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need to improve performance!

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  • Member since
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  • From: Raleigh, NC
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need to improve performance!
Posted by jkroft on Sunday, April 6, 2008 11:37 PM
I'm wondering how to improve overall DCC performance throughout my layout.  It seems like I have to clean track often and my low-speed performance of locos is not quite smooth even when track and wheels are clean.  They run somewhat jerky.  Even headlights flicker a little at standstill.  I run n-scale with a Zephyr (and Digitrax FX3 decoders almost exclusively) with about 125ft or maybe even more track.  I use 14 gauge wire bus with 22 gauge feeders fairly often.  The feeders are about 6-10" each.  Do you think adding a booster would help?  I thought that maybe I'm pushing the limits of my Zephyr but I'm not sure.  What else can I do? 

"You show me a man with both feet on the ground and I'll show you a man who can't get his pants on." -anonymous

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Posted by tstage on Monday, April 7, 2008 12:44 AM

jkroft,

First off: Are you based at Mayport or NAS?  Grew up on the westside of Jax along the St. Johns.

Okay, track:

  1. How many feet of track do you have between track feeders?
  2. Are they soldered to every track section or every other section?
  3. If the latter, are your rail joiners soldered together?  Or, are some of them just "friction fit" (pushed on) to each track section?
Depending how and for how long your layout has been connected together, it's possible that your rail joiners are no longer making good contact between your track sections.  You might also want to check your pickup contacts on your locomotive wheels to make sure that they don't have dust and/or dirt built up between them and the wheel.

Another set of questions:

  1. What are you using to clean your track with and how are you cleaning it?
  2. Are you using a chemical, like alcohol?  Or, are you using some sort of mechanical abasive pad, like a Brite Boy?
  3. When you clean your track, do you actually see visible dirt coming up on your cleaning rag or is it clean?
  4. Where is your layout located?  How dirty is the air/surrouding space around your layout?

My personal preference is to only use a chemical cleaner to clean my track (e.g. Isopropyl or rubbing alcohol and lent-free rag) and never an abrasive cleaner that will scratch the smooth surface of the rail.  I've found that the more a surface is scratched, the sooner dirt and grime wants to fill in those voids.

Some or all of these might be contributing factors to your performance problems.

Tom

http://www.newyorkcentralmodeling.com

Time...It marches on...without ever turning around to see if anyone is even keeping in step.

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Posted by jkroft on Monday, April 7, 2008 5:20 AM

tstage,

Actually, I'm based at Kings Bay.  

My feeders are spaced about 5 ft on mainline runs and less than 3 ft in the yard.  All rail joints are soldered.  I use laquer thinner to clean the rails and I do occasionally use an extremely fine grit sandpaper to remove stuff like glue from ballasting.  I understand that abrasive may leave tiny crevices to collect dirt.  I find the black soot stuff all the time.  Basically, I've made sure that electrical continuity is not a problem.  Besides, headlights still shouldn't flicker even a tiny bit at standstill.  That's why I'm wondering if the massive amount of wire the DCC signal has to travel through is degrading it to the point where I need something to boost it.

"You show me a man with both feet on the ground and I'll show you a man who can't get his pants on." -anonymous

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Posted by tstage on Monday, April 7, 2008 7:32 AM

jkroft,

Okay, I see now.  You're actually north of Fernandina Beach/Ft. Clinch and west of Cumberland Island in GA.  I haven't been to Cumberland Island in over 30 years.  Do they still have wild horses running around the island?

With the Zephyr you have 2.5A of power.  And you say that you have ~125' of total track.  Does that amount include the track located in your yard?  What size area does your layout take up?  Do you find that the lights flicker on your track no matter how many locomotives are running on your layout at a time - whether 1 or 8?  (If it doesn't make a difference, the signal maybe degrading like you suspect.)

It is possible that you do need more oomph.  But this may also have to do with how you ran your 14ga power bus wires and what length runs you have.  (Hence, the reason for asking what size area your layout takes up.)  For 14ga wire, I think it's suggested that runs be no longer than 30' in length.  Is you layout divided up into power districts?  Or is it just one big district?

jkroft, sorry to pepper you with with more questions.  But I think this will help to diagnose what your problem might be.

Tom

http://www.newyorkcentralmodeling.com

Time...It marches on...without ever turning around to see if anyone is even keeping in step.

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Posted by aluesch on Monday, April 7, 2008 1:33 PM

 jkroft wrote:
I'm wondering how to improve overall DCC performance throughout my layout.  It seems like I have to clean track often and my low-speed performance of locos is not quite smooth even when track and wheels are clean.  They run somewhat jerky.  Even headlights flicker a little at standstill.  I run n-scale with a Zephyr (and Digitrax FX3 decoders almost exclusively) with about 125ft or maybe even more track.  I use 14 gauge wire bus with 22 gauge feeders fairly often.  The feeders are about 6-10" each.  Do you think adding a booster would help?  I thought that maybe I'm pushing the limits of my Zephyr but I'm not sure.  What else can I do? 

 

I find that 8 out of 10 times I help people with their DCC experience that they did a fairly good job cleaning the track but often forget to check the wheels and pick-ups. Especially the power pick-ups on engines that function as the axle "bearing" can be a real source of trouble in N-scale due to the little weight of these engines. These bearings are often filled with fluff and dust particles preventing good contact between the axle and bearing. Provided your track wiring is OK with little voltage drops along the way, have a look at your engines power pick-ups.

Regards,

Art
ZIMO Agency of North America
http://www.mrsonline.net/

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Posted by jkroft on Monday, April 7, 2008 1:34 PM

tstage

I appreciate the discussion...  no need to apologize.  I actually do live in Fernandina Beach...  love the area.  Haven't made it to Cumberland island yet (on my to-do list) but I know the horses are still there.  Anyway, My layout is 10'x11' L-shaped.  I have one power district with about 20-25 feet of 14 gauge wire with one 14 gauge branch, which is about 10-15 feet in length, branching off about 5 feet from the Zephyr.  The 125 feet of track includes yards and sidings.  I understand that you won't get a voltage drop from circuits in parallel but I may have enough wire in series length (even using 14 gauge) to drop voltage across the board.  Current obviously isn't a problem unless I try to run a bunch of locos at the same time (I've run six without a problem).  I noticed lights flickering when I had no current draw to five locos except for their headlights.  Ten n-scale headlights shouldn't draw too much current.  Assuming my wiring length is not TOO excessive, would a 5-amp booster even help boost the digital signal? 

"You show me a man with both feet on the ground and I'll show you a man who can't get his pants on." -anonymous

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Posted by jkroft on Monday, April 7, 2008 1:43 PM
I never really thought about the power pickups touching the axles...  however, I still get less-than-perfect (but still very good) performance from a brand new, right-out-of-the-box loco.  So the wheels (which should be clean already) and power pick ups are something to maybe look at...  is there any other places I should check?

"You show me a man with both feet on the ground and I'll show you a man who can't get his pants on." -anonymous

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Posted by Texas Zepher on Monday, April 7, 2008 2:11 PM

 jkroft wrote:
Even headlights flicker a little at standstill. 
Can you describe the flicker a little more?   Is this a constant rate very high frequency flicker, or a more dramatic random frequency type flicker?   Are these headlights real lightbulbs or are they LEDs?   Are the headlamps connected to the track power or to the lamp outputs of the decoders?

Oh yes,  Just for grins call up channel-0 on the Zephyr Control unit and make certian its throttle position is set to zero.

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Posted by gandydancer19 on Monday, April 7, 2008 2:45 PM
I have seen this type of thing happen with DRY track, wheels and pickups just after cleaning.  I use WD-40 or CRC 2-26 to add a light film to the track.  I use it similar to Rail-Zip but it doesn't build up like Rail-Zip.  Put a little on your finger and wipe it on a small section of track, then run a loco through it.  Maybe apply a minute amount on the backs of the loco wheels to enhance the electrical pickup on them as well.  Just don't use too much.  I also use masonite wiper pads under some of my boxcars to wipe the track any time a train is running the layout.

Elmer.

The above is my opinion, from an active and experienced Model Railroader in N scale and HO since 1961.

(Modeling Freelance, Eastern US, HO scale, in 1962, with NCE DCC for locomotive control and a stand alone LocoNet for block detection and signals.) http://waynes-trains.com/ at home, and N scale at the Club.

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Posted by jkroft on Monday, April 7, 2008 5:20 PM
The flicker is definitely a random, subtle flicker that wouldn't be noticed from 6 ft away.  I definitely see it though.  I'm using the LEDs on drop-in digitrax decoders.  This afternoon I adjusted the BEMF dynamic setting (CV 56) from its factory setting of 80, all the way down to 1.  This definitely helped a lot!  I can run the adjusted locos to move about 1/2" a minute now pretty smoothly.  What do you guys set you BEMF settings to?

"You show me a man with both feet on the ground and I'll show you a man who can't get his pants on." -anonymous

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Posted by CSX Robert on Monday, April 7, 2008 6:35 PM
 jkroft wrote:
The flicker is definitely a random, subtle flicker that wouldn't be noticed from 6 ft away. I definitely see it though...


Do you see this flicker when the headlight is turned off or when it is turned on, and do you have transponding enabled? Having transponding enabled definitely causes the headlight to flicker when it is turned off, and it may do it when the headlight is turned on(when mine are on , I don't see any flicker, but some people's eyes are more sensitive to it than others, so it may be there and I just don't see it).

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