Converting the Bachmann Super Voyager DMU to DCC

 

Click on each image for a more detailed view
Last updated 25 June, 2012

 

At the time of writing the Super Voyager has only just been released, but surprisingly for a RTR product in 2003 it's not DCC-Ready - a poor state of affairs. There is evidence on the circuit board that Bachmann thought about it and then gave up, but at the end of the day the model doesn't have a plug-and-play NMRA DCC socket so you'll have to hardwire the decoder in. That in itself is a reasonably easy job, but things are complicated somewhat by lights in two other cars that need taking care of. The project as a whole, therefore, is more involved than a typical loco installation, but all of the individual steps are simple enough. There's just more of them.

One thing you need to decide before starting is just how you want to handle the lights in the driving cars at each end. You could run wires through from the powered car so everything runs off the one decoder - this is cheaper and is better for current collection, certainly, but makes the model very difficult to work upon and transport. You could get around this by installing plugs and sockets between cars, but that tends to put the price up, so more and more modellers seem to be choosing to install individual decoders in the individual cars. Any un-motorised car with just lights to power can be equipped with a simple, function-only decoder such as the Lenz LF100XF, although obviously this still adds to the cost. For reasons of economy here I've cheated and re-used a couple of old decoders left over from previous upgrades (a handy tip if you've got any) but they are installed in exactly the same way as the LF100XF would
be.

The other thing you need to think about before you start is whether you're happy with the lights as supplied by Bachmann. They're pretty feeble compared to the searing intensity of the real thing, so you might like to consider replacing them with brighter LEDs, possibly using the popular kits available from Express Models. As Nigel Burkin already covers this route in the DCC section of his site I've decided to illustrate the use of the original Bachmann lights here, for the sake of variety.

 

Voyager Photo1

The workbench will be a little more crowded than normal for this project. As well as the powered car you'll be working on the two end cars, so you'll need 3 decoders in total. In this case I've chosen the Lenz LE1035E (seen with the ubiquitous double-sided sticky pad) to actually drive the thing, along with a couple of old Lenz LE104XF
chips that will be adequate to power the lights. On top of this you'll want the normal odds & ends including a cross-head screwdriver, a pair of cutters, a scrap of circuit board, your soldering outfit and a craft knife or wire stripper. If your Super Voyager is a new one, like mine, then it's probably a good idea to test-run it before proceeding in order to check everything is OK.


Note that although I've used a plug fitted decoder, the plug isn't really required - it was all I had to hand so I just chopped the plug off and used it as you would the wires-only version, the Lenz LE1035A. Similarly, unless you happen to have a couple of old decoders lying around as I did, you'll probably want to use some of the Lenz LF100XF function-only decoders.

Voyager Photo2

The body of the powered car is secured by four screws and four plastic clips. Undo the screws (circled in red in the photo) with a cross-head screwdriver first of all and keep them somewhere safe. Not surprisingly you'll need them to secure the body once you've finished.

 

Voyager Photo3

Next the body needs to be unclipped - easier said than done on my samples as it's a tight fit and seems to be gummed up with paint in most cases. Wedge some pieces of card between the sides and the chassis as in the photo to help keep the clips undone as you work - eventually the body should come free. Level of swearing required: medium.

Voyager Photo4

 

Once apart, you can see what you'll be working on. In particular you'll notice the locations on the circuit board where Bachmann presumably considered fitting a DCC socket before deciding to slip away to the pub instead.

 

Voyager Photo5
The circuit board with it's selection of interference suppression components is not required for DCC and so should be disposed of. Unscrew the circuit board and then snip the six wires that join it to the chassis. The old pair of Xuron track-cutters seen in the photo are too worn to cut track these days, but can still earn their keep doing odd jobs such as this.
Voyager Photo7
I also snipped off the two mounting posts for the circuit board to give myself more room to work, but you can probably get away without doing this.
Voyager Photo8
Rather than use bare wire connections I always connect my decoders to a piece of stripboard (product code FL17T from Maplin) as seen here stuck in place with a double-sided sticky pad. Although this isn't essential I find it makes life easier if you want to carry out any alterations later on - this unit has already had the decoder swapped for a sound-equipped one and will most likely have working door-lights added later as well. Solder the two red wires from the pickups to one track of the circuit board as shown. Solder the two black wires from the pickups on the other side to another track. Finally solder the red and the black wires from the motor to two separate tracks as in the photo.
Voyager Photo9
Now solder the wires from the decoder in place, you'll see I've cut off the plug entirely and shortened the wires considerably on mine. The red wire needs to connect to the same track as you used for the red wires from the pickups. Similarly, the black wire should be connected to the track used by the black wires from the pickups. Next, solder the orange wire to the track used by the red wire from the motor, and the grey wire to the track used by the black wire from the motor. The remaining wires can be soldered individually to the spare tracks on the circuit board. It doesn't matter which wire goes where as we're not going to use them, but if connected they'll be there if you choose to add extra lights in the future.
Voyager Photo10
Stick the decoder in place with another sticky pad - neatness doesn't count here and there's plenty of room underneath the roof for this inelegant double-sandwich. At this point it's as well to check that everything is working before putting the body back on the chassis. The safest way to do this is to put the car on the programming track and try to read information from the decoder - the instructions for your particular DCC system will tell you how to do this.
Voyager Photo11
If all is well then fit the body back on (the arrangement of the clips mean it will only fit one way) and secure it with the four screws. Everything should now run quite nicely if you want to give it a test run - the next job is the lights in the end cars. So which end is the front in one of these things? Don't ask me, I really have no idea. One thing I do know, however, is that if your Super Voyager is supplied wired as mine was, and if you connect the decoder as I've done, and if you assemble the rake in the way shown on the leaflet in the box, then the 'Club Class' end will be at the front when you drive forwards with your controller. So we want the lights to work accordingly - let's start with the rear car, not the one marked as 'Club Class' but the other one.
Voyager Photo12
The bodies of both driving cars are secured by three screws and some more of those plastic clips. Undo the screws (circled in red in the photo) with a cross-head screwdriver and put them somewhere safe. The frontmost screw (on the left in the photo) holds a small moulding in place and it's probably best to remove this first - see photo 13. I tried to get the body off with the moulding in place and it was a struggle, to say the least.
Voyager Photo13
As with the powered car, use some pieces of card or similar to help you remove the body, but note that the rear needs to part company first. The front needs a bit of care as the chassis is wider than the base of the body at this point - take it easy and mind both the front coupler and the fact that the two parts of the model are joined electrically by a plug and socket arrangement. Level of swearing required: medium.
Voyager Photo14
Here's the various components showing the connecting plug/socket arrangement. Unplug this, but don't put too much stress on it as the soldered joints are vulnerable.
Voyager Photo15
Most of the work will concern the circuit board to which the lights are attached. If you undo the screw (circled in red in the photo) you can remove the whole assembly to work on it - pull backwards and upwards to free it as the metal casting encloses the ends of the light-guides.
Voyager Photo16
The whole assembly once removed from the driving car. I've labelled the various bulbs for information only - we're not doing anything with them here.
Voyager Photo17
In order to take the economical route and re-use the Bachmann components, a few small modifications need to be made to the Bachmann circuit board. First, snip off the two diodes (the black and silver cylinders in the photo) using some cutters.
Voyager Photo18
Secondly cut the track marked as step 2 in the photo. I do this with the tip of a razor saw, cutting deep enough to be 100% sure nothing of the track remains. Solder the black and red wires from your decoder close to the points where Bachmann's black and red wires are connected. Then solder the blue decoder wire to the point marked as step 5 in the photo. This is a common wire for all of the lights.
Voyager Photo19
Finally, solder the yellow and white wires as shown. This wiring suits the rear car, the front car will be identical apart from having the yellow and white wires swapped over.
Voyager Photo20
Once it's all done the lighting assembly can be screwed back into the body and the decoder fixed inside the roof with a double-sided sticky pad. Note that I have a grey and an orange wire hanging loose here - you won't have these wires (they're for a motor) if you're using a Lenz LF100XF function-only decoder. Depending on the combination of DCC system and decoder, you may or may not be able to program a decoder without a load attached to the motor leads. Although I've gotten away with it in the past, these older (version 4.4) chips wouldn't co-operate, so I connected a spare Hornby power bogie to the wires. I then plugged the body and chassis together and placed the chassis on the programming track. Once everything was set up the motor was disconnected and the spare wires tucked out of harms way. Note that all three decoders in the vehicles need to be given the same number. Once this is done everything will work as one and you'd never know there were three individual decoders in there.
Voyager Photo21
When you're happy everything works as it should, pop the body back onto the chassis (front end first) making sure the connecting plug is in place. Finally put back the small plastic moulding from the front (if you removed it) and secure everything with the three screws.
Voyager Photo22
Now repeat the whole procedure on the other driving car. Everything is exactly the same except that the white and the yellow wires are swapped over - see the photo for clarification. When all of these stages are complete, assemble the whole formation on the track and have a good play - you've earned it. Note, however, that the bulbs do run hot (as bulbs do) and the bodies get quite warm. I've not had a problem with this, but I'll certainly feel better when they're eventually replaced with cool-running LEDs.
This guide first appeared on the ElectricNose web site belonging to Steve Jones and is reproduced here with his permission


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