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Some basic questions


Ruston

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I've never looked in this section of the forum before so bear with me and if it seems like I haven't got a clue then you're correct!

 

I am building a new layout in O gauge and as I haven't even laid the first piece of track I am still able to choose what control system I use. The layout is a shunting plank and I've heard that DCC allows slower speeds and better control at low speeds than ordinary DC so I'm interested. I also know that it allows locos to stand together on the same piece of track without the use of sections and that you can drive one whilst the other stays put. That's about the limit of my knowledge on the subject so I have some more questions.

 

Is it straightforward? Assuming the track wiring has been done and a loco has had a chip fitted, can I stick it on the track and expect to use it, no messing? I ask this because this section is littered with questions about "programming" and the like. I don't know if these questions are because the people asking are wanting to do something out of the ordinary or because it's something that needs to be done with DCC.

 

The chips that fit in the locos - are they specific to a brand, i.e. if I buy one make of controller will only their chips work with it, or can I mix and match?

 

Do you need different ratings of chips for different locos - amperage or whatever? Although it's O gauge, the locos are small industrial types but one has a tiny mashima motor, which is more like something out of an N gauge loco so if bigger motors use more powerful chips can I still run them alongside a loco that has one that suits its tiny motor?

 

Is it any easier to wire the layout in DCC than in DC?

 

How much does a chip cost?

 

If I do go DCC I'm interested in the system that Andy Y uses on Keyhaven, the one with the wireless control. Any thoughts on that?

 

If I think of anything else I'll let you know...

 

Thanks,

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  • RMweb Gold

I've never looked in this section of the forum before so bear with me and if it seems like I haven't got a clue then you're correct!

 

I am building a new layout in O gauge and as I haven't even laid the first piece of track I am still able to choose what control system I use. The layout is a shunting plank and I've heard that DCC allows slower speeds and better control at low speeds than ordinary DC so I'm interested. I also know that it allows locos to stand together on the same piece of track without the use of sections and that you can drive one whilst the other stays put. That's about the limit of my knowledge on the subject so I have some more questions.

 

Is it straightforward? Assuming the track wiring has been done and a loco has had a chip fitted, can I stick it on the track and expect to use it, no messing? I ask this because this section is littered with questions about "programming" and the like. I don't know if these questions are because the people asking are wanting to do something out of the ordinary or because it's something that needs to be done with DCC.

 

The chips that fit in the locos - are they specific to a brand, i.e. if I buy one make of controller will only their chips work with it, or can I mix and match?

 

Do you need different ratings of chips for different locos - amperage or whatever? Although it's O gauge, the locos are small industrial types but one has a tiny mashima motor, which is more like something out of an N gauge loco so if bigger motors use more powerful chips can I still run them alongside a loco that has one that suits its tiny motor?

 

Is it any easier to wire the layout in DCC than in DC?

 

How much does a chip cost?

 

If I do go DCC I'm interested in the system that Andy Y uses on Keyhaven, the one with the wireless control. Any thoughts on that?

 

If I think of anything else I'll let you know...

 

Thanks,

 

Try this for starters

 

http://www.wiringfordcc.com/intro2dcc.htm

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... Is it straightforward? Assuming the track wiring has been done and a loco has had a chip fitted, can I stick it on the track and expect to use it, no messing? I ask this because this section is littered with questions about "programming" and the like. ...

You will find 'the facts' in the link already suggested, but that perhaps won't convey the more subjective aspects of what you are asking here.

 

The short answer is that you will not be able to use the loco, 'no messing'; there is a simple but essential initial routine of checking the decoder installation and programming the address (running number), that needs to be done before use. If you don't do that there is a significant risk of damaging the decoder if the installation is not correct, and the address of the decoder will always be the factory setting '03' - pretty useless the moment you acquire a second loco as both will follow the same commands. Beyond programming the address, there are lots more programmable settings on a decoder, whether you use these or not is up to you. However, there is no 'one size fits all' decoder, and motors and mechanisms have a wide range of characteristics; programming the decoder enables tailoring of the loco's operation to suit your preference.

 

Now to the highly subjective bit, the joy that DCC programming offers. Because the decoder is specific to a loco, you can fine tune the performance of each loco to have the running characteristics you like. Every loco can be set up for consistent operation, so that when you ask for speed step 1, it just 'creeps' into motion at the slowest speed it can sustain. Acceleration and decleration rates can be set appropriate for each type, maximum speed limited to the typical performance of the class or the restriction applying to your setting, lighting level can be adjusted , and so on. Personally I love having this tweakability which programming offers, and the very realistic operation it promotes; but if it does nothing for you, it can simply be ignored.

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Is it straightforward?

Yes.

DCC can be very simple, but is flexible enough to be as sophisticated as you want it to be.

 

 

 

 

Assuming the track wiring has been done and a loco has had a chip fitted, can I stick it on the track and expect to use it, no messing?

Generally yes. It's as easy as that.

However it helps to read up on the basic principles and get your head round the way it works. Like many new things, it may seem complicated at first and there's a lot to take in, but once you are used to it you'll be amazed at how easy and simple it all is.

All decoders come set-up with factory settings, but some may need a bit of "tweaking" to get the best loco running out of them.

The one thing you will have to do though, is change the factory default address from 03 to it's own unique address (a number of your choosing - e.g. 1234).

 

 

I ask this because this section is littered with questions about "programming" and the like. I don't know if these questions are because the people asking are wanting to do something out of the ordinary or because it's something that needs to be done with DCC.

Changing the default address is the first bit of so called "programming".

You may not need to do anything else; however some decoders may need a bit of "tweaking" to get the best loco running out of them.

"Programming" is just the term used to describe adjusting the settings of the decoder e.g. select more speed steps for more fine control of speed, adjusting lighting effects like firebox flicker or brightness of lights etc, or for adjusting things like the acceleration or deceleration profiles for a particular loco.

Non of this is compulsory, but once more confident it may be worth exploring these ways of improving and making performance more realistic. If you mess-up there's no risk, just reset to the factory defaults.

 

 

The chips that fit in the locos - are they specific to a brand, i.e. if I buy one make of controller will only their chips work with it, or can I mix and match?

DCC is a "standard" system of digital control, as opposed to proprietary manufacturer's systems seen before.

The standards and recommended practices are that of the North American Model Railroad Association (NMRA), but in effect they are de-facto World standards.

Any NMRA standard decoder should work with any NMRA compliant DCC system.

The standards cover the signal output and power supply from the system to the decoder (via wires and the track), but not what happens prior to the system output (command stations, handsets and "controllers"). Therefore system components before the track output are generally specific to the manufacturer and any other manufacturer who shares the same way of doing things. I hope that makes sense?

 

 

Do you need different ratings of chips for different locos - amperage or whatever?

Yes.

In your case with O gauge, the spread of power requirements dependant on motor size, weight of the loco and it's likely towing load, is quite wide.

With smaller motors and lighter locos, you could use higher rated 00/H0 decoders. Otherwise you will need the more expensive O gauge and large scale decoders rated at 3 amps and above.

 

 

Although it's O gauge, the locos are small industrial types but one has a tiny mashima motor, which is more like something out of an N gauge loco so if bigger motors use more powerful chips can I still run them alongside a loco that has one that suits its tiny motor?

You can have all types on the layout at once. Small motors with lower rated decoders and larger ones with high rated decoders.

The limiting factor will be the available DCC power supply from the DCC system and how many decoders are on the layout sucking on the juice.

If there are lots of locos and the layout is reaching capacity, then there are ways of making extra power provision. DCC is easily scalable in this area.

 

 

Is it any easier to wire the layout in DCC than in DC?

In general yes.

If its just a pair of wires to a section of track, then it would be the same; but with DCC there is no need to wire in sections with switches, so the savings in time, complexity and cost can be quite significant, depending on how complex the layout is.

 

 

How much does a chip cost?

Quite varied.

The cheapest budget decoders can be had for £8 to £10. But these are only useful for 00/H0 and are very basic.

A better option is to go for decoders in the £14 to £25 range which provide better running and have more adjustability and features.

The best decoders for 00/H0 and N cost from £20 to £40 and provide superb running and have lots of clever and useful features on them.

 

However for O gauge, the starting point is usually higher.

Higher rated 00/H0 decoders are normally at the top end of the price range and higher rated O and large scale decoders start at around £40-£50 and can cost £70 or more.

 

 

If I do go DCC I'm interested in the system that Andy Y uses on Keyhaven, the one with the wireless control. Any thoughts on that?

I believe Andy uses the Bachmann EZ Command Dynamis.

This is a wireless system that uses two-way Infra-Red communication rather than Radio.

It currently costs between £76 and £95, depending where you buy it.

The system can be extended and extra handsets can be added (up to a max of 4).

IR is the only way to get affordable wireless at the moment. Radio based wireless systems will cost from £350/400 upwards.

 

The Dynamis is an entry level system, but packs a lot of features in for the price. It also has a very good user interface, but the joystick control may not suit everyone and takes a bit of getting used to.

However, like most entry level systems, the Dynamis misses a few things that fully featured systems have.

There are other entry level systems, but non are wireless (OK there's the Digitrax IR option, but I'll skip that aspect here).

The Dynamis is an acquired taste. I've got one as a second system and despite one or two reservations, I think it's brilliant value for money and incredibly cheap.

 

Bachmann also have a very basic train-set DCC system (EZ Command) and similarly Hornby have their Select. Discount both of these from any plans.

Hornby have a much better system than the Select called the Elite, but again this is mostly aimed at the train-set market, although some grown-ups use them too. For various reasons I suggest you miss that one out too.

 

Next up there is Roco. Their train-set DCC system is a much better offering and lends itself very well to use by proper modellers.

Brand new systems split from H0 train-sets can be had off eBay for £80 'ish, but an extra Booster will probably be needed if running a number of O gauge locos.

 

NCE have an entry level system (PowerCab) that is designed as a lead-in to building a more expensive system (PowerHouse Pro), but it doesn't have enough power for O gauge without adding Boosters or upgrading to a full system, therefore it's really in the next price band.

It is however a very well regarded, fully featured system, but for your chosen gauge you are looking at £230 to £360 minimum, depending on configuration.

 

Above £130 the choice gets more interesting and depending on your layout requirements and the depth of your pockets, you can spend up to £1000 plus on a system.

 

 

Ron

 

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Don't be put off by programming. Setting the basic values such as address & acceleration are easy on all systems. For basic operation, you will not need to go any further.

 

Slow speed running is better with DCC because you always have the maximum voltage across the weakest connection (rail to wheel). Clean track is still essential though. Poor connections can cause the decoder to receive bad commands.

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Changing the default address is the first bit of so called "programming"...

Do I need to take the chip out to program it or can it be done with the loco sitting on the track?

 

In your case with O gauge, the spread of power requirements dependant on motor size, weight of the loco and it's likely towing load, is quite wide.

With smaller motors and lighter locos, you could use higher rated 00/H0 decoders. Otherwise you will need the more expensive O gauge and large scale decoders rated at 3 amps and above.

 

You can have all types on the layout at once. Small motors with lower rated decoders and larger ones with high rated decoders.

The limiting factor will be the available DCC power supply from the DCC system and how many decoders are on the layout sucking on the juice.

If there are lots of locos and the layout is reaching capacity, then there are ways of making extra power provision. DCC is easily scalable in this area.

 

The largest I have, arel 0-4-0 tank engines and the largest motor is a Mashima 16/26 so I'm guessing that's no larger than the motors that may be in some OO gauge diesels? Would I be OK to assume that they won't consume so much power as to need the O gauge decoders or is there any information about motor amperage about so I can check this? There will never be more than 3 locos on the layout at any time.

 

If its just a pair of wires to a section of track, then it would be the same; but with DCC there is no need to wire in sections with switches, so the savings in time, complexity and cost can be quite significant, depending on how complex the layout is.

I'd like to be able to test the track and stock before commiting to DCC so if I wire the layout for DCC will I still be able to run it with DC first? Obviously I won't be able to use it with more than one engine but will there be any issues in the way points are wired? I assume that live frog points are still wired and sectioned in the same way to prevent short circuits?

 

 

Andy - I may come along on Saturday if I can scrape together enough cash for diesel. I've just bought some track and points for all this. I could almost build and entire N gauge layout for the same price! :lol:

 

Thanks everyone,

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  • RMweb Gold

Do I need to take the chip out to program it or can it be done with the loco sitting on the track?

 

No/Yes ! - the loco can be programmed on the track, no need to remove the decoder - I use a length of track, about 15" on a piece of wood. You can use the layout but changing the decoder address would change it for all locos on the layout at that time ! - far safer with a special small piece of programming track (as it's called)

 

 

I'd like to be able to test the track and stock before commiting to DCC so if I wire the layout for DCC will I still be able to run it with DC first? Obviously I won't be able to use it with more than one engine but will there be any issues in the way points are wired? I assume that live frog points are still wired and sectioned in the same way to prevent short circuits?

 

If you wire the layout for DC, one engine in steam, (yes live frogs need switching and insulating) then you can change the controller to a DCC one when you are ready and Bobs the relative.

 

hth

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  • RMweb Gold

No/Yes ! - the loco can be programmed on the track, no need to remove the decoder - I use a length of track, about 15" on a piece of wood. You can use the layout but changing the decoder address would change it for all locos on the layout at that time ! - far safer with a special small piece of programming track (as it's called)

Advice WELL worth following! Some modellers have a fatal fascination for incorporating their programming track into the layout, typically as an extra siding, with all sorts of "foolproof" systems to keep layout and prog track electrically separated. Sadly, some learn the hard way that "foolproof" may not mean "pratproof"! I share beast's approach, with a piece of track on wood, off the layout. Only once you have mastered the basics of DCC might you want to move into the mysterious world of Programming on the Main, aka Operations Mode Programming, which is particularly useful for fine-tuning sound locomotives, but does need a high degree of understanding of the DCC system in use. That is firmly in the future, though, and nothing you are being recommended to be doing now is going to stymie using that method if and when the time comes.

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Advice WELL worth following! Some modellers have a fatal fascination for incorporating their programming track into the layout, typically as an extra siding, with all sorts of "foolproof" systems to keep layout and prog track electrically separated. Sadly, some learn the hard way that "foolproof" may not mean "pratproof"! .....

 

I'm another who endorses the above. Keep the programming track simple and away from the layout.

 

If the programming track is separate, it can still have a toggle switch to swap between "run" and "programming" as there it requires massive "pratt-totally-stupid" mistakes to bridge running to programming operations.

 

The dangers of the siding solution is that a train accidentally bridges the isolation gaps; at best the layout is reprogrammed to the same settings, at worst blue smoke comes out of the programming bit of your DCC system and a trip back to the maker's is required.

 

 

- Nigel

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The largest I have, arel 0-4-0 tank engines and the largest motor is a Mashima 16/26 so I'm guessing that's no larger than the motors that may be in some OO gauge diesels? Would I be OK to assume that they won't consume so much power as to need the O gauge decoders or is there any information about motor amperage about so I can check this? There will never be more than 3 locos on the layout at any time.

 

I think I would check that first, the power the motor draws will depend on the load upon it so the manufacturers info might not be that helpful.

 

The "classic" test is to do what they call a "stall current test", put the loco on full power, then hold it down to the track so that the wheels don't move and measure the current being drawn, that should give you an accurate "worst case scenario" of what power the motor will pull if something goes wrong (like a jammed worm gear)

 

If you were working with RTR stuff in OO or N there would i'm sure be folk saying that decoder X will work fine in such and such a loco and you could then go with that advice with some confidence, but with what I presume are kitbuilt loco's i'm not sure most of the usual DCC folks will feel qualified to give you an opinion online, so checking that out for yourself is probably your best bet.

 

Just a bit of personal opinion too, I haven't really got on well with the Dynamis on either of the times i've used it, i'm used to conventional walkaround throttles on a wire (on both DC and DCC) and I found it hard to get used to the handset always having to be pointing in the vague direction of the base unit or it shuts your train down.

 

On the plus side the ergonomics and layout of the thing are great and the price is pretty good value too, plus there are plenty of folk that seem to love it! My suggestion is if you can get to see Andy (or somebody else) to try one out in person that's your best bet before spending the money.

 

As Ron says there are other options out there for affordable DCC if you don't get on with it.

 

 

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The "classic" test is to do what they call a "stall current test", put the loco on full power, then hold it down to the track so that the wheels don't move and measure the current being drawn, that should give you an accurate "worst case scenario" of what power the motor will pull if something goes wrong (like a jammed worm gear)

 

How do I do that? I guess I need an ammeter and I do have an ammeter setting on a multimeter but I've only ever used it for volts and continuity but never the ammeter. I'm a bit unsure as to what goes where regarding the wires from the meter in relation to the track/motor circuit.

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To save someone trying to explain stall test have a read of this

 

stall test

 

then scroll up to the top and have a read right thro' - it may answer a number of questions.

 

 

Some one suggested the NCE Powercab. I got one and I love it. So easy to use and sits nicely in the hand left or right. Only 1.7 amps but that could be enough for your plank with small engines.

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How do I do that? I guess I need an ammeter and I do have an ammeter setting on a multimeter but I've only ever used it for volts and continuity but never the ammeter. I'm a bit unsure as to what goes where regarding the wires from the meter in relation to the track/motor circuit.

 

You will need to re-wire a multimeter to use it as an ammeter. A voltmeter goes in parallel with the load, an ammeter goes in series, so you will need to pull off a supply wire & complete the circuit with the ammeter.

 

I am not sure if DCC would like an ammeter in the circuit. It is an indcutive load which it may object to.

 

 

Do I need to take the chip out to program it or can it be done with the loco sitting on the track?

 

 

I think this was mis-understood with some previous answers.

Are you thinking of the old Zero-1 where you had to whip out the decoder & use conductive paint to set the loco address?

This is no longer necessary. All programming is done with the loco on the track. If you screw it up, you can even send a code to reset it to factory defaults.

As mentioned, some programming is broadcast so you may want a dedicated piece of track for this task.

It's not as difficult as some sceptics make out & you'll have some fun learning about it.

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  • RMweb Gold

I hope you don't mind me butting in here (as an electrical engineer, who worked for a number of years as a "lab rat" in a university).

 

You've got a number of useful links - both here and in another thread in this forum:

 

 

There is a good review of DCC controllers here: http://www.dccconcep...andecisions.htm

 

The section on the Select (which I have in the junk box) makes interesting reading.

 

To save someone trying to explain stall test have a read of this

 

stall test

 

then scroll up to the top and have a read right thro' - it may answer a number of questions.

 

You will need to re-wire a multimeter to use it as an ammeter. A voltmeter goes in parallel with the load, an ammeter goes in series, so you will need to pull off a supply wire & complete the circuit with the ammeter.

 

I am not sure if DCC would like an ammeter in the circuit. It is an inductive load which it may object to.

 

Turning to the stall test stuff, you've got some helpful advice here, but I hope you (and the other posters) don't mind me picking up on some stuff:

 

You're likely to find 2 basic types of multimeters - moving coil and digital.

 

Older meters (like the legendary Avometer 8) generally used a moving coil movement (sometimes known as a D'Arsonval movement). These were great for showing if a voltage (or current) was going up or down - but it wasn't always easy to get a definite value from a reading. More worrying was the fact that it was easy to destroy the movement, if a moving coil meter was connected the wrong way round.

 

These days, meters are more likely to be digital. These meters are much more robust (given the choice, I'd use a digital meter) - and I don't think they have any inductance.

 

To be quite honest, though, I wonder if even a moving coil meter would have any more inductance than a motor - ultimately, the biggest difference between a moving coil movement and a motor is that, in a motor, the coil is allowed to spin. (OK - some people might say there's more to it than that, but I don't want to get bogged down in details.)

 

Also, I don't wish to cause offence here - but talk of "rewiring" a multimeter could sound scary. All you actually need to do is move around a few leads that are plugged into the front of the meter.

 

 

Here's a link to a basic guide to different types of multimeter. In case that one didn't work, here's a direct link to the file.

 

 

I hope some of this helps.

 

Regards,

 

Huw.

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Also, I don't wish to cause offence here - but talk of "rewiring" a multimeter could sound scary. All you actually need to do is move around a few leads that are plugged into the front of the meter.

 

 

Er, it does a bit doesn't it.

 

How about "pull out wire from hole marked "V" & stick in t'other hole marked 'A'" ??? B)

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  • RMweb Gold
Er, it does a bit doesn't it.

 

How about "pull out wire from hole marked "V" & stick in t'other hole marked 'A'" ??? cool.gif

 

Sorry about that - when I worked in a university, I regularly came up against people who were terrified of doing (straightforward) tasks because existing lab worksheets made things sound difficult.

 

It got to the point where I ended up rewriting a number of worksheets - and hoping the lecturers (who'd produced the originals) didn't mind.

 

Generally, they were quite happy - they had less questions to answer and less explaining to do!

 

 

All this stuff taught me something as well - just how difficult it is to say exactly what you want, while keeping things readable. I've never found it easy - I don't think anyone has!

 

 

I think your "new improved version" sums things up brilliantly.

 

All the best,

 

Huw.

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I've done the stall test as best as I can and obviously I've done it on DC with a couple of wires soldered to a length of track. The highest reading was 0.53A with the loco pressed down for 4 seconds so it couldn't move and with full power on a Gaugemaster model E controller. So that's nowhere near the 3 amps quoted earlier in the topic when referring to decoders suitable for O gauge. I guess I'll be fine with OO type decoders then.

 

So when I go to buy some decoders at the same time as I buy whatever control system I settle on, what do I ask for, i.e. regarding these extra features that I may want later and and regarding the power needed? I don't want to spend any more than is neccessary, e.g. I have no intention of adding sound to the engines so I wouldn't want to pay extra for a decoder that covers that. I also would like the smallest possible because although we are talking O gauge, the locos aren't that big, I don't want anything showing in the cabs and the boiler/tank spaces are inaccessible and full of lead. The decoders will have to live somewhere within the frames, under the cabs.

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In fairness to the poster who said 3 amp they were correct.

Some "0" gauge use 24 volts and pull more amps and some large engines (express types etc , also depends on the motors used) running at 12 volts can pull more than 1 amp when running with a heavy load. So stall value could easily reach 3 amp

My "00" scale Heljans pull over 0.5amp when running with lights on and pulling 6 coaches up a 1:60.

 

With a stall value of around 0.5 amp you should be able to use something like a TCS 1PUK which is up to 1.3 amp with a max of 2 amp.

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I've done the stall test as best as I can and obviously I've done it on DC with a couple of wires soldered to a length of track. The highest reading was 0.53A with the loco pressed down for 4 seconds so it couldn't move and with full power on a Gaugemaster model E controller. So that's nowhere near the 3 amps quoted earlier in the topic when referring to decoders suitable for O gauge. I guess I'll be fine with OO type decoders then.

 

Excellent! So now you know for sure you can use cheaper & more numerous OO/HO types - as 10000 says it's not at all a foregone conclusion, the original OO Heljan 47's weren't particularly big but were awful power hogs and a bad one could draw well over an amp with a sensible train on, and that's with a fairly small motor in OO.

 

Best of all when you're in the shop and asking them what decoders they have you know you don't need more than a 1amp spec.

 

So when I go to buy some decoders at the same time as I buy whatever control system I settle on, what do I ask for, i.e. regarding these extra features that I may want later and and regarding the power needed?

 

What features do you want to add? Basically each circuit you want to be switched on or off is one function, so a cab light would be one function. A diesel with directional headlights would be two functions.

 

If it's a steam loco and all you want is motor control that's nice and easy as most will do that, and you can ignore the "has X functions" part of the decoder description.

 

Not sure i'd do something like a firebox glow on DCC as i'm not sure you'd want to switch it off!

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