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FORUM CLINIC: 12 years using DCC - SIGNIFICANT NEW INFO!

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FORUM CLINIC: 12 years using DCC - SIGNIFICANT NEW INFO!
Posted by jfugate on Friday, April 29, 2005 1:30 PM
TOPIC THIS POST: Introduction

Okay, time to get started on a new FORUM CLINIC on DCC!

Lest you think this is going to be like all the other discussions on DCC you've seen recently -- let's hope not.

First, I'm going to make some assumptions:

1. You already understand the basic theory of DCC, so we're not going to waste any time discussing that here.

2. You already have selected the system you want, and perhaps have already purchased it. There's been endless discussion on this and other online forums about which system is "best". We're not going to waste a lot of time discussing that here. I might mention some experiences I've had with various systems, but let's put it to rest here: there is no *best* system, only the one that's right for your needs. All the DCC systems I'm aware of on the market are well built and do the job.

So here's the approach I want to take:

1. I'm going to focus on discussing my experiences from using DCC for 12 years on my HO Siskiyou Line. If you would like to see this info (and more) presented in video form, check out this link.

2. This is to be a forum about the practical side of installing and using DCC on a larger layout (beyond the 4x8). I hope to share lots of hints and tips along the way that I've picked up from 12 years of using DCC.

3. DISCLAIMER: These are my opinions based on what I have done and what's worked for me. You may not always agree, and that's fine. Go ahead and share your opinion because maybe you can teach this old dog a new trick. Wink [;)] Or we may just agree to disagree -- either way, I'm sure others will benefit from an alternative view.

So to start off, let's discuss next where to put your system in the layout room. On a larger layout, you need to think about where the system is located to minimize excess bus wire length, etc.

TOPIC NEXT POST: Where to put your system

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

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Posted by electrolove on Friday, April 29, 2005 1:56 PM
Joe:

I'm really looking forward to everything you have to say about this, I'm sure it's going to help a lot of people. Like me that have never used DCC.
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Posted by JeremyB on Friday, April 29, 2005 1:57 PM
sounds Great Joe, I saw on your site that there are no opearting sessions in June,how long does your summer break last?
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Posted by jon grant on Friday, April 29, 2005 1:59 PM
This could be the start of a great clinic.

I have been using an NCE Powerhouse Pro for about a year now (including the upgrade) .....

http://www.ncedcc.com/catalog2.html

.....and am now hooked on DCC for my American stuff - the handbuilt British locos will just have to put up with DC

Being someone who doesnt like to waste anything, I have mounted the transformer, booster and electrics in an old 1970's wooden speaker cabinet and the accessory power, cab bus and track bus are fed through an umbilical cable, with a 37-way connector at each end.

This means I can easily switch the system between my switching layout, test track and any future layouts, simply by wiring in a 37-way socket to each destination. It is also easy to transport.

The throttles are inserted into universal throttle panels (UTP's) around the layout and test track. I have also made room in the speaker box to transport the cable and throttles, just to keep things safe.


Jon

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Posted by selector on Friday, April 29, 2005 2:01 PM
I have my knife and fork in hand, Joe, but the plate's lookin' kinda empty. Bring it on, Man!!! [^]

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Posted by jrbernier on Friday, April 29, 2005 2:20 PM
Joe, I have had DCC since 1994(Portland NMRA Convention). My system is near one end of the layout room, and consists of a 5 amp command station and a 5 amp booster. I thought of putting it 'centered' on the layout. Instead it is at one end of the layout room, and I have #14 wiring from the cmd/boosters to a Digitrax PM42 'power district' unit that is centered. It then is #18 wiring out to the track bus. I have a small desk/workbench/spray booth in this far end work area, and a computer that can be attached to the Digitrax Loconet. I have also ran Loconet wiring to the family room so a future 'dispatcher' can be 'remote' from the layout in the 'crew lounge'. The layout was built with 'cab control' wiring, and the #18 track feeders are run to a terminal strip. Each 'power district' was jumpered together and a run was made to the PM42. The old recessed panels have been around ever since, but will be replaced this year to make room for recessed station work areas(and places to set down your coffee). DCC has made everything 'simple' and only electrical work I have had to do is adjust/fix the old twin-coil switch machines(being replaced by Tortoise machines). The railroad DCC is protected by computer UPS's, and is powered up 24X7 from power outages.

Jim Bernier

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Posted by hminky on Friday, April 29, 2005 2:59 PM
I have a web article on wiring my 4x8 On30 layout for DCC.

http://www.pacificcoastairlinerr.com/4x8/wiring/

I have been using command control since MRC had the ProTrac system in the early '80's. I even tethered the throttles. Followed that up with OnBoard in the mid-80's for it's sound capabilities.

Command control is sure alot easier than wiring cab control for straight DC. Allows trains to be run instead of power being dispatched especially a small layout.

Just a thought
Harold
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Posted by SilverSpike on Friday, April 29, 2005 3:57 PM
Joe,

You've got my appetite begging for more too! Can't wait to dig in!

I have been looking forward to this clinic since the end of the scenery clinic. While I still have not purchased a DCC system, I look to do so soon. This clinic should help me in deciding what my requirements will be and then go from there.

Thanks,

Ryan


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Posted by jwar on Friday, April 29, 2005 4:11 PM
Great timing Joe...I just sold my boat today and will wait a bit to see what I need. Hope you chat about amps, radio, simplex/duplex, and the saftey side of this too.

Heading up North this summer, will contact you later, would like to just observe one of your OP sessions...Have visited your site, very professional....Take Care...John
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Posted by simon1966 on Friday, April 29, 2005 4:32 PM
12 years with DCC...... It is amazing to me that DCC has been around as long as that. Only now does it seem to be becoming mainstream. I suppose it has taken this long for the products to reach a level of simplcity and reliability and for the costs to come down to a more widly accepted level. I am looking forward to the thread to see what I can add to my growing empire!

Simon Modelling CB&Q and Wabash See my slowly evolving layout on my picturetrail site http://www.picturetrail.com/simontrains and our videos at http://www.youtube.com/user/MrCrispybake?feature=mhum

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Posted by Big_Boy_4005 on Friday, April 29, 2005 4:35 PM
Joe, in your original post you used the term larger layout (larger than 4 x 8). It might be helpful to express layout size in terms of the number of locomotives on the rails at the same time.

So my question is, at what point do you think it become advantageous to consider switching to DCC? The way I see it, there are 3 factors to consider. Number of locomotives, number of operators, and total square footage and the wiring implications associated with size.
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Posted by Big_Boy_4005 on Friday, April 29, 2005 4:44 PM
QUOTE: Originally posted by simon1966

12 years with DCC...... It is amazing to me that DCC has been around as long as that. Only now does it seem to be becoming mainstream. I suppose it has taken this long for the products to reach a level of simplcity and reliability and for the costs to come down to a more widly accepted level. I am looking forward to the thread to see what I can add to my growing empire!


Simon, command control moved off the drawing board and onto the layout almost 25 years ago, in the form of CTC-16. I was actually a member of an operating crew that went back and forth weekly to the basements of two CTC-16 pioneers. These guys went on to form an all command club in Denver, using PMP-112. It used to be that you had to be good with electronics to get into command control. Things have come a long way since then.
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Posted by Pruitt on Friday, April 29, 2005 5:04 PM
QUOTE: Originally posted by Big_Boy_4005
[br
Simon, command control moved off the drawing board and onto the layout almost 25 years ago, in the form of CTC-16.


Actually, command control is at least 40 years old. The earliest one I know of is ASTRAC, built by GE in the 60s. It didn't last in the marketplace very long, though.
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Posted by Anonymous on Friday, April 29, 2005 5:20 PM
I remember ASTRAC, primarily because Allen McClelland used it on the V&O. He then went with a CTC-16 type of system which came prebuilt from John Mann in Cincinnatti. It was called "Mann-Made" (of course!). CVP's RailCommand is sort of CTC-16 on steroids as is CTC-80. NONE OF THESE SYSTEMS ARE DCC, however. DCC stands for DIGITAL Command Control. From Astract to RailCommand and in between, including On Board, Dynatrol, and some others that are long gone, those early systems were ANALOG Command Control. All of them served their purpose and all of the Digital systems out now are, as Joe says, "built to get the job done".
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Posted by dinwitty on Friday, April 29, 2005 5:48 PM
I will be working on a modularized shelf layout system, you just think modules and you know what I have to think about, each module has to be able to handle full layout systemizing, IE it will have independent lighting to have day/night operations, it has to transfer the DCC track signals, meaning it will have a bus wire following the tracks,
It has to have an independent power supply for basic lighting and signals then then power for slow speed turnout controls,
I know DCC would work just for powering the track, but you cannot rely on just the track to transfer power soely on the rails and rail joiners, you need solid wired connections.
I tend to feel the power supply connections could be connectable to any module and be able to power the whole system, I know of the DCCauxilliary power amplifiers for long lines of track to keep power distribution even, how I deal with this is still an open question.
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Posted by jfugate on Friday, April 29, 2005 6:01 PM
QUOTE: Originally posted by Big_Boy_4005

So my question is, at what point do you think it become advantageous to consider switching to DCC? The way I see it, there are 3 factors to consider. Number of locomotives, number of operators, and total square footage and the wiring implications associated with size.


Big_Boy:

It is advantageous to consider switching to DCC if you intend to independetly control more than one locomotive at a time on *any sized* layout. Otherwise, you have to buy multiple power packs and multiply the feeder wiring to the layout by the number of power packs you've just added.

It doesn't take very long before the complexity factor and the cost of all the extra toggle switches, wiring, cab control panels, etc. start to eclipse the cost of DCC.

The more locomotives you have before you go to DCC the harder it is to make the switch later, because each loco will require a decoder. Even for fleet decoders, that's $15 x the number of locos you have -- and if your fleet is very large, that won't be an insignificant expense to swallow all at once if you want to run any of your locos on your new DCC layout.

Let me add that many DCC systems have a loco '00' setting that allows you to run a loco lashup that doesn't have decoders. But that's only *ONE* lashup, and you do not get very fine control of the loco speed using this technique. The loco lashup makes harmonic sounds as you adjust the throttle, and it will cause the loco motors to heat up more than usual.

In other words, using loco '00' to run a lashup in a regular op session should not be routine practice, and the presence or lack of the ability to run a straight DC loco using address '00' should not be a deciding factor when chosing a system. At best, this is more of a stunt than anything else and not especially useful.

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

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Posted by n2mopac on Saturday, April 30, 2005 12:22 PM
This is very timely for me, Joe, as I got MRC's Prodigy Advance for Christmas. I am just finishing my scenic form (making the scenery clinic timelly as well) and am about to start laying track work and wiring for the DCC system. I can't wait to get your advice as this is my first venture into DCC myself though I have operated on other layouts with DCC. Anyway, I can't wait to get the system up and running. I have already collected a number of good thoughts on different threads here, but this ia an area where I feel that there is no such thing as too much information.

Ron

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Posted by jfugate on Saturday, April 30, 2005 12:33 PM
TOPIC THIS POST: Where to put your system
So you have your new DCC system and you need to put it somewhere under the layout -- simple question, right?

You would think so, but this basic question serves well to illustrate how 12 years experience in things DCC can come in handy because there are a lot of considerations you need to make in order to answer this question properly..

If your layout is larger in any dimension than about 15 feet, then locating your system in the layout room is not a "slam dunk". Here are the key issues that help you answer this question properly.


THROTTLE BUS
First, are you going to use a throttle bus, or are you all wireless? All wireless does give you some freedom, but be careful. Digitrax's current "wireless" solution requires you to plug in to acquire a loco, which means you'll need to run a throttle bus around the layout anyhow. [:(]

If you need to use a throttle bus, most systems don't allow you to split, fork, or T the throttle bus. It needs to be one continuous line, with a terminator of some sort (resistor, etc.) installed at the end. This means you'll simplify your throttle bus wiring and shorten its run if you locate your system at one end of the room instead of in the middle. So which end? Knowing where you want to put the programming track will help answer this question.


PROGRAMMING TRACK
Not all programming can be done on the main, so you will need to locate a programming track somewhere on your layout. I don't recommend a disconnected programming track because that will result in more handling of your locos, which can damage details.

The ideal location for a programming track is near an engine terminal in a yard, as part of a turntable lead or engine serving track. Also keep in mind the programming track is often the first place you go with a new loco as you take it from the workbench to the layout, so locating it on the end of the layout room close to the entrance can be handy.

Most systems have a length of run limit for the leads to the programming track, so it will need to be close to your system (less than 10 feet away, and the closer the better). We'll cover all the details around setting up the programming track in more detail in the next post topic.


POWER BUS
The other main issue with locating your system under the layout is the length of run for your power bus -- which are the wires that feed power to the track.

Most systems have a command station into which the throttle bus connects, so this is your input side -- meaning you send commands from your throttles to the command station, which converts your throttle settings into digital signals out to the track. But this signal is pretty low power so the command station components can be less costly. The output from the command station needs to be boosted to track power levels so it will power the dozens of locos we all dream of running.

The command station output signal goes into a power booster. Out of the power booster comes the boosted signal, with enough amps to power lots of locos. This output is your power bus, and it needs to go everywhere your track goes. Depending on the size of your layout, you'll probably need several power boosters (more on this in a later post). The foucs here is the track power bus out of your booster(s) to the track.

Most systems prefer for the low power command station signal wires that feed the signal to the booster(s) to be fairly short (again under 10 feet), so you will need to locate your boosters close to your command station.

This puts your boosters at one end of the room next to the command station in most situations. The ideal location for a power booster would be in the center of the room because that would shorten your power bus run. However, because of the other reasons given above, centrally locating your system probably isn't the best idea, so you'll have to plan for the effects that will have on your power bus wire size.

Basically, make your power bus wire guage larger rather than smaller to avoid voltage drop at the extreme far end of your power bus. You want a voltage drop of no more than 5% from end to end on your power bus. Here's a simple table that assumes 12 volts and 5 amps going through copper wire:

Length of run for no more than 5% voltage drop
16 guage – 20 ft
14 guage – 35 ft
12 guage – 50 ft *
10 guage – 80 ft

You can find voltage drop tables and calculators on the Internet – just use one of the search engines and type in “wire guage voltage drop” as your search phrase.

Notice the 12 guages line is marked with an asterisk -- that because I use 12 guage stranded wire for my power bus ... that's heavy enough I can run the 50 foot length of the layout and not get more than a 5% voltage drop.

We'll talk more about the details of installing the power bus in a future installment.


WHAT TO PUT THE SYSTEM ON
Okay, you now know where you want to put your system, but what do you put it on?

Just get yourself one of those two or three shelve short plastic utility shelving units (they're not very expensive) and put your system on that. I got a cheap set of particle board utility shelves (this was back in 1993, and they didn't have the cheap plastic shelving units then), which is also good. Don't use metal shelves because you might inadvertedly short something on the metal and not realize it.


Okay, let's get into the details of setting up your programming track in the next post.

TOPIC NEXT POST: Setting up the programming track

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

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Posted by simon1966 on Saturday, April 30, 2005 1:41 PM
QUOTE: Originally posted by jfugate

THROTTLE BUS
First, are you going to use a throttle bus, or are you all wireless? All wireless does give you some freedom, but be careful. Digitrax's current "wireless" solution requires you to plug in to acquire a loco, which means you'll need to run a throttle bus around the layout anyhow. [:(]

If you need to use a throttle bus, most systems don't allow you to split, fork, or T the throttle bus. It needs to be one continuous line, with a terminator of some sort (resistor, etc.) installed at the end. This means you'll simplify your throttle bus wiring and shorten its run if you locate your system at [b]one end of the room
instead of in the middle. So which end? Knowing where you want to put the programming track will help answer this question.


For the sake of clarity for Digitrax users, or potential users, the system uses a single bus, (called LocoNet) to connect all throttle panels, boosters, wireless panels, IR panels, power management, auto reversers, signal systems and PC hookup. The loconet (6 wire data cable) can be daisy chained around the layout and will support T's. The system can be in the middle of the layout and does not require any "termination" on the bus. All communication between different Digitrax modules, not just throttles is thru the LocoNet.

Simon Modelling CB&Q and Wabash See my slowly evolving layout on my picturetrail site http://www.picturetrail.com/simontrains and our videos at http://www.youtube.com/user/MrCrispybake?feature=mhum

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Posted by jfugate on Saturday, April 30, 2005 3:25 PM
Simon:

Good point ... both Digitrax and Zimo use more of a peer-to-peer network for their layout "command bus" (not unlike an Ethernet computer network) which makes your "throttle/command bus" routing options more flexible if you are using wired throttes.

The disadvantage of LocoNet or Zimo's CAN-bus if you use it for other devices like turnout control or signaling is you are locked in to Digitrax or Zimo products for these things, and they can be pricey for a larger layout. If you don't take this route for turnouts and signals, then you can either use local stand-alone circuit boards or use Chubb's Computer Interface, or Rich Weyand's Tractronics system if you want to hook it all together into a computer for more sophisticated applications.

Both of Chubb's and Weyand's systems use more standard RS232 or RS485 serial communication to the devices (read: generally cheaper) and your selection options are broader -- but this is all way beyond the scope of basic DCC loco operation, which we're focusing on here.

You can also just use local pushbuttons or toggles to throw turnouts and you don't need any of this fancy stuff if you don't want it. Or you can do like I do, and throw your turnouts manually (I use 2" brass doorbolts mounted on the fascia) ... manual turnout control works well for me because all the prototype Siskiyou Line turnouts use manual switchstands at the turnouts.

Again, Simon, thanks for making this point ... as to throttle bus, Digitrax and Zimo are the least restrictive when considering your throttle bus routing options.

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

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Posted by jfugate on Saturday, April 30, 2005 3:43 PM
Let me also add that if you prefer some other method than DCC to run turnouts and signals and you use all wireless throttles, then you don't need to run a throttle bus around your layout at all.

This is the option I've chosen. My original Lenz DCC system used an X-Bus throttle bus, which I routed around the entire layout along the fascia. When I switched to EasyDCC all wireless in 2000, I removed the throttle bus completely. Now all my operators just grab a wireless throttle, dial up their loco lashup, and go!

No hunting for a place to plug in ... just run your train and have fun. Full wireless, with no need to plug anything in anywhere, is the ultimate as far as I'm concerned.

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

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Posted by jrbernier on Saturday, April 30, 2005 5:29 PM
Joe,

As far as the programming track. After watching several folks/clubs make a service track in the engine terminal the programming track(usually with a DPDT switch to switch it between service track and programming track - I would never use that solution. Someone will leave it set for program track, then run an engine into it and decoder setting seem to get scrambled! Our LHS did this on their test track layout, and blew decoder settings on 3 BLI engines in a row. The fix was to 'reset' each of the decoders. Unpredictable results can occur(and do when you short across the gap between the layout and the programming track). I very carefully pick up my engines and put them on my dedicated programming track......

Jim Bernier

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Posted by jfugate on Saturday, April 30, 2005 5:55 PM
Jim:

It is not necessary to have a disconnected programming track ... the connected programming track solution you have seen is the wrong way to wire in a connected programming track, and as you state, is guaranteed to blow decoders, or worse -- blow the programming circuitry in your command station.[:0]

It is possible to have your cake and eat it too -- to have a connected programming track and never worry about blowing a decoder or harming the programming circuitry in your command station -- if you wire it right. That will be coming up next![:D]

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

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Posted by rexhea on Saturday, April 30, 2005 9:36 PM
Joe,
I use Lenz LS150 stationary decoders for my turnout control on my Digitrax Loconet and they are completely compatible. Each one controls 6 turnouts, programmable addressing up to 1024, programmable pulse duration. Tony's price: $39.95 or $6.67/turnout.

REX [:)]
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Posted by jfugate on Sunday, May 01, 2005 3:36 AM
Rex:

I'm curious, what key sequence do people need to use on a Digitrax handheld to throw a turnout? Do you ever have to keep reminding your operators how to throw turnouts with their Digitrax throttle?

Seems to me that direct DCC control of turnouts makes operating a layout less "railroady" and more "Star Trek" like. Does a prototype loco crew push a set of buttons in the loco to throw a turnout? No, either they step down out of the loco and throw something at the turnout location ... or the dispatcher throws the turnout in CTC territory.

The one exception to this would be hidden staging yards. Ideally, the operator doesn't need to do anything except run his train offstage ... and a computer would do the rest. Or in reverse, ideally, an operator would select a train in hidden staging, and then just run it on stage. No fiddling with hidden staging tracks at all.

This is one of those areas where some may not agree with me, but I am a big fan of avoiding "non-railroad" thoughts as you operate. In my opinion, the only valid "railroad-like" reason to have DCC controlled turnouts is to connect them to a CTC panel so the dispatcher can throw turnouts, as per the prototype -- or to have a computer control staging as per the description above.

Otherwise, a $1 toggle switch on the fascia at the turnout location will do just as well and it's actually more prototypical in feel. And obvious for operators as to how to throw the turnout -- rather than having to now use fancy key sequences on their throttle to throw turnouts. It might be cool electronic gadgetry, but it's not railroading. Real railroaders don't use buttons in the loco cab to throw turnouts -- at least none that I'm aware of.

I'll admit I am biased toward walkaround layout designs, and once you adopt that layout design philosophy lots of control issues get simplified. Forget the big control panel ... you don't need it. Just mount simple direct controls on the fascia right at the turnout and forget all the fancy DCC hocus pocus.

Or if you want to do the fancy control stuff like CTC dispatching or computer controlled staging -- go with one of the computer-based systems like Chubb's CMRI or Weyand's Tractronics system. To me using DCC for the fancy control stuff just adds a layer of complexity that I don't need.

Again, my opinion -- you may disagree, and that's fine. [:)]

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

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Posted by chateauricher on Sunday, May 01, 2005 4:03 AM
QUOTE: Originally posted by jfugate
It is not necessary to have a disconnected programming track ... the connected programming track solution you have seen is the wrong way to wire in a connected programming track, and as you state, is guaranteed to blow decoders, or worse -- blow the programming circuitry in your command station.[:0]

It is possible to have your cake and eat it too -- to have a connected programming track and never worry about blowing a decoder or harming the programming circuitry in your command station -- if you wire it right. That will be coming up next![:D]

I am looking forward to this post as I am planning to have my programming track in my engine maintenance yard which will include turntable and roundhouse. I'd like to have to wire it only once. [;)]
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Posted by rexhea on Sunday, May 01, 2005 10:56 AM
Joe,
I too, believe you can go to far with automatic or remote control and end up just watching instead of "railroading". I only use remote controlled switch machines on my two mainlines, but I still have mixed feelings about the use of the throttle vs. toggle switch for turnout control.

I have a fairly large home layout that I built with walk around control in mind. But, the convenience of throwing a turnout on the otherside of the room when needed outweighed having only a toggle. Besides, in the beginning, the novelty of being able to do it was overwhelming.
[:D]
I had thought about connecting a toggle to each of these turnouts giving me the option of how I controlled them. The problem is that if you throw a turnout with a toggle, then the throttle will not give you an accurate reading of the turnout position since the throttle didn't initiate the change. It only knows what it did last.

Remote control of the turnouts hasn't been a problem for my guests, as far as the how to do it. You simply pu***he SW button, number, and open/close. The problem for them has been knowing what number to push when they are not near the marker that shows the number. If there was toggle control, they would have to be near the turnout and could see the number.

As you have read, I am still walking the fence and not sure about which side I like best. If I could figure out how to utilize both methods for the same turnout and keep an accurate position reading on the throttle, then I would be a very happy train engineer.

Keep up the good work, Joe.

[^] REX [^]
Rex "Blue Creek & Warrior Railways" http://www.railimages.com/gallery/rexheacock
  • Member since
    July, 2003
  • From: Metro East St. Louis
  • 5,743 posts
Posted by simon1966 on Monday, May 02, 2005 7:27 AM
Joe, I use Peco turnouts on my layout, and much prefer to manually switch them than use the controls on the throttle. I have a question to ask about the use of a throttle bus. As noted ealier in the thread, I use Digitrax, so have to have a loconet bus around the layout. I have placed panels at my yard and 2 other main switching districts, so that there is a panel close at hand when I need it. I am not using radio, but have been playing around with the IR solution. For my relatively small room layout it works fine. However, I digress. My local hobby shop has a huge layout 81' x 60' using radio Digitrax. I asked the owner about panel location over the weekend. He said that whatever radio system you have, you should have throttle panels placed around the layout for "emergency" use. For example if the radio system goes down or the throttle battery fails, there is a place to quickly plug in and regain control of a loco. Is this really a liklihood?

Simon Modelling CB&Q and Wabash See my slowly evolving layout on my picturetrail site http://www.picturetrail.com/simontrains and our videos at http://www.youtube.com/user/MrCrispybake?feature=mhum

  • Member since
    January, 2001
  • From: SE Minnesota
  • 6,783 posts
Posted by jrbernier on Monday, May 02, 2005 9:10 AM
Having some place to 'plug' into for an emergency is a good idea. I have radio throttles(4), and I have 4 locations that I can plug them into as well. I have velcro pads by the plug in locations, and velcro on the back of each throttle. I always hang them on the velcro and plug them in at the end of the day. The system is powered up all of the time and the batteries are always charged. Low batteries are a problem at several layouts I have visited, and erratic oeration can result!

Jim Bernier

Modeling BNSF  and Milwaukee Road in SW Wisconsin

  • Member since
    January, 2002
  • From: Portland, OR
  • 3,118 posts
Posted by jfugate on Monday, May 02, 2005 11:10 AM
Hmmm ... for a Digitrax system, the "plug in for an emergency" notion works, yes.

But for the other wireless systems, plugging in with your wireless isn't an option. You have one or the other, but not both.

The only time we've had a problem losing a loco was with a bad wireless throttle, but that's been rare. And as far as that goes, even tethered throttles can go bad.

As to batteries going dead, we don't have that issue because the batteries (in the EasyDCC wireless throttles at least) last an entire "op session season" (September - June). The EasyDCC throttles have a low battery LED that starts to flash when the batteries get low ... and I keep them filled with fresh (rechargable) batteries.

There were some early kinks to do with receiver placement, but we worked those out quickly ... and a 2001 EPROM upgrade made reception totally reliable. Before the EPROM upgrade, we might lose one loco lashup at the far end of the layout every other session or so ... but I had learned pointing the throttle at the floor solved it -- so I just let my crew know this was the solution.

Since 2001 wireless reception has been totally reliable, with narry a problem (see note below). If someone does lose something, I have always been able to track it down to operator error (they fat fingered some buttons) and not a system failure.

NOTE: Recently, we did have someone lose a loco lashup during the session mysteriously. I checked it out and was able to restore control of the lashup so I gave them the throttle back and they merrily went on their way. Another hour or so into the session, it happened *again*. Realize this was totally unheard of, so I pulled the throttle suspecting it might have low batteries and perhaps some other problem. The rest of the session went it's usual flawless self as to the DCC system performance.

I replaced the batteries in the throttle, checked all the settings, and tested it. It seemed to work fine, so I put a sticker on the back with a red check mark and added it back to the throttle pool.

Next session, about 30 minutes into it, someone reported they lost control of their lashup. I walked over and looked at the back of the throttle -- yep, red check mark. So I have pulled the throttle and sent it in for repair. This is the first throttle failure we've had since I bought the EasyDCC system in 2000.

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

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