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Command Control For Toy Trains Book

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Command Control For Toy Trains Book
Posted by Anonymous on Wednesday, June 25, 2003 12:50 PM
I recently purchased & read Neil Besougloff's book, Command Control for Toy Trains. Being a computer programmer & tinkerer, I find the topic interesting & something I'd like to get into.

The book was a good, quick read, however, I have a couple of questions that weren't answered.

1. I am planning to build a layout & I currently have only conventional locomotives. I'd like to be able to run two or three trains at the same time, and I don't currently have the financial resources to upgrade my older locomotives to command control. I intend to purchase a command controlled locomotive soon, and I'd like to run that locomotive & my older stuff simultaneously.

As I understand it, I need to get one or two of the Track Power Controllers and a command base in order to run everything. What I'd not sure about is whether I need to break my layout up into blocks & get any Block Power Controllers.

And if I do need to do create blocks in my layout, how does everything know which controller to connect to which block when? The discussion of command control on a layout that contains blocks is lacking in this area.

Thanks for any help

Tony
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Posted by Algonquin on Thursday, June 26, 2003 8:48 AM
Hi Tony,

For full command engines, no block controls are required. The track is maintained at full voltage and the command signal from the command base will tell each engine how fast to go.

If you want to run more than one conventional engine with a command control system, you need block and controls for each engine. For conventional engines, the command control system will regulate the power to the track to control the speed of the engine. So you will need a separate track power controller to regulate the power to each block you set-up. The command remote will communicate with each track power controller to regulate the track voltage to that block to control the speed of the train in that block.

So if you set up a double mainline layout and isolate each of the two loops (two blocks), then each loop will require a track power controller to operate a conventional locomotive on each loop.

I hope this information helps.

Regards,

Tim

A penny saved is a penny earned. But every once in a while it is good to treat yourself to a gum ball.

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Posted by Anonymous on Thursday, June 26, 2003 3:03 PM
Tim:

OK, I see how two loops with two controllers works, but what if they're connected by switches so trains can move from one loop to another? And what if the trains on each loop are going at different speeds (meaning there are different voltages applied to each block)? Won't a train switching between two electrically isolated blocks in this situation change speed?

It seems to me that what you need is a device that switches the power source for a given block whenever a train croses a block boundary. Isn't that what the Block Power Controller unit is for? And in that case, how does the command base know when to switch a block from one power source to another?

What I'm seeing in my head is two simple concentric loops, each broken into two blocks, for a total of 4 blocks in the layout. It seems to me that this situation would allow you to have one train wait on one block for another to switch loops, and then you can let both run around for a while. Are you telling me that in this case I'd need 4 track power controllers?

None of the example wiring diagrams in the book show how you use the BPC component. It seems to me that the BPC is the solution for the layout situation I'm seeing in my head, but I haven't got a clue how it works or is wired. I was hoping Neil's book would go into that, but it just barely mentioned the existence of the BPC.

Perhaps CTT can do an article on this one day?

Tony
  • Member since
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  • From: US
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Posted by Algonquin on Thursday, June 26, 2003 4:04 PM
Hi Tony,

The Block Power Controller allows you to distribute the power from a single TPC to different blocks from your remote controller. But I believe you will still need a TPC for each conventional engine you want to run. The best information on the BPC is available on the I. C. Controls website. They describe all the Lionel Command control products including the BPC and they allow you to download detailed operating manuals for each componet. This should help you with the specifics for your application.

Regards,

Tim

A penny saved is a penny earned. But every once in a while it is good to treat yourself to a gum ball.

  • Member since
    January 2001
  • From: US
  • 440 posts
Posted by Algonquin on Thursday, June 26, 2003 4:05 PM
Here is the IC controls URL:

http://www.iccontrolsinc.com/products.shtml

Tim

A penny saved is a penny earned. But every once in a while it is good to treat yourself to a gum ball.

  • Member since
    April 2003
  • 305,206 posts
Posted by Anonymous on Tuesday, July 8, 2003 4:38 PM
Hi Tony,

What you're describing for conventional control blocks can be done, such as keeping the same transformer (and its voltage) moving as the train moves into different blocks, but you're creating a wiring setup (it's called cab control) that runs counter to the simplicity you'd want for TMCC use. All of it can be made to work, there is a point of diminished returns. If I were you, I'd start off slowly and simply and get a command control locomotive (actually, you need two to fully appreciate TMCC), a TMCC CAB 1controller, and a base station. (And a TPC if you want to operate convention trains with the CAB 1 controller). Once you decide how you like it and how much of your time is spent operating in command mode verses conventional mode, you'll have a better sense of how much effort you want to put into your conventional control blocks and wiring. If you are in the midst of building your layout, you can always create the track blocks (insulated pins or another method), but wire them together for now and create your electrical blocks at a later time, when you've settled on how sophisticated you want to get.

Sincerely,
Neil Besougloff
editor, CTT
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Posted by Anonymous on Wednesday, July 16, 2003 9:13 PM
Neil:

Thanks for your reply.

I just came back from a week's vacation in Hershey, PA, & while we were there, we stopped at Strasburg & rode the Strasburg shortline & visited the Choo-Choo Barn. While at the Choo Choo Barn, we stopped at the Strasburg Train Shop & I bought a Lionel 2-8-0 "Consolidation" engine in LIRR livery. It has TMCC, Railsounds, & Odyssey speed control. I set up a small oval, just to run the thing, & plugged in my conventional transformer, and all was not well.

For some reason, the locomotive would do nothing but go forward and would go no faster than a crawl. It sounded great, though. I sent the unit back to the Strasburg shop & they confirmed that it was indeed not operating properly. They had another in LIRR livery that was also defective. They did have one in Pennsy livery that worked correctly & they're sending me that one.

As a first experience with a TMCC locomotive, this is disappointing, to say the least. I had to explain that the engine was broken to my 3 year old son--not so easy. Any way, I'm looking forward to receiving the new locomitive & I hope it improves my opinion.

Regarding the wiring problem: let's say I've got a TPC connected so I can run one conventional locomotive at a time. Won't a TMCC equipped engine running on the same layout be able to go no faster than the voltage output to the track for the conventional locomotive allows it?

Unless I keep the conventional locomotives on one loop & the TMCC locomotives on another?

I'm in the process of building a very small, semi-permanent, table top layout which is exactly what I've already described: two concentric ovals with 4 switches allowing a train to switch from inner to outer loop & back again. I'm now at the point where I'm going to start wiring it, so this is an important concern for me right now.

My son & I currently have 3 conventional locomotives: a post-war 44 ton diesel switcher that I inherited from my dad, a 4-6-4 Hudson (?) that was released in the 80s for the 100th b-day of Joshua Lionel Cowen (that's the name on the tender, for that matter), and a new one we got for my son that came with his "Great Train Robbery" set.

We're probably going to want to run some combination of the four engines, 2 at a time. I know I need to use blocks & switches for the conventioal stuff to run, especially if they're going to swap inner & outter loops periodically. TMCC will work with the switches, too, provided I make sure a full 18 volts is fed to the block that the TMCC locomotive is in, correct?

Sorry for the length of the post.

Thanks!

Tony
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Posted by Anonymous on Thursday, July 17, 2003 5:12 PM
Hi Tony,

I'll try to answer your questions as you wrote them.

1) Sorry to hear your 2-8-0 didn't work right. A year or two ago we encounted some Lionel locomotives that had the Odyssey speed control set to a very low speed right out of the box (like a new car with the cruise control already on and set not to exceed 10 mph). Following the instructions, we "unset" the cruise control speed. However, that wouldn't explain your inability to go into neutral or reverse in conventional mode.

2) Yes, as you vary the track voltage via the TPC (or simply a transformer handle) to control the conventional control train, the command control train will also speed up or down. The changes may not be identical because of different loads, gearing, etc., between the two trains. If the command control train includes the Odyssey speed control feature and it is set to a moderate speed level, you may hit some mid-range voltages where you can alter the speed of the conventional train with minimal effect on the command train. That, however, is a trial and error thing and is hard to do on a small layout where the trains are in closer proximity to each other.

3) Build your layout with blocks and switches as if you only had conventional control. But be sure only put any insulating pins between blocks in the center rail, not any outer rail (other than those required for one of the outer rails on Lionel track switches, as per the instructions with the switches). This way, when you add the TMCC signal (the single wire that runs from the post marked U on the back of the Command Base to the outside rail of the track) the signal will transmit throughout your inner and outer loops via the outside rails, and the command control locomotive will received its commands everywhere on the layout. The conventional control locomotive won't care if there is a signal or not.

One thing to keep in mind. The TMCC signal is a separate entity from the 18 volts. You can run a TMCC layout on 12 volts or 9 volts if you want, but the locomotives will be more sluggish with lower voltages because they were designed to run on 18 volts (slightly lower voltage is, however, a way to keep trains from speeding off the edge of the layout when in the hands of a young operator). That is the principal on how you can run a conventional locomotive and a command locomotive at the same time (it's in the Lionel TMCC instructions under "transitional control.")

The other thing that is important, is that if the Command Base wall plug is plugged in, the command locomotives will hear their signal even if you had chosen to run your command-equipped engine in conventional mode. Disconnecting the "U" wire isn't enough. Lots of times people think something is wrong with their engines in conventional mode, but the engine is simply hearing the command signal and telling itself NOT to respond to track voltage changes, but to only respond when it hears its specific TMCC ID number. If you want to run a command engine in conventional mode, unplug the Command Base from the wall.

In the fall (October, I think), a new book by Pete Riddle about O gauge layout wiring will be published by Kalmbach. It covers exactly what you are trying to do concerning the block control of your inner and outer loops and running trains in and out of the loops without stopping. If you can't wait, Pete's older books (Greenberg's Wiring Your Lionel Layout, Vols. 1, 2, & 3) have the same info. You might find the book(s) in a hobby shop. It was in three volumes, and volumes 1 and 2 would be of the most interest to you.

Good Luck.

Sincerely,

Neil Besougloff
editor




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Posted by Anonymous on Friday, July 18, 2003 10:05 PM
Neil:

Thanks for the reply.

I received the replacement 2-8-0 yesterday and it's working fine in conventional mode. I'm much happier at this point with it, and my son is ecstatic. Heck, he wants me to take out every engine & car we have & put them on the layout. There's just no room for 4 engines, 10 cars, and a hand car on this ity bity layout.

I do not, at this time, own a CAB-1 or a Command base, so I have no idea what the problem with the original locomotive was. I have a working locomotive now, and I'm happy.

The layout sits on my dining room table & is built in two pieces that plug together so I can move it easily when the table is needed for other things. Each half is going to have a throttle mounted on it, and there are two wires that plug the two halves together that allow the voltage from one throttle to drive the blocks in the other half. I've only got fiber pins on the center rails & on the turnouts where they're required.

I started wiring the layout yesterday, and I finished it tonight. It wouldn't have taken so long, except that I had a short caused by a staple that caused two blocks to be cross-wired in such a way that applying voltage to one of them applied the same voltage to the other. Then, while I was correcting the problem, I accidentally reversed the color coding on the connectors for the two wires that connect the two halves. That took a while to diagnose, too.

Next, I have to mount & run the wires for the controls for the 4 turnouts and mount all my toggle switches & binding posts and it's done. Probably another 4 - 8 hours of work.

The new 2-8-0 doesn't seem to be running as fast as it might be able to at full throttle, but I think this is because of the transformers I'm using. I'm using the one that came with my son's "Great Train Robbery" set (about 77 watts, I think), and my old 90 watt type 1044 transformer that I inherited from my dad, which only outputs 5-16 volts. So, at this point, I think my future upgrade plans are:

1. Buy a CAB-1, a Command Base, and an SC-1 or SC-2
2. Buy a TPC and a 135 or 180 watt Powerhouse
3. Buy a second TPC and a second 135 or 180 watt Powerhouse

Then, in a couple of years, after the addition's done & I start building my second layout, I'll have the basics & just need to add things like more switch / accessory controllers, etc.

Thanks again

Tony

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