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> Newbie--Advice Please!!
TrevorMcKee
post 1 Jan 2012, 18:37
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All, I am totally new to model railways and have threatened to do something for a long time now! It has finally happened when my wife bought me a Graham Farish Merchant Navy Class steam loco (372-302). I have built a baseboard (4x2) and now have some track to experiment with some layouts etc.

Now this is where I am struggling. I had always wanted to go DCC, but looks like the loco I have is not DCC compatible. Can anyone on the forum confirm this? If not can I get it converted for DCC use or should I forget about DCC at this stage? Ideally wanted to run a couple of locos on the layout.

Sorry if these are stupid questions, but your experience and advice would be appreciated.

Also need some suggestions on controllers etc

Look forward to hearing from you.
Many Thanks

Trevor
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Nigel2001
post 1 Jan 2012, 19:25
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The loco can be converted to DCC.

You require a method to isolate the lower brush gear, one common device for this is a "Digihat" which is available commercially. This is an insulated lower brush holder.

Having isolated the brushes, connect the decoder red and black to the loco pickups (one will probably need soldering on, the other can use the bolt at the front), and connect the orange and grey to the brushes.

I really recommend that you fit tender pickups if it lacks them, BR Lines sell the kit of parts.

If you want sound, there is room for a small sound decoder in the tender, and one of the small CT/Zimo "cube" speakers.


For a very small layout, DCC may offer few, if any benefits, but it depends on your interests and what you want out of the hobby. That said, I just do very small bits and pieces, do them with DCC.

- Nigel
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TrevorMcKee
post 3 Jan 2012, 10:30
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Hi Nigel, thank you for your reply....very useful. I would really like to have sound, so Will go for the install in the tender for that.


As for DCC decoders, are they specific to each manufacturer? i.e. do I have to use a Bachmann decoder with a Bachmann controller?


Finally, what would you recommend fora DCC controller, bearing in mind I would want some future proofing and the ability to run accessories.

Thanks

Trevor
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Chinahand
post 3 Jan 2012, 11:08
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QUOTE (TrevorMcKee @ 3 Jan 2012, 18:30) *
As for DCC decoders, are they specific to each manufacturer? i.e. do I have to use a Bachmann decoder with a Bachmann controller?


No they are not. In fact there are far better decoders around than theirs. I use CTElektronics decoders as they are small enough for N Gauge but are still very powerful in terms of functions available. See Digitrains

QUOTE
Finally, what would you recommend fora DCC controller, bearing in mind I would want some future proofing and the ability to run accessories.


Controllers are very personal things so I would recommend you go to a DCC specialist such as Digitrains and have a hands on demonstration of a selection of controllers. To start with though I suggest you look at the reviews in the MRF Resources Section

Incidentally I have no connection to Digitrains other than as a very satisfied customer.


--------------------
Regards,
Trevor



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Nigel2001
post 3 Jan 2012, 11:26
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QUOTE (TrevorMcKee @ 3 Jan 2012, 10:30) *
Hi Nigel, thank you for your reply....very useful. I would really like to have sound, so Will go for the install in the tender for that.


OK, but be aware you are now increasing the price of a decoder to at least 75, if not 100. Plus cost of install, plus cost of tender pickups, plus Digihat. I doubt there would be any change from 140 if you asked me to do an installation (not sure if I would accept the work at present).

QUOTE
As for DCC decoders, are they specific to each manufacturer? i.e. do I have to use a Bachmann decoder with a Bachmann controller?


Any decoder should work with any controller. DCC is a standard which allows for that. I would avoid really cheap decoders as they are usually rubbish.


QUOTE
Finally, what would you recommend fora DCC controller, bearing in mind I would want some future proofing and the ability to run accessories.


Specific recommendation, no I won't. I will give you some guidance and suggest a few "avoids".
For N, you do not need lots of current. 2A is enough for all but the most massive of N layouts (most N locos draw well under 250mA and will emit smoke if they were to draw 0.5A). So, there is no compulsion to get more current which more expensive systems may offer, and the higher current may even cause problems with taming it later.

Select very carefully on how the controller feels in your hands. If you don't like the way it feels, where the controls are positioned, then its not right for you. Whilst first reactions can be important, do give things a bit of a chance; you might change your mind after 20 minutes use. The best way to try stuff is to drive someone elses trains - try lots of different ones, and if you can different layouts with the same controllers; ask at shows, if its fairly quiet, most operators will let you have a go if you seem to be a sensible/rational person. The next best is to go to a specialist dealer who can let you use a number of systems (if the dealer cannot tell you the shortcomings of a particular maker, then they don't know what they are doing! ). Dealers at exhibitions are usually a bit too rushed to give the time for thorough advice unless its quiet on a Sunday at tea time.

Accessory control through DCC is a mixed bag. Firstly its adding a fair bit of cost for accessory decoders; you can always move turnouts the old fashioned way (push button panels to motors, wire in tube, etc).
Now with DCC control there are some people who get on fine punching DCC accessory addresses into a handset to control turnouts (etc), those people can stop worrying as it all works!
But others find the use of a keypad and remembering turnout addresses to be difficult and would prefer a diagram panel with push buttons. This is where it can get complicated and you need to select a DCC controller which will let you add this expansion; Digitrax is perhaps the most flexible here (particularly with CML Electronics add on parts), NCE not too bad with the MiniPanel. Some of the German makers (eg. Uhlenbrock) offer quite a lot, but very expensive.
The other way of controlling accessory decoders is via computer screen which might display a track diagram or a signal box lever frame. This requires a DCC system which offers a computer interface.


On to the "avoid" list - forget the Bachmann EZ and Hornby Select. Both are for toy trainsets, both have very serious shortcomings (the volts from an EZ will fry N locos, and its questionable whether the Select actually puts out a valid DCC signal).
As for the rest, work out the expansion you may require; this will remove a lot of possible systems and makers. If wanting computer control of turnouts and signals, check the software you might want is available for that system maker. Then try to drive the systems and see what works for you. Don't forget that Digitrax, Lenz and NCE offer a variety of handset shapes and sizes, so an add-on handset may transform the way one system works for you.


- Nigel
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TrevorMcKee
post 3 Jan 2012, 13:24
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Guys, Thanks again. I now realise how little I really no about this hobby!!

It's amazing how the 's mount up when you start thinking about all the "nice to have" options.


All in all good sound advice.

Thanks again

Trevor
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