Friday, May 5, 2017

Inexpensive DCC Connectors

Seems I've gone down so many rabbit holes lately, I feel like Elmer Fudd.

This latest excursion, like a few others, is DCC-related. I plan to install decoders in some engines soon and have been researching and collecting supplies. While the decoders themselves, and even wire, are pretty straightforward, I've been having a hard time figuring out what connectors I want to use - not only between decoder and speaker, but between tender and engine as well.

Unfortunately, the interwebs have only been marginally helpful - at least so far. Much of the problem is that I don't yet know what I don't know. So I don't really know what all to get.

Fortunately, though - despite Radio Shack's disappearance - I discovered a huge electronics supply store just off my commute route. Appropriately enough, it's called "Cables and Connectors" and I've been visiting there a lot lately . . .

My latest try-outs. And if you're not local, C&C ships!
I bought a variety of different, um, "cables and connectors" to see if any of them would be useful. BONUS: these things go for pennies on the dollar compared to comparable parts you'd get from a DCC-specific supplier, so I figured it'd be worthwhile to do some experimenting. Just one example: the 40 pin/socket packages there together (lower left hand corner) cost $2.48 compared to $17.95 (plus s/h) for a 32 pin set here.

But lest you think I'm totally cheaping out thrifty, I did order some supplies from my favorite DCC store as well (despite having to pay shipping). Unfortunately, they didn't have in stock one of the things I really needed: an 8-pin NMRA socket.

You see, one of the decoders I want to install is a LokSound Select:

And as you can see, it comes ready with an 8-pin plug. I could of course just snip the plug off and wire everything directly, but before doing that, I figured I'd look at my stash and see if I could come up with an alternative . . .
Click to enlarge image
C&C sells a 10-wire jumper with sockets on each end ($2.49 item# 49920). I got one of those and removed the sockets from one end, using a small screwdriver to gently pry up the little retaining clip in the housings which holds the wires. Then it was just a matter of inserting the wires into an 8 pin female terminal housing (that little cube to the left of the pile of discarded housings), making sure the wire colors matched the NMRA standard.

Here's a close-up of the decoder plugged in:

This was just a test to try things out - I'll of course cut the wires to length and separate them so they're not all twisted. But I think this solution will work.

And wow - the wire ESU uses for its decoder is TINY! The wires on my made-up socket are 26 gauge, the smallest available at C&C. Hmmmm.... maybe getting supplies - or at least wire - from a DCC-specific supplier would be worth the extra cost.

Seeing as how I'm brand new to this whole new rabbit hole world of DCC decoder installations, I'd sure appreciate any thoughts or helpful-feedback you could share about your own experiences - as well as what you think about my experiments here. Am I being penny wise and  pound foolish? Weigh in in the comments!


  1. I used the single-pin micro connectors and the 28-ga. Super flexible wire from Litchfield Station. The wire has a large number of strands and will bend almost any way you need it to. Single-pin connectors allow the wire more freedom to move.

    For 2-3 wires between loco and tender, they're the way to go. More wires than that and I'd recommend putting a motor decoder in the loco, a sound decoder in the tender, then programming them to the same address.

    1. Hey Rhett and thanks very much for weighing in! I'd totally forgotten about Litchfield Station, so will definitely check them out. Thanks very much for the reminder - as well as the additional tips!

  2. Thanks again for the tip on Litchfield Station Rhett! I ended up getting this set of 30-ga wire: I think it'll work out pretty well - certainly better than the other wire I was contemplating. Thanks again!