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cromptonnut

SECAG modular meets - control options

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Hi all, as it's becoming an interesting question over on the main forums I wondered who here that's interested in participating had suitable DCC equipment that they could bring along to a meet.  This could be base units or just plug-in controllers.

 

It may help to find out what equipment we all have available, as it may become obvious that between us we have enough of a particular type that we can utilise without worry.

 

If you have a base/command station available that you are able to bring, it would be helpful to note whether any of the modules you are constructing have the ability to be a "master board" that can input track power and DCC bus.

Edited by cromptonnut

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I have a Lenz base unit which is portable, a LH90 controller and a Compact.  I also have several long leads that can be used to create a DCC "bus" using LA152 faceplates which have connectors for the 5 pin 180 degree DIN and RJ12 connectors.

 

My initial board ("the river one") is being designed specifically as an "input" board for both DCC signal and track power.

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I have a Lenz LZV100 base unit and an LH100 controller that haven't even been fitted to my layout yet so are very portable and they can be kept portable for meetings.

 

This will also in the near future be complimented with a computer interface and a touch screen monitor which I'm sure I could manage to bring if this would interest people.

Edited by BlueLightning

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Your 100 handset, my 90 and Compact are all compatible.  I've also got a laptop with a connector to the layout that will give another throttle (albeit not very portable).  It would be interesting to see the touch-screen set up to operate points or similar - I think it's how they work the Banbury N gauge layout?

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I'm not sure about how other layouts use touch screens I haven't really looked that much into it. Since I returned to the hobby about a year ago and learning about DCC etc. I thought that computer control seemed a good way forward. Mine will be running JMRI and will have control of the points/signals as well as possibly throttles. I will also have a throttle on my phone as JMRI supports wireless throttlse on Android / iPhones.

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Hi Blue, I have theoretically the same option but as yet have not managed to get my phone and my laptop to talk via JMRI to pass commands to the layout but if we can get that set up that would be quite helpful.

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My initial plans will be scenic through-boards, therefore I was not planning to wire them in any other way than as a straight-through (for both DCC and DC). One question, do we know if each board should have some sort of isolation, in the form of a switch (which can be left on for full DCC)? As there will be no section breaks on the board, this seems to me to be a logical step.

 

I'm afraid do not have any DCC controllers, but may consider something if this project flies and I add something more substantial... 

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Hi 'Nut, nothing written in Java works first time lol, but computers are my thing (Degree in Computer Engineering and a Degree in Network Engineering) I also used to own a computer repair shop. As soon as I have a setup to play with I'll find out what's wrong and get it all working.

 

Hi Claude_Dreyfus, I think having isolation switches would be a good idea, very useful for if we want to run DC on it as well. I had never even thought about it but will be more than happy to put it onto mine if that's what people would want.

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If your boards are scenic through-boards then there's really no reason to have DCC plug-ins on them.  Really the only place you definitely need to plug in a controller (if you don't have a Wireless setup) is at places where trains stop and things happen.  However it would be 'good practice' to have a couple of cables the length of your contribution (plus a bit) to extend the bus between boards.  I picked up a 6 metre one on Ebay for just over a fiver.

 

Re DC or DCC, the theory is that if you wire it for DC and all is fine then if you connect it to DCC then if all sections are switched "on" (or set to controller 1 or whatever) then your layout more or less becomes DCC ready.  Obviously complex junctions, reverse loops and other oddities may be different but if you're just talking about a couple of sidings then on/off switches should be perfectly fine.

 

However, a double pole on/off switch (of an appropriate rating) between the power bus (banana plugs) and the track (or control panel) could be quite useful to switch-out a module if we think there are problems, perhaps easier than unplugging bananas underneath?

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My Elite has just stopped working and Hornby have declined to repair so looking for a new controller set up. I quite like the simplicity of rail master but like the manual controls on the elite but not going to replace.

 

Been doing a bit of research and have short listed either digitrax or LenZ. Based on a couple of people on here already having LenZ this would appear the way to go. There is also the braking/stopping feature they have for dcc which Claude and I can use for our N gauge modules.

 

A few more weeks research. Some funds and I'll make the decision and get the kit ordered. I need to make the call soon as I want to fit the panel in shilling stone before the scenery

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I have a Lenz set, in a small plastic crate from a cheapie shop.  I made a hole in the front and attached a LA152 faceplate and connected the Lenz master unit into that using the LMAB wires at the rear.

 

I then run a short-ish cable from the box to a faceplate on my layout which still has holes for connecting one controller and a cable to the LA152 at the other end of the layout.

 

I can plug my laptop via USB interface into the faceplate at the other end, if I'm down there, or into one of the other spare connectors on the plastic box's faceplate.  It makes no difference where as it's all linked together.

 

I don't think I'm very far from you so I would be happy to arrange to bring my Lenz set 90 over (and a few lengths of track and a loco if necessary) at a mutually convenient time so you can "have a play" if you like.

 

There is no right or wrong answer as far as DCC setups go and which is the best one to buy, as it all depends what you want to do with it, and your preferences as to dial, buttons or sliders etc.  As you note, it's a fairly large investment and a commitment so you need to be sure that whatever you buy meets your needs primarily, and if it can be used within a modular setup (either in its entirety or just plugging in a controller) then that's a bonus in many ways.

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Hi GRC,

 

I would defiantly advise testing out different systems before making an investment in a new one. Especially if you are considering the Lenz sets as they are quite expensive (My set 100 is about £300 brand new!). I don't know how far you would be willing to travel but Morris Models in Lancing have Lenz Roco and Hornby units that you can demo to see what you like and of course there is Gaugemaster in Ford where you can test out the prodigy kit.

 

If you can make it to these before buying then I think it would help you choose a suitable replacement.

 

Gary

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Thanks Gary, I'm going to see some people that have Lenz and Digitrax setups as part of my evaluation. I already have a prodigy and an elite but this has blown up so need a replacement and whilst I like the Hornby solution I think that there is better ones out there. Claude and I have a plan for an N Gauge modular layout and utilising one of the Lenz braking fuctions/modules would help us immensely with our operational planning.

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You do not need a Lenz control system to use the Lenz braking features - they are completely independent of the control system.

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Agreed but one that then shows the address of the locomotive in the block is. Does anyone else do this?

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Many thanks for the info, I'd be surprised if any of the DCC address readers didnt require an isolated block but some more research, TAMS looks to be worth following up. :-)

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I don't have any DCC equipment that I could share or loan, only having a Digitrax Zephyr for my layout. However, I'll happily provide a secure wireless access point, relevant network cable and power lead plus laptop running JMRI for any meets that I attend.

 

Like @BlueLightning, I'm a nerd by profession. The hooking up and trouble shooting I can do, but I'm no expert on JMRI, so somebody else would need to take responsibility for roster files and so on, IF these were felt necessary or appropriate.

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It depends how we decide to run things.  A lot will probably be down to the "meeting organiser" and discussions between attendees when signing up to take part.

 

Personally I prefer more of a 'free for all' running trains to places and then allowing people to do whatever they do there rather than prescribing wagons picked up from here and taken to there - which is all rather American in nature.

 

Accepted there were the "pick up goods" and "trip workings" of the past, and for appropriate trains I'm more than sure that they can be entertained but I think that, certainly until we get the hang of "operating modular", we need to avoid adding too much complication into matters.

 

A lot of course depends on who brings what stock on the day - we'll all have our favourite trains we want to run of course, and no doubt there will be mismatches between companies and eras passing each other but I really don't think that's such a bad thing because it's the opportunity to run stock on perhaps 40-50 feet, or more, of layout that many of us won't have the opportunity to do at home.  Certainly I have some DCC sound fitted locos that have barely passed notch 1 in operation, so the opportunity for some decent thrash is well overdue.

Edited by cromptonnut

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