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MikeHunter

NCE Power Cabs an Power Districts

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I have a DCC layout, a small end to end dockyard and station. Iv just bought an ex-exhition layout off eBay. The plan is to link the two, but to be able to operate either independently. I love my NCE Power Cab, so it's clear I'll be buying more of the same. My question is how would it work with two Power Cabs?

 

If I run off the layout controlled by one, does the loco keep running? Or will it grind to a halt until you instructed by the second Power Cab? I've looked at the NCE website, but not found the explanation of Power Districts very helpful. I don't really want both layouts on the same power feed as the combined layout is quite big. Don't need the 5 amp system as I have low track occupancy, and don't use DCC sound or accessories.

 

Any thoughts or recommended sources of advice would be much appreciated. I'm still very much a DCC novice, having started when I bough my life dusting layout a couple of years ago. The new layout is analogue, but has a full wiring diagram. Main power bus (but linked to switched sections, and the points Peco are wired for frog polarity change with the frogs isolated and separately wired. So it looks a fairly easy task to link all the sections and use the new Power Cab.

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Hi Mike.
 
It would be helpfull to first understand the basic principles of DCC (and it's really simple).
 
On a layout, there can only be one DCC system, with a single Command Station issuing the DCC commands (i.e. control signals).
Also note that with DCC you are driving the trains and not controlling a layout.
 
By joining two layouts together, you are in effect creating a single large layout and you will not be able to run 2 PowerCabs, both in full system mode.
 
Some points to consider.
The NCE PowerCab is a small scale, low powered DCC system.
The Command Station and Booster functions are contained within the PowerCab handset itself, rather than in a separate base station type box (e.g. as with the full PowerPro system).
 
If you wish to add more handsets (otherwise known as Cabs or Throttles), you would need to add.....
 
1. A ProCab handset (the same as a PowerCab handset, but without the Command Station or Booster electronics inside), or....
 
2. Another PowerCab handset, In which case the Command Station and Booster electronics contained inside this additional handset will be isolated and therefore redundant, or.......
 
3. One of NCE's smaller handsets.
 
 
You will still be able to operate trains independently on both of the two joined layouts under the single DCC system.
Again, note that with DCC you are driving the trains and not controlling a layout.
One or more operators can drive trains on either or both sections of the combined layouts at the same time; each using their own handset.

 

 


If I run off the layout controlled by one, does the loco keep running?
Or will it grind to a halt until you instructed by the second Power Cab?
I've looked at the NCE website, but not found the explanation of Power Districts very helpful.
 
If the two layouts are joined and controlled by the single DCC system, then locos should be able to run between them without any problems at all.
If the two layouts are set up as two separate Power Districts, then the locos should still be able to cross from one to the other without any problems.
 
The handsets (i.e. known as cabs or throttles) do not "control" any section of track or part of a layout.
They are the user interface that allow you to send instructions to the "Command Station", the "brains" of the system which generates the DCC commands (electronic signals) that are sent out to the decoders in the locos.
The decoder inside the loco only reads the instructions that are addressed to it and it's the decoder which controls the loco.
To use a well worn DCC cliche, you drive the trains and not the track.
 
 

 
From your description, the track power capability of the PowerCab might well be sufficient if there are only a few locos running.
If it isn't sufficient to supply the combined layouts, then the most practical solution will be to upgrade the PowerCab, either with the SB5 SmartBooster, or with the PowerHouse Pro combined Command Station and 5 amp Booster.
 
One note on the DC wiring on new layout.
Make sure that the section wiring is of sufficient gauge to safely handle the DCC currents.
Any common returns may present problems too.
 
 
.

Edited by Ron Ron Ron
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Hi Ron, a very considered and thoughtful response, much appreciated. I get the principle of driving the trains not the layout, but is there a way of wiring to allow two separate layouts, or combined operation? I'll definitely want the Power Cab as the second unit, because I prefer it to the engineers throttle.

 

What is the potential problem with a common return? The wiring looks of good quality on the DC layout, so I don't think there will be a rating issue. It's been professionally wired. There is electric point control, so I'm anticipating leaving this as analogue, and just converting the track power to DCC

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Hi again Mike.

I just amended my post and added a few more bits as you posted that reply.

 

The common way of providing track power is the use of a Power Bus.

More specifically a track power bus, as you can have accessory buses too, which are also power buses.

 

If your first layout has a power bus and if the new layout's wiring is good enough to be used as a DCC power bus, then either the two power buses can be combined as one, or set up as two buses.

 

It would make more sense for practical reasons to keep the power buses apart though and treat them as two independent Power Districts, or sub-districts.

The difference is  that proper Power Districts will each be powered by their own booster and sub-districts from the same booster, but separated either by isolating switches or circuit breakers in the event of a short circuit.

 

Each Power District, or sub-district will be separated from each other by IRJ's, but as both sides of the IRJ are part of the same DCC system, controlled by the Command Station, trains can run from one district to the other without interruption.

 

The whole layout is live and the DCC signals and track power are synchronised.

 

An example would be if the connection between both layouts was twin track.....

operator A could drive a train on Layout 1 

operator B could drive a train on Layout 2

operator A could then drive the train over onto Layout 2 and continue to drive it there....and back again to Layout 1 if he wanted.

Meanwhile operator B could do the same in the reverse.

Both could be operating trains on either or both parts of the layout simultaneously.

 

I hope that makes sense?

 

 

.

Edited by Ron Ron Ron
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A simpler approach than Ron's stuff follows.  (Ron's stuff is all fine, its just somewhat complicated).

 

Rule 1 - there is ONLY ONE COMMAND STATION.   Break that, and you're asking for lots of serious trouble.  (There are ways, but its horribly complicated).  

 

The PowerCab handset, as supplied, can work in two modes.  By default, and with the flat six-wire cable into the PowerCab's faceplate, it's a PowerCab Command Station.   But, with the curly four-wire cable, it becomes a ProCab (same as supplied in the PowerPro systems), which is just a throttle, lacking the Command Station parts.    The standard faceplate has two sockets on the front, one must have a PowerCab (or nothing happens as there is no Command Station) and one can have a second handset, including a ProCab. 

 

Sort out a flat six-wire and a curly four-wire cable, one for each of the handset. In the PowerCab manual, look up the part about connecting the curly cable and setting the ProCab Cab address to "3" on your second handset (when used with a PowerCab Command station, the address of a ProCab handset is limited, whereas with other command stations there is the potential for many more Cabs).    That gives you two handsets onto one DCC system.   With that system, the flat-cable "PowerCab" must not be unplugged (or the entire system is turned off), but the curly cable "ProCab" can be unplugged and moved, and re-plugged, with the system still running.   

 

That single DCC system, with two handsets, can be connected to the combined layouts.    If the second handset isn't in an ideal place, then its cable can be extended to another location, with another unpowered faceplate. 

 

 

See this very short manual from NCE

 

https://ncedcc.zendesk.com/hc/en-us/article_attachments/200585335/How_to_hook_up_Two_Powercabs.pdf

 

 

Further enhancements include power district breakers to split the layout into different zones, or changing the Command Station to one with more power by using either the NCE SB5 "Smart Booster" or a full PowerPro Command Station.  

 

 

- Nigel

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Thanks both Nigel and Ron, I'd really like the facility to separately power both layouts if possible. This will allow me to exhibit either one separately. So it looks like "terribly complicated", may be the way to go. (Yikes). I suspect this will only work by adding the second cab, and the power booster, with one of the two layouts having the options to either run directly from a Cab as command station (when separated from the other layout), or from the power booster linked to layout 2, this does seem to be getting complicated, but shouldn't be insurmountable. 

 

The note about disconnecting the command station (or rather not disconnecting it or the system will shut down) is also very helpful.

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Mike

 

Each PowerCab comes with a power supply and a panel - a PCP - into which said PowerCab is plugged.

 

You can fit a PCP on each layout and use the PowerCabs as intended, i.e. with the 6 core flat cable.

 

You can also purchase a cheaper ProCab instead of a second PowerCab but you then need to leave the PowerCab connected to a layout at all times regardless of whether you wish to work both layouts independently or as a combined layout.

 

The one thing you will need to do though is to link the two PCPs with a flat ribbon cable so that the commands generated by the ProCab can be "fed" to the PowerCab.

 

I'd suggest that you buy a PowerCab (including both a flat and a curly cable plus PCP panel). Then buy a ProCab which comes with it's own curly cable plus a second PCP panel - the similar UTP panel is cheaper but you can't use it in isolation with a PowerCab if you want to take that layout to a show on its own.

 

Fit the PowerCab with the flat ribbon cable and the ProCab with the curly cable and buy a length of 6-way flat ribbon cable to link the two PCP panels together.

 

You can then disconnect the aforementioned flat cable that links the two PCPs to totally isolate each layout from the other and can then take the PowerCab and the ProCab with the layout going to a show.

 

You could buy two PowerCabs instead of one of each so that you have a spare at a show if one goes wrong. However, that's a bit belt and braces but these things happen.

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"Terribly complicated" is the best way to introduce an error which can destroy both systems. Nobody wants you to suffer this.

 

Use 1 of the faceplates to make a separate power module which you can connect to either half-layout.

Make their power buses connectible. You can then run either half-layout on its own or the 2 together.

 

Put one of the faceplates aside. You may find a use for it at another time. I did with mine; I use it for a small test track which fits into a tool box. I could also use this for programming without disturbing power to the layout.

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..... I'd really like the facility to separately power both layouts if possible.

This will allow me to exhibit either one separately.......

Separately power both layouts at the same time, or only one at a time?

 

If it's only to exhibit one, while the other is not being used, that will be very easy.

 

 

....So it looks like "terribly complicated", may be the way to go. (Yikes).

 

Not at all complicated Mike.

 

 

.....I suspect this will only work by adding the second cab, and the power booster, with one of the two layouts having the options to either run directly from a Cab as command station (when separated from the other layout), or from the power booster linked to layout 2, this does seem to be getting complicated, but shouldn't be insurmountable.

If only one layout is to be used at a time, when operated separately.

There are a couple of ways to deal with this.

 

1.  If the PowerCab's output is sufficient to power both the layouts, either separately and when combined.

 

Add another PCP to the 2nd layout.

 

When the layouts are joined together, link both PCPs together (as mentioned by Ray) with one acting as a PCP, with the power supply and PowerCab plugged in.

The other PCP must not have a power supply plugged in and will simply act as a UTP with an additional cab plugged in as necessary (e.g. a ProCab or another PowerCab acting as a slave)..

Also connect the track power buses together.

 

When the layouts are split, disconnect the link between the two PCPs and the track power bus link between the layouts

Plug the power supply and PowerCab handset into the PCP of the layout in use.

 

 

2. If more track power is needed when operating the layouts combined.

 

Add an SB5 SmartBooster.

This is a combined Command Station and Booster that will allow the PowerCab handset to operate simply as a cab (basically it becomes a ProCab, as its internal Command Station and Booster functions will be disabled).

 

Retain the original PCP on layout 1, but remove the power supply (no longer needed).

Add a UTP to layout 2.

The original PCP will act as a UTP when powered from the SB5.

Link the two panels together, when the layouts are combined.

The track output now comes from the SB5 and can be fed to both layouts, removing the need to have a power bus connection between the two layouts.

 

When the layouts are joined together, any PowerCab or ProCab handset can be plugged into either panel.

Any or all can be unplugged while the layout is powered up, as the SB5 is in control.

The track power feed goes to both layouts, but they will still be acting as one.

 

When the layouts are split, either....

 

a. connect the SB5 to the appropriate UTP or PCP of the layout in use.

Also you will only need to connect the track output to the track bus of that layout. ...or...

 

b. If one layout (e.g. the original layout 1) can run off the PoweCab alone without the SB5 , then when operated independently, just plug the PCP power supply back in and use the PowerCab as a stand-alone system.

Remember to reconnect the track feed from the PCP.

In this scenario, the SB5 can be left with layout 2 and would allow both layouts to be operated completely split and independently as two fully functioning layouts.

 

 

 

 

.

Edited by Ron Ron Ron
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Thanks again, I think a variation on Ron's option 1 above is the way I'll go. Think I only need 2 amps. The only issue is the track length, with a single power supply when the layouts are joined, its around 50 feet from one end of the layout to the other. The bus wiring on both layouts is pretty robust, but I suspect there is still some drop in voltage. Not keen on the Power Booster for 2 reasons:

1) its 5 amps - seems a big leap from 2, is there more risk of damaging a loco motor in the event of a problem with a chip?

2) cost, its a lot more expensive. 

I'll probably go for the 2 Power Cabs as the basis for option 1, running individually when the layouts are separated, and using one as a slave without the power when joined. 

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Excuse me butting in but I find diagrams are helpful.  I started running with a PowerCab and have extended it several times.  What I think you are needing to do is below, together with an example of where I have now got to.  Please note you will need to attach the track power output of the main PowerCab to the main distribution point for the second layout - else there will be no power on the second layout to control and nothing will move.

post-14883-0-42765400-1534434866_thumb.jpg

post-14883-0-19962700-1534434879_thumb.jpg

post-14883-0-42765400-1534434866_thumb.jpg

post-14883-0-19962700-1534434879_thumb.jpg

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You'll only need 2 PowerCabs if you plan to use both halves independently and simultaneously (or you want a reserve if the other fails).

 

Our O gauge club layout is about 40ft by 20ft and we've run 4 sound decoder fitted locos - some Heljan's with two motors - on that circular layout from just a single PowerCab and the wiring was one feed to each section with reliance on metal rail joiners rather than droppers from each rail length and a bus.

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Hi IMT very helpful diagrams, really helps visualise the two PCPs, thanks for entering the debate. Yes Ron agreed two PowerCabs is the need. Gives the flexibility to run both layouts separately, or use one as a second cab.

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.....Yes Ron agreed two PowerCabs is the need. Gives the flexibility to run both layouts separately.....

 

 

You haven't said if the intention is to run both layouts separately at the same time.

 

If not, you don't really need two PowerCabs, only an extra PCP and a ProCab handset.

 

 

.

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You haven't said if the intention is to run both layouts separately at the same time.

 

If not, you don't really need two PowerCabs, only an extra PCP and a ProCab handset.

 

 

.

 

As Ron says - my first diagram shows having both layouts remain separable.  If you don't HAVE 2 PowerCabs and you are definitely keeping them together then save money and buy a ProCab for the second layout.  I went that way some time back - which is why my current layout diagram shows a ProCab on my fiddle yard.  Getting the two joined together is really a function of buying some RJ12 fitted flat cable - something like https://www.amazon.co.uk/kenable-FLAT-RJ12-6P6C-Cable/dp/B00838WU5E or you can buy the cable and do it yourself.  I did that because I have 6 separable baseboards and I wanted to be able to break the cable in places and put plugs in for board crossings.  You can buy an RJ crimper set with accessories like a continuity tester quite cheaply if you really only need a few joints see https://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/RJ45-Cat5e-RJ11-Lan-Network-Ethernet-Cable-Crimping-Tool-Tester-Crimper-Stripper-/122043249390.  They are obviously not as good as the professional stuff - but it served me for my purpose.  The second problem is "breaking in" to the track wiring distribution for the second layout.  If it has a good bus structure that could be as easy as a 6" piece of wire to join two ends together (using a pluggable choc strip say) - otherwise it might mean setting up a bit of lighting flex all the way under your baseboards to connect the feeds together..

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Thought I had mentioned that I need to be able to run both layouts separately. Found a really useful diagram on the NCE website about how to link 2 power cabs: https://zendesk-help-center-production.s3.amazonaws.com/article_attachment/file/543952/200585335/How_to_hook_up_Two_Powercabs.pdf?response-content-disposition=attachment&X-Amz-Expires=600&X-Amz-Date=20180821T110924Z&X-Amz-Algorithm=AWS4-HMAC-SHA256&X-Amz-Credential=AKIAIC3WAKGEUSD6TFHQ/20180821/us-east-1/s3/aws4_request&X-Amz-SignedHeaders=host&X-Amz-Signature=929dda118427af8fa019e1ad7e9e86f6af1b2d84e4430f37a5e863dafba4fa1b

 

This uses both powercabs with their PCPs just one power pack, and using the second as a throttle with the Curley cable.

 

Seems simple to set this up, with the power bus linked between the layouts. I then disconnect the Powerbus, swap the cable on the second can, and plug in mains power, using the conventional single powercab set up - sorted.

 

Now I just need to figure out and convert the DC layout wiring....

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Thought I had mentioned that I need to be able to run both layouts separately. ....

 

 

Mike, that's quite vague.

You still haven't said if you need to run them separately at the same time, or one layout at a time.

 

If only one layout is being run and there is no situation where both will be running separately at the same time, then a second PowerCab is a waste of money, as much of the electronics contained inside the 2nd PowerCab handset will not be used.

In this case it would be wiser to buy a ProCab handset and an extra PCP instead.

 

If by running the layouts separately, you mean to say that there will be occasions when both layouts are in use at the same time, either at the same location/venue, or in different places, then a second PowerCab is indeed what you will need

.

Cheers

Ron

 

 

.

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Mike, that's quite vague.

You still haven't said if you need to run them separately at the same time, or one layout at a time.

 

If only one layout is being run and there is no situation where both will be running separately at the same time, then a second PowerCab is a waste of money, as much of the electronics contained inside the 2nd PowerCab handset will not be used.

In this case it would be wiser to buy a ProCab handset and an extra PCP instead.

 

If by running the layouts separately, you mean to say that there will be occasions when both layouts are in use at the same time, either at the same location/venue, or in different places, then a second PowerCab is indeed what you will need

.

Cheers

Ron

 

 

.

Could be both at the same time at the same venue ( but separated) or one at an exhibition with Power Cab and the other at home. Whilst I may not want to run much after a day's operating, it's good to have the option. There isn't a huge price difference with the Pro Cap as far as I can see. May add one of those in the future.

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