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· Premium Member
2,740 Posts
Following on from a topic elsewhere lets have a natter about controllers.

Which controller do you use and why?

What are your experiances with the controller?

Do you have any tips about control and transformer units?

My own view is that a controller/transformer that enables you to change settings for resistance and pulse, and with a 16V AC output point and a 12V DC output point for accessories, is highly desirable.

And it should have a control knob with a centre zero that allows you to change direction by turning right or left of centre rather than having a switch to change direction and only turning in one direction.

What I was wondering is does anybody know if anybody does a variable potentiometer unit that you can wire in between your controller and your track?

Happy modelling

· Registered
522 Posts
I would certainly go along with centre zero controllers.
Reversing switched models are cheaper to manufacture (and buy) but are simply begging for trouble with both the controller and the motors they control. Nasty things they are and always seeming very sharp edged, making them horrible to handle!

When I was young and inexperienced, I used to think it was a great idea to have 'all-in-one' units, 'all-singing', 'all-dancing', with multiple accessory outlets.
It isn't.

Experience has taught me that a far better approach is to provide good quality, single voltage transformer(s), each dedicated to producing an adequate supply of the required voltage and sufficient amperage for ones needs. These are nice and simple and inexpensive. They don't need to 'look good' and they can be parked well out of the way of the actual layout if that should be desirable. Accessories should be powered by their own dedicated transformer(s) - more than one if necessary. This completely eliminates any possible interaction between train control and other electrical requirements. This separation also makes it MUCH easier to trace faults.

Controllers are far better kept quite separate from the transformer function and dedicated purely to their specific job of accurately controlling small motors. This enables them to be smaller, lighter and easier to site (or hold in the hand).

Like Lisa, I have made my own transistorised controllers in the past and would agree with her opinons of them. Tailoring these to ones own exact requrements can be very satisfying.

I don't see me ever going for a digital system - far too expensive and, from what I read, too problematic for my taste.

The basic principle is that, the more complex a transformer controller and the more functions it is supposedly capable of, the more likely it is to give problems and the more difficult it will be to even diagnose those problems let alone fix them. Though I can still see the obvious attraction.

· Registered
488 Posts
I use the 12v variable dc controllers, and not the supplied accessories voltages. I have found that using the various voltage tappings at the same time, can affect the track voltage output. I use separate transformers for 12v dc uncontrolled and 16v ac. A bonus in having separate transformers, is the voltages are not affected by any one or specific accessory voltage requirements and this keeps the variable transformer much cooler.
Another aspect of having just one transformer for each class of accessories on any layout - failure of transformer causes only the shut down of that particular section of the layouts working.
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