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Is DCC what you are looking for?

David K Thompson author of the DCC Help e-book contributed this article to share:

Is DCC what I am looking for?

dcc technology for model trains

The DCC layout has several advantages over the conventional DC railroad model, but the end decision on whether or not you should get it for your project depends upon your considerations and requirements.

At the end of the day, it is all about ease of use, functionality, and worth based on the money. So, make sure you keep the following points in mind before deciding upon DCC as your final choice for your personal railroad model!

  • The Size of the Project – The magic of DCC is fully felt in large-size models – they do not need to have extensive accessories and a large number of branches and multi-tracks, but the larger-than-life experience is what makes DCC so functional and popular amongst hobbyists.
  • Even if your layout is simple, a large layout with multiple trains running within the same control simultaneously is what is the main advantage of DCC. However, if you want a small layout with only a single person operating a single train, then DCC won’t do anything special for you.
  • Go for DCC if you wish to control more than one train on the same layout at the same time!
  • The Number of Users to Operate the Model – DCC gives you the functionality of adding multiple throttles that can be used by different users at the same time to control different trains. The throttles can also be walk-around or wireless, which makes the experience more fun and exciting. So, if you are looking for that kind of multi-user experience, DCC should be the top choice on your list!
  • The Final Track work Setup – DCC operation does not require any extensive wiring skills, but it should be done with care and expertise to avoid any disruptions and short circuits. The track will have to be clean at all times, and free from any kinks and additional switching that can complicate things.
    The existing wiring does not need to be changed much – just the BUS wires have attached feeders, which are then to be connected and soldered correctly to the track keeping the polarity in mind. Using different colored wires and a good wiring diagram will do the trick.
    You do need to have any exceptional wiring skills – basic soldering and usage of wiring equipment will work just fine. So, if you are a beginner looking for minimum hassle and a straightforward wiring criterion, DCC will work great for you!
  • Cost and Budget Considerations – The DCC system may seem to be heavy on the pocket at the initial stages, because the investment in the decoders, the control station, and the boosters may seem to be pretty expensive.
    However, rest assured, a sound investment done once on the system will keep you happy and occupied for several years to come and you do not need to spend on any additional maintenance as well if you take the necessary measures for short circuits.
  • Many inexpensive and cost-effective systems are easily available in the market. So, for the record, a DCC layout is well worth the money it comes for!

For more help on DCC go here

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Golden Spike II with a Santa Fe Engine

Kayla writes:

“My son was just given an HO scale train set. It is a Golden Spike II with a Santa Fe engine on the box, but the model engine is a Burlington Northern. It is a 105 piece set. I am just interested in some information on the set. I tried searching, but I am a complete novice. Thank you in advance!”

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Locomotive Losing Contact Along Track

Clint has HO and asks:

“I have a DCC layout. I purchased a used, but newer, (closed can motor) Walthers Trainline diesel. The track has been cleaned. All other locomotives run fine, but the Walthers hesitates and sometimes stalls. Are the wheels different on the Walthers? What is the fix?”

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Peco Electro Frog turnouts With Circuitron SMAIL Switch Machines

Kim writes:

“I am working with Peco Electro Frog turnouts and I am using the Circuitron SMAIL switch machines but the electrical puzzle I am dealing with now has nothing to do with the motors. So this person from Iron Planet Hobbies says do not modify these so the jumpers underside are connected, There were connected out of the package and there is a frog wire. So in my photos I am showing first a single left turnout, currently directing the train to the curve so in that position switch is working fine. The other way I have set up as a switch throw and it goes into a spur by an elevator so what is happening, when I throw the switch and the blades move to other rails, it is causing a track fault.

dcc model trains1

So other photo is a crossover using two left turnouts. It is fine when they are in close (straight) but like the other one (#3), soon as I throw and blades contact other rails, FAULT. These switches are 2 A and B, I throw 1 A and B which is for a side and it does not fault. Other photos is a diagram and the underside showing the jumper.

I live in mpls/St Paul MN and wished a had an electrical expert here. Motors are working great, moving switches very nicely. I started in front to get this working right before going to the back to the same switch layout but without the single switch. In the link, there is a photo of my Digitrax Zephyr DCS52. If anyone out there are using these same type switches, I could use some advice cause I am not understanding this.”

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Track Laying

Ed asks:

“What is the best glue to put down your Ballast?”

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Wiring for Susquehanna Valley & Gulf Summit

Jon B has been an N scale modeler since 1978 and posted this:

“Yours truly is in process of building the Susquehanna Valley & Gulf Summit N Scale layout. It first appeared in 1970 as ‘Nine Atlas N Scale Model Railroads’ as Layout N-109. There was a 2nd edition revised in August of 1976. Some years ago, a modeler published a DCC wiring version. Today, the same N scale layout is known as Atlas Layout N-18.

Drum roll, please…

My question is – Do any of you know where I can get a wiring schematic that will allow DCC on the Upper Level and DC with TWO DC controllers for the bottom level?

The rationale for this is yours truly wants to operate the upper level while two grandsons operate the DC version on the lower level.”

Please add your comment or suggestion below to assist Jon.

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Athearn Genesis Challenger on 18 Inch Radius

Roland asks this question:

“I plan on buying a pre-loved (I presume that means 2nd hand but used with care) HO Athearn Genesis Challenger. Due to where it is, I will need to buy it untested. From the pictures and description, it does look to be in good condition, and the price seems fair considering what they go for new. My research tells me a 22-inch radius is recommended, but I only have 18-inches. Does anyone have any experience with running this model on less than a 22-inch radius, and what’s the general opinion on the Challenger?”

Post your question below, or post your comment below.

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Thoughts on Atlas Code 83 Track

Wayne posted this question:

“It’s taken me a while, but I’m now at the point of buying track for my first HO layout which will be 9ftx4ft. My cousin uses Atlas code 83 track, but before committing I would like other people’s thoughts on what track would be best? Does it come down to personal preference, or is one track better than another?”

To have your question published use the ASK A QUESTION link below.

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2 New Series Of Scale Model Railroad Background Stores Just Released

Now available not 1 but 2 new series of background shops available to download and make for OO, HO, or N scale layouts. Watch this quick tutorial that demonstrates how easy it is to make the jewelry store and travel agency from series #1. CLICK THE VIDEO BELOW TO WATCH THE DEMO.

PDF plans are now available for download at https://www.modelbuildings.org/background-shops-scale-models/

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Can I Fit a Decoder on My Own?

David Thompson author of the DCC Help e-book contributed this article to share:

Can I Fit a Decoder on My Own?

Yes, you can! Installing a decoder on a locomotive is not a very difficult task, once you get the hang of the basic concepts involved in its operation.

However, it is advised that the first time you operate on a DCC layout; you get a decoder-fitted train to work on the model.

This will give you some time to learn about the working of the equipment and get familiarized with it before starting from scratch. Once you attain the knowledge and get familiar with the working criteria, you are all set to try the installation on your own!

In a nutshell,
• Decoder is like the working muscle in the DCC layout.
• It is responsible for assigning an address or loco number to the train.
• It also detects the signal incoming from the command station on the track rails and decodes it into the requested action for the locomotive.
• The decoder commands and powers up the motor for controlling its speed and basic direction settings.
• Optional commands that can be controlled by a decoder include controlling the back EMF and momentum and updating the speed table.
• The decoder also acts as a switched outlet and functions to power up the additional equipment like the driving headlights, any special light effects, and the sound.
• It is packaged as a chip, ready to be installed in the locomotive with a ‘plug and play’ action. Many locomotives also come with the ‘DCC fitted’ option, which means the decoder is already installed in them and they can be used as it is by the user. Such systems are ideal for beginners. Advanced users can program and install the decoder themselves as well for defining more custom functions and features.
• The price for the decoders depends upon the number of features it offers.
• When selecting the decoder, it is a good idea to go for NMRA compatible models so that they can work in conjunction with any throttle or command station you are using. Also, look at the power consumption of the decoder before adding it on to your locomotive.
• You can easily install and fit a decoder on your own, but opt for assistance from a friend or a technical professional in case you are confused about the different steps involved. You can also seek online help in this regard, there are a number of resources available that guide on the model and type of decoders that you should go for.
• There is no specific decoder that can be termed as the best choice for your locomotive. Different versions and brands seem to work for different people. So, at the end of the day, it is all about what you seek from the equipment and your own requirements that make the layout work like a charm for you.

For more help on DCC go here

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Easy Way to Make Unpaved Areas

Neil sent in his quick tip:

“I discovered an easy way to make unpaved areas of ground surface such as gravel or sand. I now use differing grades and colors of sandpaper and adhere to your surface. I wish I had found out earlier. That’s life I guess.”

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Refurbishing an Old Switch Engine

Phil writes:

“I have an 0-4-0 B N HO scale switch engine from the early 60’s I cleaned and lubed. It is running now but is noisy. The part that confuses me is it runs better and is quieter when going backward. Any ideas why?”

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2 Minute Demo on How To Make This Background House Scale Model


Plans are now available for download at https://www.modelbuildings.org/background-buildings

Download, print, and construct these plans to OO, HO, or N scale.

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Brushes for an AHM Trolley Motor

Bruce asks:

“I am searching for brushes for an AHM trolley motor. The originals burned – sizes are 2mm x 3mm and a guess of about 5mm or 6mm long, and of course, with springs. I searched eBay, googled the world…but cannot find any sources. The question: does anyone know where I can find some? Thanks in advance for your help.”

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Recommend DCC Decoders

Train Club member Palitha asks:

Can you kindly recommend DCC Decoders and speakers for the following DC engines –
1. DENVER & RIO GRANDE GP40 Diesel Locomotive Atlas #7038 HO
2. H0 Fleischmann

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Bud models HO and posted this:

“My train components crossing a crossover are diverted to the second track after the engine and some cars have crossed OK. Even though the crossover looks OK to the eye I still have an obvious problem. Any thoughts?”

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Adhesives and Glues

Kent asks:

“I found an old kit with paints and 1,1,1-trichloroethane glue and paintbrush cleaner. It is in “Bachmann bros. painting fluid and glue”. Is there a replacement for this?”

Post your answer below.

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Andrew models in N scale and writes:

“If I want to change my current Kato DC layout to DCC and use a Bachmann E-Z controller but still use the Kato point switches, how do I power them and what do I need to do?”

Add or view comments below.

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