Best DCC System to run with HO & Sounttraxx?

Discussion in 'FAQs' started by gregbva123, Jun 30, 2003.

  1. gregbva123

    gregbva123 Member

    Joined:
    Mar 14, 2003
    Messages:
    107
    Likes Received:
    0
    :)

    Hello,

    I was listening to the Soundtraxx sounds of engines on there website and loved it. Are these hard to wire and are they just sound or run the engines too?

    What is the best DCC system to buy for a small 10 x 12 room layout and all my 18 atlas switches are wired. I already have the track wired for block control with 16 plastic gap spacer and track glued down. I think I can get the track up or wire a lead from one side of track to the other side of the gap spacer making the connection.

    Any suggestions out there?

    Thanks,
    Greg
  2. Gary Pfeil

    Gary Pfeil Active Member

    Joined:
    May 8, 2001
    Messages:
    2,593
    Likes Received:
    0
    Tough questions Greg. In regards to how hard it is to install Soundtrax decoders, it depends on your soldering skills to a large degree. If you are comfortable soldering wires together you'll have no problem. What wire does what is pretty straightforward and well explained. Two leads (red and black) from the rails, two more (grey and orange) for the motor. two purple leads for the speaker. Other leads are there for lighting. The hardest part of a sound install is locating the speaker in the loco. I've only done steam, the tenders make speaker installation easy.

    As far as what DCC system to use, well I guess they're all good. I use Digitrax. I think a Zephyr and a DT400 throttle is an excellant choice. I don't know much about MRC systems, as I recall at least one of their systems had trouble programming soundtrax decoders, it may have been an older one no longer available. You should certainly check before you buy. I think their are Yahoo forums for most of the DCC companies, I know there is one for Digitrax and Soundtrax. These are good places to check for how people are getting along with their systems. Just keep in mind that usually only people with problems post so it can be difficult to know how widespread a problem is.

    If your track is glued down with insulators installed, just leave them and connect track feeds from each section to a two wire bus under the layout. Use 14 gauge wire for the bus. Say you use black and white wire (I strip the jacket off Romex cable and use that wire) Just connect all drops form the south rail(for example) to the black wire and all drops from north rail to the white wire. You can just leave the track power on while you connect each drop to the bus, if you cross the wires you will hear several beeps letting you know you have chosen the wrong bus wire. This works with Digitrax, the others must have short protection as well, might not have the beeps.

    Good luck.
  3. gregbva123

    gregbva123 Member

    Joined:
    Mar 14, 2003
    Messages:
    107
    Likes Received:
    0
    If I go with DCC on this layout, which is the best systems for small layouts? (10 x 12 room) and I have 25 DC engines.

    If I go with DCC, I was thinking about MRC Prodigy, Digitix Zepher or the Atlas DCC system? Any thoughts on this?

    Thanks,
    Greg
  4. rsn48

    rsn48 Member

    Joined:
    Feb 28, 2003
    Messages:
    201
    Likes Received:
    0
    With the Prodigy, I seem to recall there are some issues with sound, so research and don't just take my word for it - I could be wrong.

    You can't go wrong with Digitrax or Lenz (instead of the Atlas Commander). There are other good brands out there, but I don't want to comment as I am less familiar with them. For example, Zimo is excellent but it is also expensive.
  5. brakie

    brakie Active Member

    Joined:
    Nov 8, 2001
    Messages:
    2,949
    Likes Received:
    0
    Greg,I suggest getting a Digi Trax system.I recommend the Empire Builder II and not your more common starter sets(these will work however).By doing this it will give you all the DCC you will ever need without having to upgrade at a later date if the need arises..Of course by going with the next size up from the basic starter set will cost you few more dollars,the cost will be the same if you need to up grade later as I stated..Shop around on the internet to find the best price.


    For the good news..If you are using Life Likes line of P2K locomotives these are simply plug and play..You see it would be better to go with Sound Traxxs Decoder/sound system then having to install the decoder and then add the sound..Check their web site for the plug and play systems for other brands of locomotives as well.I also suggest the Edgeport speaker as it is small and has a built in baffle and sounds great.

    As Rick as righlty pointed out there is problems with the MRC Prodigy and sound..
  6. gregbva123

    gregbva123 Member

    Joined:
    Mar 14, 2003
    Messages:
    107
    Likes Received:
    0
    I went out and bought a DCC Digitrax Zephyr and 3 n scale decoders and 3 HO decoders for my HO engines to which over. They are not plug and play, but I think I can wire them. With my small 10 x 12 room, I figured the DCC Zephyr would be the best and I can later add a Radio Throttle dual 400.

    Wiring it with 12 gauge bus wire and then the feeders with be 18 gauge to the track. Where do I find the Suitcase Connectors that attach the 12 gauge wire to the 18 gauge wire to track?

    Any suggestion on nice DCC ready or DCC equipped Engines?

    Thanks,
    Greg
  7. rsn48

    rsn48 Member

    Joined:
    Feb 28, 2003
    Messages:
    201
    Likes Received:
    0
    For your system, 12 guage wire is over kill unless you already have it, then by all means use it. You'll find house hold #14 cheaper to buy, just strip off the outside cover to get at the wires. If there are any short falls on your layout, I'm guessing it would be feeders from the track. There was an excellent article in this year's MR with "bus" in the title. Get your hands on it and read the article - its in the new dcc section. The author recommends feeders every three feet, and more importantly gives the reason why.

    I don't recall what scale you are in, however, if you run into any problems with power, you can always add another booster. On your size layout, I doubt you will. About the only real short coming on the Zephyr is its 2.5 Amp booster
  8. gregbva123

    gregbva123 Member

    Joined:
    Mar 14, 2003
    Messages:
    107
    Likes Received:
    0
    I was going to do a HO layout with block control and now I'm into DCC. My gap spacers are on the outside rail and do I need them on both sides?

    O do I just hook-up one feeder wire to the inside rail for the entire layout and feeders wires to each block area? (18 in all).

    Thanks,
    Greg
  9. jwmurrayjr

    jwmurrayjr Member

    Joined:
    Jan 24, 2003
    Messages:
    185
    Likes Received:
    0
    Greg,

    I believe that 2-rail gaps and feeders are highly recommended for DCC. Not common rail.

    :)
  10. gregbva123

    gregbva123 Member

    Joined:
    Mar 14, 2003
    Messages:
    107
    Likes Received:
    0
    Does anyone know if I can use the current Common rail Block Control for DCC, or do I have to place gap spacer on both rails to enter the next section?

    Thanks,
    Greg
  11. Gary Pfeil

    Gary Pfeil Active Member

    Joined:
    May 8, 2001
    Messages:
    2,593
    Likes Received:
    0
    Greg, there's no need to add gaps in your "common" rail. But you should add additional feeders anyway. BTW, the additional feeders aren't a requirement of DCC, I would suggest them for DC as well. It is a matter of voltage drop and depending on rail joiners for conductivity. You can tie all 18 drops from the individual blocks to one of the bus wires. I agree 14 gauge is all you need. And the drops can be 20 or 22 gauge, they should only be, well, less than a foot long. Gapping both rails will only be needed for reverse blocks.

    Gary
  12. Russ Bellinis

    Russ Bellinis Active Member

    Joined:
    Feb 14, 2003
    Messages:
    4,707
    Likes Received:
    0
    I wouldn't use suitcase connectors. I understand that dcc is very sensitive to resistance. I would solder the drops to the bus wires.
    If you can solder well enough to install decoders, soldering the drops to the bus would be a piece of cake.
  13. gregbva123

    gregbva123 Member

    Joined:
    Mar 14, 2003
    Messages:
    107
    Likes Received:
    0
    A man that sold me the Zephyr DCC System and 6 decoders uses 12 AWG Bus Wire and 18 AWG feeder wire and uses suitcase connectors to connect the feeder wires to the bus wires.

    He has a great layout and took 4 years to build. One man said to use feeder wires on every piece of track on the layout. That's a lot of wiring.

    Thanks,
    Greg
  14. mykroft

    mykroft Member

    Joined:
    Nov 15, 2002
    Messages:
    74
    Likes Received:
    0
    If you have a small layout using Flex-Track, running feeders to every chunk of flex is doable, if overkill. If you used sectional it's insane. I'd run the feeders to 2-3 different places on the block for mainline and 1 or 2 different places in the block for sidings that are their own blocks. Solder your rail joints within blocks to improve performance, it's actually pretty easy.
  15. brakie

    brakie Active Member

    Joined:
    Nov 8, 2001
    Messages:
    2,949
    Likes Received:
    0
    The beauty of DCC you don't really need blocks(the only exception being the programing track) you should drop feeders every 6-10 feet to insure a strong DCC signal to the track...If you do use blocks then use them as you would as if you where using DC.

    Now as for that "expert" in the magazine he needs to rethink on the merits of DCC.There is no need for a feeder every three feet,moreover the Digi Trax manual that I have recommends a feeder to be dropped every 6-10 feet..

    Now I used this on my past C&O branch one layout and had no problems..On my 11'6" x 11'6" x11'6" with a 4' x10' peninsula I used a total of 5 feeders and all worked well..BTW I used 16 AGW on my bus and 12 AGW for feeders...The only blocks I had was in the engine service area that double for programing tracks(if needed). I did all of my programing on my test track on my work bench as I found it was easier for me to do so.
  16. gregbva123

    gregbva123 Member

    Joined:
    Mar 14, 2003
    Messages:
    107
    Likes Received:
    0
    I installed the DCC Digitrax Zephyr and used 12 AWG for the BUS and 18 AWG for the FEEDERS. I used suitcase connectors to connect the feeders to the bus wires and this was easy and provided a strong connection. (No Soldering). I am using feeders no more than 6 inches in length and spacing them at about 4 - 6 feet apart.

    I had the Layout using gap spacers by Atlas on the outside rail only, but someone told me at the local hobby shop to gap both rails around the entire layout so you will know where a short is if it happens. I placed small plastic pieces between the rails to seperate them into blocks and feed feeders to every block. Half done and working on "00" Analog now, I'm half done.

    Anyone see any problems?

    Thanks,
    Greg
  17. Gary Pfeil

    Gary Pfeil Active Member

    Joined:
    May 8, 2001
    Messages:
    2,593
    Likes Received:
    0
    Hi Greg, I assume you gapped the rail and then used styrene to prevent closure? If so, that part is fine. In order for that to help locate shorts you will need to be able to turn each block off, usually via a switch. Sounds like you're good to go.
  18. gregbva123

    gregbva123 Member

    Joined:
    Mar 14, 2003
    Messages:
    107
    Likes Received:
    0
    Yes, I used styrene plastic to gap rails. No I did not hook up switches for the different blocks, should I have?

    Thanks,
    Greg
  19. Gary Pfeil

    Gary Pfeil Active Member

    Joined:
    May 8, 2001
    Messages:
    2,593
    Likes Received:
    0
    Greg, the only reason to install switches would be to be able to turn off the blocks in an attempt to find a short. Bear in mind there is no right or wrong here, I have a rather large DCC layout and haven't bothered with blocks except for in my staging area where I wanted to be able to turn track power off, in order to have the passenger cars lights go off. Yes, I have had several shorts over the years and sometimes they were difficult to locate, and blocks such as the ones you've provided would have enabled me to find those shorts more quickly. But without a way to turn off each block, you won't be able to find the short any faster than if the blocks weren't there, unless you were to start cutting wires!
  20. 60103

    60103 Pooh Bah

    Joined:
    Mar 25, 2002
    Messages:
    5,135
    Likes Received:
    0
    I think most DCC systems need one separate block that you use as a programming track.If your workbench is next to your layout it is nicr to have it there. Otherwise, take the end of a siding. Be careful with the programming track; read the directions carefully. If you make a mistake, you could reprogram all the locos on your layout at once to the same number.
    I would run feeders to the middle of each block section. If you notice a fall-off in speed, add feeders to the end of the block.
    You will probably have to add feeders past switches, especially if you use all-rail frogs.
    You will probably find it useful to have some sections that you can cut out. You need storage for extra non-decoder engines. You may also want to isolate your sound equipped engines when you aren't running them.