Con­vert a Hornby 0-4-0 to DCC

Can you tame Hornby’s wild train set 0-4-0s - and add work­ing lights too? GE­ORGE DENT finds out.

Model Rail (UK) - - Content -

Can you tame Hornby’s wild train set 0-4-0s - and add work­ing lights too? Ge­orge Dent shows you how.

It’s a sign of the times that buy­ing new ‘OO’ diesel lo­co­mo­tives for pocket money prices has be­come a dis­tinctly retro ex­pe­ri­ence. But there are still bar­gains to be found: I man­aged to get hold of this Hornby ‘06’ for a smidgeon un­der £20 from Hat­ton’s - that’s what I paid for a new Lima Class 33 in 1986, hav­ing saved my 50p-a-week al­lowance for months. OK, so you might not get a great deal for your £20 nowa­days (you didn’t in the 1980s ei­ther), but bud­get mod­els cer­tainly of­fer plenty of po­ten­tial for de­tail up­grades and re­paints. But what about DCC con­ver­sion? Few lo­co­mo­tives in this price bracket come DCC ready and, with such a small sub­ject, there’s not a great deal of room in­side for the dig­i­tal good­ies that we’ve be­come used to. Hap­pily, with macro-sized de­coders, go­ing dig­i­tal is eas­ier than you may think, and adding a ‘Stay Alive’ unit can dras­ti­cally im­prove the run­ning char­ac­ter­is­tics of the ba­sic mech­a­nism.


The Hornby Class 06 shares a sim­i­lar chas­sis and mech­a­nism with a num­ber of steam-out­line 0-4-0s, such as the Cale­do­nian ‘Pug’ (‘Smokey Joe’) of train set fame. There­fore, the fol­low­ing project ap­plies equally well to any of these mod­els, although the closed cab of a diesel pro­vides more room to con­ceal a de­coder. The ‘06’ is fairly prim­i­tive on a num­ber of lev­els, both in­ter­nally and ex­ter­nally. Some cos­metic de­tail­ing and a weath­ered fin­ish would greatly im­prove its ap­pear­ance, but here we’ll con­cen­trate mostly on the model’s in­nards. Smooth, slow-speed run­ning is es­sen­tial for shunt­ing lo­co­mo­tives. Any­one with any ex­pe­ri­ence with these mod­els will know that ‘smooth’ and ‘slow’ are not part of their vo­cab­u­lary. Con­vert­ing to DCC, how­ever, of­fers the po­ten­tial for su­pe­rior con­trol. I’m not usu­ally keen on hard-wiring DCC de­coders into older mod­els, pre­fer­ring to in­stall a de­coder socket, as found on DCC ready RTR prod­ucts. If any­thing should go wrong with the de­coder in fu­ture, or if I wish to up­grade, I can ef­fect a swap with­out re­course to a sol­der­ing iron. As only one of my lay­outs is Dcc-op­er­ated, I like hav­ing the sim­ple op­tion of re­vert­ing to ana­logue con­trol, too. By re­mov­ing the de­coder and in­sert­ing a blank­ing plug (again, as of­fered with DCC ready mod­els), the lo­co­mo­tives can run on my ana­logue lay­outs. Luck­ily, I have a few spare eight-pin de­coder sock­ets in stock, sal­vaged mostly from Hornby mod­els that have been up­graded in the past (I never throw any­thing away!). In this case, the socket comes from a Class 121 ‘Bub­ble Car’ chas­sis and was com­plete with a pair of mount­ing screws.


As only an oc­ca­sional DCC dab­bler, I’m not au fait with the great num­ber of de­coders cur­rently on the mar­ket. How­ever, I knew that I needed some­thing small that would slot into


With re­sis­tors in­stalled, the oil lamps emit a re­al­is­tic amount of light and the model now runs sweetly un­der dig­i­tal con­trol.

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