drums147 Dec 16, 2021

  1. Shortround

    Shortround TrainBoard Member

    This is why we have computers and smart phones. It's just a matter of learning to use them. :eek:
    DC is like learning to drive one of those simpleton cars and motorcycles. Now they do it themselves. :ROFLMAO:
    drums147 likes this.
  2. GP30

    GP30 TrainBoard Member

    I’m going to go against the grain on this one.

    For what you have described to me, if I were in your shoes, my answer would be NO.

    Frankly, I’m also not going to defend my response. Unless you really want some sound equipped locomotives, I see almost no advantage to converting to DCC for a 1 operator layout with a limited income. I believe your dollars are better spent elsewhere.

    Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
  3. BigJake

    BigJake TrainBoard Member

    I agree with Pat IFF there will only be one DC power pack/throttle for the whole layout.

    Some one-operator layouts are designed to have one train orbiting unattended, while the operator controls a separate train at one or more industries/yards/etc. The reason is that with DCC, if you get in a bind, every DCC throttle has a button that will stop EVERY train on the layout.
    drums147 and GP30 like this.
  4. drums147

    drums147 TrainBoard Member

    OOPS . . . !!
    Last edited: Dec 20, 2021
  5. drums147

    drums147 TrainBoard Member


    Greetings . . . me again . . . a little more info.
    • The fleet currently consists of about 20 operating locomotives.
    • I would like to be able to start with at least 10 of them . . .
    • This new layout consists of a decent sized yard and a locomotive service facility.
    • The right-of-way will be Atlas Code 80 . . . because that's what I have . . . Unitrak would be great, but I can't afford to replace all the track and switches I already own.
    • I also have two MRC Sound & Power 7000 power packs . . . not the greatest sound, but better than anything I had in the past.
    • . . . one more additional bit . . . the the basic theme of the layout will be of the PRR during the transition era . . . mid-50s, which will allow steam and diesel, but the locos are smallish diesels (GP7, RS11, SD9, etc) and late era steamers . . .
    Does that info help with anyone's responses?
    Thanks . . . NAD
    Last edited: Dec 20, 2021
  6. CSX Robert

    CSX Robert TrainBoard Member

    Since you mention possibly moving two trains at a time, then I can see where DCC could make since. It will still depend on the layout and complexity of moving those two trains at a time. If you'll be running them on two separate mainlines or a mainline and separate yard, then DCC wouldn't really gain you much, but if they would be following each other on a single mainline or both occupying the same yard then DCC would be a big advantage.

    Well, if you were to go DCC, at least it's not what most would consider a large fleet, so the cost to convert would not be huge. If you used all hard wired decoders you could convert your entire fleet for about $400 (even if the loco has a replaceable light board you can use a hardwired decoder). Using board replacement decoders would probably be at least $600. Of course being on a very limited budget that may still be too much.

    You don't have to replace everything, you could go all Unitrack for anything new and freely mix the Unitrack and Atlas. In case you're wondering, no, you don't need any of the "conversion" pieces - remove the Unijioner and Atlas will hook right up to the Unitrack, although, depending on what roadbed you use, you will likely have to shim the Atlas to match the Unitrack height.
    drums147 likes this.
  7. Sumner

    Sumner TrainBoard Member

    For me the key question becomes have you tried or looked at a 'hard wired decoder' installs? Is it something you would feel comfortable with?

    The first couple for me were a little intimidating but now I find them pretty straight forward as you are connecting the same wires to the same pieces time after time. I can usually do one in a couple hours and it is rewarding work for me. Even if I have to cut part of the frame away to do it it isn't a big deal any more and the tools to do that are under $50.

    Once you get a few 'hard wired' decoder installs done you will find that probably 95% of the older locos out there can be converted fairly easily. If some of them will take $25-$40 'drop in' decoders you will change those out really fast. I'm cheap so put some of the sub $20 decoders in those also. Another plus about doing your own decoder installs is that taking a loco apart now becomes easy and isn't as intimidating as it might of been. At least that has been my case.

    If you would be comfortable with decoder installs then putting together a DCC++EX command station would be a piece of cake. Lots of help out there and here with either of those jobs.

    If the above is a viable option for 'you' I'd wire the layout as one big block like I did with my test layout ( HERE ) with some sidings where the power could be turned off. The one big block plus a siding you could use for decoder programing could be switched back and forth between DC and DCC with a single toggle switch (a second to control the programming siding between programing track or main track). If you want to run more than one DC throttle then you might have to add a few more toggle switches to do that but the layout could still be switched between DC and DCC pretty easily.

    Now you can easily run the layout as either DC or DCC. Put the DC locos on an unpowered siding while running the DCC ones or the other way around. Take your time and do decoder installs when you have the time on your older DC locos moving towards more and more of them becoming DCC. This is what I've been doing with my test track. My main layout will be only DCC since I've converted enough locos to DCC at this point that I'll be fine with that and it will encourage me to keep converting the rest.

    You have everything you need for the DC side of the equation and with DCC++EX you could have the DCC side covered for under $70 and if you wanted to also have a dedicated train room computer to boot it would cost just a bit more or use a computer you already own. Following this route one can easily try out DCC for less than $100 and see if they like it or not.

    drums147 likes this.
  8. BigJake

    BigJake TrainBoard Member

    It's never been important to me (yet), but perhaps the OP would be well served with a DCC system that can run a DC locomotive (via address 0) while DCC locomotives can also be running on the layout. I know Digitrax can do that, but NCE, SPROG and (AFAIK) DCC++EX cannot. There are probably other DCC systems that can run DC locos as well, but I just don't know about them.

    The DCC standard allows for "bit stretching" that alters the normal 50% duty cycle (0 VDC) characteristic of the DCC waveform, and thus can produce a DC bias to run one or more DC locomotives (all via same address [0], at same DC voltage)

    Not all DC locos are suited to running on the bit-stretched DC, and I'm not sure what characteristics determine that. I believe coreless DC motors do not do well with DC on DCC. Idling DC locomotives for long periods on DCC powered track (e.g. address 0 speed set to 0) may not be the best thing for them either (overheating). If the armature is not spinning, there is very little cooling airflow for it.

    But at least this avoids having to wire the small layout in blocks, with block (electrical) switches for DC or DCC power. You can run your DC loco anywhere on the layout, alongside the DCC locos. I don't know if all systems handle consisting dc powered locos with DCC powered locos. Any speed matching programming would have to be done on the DCC locos.

    This preserves one of the major benefits of DCC for DC locos: allowing you to assemble a consist on the layout by driving up the individual locos and coupling them together on the layout, then configuring their consist. This is not possible with DC except when they are assembled at the boundary between two adjacent power districts on the layout, with a loco in one district, and the rest of the consist in an adjacent district.

    Just a thought...
    drums147 likes this.
  9. COverton

    COverton TrainBoard Member

    Big Jake, the problem with running a DC/analog locomotive on a rail system powered only by DCC is that the analog motors don't behave particularly well in DCC circumstances. You CAN operate DC locomotives (but only on certain systems, not on all of them), but they will sound horrible. The noise their drivetrain will emit as a result of the zero-stretching component of the DCC signal will overcome any benefits of any sound emitting devices, whether below the benchwork or built into the decoder. Unfortunately, DC locomotives will squeal, and groan, and moan, and generally put off the operator within a few seconds. I know of perhaps two operators over 15 years who gritted their teeth and powered through the experience, determined to avoid having to place decoders in their locomotives. For me and 85% others, it's a complete bust.
    drums147, BigJake and Mike VE2TRV like this.
  10. BigJake

    BigJake TrainBoard Member

    Thanks for the info!

Share This Page