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tt0880

Greetings (or Konnichiwa) from Michigan!

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tt0880

Hey everyone!

 

My name is Tim and I'm 23 years old and I currently live in Lansing, MI. I'm a software developer by day and a gamer and train enthusiast by night. I've loved trains ever since I was a kid and have always had a passion for them. Also, due to my love of video games, I've also always had a passion for Japan. Well, I finally went on my dream trip with my girlfriend earlier this year and visited Japan and fell in love immediately. I decided that it was time to stop slacking and do something with my love of trains and make a dang layout!

 

I'm still very new to the hobby, so I don't have much yet. I have a 4x8 layout that I'm trying to build, but am running into the many pitfalls that come with a new hobby... Indecisiveness on every factor. DC or DCC? What kind of scenery and where? What should the layout look like?

 

I do have 4 awesome Japanese trains already, though. 3 of them are Kato and 1 of them is Microace.  The Kato N700a Shinkansen was my first train and I absolutely love it. I also have a Kato Pocket Line small Steam Engine special Kyoto edition and 2 trams (1 Kato, 1 Microace) for my Kato Unitram setup.

 

I've been having so so much fun with the hobby and need to get back to Japan ASAP! I have a lot of questions that I'm sure belong in other forums, but I suppose I'll just ask them here so I can get pointed in the right direction and not make 1000 posts.

 

1. What are your opinions on DC vs DCC, specifically for Japanese modelling? I know Kato has some DCC ready trains but none come equipped. Is it worth the extra cost to equip the trains with DCC?

2. If I do decide to go DCC, I don't trust myself to put decoders in myself. Does anyone know of some people or companies that would install decoders for me? Maybe even someone on this forum?

3. Are there any good resources for sample layouts? I have a decent bit of track, but I'm not happy with just the one loop I have running right now. 

 

Sorry for all of the questions in an introduction post! I can post in the specified forums as well but I was hoping to get some quick thoughts here. 

 

THANKS A TON! 

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Kiha66

Welcome to the forum (and hobby) Tim!  For a small layout, DC is usually a good place to start.  While I converted a few of my trains to DCC for running at a local club, most of my collection is staying DC for my home layout. For small layout inspiration, I usually look at kato's track plan site, which has lots of small layouts and lists of the track needed to build them.  Feel free to ask your questions here, lots of knowledgeable members happy to help out!  

 

-Sam

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tt0880
20 minutes ago, Kiha66 said:

Welcome to the forum (and hobby) Tim!  For a small layout, DC is usually a good place to start.  While I converted a few of my trains to DCC for running at a local club, most of my collection is staying DC for my home layout. For small layout inspiration, I usually look at kato's track plan site, which has lots of small layouts and lists of the track needed to build them.  Feel free to ask your questions here, lots of knowledgeable members happy to help out!  

 

-Sam

Thanks for the response, Kiha :) Would you consider 4x8 too small to justify DCC? I live in an apartment right now so it's not really possible to go bigger. I do really want to be able to run more trains, but maybe just separate loops and DC is the way to go... Not sure! 

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Kiha66

Both work well, but the cost and difficulty of converting many smaller Japanese trains to DCC has kept me from converting most of my fleet myself.  Forum user Pauljag900 has been creating a beautiful layout with a crazy amount of trains running on DC, so lots of trains in a small space if definitely doable.  

 

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miyakoji

Hi Tim, welcome to the forum :)

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Yavianice

Welcome to the forum!

 

Instead of DC or DCC, you could also consider the TNOS system by TOMIX, assuming you only have KATO unitram track and assuming you won't run shinkansens on unitram track ;-). Though I have no clue whether this works seamlessly with non-tomix / non-japanese manufacturers. 

 

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tt0880
7 hours ago, Yavianice said:

Welcome to the forum!

 

Instead of DC or DCC, you could also consider the TNOS system by TOMIX, assuming you only have KATO unitram track and assuming you won't run shinkansens on unitram track ;-). Though I have no clue whether this works seamlessly with non-tomix / non-japanese manufacturers. 

 

 

Wow, this looks incredible. But sadly, I am planning on running shinkansens on my Unitrak... But man, that's something to look into. Seems very new as well!

 

What would you say is my better option, personally? DC or DCC?

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IST

DC or DCC? Always a hard question.

In our model club we use DCC for Hungarian trains and moduls.

I use DC for my Japanese T-trak system.

My British trains are mostly DCC.

I have a very small Japanese layout, also for DC trams.

Sometimes I prefer DC because its easier to use on a small layout, I do not have to invest to decoders, it suits better for not-so-clean tracks and I can run my trains right out from the box, etc.

Sometimes I prefer DCC becasue I can put as many trains to a layout on the floor as I want, it will always run that train that I want and I do not have to use cables everywhere for my switches that have decoders, etc.

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Yavianice
5 hours ago, tt0880 said:

 

Wow, this looks incredible. But sadly, I am planning on running shinkansens on my Unitrak... But man, that's something to look into. Seems very new as well!

 

What would you say is my better option, personally? DC or DCC?

TNOS is not even released yet, but will be in a few weeks. It is an analogue block system with sensors, see here with Google Translate. http://www.tomytec.co.jp/tomix/necst/5701tnos/

 

As for DC or DCC, I personally do not like DCC because of the tough investment in decoders (because I now have a quite sizable collection), DCC system, cables etc. and I like to be 'behind the wheel'. Also I am not trusting myself soldering decoders in my (sometimes rare) trains. Note though that there are also systems which can combine DC and DCC operations on one track, but those are also quite expensive. 

 

If KATO would produce a TNOS like system however, I would immediately buy it, once I verified that it works with European trains/other manufacturers. It will be interesting to see whether the TOMIX version can work with it, but that's for the early adopters to find out. 

 

 

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ronin

Hey Tim,


Welcome to the forum!  I only joined recently myself but have found this to be a very friendly, helpful and knowledgeable crew.  

 

Can't help you on your question as I don't have DCC, only DC.  I don't intend to go to DCC for the cost and effort involved.  If I do anything more advanced I will probably go to the TNOS system shown above.


What part of Japan did you visit?  Were you able to ride lots of trains?

 

Take care,

Eric

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cteno4

Tim,

 

dc vs DCC is a constant question for many. Like others have mentioned the biggest hurdle in Japanese trains with DCC is if your collection gets big it can get costly in decoders and install time (or money if you have it done) as few have drop in slots other than some of the newer kato mainstream models. For small layouts if you are using kato unitrak or tomix fine track, the power routing of the points can take care of most wiring issues to block off sidings to store tracks on. Many smaller layouts with 1-4 loops work well like this with a dc throttle for each loop and just strategic placement of your power feeds and insulating rails only where you have potential crossover between throttles (i.e. Points to switch between two loops on different throttles), but this is even solved w.o doing any rail insulation if you use the double crossovers.

 

the thing to remember is you can always start with dc then slowly move to DCC by having one loop dc and the other DCC.

 

the level of wiring even for a more sophisticated dc system is not bad at all with your software background, it's mainly just thinking pathways, no nasty ee stuff! 

 

The big benefit with DCC you might like as a software developer is that there are several software packages to make sophisticated pc control of your DCC system which can be cool with it throwing points and controlling trains. Of course this means getting into some more equipment and wiring (sensors, block controllers, etc) but again it's not horrid ee kind of stuff, more just logic diagrams more akin to software akin thinking.

 

the tomix automated systems are also a way to take a simple dc layout and add some fun automation and while there are wires to run it's all pretty much use plug and play and again more thinking thru the logic of how the system runs.

 

poke around in the forums as there has been lots of discussion of all of the above over the years and may help you narrow in on a decision and other questions to ask for your situation.

 

cheers

 

jeff

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kvp
3 hours ago, Yavianice said:

If KATO would produce a TNOS like system however, I would immediately buy it, once I verified that it works with European trains/other manufacturers. It will be interesting to see whether the TOMIX version can work with it, but that's for the early adopters to find out. 

Actually for the sensors to work, you just need metal wheels on the leading cars and the control is by PWM, which is what DCC decoders output to the motors. This makes all trains that could be converted to DCC, compatible with the Tomix system. This system just puts the decoders into the blocks, assuming that most people own more trains than there are blocks on their layout. (the largest demo layout by Tomix so far had 12 blocks)

 

If you want automation under DCC, you still need all the sensors and blocks the Tomix system uses, but block controllers will be replaced by block occupancy sensors and you'll also need a DCC central too. Considering a typical japanese EMU needs at least 3 decoders (2 cabs and 1 motor), this could get really expensive and if you want signalled block operation, what most japanese systems use, you could get by using the stock analog power routing turnouts and analog controllers. (possibly a Tomix PWM/CL system for constant intensity and always on lights, including directional head/tail lights /DCC F0/ with off the shelf analog trains)

 

For a layout, i always say, that one should consider what one wants to model. Which trains? Where do (did) they run? Which sceneries do you like and would like to model? And so on... selecting the trains or selecting the location usually determines the other. Then when you have a trackplan, you can start planning operations. When you know where do you want your trains to move and how, you can decide which system (manual analog, computer controlled analog, manual digital, computer controlled digital) you find the best to be able to run that traffic you want. Deciding for a technology only to find it hard to implement (like adding dcc decoders to japanese trains) or it ends up as overkill (like full computer control if you want to control manually) or not enough (single loop without turnouts) is imho not the right end of the design process to begin with. Imho, first find out what do want to achive and then find the tools and technologies to make it real.

 

Just my 5 cents though...

 

ps: I seem to remember that there was a Kato japanese style layouts track plan page somewhere on the net...

 

Edited by kvp

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tt0880

That Tomix system interests me a lot. I think I'll wait and see what the general consensus is, though.

 

Honestly, I would rather stay with DC for my first layout... Just because it would be much cheaper and easier to just buy a train and be able to run it. But I'll be stressed out with the wiring or disappointed that I can't run as many trains as I want... It's a toss-up.

 

I think I do need to decide my layout first, before I even think about powering it... I posted a thread looking for some layout advice here which includes a picture of my current layout and what I'm working with. I do like my layout (there's a small yard out of the picture) but it's just one loop... I want to be able to watch more trains go and pass each other, and it's just not possible with this layout. I think there's a ton more room for track. 

 

The layout that Kiha66 posted literally made my jaw drop. That's my dream Japanese layout right there. It's amazing that it's all DC! And it was really cool watching the progress over the years. 

 

1 hour ago, cteno4 said:

the level of wiring even for a more sophisticated dc system is not bad at all with your software background, it's mainly just thinking pathways, no nasty ee stuff! 

 

You think with my software background I wouldn't find it so difficult... But I do :) It's hard for me to reconcile what switches have to be set to where for my layout to have power. That's kind of why I wanted to go DCC... I guess I haven't used a lot of insulators, and I don't know exactly how they work... Do you know any good "wiring for dummies" resources? :D 

 

44 minutes ago, kvp said:

ps: I seem to remember that there was a Kato japanese style layouts track plan page somewhere on the net...

Are you talking about this page? http://www.katomodels.com/unitrackplan/ There's some awesome ideas to get me started, but it's hard for me to envision how they would look on a 4x8. I am really interested in this one, though, but it would require me to buy quite a bit more stuff, like the raised shinkansen track. Not a bad idea, though! 

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Yavianice
17 hours ago, tt0880 said:

Are you talking about this page? http://www.katomodels.com/unitrackplan/ There's some awesome ideas to get me started, but it's hard for me to envision how they would look on a 4x8. I am really interested in this one, though, but it would require me to buy quite a bit more stuff, like the raised shinkansen track. Not a bad idea, though! 

That's a pretty neat layout!

 

Just remember that the single track bridge curves might not fit every train (I've heard, I do not own it myself. This is sometimes mentioned also on the train packages) and that not every train takes kindly to the default gradient of the KATO bridges. I elongated my slopes by twice the standard length, making the gradient around 2%. If you want to mix and match european with japanese manufacturers, they may not go up the standard KATO slopes, or worse, overheat them/damage them in the process. See also the topic linked below. Also, they put the switches directly after the superelevated curve. This might also cause derailments in some trains, especially at high speeds.

 

Edited by Yavianice

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kvp
17 hours ago, tt0880 said:

You think with my software background I wouldn't find it so difficult... But I do :) It's hard for me to reconcile what switches have to be set to where for my layout to have power. That's kind of why I wanted to go DCC... I guess I haven't used a lot of insulators, and I don't know exactly how they work... Do you know any good "wiring for dummies" resources? :D 

Japanese turnouts from both Kato and Tomix are power routing. This means they cut power to the rail on the side of the frog when a direction is not selected. (Newer Tomix turnouts are a bit smarter and cut both rails, which is great if you want to build a reversing loop.) This means that most straightforward track layouts allow a single feed point on each loop (mainline track) and the turnouts sort out the power, so only tracks being selected with the turnouts get power. Generally, we could say that tracks that you can push an unpowered train to from the feed point will be powered, and tracks that you can't, will be unpowered.

 

The general setup for Kato Unitrack is one controller per loop, with only the turnouts controlling the power to every part of the layout. You only have to isolate the loops from each other (on both rails) and double track crossovers (both single and double) have this isolation built in. This is essentially plug and play and especially suited for floor running, where minimal cabling is a plus. You do get isolators for the turnouts for the special cases, but there are very few of those. For the case when a certain track configuration (like a Z shaped siding) can't get power through the straight way, you can disable this power routing on the Kato #4 turnouts by moving a screw on the bottom of the turnout. There is no extra wiring required at all.

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