Help with wiring up a yard

Discussion in 'DCC & Electronics' started by robt46, Dec 5, 2004.

  1. robt46

    robt46 Member

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    Hi fellas, new to the forum. I'm starting my Layout. I have the Digitrax Zepher, and I'm a little lost here. I'd like to know the best way to wire my switches in my yard. It seems like a pile of switches to figure out. After I get this, I guess I move on to the control panel? Any help on this would be appreciated. I've gotten so much information from you fellas so far, It's been great. Robt. Oh I should mention that I have'nt been into the HO Scale, the last Train I had was a Lionel around the Christmas tree, Hehe.
  2. kchronister

    kchronister Member

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    I'm slightly confused here. DO you plan to operate the switches through Digitrax throttle, or through a traditional control panel with physical buttons or toggles to operate the switches?
  3. robt46

    robt46 Member

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    Sorry, I guess I wasn't to clear on it. ( state of confused is my life.) I wanted to know if it's better to operate the switches in the yard on DCC or if it is better to operate with a control panel and switches. I thought it would be better to have the traditional control panel with physical toggles to operate the switches. I wanted some imput on what everybody else is using or what is the best way of opreating the yard these days. Never had a yard before.( to be honest, I'm confused with DCC Hehe) Just some turnouts on a mainline. sorry for the confusion. Appreciate your imput. Thanks again Robt.
  4. Matthyro

    Matthyro Will always be re-membered

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    There would be quite a cost to have switches controlled by your dcc throttle as each switch would need a decoder. It would make sense to set up a control panel to control switches in a yard in the old way.
  5. kchronister

    kchronister Member

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    I use DCC for my yard, personally. The cost is there, but not as exorbitant as it used to be: Lenz/Atlas make a 6-switch decoder for about $35-40 -- not cheap, but far less than when you had to buy one decoder for $15-20 for each switch...My yard uses 2 of these decoders.

    I am in the process of adding a physical control panel too (you can wire it to work with both)... There are times it's convenient just to stand there and throw toggles. Frankly, between buying materials for the control panel itself, mini-toggles, etc. I think it's going to end up costing about the same as the DCC setup for the yard did.

    Kris
  6. kchronister

    kchronister Member

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  7. robt46

    robt46 Member

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    Thanks for the imput Robin. Yeah I thought about that (as I was struggling through the book that came with my DCC) By not having any experience with this I'd like to get suggestions from you fellas on what everybody's using. Hoping for more imput. Robt.
  8. robt46

    robt46 Member

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    Thanks Kris for the info. The LS150 Decoder looks like a pretty good unit. Guess I have to make some decisions here. Ugh. hate doing that. I'm usually wrong. Hehe. I think I'll go for throwing the switches from the control panel. ( unless somebody twists my arm not to do it. Robt.
  9. CalFlash

    CalFlash Member

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    I'm using DCC controlled turnouts for my lower level which will be hidden so I can set the routes with macros. The upper visible level will have conventional toggle switches. But I don't have any real yards per se. If I did, I think I would use DCC for them because of the macro capability.
  10. robt46

    robt46 Member

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    I think I'm feeling my arm twist. Robt.
  11. kchronister

    kchronister Member

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    Well, Robt. I'm biased - I am absolutely, 100% a DCC fan. So I'll torque that arm a little more.

    I would definitely go DCC. Short term you're probably looking at similar cost. Long term, it will enable a LOT of additional functions, such as computer control and "routing" (AKA Macros, wherein you set a "route" that switches a whole group of turnouts in one shot) E.g. you could have a "route" set up for "yard lead into yard track 5" and hit one button to fire off all the necessary switches.

    You may do none of this today, but think of the DCC option as the foundation that you need to do it in the future.

    I should add that the real "added cost" option is what I have - do it both ways. Again, I'll recommend that when one can have the best of both worlds, one ought to... But that's really up to the resources you want to put into this right now.

    My breakdown (yours may differ, especially on DC depending on how you do panels, not including cost of actual turnouts/switches)

    DCC: $40 per six switches. That's pretty much it. Walthers was selling the Atlas version of the LS150 (same thing, different label) for $35 recently, but I'm going to be conservative and give the price I know for sure tonystrains sells the LS150 for all the time.

    DC: $18 per six switches for SPDT momentary toggles (about the same for pushbuttons which are cheaper, but you need twice as many), Plus: hardboard & acrylic to make panel, lumber to mount panel. Terminal Strips and/or Power Distribution Strips to wire it all. Call it $30 total for six switches and $10 for each additional 6 (very rough ballparking here).

    That's what I mean when I say it's really not a big cost differential...
  12. kchronister

    kchronister Member

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    PS - Yep, just checked it. Walthers has the Atlas version (Atlas 150-344 Turnout Control Unit) for $34.99 through 1/1/05. Definitely a good deal... MSRP is $50 and I just paid $40 each for 4 of 'em not long ago. Sigh.

    Kris
  13. robt46

    robt46 Member

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    OK OK OK Loosen up the grip a little the arm is stating to hurt. Hehe. Good stuff Kris. You convinced me. I will go DCC
  14. Gary Pfeil

    Gary Pfeil Active Member

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    Kris makes many valid points but acknowledges that he is really into DCC and computer operaton. I too love my DCC, have used it for 4 years, but I do not operate my turnouts with it. A big reason for that is my reluctance to have to select the turnouts address and throw it, then go back to my loco. And the fact that in real life engineers couldn't throw turnouts from the comfort of their cabs. (At least not in the 50's!) I am not computer savvy enough to concern myself with using the computer to aid in running the layout. Since I get the idea you are a beginner, such things as computer aided control may be best left for a bit later. Though only you can determine that of course.

    In regards to how you control your turnouts if not using DCC, it depends on which turnout motors you use. If you use twin coil machines, you really don't need to buy any electrical switches, you can throw them using a stud and probe system. Basically using screw heads mounted in a panel and a probe to touch them, completing the circuit temporarily. And diodes can be used to throw routes. Cost here is virtually nothing. If you use slow motion motors to throw your turnouts, there are several ways to power them, I just use dpdt toggles. The position of the toggle lever indicates which way the turnout is thrown. These can be routed as well tho I haven't done so. If I ever get to the point where a dispatcher controls main line turnouts and the engineers don't have anything to do with them, I would then like to have them controlled via DCC. But thats a ways off for me and I'll have to hope I find an operator who knows more (much more) than I do about computer interfaces to make that happen.

    Just another thought.
  15. CalFlash

    CalFlash Member

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    Great sale - it's out of stock and unexpected delivery.
  16. kchronister

    kchronister Member

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    Gary - what DCC system do you use? You say "A big reason for that is my reluctance to have to select the turnouts address and throw it, then go back to my loco"...

    On my Lenz system I never "lose" the loco. I can be in the midst of throwing turnouts, and increase/decrease the loco speed, turn on/off functions, etc... Wondering if other systems work differently...

    Jerry - Just shows it is a great price for that item... Oh well... I'd call 'em and demand a raincheck if I were in the market... Or see if other folks will play "match the price"...
  17. Gary Pfeil

    Gary Pfeil Active Member

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    Hi Kris, I have a Digitrax Chief. Since their throttles have two controllers (and recall on the newer ones, tho I use mostly the DT100's still) I can select the turnout address on one while never losing the loco I'm running. I have to admit that it is just something I haven't wanted to do. I walk around following my train, and have toggles in the facsia, it's just too easy. I went for DCC to eliminate having to fuss with block switches. And it's worth it just for that, everything else is a bonus. Started adding sound a couple years ago, the other major benefit of DCC in my eyes. Now if someone in my area wanted to help install signalling, I would add detection and blocks and interface with a computer as quickly as I could afford it, but on my own it isn't going to happen. I just don't have the desire to spend the time it would take to learn how to run it all.

    Gary
  18. kchronister

    kchronister Member

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    Yeah, I'll agree that in the absence of computer-control it's definitely a toss-up hinging on personal preference... And I DO have control-panels with toggles myself, so I can't exactly contend that I don't find "flip, flip, flip, done" convenient myself...

    Kris
  19. robt46

    robt46 Member

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    Ahhh! another valued opinion!

    Kris and Gary thank you for your opinions. Both very valid points. I'm a luckey guy to have this kind of imput. Decisions, Decisions. I'm going to think about this. Me being new to this, I must say the smart thing to do is go with the click, click,click done system. However,I am known far and wide for biting off more than I can chew. I'm gonna think about this. Hehe. Anyway, here's another question. Get ready! Turntable operation better with DCC or DC. I definately want signaling on the layout.(that's a seperate thought, by the way.) so help out an old dumb beginner. thanks fellas. Robt. Oh another thought. Gary you have the Cheif, I have the Zephyr. I think the Cheif puts out more juice. What is the difference besides the walk around capability. Am I going to need boosters for more power. I'm slightly confused!(Normal state for me.) Robt.
  20. kchronister

    kchronister Member

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    Well, no surprise, I think DCC handles both turntables and signaling better than DC.

    Turntables in particular benefit -- in fact anything where you get the potential for reversed polarity (Loops, Wyes, Turntables) is better with DCC since train direction doesn't depend on polarity. In fact, that was my decision-maker for DCC in the end of the day -- I have a layout with three reverse loops (and a turntable eventually) and just couldn't get past the fairly heinous wiring and restrictions this setup would face under DCC. With DCC you can get an auto-reversing module, hook it to the turntable track (or loop or whatever) and it just handles it for you. You just drive the train: No toggle switching, no trains on other areas of the layout reversing direction, etc