N Gauge Small Tank Engines, DCC or not?

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DTQ
Posts: 4
Joined: Wed Jan 14, 2009 10:26 am

N Gauge Small Tank Engines, DCC or not?

Postby DTQ » Fri Oct 13, 2017 11:08 am

Ive been away from the hobby for quite some time (possibly 8 years??) due to not having space for a layout etc, but should be able to start rebuilding now. Ive been testing my old Rolling stock and to my surprise most of it seems to still be in good working order. I have the most expensive bit, a Hornby Elite controller already laying around (from a layout I had years ago for the kids where dcc was essential and on OO it really helped low speed running).

I have a selection of smaller Farrish locos that run very well even at very low speed using DC, My memory of my DCC dapol class 66 was that it ran better at low speed on DC than it did after the DCC upgrade (it was a dcc ready model). I dont know what brand chip I used all those years ago, but I like a loco that will run well at low speed. My main concern is putting in the effort to convert such small locos and losing their current very nice running characteristics. However I have the controller, and the idea of not worrying about switching power and isolating tracks etc is appealing, but not at the expense of smooth slow running (which on OO was always improved by DCC even with my home conversions).

I will me motorising all my points, Im not at all sure how DCC point control works with the elite, I would probably rather have a bank of physical levers than having to remember all the cv numbers for the points and entering numbers etc before controlling a point...

Im wondering if the railmaster software and a PC would allow a better point control system if I do build the new layout for DCC? I want a nice straightforward "obvious" system... I used to have my switches numbered on a track diagram so it was REALLY easy to know what you were switching and when.

Im guessing that by now theres many more small engines been converted and people will know what works to give good low speed running with DCC?

Bramshot
Posts: 147
Joined: Thu Jul 07, 2016 6:55 pm

Re: N Gauge Small Tank Engines, DCC or not?

Postby Bramshot » Fri Oct 13, 2017 11:33 am

Bachmann make a decoder specifically for the GF Jinty, and other small locos, with a 6 pin socket at right angles to the decoder board. I have one so equipped and it runs nicely, but the problem with all these small locos is that they can have a tendency to stall on points, so you do need to consider using the electrofrog variety. I don’t have the space and use insulfrog and do have to put up with this issue. I have always found DCC to be good for slow speed running, though have no recent analogue experience to compare it with. DCC should have one inherent advantage in that full track volts are always present, helping to overcome contact resistances at the wheels at low speed.

Bigmet
Posts: 5687
Joined: Tue Aug 14, 2007 2:19 pm

Re: N Gauge Small Tank Engines, DCC or not?

Postby Bigmet » Fri Oct 13, 2017 3:19 pm

You can expect to pay to have DCC reliably deliver refined performance from N gauge, the cheap generic decoders that are now widely sold probably won't satisfy as they tend to be a little 'granular' at low output, which shows up as less than smooth running at slow speed. The main brand I would look to for use on N gauge models is Zimo, and in really tricky cases (physically small loco, unrefined mechanism) CTE. Larger N models can probably take the Zimo MX 600 which is their economy decoder. I expect that can be fitted in your 66, and might give you a feel for whether the drive is up to the standard you require, for a relatively small outlay to test the water.

Have you checked out the Elite to see if it is working? It may well have an internal back up power cell, which would likely have given up after eight years off power (just a guess, as well to find out immediately rather than be frustrated by fitting a decoder only to find the control unit not working). Hornby have made updates to the Elite, which might be of value to you as they cured some of this design's early bugginess.

DTQ
Posts: 4
Joined: Wed Jan 14, 2009 10:26 am

Re: N Gauge Small Tank Engines, DCC or not?

Postby DTQ » Fri Oct 13, 2017 4:57 pm

Bigmet wrote:You can expect to pay to have DCC reliably deliver refined performance from N gauge, the cheap generic decoders that are now widely sold probably won't satisfy as they tend to be a little 'granular' at low output, which shows up as less than smooth running at slow speed. The main brand I would look to for use on N gauge models is Zimo, and in really tricky cases (physically small loco, unrefined mechanism) CTE. Larger N models can probably take the Zimo MX 600 which is their economy decoder. I expect that can be fitted in your 66, and might give you a feel for whether the drive is up to the standard you require, for a relatively small outlay to test the water.

Have you checked out the Elite to see if it is working? It may well have an internal back up power cell, which would likely have given up after eight years off power (just a guess, as well to find out immediately rather than be frustrated by fitting a decoder only to find the control unit not working). Hornby have made updates to the Elite, which might be of value to you as they cured some of this design's early bugginess.


Thanks for the brand recommendations, Ive been out of it too long to know whats current, I will try out the Zimo on the 66 and see how it works out. Having a couple of brand names to work with will make it easier to see what models to fit to my specific locos.

The Elite worked when I dragged out some of the kids stuff the other day, still remembered the loco names and numbers and powered their locos mcuh the same as it ever did, I would guess because their stuff has been used occaisionally since my old layout had to go. Must have been enough to keep it going. Ive downloaded the updates, but not dug out a cable to get them installed yet, think the controller is on 1.3, so its a bit behind the times.

As a bonus found another box full of turnouts and still sealed point motors. Once Ive tried out the new DCC on the 66 I will be able to start making serious decisions about how bases and track beds...

DTQ
Posts: 4
Joined: Wed Jan 14, 2009 10:26 am

Re: N Gauge Small Tank Engines, DCC or not?

Postby DTQ » Fri Oct 13, 2017 6:32 pm

Bit more digging think I now understand the 66 issue. I found an empty decoder box for a bachmann 36-558 decoder, which Im 99% sure will be the one I had in it, as its a 6pin one with no wires for a dcc ready train. I believe all my other digitised locos Ive had to convert.

Googling the part it appears to have since had 2 revisions the 36-558b has the following to say "This new chip replaces 36-558 and 36-558A. The chip is interchangeable but has a significantly improved low speed response - allowing you to creep your loco around during shunting or station work - rather than the slightly jagged low speed response of the old unit."

I guess thats enough to show that my issues arent dcc per-say just apparantly a decoder that wasnt up to the job from the factory...

Bigmet
Posts: 5687
Joined: Tue Aug 14, 2007 2:19 pm

Re: N Gauge Small Tank Engines, DCC or not?

Postby Bigmet » Sat Oct 14, 2017 9:58 am

The original version of the Bachmann 36-558 is a good example of the observable 'granularity' at low speed that I mentioned in my previous post. A friend had fitted it in one of the first Bachmann OO steam models with a 6 pin socket, and wasn't terribly impressed. I tried every CV adjustment available on the decoder and it just couldn't manage real smoothness at low speed. (I made some internal modificatiosns to the model so it could be hardwired with a Lenz standard and it ran beautifully.)

At much the same time Bachmann had released the Class 03 shunter, a model that I had purchased, as one was allocated to the shed in my modelling area as the steam to diesel transitions occurred. This was a very sweet running little unit, 44:1 gearing, smooth and controllable on a DC resistance controller down to a dead slow crawl. Almost too good as the real things were not exactly sophisticated and the crew handling of gear engagement and changes resulted in 'lumpy' progress, with much clanging between buffers of any coupled-on wagons. Well designed for DCC too, with a 6 pin socket positioned so that the decoder could go out of sight on the cab floor.

It was a perfect combination with that early version 36-558 decoder, which just slightly degraded the running to suggest that it wasn't that easy a device for the driver to operate smoothly. As such the movement is visibly different from the class 08s which were already present and gliding around steadily - and sluggishly.

DTQ
Posts: 4
Joined: Wed Jan 14, 2009 10:26 am

Re: N Gauge Small Tank Engines, DCC or not?

Postby DTQ » Sat Oct 14, 2017 10:22 pm

Bigmet wrote:The original version of the Bachmann 36-558 is a good example of the observable 'granularity' at low speed that I mentioned in my previous post. A friend had fitted it in one of the first Bachmann OO steam models with a 6 pin socket, and wasn't terribly impressed. I tried every CV adjustment available on the decoder and it just couldn't manage real smoothness at low speed. (I made some internal modificatiosns to the model so it could be hardwired with a Lenz standard and it ran beautifully.)

At much the same time Bachmann had released the Class 03 shunter, a model that I had purchased, as one was allocated to the shed in my modelling area as the steam to diesel transitions occurred. This was a very sweet running little unit, 44:1 gearing, smooth and controllable on a DC resistance controller down to a dead slow crawl. Almost too good as the real things were not exactly sophisticated and the crew handling of gear engagement and changes resulted in 'lumpy' progress, with much clanging between buffers of any coupled-on wagons. Well designed for DCC too, with a 6 pin socket positioned so that the decoder could go out of sight on the cab floor.

It was a perfect combination with that early version 36-558 decoder, which just slightly degraded the running to suggest that it wasn't that easy a device for the driver to operate smoothly. As such the movement is visibly different from the class 08s which were already present and gliding around steadily - and sluggishly.


Love it :lol: Make use of a defect to enhance the modelling. I have to admit to not knowing anywhere near enough about realworld performance of locos and nitty gritty details. I thought I was doing well to get a dapol 0-4-2 with the number 1466 (a regular visitor according to a book I have on the station) to run my brixham station layout lol.

The new big layout will return to Brixham, hopefully with an added Goodrington and Paignton and maybe Torquay, if I can wrangle it in.

Looks like the zimo mx622n will be a direct fit replacement, should I expect a return of smoother running with that?

Bigmet
Posts: 5687
Joined: Tue Aug 14, 2007 2:19 pm

Re: N Gauge Small Tank Engines, DCC or not?

Postby Bigmet » Sun Oct 15, 2017 10:31 am

That's what I would start with, and would expect good results from this decoder if the loco is a smooth runner on DC. You may find that this decoder is good enough on factory settings and only needs a few CV's setting for user preference aspects like acceleration rates and maximum speed; but if not, it offers an auto-optimisation mode, and a very large suite of adjustments (but you do have to be prepared to put in the time with the downloadable manual to 'read all about it'!). Be interested to read how you find it works.


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