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Kiran

Getting started with DCC

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Kiran

I decided to give DCC a try. I want to have sound in my trains. I ordered the NCE power cab starter set to try and see if it is blind friendly. I would be happy if at least the basic tasks are simple enough to remember the key sequences. Also ordered an Athearn caltrain loco with DCC and sound.

 

I have been reading about the NCE pack and it says somewhere that it is best to separate the layout into 6 sections. What do they really mean by separating the layout? Do they want me to use insulating joiners? I have a temporary Unitrack layout with the following

 

Double track oval with a scissors crossing.

 

Inner oval has a double track crossing connecting to another oval.

This 3rd oval oval has 2 branch lines.

 

so 6 turnouts in total. 1 scissors, 1 double track crossing and 4 #4 turnouts.

I have 4 power feeders, 3 for the 3 loops and for 1 of the branch lines. The other branch doesn't have its own power feed as it is for an island platform.

 

My thought is to basically merge all 4 power feeders using 3 way extension cords into 1 feeder and connect it to the NCE power cab. I can then check which sections of the track have power. I think the branch line for the island platform is the only one that won't have power unless of course I throw the turnouts.

 

I will have 1 Kato power pack just for the switches to control the turnouts. It looks like this should be OK to do. https://ncedcc.zendesk.com/hc/en-us/categories/200061479-DCC-Systems is where I am reading about the Power Cab system.

 

Hopefully, none of this just blows up. I wish I paid more attention to electrical stuff at school/college!

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chadbag

I have an NCE Power Cab starter system.  I don't remember anythig about dividing into sections.  I've run some pretty big table top layouts with it.

 

Having said that, I am moving to a Digikeijs system and some Rocco/Fleischmann wireless controllers etc.

 

Edited by chadbag
dumb fat fingers and auto correct issues

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Kiran

So I now have the NCE power cab starter set and a DCC loco with sound. So the questions start.

 

1. This is a lazy man / convenience question. Is there some way to connect the Unitrack feeder with the standard connectors or the Unitrack terminal ended connectors to the NCE PCP? I would rather not strip out the insulation and all that. I am guessing no one makes a convertor like this.

 

2. Would I be able to buy the small connectors from NCE that connect to track wires? If I can't find one that lets me plug in the Kato feeders, I want to have a couple extra ones just in case.

 

3. I am guessing I won't be able to do any programming stuff like changing the loco address with the starter set?

 

Thanks for any help.

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gavino200

Pretty sure no one makes a converter like that. You can make one yourself but if stripping insulation is your speedbump, you'd probably have to get a friend to make one for you.

 

You should be able to change loco addresses and do basic programming on any starter set. Look for YouTube videos. Just search with the system name and "programming". 

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kvp

The track connectors look like standard pluggable screw terminals. Strip wire, twist ends, screw down and plug in. Most electronic parts shops should have them. Also screw terminals are reusable.

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gavino200
24 minutes ago, kvp said:

The track connectors look like standard pluggable screw terminals. Strip wire, twist ends, screw down and plug in. Most electronic parts shops should have them. Also screw terminals are reusable.

 

I think the issue is that Kiran has impaired vision. Perhaps stripping a wire without cutting the wire is difficult for him. 

 

If that's the case Kiran, try using a wire stripping device. You should be able to match the wire caliber with the right hole by feel. 

 

https://www.homedepot.com/p/Pro-sKit-Precision-Wire-Stripper-AWG-30-20-CP-301G/206679686?cm_mmc=Shopping|G|Base|D27E|27-11_TOOLS_%26_ACCESSORIES|NA|PLA|71700000034238984|58700003943782712|92700031954542176&gclid=CjwKCAiAiuTfBRAaEiwA4itUqHf5uSsyuzvfcdX95qmyjCP4lN9zR-e1O9ApYrxYmtEUiDSz8hoSVRoCf88QAvD_BwE&gclsrc=aw.ds

 

My first set up was an MRC but had simple screw terminals just like KVP mentioned. Even using these things can be tricky if you can't see well. What you can do is to cannibalize a Kato male and female socket, and have someone solder (or otherwise join) one end to the wire with the Power pack connector, and the other end to the Kato plugin wire. 

 

When I set up my MRC unit my son was five and couldn't handle any fine or fiddly electrical connections, so I designed everything around those easy to use Kato connectors. It seems like that isn't too different a task than making the system blind friendly. 

 

What is your level of sight btw? I only ask because that would make it easier to advise you. I'm assuming you're "sight impaired" or "legally blind", rather than totally blind.

 

BTW this type of electrical joiner is easy to use and involves no soldering. I think you could use them by feel alone. 

 

https://www.amazon.com/Gardner-Bender-25-AWC-Assortment-Electrical/dp/B000F5TTE8/ref=asc_df_B000F5TTE8/?tag=hyprod-20&linkCode=df0&hvadid=216516247812&hvpos=1o3&hvnetw=g&hvrand=12379323595395863482&hvpone=&hvptwo=&hvqmt=&hvdev=c&hvdvcmdl=&hvlocint=&hvlocphy=9024589&hvtargid=pla-373916419594&psc=1

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chadbag

I need to go look at my NCE Powercab, but I just bought one of the KATO extension cables, but one end off, and attached it to the NCE through the screw terminals IIRC.   You (Kiran) should be able to get someone sighted to help with this -- it should be very easy.   I'll go get mine and take some pictures and post later today so anyone helping can refer to them.
 

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Kiran
9 hours ago, gavino200 said:

 

I think the issue is that Kiran has impaired vision. Perhaps stripping a wire without cutting the wire is difficult for him. 

Stripping the wires is indeed the main problem here. I had a friend help me strip some Tomix feeders but don't have any Kato feeders that have wires that are stripped. So I tried the NCE power cab yesterday with Finetrack. But my main layout (at the moment is Unitrack).

 

I have the MRC power packs for DC and screwing the wires is no problem. I did procure Kato's terminal ended feeders but they have a metal prong.

9 hours ago, gavino200 said:

If that's the case Kiran, try using a wire stripping device. You should be able to match the wire caliber with the right hole by feel. 

 

https://www.homedepot.com/p/Pro-sKit-Precision-Wire-Stripper-AWG-30-20-CP-301G/206679686?cm_mmc=Shopping|G|Base|D27E|27-11_TOOLS_%26_ACCESSORIES|NA|PLA|71700000034238984|58700003943782712|92700031954542176&gclid=CjwKCAiAiuTfBRAaEiwA4itUqHf5uSsyuzvfcdX95qmyjCP4lN9zR-e1O9ApYrxYmtEUiDSz8hoSVRoCf88QAvD_BwE&gclsrc=aw.ds

I am going to get that and try stripping myself.

 

My first set up was an MRC but had simple screw terminals just like KVP mentioned. Even using these things can be tricky if you can't see well. What you can do is to cannibalize a Kato male and female socket, and have someone solder (or otherwise join) one end to the wire with the Power pack connector, and the other end to the Kato plugin wire. 

 

9 hours ago, gavino200 said:

When I set up my MRC unit my son was five and couldn't handle any fine or fiddly electrical connections, so I designed everything around those easy to use Kato connectors. It seems like that isn't too different a task than making the system blind friendly. 

 

9 hours ago, gavino200 said:

What is your level of sight btw? I only ask because that would make it easier to advise you. I'm assuming you're "sight impaired" or "legally blind", rather than totally blind.

 

BTW this type of electrical joiner is easy to use and involves no soldering. I think you could use them by feel alone. 

 

https://www.amazon.com/Gardner-Bender-25-AWC-Assortment-Electrical/dp/B000F5TTE8/ref=asc_df_B000F5TTE8/?tag=hyprod-20&linkCode=df0&hvadid=216516247812&hvpos=1o3&hvnetw=g&hvrand=12379323595395863482&hvpone=&hvptwo=&hvqmt=&hvdev=c&hvdvcmdl=&hvlocint=&hvlocphy=9024589&hvtargid=pla-373916419594&psc=1

I am pretty much totally blind. I have light perception but it is not really of any use.

 

Thanks ever so much for all the help.

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gavino200
6 minutes ago, Kiran said:

Stripping the wires is indeed the main problem here. I had a friend help me strip some Tomix feeders but don't have any Kato feeders that have wires that are stripped. So I tried the NCE power cab yesterday with Finetrack. But my main layout (at the moment is Unitrack).

 

I have the MRC power packs for DC and screwing the wires is no problem. I did procure Kato's terminal ended feeders but they have a metal prong.

 

 

I am pretty much totally blind. I have light perception but it is not really of any use.

 

Thanks ever so much for all the help.

 

Kiran, I just checked, and I still have a gizillion of those Kato connectors. Plus a bunch of three to one Kato splitters. Originally I wired my DCC setup as just one giant wire "Tree" feeding into a single pair of wires connected to the power unit. That's not a good way to wire a DCC setup by the way, but it's ok as long as it's relatively small.

 

I'd be happy to solder these Kato connectors to whatever lengths of wire you need and mail them to you. Can you give a description or photo (maybe someone can help you with it) of your layout and what your wiring needs are. It really wouldn't be a bother. 

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chadbag

I had some network issues last night that took until after midnight to work around ( not fixed yet).   I'll post photos today

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Kiran

 

 

8 hours ago, gavino200 said:

 

Kiran, I just checked, and I still have a gizillion of those Kato connectors. Plus a bunch of three to one Kato splitters. Originally I wired my DCC setup as just one giant wire "Tree" feeding into a single pair of wires connected to the power unit. That's not a good way to wire a DCC setup by the way, but it's ok as long as it's relatively small.

That is what I was planning on doing. Using 3-way connecters and making a tree. My temporary layout is double track main line ovals + 2 more ovlas inside and all of these have turnouts at various platforms. There is also an island platform. I have feeders in pretty much all the sections. I was going to combine these into 1 feeder with the 3 way splitters. I was going to keep the turnouts connected to Kato switches.

Quote

I'd be happy to solder these Kato connectors to whatever lengths of wire you need and mail them to you. Can you give a description or photo (maybe someone can help you with it) of your layout and what your wiring needs are. It really wouldn't be a bother. 

Thank you for the offer! I really appreciate it. Let me see if I can get help here locally. If not, I will get in touch with you and send you pictures of the layout.

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Kiran
2 minutes ago, chadbag said:

I had some network issues last night that took until after midnight to work around ( not fixed yet).   I'll post photos today

Thank you Chadbag. No rush.

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Kiran

I had a family member visiting today. So I had some help to strip wires. I did get a wire stripper and it seems like it is something I can do on my own. So I connected the power cab to my layout but there is no power to the tracks.

 

The PCP is connected to a Kato 3 way extension cord. 2 of the feeders are connected to the tracks directly. The third feeder is connected to another 3 way extension cord. From the second 3 way, there are 2 feeders connecting to tracks directly. So there are 4 ovals essentially.

 

There is a scissors turnout connecting the 2 outer ovals. The second oval is connected to the 3rd one with a double track turnout. The 4th oval is essentially a branch line of the 3rd oval. The 3rd and 4th ovals also intersect each other with a 15" crossover. There is also an island platform and branch line around it on the 3rd oval. Finally, I have a Kato standard power pack for the turnout switches. This power pack has no feeder connection to the track.

 

I am just playing around with layouts. This is by no means fixed.

 

When I turned on the power cab, there is no power to the tracks and the hammer head controller gets pretty warm. I am wondering if I didn't strip the wires enough before connecting to PCP. When I turn on power, I hear a little buzz from either the PCP or Power cab (I can't figure out which). But it doesn't sound right.

 

I have a photo and video of the layout. Not sure if it captures the entire layout. But I can try again if things aren't clear. Photo is attached and the video is here on Youtube.

 

 

 

 

Thanks in advance for any pointers on debugging this.

IMG_3135.jpg

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kvp

You probably have a short somewhere. If you connect more than one feeder (which the crossover and other turnouts require), you have to take care to match polarities. Normally this is done by checking wire color, but it's possible to have a multimeter set to continuity checking and keep reversing the feeder polarities with DCC unit disconnected and all trains taken off the layout until the continuity mode stops beeping when measured across the main two feed wires. Then all isolators or isolating turnouts have to be checked across the gap for the same polarity and not reverse. I would also suggest you to check (or ask someone to check) if the double track crossovers have the isolating screws at the right places.

 

ps: I don't understand why the short detector in the booster didn't cut out properly, but the current rating might be set too high for N scale. (please ask someone to check that too)

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gavino200
10 hours ago, kvp said:

You probably have a short somewhere. If you connect more than one feeder (which the crossover and other turnouts require), you have to take care to match polarities. 

 

I agree this is most likely. "Matching the polarities" seems simple, but I always found it was a bit of a head wrecker, when there are crossovers and connected loops. 

 

 

Also, make sure there aren’t any stray wire strands at the control center plugin that are touching.

 

That’s a nice layout by the way!

Edited by gavino200

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Kiran
17 hours ago, kvp said:

You probably have a short somewhere. If you connect more than one feeder (which the crossover and other turnouts require), you have to take care to match polarities. Normally this is done by checking wire color, but it's possible to have a multimeter set to continuity checking and keep reversing the feeder polarities with DCC unit disconnected and all trains taken off the layout until the continuity mode stops beeping when measured across the main two feed wires.

 

17 hours ago, kvp said:

I have a talking multimeter on order. When you say disconnect DCC unit, do you mean disconnect the power cab (hammerhead controller) from the PCP? I am guessing the multimeter requires power on the rails to check for continuity? I will get someone who knows more about this to do it the first time. Also, how does one reverse polarity on Unitrack? If I remember correctly, the feeder goes in only 1 way. Sorry for the kindergarten questions.

 

17 hours ago, kvp said:

Then all isolators or isolating turnouts have to be checked across the gap for the same polarity and not reverse. I would also suggest you to check (or ask someone to check) if the double track crossovers have the isolating screws at the right places.

Do the screws have to be isolating position or non-isolation position? For DC, I think they have to be in a position that isolates so that the power supply to the other track takes over. Not sure for DC.

 

ps: I don't understand why the short detector in the booster didn't cut out properly, but the current rating might be set too high for N scale. (please ask someone to check that too)

I am guessing this is in the DCC unit. I will have it checked.

Edited by Kiran
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gavino200
17 hours ago, kvp said:

ps: I don't understand why the short detector in the booster didn't cut out properly, but the current rating might be set too high for N scale. (please ask someone to check that too)

 

On my old MRC setup, the booster didn't cut out in case of a short. It just made a weird  buzzing sound and you had to run to turn it off. I'm guessing the buzzing sound that Kiran reported.

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gavino200
21 minutes ago, Kiran said:

 Also, how does one reverse polarity on Unitrack? If I remember correctly, the feeder goes in only 1 way. Sorry for the kindergarten questions.

 

I think you're missing an important point Kiran. It's not just how you connect the feeders to the tracks. You also have to consider the geometry of the tracks themselves. 

 

Consider this:

 

Single loop of single track. One short straight piece is has a feeder connection. You plug a Kato connector cable into that track segment. The Kato cable has a blue wire and a white wire. The white wire feeds one rail and the blue wire feeds the second rail. One whole loop is the blue rail. the other is the white rail.

 

Now disconnect the short straight feeder track. Turn it around 180 degrees and reconnect. Now you have changed which rail is blue and which is white. It's the opposite.

 

Now imagine there are two short straight feeder tracks on the same single loop of track. If they aren't both oriented in the same way then you have a short.

 

Likewise, when you have crossovers and junctions, you have to make sure that all of the feeders are in the same orientation. You need to actually follow the rails all the way round your layout to make sure that at no point a "blue" rail is connected directly to a "white" rail. 

 

I'd bet you ten bucks this is the problem. I set my first DCC setup in exactly the same way that you are. Some of these shorts are a bit tricky to find. In theory no. But in practice yes. 

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Kiran
6 hours ago, gavino200 said:

 

I think you're missing an important point Kiran. It's not just how you connect the feeders to the tracks. You also have to consider the geometry of the tracks themselves. 

 

Consider this:

 

Single loop of single track. One short straight piece is has a feeder connection. You plug a Kato connector cable into that track segment. The Kato cable has a blue wire and a white wire. The white wire feeds one rail and the blue wire feeds the second rail. One whole loop is the blue rail. the other is the white rail.

 

Now disconnect the short straight feeder track. Turn it around 180 degrees and reconnect. Now you have changed which rail is blue and which is white. It's the opposite.

 

Now imagine there are two short straight feeder tracks on the same single loop of track. If they aren't both oriented in the same way then you have a short.

 

Likewise, when you have crossovers and junctions, you have to make sure that all of the feeders are in the same orientation. You need to actually follow the rails all the way round your layout to make sure that at no point a "blue" rail is connected directly to a "white" rail. 

 

I'd bet you ten bucks this is the problem. I set my first DCC setup in exactly the same way that you are. Some of these shorts are a bit tricky to find. In theory no. But in practice yes. 

Hi gavino200, you figured out the best way to explain this stuff to a blind guy! I get it now. I can check which feeder is not aligned. In fact, I did find the problem child and turned it around. It is on the inner most loop. And now, it works!

 

 

I still have to figure out why it is cutting out a little when the loco passes the crossovers or the expansion track. It seems to work fine on some runs while it cuts out on others.

I also need to add another feeder to the island platform section or maybe change the screw positions on the turnouts so that it is not isolating.

 

Great to have sound in my locos!

A big thank you to all of you for helping me figure this out.

Edited by Kiran
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Kiran

Sorry for the erroneous post. My technology is not cooperating since yesterday. Perhaps one of the mods can remove this. I can't figure out a wway to delete my posts.

Edited by Kiran
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gavino200

What’s not cooperating? Same problem or new problem? Don’t worry. These things can take quite a bit of trouble shooting before they work smoothly. I think we’ve all been through this. I know I have.

Edited by gavino200

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chadbag

I think it is his access to the forums and the technology he uses to peruse and post.

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Kiran
5 hours ago, gavino200 said:

What’s not cooperating? Same problem or new problem? Don’t worry. These things can take quite a bit of trouble shooting before they work smoothly. I think we’ve all been through this. I know I have.

That was about using the forum with my speech technology. Nothing to do with the trains. I accidentally posted something. Trains are working just fine now.

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Kiran

Any ideas on why the loco stops for a bit when passing through the crossovers in this video? I noticed that it stops if I run the loco slowly. If it is fast enough, it tends to go through fine.

 

 

 

 

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gavino200

Do you have a power feed to the section of track between the two crossings? I think one of the two sections (the one near to the camera) is in the wrong orientation. It doesn't cause a constant short because there is no conductivity across the crossover. The center section of the crossover is insulated. 

 

A short occurs only when the loco has one truck on each side of the crossover. The short occurs through the loco. Once the loco makes it all the way across the crossing the short is gone. If you run the loco fast enough then the interruption is too brief to notice. Check the orientation of the power supply to the two sections between the crossings. 

 

 

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