Friday, February 10, 2012

TCS Z2 in a Micro Trains FT

Anyone who has followed this blog will notice that I am a fan of TCS decoders and use a lot of their Z2 model.  I have found it to be a great decoder, small enough for many applications and robust enough for any N scale engine.  TCS does not make a board type decoder for the Micro Trains FT so I wanted to see if I could wire in a Z2 and found it to be a relatively easy install.

The first step is to remove the shell from the frame.  On the front of the A unit, remove the screw then pull the coupler out forward.

On the rear of the A unit and both ends of the B unit, removed the coupler and mounting frame together.

After removing the shell, the LED light board is exposed.  Just behind the board there is an indent in the frame that is large enough for a wired decoder.  Remove the black light shield and then the board. That's right, the frame won't have to be taken apart on this one.

The boards in the A units will have the LED along with a couple of other components.  Remove the two that are pointed out in this photo.  They were needed for the DC operation of the bright white LED but will not be needed for the decoder function output. 

The board from a B unit will not have any components on it at all so this step can be skipped.

I have found the quickest way to isolate all the parts of the board is to cut a notch on each side of the board through the two circuit traces.

This step needs to be done on the boards for both the A and B units.

Here are the lengths I cut the wires to. 

Blue, white, gray, yellow = 1"
Orange = 1-3/8"
Red, black = 1-5/8"

Kapton tape is best to use for insulating the frame but does not stick to the frame as well as Scotch tape.  I clean any oil off the frame of course, but then I use a layer of Scotch tape first then apply the Kapton tape.  It sticks very well to the first layer.
Connect all of the decoder wires as shown in this photo.  This can be done either before or after the board is re-installed in the engine.  The photo shows an A unit.  The B unit won't need the white and blue wires.

Special note on the B units

FT's were run with the B units oriented backwards in relation to their associated A unit and were often draw bared together.  This is noticeable by the two sets of ladders, the offset of the wheels and fuel tank, and the dynamic brake vents on the roofs of the ones that had dynamic brakes.  The PC board in the Micro Trains FT B unit is oriented in the opposite direction as the A unit.  This would have not mattered running DC but with DCC we must have a front and a back end to each locomotive.

Here is a prototype photo showing an A B set arranged this way.
This photo showing an A B set with the shells next to a pair of mechanisms shows what is going on.  This can be corrected by programming the B unit for reverse operation

CV 29 = 07 for 2 digit address
CV 29 = 27 for 4 digit address


  1. Wow & thanks, Ive done some research on doing a decoder install and this looks like the easiest and most well documented way to install a decoder in the Microtrains FT A&B units. Thanks again.