DCC Decoder Installation

DCC can at times seem very involved and overwhelming.    It really isn’t and I’d suggest you take the time to get acquainted with it.

I will do my best to get by all the hype and bull-pucky out there.

DCC Decoder Installation:

Mike Fifer shows us how to do a decoder installation in a Kato,  N Scale, model of an E5A ,  diesel unit aka motor.

Digitrax Decoder Install in N Scale Kato E5A

I will show you how I install decoders in almost all current Kato N Scale locomotives. It is a fool proof method to be sure the locomotive continues to run at peak performance.    Thanks for watching Mike Fifer.

The Kapton tape is a must when installing any type of DCC decoder.   Incidentaly Mike’s style of decoder installation and hard wiring by adding  the wires and soldering the motor contacts to the decoder is supported by this hobbyist.

So, what do you think?    Do able?    If Mike and I can install a decoder…you can!


Dead Rail, RC/Wireless Throttles

Radio Control and/or Wireless Throttles

I found myself involved in  a discussion with Russ, a fellow BVMR,  about DCC and Radio Control or said another way Wireless Throttles.   He has his G Scale locomotives operating on batteries with  RC or Wireless Throttles.  You never have to worry about dirty track interfering with your electrical pick-up.

Our conversation found us focused on the possibilities of “Battery powered Wireless Throttles” for HO scale locomotives.   Wouldn’t that be cool.


The Dead Rail System/Wireless DCC

Control Your Locomotive with Radio Waves and Battery Power



Here to introduce us to DCC-Radio Control aka Wireless  and Battery Powered locomotives is Craig Bisgeier of the Model Railcast Show.

TVD Battery Radio Loco Demo.wmv

Craig Bisgeier of the Model Railcast Show describes and demonstrates the all new Battery-powered radio control DCC system by Tam Valley Depot (Learn more at http://www.tamvalleyrr.com/wirelessdc…). The system utilizes an on-board Lithium Polymer battery and a small radio receiver that works in concert with your standard DCC decoder and throttle, and enables you to control all of your locomotives without regard to power on the tracks. This is a prototype being demonstrated, the system will be available sometime in 2012.    Thanks for watching, Craig B.

Radio Trans & Rec 750_DRS1.002

To clear up the fuzzy picture click on the image.

I don’t know about you but I’m thinking it won’t matter what switch/turnout you use.    The first concern I have will be about my  track work.   Track work is everything when it comes to building a model railroad.    You want your train equipment to glide over the rails without derailing.      Trains that operate poorly by halting and stalling, derail a lot and otherwise are a nuisance is no fun to operate.

What do you think, is this feasible and can you see it on your layout?  How is this idea of battery powered, wireless throttles for HO scale hitting you?   Are you liking the idea?  Does it appeal to you?



DCC Friendly Switches

The Wonders of DCC Friendly Switches:


DCC Friendly Switches – Do We Need Them?    Are they simply a myth or is there something to it?     The quickest answer is, NO!

What did model railroaders go and dream up…NOW?

My Goal:

It’s my goal to provide you with  all the research I’ve been able to find.   I’m confident everything you need to know is right here or over there or around the next bend in the track.

Switches:  For sake of this discussion and in the tradition of the U.S. of American Rails I will refer to what  most model railroaders call a “Turnout,” as a “Switch”.     Seldom if ever, did I hear a Rail use the term “Turnout,”

First Impressions:

At first glance DCC Friendly Switches appears to be all about eliminating shorts in the frog and points.    I mean we’ve always had problems routing power through our switches, what with all those dead spots.   No thanks to those confounded plastic frogs.  I got tired of dragging my locomotives and diesels   across those blankety blank, dreaded train switches.   Frustrating to say the least.

Someone must have heard our plea’s as Peco, Shinohara, True Track, Micro-Engineering and Kato (as well as others) was listening to us hobbyist and things were about to change-up.    For the better I might add.   I will get into this more in a paragraph or two.



Part 1, DCC Friendly Switches

The Agenda.  

Personally I’d prefer to use or say “DCC Safe” but Alan Gartner,  didn’t ask me.


  • Introduction:
    In this posting:  You will find three (3) presentations,  ways and means to   solve the problems with shorts in the switch mechanism’s.
  1. Peco’s  simple resolution.   It will solve most problems with your switches/turnouts.  Accompanied by a schematic.   The simplest and easiest resolution.
  2. Block Wiring:  The Rick approved resolution.    Yep,  my preferred method to resolve the  problem.   A relatively simple resolution to the Short Problem.
  3. Alan Gartner’s DCC Friendly Switches a  rather complicated resolution.  I will warn you:   This isn’t the easiest answer.    Upside,  it is do able and will solve a lot of problems with many  of the older switch mechanism’s.


Allow me to  set things  up.

The Beginning:  

Let’s start at the beginning.

The best jumping off spot for this whole presentation.  The Howland & Pacific Railroad, a N Scale Train Layout.  I operate DCC on my layout and there’s no DCC Friendly switches as illustrated by Alan Gartner. 

On my layout.   My switches are  old.   Most having been  made prior to the coining of DCC Friendly Switches.    You’ll find  “Power Routed,” Peco Electrofrog, some Insulfrog, Shinohara  and the newer Kato Unitrack #6 Switches.   Having purchased all of these switches before DCC, arrived  on my layout.  My  trains that operate on analog DC and those that have DCC decoders, operate through these switches with minimal problems.    Minimal  dead spots and or shorts as  they are relatively trouble free. 

Routine maintenance is required.   Due to some minor exceptions as  there’s just some things you can’t avoid or get  away from.  Dirty track, a rail joiner that works itself loose, dirty  points that don’t make contact.    Stuff like that.


Secret?   What’s the secret?
No real secret!   Isolation Gaps.   A simple procedure we all learned years ago.   Isolation gaps and cutting them in to prevent shorts.   It can’t get any simpler then that.


DCC was designed to be User Friendly as in Plug and Play.   

Believe it or not it’s an easy conversion for those Analog DC train layouts already up and running.   I couldn’t believe how simple it was!!  I was able to plug in DCC to my Cab B side of the layout and had trains up and running in no time at all.   

This also proved to be true with several other layouts here in the San Bernardino Mountains of Southern California.   You wouldn’t believe how many mountain railroaders there are in these here hills, who are now operating with DCC.   Here’s the kicker, using switches they purchased years ago before anyone ever thought of …DCC Friendly Switches.


My questions and perhaps yours:
Do shorts jeopardize the performance of DCC electronics?  Evidence on local layouts, suggests it does.
  • In the switch mechanism, will a  short have a negative affect  on the decoder, command station or the hand held throttle?  
  • Or asked another way:   Is there a hidden problem where a short causes or has some negative affect on the decoders?    Can a short compromise the performance of the decoder.
  • Is there some connection between the shorts and the life of a decoder?
  • Does a unfriendly switch cause problems for the DCC components IE., the  command center?
  • Will an accumulation of shorts weaken, eventually wear out and kill the decoder, command center or the hand held?
The quick answer is,  Yes!   Heat will destroy any electronic component, courtesy of David E.     Resistance (+) plus the power thrown at a short = Heat.

Don’t let the smoke out of the components, as admonished by Greg M..

When troubleshooting electrical problems,Start with the basics and always try the simple resolutions first”.   Credit to Steve H..


Who Coined DCC Friendly Switches? 

Who is Alan Gartner?    I’ve only mentioned him a few times now.   He  coined the phrase,   “DCC Friendly Switches.”    He makes an interesting case for DCC  Friendly Switches and his  thoughts and take on the subject are worth the read.    I linked his blog to this post.   You’ll find it further down this page.


DCC Friendly Switches Defined:


  • DCC Friendly implies the train equipment or in this case switches/turnouts are “Friendly to DCC,” credit to Larry Puckett aka DCC Guy
  • “DCC Friendly Defined”:       Although inconclusive at the time of this writing,  is a well founded definition for  DCC Friendly  switches.   What I read, “It isn’t this, it isn’t that” and that does not a definition make.   What we have are some excellent illustrations as presented by Alan Gartner.   I agree with him as a  picture  is worth a thousand words.    I will give you links so that you can explore the subject on your own.
  • DCC Friendly Switches, as I define it:    DCC Friendly is   Switches that are trouble free, no shorts and/or dead spots through out the switch mechanism.   Will not negatively compromise the performance of the decoder or disrupt the digital signal .   How does that sound?    You can adopt it, if you wish.
**A trouble free switch mechanism that would be welcomed on any toy train or model railroad layout.**


The Age of “User Friendly.”

Have you noticed when an advertisement for a computer comes along they call it “User Friendly” or Plug and Play.   Darn near anything out there is User Friendly, Plug and Play.

I think you read my mind.   Then why not a switch mechanism that is trouble free, doesn’t short out and is “Easy” as in “User Friendly,” to install?  You know, “Plug and Play”?   

Would you agree?   All in favor signify by raising your right hand.   And the audience responded with a resounding shout, stomping feet and tipping over train cars.       Loud enough to be heard in Kansas City (your choice of state), that went and set off one of those California shake and rattle incidents.  Noting,  all hands up…. the YEA’s have it!!!  

  • Tipping train cars over? ??   COL    Let’s hope those guys and gals stay out of the 1:1 foot scale rail yards.


Let’s keep it simple.

How in this day and age of electronics do we keep it simple?   Is this a conundrum?

Two simple resolutions: 

  • The next two items up for discussion are eye openers.    They  will be  simple resolutions to the DCC Friendly dilemma.    Worth the read. 

1.  The First Resolution: 

A Simple Resolution?   I did say that already, right?     It is an easy fix,  a easier fix then you might thing to eliminate those  shorts in a switch mechanism,

Peco’s  Resolution:

A must read:   Peco’s DCC Friendly Advisory.    

Peco suggests that you cut in the isolation gaps on the two rails leading away from the frog on the diverging end of the switch aka turnout…and I concur.   Allow me to add:   Any none power routed or  power routed switch is now DCC Friendly aka DCC Safe!    A viable short, eliminated.  It’s that simple!

Schematic:  Next you will find a schematic of a switch mechanism. According to the author the switch is a, “Live frog points standard wiring.”   I have no idea what that means.    May I suggest an example of a Power Routed switch mechanism.

Isolation gaps: The schematic does illustrate how a short can occur and where to cut in the isolation gaps as prescribed by Peco.

Polarity:   High & Low AC:  When electricians talk about AC they always refer to a High and Low side.     When they talk about DC, as do model railroaders, they refer to it as a + plus or – minus.   This allows them to communicate what they are working on and keep from mixing the two up.     AC & DC is visible on your hand held meter.   I think you’ll figure this out.

The example that follows is a classic Power Routed Switch.
    1. Red is Positive + or High
    2. Blue is Negative – or Low
    3. Where blue meets red you will have a short.


To enlarge the picture and clear up the fuzziness feel free to click on it.   Don’t forget how to get back.

Isolation Gaps: Do notice where the markers are indicating the location of the  isolation gaps.   These are on the rails moving away from the frog. Take them away and you will have a “Short”. Schematic courtesy of Ty’s Blog.

Without A  Doubt, It’s That Simple!

Isolation Gaps and/or Plastic Rail Joiners. Yes, you can use plastic rail joiners to make or isolate the rails but I don’t recommend it. They tend to dry out, twist and turn and the nubbins tend to turn toward the inside of the rails causing derailments. I recommend you cut in your isolation gaps with a Dremel Tool and a fine cutting disc.   With a drop or two of ZapAGap or Thick Cyanoacrylate to hold your rails in alignment.


2.   The Second Resolution:

Block wiring:        

The first time I cut in isolation gaps for block wiring I was surprised at how many problems that solved.    I simply cut in two isolation gaps per each rail in the  track leaving the diverging end of the switch mechanism.      This is known as “Block Wiring,” just like Joe Fugate does.   The first time I did this I was surprised at how many problems disappeared…gone!    Problems solved.

Add two pieces of track to the diverging end of any switch.   One on the straight end of the switch and the other on the curved section.   It’s the rails in these two pieces of tracks that you are going to cut.          Any questions?   No… then let’s continue.

Drop wires:   Yes, those infamous drop wires that are essential for Block Wiring, also applies to  DCC Wiring.      They work great for Analog DC, Cab A and Cab B. train operations.    However, the toggled blocks won’t be needed for DCC.    The exception being, unless you want to shut off the power, to any engine storage tracks, hidden staging tracks, perhaps a  block or two as in a siding and/or stub end track.     I do recommend you install DPDT electrical toggle switches to your storage tracks, where you can shut the power off to both rails.

You can find a How To presentation about Block Wiring by going to:   Block Wiring.

3.  The Third Resolution:


  • Alan Gartners Blog – DCC FriendlyThe phrasing “DCC Friendly” was not coined by Linn Westcott, John Armstrong and/or John Allen.      Alan Gartner, is the one who coined “DCC Friendly.”  He doesn’t give a specific definition, “It isn’t”  this, “It isn’t”  that, dependent on some fine  illustrations and graphics. The following link takes you to  his website where he claims to have coined  said  terminology.   Alan Gartner:   http://www.wiringfordcc.com/switches.html
Here are others who have sounded off on the same subject:


  • Larry Pucket,  provides us with a definition that is pretty much to the point and can be found in the introduction.  Check out signal distortand look for the “Spikes” that can be decoder killers.  You can find more on:  Larry Pucket’s Website.


  • NMRA:   Suggesting we go to the NMRA, How To pages and see what Gerry Hopkins has to say.   Note comments about misunderstandings which can be translated confusion.    There is a lot of confusion out there, as is apparent on various toy train and model railroad websites.    See:  http://www.nmra.org.au/Hints/Turnout_Tips/Turnout_Tips.html

A Historical Perspective:

  • Old Model Railroad Wig Wag:   There is an article in HO Model Trains,  dated  June of 1952  presenting  how to hard wire in a switch, including a DPDT electrical toggle switch wired to reverse the polarity of the “Hot” frog.    Not so distant from or dissimilar to what Alan Gartner, has proposed.    I think it’s safe to say nothing new going on here.


  • News Update:   What’s coming next is already here.    You can see it in the April 2015 issue of Model Railroader discussing “DCC Friendly” switches/turnouts.    You will  find an introduction to an automated reversing unit for the frog.   The “Frog Juicer.”  Good idea!   If money is no object.    
  • News update  5-7-2106.  You won’t believe what you can do with the New Peco HO and N scale track switches.     More on this as we generate new on  Russ G’s, HO Scale, The Edgemoor and Cliff Hangar Railroad.    The good news is, just install the switch and you are good to go.
Remember where I said any switch can be made to be friendly to DCC?!  DCC Safe!   Good!!



Intermission – Break Time:


You in the back, the one waving your hand frantically.    What was that you were asking?    Are we done yet?   Are we there yet?   Did you say you have to go to the bathroom.   Sound familiar?  No we aren’t there yet and we aren’t done yet!    if you need to take a break… take your time going but hurry back.

Intermission:   Alright!    I hope they have the chocolate raisins for sale in the lobby.   Did they get Diet Dr. Pepper installed?    No just Diet Coke….Yuck!


Is everybody back and are we ready for the next round of DCC myth management?     What?   What?   What did he say?

There’s More:  No way.  There can’t be more!   Aiiyiiyii!!!

You now have the three resolutions as presented here on BarstowRick.com.     Which will most likely lead to more questions then I’ve been able to answer.   Yes, there’s more to look at.


Switches/Turnouts  what should I buy at the LHS?

Choices of Switches/Turnouts:  The problem here is… there isn’t a problem.   But some would like to make it complicated by creating a problem.   Sigh!

There are so many options when it comes to purchasing various switches today that knowing which type of switch and power routing options to buy can be confusing.     If you follow the procedures indicated in the Simple Resolutions #1 and #2.     You will discover that it doesn’t matter which switch you buy.    You will  learn that you can make any switch work and it will do the job nicely.

Good News: 

I heard my favorite heckler asking.    Is there such a thing as a  user friendly switch/turnout?  Good news!   Yes, there is!

The Kato Unitrack,  switches are Trouble Free,  DCC Safe, Plug and Play as in User Friendly.    With a built in reversing slider switch for the hot frog.   Similar to what you read as recommended and illustrated by Alan Gartner.
Peco Switches, You might want to check out  the latest run .  They are good to go right out of the box.   I think you will like what they’ve done and what it will mean for DCC operators. 



DCC Friendly Switches:

What are they?    Something easy to do as in plug and play?    No!  Not hardly but you will have to click and scroll to see  Alan Gartner’s presentations.    Let’s see if we can cut through the  haze/fog via the process of elimination and answer some  immediate questions.   

  • Does “DCC Friendly” equate with “User Friendly?    The quick answer is   NO!  Not at all.   They are not synonymous and shouldn’t be interpreted as such.  You’ll see why when you link up to Alan Gartners, blog.
  • DCC Friendly versus Analog DC switches:  In the first place this is a misnomer on both accounts.  Track switches are just track switches.   They don’t care how they are powered up and they can be used in any A.C. or D.C. application.
  •   Is there a difference in how the switches are constructed?   The quick answer is:   NO!    Not yet.   Take into consideration how many prefabricated  switches are available on the market.   None are DCC Friendly, again as Alan Gartner illustrates. 
  • Do we need to purchase DCC Friendly Switches?  The quick answer is  NO!  Not at all!
  • Is there  an Official DCC Friendly Switch?  Again the answer is NO!    At least, not yet!  Personally, I see no reason for one.  
  • There is rumor of news on the horizon that may please some of you modelers.   Watch for both Kato and Peco switches to make an announcement.   I might add here, perhaps needless to say they work very well with DCC, as is.    
If you managed to read through all this and your still hanging in here.   Allow me to say congratulations and redirect you to the other postings this discussion has spawned.





Any switch can be made… to be Friendly to DCC and in most cases they already are.    Easier and simpler  then you might think! You can quote me and hang your train hat on it.


Most problems with DCC, I write off as operator error.      This isn’t an easy learning curve and troubleshooting DCC is complicated.

In time this will all be redundant as the product engineers, manufacturers and hobby advocates go to work to resolve today’s problems.

This is not a wrap but rather a lengthy start to an otherwise seemingly endless discussion.     Thanks for the visit and giving the input here a read.    Feel free to come back and browse at your will or if you dare.  Grin!



A shout out of thanks to some well deserving presenters and assistants.

Credits:    I must acknowledge and give credit to those who have provided their advice, feed back, graphics, schematics and How To’s with links to their websites.  Bob E., David E., Greg M., David B., Ted F., Steve H.,  Ryan K, Mark G.,  NMRA, Wiki,  Peco, Joe Fugate, Alan Gartner, Model Railroader and Ty’s Blog.  Job well done.   A shout-out of Thanks!

Recognition:   One of the finest professionals in the hobby today is  David E. aka Sharkman,  who participates on Train Board.com..     You’ll find several posts here with technical information in the form of PDF’s, as provided by David E..

I’ve given you resources form the alleged experts on the subject.    So my research is now your research.   I wish you well with your adventure into DCC..

I depend on the Professionals,  for the best advice.    Suggesting you do the same.

To my friends, BVMR’s: A bunch of ordinary or was that ornery guys and gals.   Who tolerated my annoying comments and questions.   Allow me to share my appreciation for their take on the subject.    Talk about a bunch of hee hawer’s and nay-sayers.   Hey, it’s all new to us and we are learning together.   Well, most of us!


From the Side Door Pullman or was that the Out-House?

Disclaimer and Disclosure:  At a recent train show I overheard  someone  taunting that BarstowRick, doesn’t have practical experience with DCC.      That’s not true.    I have practical experience but I don’t have the technical know how or skills, as in ability to look at a decoder and trouble shoot it.  Do you?  

A critique of my work here suggested,  Rick, you need to make it more colorful“.    So I did!  What?  What?  What did you say?   No that wasn’t what you meant.      Did you mean something else….hummm!?

Then my readability meter stepped in and said this needs a whole lot of improvement.    Hey, it is what it is.  I didn’t claim to be an English Major.  Besides, I admit… this isn’t an easy subject to corral and pen down.


I hope this helps.



  • Original post:   1-10-2015,
  • Updates  and Revisions:   4-5-2015, 3-10-2016, 8-12-2016, 5-1-2017, 5-14-2017  rh     A work in progress so do come back.



FreeMoN Scale

Layouts come in all kinds of styles and designs.   From the simple ovals of Toy Trains to the complex Model Railroads.

If you don’t have the space at home for a train layout then you can consider joining a club.

Here is an introduction to FreeMoN Scale.   This is a  modular style of construction used by a number of model railroad  groups or clubs.

FreeMoN Scale, Modular Style Of Club Layout


Free MoN

This is a n scale free mo module that I am building. I have a lot of work left to do on it still, but hopefully it will be finished soon. I am a part of Silicon Valley Free MO N. An N scale modular group in the SF Bay Area.    Thanks for watching Nils.

If it’s to difficult to build a layout at home you can always join a modular group or club and build a module to show at various train shows, open houses and those swap meets.

I hope you enjoyed this short glance at modular railroading and found it interesting.    Have fun!


Mushroom Layout ?

Mushroom Layout! 

What in the heck?   What kind of images does the title of this post portray?   Is this a joke?

I’ve heard the expression “Mushroom Layout” and wondered like you what in the world have those model railroaders, went and  thought up now?  What in the heck are they talking about?   You might remember where I mentioned this style of layout saying,   “I don’t like being kept in the dark.” so here’s some enlightenment.

I have to admit the first time I heard the term “Mushroom Layout” My imagination conjured up all kids of illusions.  A income generating layout!    It’s where you can grow mushrooms when the lights are turned  off and then haul them to the kitchen by way of your toy train set or model railroad.   Of course you are going to need an automated harvester to pick those mushrooms.  Perhaps a packing house or two.  Well, that’s a bit far fetched but I kind of like the idea.

The next image rattling around was that of a multiple helix climbing up the stem of the mushroom and exploding out into a layout topside.     You know the mushroom on top, kind of like the A bomb.   Alas, it’s none of these.   Sigh!    And it turns out the idea and title has been around as long as I have, if not longer.

We have a present day example of such, as built by Joe Fugate.   Joe built his mushroom layout  around the idea of a shelf style layout.  At least this is what I’m accustom to calling it.    However,  further exam proves, it’s not a true shelf layout.   John Armstrong is the father of and  coined the name, “Mushroom” layout.

Check it out:   http://siskiyou-railfan.net/e107_plugins/content/content.php?content.20

You be the judge and decide for yourself how attractive or fun this style of layout would be to operate.     In most cases it’s  not fun to get around it and it’s hard to see at a glance.    The isles tend to be difficult to negotiate as in being to narrow.   Making it difficult for two operators to pass by one another.   Never mind if visitors show-up during an operations session.    How do they get around?

In Joe Fugate’s words:   “” In short, a mushroom is simply a double decked layout where one of the decks faces the opposite direction. This enables you to use a raised floor for viewing the upper deck, and thus keep the lower and the upper decks closer to the same (apparent) relative distance from the floor.   In a nutshell, that’s it. Here’s a cutaway diagram from my web site that illustrates the idea:””

(click to enlarge)

Thanks Joe for the heads up and explanation.

Now that we are no longer being kept in the dark.    You can certainly give consideration to building a layout like this but keep in mind you will need room in the aisle ways for paramedics to get into.   You know in case someone passes out and falls to the floor suffering from a number of maladies. the worst being a stroke or heart attack.

Would you like to see another example?   Here’s an operating view of Steve Cavanaugh’s Western Pacific, Mushroom Layout:

Steve Cavanaugh’s Western Pacific Mushroom Layout

See Steve Cavanaugh’s HO Western Pacific mushroom layout in action! Steve’s layout was open for the layout tour during the July 2011 NMRA X2011 West Convention in Sacramento. Part of the January 2011 issue of Model Railroad Hobbyist magazine.  Thanks for watching.

Well, that wraps this up for now.    Turn off the light and lock the door when you leave.    If you don’t make it out of here… there’s milk in the fridge and cereal in the cabinet above the fridge.     Do flush the toilet we aren’t in station and we are operating with full hook-ups.    Yawn!

No blowing the train whistle or ringing the bell after 11:30 p.m.    I want to get some sleep.   Time to let some mushrooms grow.   Grin!

See there!   Didn’t I promise you this would be nothing but fun?   Still wondering it they ate some sort of hallucinogenic mushroom and saw this style of layout in some sort of drug induced model railroad vision. 

NO!  Did I hear a No?   Aww,… my favorite heckler just woke up…again.  Can you repeat that?   You are so right.   He said, “We model railroaders can get on a high without such stimulant’s”.    You enjoying the blanket and pillow they brought you?    I see a thumb’s up.    LOL

Ok, seriously now, all joking aside.   This is all about choices and it’s  up to you to decide what style of layout you want.   Don’t think for a second that I don’t appreciate this kind of layout.    Better then some other alternatives I can think of out there.


DCC Short Circuit Management

DCC Short Circuit  Management.

There are times when I bump into something or hear from another model railroader an idea that captures my curiosity.    I have Russ. G., to thank  for making me aware of this next How To video.   He is one of our BVMR’s,  (Bear Valley Model Railroaders) here in Big Bear Country.

To get started with this discussion I first viewed a set of DVD’s he loaned me.   After  reviewing  the DVD regarding Short Circuit Management.   I discovered it’s a bit more complicated then what Joe shows in this introductory video.

DCC Short Circuit Management,

mrhmag.com  – DCC Short Management Demo

http://mrhmag.com – Joe Fugate demonstrates how to better manage shorts on a DCC layout using  #1156 auto tail light bulbs.   Thanks for watching, Joe Fugate.

The Rick, Joe is talking to in the video isn’t me,    I have more hair then he does  uhh…err  so far.    Give me time I’ll catch up with him.

I’ve watched this video about three times.   Learning something new each and every time.   The thing I like about it is how easy the light bulbs are to install and how well it appears to work.

Joe Fugate produced a number of DVD How To’s which includes information on Short Circuit Managment.      To learn more  feel free to read on or purchase Joe Fugate’s How To DVD’s.      I know a shameless plug.

Another feature I like is how Joe,   cuts in his isolation gaps.    Block Wiring,  similarly to how I wired in my layout.      This method  makes any switch  “Friendly to DCC or DCC Safe”.

More on “DCC Friendly” or “DCC Safe” switches  see:  Switches and DCC, User Friendly or Not.

Short circuit  management on any toy train or model railroad is a must.    I don’t know how many times I’ve been operating  a train and the power dropped out from underneath me.   Not fun.    Whether it’s  on my own layout or someone else’s and the power drops out   unceremoniously killing train movement.   It leaves you asking, what in the wide, wide world of sports uhh…err… Model Railroading, is going on here?  Your meters or  light indicators on the transformers  tells you there is a ….(expletives I won’t use here)…  short??   How am I supposed to find it.

The first place most of us looks for a short,  is the location where the train engine stopped.    Did it derail, did it jump track and/or is there a track nail making an unwanted contact?  Believe me when I say it doesn’t take much and I’m pretty sure we’ve all been there.

One of the advantages of the Short Circuit Management, using the light bulb system it makes it fail safe as in  it isolates only the block affected by the short.     You can see that in the video shared here as  the diesel engine in the one block stops dead  at the first hint of a short.  Just the block affected shuts down.   No arcing of current through to damage the decoder.

One other feature not mentioned here.     The block can be shut down with the use of a DPDT electrical toggle switch, which allows you time to find the derailment and/or whatever  caused the short.    Shut off the power, find and fix the problem and then restore power without interrupting train operations on the whole of the layout.

Short Circuit control in my not so humble opinion, is a must.   There are a number of old school ideas floating around out there but they haven’t solved the problems to my satisfaction.   Personally, I prefer not to put in fuses  but rather circuit breakers into my control panels.   However, the light bulb option is by far more appealing and cost effective (cheaper) and so far, I  like what I see.

Other Light Bulbs:

Recently more questions came up then I had answers for.    You may have the same questions.   IE., Can you use “Other” auto light bulbs to accomplish the same purpose?      Yes & No…sort of.      Here is a list I borrowed from Joe Fugate’s website.

1. One 1152 bulb – 1.4 amp limit
2. One 1142 bulb – 1.5 amp limit
3. One 1156 bulb – 2.1 amp limit
4. One 1157 bulb – 2.5 amp limit (if both filaments wired in parallel)
5. Two 1152 bulbs – 2.8 amp limit
6. Two 1142 bulbs – 3.0 amp limit
7. Two 1156 bulbs – 4.2 amp limit
8. Two 1157 bulbs – 5.0 amp limit (if both filaments wired in parallel)

To read more about what you’ve just learned above go back to  Joe Fugates website.   Look at the data below the video.    http://model-trains-video.com/e107_plugins/forum/forum_viewtopic.php?25

How does this work?     What’s the thinking behind this and/or theory?    To learn the answer Joe Fugate, recommends you go to: http://www.members.optusnet.com.au/nswmn/1156.htm#i1156test    

I have  questions and you may have some of your own.     There is a link and  a way to contact Joe Fugate at Model Railroad Hobbyist Magazine.    Here you will find an open discussion where you can participate in asking questions.  You may need to register in order to submit your question:     http://siskiyou-railfan.net/e107_plugins/forum/forum_viewtopic.php?3026.10  

News Update:       FYI    The new DCC equipment shuts off faster and won’t allow the light bulb to light up, credit to Allen Gartner.     A small group of BVMR’s discovered this to be true, as of the date of this writing 2-22-2016 rh.

What we did notice is the light would flicker acting as a buffer to protect the decoders in the diesel engines, used during train operations.

If this isn’t clear or you are still unsure how this works both Joe Fugate and Allen Gartner have websites where they share with the Toy Train and Model Railroader enthusiasts the purpose of using a tail light bulb and how to install this unique method of Short Circuit Control/Management.

Best of luck.


Paved Roads and Railroad Crossings

Modeling paved roads and various types of railroad crossings can be difficult at best.    I’ve tried the backside of roofing material, various putties, spackle, caulk,  sheet rock joint compound and more.    Some worked fairly well while others simply dried up and fell apart.   Here you can learn how to model paved roads and and a railroad crossing.  Now the technique used for making the railroad crossing has been used before but with different products.     Woodland Scenics presents a way and means to model those black topped / paved roads.    Here is a workable solution and it’s easier then you think.

Model Realistic Roads & Paved Areas – Model Scenery | Woodland Scenics®

Learn more at http://WoodlandScenics.com Learn to make a variety of paved roads and parking areas on your layout. Matt walks you step-by-step through the process of making paved roads, a railroad crossing and more!   Thanks for watching.

Paved roads and railroad crossings can sometimes stump the average model railroader.       This isn’t the only way to make this happen but the presenter makes it look so easy.      Worth your time to take a look.

Send pictures of what you end up doing.


Lighting Your Buildings

Woodland Scenics think tank has been busy lately.     Do you want to go about lighting your buildings in a realistic way.  If that’s the case then  take the time to check out this next video.

Just Plug™ Lighting System | Woodland Scenics | Model Scenery

No electrical knowledge or special tools needed…just plug in   and you’re done! The Just Plug™ Lighting System is a quick and easy way to add realism and interest to new and existing layouts and other projects. Individual bulb brightness can be controlled, and the modular design allows for easy expansion. Just Plug is compatible with DCC and works for any scale.   Thanks for watching Woodland Scenics.

Traditional incandescent bulbs have been known to burn out and cause frustrating replacement problems.   Pretty much common knowledge.    It’s been widely thought the new LED bulbs are stronger as in last longer.