Teaser time

All I can say is this is a teaser post with more to come in the July 2018 DCC Corner column. Have you installed a sound decoder only to have it jump, jerk, and dance all over the track with the sound and power cutting out on you? You may need a keep alive circuit to overcome dirty or irregular track, or you may have one of “those” locomotives that are just sensitive. Face it some types of electrical pickups are more reliable than others. However, before you tear your hair out trying to fix the problem make sure you installed the small capacitor supplied with the decoder and make sure it was installed correctly.

I recently installed an Econami ECO-100 (yes I know they are hard to get now but I have a small stash) in a Stewart FTA only to have it display all the symptoms described above. I cleaned the track and wheels and it still danced and cut out. Finally I went back and added the small capacitor that comes with them and it runs like a champ now. I had left it out since I considered adding a Current Keeper later, but it taught me a lesson. Even that small capacitor may be very important for guaranteeing even a minimal level of reliability.

Here’s a hint as to what is going on. With the older Tsunami decoders the little capacitor was wired on one leg of the speaker wires, the new configuration has the capacitor wired between the ground and the positive sink. This is the same wiring configuration as a Current Keeper. That little capacitor might not have much stored juice but it may be enough to get you over a rough spot. More in the July issue.


  • If you can spare $25 or so, forget the capacitor, and buy the current keeper. I put them on all my locos, although small switchers may be a problem.
    I have fun watching visitors eyes get big when I stop a sound loco, pull it off the track and sit it down, and of course it just keeps running for up to 30 seconds, or so.

  • Do you recommend keeping the capacitor even after adding a keep-alive? Or is that redundant?

  • This is absolutely a topic that will interest many people. For those of us who are not good at electricity and electronics (the majority of model railroaders?? LOL), could you explain which ground you are referring to and what the ‘positive sink’ is?? Thanks!!

    • I’ll definitely provide some tips on how to find those. I know this still is a fairly new topic to many modelers.

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