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TEST/PROGRAMMING TRACK

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  • Member since
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  • From: Northern Michigan
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TEST/PROGRAMMING TRACK
Posted by BNENGR on Saturday, February 2, 2008 1:19 PM

Good afternoon guys & (gals?)

Thanks again for all your help with previous questions

Here's another for you. I'm thinking of installing my test/programming track in a yard that I'm currently building. Probably make it on a engine servicing track. I have seen alot of threads on this and one of the suggestions was to hook up a DPDT switch to it so you can go from normal DCC ops to testing & programming so as to not cause any mixups and or problems. So, with that in mind, can you give me some instructions as to how to hook up the DPDT switch.

I'm not a complete dummy when it comes to wiring (been doing it all my life on cars, motorcycles etc.) butttt, Let's just say I'm not the smartest kid on the block.

Thanks so much!

PaulieWhistling [:-^]

The Burlington Northern Lives On!
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Posted by MisterBeasley on Saturday, February 2, 2008 1:31 PM

First, insulate both rails of the programming track from the rest of the layout.  Run a feeder wire from each rail to one side of the center posts of the DPDT switch.  Run a pair of wires from the "top" posts of the switch to your track bus, and another pair of wires from the "bottom" posts to the programming track outputs of your DCC system.

When the switch is thrown for the "top" posts, you will be able to run an engine on to the programming track from the rest of the layout.  Then, throw the DPDT switch the other way, and the track will be disconnected from the layout and connected to the programming track outputs.

Remember to keep the same polarity as the track when wiring to the track bus.  As usual, color-coding the wires makes this easier.

Most DPDT toggle switches, by the way, have a "see-saw" mechanism inside.  So, when the switch is flipped down, the top contacts are used, and when it's up, the bottom contacts are used.  Slide switches work directly, up for top, down for bottom.

It takes an iron man to play with a toy iron horse. 

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Posted by jim22 on Saturday, February 2, 2008 4:07 PM

I had my first mixup a few days ago and set every engine on the layout to the same address.  Took a while to straighten that out!

If your DCC system doesn't have a separate programming track output, let us know.  I have another solution for that.

Jim 

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Posted by Tilden on Saturday, February 2, 2008 5:46 PM

We should note there is a difference between a programing track and a test track.

A programing track is an isolated piece of track connected to the program outputs of a base unit and has a very limited signal/output which allows programing of decoders (not always all brands of sound decoders) but does not have enough power to run a locomotive.

A test track is a section of track receiving the normal track signal, which can be isolated with a DPDT switch that cuts in a resistor, limiting (usually to about 25 to 35%) the track voltage.  This will run a loco in a limited fashion but will usually prevent you from burning up a decoder if it is wired incorrectly.

When I got my PA system, I converted my test track to a program track.  I really don't use a test track any more (experience? vanity?) and with most decoders accepting programming on the main, I don't often use the program track except to read decoder settings.

Tilden

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Posted by locoi1sa on Saturday, February 2, 2008 9:16 PM

 Hi Paulie

 Its been said in lots of books and magazine articles about puting a programing track in a yard or even on a layout. Instead of the loco service track witch sounds like it should be there you should probably put it at the end of a single track spur or isolated siding close to the front of the layout. Better yet a short shelf just below the layout. A freind of mine had built his on a slide out shelf built into the fashia panel. It has Kaydee uncoupler test units and about 2 feet of track in between with about  an 8 inch wide shelf behind the track and back board for tools and working on cars and locos before putting on the layout. Like a miny work bench. When he pulls the sliding shelf out and locks in the open position it trips a switch that converts power to just the program track so there is no way he can program or run the layout while there is anything on the program track. The best thing is hes not reaching over scenery to test or fix anything.

      Pete
 

 I pray every day I break even, Cause I can really use the money!

 I started with nothing and still have most of it left!

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Posted by jktrains on Sunday, February 3, 2008 5:19 AM
 Tilden wrote:

We should note there is a difference between a programing track and a test track.

A programing track is an isolated piece of track connected to the program outputs of a base unit and has a very limited signal/output which allows programing of decoders (not always all brands of sound decoders) but does not have enough power to run a locomotive.

A test track is a section of track receiving the normal track signal, which can be isolated with a DPDT switch that cuts in a resistor, limiting (usually to about 25 to 35%) the track voltage.  This will run a loco in a limited fashion but will usually prevent you from burning up a decoder if it is wired incorrectly.

When I got my PA system, I converted my test track to a program track.  I really don't use a test track any more (experience? vanity?) and with most decoders accepting programming on the main, I don't often use the program track except to read decoder settings.

Tilden

Tilden,

Your explanation of the differences is rather confusing or inaccurate.  You seem to indicate that a person should have a programming track, a test track with limited power, and then a full power track or their layout.

Your explanation of a programming track is basically correct.  It should be used not only for programming decoders since it allows feedback and reading/display of CV values, but it should also be used for testing decoder installations.  As a word of advice, always test a new install on the programming track (PT).  As Tilden stated, in programming mode the command station does not put out sufficient voltage to run a loco and only puts out enough voltage to run the circuitry on the decoder.  Testing the install first on the PT will prevent frying the decoder.  If the system can read CVs then there is no short.  If it can't then there's a short that needs to be found before ruynning the loco.

Your description of a test track is wrong though.If you've tested your install on the PT, there is not need for a limiting resistor on your "test track."  A test track, if you even need one, should just a short section track on which you can test that your programming is correct - is the address correct, does it run the right direction or were the motor leads reversed, do the lights work, is the function mapping correct, etc.  This can be done on the layout also.

 

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Posted by FriendlyEspee on Sunday, February 3, 2008 12:16 PM

A disadvantage of an off-layout programming track is that locomotives must be lifted on and off the PT and the layout, increasing the risk of damaging small details or even dropping the locomotive. For this reason, I prefer using an on-layout programming track on a short spur that is near the front edge of the layout, but protected by a 3" high fence of 1/8" thick clear plexiglas along the fascia--this prevents a 54" drop to the floor. I don't have a problem with dust in my layout room and I model a narrow time era, so with this approach once I put a locomotive on the PT, program it, and move it onto the main, it stays on the layout for a long time and handling is minimized.

Just another factor to consider.

Chris 

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Posted by CSX Robert on Monday, February 4, 2008 7:07 AM
Actually, Tilden's descriptions of a programming track and a test track are basically correct. The purpose of a test track is for testing your installation. If your command station does not have a seperate programming track output it's a good idea to have a test track so that you can test an installation before applying full current to it. If your command station does have a seperate programming track output, then you do not need a seperate test track in addition to the programming track because you can test the installation by prgoramming the decoder.

I believe BNENGR has a SuperChief, which does have a seperate programming output, so MisterBeasley's description of what to do would work. I will add, however, that many people suggest putting an isolated section of track bewtween the programming track and the rest of the layout. The purpose of this is so that you don't run an engine into the programming section while it is set to programming. If you do, as the wheels cross the gap, it momentarily shorts the programming outputs to the track outputs, which has the potential to cause damage. If you use a 4PDT toggle switch, you can set it up so that when you set the track to program, the isolated section of track is dead, and when you set it to run, both the program track and the isolated section receive track power. Here is an example of how to wire the 4PDT switch:http://www.nmra.org.au/Hints/Program%20Track/Program%20Track.html.

As far as programming all the trains on your layout, that is only a concern if your command station does not have a seperate program track output, because in that case, the command station sends the programming commands out the main track outputs. If this is the case, then whether your program track is on the layout or on a seperate work bench, you still have to make sure that you turn the power off to the layout when you do programming. For people who have a command station without a seperate program track output, NCE makes a device(Auto-SW) that will automatically switch off the main track when it detects programming commands.
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Posted by locoi1sa on Monday, February 4, 2008 4:44 PM

 Hi CSX

 I may be wrong but I think the auto switch is for the power cab. I have not heard of it beeing used by any other system.

    Pete
 

 I pray every day I break even, Cause I can really use the money!

 I started with nothing and still have most of it left!

  • Member since
    February 2007
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Posted by CSX Robert on Monday, February 4, 2008 4:48 PM
The auto switch was designed for the PowerCab, but it will also work on other systems that do not have a seperate programming track output.  
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Posted by jfugate on Monday, February 4, 2008 5:58 PM

You can easily create a safe programming track on your layout, you just need to know how to do it. Having a programming track on your layout helps minimize the amount of handling you need to do of your locos.

I illustrate how to wire the programming track in safely here. It uses a 4PDT toggle, and I list a link to where you can order such a toggle switch for a few dollars.

Joe Fugate Modeling the 1980s SP Siskiyou Line in southern Oregon

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Posted by BNENGR on Tuesday, February 5, 2008 1:18 AM

Hello Joe, Thanks for the info. on the programming track schematics. I have been using 6 pole - DPDT - center off switches on my DC layout for block control. My layout now is being converted to DCC. I have a Digitrax Super Chief on my HO layout. Just got it hooked up yesterday with only a few blocks. I do a few at a time and test them. I was wondering about the switches. I have several of the DPDT's left over. Can I use them instead of the 4PDT's? If so, is the wiring similiar?

Thank you.

Paulie

The Burlington Northern Lives On!
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Posted by locoworks on Tuesday, February 5, 2008 1:44 AM
 BNENGR wrote:

Hello Joe, Thanks for the info. on the programming track schematics. I have been using 6 pole - DPDT - center off switches on my DC layout for block control. My layout now is being converted to DCC. I have a Digitrax Super Chief on my HO layout. Just got it hooked up yesterday with only a few blocks. I do a few at a time and test them. I was wondering about the switches. I have several of the DPDT's left over. Can I use them instead of the 4PDT's? If so, is the wiring similiar?

Thank you.

Paulie

 

you could, but you would have to remember to switch both switches as a pair!!  it is safer to just buy a 4PDT switch and use that.

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Posted by jfugate on Tuesday, February 5, 2008 4:03 AM
 locoworks wrote:
 BNENGR wrote:

Hello Joe, Thanks for the info. on the programming track schematics. I have been using 6 pole - DPDT - center off switches on my DC layout for block control. My layout now is being converted to DCC. I have a Digitrax Super Chief on my HO layout. Just got it hooked up yesterday with only a few blocks. I do a few at a time and test them. I was wondering about the switches. I have several of the DPDT's left over. Can I use them instead of the 4PDT's? If so, is the wiring similiar?

Thank you.

Paulie

you could, but you would have to remember to switch both switches as a pair!!  it is safer to just buy a 4PDT switch and use that.

Paulie:

Locoworks is right, for less that $4 you can get the 4PDT toggle -- much easier than trying to cobble together something from two DPDT's. If you ever were to throw one toggle and not the other, you could end up with the supposedly dead section powered, defeating the whole purpose of this approach. Burn out your command station by accident and you will wish you had gone ahead and spent the 4 bucks for the 4PDT toggle. Smile,Wink, & Grin [swg]

Joe Fugate Modeling the 1980s SP Siskiyou Line in southern Oregon

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