Tam Valley Servo Decoder Mini-Review

jdetray Apr 17, 2010

  1. jdetray

    jdetray TrainBoard Member

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    I've begun setting up the Tam Valley Depot decoders to control the turnouts on my small N-scale layout. This system uses small R/C servos to throw the points. Since the system is relatively new, I thought I'd describe my experience so far.

    Each Tam Valley Quad-Pic board provides 4 stationary DCC decoders for driving R/C servos. With the addition of small fascia control boards with pushbuttons, you also get manual control. So you can use DCC control, manual control, or both for any turnout. A relay board is available to switch the frog polarity.

    There are several ways to mount the servos. Since I had already laid my track before deciding to use servos for turnout control, mine are all mounted to the underside of the subroadbed like this:

    [​IMG]

    I attached the servos to the plywood with hot glue, and in areas where it won't be easy to access the servos later, they are further secured with a strap made from strip styrene.

    A nice feature of the servos is that they are tiny. They protrude below the subroadbed less than an inch, including the length of the servo arm, so they fit in very tight locations where there might not be enough clearance for a Tortoise or a Blue Point.

    A 1/16" diameter brass tube runs from the underside of the layout, through the subroadbed, to a location near the throwbar. A length of music wire is inserted into the brass tubing and bent to fit into the throwbar and into the servo arm. Here is the throwbar linkage on an Atlas Code 55 #7 turnout:

    [​IMG]

    The fascia controller includes a pushbutton for manual control and LEDs that indicate the turnout position whether you are using DCC or the pushbutton to throw the turnouts. Everything is connected with readily available R/C servo extensions cables.

    Here are the Tam Valley Depot components:

    [​IMG]

    With 3 of 11 turnouts up and running, I'm pleased so far. Currently, I am controlling the servos with the pushbuttons, but I'll be trying them soon with DCC.

    - Jeff
     
  2. G&G Railway

    G&G Railway TrainBoard Member

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    Any problems encounterd using the brass tubing? My turnouts are already mounted also. What size music wire did you use?
     
  3. jdetray

    jdetray TrainBoard Member

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    The brass tubing and music wire work very well -- no problems at all.

    I'm using 1/16" brass tubing with an inside diameter of 0.035". This is a standard item at most hobby shops. The music wire is 0.032" diameter, again a standard item at hobby shops. The music wire moves freely in the brass tubing.

    You need a fine tooth razor saw to cut the brass tubing. Even so, you have to de-burr the hole to allow the music wire to slip into the tubing. I use the pointy end of a #11 Xacto blade to clean up the edges of the hole.

    I use a 6" long 1/16" drill bit to make the hole through the subroadbed, then push the tubing through. I use a drop of thick foam-safe CA to hold the top end of the tubing in place.

    All in all, it's a very easy process.

    - Jeff
     
  4. G&G Railway

    G&G Railway TrainBoard Member

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    Thanks Jeff for the reply
     
  5. G&G Railway

    G&G Railway TrainBoard Member

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    Jeff
    Where did you find 6" 1/16" drill bit. I went to Lowe's and Home Depot, No Luck

    Gary
     
  6. DaveWonders

    DaveWonders TrainBoard Member

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    Thanks for the details in your follow up post.

    Any other thoughts after a few months of use? Are the fascia controllers durable? What do they look like installed?
     
  7. G&G Railway

    G&G Railway TrainBoard Member

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    Jeff has his in operation. I am still getting all the parts I need. Also D/L the Model Rail Road Hobbyist 2009 third quarter. Excellent article about TamValley products. Also some videos on you tube. Just do a search on Tam Valley.
     
  8. jdetray

    jdetray TrainBoard Member

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    Gary -

    I found my long drill bits at Lowe's and at Menard's. Menard's is a regional chain, I think. I found a 12" 1/16" bit at Menard's.

    But long drill bits are available online. Look for "aircraft" bits or "Long Boys". One online vendor that has them is Drill Bit Warehouse. I've never bought anything from them, so I can't vouch for them. A Google search will find other sources.

    Dave: The fascia controllers seem durable enough after a few months of light usage. I don't have them mounted in a control panel yet. They are just hanging free at the front of my layout.

    Tam Valley sells two different fascia controllers. The original ones that I bought have two yellow LEDs, one of which is illuminated to indicate the route that is selected. The newer fascia controllers have a pair of red/green bicolor LEDs and are designed so that both LEDs are always illuminated, with green indicating the selected route and red indicating the unselected route.

    The bicolor controllers weren't available when I made my purchase, or I would have bought them. That's what I get for being an early adopter!

    - Jeff
     
  9. RBrodzinsky

    RBrodzinsky Staff Member TrainBoard Supporter

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    Has anyone used this set up to operate just a switch stand? I have a unitrack setup, so all my turnouts are solenoid driven, but I have a couple of sidings where it would be more realistic to have a switch stand rather than a dwarf signal. I would like for them to "operate" and show me the switch position.
     
  10. Doug A.

    Doug A. TrainBoard Supporter

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    Thanks for the review! I'm an "observer" of the servo craze right now but I'm definitely interested in the possibilities.

    One question, will an Digitrax DS64 drive servo's? My setup pretty much requires the DS64's or something that will return Loconet status anyway.
     
  11. gregamer

    gregamer TrainBoard Supporter

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    DS64 won't drive servos, servos require a special signal and you need a servo driver board. As for loconet feedback with a servo motor turnout, you'd probably need to connect your turnouts to throw a microswitch and feed it into a DS64 or other loconet input device.
     
  12. Doug A.

    Doug A. TrainBoard Supporter

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    OK, that's what I needed to know. Servos are out for me then.
     
  13. jamesdewarinireland

    jamesdewarinireland E-Mail Bounces

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    I have a few of the servo drivers for evaluation and find they move a little/chatter on power up, has this given you any problems?
     

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