DCC automation advice needed *solved*

Post all your DCC only problems, solutions and discoverys here.
User avatar
Michaelaface
Posts: 201
Joined: Wed Nov 02, 2011 1:51 am

DCC automation advice needed *solved*

Postby Michaelaface » Fri Mar 30, 2018 10:09 pm

Hello group

after seeing a few layouts on youtube that featured DCC automation I have decided that it is exactly the way I want to run my model railway, I've been umming and ahhing over how to build and where to put a control panel on my layout for a while now and to be honest, controlling the lot via my PC makes so much more sense for me

now I've used the basics of DCC to control my locos for the past 10 years, but never ventured further than that, the currently controller i use is the horribly dated hornby select which needs upgrading anyway, so I have a basic grasp of whats going on

however I am aware there are probably many gaps in my knowledge for anything more advanced, but so far, if I want to run automated trains I've worked out I will need the following

- DCC controller with the ability to connect to wireless/computer, the popular choice seems to be the roco z21 is this right? or is there a more affordable option
- Accessory decoders + solenoid driver (I have solenoid point motors already) for points and signals, now what is the best way to go about doing this? I've had a look at the stuff from megapointscontrollers and they seem pretty easy to use, and this all goes through the main DCC bus yes?
- Block detection, so the video I saw made this look fairly simple using a device from DigiKeijs, but how it works in conjunction with the controller wasnt really explained and it annoys me that im not sure how this information will be received, I know it works by telling the computer which section of track current is being drawn from, but thats it, also this plugs in to the controller via phone cable type plug?
- Software, I've watched loads of videos on the various softwares available and I'm fairly sure I'll be able to work out how to use everything

now is there anything glaringly obvious in here that I've missed, I don't want to go buying a load of stuff and then have it not work cause some of these parts get a little pricey, but like I said, I need a new DCC controller regardless

thanks
Michaela
Last edited by Michaelaface on Tue Apr 17, 2018 6:29 pm, edited 1 time in total.

User avatar
TimberSurf
Posts: 2017
Joined: Wed Jan 08, 2014 5:47 pm
Location: N.Wales
Contact:

Re: DCC automation advice needed

Postby TimberSurf » Fri Mar 30, 2018 10:49 pm

Micheala, start on my link page and click on the bottom yellow link (very informative for selecting system). Not just z21 available! (In fact all but 3!)
Megapoints was originally designed for servos and has its own bus system and input cards for switches. If you already have solenoids (they do now have cards that can control them) and will use a PC for input and have a DCC bus to drive all between, there is little point in employing Megapoints!
Your DCC bus system is already in place as the backbone. The PC will act as your switch board, Solenoids exist, so just buy cards that drive solenoids from DCC. Be warned that the more accessories you employ (and share with your locos) the bigger your booster needs to be.
I know little about block control, but be wary about system compatibility, not all feedback systems work with all makes of controller! Check all three elements can talk (compatible/same Comms BUS). Different makes use different buss's to talk to each other (completely different to the DCC bus!)
It needs a lot of research to determine the best controller for you, in combination with a suitable feed back system, solenoid drive cards are more likely to work on any system, software I am not to sure, but I think it can be different again (check out JMRI)
Image
Lumsdonia <--- Hit link to go to my website for full story and wiring advice!

User avatar
Michaelaface
Posts: 201
Joined: Wed Nov 02, 2011 1:51 am

Re: DCC automation advice needed

Postby Michaelaface » Fri Mar 30, 2018 11:07 pm

well I currently have nothing controlling or powering my solenoids, they're just in position, which is why I was thinking the megapoints decoder and solenoid driver might be useful

would you think it worth just getting what I saw used in the youtube video that sold me the idea? seems to work pretty well there, I'll get the link
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZksqVYMvz4A

User avatar
TimberSurf
Posts: 2017
Joined: Wed Jan 08, 2014 5:47 pm
Location: N.Wales
Contact:

Re: DCC automation advice needed

Postby TimberSurf » Sat Mar 31, 2018 12:06 am

That video only really shows off the PC software, it gives little detail of the DCC controller and solenoid card makes. Megapoints wins for DC, but on a DCC layout, unless you want servos or a fancy mimic switch panel, it does not bring anything to the party except another (unnecessary) layer. i think the deciding factors will be based on the feedback system (and its detection modules) that is supported by the DCC controller.
Image
Lumsdonia <--- Hit link to go to my website for full story and wiring advice!

User avatar
Michaelaface
Posts: 201
Joined: Wed Nov 02, 2011 1:51 am

Re: DCC automation advice needed

Postby Michaelaface » Sat Mar 31, 2018 12:28 am

What would you recommend for controlling the points then?

User avatar
TimberSurf
Posts: 2017
Joined: Wed Jan 08, 2014 5:47 pm
Location: N.Wales
Contact:

Re: DCC automation advice needed

Postby TimberSurf » Sat Mar 31, 2018 7:26 am

ANY other make of DCC solenoid driver card. Probably best to to choose the same make as the final decision on the DCC controller.
Image
Lumsdonia <--- Hit link to go to my website for full story and wiring advice!

RFS
Posts: 843
Joined: Tue Jan 12, 2010 3:09 pm
Location: Derbyshire, UK

Re: DCC automation advice needed

Postby RFS » Sat Mar 31, 2018 9:15 am

Any NMRA-compliant points accessory decoder will work fine and it doesn't have to be from the same manufacturer of your DCC system. The Lenz LS150 is a popular choice. Solenoid motors draw a heavy current so you do not want to connect it to the DCC bus as they can drain the bus momentarily. The LS150 uses a separate 3-amp 16v AC power supply to operate the points and is only connected to the DCC bus for command input. The LS150 will operate 6 points.

Another option is the DCC Concepts DCD-ADS8FX which has built-in CDU, but bear in mind there have been reliability problems reported with this device.
Robert Smith

Suzie
Posts: 240
Joined: Tue Dec 17, 2013 11:46 pm

Re: DCC automation advice needed

Postby Suzie » Sun Apr 01, 2018 10:21 am

Hi Michaela

Which solenoid point motors do you have? Most DCC solenoid decoders will only drive up to 3A so if you have the typical Peco PL10, Hornby or Seep below mounting solenoids you will have to choose the decoder carefully because these draw at least 4A (when wired correctly anyway). If you want to use a CDU for extra reliability/peace of mind/quietness the choice reduces further.

So, knowing which point motors you have is key to starting the search for a suitable decoder to operate your points.

Controlling signals, like points, is generally best not done with solenoids. You can have coloured light signals for which several dedicated decoders are available such as the Signalist SC1 to make life easy, or for semaphores you can use servos, or with a suitable decoder and interface the Dapol motorised semaphores.

You mentioned you were looking for a new command station, and if you are doing automation you will need a new one as you have identified. You will need two key things from it for automation:-

1. A good computer interface.

2. A feedback bus that you can connect suitable block detectors.

You mentioned z21 (little 'Z' and white box), but that is the affordable 'starter' version of the Z21 (big 'Z' and black box) which you will need if you are doing automation. It ticks the box on having a good computer interface (Ethernet/Wi-Fi) and has a good feedback bus (LocoNet) which is well supported with a wide range of feedback accessories from several manufacturers.

Z21 is not the only option of course, and you mentioned DigiKeijs which with the DR5000 command station is another option that ticks the boxes with Ethernet and Wi-Fi interfaces, as well as a very comprehensive set of feedback buses, and might be more affordable.

How you do block detection and point position feedback will depend on which command station/feedback bus you choose and therefore which feedback encoders are available for that bus. Generally they come in three types:-

A. Optical (where a train is detected by breaking or reflecting a light beam).

B1. Current transformer (where the current drawn by the train is detected via a special transformer in line with the track feed that has very low voltage drop).

B2. Detection diode (where the current drawn by the train is detected by dropping half a volt in the supply across a diode).

The type A detectors will detect any train even if it is not drawing current, but are really only suitable for very small blocks (such as a single set of points for example). The type B detectors can be fitted to very long blocks, but will not detect anything that does not draw current (hence the practice of using lit coaches, or fitting resistive wheel sets to wagons to draw a small current).

It is all very achievable, and there is quite a lot of software available (some of it free like JMRI and Rocrail) to help depending on exactly what you want to automate.

Suzie x

User avatar
Michaelaface
Posts: 201
Joined: Wed Nov 02, 2011 1:51 am

Re: DCC automation advice needed

Postby Michaelaface » Sun Apr 01, 2018 12:26 pm

Thank you for all your advice, so right now I am thinking

Command station - Digikeijs DR5000, because it just seems to cover every conceivable combination of parts

Block detection - Digikeijs DR4088, because its the one used in the video that inspired this idea, and getting it to work seems fairly simple in my mind

Signals - Digikeijs DR4018 - just to keep everything the same system with the intention of everything being compatible, I have the dapol semaphores so I'd imagine this setup would be fairly simple

Points - still unsure about this one, I have the peco solenoids because when I bought them I was using peco points so that was my reasoning, I also have a gaugemaster CDU but would that be needed with a good solenoid driver? currently leaning toward that lenz ls150, but again after seeing a youtube demonstration of the megapoints parts and just how easy that looks to set up (plus its not actually that expensive) I'm still kinda torn/unsure

Software - once all that is hooked up I intend to try out all the different software to find the one that I find suits my needs the best, as for my PC, I have a fairly high spec computer as I use it all the time for recording audio and playing games

pricing - now obviously I'm aiming for the most cost effective products, but at the same time I don't really mind spending a bit of money

RFS
Posts: 843
Joined: Tue Jan 12, 2010 3:09 pm
Location: Derbyshire, UK

Re: DCC automation advice needed

Postby RFS » Sun Apr 01, 2018 5:56 pm

Before deciding on block detection you need to also consider what software you will be using, as they don't all have the same requirements. I use RR&Co Traincontroller (TC) Gold version and for that I need only a single occupancy detector per block. That's because TC has functionality to profile all your locos and hence can use "dead reckoning" to calculate where in a block a loco is. Hence brake and stop markers are all "virtual contacts" (ie defined as offsets from the start of the block) and you can have multiple sets of these, for example for long/short trains, freight trains, scheduled vs. unscheduled stops etc. And TC knows both the lengths of the blocks as well as train lengths and hence will automatically deal with long trains in short blocks.

Free software will not be so well specified. The free Rocrail requires a minimum of 2 indicators per block, but preferably 4, according to its documentation. So you really do need to investigate this before buying detectors.

TC is expensive and not really suited to a small layout, but the more blocks you have the more you may save on detectors which can easily offset the cost of the software.
Robert Smith

User avatar
Michaelaface
Posts: 201
Joined: Wed Nov 02, 2011 1:51 am

Re: DCC automation advice needed

Postby Michaelaface » Sun Apr 01, 2018 8:12 pm

well I've been having a look at software already, I've heard that train controller is the easiest to use out of them all, and also I've seen that the bronze version will do everything I need it to, although it is still £90, it does sorta make sense to invest into the running of my trains, considering the amount I spend on them

Suzie
Posts: 240
Joined: Tue Dec 17, 2013 11:46 pm

Re: DCC automation advice needed

Postby Suzie » Sun Apr 01, 2018 9:47 pm

Hi Michaela

If you have standard Peco PL10 or PL10E motors the Lenz LS150 point decoder is not suitable since it is rated at just 3A. I don't think that Dijikeis offer anything suitable either.

The LS150 also requires an AC power supply (so the power to the motors is dependent on your local mains voltage) and cannot be connected to a CDU which makes it a bit of a poor performer in other ways too, and has no protection from command stations sending excessively long activation requests.

The DR4018 will not operate your Dapol signals. You have two choices, the TrainTech SC3 will operate two or the Signalist SC1/DP8 combination will operate eight. The Dapol semaphores require a decoder that can keep track of the state of the Dapol semaphore even when powered down, and keep track of the pulses it has sent to the signal to activate it. They also need a regulated DC supply of around 8V to make them last a long time which the decoder can supply.

Suzie x

User avatar
Michaelaface
Posts: 201
Joined: Wed Nov 02, 2011 1:51 am

Re: DCC automation advice needed

Postby Michaelaface » Sun Apr 01, 2018 11:15 pm

what would you recommend for point control then?

and for signals it seems more cost effective to use servo controlled ratio (or similar) signals then

Dad-1
Posts: 5396
Joined: Sun Aug 24, 2008 8:05 pm
Location: Dorset - A mile from West Bay.

Re: DCC automation advice needed

Postby Dad-1 » Mon Apr 02, 2018 9:12 am

Hi Michaelaface,

I notice the new avatar !

Remember costs and keeping it simple !

I shall say no more ....... whatever, it needs to be fun.

Geoff T.
Remember ... I know nothing about railways.
viewtopic.php?f=22&t=32187 and Another on viewtopic.php?f=22&t=28436&start=60&st=0&sk=t&sd=a

RFS
Posts: 843
Joined: Tue Jan 12, 2010 3:09 pm
Location: Derbyshire, UK

Re: DCC automation advice needed

Postby RFS » Mon Apr 02, 2018 9:30 am

Suzie wrote:Hi Michaela

If you have standard Peco PL10 or PL10E motors the Lenz LS150 point decoder is not suitable since it is rated at just 3A. I don't think that Dijikeis offer anything suitable either.

The LS150 also requires an AC power supply (so the power to the motors is dependent on your local mains voltage) and cannot be connected to a CDU which makes it a bit of a poor performer in other ways too, and has no protection from command stations sending excessively long activation requests.

Suzie x


Not so - I used to use PL-10Es with LS150s for quite a while before replacing them with Tortoise. I had over 60 of them and provided that they were carefully installed I had little trouble with them, and they all had PL-13s fitted too. I only had one turnout per port. If I were going down this route today, I would use the PL-10WE which is rated at 1.5 amps. I have a few of this in my loco shed yard where the Tortoise motors won't fit due to there being a cupboard door underneath which the Tortoises would prevent opening.

When using automation you end up running more trains than you would manually. Some automation systems, TC included, always fire a point when setting a route regardless of its current position. This can make the constant thump-thump of solenoids tedious and is the main reason why I switched to Tortoises.

Point motors are critical to correct operation: any failure can result in a train taking the wrong route. If you're operating manually you will usually notice the point didn't switch, and you'll be watching the train anyway. With automation running more trains than you can keep track of, this may not be the case. Hence you need to install the most reliable point motors you can, and for me that's the Tortoise with the NCE Switch-8 accessory decoder.
Robert Smith


Return to “DCC Forum”

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: End2end and 2 guests