newbie questions

Discussion in 'N / Z Scale Model Trains' started by zappa, Aug 6, 2007.

  1. zappa

    zappa New Member

    hi all,
    im renewing my interest in the hobby after 20years so a lot has happend in scale train land.
    Im planning to build a l shaped shelf switching layout in what kind of couplers would i use (i was looking at kadee but they dont come in nscale)
    for easy coupling and uncoupling.Also switching= low speeds, do i use turnouts with elektrofrogs or can i stick to the old style, or would you recomend DCC for running at low speeds (this might be overkill for switching operations cause max two running switchers at the same time).
    thanx in advance

  2. Catt

    Catt Guest

    [QUOTEnow what kind of couplers would i use (i was looking at kadee but they dont come in nscale)

    Actually they do,but they are called MTLs .MTL used to be part of KADee but they split into two seperate companys.They have a very complete selection of N scale trucks and couplers.Walthers carries the line as well as a lot of other dealers and distributors.
  3. 60103

    60103 Pooh Bah

    or to spell it out, Micro Trains.
  4. tillsbury

    tillsbury Member

    And I would also vote that you seriously consider using electrofrogs and DCC. The hobby wouldn't be half as good if it weren't for these, along with MT body-mounted couplers for hands-off uncoupling. Finally, make sure you get the best of the best engines, because particularly at slow speeds and with one loco you want absolute reliability. All the Atlas and Life-Like locos I have bought and seen need to be run at higher speeds and in pairs or more, to help each other round the track. I've had to replace them all with Kato locos for reliable switching operations.

  5. umtrr-author

    umtrr-author Member

    If I were taking a "do over," I would definitely start out with DCC.

    Electrofrogs need more care and patience when being put in (mostly the fun of the polarity issues that can result from opposing frogs) but will be worth it in the long run particuarly with switching.

    Micro-Trains (formerly Kadee) couplers are, in my opinion, the only way to go. There have been "generic" versions introduced since the original Kadee / Micro-Trains patent expired, most notably Accumates, but experience with them has varied. Micro-Trains continues to have by far the largest and deepest line of coupler conversions available in N Scale, period.
  6. berraf

    berraf Member

    Glad to see on board Zappa!

    If you go for DCC you will find out that's sort of a new hobby!
    So I suggest you go all the way and give yourself a new dimension of model railroading :thumb:
  7. zappa

    zappa New Member

    first of all thanx for all the good info.
    If i use dcc what do i need to know about switches more precise powerfrog/power route switches, im very confused on this topic.(thinking about using kato nscale track)
    I would like to use kato n track but now i dont know anymore the more i read about it the worse it gets.

    thanx in advance

  8. 60103

    60103 Pooh Bah

    The basic principles of switch wiring still apply. You still need insulated gaps if power comes from someplace beyond the frog. Many DCCers like to have as much layout as possible powered all the time, so that where we used to have dead sidings, they put in a gap and add a feeder wire.
    There is a possible small problem with shorts at switch points. Check a number of threads that mention "DCC compatible" or "~friendly" turnouts.
    The only major difference in DCC wiring is that you have to provide heavy enough wiring for all your locos -- blocks or sectors can contain a lot of locos even though they aren't all running.
  9. tillsbury

    tillsbury Member

    Yes they do, but more so. I happen to use Peco switches, but the basic premise applies to any switch. First, I use a very fine piece of copper wire soldered from the (movable) point, to the fixed part of the point, then to the outside rail (obviously soldering on the non-wheel side of each rail). This ensures that all parts of the point rails are powered at all times, not reliant on the pivot or the points touching the outer rails. So you can weather the rails as much as you like without worrying about contacts. I use a jeweller's saw to cut both point rails right through just before they come together. This means that there's no chance of a short with a slightly out-of-gauge wheelset where the two point rails come right together. I make sure that all the guard rails are electrically isolated from the frog and everything else (Peco switches come with these connected, but they can be easily disconnected). Then I install the turnout, with conductive joiners on the outer rails (both ends) and insulated joiners on the inner rails (to the frog).

    The whole turnout is now powered from the outer rails it's connected to, except for the frog. Once installed, it's easy to drill a fine hole right next to and inside the corner of the frog, then solder a wire to the frog and post it down the hole. This wire is connected to the Tortoise to provide frog power of the appropriate gender.

    Another trick with DCC -- use blocks on your power supply (it's fairly cheap to buy a four-way isolator), which means that each block is powered independently and a short in one area won't stop operations in another area. I have my mainline as a block, main yard as another, and other bits and pieces of sidings and small yards as a third block. Then, crucially, I have all switch power as a fourth block. The power to the Tortoise does *not* come directly from the rails, it comes from the fourth block bus that runs round the entire layout. The power that it switches (to the frog) *does* come from the track. The nice thing about tortoises is that you don't have use the same power supply for the switching that you are using on the track...

    And the reason? Well, if you're anything like me you'll keep driving trains the wrong way into points. With the track wired this way, your yard will short and a beep will sound, but all the other trains will keep running (so your fellow operators might not notice you screwed up!). And, of course, your DCC-controlled turnout can still be operated (because you shorted out your track block, *not* the block that's operating the Tortoises). So what happens is that your train stops (without derailing), you go "D'Oh, turnout not set right", set the turnout from your controller, and as soon as it's changed the train just carries on as if nothing had happened. Fantastic...

  10. TrainNut

    TrainNut Ditat Deus

    I've gone DCC for the first time and also had a couple of issues with PECO electrofrog switches (centerline spacing and wiring). All problems were eventually figured out... BUT, you can still find lots of relevant information that you might be able to glean something from here...
    Hope that helps.
  11. tillsbury

    tillsbury Member

    Electrofrogs are far better, but they subsequently invented insulfrog turnouts to make wiring simple DC layouts completely idiot-proof. When you're using DC it's all completely different, and if you want the layout to run nicely you will need to think while installing electrofrog turnouts (especially when creating crossovers). With DCC, it's much easier -- you power all of the track all of the time, you power the point rails directly (as I explained in my post above) and isolate the frog and guard rails, then you power the frog from the turnout motor.

  12. zappa

    zappa New Member

  13. tillsbury

    tillsbury Member

    Powering a shelf layout

    Hopefully this might help. Here's the layout of my workbench shelf layout, which I have on a shelf for testing locos and rolling stock. It has a runaround. All you do is power the 'front' and 'back' rails of each piece of track, and make sure that each rail is powered from somewhere.


    I have marked where I installed power connections with a red dot for the 'back' rail and a black dot for the 'front' rail. In a loop, use the terms 'inside' and 'outside' to keep yourself sane.

    You can see that both rails on the left-hand side are powered for both tracks. However, on the right-hand side you don't need power to the outer two rails as they're continuous and are powered from the other end. You do need power to the inner rails as they're not directly connected to anywhere else with power. The only ones missing are the two inside rails in the runaround, where I have marked a red and black dot. Connect all the reds to one side of your DCC supply and all blacks to the other side.

    On every turnout, make sure that you are using conductive joiners on the outer rails (i.e. at both ends of the two continuous rails). On the frog, use insulating joiners. This allows you to connect each frog up to the switch, such that the frog gets 'black' or 'red' power appropriately depending upon which way the turnout is set.

    It's easiest just to do this by trial and error rather than thinking about it. Wire everything up, put in your switch motor, drop a feed from the frog down underneath the shelf, then connect it to one side or the other and check with a continuity tester whether you guessed the right way -- once you have it correct solder it on.

  14. 60103

    60103 Pooh Bah

    you now get to exercise some artistic judgement. There is one school who would put a gap in and make the dead-end sidings permanently powered; there are others who would allow it to be shut off when the switch is turned against it. You'll find the latter in layouts that have been converted from DC to DCC. The only time it makes a difference is when you have multiple locos and you leave one in a siding and turn the switch. The type 2 wiring will mean that the lights and sound unit shut down.
    With passing sidings or loops, I would probably go for making them permanently live with insulators right at the frogs. I worked one station once where the gaps were in the middle of the siding and running a cut of cars in with metal wheels would suddenly short out if the other switch were wrong.
  15. tillsbury

    tillsbury Member

    That's right. The old-fashioned way with DC was to have sidings that turned off and on depending on which way certain turnouts are set. Obviously that's not so sensible when they're runarounds!

    With DCC you don't need to worry about that at all. You have all the track live, then you can operate anything you like at any time.

  16. 60103

    60103 Pooh Bah

    After a short period working on a DCC layout with sound units, I really appreciated being able to shut sown all the idling diesels and the steam loco blowers. I know you can turn them off, but every time we had a short they all started up again!
  17. tillsbury

    tillsbury Member

    Hee hee! Good point. I suppose you could always have the loco service tracks switchable, or on another block that you could isolate in one go. I have the loco 'service track' switchable, so that a hidden switch flicks it from standard DCC to be the programming track. That way I can run it onto the service track, flick the switch and program it, then flick the switch back and drive away.

    Why would they start up after a short? Is that how they are set by default? Can't say I'd noticed that...
  18. wickman

    wickman Member

    This is a common subject and one if the many I may have put out there once. Although I have DCC and I'm using peco insulfrog I wouldn't use the insulfrog again. Every thing is fine if you leave the spring action in the pecos but seeing as I used tortoise switches I had to remove the springs which makes the points sometimes not contact so well so I had to solder feeder wires between the insulated frog and the point as I was finding the lokies were stalling out.
    I use magnet uncouplers for uncoupling at my industries.I also use block circuit breakers I have my layout seperated into 2 blocks one for staging under the benchwork and one for main level I have the option to breakup the layout into 4 power districts although for me there is no need .
    Last point I would make is since getting my Digitrax Super Chief 5amp I would never ever ever even think about going back to DC, in fact my old DC power pack is used to power 9 DS64 Stationary decoders which give me the ability to control each of my turnouts via Tortoise switches through my dt400 handcontrolers.
  19. wickman

    wickman Member

    I've done the same and seems to work quite fine I have mine connected up on a dead end spur.
  20. tillsbury

    tillsbury Member

    Sometimes I wonder what the point is commenting on these forums, since no-one seems to read anything anyway...

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