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Standard DC is still alive and well

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Posted by PRR8259 on Tuesday, August 13, 2019 7:12 AM

Above, Randy said if you want to enjoy sound you pretty much have to go DCC.  I disagree completely, which is exactly why I wrote what I wrote.

Also, regarding the dual mode decoder argument, where they allegedly suck too much power before engines begin to move, I call bs on that too.  I have Overland Models units here that have a special Ajin-installed dual mode Digitrax decoder in them, that start moving at LESS voltage than ANY plastic diesels I have, as in barely crack open the DC throttle and they move.

So somebody can and did build a decent dual mode decoder that actually works well in DC.

John

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Posted by rrinker on Tuesday, August 13, 2019 7:24 AM

 OK, so you actually LIKE having locos that you need to turn the power pack up to 3/4 before they move, and get 1/4 of the dial to go from crawl to full speed, and have ONLY some basic automatic sounds unless you flip the direction switch like a maniac, and even then, not all dual mode decoders allow access to the manually triggered sounds. ANd forget the various boxes you stick between the power pack and track, those are proprietary to specific decoders, the most advanced one feature wise, that gives access to the most functions, is for a decoder brand that has all but disappeared fromt he market.

 Dual mode MOTOR ONLY decoders don't put any more voltage loss to the motor than a dioode directioonal/constantly lighting circuit. But I'm talking SOUND decoders. The circuitry needs 5 volts or more to work. So unless you want the loco creeping around silently, then suddenly bursting to life when you reach road speed, by nature they pretty much all work the same - no movement until the throttle is to the point where any plain DC loco is already going plenty fast enough. And then they start to creep. So you can;t hook a sound and non-sound loco together on a train with DC. 

 Sound just does not work well with DC, at least since the PFM system went away - and that only worked because the sound was generated by the base unit and sent over the rails to a speaker in the loco, there weren't control electronics really in the loco.

 And the various MRC "dual mode" power packs - they are NOT running your sound loco on DC, they are using DCC, that's why you can access all the functions. They are very limited DCC systems packaged with a DC power pack, which switch the track output between the two, which is why they can run a DC loco same as any regular power pack, AND run a DCC/Sound loco same as a DCC system.

                                    --Randy


Modeling the Reading Railroad in the 1950's

 

Visit my web site at www.readingeastpenn.com for construction updates, DCC Info, and more.

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Posted by riogrande5761 on Tuesday, August 13, 2019 10:58 AM

FRRYKid
Then there are some of us who don't have the budget to setup a DCC operation.

 
Interestingly, there are some who say that but have a lot of trains, and some who don't.  Utimately people chose where to spend their money.  They could have 20 fewer engines and be able to afford a DCC system.  Or whatever 
 

 

Rio Grande.  The Action Road  - Focus 1977-1983

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Posted by ATLANTIC CENTRAL on Tuesday, August 13, 2019 11:44 AM

riogrande5761

 

 
FRRYKid
Then there are some of us who don't have the budget to setup a DCC operation.

 

 
Interestingly, there are some who say that but have a lot of trains, and some who don't.  Utimately people chose where to spend their money.  They could have 20 fewer engines and be able to afford a DCC system.  Or whatever 
 

 

 

20 fewer locos would compromise the operating scheme of the layout, it needs all 140 pieces of power to protect the schedule. What I have invested in 20 locos would not buy decoders for the other 120, let alone the DCC throttles and infrastructure I would need.

If I switched to DCC most of the infrastructure cost I have now would still be necessary for the CTC, signals and turnout controls.

My dollar cost average for the loco fleet is only about $100 per loco.

That said, you are correct, people choose where to spend their money.

CTC, signaling, long trains, good display running and the ability to have busy operating sessions are all more important than any additional feature DCC would add.

And, four operators running four trains on my double track mainline, with a dispatcher on duty, is a similar user experiance to running DCC. ALL you need do is control the speed and direction of your train and obey the signals and your train orders.

Sheldon

    

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Posted by PRR8259 on Tuesday, August 13, 2019 12:01 PM

Randy--

I still call bs.  There are MUCH better dual mode decoders out there than the older craptastic ones you are describing!

Have you purchased a current Rapido sound-equipped engine lately (anything 2018 production or newer) and actually operated it on a layout anywhere??????

They simply are not what you are describing above.

I have had dual mode decoders (non-sound) that were actually crap--where the engine did NOT run well in "plain DC" mode, but those are NOT recent units.

I reject your argument about the Tech 6.  Mine did die, and I'm using a new, fully plain DC power supply instead.  The better dual mode decoders are FINE in plain DC, now.

John Mock

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Posted by richg1998 on Tuesday, August 13, 2019 12:22 PM

Dual more decoders do not require more power.

The microprocessor on the decoder requires five volts just to wake up. Normal for digital IC's. That is the issue many do not understand or do not want to.

DC locos start at lower voltage as do DCC locos.

Rich

If you ever fall over in public, pick yourself up and say “sorry it’s been a while since I inhabited a body.” And just walk away.

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Posted by ATLANTIC CENTRAL on Tuesday, August 13, 2019 12:39 PM

PRR8259

Randy--

I still call bs.  There are MUCH better dual mode decoders out there than the older craptastic ones you are describing!

Have you purchased a current Rapido sound-equipped engine lately (anything 2018 production or newer) and actually operated it on a layout anywhere??????

They simply are not what you are describing above.

I have had dual mode decoders (non-sound) that were actually crap--where the engine did NOT run well in "plain DC" mode, but those are NOT recent units.

I reject your argument about the Tech 6.  Mine did die, and I'm using a new, fully plain DC power supply instead.  The better dual mode decoders are FINE in plain DC, now.

John Mock

 

John, so what is your point? We should all be like you and sell off all our stuff every three years and only buy the six locos on the market with better dual mode sound decoders?

Those decoders still don't work with my DC throttles, which use pulse width modulation speed control.

I have no dog in this fight because I don't want sound. With six to eight trains running, even in 1600 sq ft, it just turns into a din.

And I know what good sound is, and it's not coming out of two 1" speakers (unless you are wearing headphones), so I will simply skip the static.....

Onboard sound is great, in O scale with one locomotive moving at a time..........

Still happy with the trains I bought 20 years ago, and 30 years ago, and.......

Sheldon

 

    

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Posted by rrinker on Tuesday, August 13, 2019 4:43 PM

 I have these same ESU decoders that Rapido used in my own locos - it is the brand I prefer for sound decoders.

 There is no magic bullet, IF you want sound before movement, you MUST have the throttle advanced to soome point to get power to the circuit, WITHOUT the motor turning. WHere a plain DC loco would already be moving, at least any halfway decent one from the recent past - and that's stretching it, Stewart has been part of Bowser for how long now? And my Stewart-branded Baldwin switchers will roll down the track on a single 1.5v battery.There is no sound decoder made that will start playing the sounds at 1.5 volts on the track. Look at the MR reviews, they give you starting speed and voltage for DC operation of most anything they test. There were/are many DC locos that will start at 1 volt or less. There are NO sound locos that will do so, it's just not possible. 3.3V logic is the best you have, and after the bridge rectifier that's on every decoder and is not bypassed when running on DC, you're up to around 5 volts or so, JUST TO MAKE THE SOUND COME ON. 

 Dual mode motor decoders are a completely different beast. There's still a drop, there is no semiconductor device on Earth that can connect the motor to the track power without incurring some voltage drop, no matter how slight. Can't be done. However, since it's only about 2 junctiooon's worth, it's no worse than a DC loco with diode constant lighting installed, which if you look at eg a P2K loco, is exactly how it works - couple of diodes in series witht he motor, light bulb across the diodes. 4 diode drops makes a 3V light bulb glow niceley, not too bright and not too hot to melt the shell. But until the track voltage is greater than the 4 didode drops (plus one more for the directional, the P2K light boards have 6 diodes on them), the motor gets 0 volts and does not turn. The same thing happens with a motor decoder in a loco when running on DC. Once the decoder's microcontroller can start, and fails to see a DCC signal, it closes two sides of the H bridge motor driver which allows track voltage less the diode drop of the transistor to get to the motor. It still takes some voltage greater than that which actually gets to the motor for it to work, it HAS to, there's no way to shortcut this without physically removing the decoder or, as was used in older locos when decoders weren't dual mode, a jumper was used to either connect the decoder or connect straight to the motor for DC use (old Atlas is a prime example).

 Put a straight DC loco, no decoder, on the track, next to a sound equipped loco. Advance the throttle. THere's no way the sound loco starts moving at the same time the DC loco starts, unless you used a ringer of a DC loco that has a naturally high start voltage (old Blue Box or something).

 What's to reject about my argument for the Tech 6? I didn't say they were indestructible. Frankly I don't think any recent MRC product is made as well as the classics, many of which people have that still work 40+ years later. But that's a different topic. You reject my notioon that the Tech 6 outpouts DCC tot he track when running a DCC loco, and DC when running a DC loco? That's how it works. The ONLY way to gain full access to ANY DCC decoder, regardless of brand (so no proprietary interface boxes) is to transmit actual DCC data packets on the rails. So when running a DCC loco, it puts an actual DCC signal on the rail, and allows you to control all 29 DCC functions. DC locos don't like this, so when you switch to DC mode, it puts plain old variable DC on the rails. It's an all in one solution to the option of connecting both a DC power pack and a DCC system to the track via a DPDT toggle, selecting one or the other - the two CANNOT coexist at the same time. 

                                 --Randy


Modeling the Reading Railroad in the 1950's

 

Visit my web site at www.readingeastpenn.com for construction updates, DCC Info, and more.

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Posted by pennwest on Thursday, August 15, 2019 8:18 AM

So far, no one has discussed one of the prime advantages of DCC - precise adjustable loco movement. You can set the decoder to have the loco start immediately as the throttle is opened, and set the top speed of that loco by type. Switching locos can be set to a top of 30 mph, road engines to 60 or so. And the BEMF feature gives smooth, constant movement at low speeds. I couple in the yard at 1 mph, move cuts between 4 and 8,with a light loco speed at 20. Then there is momentum, custom set for each loco. One 2-8-0 with 4 LaBelle passenger cars has heavy momentum. You quickly advance the throttle to the mainline speed setting, and the engine starts very slowly, with a few seconds between puffs, then slowly accelerates to the set speed. Just like the real train. And you need to cut the throttle well before a station stop to ease the loco into that station. Matching speed and response on consisted diesels is also easy and accurate.

If you want to closely emulate the movements and responses of a real loco in miniature and not just run trains, DCC allows much more than even the best DC locos, such as my old Hobbytowns. However, to each his (her?) own.

Roger Thomas

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Posted by ATLANTIC CENTRAL on Thursday, August 15, 2019 8:47 AM

pennwest

So far, no one has discussed one of the prime advantages of DCC - precise adjustable loco movement. You can set the decoder to have the loco start immediately as the throttle is opened, and set the top speed of that loco by type. Switching locos can be set to a top of 30 mph, road engines to 60 or so. And the BEMF feature gives smooth, constant movement at low speeds. I couple in the yard at 1 mph, move cuts between 4 and 8,with a light loco speed at 20. Then there is momentum, custom set for each loco. One 2-8-0 with 4 LaBelle passenger cars has heavy momentum. You quickly advance the throttle to the mainline speed setting, and the engine starts very slowly, with a few seconds between puffs, then slowly accelerates to the set speed. Just like the real train. And you need to cut the throttle well before a station stop to ease the loco into that station. Matching speed and response on consisted diesels is also easy and accurate.

If you want to closely emulate the movements and responses of a real loco in miniature and not just run trains, DCC allows much more than even the best DC locos, such as my old Hobbytowns. However, to each his (her?) own.

Roger Thomas

 

And why should they, it is a thread about DC.

I don't interject my DC opinions in DCC threads....

But apparently you have never seen a good running DC loco operated with a full voltage pulse width modulated DC throttle. You know, the same kind of motor control signal your DCC decoders use.

I have lots of friends with large DCC layouts, I have many hours running DCC. And yes the motor control is very good. But locos still stall at very slow speeds, they are more subject to dirty track at times, and so on.

My Aristo Craft Train Engineer wireless radio throttles provide exceptional slow speed and great control without the need for the 140 decoders my fleet would require.

And I would rather a loco start and run at 2 smph and not stall, than start at 1 smph and stall as it goes over a turnout or picks up the whole weight of the train. BEMF often handles that, but not always.

And again, I have, need and want CTC and signaling. DCC provides no advantage there.

I use an Advanced Cab Control system that makes operation as seamless as DCC, no toggles to flip, just set routes, obey signals and control the speed and direction of your train......like DCC, but without the crashes, I have ATC....

Sheldon

    

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Posted by PRR8259 on Friday, August 16, 2019 7:27 PM

Randy--

As I have been attempting to explain, now for the third time in this thread:

The newest dual mode sound decoders being used by Rapido are actually so well dialed in that the sounds DO come on just before the engine moves in plain DC, at least on my layout, and/or at least when the units were brand new and the first several (many?) times they operated (perhaps till gears wore in a bit).  As the units wore in, they started moving a little bit early, but I did not find that to be objectionable.  I was very impressed at the quality of the sounds sampled and reproduced, and that they had them synched SO WELL relative to starting voltage movement of the engines.  I know it'll never be PERFECT in plain DC, but they were far more than acceptable.  Disclaimer: I only sold those units because I really wanted something else...besides dabbling with modern power for my son, I wanted big six axle Alco/MLW's to be specific.  That is the only reason I let the fine Rapido motive power go.  They weren't quite what I "needed" for my vision of my railroad, and I can't keep everything.  I should have kept some six axle Alco's from years ago.

Sheldon--

I have never said that you should do as I do; you continue incorrectly inferring that.  For that reason I have started actually placing the "Sheldon disclaimer" in my posts so that it is clear I am not saying others should do what I do at all, but alas I failed to include that disclaimer or even "YMMV" in my posts here on this thread.

I get it; we don't think alike or anywhere remotely similarly.  I never said you should do what I do.  Please remember that in my future posts.  Thank you very much.

You were right, most brass prices are indeed down (much over last couple years).  However I stupidly sold (because I needed some cash at the time) a $1695 brass steamer two years ago that is indeed now worth $3000 or more.  So some of it, the best/rarest pieces, do actually appreciate.  Contrary to popular belief, a smart buyer can make a few shekels.  But as clearly, and often, stated by some folks like Howard, that is not the reason to buy any brass, but folks should buy it only when it is the only way to get the models they "need".

Have a great weekend all-

John

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Posted by ATLANTIC CENTRAL on Friday, August 16, 2019 7:53 PM

PRR8259

Randy--

As I have been attempting to explain, now for the third time in this thread:

The newest dual mode sound decoders being used by Rapido are actually so well dialed in that the sounds DO come on just before the engine moves in plain DC, at least on my layout, and/or at least when the units were brand new and the first several times they operated (perhaps till gears wore in a bit).  As the units wore in, they started moving a little bit early, but I did not find that to be objectionable.  I was very impressed at the quality of the sounds and that they had them synched SO WELL relative to starting voltage movement of the engines.  I know it'll never be PERFECT in plain DC, but they were more than acceptable.  Disclaimer: I only sold those units because I really wanted something else...beside dabbling with modern power for my son, I wanted big six axle Alco/MLW's to be specific.  That is the only reason I let the fine Rapido motive power go.  They weren't quite what I "needed" for my vision of my railroad.

Sheldon--

I have never said that you should do as I do; you continue incorrectly inferring that.  For that reason I have started actually placing the "Sheldon disclaimer" in my posts so that it is crystal clear I am not saying others should do what I do at all, but alas I failed to include that disclaimer or even "YMMV" in my posts here.

I get it; we don't think alike or anywhere similarly, and seldom agree.  I never said you should do what I do.  Please remember that in my future posts.  Thank you very much.

John

 

John, your agrument may be correct, but it only applies to those hand full of "newest" decoders - so my point was that it does not apply to the vast number of potential users who may not be intersted in that handful of locos with these new better decoders, and it does not apply to vast number of sound equiped dual mode decoder locos that have long been on the market and that are already in the hands of many modelers - who are not running out and replacing that equipment.....

And yes, I used sarcasm regarding your constant buying and selling to make that point - BECAUSE, very few people in this hobby do what you do.

And you, have made it a point to tell everyone your personal business in this regard.

And yes, I am much the opposite, I can count on my fingers the model trains items I have sold in 50 years at this hobby, but it takes a 30 page roster to list what I have bought and still have, going back to 1968. And I still have a fair amount of my fathers things which go back to around my birth in 1957.

So the point remains for MOST PEOPLE, if you want onboard sound to work reasonably well, then you NEED DCC. And like DCC acceptance itself, any change is likely to take another 30 years to reach any real effect.

Since I don't want onboard sound, I don't need DCC, or any pesky voltage grabbing dual mode decoders that won't work with my throttles anyway.

Personally, I don't care about your buying/selling habits, other than to find it a curiosity I can't begin to understand.

I once started to write an esay on the subject, not about you or model trains, but about the whole idea of "serial ownership". They guy who buys a boat, uses it for two seasons, looks at in the yard for two more, sells it and buys a motorcylcle, rides it for one season, sells it to buy a jet ski, which two years later he trades in on another boat........all the time loosing money on each transaction......

When I was a much younger man, my ex wife taught me a valuable lesson, most people don't really know what they want in life, and if they do decide what they really want, only a few are willing to do what is required to have it.

But at least regarding model trains, I know what I want, and I have most of it.......and I don't have unrealistic expectations, and I don't get bored easily......

And soon I begin a new layout on which to enjoy it all.

Sheldon

 

    

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Posted by rrinker on Saturday, August 17, 2019 12:28 AM

 Several other brands of dual mode decoders, heck even the old QSI ones in the first BLI locos would start the sounds before the loco started moving - that is NOT what I am arguing against. I am saying the same thing. But it's BECAUSE of that that the sound loco running on DC won;t run with a non-sound loco on DC, and why you have a limited amount of throttle range to control the speed from stop (with sounds working) to top speed, because you have to put the throttle up a certain amount just to make the sounds start.

 Read this again. Or my first message, or my second - I keep saying the same thing. I am NOT saying the loco moves before the sounds start, I am saying you have less control BECAUSE they start the sounds before the loco moves. Because you need to get power to the track to run the electronics. And yes, they do sound pretty good. Have for a few years now, it's not just the very latest - the ones Rapido has been using have been available for some time now, and their excellent sound is one of the reasons they are all I use.

                                                   --Randy

 


Modeling the Reading Railroad in the 1950's

 

Visit my web site at www.readingeastpenn.com for construction updates, DCC Info, and more.

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Posted by J S ANDERSON on Monday, August 19, 2019 7:02 PM
I guess that’s why there are so many long articles in MR solving problems with DDC. My problem with DDC is cost.
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Posted by rrinker on Tuesday, August 20, 2019 9:55 AM

 No one ever writes an article on how well things work.

I've been using DCC for over 14 years now, probably longer if I look up the actual date I bought my first system. I've have yet to have any issues with any locos running, the system failing, or anythign else happening - never fried a decoder, ones that have sat packed away for a few years still worked fine upon putting them on the track again, etc.

Tons of articles on keep alives. It's the new rage. Everyone must do it. Why? I have no locos with keep alives. Wait, that's not true, the one I most recently bought a few months ago comes with a keep alive from the factory. But none of the locos I've been running for over 14 years have them. My headlights don't blink over turnouts, my locos don't stall. Why is my layout special? I don't know. Never had them, don't need them. Yet to read today's hobby press - you absolutely need keep alives or your locos won't run on DCC. As Col. Potter was fond of saying on MASH - bullpuckey! (it was fine on TV even in the 70's...) 

 Frankly, I read half those articles with some amusement. Either unecessary costly add-ons that may or may not easily fit in a given loco, or overkill on things like the power (yes, you NEED multiple 8 amp boosters so ou can run 4 sound locos on you 8x12 layout - NOT) or that whole speed matching thing - yes, buy some test stands and/or an expensive speedometer, and spend hours programming speed tables in all your decoders so the locos all move in perfect lockstep - NOT.

 Frankly I do not know why they are trying to make DCC look more difficult and complex than it actually is. Cynical me says to sell more product/ads for products, but really?  

                                      --Randy

 


Modeling the Reading Railroad in the 1950's

 

Visit my web site at www.readingeastpenn.com for construction updates, DCC Info, and more.

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Posted by ATLANTIC CENTRAL on Tuesday, August 20, 2019 10:33 AM

Randy, I completely agree. DCC works very well without all that stuff......

And I still question the every 6' feeder thing considering what some of my friends have not done, and their layouts run just fine.......

And the same is true of DC, people invent problems, or never learn basics, sometimes as an excuse to sell DCC, which they then are told requires way more than necessary.

Some think I'm anti DCC, I'm not, just pro choice based on user needs.

Sheldon

    

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Posted by ATLANTIC CENTRAL on Tuesday, August 20, 2019 10:49 AM

DCC can be very expensive, or it can me really no more expensive than DC. It depends on where you are in the hobby, and what you short term and long term goals are for the hobby.

It would cost me the price of a good used car to convert my existing fleet and newly planned layout to DCC rather than using the control system I have. 

But for people just starting with a few locos and a room size layout, DCC is not very expensive.

Sheldon

    

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Posted by RR_Mel on Tuesday, August 20, 2019 10:53 AM

I’m with Randy and Sheldon! YesYesYesYes
 
I bought my MRC Prodigy 14 years ago and the only problem I have had is I listened to the DCC Gurus and rewired my layout to their specs.  That dinged my perfect working block signal system and pretty well screwed up my entire layout.  After about 6 months of struggling I rewired my layout back to my original DC wiring.
 
Like Randy I haven’t had one single problem since I rewired my layout, 13 years running in either DC or DCC mode!  I have only purchased one locomotive with DCC, I wired 70+ locomotives for DCC using the NMRA 8 pin layout.  I made up a sack full of DC dummy plugs for my locomotives for DC operation.  I only have a dozen decoders that I swap around when I want to run a particular locomotive.
 
I have 17 Cab Forwards with 2 spare tenders with SP sound decoders installed that I swap around, that's easier than opening up the tenders.
 
I don’t have a decoder with keep-alive nor do I need one.  I’ve never had a locomotive running on DCC that have had a single problem with sound or running.
 
My experience with DCC has been trouble free with the exception of following the mistake of going with the DCC Guru wiring.  All I would have had to do is hook up the wires from the Prodigy to the rails.  DCC doesn’t need any special wiring for normal operation, if it works good on DC it will work great on DCC too.
 
The DCC wiring and data is not rocket science and will work without special wiring.
 
For my 14’ x 10’ layout with 16 Atlas, 3 Peco and 1 Mel made double crossover (Atlas) I’ve never had a single glitch using DCC.
 
I run more on DC than DCC, my only reason for going DCC was for the SP Cab Froward sound.  I only have two decoders with the correct SP sound and 3 with normal steam sound.  I have 7 diesel sound decodes and I will have to admit that the F Functions can be pretty slick.  
 
 
Mel
 
 
My Model Railroad   
 
Bakersfield, California
 
I'm beginning to realize that aging is not for wimps.
 
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Posted by J S ANDERSON on Wednesday, August 21, 2019 1:51 PM

I operate a branch off the SRR with DC block control and one train at a time, just background jazz. I operate with sequince so that the session stops and starts as time is available. I’m familiar with the Columbia, Newberry and Laurens RR since I live in W. Columbia and used to work in Newberry in a former life.

Scott Anderson

 

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Posted by hlwaaser on Friday, August 23, 2019 2:34 PM

I'm running straight DC also.  One of my reasons is that I'm retired and can't spend much money on my layout.  However, I may have an advantage over some people, especially beginners; I ran a three block layout with two transformers when I was a teenager around 1960.  Block 1 was permanently wired to transformer A, block 2 was permanently wired to transformer B, and block 3 could be run from either transformer.  Thus, setting up 8 blocks on a 5 1/4 by 8 layout was almost a piece of cake.  Although this time I used the "common rail" wiring method, so I don't need to switch two wires for each block like I did back then.  I'm using Atlas Selectors, so any block can be run from either side of dual control transformer.

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