Headline– Read All About It: DCC Comes to Big Bear Country! Surprised the…heck…out of me. I couldn’t believe it, it works on my layout! Story to follow.
This should of been headline news in Big Bear Country. Only in certain circles. Not sure our news media up here would know real news if they witnessed it. Now the Bear News.
DCC, DPDT, Cab A & Cab B, 18 & 20 Gauge Wire Drops and a 14 Gauge Bus. DCC works on my N Scale layout!
It’s November 2, 2009. History now but read on.
It all started out relatively quiet and peaceful. “Big Bear Lake, where the motor boats a putt-in…”, lyrics borrowed from Mel Blank.
Terry a mountain man at heart, drove the circuitous mountain roads to arrive at my home in Big Bear Lake, Ca., with his Digitrax, Zephyr, Digital Command Control and a handful of DCC locomotives.
I could not believe my eyes and ears with what I saw and heard… on my layout! What I don’t understand is why nothing has been said? Or why someone else hasn’t reported this. Unless I missed it somewhere…well…read on. It’s like it’s some big secret and we can’t tell anybody. So, let’s keep this between us. Shhhh!
Wow, I think I kept saying that all day long, chuckling out loud.
Now, before I go and get all excited, like I’m not already. Here’s how I installed my electrical system.
This may be important to some of you. Real important and good news. Bear with me, as I need to set this up for you.
I wired in using DPDT toggle switches (Double Pole, Double Throw, Center off electrical toggle switches), to route Analog DC, Cab A or Cab B to specific blocks in order to operate more then one train at a time. Old school…for sure. Upside it works decently and is loads of FUN!
Keep in mind there is no common wire or common rail applications on my layout. I have no love lost for the Dance Of The Common! I wouldn’t touch that way and means of wiring… with a six inch pencil let alone a ten foot pole. I wouldn’t recommend you do so.
I rescued my dad’s layout thanks to the help of Tom, my brother-in-law. The story is here under “Rick’s Vent, Lament & Lessons Learned”. Seeing that I was remodeling it…totally! I decided to wire in my layout differently then I had in the past.
While talking to Bob E. on the phone, discussing how he wired in his DCC layout the light bulb came on over me head. You can find links to his website here on BarstowRick.com.
In anticipation of the possibility of changing over to DCC, I used a household, 14 gauge wire as a bus line that serves all my control panels…running from both Analog DC transformers, Cab A and Cab B, around to the backside of each control panel. From the bus to the control panel, I use 18 gauge wire to feed and thread all the DPDT’s together. All my wire drops (the ones soldered to the track) are 20 or 22 gauge. The “Home Runs” aka feeder wires, are 20 gauge for runs shorter then 3 feet. For runs longer then 3 feet, I use 18 gauge wire.
Not that this matters a whole lot…but…I use solid wire and am not a great fan of braided wire. To many little ticklers that can reach out and cause a short.
The weakest point on any train layout is the rail joiners. Power loose, line drop and oxidation can affect the performance of your train equipment. To remedy that situation, I solder in the rail joiners and every wire splice in order to reduce the chance of electrical chatter between connections and power drops in the electrical current aka line drop due to resistance. All wire joints or splices are soldered. All of the rail joiners aka fish plates. This is for free but calling them fish plates isn’t correct, as there is a big difference between the two and we can talk more about this later. All rail joiners are soldered including the Kato Unitrack, sectional track. Do be careful you can melt the plastic ties and road bed. Don’t ask me how I know!
There is a difference here on how I wired my layout compared to the directions you will read in most of the electrical DCC – How To wiring books. They suggest wire drops in place, every three feet. To install, below the sub-roadbed A Bus, IE., Two wires, household sized wires, 14 gauge to run around underneath the track and sub-roadbed, to feed the wire drops. Not a bad idea if you are just getting started.
On my layout, my wire drops are centered in the middle of the track blocks that are 6 to 9 foot long and some are 12 footers with two sets of wire drops. Each block is isolated from the other and has it’s own set of wires, home runs, that go from a DPDT electrical toggle switch to the wire drops attached to the rails to a single isolated block.
Now let me ask you, reflecting on how I wired in my layout. Is this the way we’ve been instructed to wire-in DCC? And everyone responded… NO! You are so right! Not at all. A+ for everyone tuned in. You were paying attention. Alright!
Please, feel free to re-read the above as it is important you get this. DCC, Analog DC, DPDT, 18 & 20 gauge wire drops, 14 gauge bus, Cab A or Cab B and it all operates flawlessly….on my layout.
Incidentally there are now three layouts in the valley with DCC and Steve’s has his wired darn near the same as mine. Only his wiring is by far cleaner and easier on the eye… nice! He has the same gauge wire as mine and the only thing missing is the heavy duty 14 gauge wire.
DCC comes to my layout. Can we call this Rick’s Story Time? Oh no not another story time! You’ll like it or not! Grin.
I figured that once Terry, got his DCC unit hooked up it would all be over but the crying. It’s what happens next that blows my mind and gave me a freeze over brain fart, all but blowing a brain cork and leaving me… well…numb! Ok, so maybe that didn’t happen…but… I had to step out and take a nitro…darn angina…won’t leave a guy alone when he is having fun.
First things first. I disconnected the two leads from the Analog Cab B, power supply. Terry takes the two leads and hooks them up to his Digitrax DCC power supply. I flip all the toggles on the mainline over to Cab B. I wouldn’t miss one would I? A quick glance confirms they’ve been thrown.
Terry rails a motor aka diesel engine, in an area where I don’t have any wire drops, yet (still under construction), on a block longer then 12 feet at about 9 feet from a feeder wire. Did that raise any eyebrows out there? It is a future block, still connected to an older block, as I haven’t cut in the gaps or soldered in the wire drops…yet. At a point furthest from the feeder wires. The motor starts-up with a diesel whine, the pop off valve on the air releases, lights come on dim and then onto high, the whine of the motor picks-up, two short’s on the horn and the diesel begins to move…what? What? WHAT? Unbelievable! WOW! On my layout?
Locomotive still moving and bell ringing as it passes the station, pictured in the header! It continues out and onto the main, around the layout with one…oop’s. Steve, having joined us for Terry’s Demo., as I’m trying to find a short or whatever it is that’s wrong. You see, the night before, I had to solder a rail joiner as it had oxidized or worked itself loose. Anyway, it wasn’t allowing current through. We can talk more about this issue later. Back to the same spot from the night before. I rechecked the solder joint with a meter and I couldn’t find any current…before or after. There wasn’t any juice in that block. Steve questioning, I wonder if we have a switch off? I look down at the control panel and with a sheepish grin on my face, flip the toggle switch over to cab B. That did it! Power up and available. We were off and running. What happened? I rerouted the train down a siding I hadn’t planned on using. Oop’s.
Now get this, we finished out the day with no further problems or interruptions. We operated two different locomotives and two diesel engines simultaneously operating with the sound on. With no problems and no voltage drops. Unbelievable! Wow! The expletive for the day.
Terry, stood there with an, “I told you so”, look on his face and twinkle in his eye. I could of swore, a whole lot of pride!
End of this story for this chapter. Just not the conclusion.
Good News! IT WORKS ON MY LAYOUT…IT SHOULD WORK ON YOURS!
Disclaimer: Only…If, your layout is wired, similarly to mine.
Why has this been kept such a secret? Allow me to explain. The electrical engineers and big wigs… have been and still are touting that you need a 14 gauge, wire bus (not Greyhound) and the wire drops need to be every three feet. The idea is to provide as many amps to the rail or track as is possible without a lot of line drop aka lose of current due to resistance in the wire itself. So the sound units will have ample current available to run them. According to what I’ve read, they’ve …hint …hint…and then implied, and said out right it shouldn’t (should not), won’t work on my layout.
Good news is it does!!!!!!!!!!
Review: If you didn’t pick up on this at first. My blocks on the mainline track are as long as 9 to 12 feet in length and my wire drops are centered with the closest drops being 4 to 6 feet apart. I use 20 gauge wire on 3 to 4 foot home runs from the electrical toggles to the track. Any home run or wire run over 6 feet long has 18 gauge wire. The only 14 gauge wire on the layout is the bus wires cab A and cab B, from the transformers to the back side of 6 control panels.
If you are new to DCC. I wouldn’t advise operating DCC with Analog DC simultaneously. DCC is AC aka Alternating Current on the track. Analog DC is Direct Current on the track. You don’t want to mix the two. Unless you like sparks and lot’s of smoke. Should the locomotive cross over the isolation gaps. It can short out the works and cause damage to both power supplies, command station, decoder and what we used to call transformers. It takes some serious discipline and a dispatcher that is closely watching the trains and the control panels.
You can ask me how I know. And my heckler sits silent. Ok, for the rest of you with curiosity written all over your faces. I have! Yes, I’ve operated trains on my layout, running Analog DC and DCC simultaneously. Just not on the same track or block. I will isolate the main from the rest of the layout and run trains on DCC. Steve will operate a train out of the hidden staging yard and up the main and back again. While, l switch the yard making up a train operating on Analog DC. I don’t recommend you do that at least not right away.
Oh and you can smoke a decoder but don’t ask me how I know., I said not grinning. I wonder who put that smoke generator in that diesel?
Keep in mind there are several ways you can wire in DCC. More on this later.
Do you think it’s time to make it happen on your layout?
***I may have already said this earlier in a previous posting. If I was just getting started in the hobby I would wire in DCC and never look back***.
Today, I have what some would call a cut in switch. It’s a DPDT, center off, electrical toggle switch wired in with the Analog Cab B to one side of it and DCC to the other side. With the flip of the electrical toggle switch, I can change up from Analog DC-Cab B to DCC. Anything set to Cab B on the control panels is now DCC. It works and works well!
The heckler in the back…again? Why would I wire it that way? Is that what you asked? OK! I have way to many analog DC locomotives and diesel units. They will never see a DCC decoder. Not on my fixed income. So, it’s important I keep Analog DC wired in, as is. If for no other reason then my own enjoyment.
Operator Error and More: I use MRC Prodigy to operate my DCC Decoder installed locomotives and motors. There are features about it I like but the biggest downfall isn’t with MRC. It’s with me, I forgot to write down the address or I.D. numbers for the locomotives. Typically, I use the number on the locomotive but what do you do if it doesn’t have a number or you have two locomotives with numbers alike. I will assign them different numbers and follow-up by writing the numbers down in a log. Along with a brief description of the locomotive. Nothing like an active or accurate log. And, before I forget. The fuel tank for diesels and the tender for stoves is a great place to locate the address or coded number for the locomotive.
I’ve added a post on how I wire in DPDT, Cab A & B Analog DC wiring for two train operations see: http://www.barstowrick.com/category/block-cab-a-b-wiring/
Well, that should just about wrap it up…for now. Stay tuned more to come.
DCC works well, very well on my layout!
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***This has been edited from the original manuscript for your advisement and reading pleasure. And, I’m still saying WOW!***
And now the news, with the news and all about the news…
News update: I’ve heard rumor that another layout in Bear Valley Country may get the DCC treatment.
News update: Also, watch for Blue Tooth and Wifi, to move into the market. More follow up news…later.
Stay tuned more to come.