ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

DCC HO Scale Gandy Dancer Handcar Project

Updated on July 23, 2016


I thought it would be neat to add a Gandy Dancer Handcar to my HO scale DCC (Digital Command Control) layout.I am an avid model railroader and have been updating my layout for about 5 years now. This is the latest improvement on my list.

The Purchase:

I found two HO scale DC (Direct Current) Gandy Dancer Handcars made by Bachmann on Amazon. I purchased the Christmas Gandy Dancer Handcar with Santa and an elf driving it as it was significantly cheaper than the Gandy Dancer Handcars with two railroad workers.

Bachmann Trains Operating Gandy Dancer Christmas
Bachmann Trains Operating Gandy Dancer Christmas

This is the Gandy Dancer I purchased from Amazon for this project!


The Decoder:

My DCC layout uses the Digitrax DCS50, an all-in-one Command Station/Booster/Throttle in one package. As my layout is quite small I do not need any external boosters or throttles. Even though you should be able to mix/match different brands of decoders with command stations as they all following the same DCC standard, I always like to purchase Digitrax decoders so that they are the same brand as my command station. I chose the Digitrax DZ123 decoder for this project.The DZ123 is:* Small it was designed to be used on Z scale model trains.* Cost effective, due to its limited functions, it is relatively cheap.

Digitrax DZ123 Decoder on Amazon

Digitrax DZ123PS Z DCC Decoder, 1.2" Wire 2-Function 8-Pin 1A
Digitrax DZ123PS Z DCC Decoder, 1.2" Wire 2-Function 8-Pin 1A

This is the DCC Decoder I purchased from Amazon for this project.


The Problem:

My HO Bachman Gandy Dancer Handcar and Digitrax DZ123 decoder arrived from Amazon. Upon taking both out of the package I knew I had a problem. Where was I going to install the DCC decoder? Unlike a locomotive that has a cavity in the shell there was no such place to conceal the decoder on the Gandy Dancer Handcar.

The Solution:

I decided that the best solution was to hide the DCC decoder in plain sight. I would mount it on one side of the Gandy Dancer Handcar then paint it to look like a package or maybe Santa’s bag of presents for all the good children of the world.Other Factors:Before committing by cutting the length of the DCC wires, I decided to temporarily wire the DCC Decoder to the Gandy Dancer Handcar to see if it would work.

Step 1: Prep Handcar for DCC Decoder Install

The Gandy Dancer Handcar consists of two metal halves separated by an insulator. Each half has electrical continuity to the wheels on that side of the handcar and transfer electricity to the motor via two copper spring contacts. These spring contacts must be de-soldered and removed before you wire the DCC decoder in place. The copper spring contacts are circled in the picture.

Step2: Preliminary DCC Decoder Install

Solder the gray and orange motor controller wires to the motor as shown in the picture. The black power pickup wire is attached by slipping the stripped end under the tightened screw at the base of one side of the Gandy Dancer Handcar. The red power pickup wire is attached by slipping the stripped end under the tightened screw at the base on the other side of the handcar. Remember, I indicated that each side of the handcar base has an electrical contact to the wheels on that side of the handcar.

Step 3: DCC Decoder Programming

Now it is time to program the DCC decoder with an ID and set parameters. I use a small piece of track connected to the program terminals of the Digitrax DCS50. My DCS50 command station is connect to my computer via a Digitrax PR3 computer interface I use the free JMRI DecoderPro to program my DCC decoders as it's graphical interface makes programming a snap!

Step 4: Road (Rail) Test

Next I placed the now DCC controlled Gandy Dancer Handcar on my DDC Layout, set the ID on my DCC Command Station to the ID assigned to the handcar and tested that the speed and direction could be controlled.

Step5: DCC Fitment

Now that I tested that the DCC Decoder installed on the Gandy Dancer Handcar works as expected, I went ahead and hot glued the DZ123 Decoder to the side of the handcar and cut the orange, grey, red, and black wires to length. Any other wires not used I cut off as we do not require any lighting for this install.

Step6: Final Touches

Going under the "hidden in plain sight" premise, I painted the DCC decoder a dark brown using acrylic paint to make it look like Santa's bag full of presents. In addition, I painted the DCC decoder's entire wires engine black to make them look like pipes connected to various parts of the Gandy Dancer Handcar.

Step7: Convenience

I also label each of my DCC decoder equipped vehicles with the Decoder ID. I know that this detracts from the realism slightly but it make up with convenience of knowing the Decoder ID of any given vehicle on your layout.

The Gandy Dancer Handcar in action!



With a little ingenuity you too can add a Gandy Dancer Handcar to your HO Scale DCC layout.

My Guestbook

    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment
    • profile image


      4 months ago

      Thanks for the info. My wife bought me the Gandy Dancer for Christmas years ago. It has been sitting in a display case ever since I converted to DCC. Just ordered the decoder, and I will have running as soon as the decoder arrives. My grandsons will get a kick out of it the next time they run trains with me.

    • profile image

      Rich Schneider 

      16 months ago

      I love the "hidden in plain sight" concept, very ingenious.


    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

    Show Details
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)