Dummies were a way to increase the number of locomotives on a single train when DC power was the only way to go. You could only operate two – maybe three if you had everything wired absolutely correctly – powered units on a single train, and they had to be facing the same direction. You could insert a dummy or two in the mix and have a four- engine lash-up for your train, with engines facing in different directions.

Though you may be working with an old Athearn, Bachmann, or Hornby model, the basic process will be similar to the project described in this month’s report. All it takes is a bit of patience, a little time, and a lot of love for model trains.

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Robert Thomson

Robert W. Thomson is a life-long railfan, the son of a former L&N Railroad B&B gang foreman, and an amateur photographer. He was born and raised in southeast Tennessee but now lives in Butte, Montana with his wife, Connie and cat, Charlie. Robert has worked as a park ranger, underground mine tour guide, freelance roleplaying game writer, and ran his own roleplaying game publishing company until selling it in 2012.

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