Layout 101

Discussion in 'Track Planning' started by kutler, May 15, 2008.

  1. Russ Bellinis

    Russ Bellinis Active Member

    I have talked to guys running the Aztec track cleaning cars made in Carson City, Nevada, and they have reported using the cars one time to clean track and having it stay clean as long as they keep running trains. The problem with dirty track and wheels are bad with dc where the motor in the engine is powered from electricity in the rails. With dcc the problem is made greater by the need to run high frequency rf signals through those same rails to give the engine control commands. It is especially problematic in switching where you are operating at slow speeds and need to stop precisely to keep from overshooting your siding or drop point. At the club we had some difficulty with dirty track and wheels and tried switching moves. We found that the locomotives would miss commands to stop, miss commands to change speeds, and sometimes miss commands to start. With dc you don't have that problem, the locomotives just won't run when they hit dirty track. There was an outfit that used to make a capacitor discharge system that would keep the train running over dirty track. I used to see them demonstrate the product at train shows by having a piece of milled wooden track with wooden roadbed and wooden rails about 9 inches long or so in the middle of a circle of track. They would then run the locomotive around the circle and show that it didn't even change speed when going over the wooden rails. With dcc, there are more problems than just getting the locomotive to run over dirty sections of track, so I don't know if that company is still in business or if they still make that product.

    With Squidbait's admonition in mind, it will work better to build your bench work in sections and lay track in sections then test run some trains through it before you go on to build the next section. If you aim to build it all, and then test run it, you may find the problems overwhelming or even a problem severe enough that it would require ripping out the layout and starting over.
  2. Triplex

    Triplex Active Member

    Regarding pulling power and grades, I suggest designing around the weaker models. (I'm using N scale examples here, but the concept holds in any scale.) In real life, an SD40 and a C630 are largely interchangeable (operationally, not maintenance-wise). However, in N scale, your SD40 will probably be a Kato and your C630 an Atlas, because that's what's available. And Atlas engines generally pull less than Kato engines of the same size. The C628/C630 are especially known as poor pullers. If you want to use them interchangeably on your layout, you have to make sure that train lengths and grades are within what the Centuries can handle. The SD40s will handle the same trains easily. You can't require that all engines be actually straining to climb a grade. It may be true that the C630s really require pushers to climb the hill, while with the SD40s, you only attach pushers for appearance.
  3. acsoosub

    acsoosub Member

    FWIW, at my club we run average 30-40 car trains on our mainline. All cars have free-wheeling metal wheels and are weighted to NMRA standards. Pretty much all cars have added weight to get them to the recommended weight and everything has to pass certain standards before it goes into service on the club layout. Reliability is one of our no. 1 goals.

    There are several helices on the layout with grades up to 1.5-2%. 3-4 engines can usually handle any of the trains we run. Generally, we find that about 1 engine/10 cars is a pretty good average to keep things moving through the helices. They'll handle a lot more on the level.

    40 cars in HO is a _big_ train, and 4 engines looks right at home on a train that size.

    Most of our locals we run with 2 engines, and they can range from half dozen to around 20 cars.
  4. acsoosub

    acsoosub Member

    Probably some repeats in here, but here goes.

    As I just mentioned in my last post, in my club's experience we can run 40+ car trains with 3-4 engines, including up a helix (grade & curve).

    Probably a good idea. The best thing is to plan for and install the signal system as you go. We're working on the beginning of the signal system at the club layout. Every block has to be planned for the system and wired properly with detectors etc. from the beginning to support the signal system.

    Our club layout is run using an NCE DCC system, and all our visible track, including every switch is handlaid. There's no problem there. We use flextrack in hidden areas for ease of construction where appearance isn't an issue.

    I wouldn't. If you're going to use DCC from the start anyway, it's easier (and will end up being a lot less problematic) to leave everything DCC. Since you're just starting, you don't have the issue of having to convert a fleet of 50 engines in one big shot in order to be able to operate.

    Nope. That's the easy part. Just wire the leads for one of the conventional cabs to the DCC system instead of a DC throttle and push all the block switches that way. Later you can always go back and hardwire it all directly to the DCC system instead of through a block selector. But since you're not upgrading an existing layout, why not go 100% DCC right from the start?

    DCC is pretty mature at this point. If you have a club, or other model RRs nearby with experience with DCC, they should be able to give you some advice on their preferences.
  5. Russ Bellinis

    Russ Bellinis Active Member

    Evolving technology with dcc does not have any effect on layout construction generally. Improvements are constantly being made, but it is more in the area of function and "bells & whistles" than changes in the track work. Think of it this way. Every time someone wants the dcc to do something different whether it is turning on lights, dimming lights, adding sound, or even automatic uncoupling, each function requires the use of a cv in the decoder. The basic least expensive decoders have only one or two cvs available. They might be able to turn on lights and do dimming of the lights. If you want sound in your locomotive, a bell, a horn or whistle, then you need a more complicated decoder and the necessary speakers, but that stuff is all in the locomotive. It has nothing to do with the track or layout, so you can add features as much as you want without changing the layout or track work. The one exception is if you build your scenery on a hard shell over metal screen wire, or you use foam with a foil backing on one side and don't remove the foil, you may have difficulty if you try to run a wireless walk around dcc throttle set because of interference or signal blocking by the metal.
  6. kutler

    kutler Member

    More about DCC

    I'm convinced of the merits of building with DCC from the start.

    I feel it'll be more than a few years before I'll decide which manufacturer to go with a serious system. My question now is , in the interim is there a low end DCC system I might find useful for debugging my layout?

    I don't want one with walk around, bells and whistles and such, but one that can address various manufacturers equipment. I've purchased several pieces with DCC installed (different manufacturers).


  7. Squidbait

    Squidbait Recovering ALCO-holic

    Actually, there's only two DCC systems that aren't a walkaround in its entry level. The Bachmann EZ Command is cheap, but has little to no functionality. The Digitrax Zephyr has a base station throttle.

    However, for the same price as the Digitrax, you can get an MRC Prodigy or an NCE Powermaster system. Both (IMHO) are much more functional than the Digitrax system, the interface is much more intuitive, and although they are hand-held throttles, I think your learning curve will be much less steep with either of those over the Digitrax system.
  8. rogerw

    rogerw Active Member

    The easy dcc by cvp comes with two stationary throttles built in their entry level. System if fully expandable. Model railroader is doing a 3 or 4 issue on it now in there dcc corner.
  9. Squidbait

    Squidbait Recovering ALCO-holic

    Ah yes, I'd forgotten about them, and their love-fest with MR. I especially love their "how-to" articles, where you can only build the system by buying their components.

    I have no idea whether it's a decent system or not, but MR has certainly had a love-in with them for the last 15 years or so.

    I should also add that AFAIK, CVP is mail-order only. I'm not aware of any hobby shops retailing their product.
  10. rogerw

    rogerw Active Member

    If you are talking about there current system they are one of the most compatible with other systems. If you are talking about the system they published in the seventies in model railroader there was not to many systems to be compatible with.
    I will not argue with you on this.
    So if a magazine puts there name on the line for fifteen years about a product they think is good this is bad?

    Some products have to flood the markets in order to sell.
    If they made it for 15 years and not sell to to the middle man why should they start?

    Dont bash a system that you
    dont know about.
    Edit: sorry Thanks Roger
  11. Squidbait

    Squidbait Recovering ALCO-holic


    Sorry I touched a nerve. I didn't know you were St. Francis of CVP.

    My comment was intended as a bash at MR for publishing informercials on CVP stuff more than any bash of CVP themselves.

    I felt compelled to write MR to complain - they had a 3- or 4- article series on Easy-DCC. I have yet to see a similar series on Digitrax or NCE or Lenz systems.

    A true DIY article will describe a project that anyone can build with supplies from any, or a variety of sources. When the only option is to buy from a single source, it's an infomercial. I don't buy magazines for infomercials.

    And that's all I'm going to say about that.

    Second, I may be wrong, but I have the impression that Kutler is in Canada. Mail order from the states can be PITA, because Customs gets involved. Again, I made no comment one way or the other, merely noted that they were mail-order only.

    Some people prefer to be able to kick the tires before plunging dollars into a system, and some (like me) would prefer to have a local source of info, knowledge and parts to go to, rather than having to rely on e-mail, telephone and the post office.

    If CVP offers an NMRA compliant DCC system with a base station that meets Kutlers' needs, that's great. Maybe he'll even decide to go with it.
  12. rogerw

    rogerw Active Member

    Dear francis get your facts straight.
  13. scubadude

    scubadude Member

    St. Francis of that's funny...sign1sign1sign1
    If the MRR mags are any thing like the Scuba mags in my industry...then the articles are all paid for just like adverts, so you probably don't see a lot of variety in products in how-to articles because they won't/can't pay for them.....
  14. kutler

    kutler Member

    Kutler indeed lives in Canada, but feels the need to have a US PO box for good reason :rolleyes:

    One of the reasons I've waited so long to get into DCC seems to be evident in these posts. There is no clear leading system, passions are high and loyalties might just result with systems becoming less and less compatible over time, Like Beta Vs VHS. I'd like to avoid investment in a future obsolete system.

    Unless I've overlooked something, basic DC electrical construction standards such as feeder wires, soldered joints and buss wires offer low complexity conversion to DCC at a later date.

    Thanks for your input

  15. steamhead

    steamhead Active Member

    Hi...I'll just jump in here for a second.....Wiring for DC or DCC is, IMHO, exactly the same, since both systems have two functions to accomplish...provide power to the motor(s) and control over the train's movement. And they both use the same energy source - electricity.
    When I began construction on my latest layout, I had no experience with DCC, consquently I wired it exactly as I had both of my previous layouts (DC). Once I got my DCC system (D'trax Zephyr), I disconnected my power pack, connected the DCC control station, and off I went....Haven't looked back since...

    Good luck to you and keep us posted on decisions/progress. :thumb:
  16. Russ Bellinis

    Russ Bellinis Active Member

    Kutler, command control (the "cc" in dcc) already went through the Beta vs VHS w/ attendant system obsolescence. There were two systems for command control, both incredibly expensive and totally incompatible with each other. The NMRA appointed a committee to write a set of dcc standards that would then be required to be met for compliance certificates to be issued. The new dcc standards immediately rendered both of the old systems obsolete, but the prices for the new systems are much lower than they were for the old systems and a coming down constantly.

    The secret to compatibility is that the NMRA requires that all decoders function universally with all systems. That way if you are a member of a "round robin" club operating on a group of layouts, you can take your locomotives to your buddy's house and run them with his system even if it is a different system from what you have.

    Basically, everything from the 110v wall socket to the track is proprietary and thus is not compatible from one system to the next necessarily. The decoders are all interchangeable. That means that you cannot mix and match power stations, programmers, boosters, etc. You have to buy everything as a system. You can mix decoders as much as you want, for either fit in your locomotive or for extra features. It also means that while the club I belong to spent far more than I would on a system designed to allow us to run multiple trains with wireless walk around control, I can buy the least expensive, basic system from anybody to program the decoders in my locomotives. If I program the decoder in a locomotive at home on a basic inexpensive system, I can take it to the club, put it on the track, assign the address I programed into my locomotive and start operating it.
  17. Xiong

    Xiong Member

    Hump Yard Cybernetics

    A real working hump yard is about the most ambitious thing I've heard anybody talk about building. As other posters have mentioned, some cars run more freely than others -- and over quite a range. If you build a low hump, some cars may not roll at all; if you build a high hump, then the better cars will zoom down and smash into the consist being built. All of this is made much more complex because these free rolling cars will be rolling through turnouts. In any case, you will need a sophisticated retarder system.

    From one point of view, I like the suggestion of electromagnetic retarders. That allows you to model prototypical retarders accurately without worrying about function. The big disadvantage is that you need to install some sort of low-hanging permanent magnet or iron plate on each car, to interact with the electromagnets.

    Now you *might* try magnetizing the rails themselves. Assuming you've gone to all steel wheels on your cars, this could do it. Obviously, no locos are ever found on the hump end of the classification tracks; they don't need to carry any current at all. I wouldn't consider all-magnetic rails; just sections a few inches long. These would have to be steel. You will need some very strong fields to make this work but it's terribly elegant.

    Prototype retarders grip the sides of wheels and I think you will have a very hard time duplicating this system without causing derailments.

    You might consider an idea of mine -- unrealistic but perhaps reliable. Put two long, curved pieces of stiff wire about halfway between the rail and the track centerline. By "long", I mean as long as a car or two. Fasten one end and let the other disappear through a slanted hole in the benchwork; in between, a very gradual curve lets the center belly up against the car bottom. You need two wires to avoid gladhands. The free end of each wire, below the benchwork, can be pulled or pushed to regulate the degree of friction imparted. Use a solenoid, not a motor-and-gear arrangement; you need quick response. Seems to me, if you use steel (not stainless) wire, it will naturally blacken over time and not call too much attention to itself. Obviously, any kind of paint will wear off.

    There's a great deal to be said for the modern (prototype) retarder, using air jets. Car underbodies need to be your targets here and you'll need quite a lot of air pressure.

    No matter how you design your retarders, I think the key to the system must be some sort of feedback. You need to know exactly how fast the car is moving to decide how much retardation to apply. Your system needs to adjust the retarders automatically in response to the measured speed of the car. The only practical way I can see to rig this is with photocells -- a lot of photocells. Oh, and obviously, you'll need a computer to control it all. I'd suggest a PLC.

    Love to see it when it's working. Good luck!
  18. Mountain Man

    Mountain Man Active Member

    This is totally off the wall, but it came to me as I was reading the comments about building a working hump yard:

    Suppose you place a small length of track inside each side of a small stretch, much like the inner rails seen on bridges, each side attached to a switch mechanism or something similar, and both wired to work together, pushing the extra rails inwards just enough to create friction on the wheels between the inner and outer rails? Would that work to retard them without causing a lot of other problems? Frankly, I have no idea how to build something like that, but I'm sure there are those who could figure out a simple way to do it.

    Really, really dumb idea...? :oops:
  19. Herc Driver

    Herc Driver Active Member

    (This is a very constructive and informative thread so far...I've appreciated reading all the posts.) I was just thinking about this hump yard idea and thought of a different angle (maybe)...would it be possible to add scenery elements to slow the speed of the car at the bottom of the hill? I was wondering if adding some type of scenic grass, high enough to touch the car's axles would sufficiently slow the movement? On my former Nscale layout I added some Woodland Scenic grass and mistakenly placed it too close to the track and it would stop an Nscale car pretty well. I wonder if properly placed grass - possibly mixed with something a bit firmer like tooth brush or horse hair bristles - would sufficiently slow a cars travel? It could still look somewhat prototypical since grain frequently falls into the track area and grows...and if the right mix of soft vs firmer "grass" is used it could slow down a cars travel. Granted, the weight of the cars would need to be uniform for this to work correctly every time, but might it work without elaborate electronics?
  20. Triplex

    Triplex Active Member

    The Glencoe-Skokie Valley yard, the most famous model hump yard, compensated for this with pulsed air jets. They were timed so that slow-moving cars missed some of the jets when they fired, but faster cars caught more of them.

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