DCC – Friendly Switches Part 4,
Are we misusing, “DCC Friendly,” when it only applies to Switches as illustrated by Alan Gartner?
For sake of this discussion I will use “Switch” in place of “Turnout”.
Is the use of “DCC Friendly,” a Misnomer? How about a Myth?
The quick answer is, DCC Friendly Switches aren’t “Friendly,” in the same sense of “User Friendly.” It’s more like, “Friendly to DCC”.
- I’ve shared rather indiscreetly some of my thoughts on the subject. It’s time for more of the same. No holds barred.
- Here in this post I will be a bit more candid and to the point about my thoughts and feelings on this subject.
I’ve said this already but I might as well follow up with, I prefer to use “DCC Safe.” But there again Alan Gartner and other Model Railroaders of the day, didn’t ask me. They didn’t have to… but allow me to throw in my take and my two cents worth.
First and foremost: Let’s not overwork “DCC Friendly,” when it has nothing to do with, “User Friendly.”
My model railroad partner and good friend for years, dear old Dad. If he could be here he would say, “They went and made it to dammed complicated.” He’s right they did! They made DCC way to complicated. Oh don’t get me wrong he enjoyed operating the complicated, Analog DC layouts I built for him but I think he’d be none to happy with this new technology. It’s not easy to operate and has a difficult learning curve. Then add to that, “DCC Friendly Switches” and I don’t think I could print his response here. May he rest in peace.
DCC is designed to be plug and play and is for the most part. They (Who is they?) went and made DCC way to complicated, especially when it comes to Programming a Locomotive (Steam Engine) and/or a Motor (Diesel Engine). A wide assortment of CV’s, Speed Matching, Consisting and other hard to understand procedures. It’s possible to learn it all and it’s taking me longer then with most things I’ve done in my lifetime. Grumble, grumble, gripe!
I know of clubs where only one person in the group has taken the time to learn how to program decoders, speed match and consist locomotives and diesels. They depend on him or her to do the job for them. The hard work.
Add into all the ruckus and frustrations, “A DCC Friendly Switch,” and all the hard wiring required??? Which is what I point at and say this isn’t “User Friendly,” as in “Plug and Play,” and shouldn’t be translated as such. To the contrary, it’s anything but….” User Friendly,” as illustrated by Alan Gartner. In my not so humble opinion…it is a misnomer.
I found and maybe you have to… suddenly DCC looks less and less attractive. Your asking me to do what…to my switches? AND THEN… I have to make my switches Friendly to DCC? No way! It isn’t going to happen.
May I add: It isn’t needed and it isn’t necessary!
Pointing to my layout and hearing myself say, (repetively), “It isn’t needed and it isn’t necessary!!!”. I haven’t done that on my layout!!!! Oh, I already said that. Guess you can’t keep the obvious out of this presentation.
DCC works on my layout without…soldering a maze of wires to the switch mechanism! So why….. would I… want to do that? In case you were wondering, I don’t.
I’m glad I didn’t bump into Alan Gartner’s “DCC Friendly” blog before having any interest in DCC. If I thought I was going to have to hard wire in all my switches/turnouts (darn T word) to make them DCC Friendly. Which is anything but “User Friendly”. Well, this would of scared me off. I’m pretty sure it would have the same effect on newbies, the inexperienced as well as experienced modelers. Those who are deciding whether or not to make the conversion to DCC.
If you thought you flipped a lot of toggles when you operated Analog DC….. what’s it going to be like when each switch has the frog and set of movable points wired in to a DPDT reversing electric slider switch or a toggle switch? Never mind… the maintenance of these track switches… is going to be overwhelming. Do I dare say, making it anything but “User Friendly, Plug and Play,” and you can quote me on that.
Then a new arrival the “Frog Juicer” shows up requiring a considerable amount of hard wiring. As far as I’m concerned it’s a waste of hard earned monies…friendlier… but not easy to install,
As coined by Alan G., “DCC Friendly.” It didn’t take me long to come to the conclusion that while the procedures have a plausible purpose, is do able and certainly brings to the attention of those who manufacture switches aka turnouts that something needs to be done.
However, “Friendly” should be used in the same context as “User Friendly,” and/or “Plug and Play”. I think I’ve already made that point but it’s worth repeating.
What Alan has proposed is anything but “User Friendly.” Hard wiring in your switches is not an easy project and in less then capable hands, you and I can destroy said switches. Ask me! It wasn’t pretty. On the upside hobbyist have been using this same resolution to resolve the impossible problems… with their switches since before I was born. Do able but anything but friendly!
Alan Gartner, knows this and recognizes such. What he does, is to encourage you and I to contact model track manufacturers suggesting they come up with User Friendly, Plug and Play track switches. In the meantime what he proposes….well…is nothing new and goes back to previous years being older then I. May I suggest as a last resort… procedure.
Unsure of what I’m talking about? You can always go back and check out the links I provided on DCC Friendly Switches Part 1. You will discover from the various illustrations exactly what Alan G. proposes. It is do able but it will cause you to spend hours hard wiring in switches, to make them friendly to DCC. He makes a well founded point and the information he shares is worth noting. The cautions he shares are valid. After you’ve had a chance to digest his presentation, I will leave you to your own conclusion.
In the meantime:
Let’s not over work the terminology “DCC Friendly,” when it has nothing to do with “User Friendly.”
By the same token let’s use “User Friendly, ” in it’s most accepted application, “Plug and Play.”
I was starting to think that DCC Friendly was some sort of marketing scheme so the LHS’s can sell, Sell, SELL items at a higher profit. That may not be true but I’m sure marketers will see it as an opportunity to mark up the MSRP. All under the guise of “DCC Friendly”.
The DCC Friendly Syndrome:
I’m concerned about what I see developing on the internet and various toy train and model railroad wig wags (magazines) and websites.
I read somewhere, a question about DCC and whether or not a certain piece of flex track was considered to be DCC Friendly. After I picked myself up off the floor… from laughing so hard. I had serious misgivings about the whole idea.
Question: If I buy a (brand…your choice) of sectional track is it DCC Friendly? Really? Does it make a difference? I hear my self muttering out loud.
Here’s some other examples:
- How about some DCC Friendly Flex Track?
- A DCC friendly Railroad Crossing aka Rerailer?
- DCC friendly sectional track?
- DCC friendly rail joiners?
- DCC…. SPDT or DPDT electrical toggle switches and wire?
- Oh yes, and a DCC friendly city water tower with a built in siren to call in the volunteer fireman?
And the list goes on.
What? Are you kidding me? Someone has been smitten with the DCC Friendly bug.
Did we miss the point of… “User Friendly.”??
None of the above is or needs to be thought of as DCC Friendly and/ or known as such. Not everything out there with exception to Alan Gartners, DCC Friendly Switches needs to be known as “DCC Friendly”. Today’s model railroad wig wags roar with DCC Friendly articles.
Do I dare say it’s a misnomer?!!!
This is going to get way out of hand, totally out of control and more confusing as time goes on. Unless some one is able to Checkmate… all the nonsense. “DCC Friendly,” at best only applies to Alan Gartners, DCC Friendly Switch presentations.
Then a friend of mine brought me his copy of MR. I picked it up and read to my dismay an article authored by Larry Puckett., “DCC Friendly Signals.” My first response was you’ve got to be kidding? You can read the article for yourself.
Hanging myself out here, they don’t need to use “DCC Friendly,” as it implies to and for track-side signals. Aiiyiiyii !!!!
And the latest to arrive on my door step is the March 2016 issue of Model Railroader with an article titled, “Are your locomotives DCC Friendly?” I’ll leave you to read that article and make your own determination.
You can go to L. Puckett’s website (I do provide a link further down this page) and there you will find an explanation as to why he uses DCC Friendly, so freely. I’m afraid I agree with the original editor, the one that had him toss out half the article he wrote. The one he wanted wanted to put into print.
Pardon me if I don’t buy into this DCC Friendly stuff outside of Alan Gartner’s, presentation. Alan makes a viable point. One deserving our attention.
DCC Ready, Friendly to DCC as in User Friendly or Plug and Play….I will accept. But then nobody asked me. Harrumph!
DCC Systems Fail:
It appears the DCC systems we have today are incomplete with what appears to be inherent flaws, built into the decoders. Not just one flaw but several…..!!!!!
Communication in most electronics is a two way street. DCC decoders do not talk back to the Control Center and you aren’t able to diagnose a decoder by plugging it into a diagnostic tool. At least… not at the time of this writing.
In our group of BVMR’s we’ve sent off a number of defunct decoders requesting information as to why they failed. No one company… seemed to be able to answer the question. Most were reluctant but kind enough to replace the decoder.
One response from an Internet Resource and/or on line hobby shop indicated it might be, “To many shorts.” Damage accumulated after suffering a number of power spikes.
News Update 5-7-2015: MRC came out with something I hear being described as a DCC Decoder Dr. Not sure what that means but I do know, no one has figured out how to use it…yet. I will be looking into this and you will be the first to know whether this is a good tool to use or not. Here’s a link: http://modelrectifier.com/search/product-view.asp?ID=8273
Update on the Rug Doctor, uhh…err DCC Decoder Dr. Our DCC guru managed to get it to work and tested one decoder but didn’t learn much other then how to to re-program the decoder . Again, Not exactly what he…we were looking for.
***DCC IS FRIENDLY TO MY LAYOUT***
The good news:
DCC Is friendlier to my layout, then anything I’ve done yet. With the flip of a DPDT electrical toggle (cut off switch) and I can switch over from Analog DC to DCC on Cab B. Confused? No need to be it’s the simplest solution to many a toy train or model railroaders DCC Dilemma. Seriously! See details about my layout and how I wired it in The Howland & Pacific Railroad, DCC Works On My Layout.
Everything we’ve used in the past to build a toy train or model railroad will work with DCC. For example my layout. I didn’t purchase anything or rewire anything to make it DCC Friendly. With one exception with an eye on the future. I have two 14 gauge bus lines (not Greyhound) that run from Cab A and Cab B out to the six or seven control panels around the layout.
DCC Is Friendly to my layout as in Plug and Play or to more accurately describe it: Easy to Hard Wire In. Point being it should be “Friendly” to anyone Else’s layout. It is User Friendly, Plug and Play and everything appears to be DCC Safe.
Now to solve the programming and CV dilemma. Today you can download computer soft ware that will allow you to program your locomotive or prime mover, set up speed matching and those dreaded CV’s. Without a doubt it’s worth checking into.
Thoughts to ponder about Terminology:
It’s a fact, Model Railroaders misuse railroad (Rails) terminology at best. Let alone misuse our own model railroad terminology. The widely accepted way and means of verbal communications and lingo. In the paragraphs above is/are perfect examples of misusing, “DCC Friendly”. Gosh! What are we thinking? We’ll let them off with a verbal warning…this time. Grin!
Toy Train enthusiasts don’t need to worry about terminology or even railroad lingo after all it’s all about the fun of playing with their toy trains. No one is trying to sound like the real deal. Just have some fun running trains.
Don’t we all!
Researching DCC Friendly Switches puzzled me right off the bat. We need what? Why? The first Question I had is… has there been any standards established? The answer is yes, however it’s not specifically for the Switch conflagration.
NMRA has done a superb job of establishing a standard for DCC. A visit to their website would be appropriate right about now. See: NMRA http://www.nmra.org/index-nmra-standards-and-recommended-practices
Old Made New:
I then went back to revisit Alan Gartner’s website/blog and re-read what he presents. What he puts forth, is a very old resolution, to a very old problem, going back and/or predating my arrival in the world of model railroading.
If you are curious as to how far back this goes? I was sure it had all started during the summer of 1962. The year my dad came home with a PINK Mercury. What was he thinking? Chick magnet? It was officially, “Champagne.” Yuck…no guy wants to learn how to drive his dad’s car…PINK?
Turns out the issue of hard wiring in switches goes back further then that. I found an article, in a model railroad wig wag dated 1952. Not happy with that? Ok, even further back to an article before Model Railroader, where the founding fathers hard wired in the switches back in the 30’s. It was complicated then and time consuming and what’s been proposed today, is no different. A wiring nightmare. Do I dare say “Nothing new going on here.”
I had the opportunity to ask an old timer… asking him, “Why did they go to all the trouble to hard wire-in their switches?” He said we were hand laying our “Switches” and we couldn’t buy switches like those you have today. Hum-mm! Makes sense to me.
It’s a matter of choice and over the years… I choose to ignore the hard wiring options. Oh, don’t get me wrong. I’ve attempted to master the art of hard wiring in several switches. What I ended up with was two deformed switches and parts that I had no idea where they came from or where they should go. Deformed by the heat of the soldering iron. For me….in the end, money spent that didn’t come easy and was a total loss. Can you tell I don’t forget things like that.
** Worth noting:**
Funny but we are worried about the heat created in resistance and the damage it can do to a decoder and the wires we string out under our layouts and to our switches. Incidentally the heat in a short has been compared to a soldering iron. See Larry Puckett’s articles in Model Railroader or go to his website: www.dccguy.com .
Do we really want to solder a bunch of wires to our switch mechanisms? I don’t but you need to decide for yourself.
I enjoy the sound features that DCC manufacturers have incorporated into their systems. I like the idea of a sound decoder for all kinds of railroad noises. For example the sound of freight cars going over a rail gap with the audible clickety-clack of the wheels. Or the various sounds you hear from refrigerators cars and passenger cars as the compressors work overtime to cool them down. The DCC Sound Decoder with the sound of Water, as you hear it pouring into a tender.
Russ G., a fellow BVMR has one of these but he didn’t use a DCC Sound Decoder. Sound on your layouts can be accomplished via other ways. At a cost less then buying sound decoders. See: Nick Muff’s Layout.
That’s my Two Cents and I Take Change: You’ve been getting my two cents from the start.
Update Posted Here on BarstowRick.com 5-9-2016rh:
Bachmann is currently advertising a Blue Tooth, application. I don’t know if that’s new technology or simply the use of current technology with a new twist. Stay tuned!
WIFI: You will also find a post on a new WIFI app.. Check it out! Things are a changing and right in front of us.
Options we’ve never had so many options.
It is the simple resolutions I recommend you turn to, to solve your switch related problems. In most cases…. as stated here on BarstowRick.com the hard wiring-in of a switch, isn’t necessary. There is a simple resolution to the perceived problems. Which I’d try first and resort to the hard wiring, only when I’m ready to $#!+ can the turnout. Notice, now I call it a turnout.
The simplest resolution has to do with how you cut in your isolation gaps after the diverging ends of the switch.
You may have already read where I said:
- “Practice on old junk… stuff first”. Yep, I said that.
- “Use the simple resolutions first.” You can quote me.
- Steve H., would tell you to, “Go back to the basics” to solve and troubleshoot your problems on the layout.
- David B., would say, “Follow the path of the current”.
- Greg M. said, “Don’t let the smoke out of the electronic components.”
- David E. advised, “Heat can kill a decoder.”
- Then the Author of BarstowRick.com said, “DCC is Friendly to my layout” and would add, “It can be Friendly to your layout.” That I said.
- With advise like this, how can you fail?
- “Cut in those Isolation gaps as prescribed by Peco” and or “Block wiring,” as I suggested. Your good to go and your done.
I thought we were done and then it hit me.
You Like Things Complicated?
***On the other hand***
If you like having things complicated and are up to the task at hand. In that case try hand laying your own switches/turnouts. There are lots of satisfied customers and hobbyist doing just that. With some remarkably exceptional craftsmanship, with outstanding results. You need to visit a club, operations night, where they’ve hard wired-in and hand laid every piece of rail. Hat’s off to the guys and gals that have patience enough to complete such a project. Salute!
But never finished.
As a reminder going back to, none of my switches are DCC Friendly as illustrated by Alan Gartner. DCC is Friendly to my layout and works just fine. Do hear me when I say, without all the hard wiring, heat from a soldering gun and/or the need to dissect a switch mechanism prior to it’s demise. All with the potential of destroying said switch mechanism. Not on my layout!!!
Did I manage to debunk some myths? Is it a myth or do we need DCC Friendly Switches? It will be up to YOU to decide.
I do agree: We need trouble free switches. Further noting; it doesn’t matter how or what scale they come in. Whether or not you use AC or DC to power up your layouts. Whether or not they are power routed or not.
You know the definition of insanity. Doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.
Thanks for taking time to read this. I can only hope you found it informative and helpful. Do note, I’m sold on DCC and the performance I get from my trains. I’d highly recommend it! For a newbie just getting started or old timer making the conversion. I promise, it’s going to be a challenge and a difficult learning curve.
Keeping it simple silly is my motto Utilizing the simpler resolutions, is how I play the game.
I can only hope you found the four part presentation on “DCC Friendly Switches,” helpful and enlightening. A little head knowledge pro and con, is never a bad thing.
The best to you and I hope your choices will lead you down the tracks to a happy, satisfying and successful Toy Train or Model Railroading experience.
Now go have some fun with your toy train caricatures. Grin!