Using NMRA Standard DCC with proprietary Lionel decoders and proprietary MTH decoders

(This page last updated 7/25/2017)

This question was asked, to learn if the NCE Mini-Panel could be used to automatically control locos with the proprietary decoders used by Lionel and MTH.


  • A DCC system that follows the NMRA standards (such as NCE, DIgitrax, Lenz, Zimo, Massoth, LGB, and many others) puts an “NMRA standard” DCC power signal on the track that will control about 20 different brands of mostly-interchangeable decoders that also follow the NMRA standards (such as Soundtrax, Loksound, TCS, NCE, DIgitrax, Lenz, Zimo, Massoth, LGB, and many others).
  • This (huge in my opinion) contribution by the NMRA prevents you from being “locked into” a single  manufacturer’s proprietary system, and also avoids the attending risk of being stuck with owning a loco with a proprietary decoder-gone-bad, for which the manufacturer no longer produces replacements.

B. Lionel & MTH Proprietary Systems

  • The latest versions of the Lionel (Legacy) and MTH (Protosounds 3) decoders are advertised to work on NMRA DCC.
  • But beware that the earlier versions probably will not work with DCC.
    • You can find more discussion on the O Gauge Forum.  Seach for phrases similar to “DCC and Legacy” and “DCC and DCS”.

C. ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ OBSERVATIONS: ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

The following reports are copied from the [NCE-DCC] Yahoo group.

On 7/19/17 6:17 PM, ‘Tom Hawley’ [NCE-DCC] wrote:

  • A club member showed up today at our clubhouse with a brand-new pair of MTH S scale F3 (US prototype) diesels with MTH’s full digital package. In a very short time we had them working on my NCE DCC system, with all basic functions working as advertised – direction, speed control, horn, bell &c.
  • My own new locos are (S-gauge) by Lionel — SD70s & ES44s, and they do fine on my NCE DCC system.

On 7/22/17 4:37 AM, Mark Gurries [NCE-DCC] wrote:

QUESTION: Can the NCE Mini-Panel Be Used To Control Lionel & MTH Decoders??

  • General Answer: Yes as long as the locomotives in question have decoders in them ALSO support DCC, they will work.
  • Specific Answer: The HO products from both companies use custom designed decoders that are BOTH DCC compatible AND proprietary “DCS” and “Lionel Chief” compatible respectively at the same time. You can think of these special decoders having multiple control system compatibility.
  • From a Mini-Panel point of view, you can control them using the Mini-Panel’s “locomotive control” commands.

Mark Gurries
Electrical Engineer
DCC Website & NMRA DCC Clinics: