DCC control of turnouts.....

Discussion in 'DCC & Electronics' started by Iron Goat, May 24, 2004.

  1. Iron Goat

    Iron Goat Member


    I am in the initial stages of building a small (7' X 7') layout, based somewhat on the original (small) G & D, by John Allen. I have a Digitrax Zepher DCC controller, but power my turnouts and cross-overs by a MRC Railmaster (DC) unit. Is there any advantage to controlling my turnouts using DCC ?........ or do you suggest that I stay with my present plans.

    Iron Goat
  2. Woodie

    Woodie Active Member

    Iron Goat,

    I can't really make any recommendation for you as I don't know your layout, or track plan. I assume it is HO?

    But, anyway, I trust you are aware you will need a stationary decoder for each block of turnouts. I think you can get "multi function" decoders (for accessories), but I think these a for "Constant" power, (on/off) for each accessory, rather than the "momentary" on/off required for turnout machines. I am not that familiar with the "stationary" decoders.

    You can, with DCC, set your "route" too, and have all your turnouts set appropraitely for a particular "route". i.e. "mainline--->locoshed" with one "click". But your layout does not seem large enough to warrant that.

    If your current DC MRC switch controller has a capacitor discharge uint incorporated, you may also need an additional discharge unit for the decoders.

    Unless you wish to control your tunouts from your DCC controller (which WILL take your mind of controlling the loco while setting your switches), I'd stay with the MRC DC one you have. Tis up to you, of course.

    How many turnouts are you thinking of incorporating in your layout?

    Anyone else got any ideas here?
  3. Fred_M

    Fred_M Guest

    In the past I have used the headlight function on a cheap decoder to run a 12v DPDT relay which was then used in place of the toggle switches in any of the home brewed switch machine control circuits by rpaisley at http://home.cogeco.ca/~rpaisley4/ToggleTwin.html . Factory turnout controls are made by the major suppliers, but are expensive? http://www.walthers.com/exec/productinfo/150-344 or digitrax DS54 http://www.digitrax.com/ftp/DS54 Manual.pdf are but two examples. Trouble is keeping track of all the switches and their numbers on your hand control. A layout your size, well I'm biased, but I would install cable controlled turnouts. I love them, they are cheap too. :) FRED
    UPDATE: If you do use a relay dont forget to put a small 12 volt bulb across the coil to absorb field collaspe, I found it works better and easier on this application than diodes and /or caps. :sleeping:
  4. Iron Goat

    Iron Goat Member

    Woodie and Dash10,

    Thanks for the fast come-back and the good advice. Woodie, just for your (belated) information, my layout is HO and almost all turnouts, and the crossover will be used in the yard and engine service area. I am planning on 12 turnouts, and one crossover on this two lap, two tier oval main line, with a siding, 2 spur lines, small switching yard, and a engine servicing, and caboose servicing "facilities". All in all, a busy little layout to be compressed into a 48 square foot space.

    My last layout (1965) was a larger, approx. 12' X 8'... but when I got orders for my second tour in Viet Nam, I dismantled it and packed it away (a few years later, gave most of it to my young nephew). Through the years, though, I read MR and salivated over every article by John Allen (Gorre & Daphetid). When I retired for the second time last year, I surveyed available space in our home, and could only come up with a space just under 7 by 7 feet. then I remembered the original G&D was 3' 7'' X 6' 8", and that's all it took.

    My buddy who owns the LHS, thinks I am "dwelling too much" on the details, but I am going to do this RIGHT, and I am enjoying the heck out of the process (as well as really enjoying my "internet association" with all the great folks on the GAUGE.

    So it sounds like I'll be staying with DC... once again, thank you both for your help and advice.

    Bob Hollowell/Iron Goat
  5. Fred_M

    Fred_M Guest

    Your buddy is wrong IMHO. I have one who owns a hobby shop and says the same thing. Small world? He's happy with a high rail O27 layout for himself. Of couse he don't mind selling me detail parts :rolleyes: . And having fun is what it's all about. We all want something a little different in and from our layout. FRED
  6. MasonJar

    MasonJar It's not rocket surgery

    Hi Bob,

    While I am new to the world of DCC, and all things related, I can say from a user perspective, it is great. Our local modular club ( www.hotrak.ca ) runs with Digitrax DCC, and one large switching section ( the Castor River industrial park ) has turnout/route control via DCC. With a handheld radio throttle, it is amazing to work, and very easy.

    Many of the other modules have ground throws, or you simply flick the turnout by hand (all are sprung Peco's). In the case of the Castor River, it simply is not possible to do this. There is not enough space for groundthrows, and getting your hands in might be a bit hazardous. On top of that, there can be two or three trains working at the same time, so it is nice to see the state of the turnout via the throttle before you run it - who knows how the last guy left it!

    Paul (owner of Castor River) has done an amazing job setting this up, and used Tortoise switch machines exclusively. It works like a charm...

  7. Luzhin

    Luzhin New Member

    Turnout Control--why is it better?

    Okay, I'm sold on DCC control of locomotives. (You should hear the mournful sound of my Consolidations.) But those of you who control your turnouts by DCC as well: tell me why it is better than an old-fashioned pushbutton/control panel setup. I'm wondering about the efficiency of it. To activate a turnout without DCC-control require one action--you push a button. To activate a turnout with DCC require three actions: 1) enter switch machine address ("losing" control of loco); 2) activate switch motor; 3) return to loco address. This seems unwieldy to me.

    How does DCC control of turnouts work in a practical sense?

  8. CalFlash

    CalFlash Member

    To me the advantage of DCC control of turnouts is in the ability to set up routes thru the use of macro commands. I'm not sold on it's use for individual turnouts, thus my layout will use DCC control for my lower staging/reverse loops and conventional pushbuttons for the upper visible level.

    The principle it works under is that each stationary has an address which you call up with the throttle and activate for one direction or the other.
  9. billwv

    billwv Member


    I am planing to use Digitrax DS52's. With Digitrax DT400 you maintain control of locomotive while in switch control mode.

    My shelf layout is small -- 9 turnouts. One advantage is no need for a control panel.

  10. tillsbury

    tillsbury Member

    No, this doesn't need to be so, but it depends upon your controller. I'm always in 'switch' mode, so you can flick switches anywhere on the layout at any time (and program in routes, or more usefully make one switch trigger other switches). You can still control two locos or consists while doing this. You only need to jump out of switch mode to grab a new loco, adjust consists, or program locos, then you go back to switch mode. This is with a Digitrax 400 radio throttle, I know there are others where you can't control more than one thing at a time, and some smaller throttles you can only control one loco at a time on... make a very careful choice of DCC throttles when you buy...

    The reason it's 'better' is that you don't have to go back to the control panel. You're doing all this from the throttle in your hand wherever you happen to be on the layout (or better, lying back on your chair with a beer). Remember that you can always have a control panel as well (for example, by a complex yard), which is dead easy to wire as you only need momentary toggle switches and your LED indication is built-in for you.

  11. Gary Pfeil

    Gary Pfeil Active Member

    Given that you don't lose control of locos and don't need to toggle back and forth between switch and loco modes, at least with some systems/throttles, that does remove about half of the perceived "hassle" of throwing turnouts with a throttle. And I suppose the only other "stumbling block" I see is coming up with a system to remember the switch machine addresses. Perhaps I have to admit I'm just reluctant to change what I'm comfortable with. Never doubted for a second how much more I would enjoy using DCC over DC, and changed 5 or 6 years ago. But still use toggles to activate my Tortoise and Switchmaster machines. The one point that Charles made about having to go back to a control panel doesn't have to be valid, I install my toggles in the fascia, in front of the turnout it operates, and since operators on my layout follow their trains it is super easy to flick the toggle. The point CalFlash made about routing is certainly a good one, for my hidden staging yards I use twin coil machines and diode matrix's to provide route control, having the switches for this near the entrances to the staging area. Granted this was done just before I bought my DCC system, and maybe I would have done otherwise with more DCC experience behind me. Tho I'm perfectly happy with it. I think the best reason to use stationary decoders to throw turnouts would be to relay the switch position to a signal system or computer. But the high costs of completing such a sytem so far has prevented me from even thinking about the complexity involved. So far my time is being more happily spent on other layout projects!

    So perhaps in the end the decision to use or not use stationaty decoders depends more on your personal desires and interests, and planned operations. And to a fair degree, your wallet. Tho this may be more a concern for a large layout than for smaller ones.

    But for the next step towards DCC control of turnouts in my case, I'd like to hear what some of you do to remember addresses.

  12. MasonJar

    MasonJar It's not rocket surgery


    In my post above, I mentioned the Castor River modules. Paul has put very small (but still legible) numbers beside each turnout, like a switch stand. He has also put along the facia a number of diagrams of various routes available, and their addresses. Works well, especially with the recall feature on Digitrax throttles - when you go to turnout mode, the last one is called up automatically. That makes it easy to go through, and then come back with a minimum of fuss.

  13. CalFlash

    CalFlash Member

    The only DCC controlled turnouts I have are on the lower level staging/reverse loops that I have programed macros to select which route I want set up. To activate it on my NCE system, I just hit the macro button then the # corresponding to the route (distination track) desired - all while my train is running.

Share This Page