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halsey

DCC starting out - I'm not a techy but so far its been worth it!

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Hi

Is there an idiots guide to DCC - I'm not a great one for reading as I much prefer "doing" but just thought I'd ask as I do need to gain knowledge - perhaps there is a good web reference??

All contributions appreciated

Thanks

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The most fundamental difference to traditional control is that the track is permanently powered and the speed control is done within each locomotive.

 

Think of it a bit like a TV remote control system; the command in that is sent by rapidly turning on and off an infra red LED.

In DCC, the track polarity is rapidly reversed to send the coded commands.

 

The loco decoder both rectifies the track voltage and monitors the timing of the reversals to decode what commands are being sent, and if they are addressed to itself or not.

 

All the complex stuff is taken care of by the DCC controller / "command station" and the loco decoders and at a minimum all you need to do with a new loco or decoder is set it to the address you want, often the loco number.

 

A lot more info here:

https://dccwiki.com/DCC_Tutorial_(Basic_System)

 

The hardest part is probably deciding what make of controller setup to go for!

(I use a Digitrax Zephyr, and all-in-one controller / command station / throttle, but I'm more interested in the mechanics and engineering and do not have a fixed layout at all, so the limit of I think 20 locos does not bother me..)

 

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Thanks - so its a bit like R/C planes on a fixed track?? 

OK lets start the debate as to what controller...……...I can't ever see more than 20 locos (more like 10)

Thanks

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I have the Prodigy Advance 2.

It doesn't have a limit on how many locos it stores like (I think) the Zephyr does).  You just type in the loco number and you're away.  It has a temporary recall system that stores the last 10 or so locos used, but I don't really use this.

 

It was a little expensive but if this is the first foray into DCC, I'd find a dirt cheap 2nd hand controller and see how you get on.  Then save save save for a bigger better one.

 

Another popular one is the black NCE Cab controller.

However when researching, it was suggested the NCE had less power (unless you added a power booster for more money) and perhaps there was something with the warranty?  I can't remember, so opted for the PA2.

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Hi,

 

there are so many systems out there these days it's had to chose. But first take a look at your requirements and possible requirements even if you think you won't use them you may find you will if as you get more out of dcc.

 

things to think of 

 

how many trains at once you will run

costs of systems including accessories and decoders.

manufactures of the decoders not all decoders are equal 

automation possibly 

occupancy detection( needed for automation)

feedback

ease of programming 

 functionality of a system and ease of use

this is not a defacto list but just some of the things you may like to think about 

 

i myself use a digitrax system, but what ever system you choose take your time and even try some before you buy as this could lead to an expensive mistake. all systems have there quirks and issues and finding the right one for you will be a hard choice and many will say this is best or that is best, and when asking in shops etc, take a few shops advice and your get a broad picture as I seen so many times poor advice given by shops and the wrong systems sold.

 

andy

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All the systems fundamentally do the same thing. You will have to decide from the likes of the list above what are must have facilities for your operation, to short list those that offer everything you require.

 

Most important though, we are supposed to be having fun. The interface needs to be one that you enjoy using, and there's a very wide selection of these. If you can either easily get to a retailer that carries a selection of systems, or to a show where a specialist retailer is present, a chance to have some hands on time should help in buying one that will work for you over the long term. Could have bought a couple of large locos for what the Lenz originally cost me, but now it's approaching £12 a year over the time since purchase...

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But I don't know what I require - my "driver" is to avoid under baseboard wiring and switching sections on and off - my worry is that the limited reading I'm doing is putting me off as I hate technology and am not good with it - this is a hobby and I want to enjoy the experience.

Surely I'm not alone and there must be systems around that can cope with me.

Without being smug about it - budget is not a prime issue but ease of implementation and use is.

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DCC certainly helps with eliminating 'switching sections'. But there is still a lot of wiring to do. A minimum of 2 wires per point motor, but more if you want to do frog polarity switching or control signals or get feed back to your DCC system.

 

It would be helpful to get a better idea of the kind of layout you want to build as that would allow us to make more meaningful comments.

 

As regards to DCC controllers/systems, and I'm being deliberately provocative here, I can't abide the systems mentioned already, the Digitrax Zephy, Gaugemaster Prodigy, & other US designed systems. To my eyes they remind me of American school busses, like they were designed 75 years ago and no one can be bothered to bring them up to date. :D

 

I much prefer whizzy European designs like the Roco Z21, etc. I have a Z21 and use my iPAD and iPhone to control my trains. 

 

BUT the point here is that competing DCC systems are VERY different, and what I like and dislike may very well be the exact opposite for yourself as you're "not a techy and hate IT".

 

And, as I think the more rational members on here would agree, with a couple of exceptions, there is no right or wrong DCC system, there's just the system that suits you best,

 

You really need to get to a show, or a good DCC dealer, and try out different systems.

 

Regards,

 

John P

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Hi

 

sorry but I’m going to have to be blunt here, not meant to offend but to help.

 

you say you don’t know what you require, to choose a system you need to know the direction you want to go in. If you hate tech stuff so much then my advice is stay with DC. With DCC there is a certain amount of understanding needed to grasp the basics and my fear is if your not wanting to get a grasp then your be forever asking questions on basic concepts.

 

under layout wiring I thought would be an issue with DC or DCC unless your not wanting scenics then you could route wires above but it would look hideous. You mention section switching, I take this to mean switching on and off sections, this is not needed with DCC.

 

but all that said there are plenty here who will help When difficulty’s are encountered but you need to help with this by being open to the tech side of things.

 

again I’m sorry to sound blunt but sugar coating things won’t do you any favours and I like you to make a decision your happy with

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Taking both comments together - if you look at the layout referred to in the "links" at the bottom of my posts that will give you an idea of my layout expectations esp the early stuff re layout design and wiring

I have no problem with "blunt" - I'll be blunt if DCC wont save on wiring (volume and complexity) then I'll probably pass.

I don't do shows but have identified a dealer in Holt Fleet Worcester - "DCC supplies.com" anyone know them??

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I can’t see any links at the bottom of your posts. As to will it save on wiring, this has been much debait here in previous posts. But I would say yes it would save on the amount of wiring compared to DC( I dont wish to open old debaits here).

 

i take it that this dealer is your closest but if you get an opportunity digitrains has Demo systems that you can play with and it might be worth a trip to them

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the links show on what I'm looking at - like this...……………..

 

Follow the link below for details of my first project for 50 years! - recently christened by my long suffering other half " Huff and Puff "!

 

http://www.rmweb.co.uk/community/index.php?/topic/105163-rmw-works-phase-2-enjoying-next-steps/

 

http://www.rmweb.co.uk/community/index.php?/topic/118713-huff-and-puff-rmw-works-phase-3-challenges-in-use/

 

 

 

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Looks very good so far, one point to consider is the isolated rail joiners and the need that you may need to put more in if you go with dcc

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I think that you need to visit some shows and talk to the DCC operated layout owners it’s what I did twenty years ago and from the answers I chose a system that I liked having been given the opportunity to operate several layouts, Since then I have moved on from the Multimuss through three others and now use a Z21 with a cheap phone and an iPad and find it a very easy system to use.

As to wiring DCC does use less and can be kept very simple depending on what you want to do with your layout.

 

 Regards mike 

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33 minutes ago, Andymsa said:

Looks very good so far, one point to consider is the isolated rail joiners and the need that you may need to put more in if you go with dcc

 

 

That layout is now dismantled as we have moved house it was just to show what level I model at - the under baseboard wiring was a nightmare of spaghetti which I don't want to get involved in again if I can avoid it hence DCC being considered for layout no 2 which will probably also be less complicated

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30 minutes ago, mikeg said:

I think that you need to visit some shows and talk to the DCC operated layout owners it’s what I did twenty years ago and from the answers I chose a system that I liked having been given the opportunity to operate several layouts, Since then I have moved on from the Multimuss through three others and now use a Z21 with a cheap phone and an iPad and find it a very easy system to use.

As to wiring DCC does use less and can be kept very simple depending on what you want to do with your layout.

 

 Regards mike 

 

I don't do shows - I'm not odd I just don't like crowds and driving - please expand on your comment that it "can be kept simple" as your Z21 cheap phone iPad statement doesn't sound simple 

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I have used XPS (Extruded Polystyrene) for my baseboard tops. It comes in  8' x 4' sheets here in the US, which cost $20, so each 4x2 base board is $5.

It is rigid enough, but is easily worked with a knife. I use 2 or 3 layers to contour the layout itself so that the scenery and track can drop below the mainline.

 

But the point(sic) is that when I wire up my point motors I first cut out a rectangle where the motor will go. I then add all the wires I need to the motor (I'm using Tortoises) and then after gluing the motor to the underside of the rectangle I just glue it back in place on the layout. I leave enough wire so that I can sit down, on a chair, reach under the baseboard and then connect up the motor wires.

 

Regards,

 

John P

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I am a few months into a "new dcc" layout, I bought a second hand EZ command for about £30 from ebay and it has got me up and running with wiring almost identical to my old analogue layout, no great amounts of difficulty required as the points will be work mechanically just like the prototype was in the days of steam lol.

As with anything in life you can make things as difficult or easy as you like, I use the principal of KISS which makes for simplicity and stress free. I am now increasing my consumption of electrickery, so will be looking at a greater ampage controller to run several steam locos with sound at the same time, but the wiring remains very simple indeed.

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21 hours ago, halsey said:

But I don't know what I require - my "driver" is to avoid under baseboard wiring and switching sections on and off - my worry is that the limited reading I'm doing is putting me off as I hate technology and am not good with it - this is a hobby and I want to enjoy the experience.

 

In principle, if your layout works as it is with a conventional controller, everything powered and no shorts, then connecting a DCC controller to the same wires and putting a DCC loco on the track should "just work"..

 

It should need less isolation and section switching than with a conventional system running two or more locos, as with DCC they run on exactly the same power connections, rather than different sections & controllers as with DC / conventional power.

 

 

I'd suggest you first decide what style of controller/throttle you want - eg. a desktop / console unit or hand-held throttles, plus how many locos you want to run or control at the same time. 

 

 

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Z21 uses a wifi router, you just plug it in and then download the app for either a phone or an iPad set it up to WiFi signal and it is ready to use. You have to connect the track to the ‘main’ and then the program track to the ‘prog’ outputs and its ready to play trains.

 

It really is that simple, regards Mike 

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4 hours ago, RobjUK said:

 

In principle, if your layout works as it is with a conventional controller, everything powered and no shorts, then connecting a DCC controller to the same wires and putting a DCC loco on the track should "just work"..

 

It should need less isolation and section switching than with a conventional system running two or more locos, as with DCC they run on exactly the same power connections, rather than different sections & controllers as with DC / conventional power.

 

 

I'd suggest you first decide what style of controller/throttle you want - eg. a desktop / console unit or hand-held throttles, plus how many locos you want to run or control at the same time. 

 

 

Yes, the OP stated that keeping it as simple as possible was an aim & this meets that requirement without adding any extra complexities.

 

When we discuss things like making sidings permanently live & adding insulated rail joiners, this is to make use of additional features the system offers. There is no need to do anything further if you don't want to.

When I first tried DCC about 10-12 years ago, I started with a small section of track & just drove 2 locos up & down. The freedom of being able to stop & start them exactly where I wanted gave me an operating experience which instantly appealed to me.

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15 minutes ago, Pete the Elaner said:

Yes, the OP stated that keeping it as simple as possible was an aim & this meets that requirement without adding any extra complexities.

 

When we discuss things like making sidings permanently live & adding insulated rail joiners, this is to make use of additional features the system offers. There is no need to do anything further if you don't want to.

When I first tried DCC about 10-12 years ago, I started with a small section of track & just drove 2 locos up & down. The freedom of being able to stop & start them exactly where I wanted gave me an operating experience which instantly appealed to me.

Snap. 20 years ago I had a DC railway wired with two controllers, with multiple sections and a bank of two-way/centre off switches. When one controller went bang - an electrolytic cap exploded with the throttle in the off position - I decided DCC might be better. So just like you I linked the DCC system to one controller input, disconnected the other, and never looked back. 

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On 21/10/2019 at 14:45, halsey said:

 

Surely I'm not alone and there must be systems around that can cope with me.

Without being smug about it - budget is not a prime issue but ease of implementation and use is.

I’ve been into DCC for a long time and had several control stations, but to me I just don’t like the hand held devices as the screens are way too small and cannot display enough information IMO.

My latest controller is the best I have tried and will be staying with me, big colour screen with function buttons all on display with easy identities and has two nice big control knobs on the machine, makes it nice and easy for an old Luddite like me who remembers using the H&M Duette :o

 

And as your budget is not so much of an issue take a look at the ECoS system, for the price of three or four locos you have a controller for a very long time with great factory back up and a dedicated forum.

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I’m not a techy person and certainly don’t know how to run my railway by computer. BUT I’m a total convert to DCC. There are so many systems and it doesn’t have to involve computers or automation. 
I use a NCE powercab. The layout is wired pretty much as I would for dc except no sections or isolated tracks. Imagine you were wiring it to run just one loco - but instead you can run several and park them anywhere etc. 
I control my points from the DCC controller. Again wiring pretty similar except the point wires lead to a decoder not a switch!

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