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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I have done about a years work on a dc setup,and was a complete newcomer to wiring,etc.despite my advanced years. I have sections,a yard with sidings,and a number of points, and the whole thing seems to work. Want to explore the possibilities of sound,etc.and am asking the old boring question about changing from DC to DCC. Is all my hard work to go to waste, and would the change -over be unduly complex to one whose electrical skills prior to this layout were limited to wiring a plug and putting in light bulbs.
 

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Hi Dave - I'm certainly no expert at any of this game but I speak as someone who's currently going through the change from DC to DCC.

By the sounds of it your present layout is a little more advanced than mine - I've decided to take the plunge just after having laid the track on my layout and prior to starting any wiring.

The original plan was to operate on DC with three sections and many isolating sections. I umm'd and ahh'd for a long time, but like you wanted to explore the possibilities that DCC has to offer and didn't want to limit myself and not be able to take advantage of future advances (I'm an N gauger obviously, so sound is a little way off for me I think!)

After consulting this forum (see here) I settled on designing the layout for DC and DCC operation. Richard's advice on my thread has been particularly helpful.

To answer your question I wouldn't say that your work to date has been a waste at all. The fundamental ideas of DCC and DC wiring seem to me to be the same, good wiring practices should be employed and you won't go far wrong. Aside from using thicker wire, I've so far wired the layout exactly for DCC as I would have done for DC.

Oh and finally - I'm electrically challenged and not only am I not finding it difficult, but I'm loving doing it.
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
Thanks for that James.I always feel a prat asking silly questions-when people start shooting terms like "droppers" and "bus" and "heavier wire" (do you actually weigh it?) at me, I feel like saying "Well I can spell antidisestablishmentarianism anyway!" This railway business has been very much a one step at a time then two trips....I have a loft layout,with limitations,but now have about 8 sections,a dozen points operating,and lots of lumps on my head from the roof pitch. I am into model making,so enjoy that aspect-my wife mutters darkly about making the bloody Forest of Arden at me when she treads on another bit of wire or lichen.
However,i await more pearls of wisdom,and trust that I will only have to replace the wiring to my power feeds with something approaching National Grid cable. Look forward to developments.
 

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Hi Dave,
Welcome to the forum


No need to feel awkward about the change over to DCC ... go for it you wont look back i can assure you .... it offers far more scope in operations once you haved the structure in place to run it.

Ask on the DCC section of the site anything and i am sure the answers will be forthcoming and things will become clearer, no question is out of place if you dont know the answer
 

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Dave,

I'm exactly the same but have picked up a huge amount of info from this site - more so than any other forum and I use several.

Regarding the wire, it seems to me that anything branded as 'standard' equipment wire seems to be 7/0.2 wire or smaller. I have been told that this should be capable of still being used for droppers, so long as the total length of that wire doesn't exceed 300mm. The bus - think of it as like a wiring mainframe - needs to be somewhat thicker (I'm using 32/0.2 wire after advice, purchased in 100m reels from RS components). Your existing droppers can drop a short way through the board and then be connected to the bus which will be made of this thicker wire. At the end of the thicker wire is your DCC system.

Someone please correct anything wrong here - it's working for me so far though!
 

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Hi Dave,Im new to this hobby and changed from dc to dcc. For me it was quite easy as all I wanted was the option of sound etc...The rest of my layout is still operated by switches and the like,in my personal experience its as difficult as you make it but the extra options you get are great. Running options are more varied. I'd recommend dcc. Most m r shops will give you a demo if they've got the facilities
 

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For train operation then its no contest - dcc wins hands down,no more looking for isolated sections to stop a loco in. For points etc then dcc at first seems a bit clumbersome with at its basics each point having to be thrown separately unless you purchase, at cost, a point decoder module that powers a route setting arrangement. It took me a while to realise that if the outputs from the point decoder module were fed to the relay coils, then the points can be route set using the diode network arrangement familiar to non-dcc systems, being powerered by the switching mechanism of the relay. Consequently I have 1 tortoise powered signal and 9 relay fed route set points working off a single lenz LS150.With just 5 bi-directional route settings to remember operation is a doddle.
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
Wow,Butler-Henderson-what a spiffing response! I counted six words that I understood,not counting the indefinite article. Clearly DCC has a language all of it's own-and me only just marginally literate with DC. Back to the Berlitz Skule of Languages.
 

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Hi Dave,

Here's a contender for your Berlitz Guide to DCC - Aspects of Modelling: Digital Command Control by Ian Morton. Ian is a regular contributor to Hornby Magazine, so without knowing the content of this book, I'm guessing it could help you a lot. Hopefully some book owners will be along shortly with comments like "Yeah, it's the greatest thing since sliced bread"....

From your earlier description of your progress with DC and sections etc, I don't think you'll have a problem with DCC if you approach it in the same way as you did DC.

And an explanation of "heavier wire". Unlike DC, you can have more than one loco running at once in a section. So you have more than one motor requiring power which means more electrons. With DCC, most layouts can be live all the time with a single command station. Apart from some starter sets, most command stations will pump out around 4 amps. This is compared to the 1 amp or so which is the max for DC controllers and modern motors (Bachmann / Hornby) take at most 150mA. To shift more amps you need thicker or heavier wire if you are to make sure the volts you start with are the volts that appear at the other end of the wire.

I hope this helps, even if it's only a little bit


David
 

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Hi Dave Just come back to the hobby last year sold my N gauge layout which had grown cobwebs and a lot else.start out buying my Great grandson a Thomas the the tank and built a layout on a board but things got a bit out of hand so have taken over the shed .So tried a EZ train set DCC so the bug bit ,sold that and tried Hornby Select , got rid of that too enought said on that one now on Bachmans Dinamis. not over the moon on that but spent me pocket money so stuck with it fo the time being so back to the point in hand I think you can not go wrong with DCC but think take advice what Richard Johnson says great advice from a man that knows.
But I fine it much simpler than just DC as you have no block to wire or worry about if you have switch them wrong even if you have wire for DC you just turn them all, on a bit of a over the top remark but think you can get the point.
sorry I rambled on a bit but wish you all the best sound is on my wish list too


regards Noel
 

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Hi Dave

I too am in the advanced years category and also faced this dilema about a year or so ago. After much research, I opted to retain my DC wiring system and to add a DCC system to run alongside it, the whole layout is now switchable between DC and DCC so has the ability to run either type of loco. Should you decide to do the same, then none of your hard work will be a waste, but one thing you need to remember is to switch all isolating sections to ON when running DCC. Also, don't allow DC locos to stand on the rails whilst running DCC or you'll eventually burn the motors out.

For the main feed wires to power the layout (called a 'bus' because it carries power round the layout) I used the solid single core black and red wires stripped out of some mains electrical cable - that suitable for lighting circuits is adequate. The heavier (gauge) wire used to power sockets is a bit of an overkill IMHO. For my Droppers (so called because they drop through the baseboard) I used solid single core 'bell wire' soldered to the rails and connected to the 'bus' under the layout with Halfords blue cable clips - make sure you get the polarity to each rail correct.

If going DCC, do your research and buy the best you can afford, you won't regret it. (I went for an NCE ProCab).

Best of luck and, if you get stuck somewhere (I did several times), just post the problem and someone will sort it for you - they're an extremely helpful group of people on here.

Mike

ps. I can spell 'antidisestablishmentarianism' as well - must be an age thing...
 

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For the bus wire on my OO gauge DCC layout I've used 1.5mm "twin-and-earth" wire as recommended in several places. This is easily obtainable from the likes of B&Q and Wickes, who sell it in several pre-cut lengths. You just strip the grey outer covering off - easy pulled apart by hand once you've used a sharp knife to cut the first few inches - and then you have separate blue and brown solid copper wires for your bus, plus an equivalent length of unsheathed copper earth which you don't need for DCC. I've then threaded these wires through the centre of the baseboard crossmembers, about 3-4 inches apart but parallel. About an inch of covering is stripped off at intervals so that droppers can be soldered on. This means any droppers only have to go to the centre of the baseboard so are always short and hence can be connected with thinner wire.

1.5mm is fine for any reasonably-sized layout (mine is 28ft by 8ft): only if you have a really big layout, eg O gauge or a very long run, would you go to the next size such as 2.5mm.

I folllowed the recommendations in Lionel Strang's book "DCC Made Easy" which is easily available on Amazon or Ebay. He uses 22-gauge wire (1.6mm) for his 30x20 layout for the bus, with 22-guage (0.6mm) for the droppers, which is what I use. The droppers can be either solid or multistrand - 0.6mm solid copper wire is easily obtainable in the UK amd is my preferred type.
 

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QUOTE (RFS @ 26 Jan 2009, 10:18) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>1.5mm "twin-and-earth" wire as recommended in several places.

I just don't understand why this practice is recommended - suitable single flexible cables are available from Maplins & CPC. No need to faff around striping it & far easier to work with.
 

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It's really down to cost: 16.5m of 1.5mm twin and earth will set you back £7.49 from Wickes. 32x0.2 wire from Maplins (the equivalent for the main bus) will set you back 69p per single metre, or £22.77 for two lengths of 16.5m. I find it easier to remove small pieces of insulation along the length from solid wire than form stranded.
 

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QUOTE (RFS @ 26 Jan 2009, 11:33) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>It's really down to cost:

Yes, there is a saving, & yes I did suggest Maplins. However, if you don't need much the saving is minimal & if you need more then CPC or Rapid are much cheaper than Maplins. Not worth the saving IMHO - far better to use the correct type of cable/wire.

If you have problems stripping stranded then you may very well be cutting into the conductors or solid strand which then does not take much to fracture...............
 

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***Hello Dave

Many make it totally confusing without meaning to do so - sometimes enthusiasm overcomes reality and the core of your question gets buried under well meaning complxity... but sift it through, as overall DCC isn't rocket science, just good consistent wiring and a consistent approach to decoder installation, neither of which is hard to do.

Your important decisions will be brand of DCC and decoder. As simple advice, avoid any brand that also sells trains - they rarely make gear as well or as competently engineered as brands that specialise in DCC controllers. That goes for DCC systems AND decoders. Choice of control system isimportant to get the most intuitive and simple sound operation too

The Jargon can be confusing but its picked up quick enough - the trick is to gain the good details frrom the myriad of answers you will recieve. Feel free to ask anything or if you are not sure how to frame the question, PM me and I'll try to steer you a direct path one step at a time...

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The basic principals of wiring are the same DC or DCC, with the greatest difference being the diameters of wire used due to the much higher potential power draw and the resultant voltage drop.... and the need for a systematic approach and consistency in wiring quality for best performance long term.

The change from DC to DCC can be totally painless.

You may need to change nothing at all, but if you have used minimum wire diameters or few points at which power and track meet, then you will very probably have to reinforce the number of points at which the wire feeds to the track if you intend a busy layout.

Initially do nothing other than change control system from DC to DCC. (Before connecting DCC, Disconnect all DC controllers and also disconnect any relco or high frequency type track cleaning devices - these are a no-no on a layout with DCC).

By all means then run a train under DCC for a while to try it out... Then, after you've enjoyed your new DCC controller for a wee while, comes the overall "layout testing" to see if anything might benefit from improvement.

(a) The easiest test is called the coin test.

Take all loco's off the layout. Turn on the DCC system (and all the isolated areas too). With the systems overload light visible to you, short the track every meter or so with a coin. Continue until all areas are checked, including sidings.

If, when you short the track each time, the overload light goes on immediately, then the power feed is probably OK. If it hesitates or seems slower, then add a pair of power droppers at that point.

(
A second possible and very useful "under power quality check". You need to have an electrical load to really see if the rail voltage will remain stable when you are running several trains.

To simulate this, with the DCC system turned on, take a 12 volt car bulb (like a tail-light bulb is good) and connect it to 2 alligator clips. this should be about a 2 amp load, which is equivalent to say half a dozen active trains all at once.

At various places around the layout, connect it to the track ((just clip onto both rails) and then with a multimeter measure the voltage with the meter set to AC.

The meter cannot actually accurately measure the track voltage as its a high frequency square wave that most meters cannot "see" properly, however it'll be near enough for our needs as all we need to see is the reading it gives so the actual value doesn't matter as it'll be the same if the wiring is all good.

Note the first reading then move the bulb to another place - say a meter apart... check again. Continue until all areas are checked, including sidings. If, with this test, there are no "differences" then the wiring is good. If there ARE differences, then add more "droppers" wherever the voltage is lower.

----------------------------------------------------

If you had NOT already started wiring, I'd advise as follows:

Don't scrimp on wire as many do: dedicate the cost of one loco to good quality wire and you will get a layout that runs and performs well. Cut corners and you will have problems.

Wire diameter is specified in square mm , number of strands x diameter of strands or in a "gauge" dpending on where you are in the world. Easiest for UK modellers is the # of strands x diameter.

I strongly recommend stranded wire as better to work with in all cases. Buy a good set of strippers and it will become an easy task - a knife isn't the right tool for stripping cable.

Use as the minimum 32/02 for the main power bus wire (Thats just the pair of wires that distribute the power around the layout) and use something like about 1/3 the weight for droppers. These are shorter wires which should be connected to the power bus at regular intervals - ideally about 1 per meter, but thats not a hard and fast rule. More is better shall we say.

You do not need them operationally but do consider setting up a plan to divide the layout into logical electrical sections so if you need to trouble shoot you can turn off parts of the layout to find the problem AND so you can consciously turn off other parts when you want to - for example, you may have a set of coaches with lights that you'd like to turn off via the track when not in use.

No need for more to add confusion at this stage - just ask as you feel the need for information

Kind regards

Richard Johnson

QUOTE (davehunt @ 25 Jan 2009, 21:30) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>I have done about a years work on a dc setup,and was a complete newcomer to wiring,etc.despite my advanced years. I have sections,a yard with sidings,and a number of points, and the whole thing seems to work. Want to explore the possibilities of sound,etc.and am asking the old boring question about changing from DC to DCC. Is all my hard work to go to waste, and would the change -over be unduly complex to one whose electrical skills prior to this layout were limited to wiring a plug and putting in light bulbs.
 
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