Starting N-Scale DCC layout

Ted Leonhardt Oct 16, 2022

  1. Ted Leonhardt

    Ted Leonhardt New Member

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    I need to know what DCC system I should purchase to get started.


    I've built a tabletop for an L-shaped layout along two walls measuring 15' and 25', with large spaces at each end for circle returns.


    I have purchased a small amount KATO Unitrack to practice with. It hasn't arrived yet.


    I also purchased the DC KATO Silver Streak passenger train. It has arrived, and it's beautiful!


    I've ordered the Digitrax DN163 K0E control chip that fits Kato N-Scale EMD E5A Locomotive. I'll need to solder it into the locomotive when it arrives.


    I see that the least expensive Digitrax Starter set –– EVOX Evolution Express Advanced 5A/8A –– is $355 plus shipping from Yankee Dabber.


    Is there a less expensive way to get DCC up and running?
     
  2. french_guy

    french_guy TrainBoard Member

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    You can start with DCC++ EX (Arduino with motor board)
    Cheap and you will get tons of support members on this forum....
     
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  3. MRLdave

    MRLdave TrainBoard Member

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    Can't really argue against DCC++, and there is a lot of support available here, but at the same time, I'm not aware of any "over the counter" systems. If this is your first layout, you would probably be better off picking one of the standard DCC systems. Unless you plan to run A LOT of locos at once, pretty much any system out there will be adequate. I use an MRC 2.5 amp system on our NTRAK club layout which has from a 100 to 150' mainline run with no issues......just be sure to use a buss wire and plenty of feeders. You need to plan ahead for what you want out of your system..........do you want signaling, ect. Starter systems from some companies may not support that. Digitrax is probably the best supported and most versatile out of the box out there, but since I don't use it, I can't tell you which of their systems would be best for you.
     
  4. french_guy

    french_guy TrainBoard Member

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    I started into DCC several years ago with a NCE Power Cab kit .....But I haven't used it that much since I've installed DCC++EX with JMRI.....But it's a good kit to start with
    Actually, I'm still wondering if I want to keep it or try to sell it !
     
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  5. jhn_plsn

    jhn_plsn TrainBoard Supporter

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    If you are looking at Digitrax I suggest you spend the chump change and get the Duplex. Works great and comes with the new throttle. Add a UT6D(duplex) for fun with a friend. The added benefit of the new UT6 is it can dial up turnouts via DCC and throw them. Something the older units cannot do. These new throttles have some menu driven tasks to help you along.

    NCE is a very good choice for a newby as the menu driven tasks can get you going quick. The Powercab is a great starter system that programs just about anything. The throttle can also be used when you grow into the higher capacity systems. This is where I started.

    I have yet to experience the ESU system, but many people share positive experiences.

    There is a learning curve on all systems and all skin the cat in a different way.

    You have a generous space so you may think a basic system is all you want. You may be surprised how quick you may grow out of the basic system as your space allows for more advanced operations.
     
  6. MK

    MK TrainBoard Member

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    The least expensive Digitrax starter set is the Zephyr. Under $200 or so. Fully functional and capable and expendable.

    Also, do you belong to a club or potentially joining one in the future? If so I suggest buying the brand that they use.
     
  7. sidney

    sidney TrainBoard Member

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    I vote DCC++EX arduino and motor shield + the wifi board . you can use your phone for a throttle with engine driver and all for under $100 bucks . i too started out with the NCE power cab setup ,BUT ive sence changed to DCC++EX and i love it way better than any other system. you can run lots of trains .I run 2 loco all the time but have been known to run as many as 6 of them at one time and the DCC++EX can handle those with out any problems . i too am undecided as to weather i want to sell the NCE power cab as it just sits there in a box collecting dust.
    so my vote DCC++EX simple and easy and best of all cheap but not cheap as in it wont last..........
     
  8. Ted Leonhardt

    Ted Leonhardt New Member

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    Thanks, I just now started checking out the components.
    I began ordering the components to set up the DCC++etc. I was thrilled with the low prices. I hope the assembly won't be too difficult!
     
  9. Ted Leonhardt

    Ted Leonhardt New Member

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    Thanks! I ordered components for setting up a DCC++ system yesterday. It was so inexpensive I thought I'd try it.
     
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  10. Ted Leonhardt

    Ted Leonhardt New Member

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    I'm loving this! I expect I'll be asking more questions as the parts and pieces arrive and I start putting them together.
     
  11. sidney

    sidney TrainBoard Member

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    here are a few pics of my spare DCC++EX and a phone throttle. you can vist sumners page for lots of info . He was kind enough to share all his work and thats just wonderful. the phone throttle is 3d printed and a android phone attached with velcro. sumners page has much info on this.
     

    Attached Files:

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  12. MK

    MK TrainBoard Member

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    Ha! I meant expandable, not expendable. :) But I see you are going the DCC+ route.
     
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  13. sidney

    sidney TrainBoard Member

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    and here is my current DCC++EX setup in a 3d printed box car.
     

    Attached Files:

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  14. Sumner

    Sumner TrainBoard Member

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    ( HERE ).

    Good deal if you have any problems post here or for sure on their discord channel. I was originally going to go with a commercial system but though for the few dollars to try I'd try and gave the original DCC++ a shot as like you said I could always move on without much of an investment. Then Fred (FlightRisk) and the guys built a really strong team and developed DCC++EX. I'm totally happy with it and its capabilities rival the commercial command stations and even has features they don't have. They are also continually adding more and more features.

    Sumner
     
  15. Ted Leonhardt

    Ted Leonhardt New Member

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    Cool! That's my plan
     
  16. Ted Leonhardt

    Ted Leonhardt New Member

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    Great Idea!
     
  17. Sumner

    Sumner TrainBoard Member

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    [​IMG]

    Very cool....there might even be room for a cow or two in there,

    Sumner
     
  18. sidney

    sidney TrainBoard Member

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    hahaha yup i was thinking about sliding the arduino back some so the wire's ect would be out of view , But ive redesigned the box car so all the wire's stick out the bottom (i just have not printed it yet ). OR possibly put a small fan in there but its really not needed.
     
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  19. BigJake

    BigJake TrainBoard Member

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    If you mount the DCC++EX board stack such that the boards are vertical, natural convection cooling will suffice. Prolly just fine for most applications horizontal anyway. Cooler-running electronics last longer. Keeping dust accumulation off of the components helps too.

    Choice of DCC systems depends a lot on your preferences and abilities. I run a Pi SPROG3 DCC "hat" on a Raspberry Pi 4 (that runs JMRI) and am very happy with it. It will also run on a Pi 400, which is generally more available than the Pi 4 these days. I VNC (remote desktop) into it via WiFi from my laptop when I need the GUI (not needed just to run trains with my phone for the throttle.)

    I strongly recommend using JMRI (free software that runs on Windows, Linux and Apple computers) which works with just about any DCC system, especially for programming/managing locomotive decoders. It provides an excellent Graphical User Interface with all the decoder's register fields broken out in easy to use GUI widgets with plain English descriptions (or your choice of many languages supported). JMRI keeps a record of how your decoders are programmed, so you can recover easily from a damaged decoder, or just get back to a known-good setting after experimenting. JMRI also provides lots of tools for running your layout (throwing track switches, generating railcar switch lists, controlling signals, etc.)
     
  20. FlightRisk

    FlightRisk TrainBoard Member

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    The great thing about the EX-CommandStation is that you can use just a phone or handheld throttle and get started. If you like a physical knob, there is a volume control Sumner can tell you about and there are bluetooth accessories (like a thumb joystick) that can give you a more tactile feel. If you want to do a big, complicated layout, then JMRI does just about anything and you can add that. I don't use JMRI much anymore because EX-RAIL does all the control and automation I need, but the roster capabilities and some of the other things JMRI has is great for clubs and people who are more serious about operations. You can really have it all.
     
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