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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hi, I was wondering how I could control various LED lights scatered around the layout using a DCC device to switch them on/off from the train controller (ESU Ecos). Some are from the Woodland Scenic range others are from Model Rail UK (5 platform lamps wired in series). Any help appreciated.

John
 

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Just use a decoder as a light switch. I don't have any static lights but have deployed a number of dud* decoders in coaches to control onboard lighting.

* Often from s/h purchases which happened to be DCC fitted, the decoder either not fully operational, or with poor motor control. Provided a decoder will accept an address it can be used as a light switch, and with the small current draw of LED's a decoder with multiple functions can control numbers of LED's in series or singly, from both the motor output and functions. (I use an address range not occupied by any loco numbers working in my area of modelling interest.)
 

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If you lack a supply of scrap loco decoders, then the "proper" way is to use Accessory Decoders. Commercially some of those can get silly-expensive, with power-handling you don't need for a few LEDs.

However, there are lots of DIY designs published on the internet, for example, using an Arduino processor, which can be assembled for well under £20/decoder (under £5/decoder is do-able). A DIY decoder can control 16 or more outputs, each individually controlled.
 

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Thanks Nigel, whilst I like the idea of using something likr an Arduino processor I'm not sure I'm up to that standard of tech. I do however have several spare decoders that I like the idea of recycling, very COP26 and all that!!
 

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Good exercise.
Still try Arduino. It is straightforward and easy for anyone who had never done an electrical connection and a lline of code.
 

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How about using a cheap loco decoder? Solder a 100 ohm resistor across the motor output and you can set it up on the programming track and switch lights on and off.
 

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I'm not familiar with operating the LED lights via DDC layouts, but this system is not really comfortable. Using the lights divided by platforms will mean that you will need to set the platforms with the necessary wires and make their placing properly, so I decided to go the other way and install the smart bulb lighting instead of the regular one, and I found this kind of solution more effective, especially I don't need to solve the wires and switches problem.
 

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It is very easy to create a Smart Home system for lighting your home or apartment. It is enough to buy light bulbs from one manufacturer with this function to connect them to a single module connected by wireless communication. However, not all house parts should have "smart light bulbs" installed. It is worth installing shock-resistant equipment on the street or in the yard: spotlights and strong lamps. I bought myself a few last week on Hazardous Location Light Fixtures | High Bays, Flood Lights, String Lights & More. I want to put some spotlights in the pavilion and install a couple on the roof of my Jeep. Sometimes there is not enough lighting at night.
 

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Obviously there are a lot of options for switching scenic lighting. Some less expensive than others and some requiring more work than others, and we'll all have our preferred method.

I use the Z21 Switch Decoder (you don't need to be using a Z21 system to use this, it will work just as well with any dcc control system.
Z21 switch DECODER - Products - Roco z21
This is an 8-way decoder and you can pick them up for about £66 which works out at just over £8 per way which isn't bad for what it does. One of the big advantages of using this for controlling lighting is that it takes a separate 12v dc feed into it as well as the dcc signal. This means you aren't draining your dcc output to drive the leds, the dcc bus is only providing the signal and fhe 12v dc power feeds your lighting. You can pick up a 12v dc regulated 5A psu on Amazon for about £15 which will drive all your lighting (I have a separate 12v dc bus for this purpose that is protected by a 5A circuit breaker which makes it easy for adding additional switch decoders or feeds for signals etc. as required). As well as simple switching on and off the decoder also has various other modes available on each channel that can be programmed individually. These include: simple change over (i.e. red/green for a signal), alternating flashing (i.e. for level crossing warning lights) and flicker (i.e. for a brazier, arc welder, fire etc.). Each of those options just uses one channel. Each channel has its own dcc address and the mode is set up with cv programming. Channel addresses can be programmed in groups of four sequential addresses. The unit comes with little plug in type connectors to connect to each input channel. These can easily be removed and connected to your led wiring (small screw terminals) and then plugged back into the decoder unit. All in all it's a good neat solution.
 

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Using different decoders or specially written programs is very complicated and inconvenient. It is much better to use LED strips, which you will connect in parallel in one power circuit. Such a system can be controlled by one remote control or even from a phone. On Amazon, you can find many different LED strips with this function. For example, I recently ordered a similar strip for my car https://www.amazon.com/car-lights-car-led-lights/dp/B09L86JRRM. My phone controls everything, and the huge selection of colors allows me to customize the light to suit any mood.
 

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Is it necessary or just your wish? I'll support the guys who spoke in favor of smart light bulbs. If the question is about your comfort, then, of course, it's more convenient to control the lighting via Bluetooth. The phone is always at your fingertips, pressing two buttons on the screen is easier than digging through the wires. I bought a Bluetooth-controlled LED strip, and I like it. But if you're trying to figure out the DCC device out of curiosity, then I understand you perfectly. In my youth, I also liked to tinker with mechanisms. Now I'm only interested in comfort.
 

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Is it necessary or just your wish?
I suppose the main question is 'why not'?!

From what I can see there are a couple of different ways of controlling 'layout lighting';
  • 'DC approach' of lots of wires and switching.
    • Summary:
      • Pair* of wires from a switch to each lighting 'zone'.
    • Advantages
      • Simplest to understand - wires + power source + switch = control of light!
    • Disadvantages
      • Could create an absolute rats-nest of wiring incredibly quickly...!
        * Would mean that a complex lighting sceme would require n+1 wires between the control panel and building/platform/etc (where n=number of lighting 'zones' and the extra wire is a common return).
  • 'DCC approach'
    • Summary:
      • Direct control and powering of lighting through the DCC bus from a controller.
    • Types:
      • 'locomotive-type' function-only decoders.
        • Using an old/cheap/partially broken locomotive decoder (I understand that some loco decoders need a load across the motor terminals from a resistor to be programmed if being used in 'function only' settings).
        • Dedicated function-only decoder (e.g. these from Zimo, others also available)
      • 'accessory-type' decoders
        • A Z21 switch decoder as mentioend above by Jamesed or similar type of idea from Zimo MX820Z (ESU etc all make accessory decoders, many fo which could be used for layout lighting control).
    • Advantages:
      • Powered and controlled off the existing DCC bus, either directly from track power, or via a separate 'accessory bus'.
    • Disadvantages:
      • Most DCC controllers are really designed for controlling trains, with controlling accessories being a bit of an afterthought...
  • Other more specialist layout control systems.
    • MERG have developed both CBUS and PTP-Lite which both effectively create a separate 'bus' from the DCC system for controlling lighting/accessories/turnouts etc. Whilst they look incredibly powerful, I would suspect that the setup could be offputting to a beginner.
  • Wifi/RF remote control
    • As Bipolear has flagged, you could also buy a number of different Wifi or RF controlled systems which run off 12V DC and use Wifi or an RF remote to control the lighting themselves. I do not however know if any of these are able to control multiple 'zones' (e.g. the alternatives above are each able to control 8-16!). Again depending on how many 'zones' you want to control this may not be a problem.

(I will note that I have not actually used any of the above, am just aware of their existance)

I would probably reccomend using the first two approaches (i.e. 'DC' or 'DCC') unless you really wanted the aditional expansion/features of the alternatives, however realise that I may have gone a bit overboard with my post, so apologies if it has just confused things further...!

Regards,

Cameron.
 

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When you bought the LEDs, the shop should've included a decoder in the package, as everyone does. This might be really expensive to find a separate decoder that might work with the type of LEDs you have. I know, LEDs look really cool but are expensive at the same time. I bought a lamp with smart light bulbs for reserve in case the one I had broken. In comparison with a LED set that included a decoder, the lamp package was really cheap. I even had a discount for taking that type of lamp and being a loyal client of that shop. Before buying something, you should check other options.
 
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