Old DC guy wants to start with simple DCC and Sound

Mike Bauman Apr 13, 2018

  1. Mike Bauman

    Mike Bauman TrainBoard Supporter

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    I have a small 3' x 5' N gauge layout. It consists of 2 ovals and each is on a different level, they connect to each other and they have their own transformer/power supply. I am blown out of the water with DCC sound and some DCC controls (like running multiple engines on the same track and not crashing into each other). I have a few basic questions if someone would answer them for me:
    1. Are different manufacturer's DCC and Sound compatible with each other? Or do they each need their own controllers/power supply?
    2. Is there a system that is most compatible? What's its name? Or am I dreaming?
    3. Is there a quick guide to learn most of this (just enough to get operational)?
    4. And of course cost is very important but results will be very important.

    Any help received will be much appreciated by a old (80's) Model Train guy. Thanks!!!!!
     
  2. RBrodzinsky

    RBrodzinsky Staff Member TrainBoard Supporter

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    All DCC decoders installed into a loco will run on any DCC command system, but for full control of the sound decoders make sure you are using the more modern ones, that support 28 functions.

    There are numerous discussions, moving towards religious debates, on what are the best systems. Most folks, in the US, go with either NCE or Digitrax. Both make a reasonably affordable entry system (NCE PowerCab, Digitrax Zephyr+) that are fully NMRA DCC standards compliant.

    Gartner's Wiring for DCC (http://www.wiringfordcc.com/wirefordcc_toc.htm) is a good reference.
     
  3. Mike Bauman

    Mike Bauman TrainBoard Supporter

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    Thanks — where would I find if the decoder is the 28 function on the engine?
     
  4. RBrodzinsky

    RBrodzinsky Staff Member TrainBoard Supporter

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    Any new/modern decoder, which includes sound, will use the full functionality. The caveat was to not cheap out on a DCC command station that will not support these (aka Bachmann EZ DC)
     
  5. Mike Bauman

    Mike Bauman TrainBoard Supporter

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    Hello Rick: I already have many Bachmann DCC engines, a few Atlas DCC and my purchase yesterday of a Broadway Limited Paragon 2 sound and control engine that is also DC and DCC. How do I check if they are the correct ones? Mike
     
  6. RBrodzinsky

    RBrodzinsky Staff Member TrainBoard Supporter

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    They are all fine! Decoders are good. Those are what you put into a loco. All decoders will work with ANY Standards compliant system.

    What you want is to make sure your DCC controller (I have dropped calling it command station) is up to standard. This is what you use instead of your DC throttle. The major manufacturers of DCC systems are Digitrax, NCE, Lenz, ESU and MRC. There are others. All new systems will be able to speak to any modern decoder.
     
  7. jdcolombo

    jdcolombo TrainBoard Member

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    Hi Mike.

    Is there a model rr club near you? Nearly every club (and every club member!) has a DCC system. This is one way to connect with folks that have equipment that you could try out.

    At the risk of igniting a religious war, I would say that for a small layout like yours, the NCE PowerCab is a good starting system and relatively intuitive to use (as these things go). And that recommendation comes from a long-time (since 1995) Digitrax user. But if there's a local club, the members of that club would likely be tickled to demonstrate their DCC equipment and help you out. I very highly recommend a "try before you buy" approach if at all possible.

    John C.
     
  8. Mike Bauman

    Mike Bauman TrainBoard Supporter

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    That sounds like a great idea. The nearest club to me is about 45 minutes away. I will get as much info from you guys then I will decide how I will approach this project. Thanks for your time and advise John!!
     
  9. Mike Bauman

    Mike Bauman TrainBoard Supporter

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    Hello Rick — Can I run the DC engines that I presently have on a new DCC controller that I will purchase? Or do I need to keep my old DC controllers? I am able to run the DCC engines I have but with none of the special options DCC offers. I have on/off, stop, go, lights and slow/medium speed control only. Mike
     
  10. Mr. Trainiac

    Mr. Trainiac TrainBoard Member

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    Generally, you cannot run DC locomotives on DCC powered track. The Bachmann EZ command lets you, but it does not have anywhere near the functionality of the other controllers. If you want to keep your old locomotives on your new power system, you will need to install decoders in them.
     
  11. RBrodzinsky

    RBrodzinsky Staff Member TrainBoard Supporter

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    Digitrax does allow for running a single DC loco, at a time, but it is not recommended to keep any DC locos on the layout. The issue is how DCC works, which can burn out a DC motor (since it reverses polarity many many times per second).
     
  12. Mike Bauman

    Mike Bauman TrainBoard Supporter

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    I will use my DCC controllers only for engine running and sound. Can I just switch controllers, like unplug and plug. I have DC only for engine control. Lights and other electrical items have separate power source. I don't see any reason in the future to run DC and DCC sound engines at the same time. Presently I run DC and some Bachmann DCC (no sound) at the same time.
     
  13. Mr. Trainiac

    Mr. Trainiac TrainBoard Member

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    what controller are you using right now? It is possible to have two different controllers for the same layout, but you can’t use them at the same time. I have a module that can switch between layout-wide power and a local module-only controller. It might be easier to wire the track leads of both controllers to a center-off DPDT switch. One side of the switch can be DCC, and the other will be your original DC controller. That way you can select how your layout is powered without taking the power system apart every time.
     
  14. Mike Bauman

    Mike Bauman TrainBoard Supporter

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    I like your idea — I have a 2 "Railpower 1370" Controllers. One for each loop.
     
  15. RBrodzinsky

    RBrodzinsky Staff Member TrainBoard Supporter

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    Hmmm, block control, which the DCC would eliminate. So, what you do is use two DPDT, one for each loop. Can you cross between them? If yes, make sure the polarity is the same on each, so that when running DCC you can cross between them. You need a way to keep the DPDTs in synch, as you don't want one loop DC and the other DCC. They would be fine if you ensure the crossing is never active, but you can destroy the DCC command station if not careful. Don't want that.
     
  16. MarkInLA

    MarkInLA Permanently dispatched

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    Mike, everyone's advice before mine, here, are all good.. I just would like to warn you about purchasing locos in DCC.. Be very aware of these : When ad says, say, "Bachmann S4 switcher/ DCC " and price is very low, it's because there is no sound installed in it (no speaker). If ad says " Bachmann, S4 B&O switcher/ DCC ready " it means the female plugs are installed (within the shell) but you must purchase, separately, the decoder [around $25] and install it yourself, on top of initial cost of loco. If you want hassle-free locos, ad will say "Bachmann S4 B&O switcher/'sound on board' "..This will be the highest price of the S4 (or any type loco), but all is done for you and you are good to go when you put it on the rails....Far as DCC control: I've owned an NCE 'PowerCab' for some 3-4 years now (Though my MRRing is dormant due to having to relocate 2 times). It worked perfectly fine on my then, 35' HO layout. IE. I found no need for a power-booster and could run 2-3 trains at the same time (though by myself I only ran 1-2 trains in diff areas of the RR)...Also, if you plan to remain with a small RR, you don't need to go radio control. The tethered controllers are less expensive and all you'll need...MH, Los Angeles
    PS. i'm an old guy too !!
     
  17. Mike Bauman

    Mike Bauman TrainBoard Supporter

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    A big "THANK YOU" for the great info and time you gave me. This is what makes this a great hobby. Help and advice is always available.
     
  18. urodoji

    urodoji TrainBoard Member

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    I have an NCE Power Pro and a couple of PowerCabs. I think the PowerCab would probably get you where you want. I use one to run my Inglenook, and a second ProCab to actually operate with. I have a USB interface under the layout so I can use my laptop for programming decoders. As for sound, I'm not very impressed with the sound on my BLI PA1. If I ever start getting serious about N scale and sound, I'll go with ESU decoders, or just buy DCC/sound equipped locos with ESU decoders.
     
  19. jdcolombo

    jdcolombo TrainBoard Member

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    I didn't like the sound in my BLI PA-1's either. So I stripped out the decoder, replaced it with an ESU LokSound Select Micro, and also replaced the speaker with an 11x15mm "sugar cube" type that I fit into the stock enclosure. Here's a comparison of the stock BLI PA to my modified one:



    John C.
     
  20. urodoji

    urodoji TrainBoard Member

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    That’s my goal for mine.
     

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