Converting an old MRC Santa Fe to DCC

  • Posted 5 January 2015

The second locomotive I have converted to DCC is this very nice MRC Santa Fe.
Its code is "ALCO FA-2 SANTA FE 6951 1098"
The engine was bought sometime in 1970-1980, quite some time ago.
It had been used, but not very much, majority of the time it sat dormant.

I used a DCC decoder model 860014 from laisdcc. Great little chip with lots of functions.

The conversion went pretty smoothly. Time was taken to take apart the locomotive and clean it all out.
The bulb was burnt out and replaced with a white LED.


The locomotive




Planning the placement of DCC Decoder


Decoder installed to motor and pickups


LED Installed

The led was installed backwards so that it helps difuse the light. I also took a light sanding to the sides to make it more reflective and smooth out the light.


Running locomotive

Thats it for the install. Close up the shell and put it on the track.
Programming was a breeze using DecoderPro and a SPROG 3.

Tuned the vMin, vMid, and vMax values and it is now running excellently.
vMid was set to roughly 40% of vMax for better slow throttle control.





The motor brushes

In very good condition, have a long life still.


Cleaning out the wheels

Lots of dirt and hair/fluff was in between the wheel and the plastic housing


Worn out worm gear?

Notice the left side of the worm gear has a few mm of plastic but the right side has been worn down to the threads.
Might be hard to find a replacement, still looking.


Replaced the traction tires

Being over 30 years old, the black traction tires were dry solid rubber. Upon removal they broke into many solid pieces.




Hello Nicolas

How did you recognize the decoder in JMRI? You have the XML file of that decoder?

Your tutorial helped me a lot!

Thank you!


The decoder was made to respond to standard NMRA CV's and commands. I set it up as a generic decoder. Using the instructions from laisdcc i was also able to program the CV's to what I needed.

Hi, I use the JMRI program to set up decoders. I bought a first 860012 (I think) from you. Which decoder do I select from the list in the JMRI 4.2.1 version program? Thank you! Erik

I dont sell decoders, maybe you bought it from LaisDCC ?

I did my very first decoder install just today. Several weeks preparation, JMRI software, Arduino Uno with motor shield and lots of reading. Programming went like childs' play, loco (20 year old unused Athearn S12) runs like a beauty.
Question: where can I find the spec sheets on the different Lais decoders?


I dont have the spec sheet on the lais decoders anymore, best would be to contact them for the latest pdf. It changes often because they keep updating their design i think.

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