1. kim frizell

    kim frizell TrainBoard Member

    18
    1
    2
    New guy here. I'm going to build a small n scale HCD layout and don't want to block wire for DC operating. I probably won't have more than three locos on the layout at one time. DCC seems to be the way to go but I have problems with the idea. I like to model the transition era and the locos I really like don't come with decoders and most aren't even DCC ready. I have a bunch of locos that I've been running on my DC layouts but am not capable, or willing to try to convert them to DCC. Are there people out there that do these conversions, and if so, how costly is it? My other problem with DCC is the lack of layout loco sound options. I'm not a fan of n scale on board loco sound, but that might be my only option at this point. Any ideas or suggestions will be appreciated.

    Thanks,
    Kim
     
  2. jdcolombo

    jdcolombo TrainBoard Member

    1,179
    257
    28
    1. Yes, there are DCC installers out there. They are not cheap - SBS4DCC charges $42 for a basic installation (less for a drop-in, but you have indicated that your locos are not DCC-ready) and it goes up from there. There are many other installers, but I don't think the prices will be much different. But I don't know why you are unwilling to try this yourself; there are plenty of great tutorials on the web, and a lot of non-dcc-ready locos can be converted fairly easily using the TCS CN or CN-GP decoders.

    https://www.tcsdcc.com/Customer_Content/Products/Decoders/N-Scale/ClassicN/CN-Series.htm

    If you can take a split-frame loco apart and put it back together and solder two wires, that's all the skill you need to do this. If you don't think you can take an engine apart, learn to do so - at some point you'll need to do it to clean it. Don't know how to solder? That's a basic modeling skill. Not hard to learn, and the basic equipment (a small 15 or 20-watt iron and some thin solder) is less than $50 - or less than what you'd spend on a single decoder installation. A part of being a model railroader is learning the basic skills of the hobby - track laying, scenery, basic carpentry to do a layout, electrical wiring, soldering, etc. That's what makes this hobby fun and unique: all the different things you learn along the way. Dive in; between help available on forums like this one and tutorials all over the web, there isn't much that can't be learned fairly easily.

    2. Layout sound options. The Soundtraxx "Surround Traxx" system is an "under table" option. Expensive. For a small layout, you could use a single sound decoder with an appropriate sound file feeding a couple of powered speakers under the layout.

    BUT . . .

    "Not a fan of n-scale on-board loco sound." Why not? Try listening to these, all transition-era locos (RS3, RS11, GP7/9) :







    I've generally found that folks who say they aren't a fan of on-board sound have never heard a decent sound installation. Most factory sound installs suck. To get good sound in N scale, you'll need to roll your own or pay an installer, and sound installations are expensive propositions: a non-DCC-ready unit might cost $150-200 for an after-market sound install, including the sound decoder, speaker, frame milling, etc. But on-board sound CAN be excellent if done correctly. At least, I think so :)

    John C.
     
  3. kim frizell

    kim frizell TrainBoard Member

    18
    1
    2
    John, thank you very much for your informative and detailed reply to my post. I'll check out some decoder install videos on YouTube today and see if I'm up to the task. The video clips you attached have given me much food for thought about n scale sound. Are these your locos and, if so, did you install the sound decoders yourself? Any idea if the same results can be achieved with small steam locos? Also, where could I find info on the powered speaker/ sound decoder option you suggested?

    Kim
     
  4. RBrodzinsky

    RBrodzinsky Staff Member TrainBoard Supporter

    5,508
    2,498
    94
    Kim,

    In one sense, steam is a much easier sound install, because you have the tender to work with for speaker and decoder, rather than trying to cram everything into loco. Here is a link to my 2-10-2 install thread http://www.trainboard.com/highball/index.php?threads/bachmann-2-10-2-sound-install.90880/page-2 . There are also numerous threads here on install in Mikados and smaller. Of course, if you get too small, then even in steam there may not be room.

    Look at the Soundtraxx website http://www.soundtraxx.com/surround/index.php for info on the system John references
     
  5. jwb3

    jwb3 TrainBoard Member

    153
    167
    12
    I would say to anyone starting in the hobby now, other than for a Christmas layout kind of thing, DCC is the way to go. Improvements in the hobby are likely to be DCC compatible. And if you're active, you'll almost certainly be buying new locos, which will in fact either come with decoders installed or have sockets. As a baby boomer, I was a slow adopter, but just in the 20 years or so since DCC became very available, there have been many improvements, and if you extrapolate for the next 20 years, I think it's a no-brainer.

    One thing I've noticed is that the actual power consumption of N locos and LED accessories on DCC is very low, so it's unlikely that an N home layout would outgrow an NCE PowerCab.
     
    QMike likes this.
  6. jdcolombo

    jdcolombo TrainBoard Member

    1,179
    257
    28
    Hi Kim.

    Yes, I did the sound decoders myself. As for "small steam" here are more videos, showing my Walthers/LL 0-8-0, a Bachmann Consolidation, and a MRC/Model Power Mikado, all with ESU LokSound decoders (not sure you could do sound in a 4-4-0, or Atlas Shay, although I think someone tried it in the Shay, believe it or not).







    As far as installation goes, here's a link to a thread that describes how to do the complete sound installation in a Bachmann Consolidation.

    http://www.trainboard.com/highball/...ound-in-a-bachmann-2-8-0-consolidation.83915/

    This particular one was one of the DCC-ready units from several years ago; it should give you a pretty good idea of what Rick was talking about: in many ways, doing sound installs in steam locos is easier, because you have the space inside the tender to work with, and don't need to mill a frame for anything. Even the small Bachmann USRA tender has plenty of room, and I've seen photos of an install in a Bachmann slope-back tender, and you don't get much smaller than that (or my 0-8-0, which also had plenty of room for a decoder and speaker).

    It really seems a lot more difficult than it is. The first time will be daunting, but if you go slow, double/triple check wiring, etc., you will be successful, and after the first one, subsequent installs are a cinch.

    John C.
     
  7. Inkaneer

    Inkaneer TrainBoard Member

    3,805
    508
    63
    I think the OP is considering DCC for all the wrong reasons but MRR Rule #1 is universally applicable and I will defer to it. Besides, I generally get lambasted when I try to talk people out of DCC on small HCD layouts.
     
    Last edited: Apr 22, 2017
  8. bremner

    bremner Staff Member

    5,810
    4,379
    98
    I have a powercab, and only 1 DCC loco. I plan to convert more, and only 4 in my fleet are new enough to be DCC ready.

    The reason for DCC on a small layout is control and lights. It makes slow switching more realistic
     
    mtntrainman likes this.
  9. MaxDaemon

    MaxDaemon TrainBoard Member

    229
    306
    7
    Welcome to the hobby, Kim!

    I just came back to railroading after about a 20 year absence. And honestly, one of the things that made the decision was the visceral reaction to hearing one of those big GE locomotives roll by - in HO scale! I mean, I go down to the tracks and sit at lunch time, waiting in hopes of seeing a train go by while I'm eating.

    Now, I find it almost odd to have a locomotive on the tracks without sound. It's amazing how much depth it adds to the experience.

    And don't get me started on DCC. I jumped in with both feet, bought at least 10-12 new locomotives with DCC - most of them with sound. I'm running an NCE Power Cab, an inexpensive start that will likely be plenty for what I need now, and I can expand the power capabilities later if I wish.

    I also have leftover DC locomotives from the before times - in storage for 25 or 30 years. I found the first DCC conversion daunting, since it was learning a whole new technology. But after the first one - it's really just soldering a few wires in place and voila!, it works! I'm also ripping out the old grain-of-wheat or -rice lighting and replacing it with spiffy new LED lights. I found a place on eBay that sells extremely cheap LEDs in various sizes with the resistor already soldered in, so that makes that part of the job SO much easier. A little silicon glue and you have your new lighting right in where it belongs instead of kinda hanging out inside the engineers cabin.

    I found that an 8mm (or maybe it's 5mm) warm white LED fits exactly into a slightly drilled out headlight hole in an F unit, and it looks great! If it's a two hole locomotive, even better - put a second one in with a little yellowish orange Sharpie marker coloring and hook it up to one of the accessory positions and you have the perfect strobe or mars light, depending on color and flash frequency.

    It's all so exciting, the things you can do!
     
  10. Greg Elmassian

    Greg Elmassian TrainBoard Member

    323
    51
    14
    The op states he will have 3 locos max at one time, he has a bunch of locos already that are not DCC and does not have the capability to install DCC himself.

    What is missing is:
    1. are you really sure installing DCC is beyond you
    2. you have not stated if you have the budget to have DCC installed for you
    3. have you spent some time listening to sound in a N scale loco, the results might surprise you.

    So, if the first statement is true and the budget won't allow help, and sound makes no difference, stay DC.

    But, be careful, the extra features and just the extra fun is contagious.

    (I'm all DCC in Z and G scales)

    Greg
     
  11. Mike C

    Mike C TrainBoard Member

    1,654
    162
    39
    I send all of my locos to a man in Arizona for DCC sound installs . Usually runs around 200 bucks , but it is a quality job . A regular non sound install would probably be much less . He posts on here as woodone .
     
  12. MaxDaemon

    MaxDaemon TrainBoard Member

    229
    306
    7
    Z and G .. ever consider building a Z scale layout on a G scale flatbed?

    .
     
  13. Greg Elmassian

    Greg Elmassian TrainBoard Member

    323
    51
    14
    This fits on a G scale flat:



    notice that it has a reversing loop, it is DCC
     
    Mr. Trainiac and MaxDaemon like this.
  14. SPsteam

    SPsteam TrainBoard Member

    985
    15
    19
    I've considerd using a g scale sound decoder to power the the track and use it to power a speaker system under the layout. The DCC system would hook directly into the decoder. This way I can run my dc locos with a wireless DCC throttle. There was an article in N scale railroading on how to wire it.
     
  15. bremner

    bremner Staff Member

    5,810
    4,379
    98
    Lance Mindheim has a series of blog posts about that. He eventually came to the conclusion that high quality wireless headphones were the best option.
     
  16. Inkaneer

    Inkaneer TrainBoard Member

    3,805
    508
    63

    That depends on what kind of analog throttle one is using. Everyone of the DCC articles I have seen say the same thing, "DCC will not make a locomotive run better." But a poor excuse for a throttle will make a good running engine run poorly. I run both analog on the club layout and DCC on my home layout. There are reasons for that which I won't go into. But the reason I run DCC on my own layout is due to its size. I like to keep my train within my field of vision so I use a walk around wireless DCC system. With analog I am tied to one spot where the power pack is. I can't see about 2/3 of the layout. The club has Aristo radio throttles but they are no longer made. If they were I could use them.
     
  17. kim frizell

    kim frizell TrainBoard Member

    18
    1
    2
    Thanks for all the input guys. I've decided to block wire this layout for DC in a manner that will allow me to run DCC in the future after I obtain some sound decoded locos. I'll probably pay someone to do the decoder installation since I just don't think I can successfully solder on such a small scale. Besides, the locos I like to run are really small (a nice little Kato yard switcher and three small steam locos) and are not even DCC ready. I'm going to get the Kato SoundBox to use with the DC set up until I get a small stable of DCC locos. I already have a Digitrax Zephyr system so will probably use that eventually. I'm currently trying to make sense of the Peco insulfrog/electrofrog installation.

    Kim
     
  18. Espeeman

    Espeeman TrainBoard Member

    1,030
    67
    31
    Hi kim frizell,

    I'm late to this thread but thought I'll share my experience, for what it's worth. Trust me when I say it's going upstream! ;) I used to have a fairly large layout in my basement. 9'x9' with plans to expand it to three times that size. I had a great DCC set up. It included a Digitrax Zephyr, DB150 command station/booster, DT402D radio throttle, PR3,and several DS64's. I also had the DSP-80 SurroundTraxx sound system from SoundTraxx. Incredible set-up! I have nothing but good things to say about it and if you decide you like DCC then I highly recommend anything I've listed. However, I went back to DC and downsized to a 4'x9' layout. The carpentry is based on the Salt Lake Route from MRR but the track config is very different. I use Kato track and have the switches set to run power only to the direction they're thrown. I use it in lieu of block wiring because there are only two trains that run at the same time, the shay (separate line) and the local or the through train. I have three track hidden staging in the back so there is good variety. Ok, now for the "why", or should that read "why, you crazy fool, would you do such a stupid thing?!?!" It started with the size of the layout. I travel a lot for work and when I get home, after greeting the wife, I want to run a train. I came off the road from a particularly busy and hectic week and when I fire up my layout and eased a loco out of the yard I was frustrated with hurky-jerky performance. Ok, no worries. Break out the bright boy and....... 20 minutes later I'm still cleaning track. :( Something snapped! Setting up this layout had it's share of frustration but it was expected. This was not and caught me at a bad, no, very bad time. The very next day I razed the entire layout. The layout I currently have is the design I came up with prior to the one I just destroyed. I had an opportunity to rethink the entire strategy and realized that I turned the sound off far more than I had it on. Then I realized I was never going to install decoders in several of my favorite locos, and finally, I wanted my layout to be themed and because I work in risk management and deal with a lot of saw mills and logging companies I decided logging/lumber was what it would be. For what I'm running I don't see the need to go DCC. I know I won't expand this layout any time soon so no need to hang on to it. The sound system has been sold and at some point I'll list the rest on fleebay but in the end, just want a simple layout and DC runs it just fine. Besides, my DCC locos run just fine on it, too. Just food for thought. I'm probably the only one here to revert to DC. Lol
     
    kmcsjr and mtntrainman like this.
  19. Inkaneer

    Inkaneer TrainBoard Member

    3,805
    508
    63
    I am hearing more and more stories, like yours, about people giving upon DCC and going back to analog DC. Many cite the same reasons as you do, legacy locomotives, maintaining a large layout, etc. If there was a good wireless DC throttle like the Aristo radio throttles, I would be there myself.
     
  20. kmcsjr

    kmcsjr TrainBoard Member

    1,702
    58
    30
    An aside. I think DC wireless remote could be available

    http://bluerailways.co.uk/

    These guys won't/can't sell to US buyers, because of FCC regulations. (I tried to buy). I can't blame them. The cost of proving you don't interfere, with radio signals.. If folks can build DCC++ from an arduino. These should be a matter of finding a modeler/programmer....

    Isn't it just a matter of building a DCC++ base station and programming a single hefty decoder to send "motor voltage" to track, instead of to a loco? Or even simpler, dumbing down the whole system to pass straight DC, through the motor shield to power 2 separate districts (formerly referred to as programming and main)?

    No wrong answer. It's your hobby.

    Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
     
    Last edited: Jun 11, 2017

Share This Page