power pack

Discussion in 'HO Scale Model Trains' started by markp, Jul 9, 2013.

  1. markp

    markp New Member

    I have a U shape 12x14 HO layout wanting to know a good power pack to use? I have 24 turnouts will have several buildings with lights hope to run more than one train operation with several blocks in layout. thanks for your help Markp:confused:
  2. steamhead

    steamhead Active Member

    Mark....Have you considered using DCC..??
    It's the best control system if you're thinking about multiple train operations. It certainly simplifies the wiring (only 2 wires going to your track...) It's pricier, but well worth the additional cost.

    Good luck to you..!!
  3. markp

    markp New Member

    steamhead thanks for the info I thought about dcc. I would have to do some research on it I know nothing about it. Mark
  4. zathros

    zathros -----SENIOR---- Administrator

    I think a good tutorial on DCC would benefit many people (me included). It would make a good Sticky too! :)
  5. steamhead

    steamhead Active Member

    Sorry for not getting back to y'all sooner.

    Rather than try and explaining the very basics, I found a good overview of DCC. Here's a link to it.


    If you need more info, or clarification of some aspect, feel free to post and I'll do my best to lend a hand.

    My layout, which has been under construction for about 8 years was wired initially using traditional DC practices. When I "found" DCC all I had to do was take out my original power pack, and connect the leads to my DCC command station. I'm using a Digitrax "Zephyr" command station and all decoders are D'trax as well.

    I hope this helps.
  6. markp

    markp New Member

    :confused::confused:gus I am just getting started on my layout haven't laid down track yet just bench work and some turnouts. plan on using under table atlas switch's. have been looking at the same dcc you have in a start up kit. I have a lot of reading to do thanks for the info greatly appreciated markp
  7. Bill Nelson

    Bill Nelson Well-Known Member

    At home I use DC, am rebuilding my layout, and will eventually have fourteen blocks, and I plan to have five throttles. One rail is continuous, and each throttle has a wire hooked up to it, the proverbial common rain. the other rail has gaps, breaking it up into blocks the other wire from each throttle goes to a bank of rotary switches, the output of each rotatry switch goes through an on off switch to an insulated rail of a block. I an currently rebuilding my Rr, so the system set up is documented in my most recent posts over in the logging mining and industrial section

    My throttle #1 is an inovator 2000 memory walkaround. it has a hand held throttle on a cable, the cable uses phone base board plugs, when you unplug the throttle, the base remembers the last setting , so your train keeps moving while you walk to the next station to plug back in.

    My throttle # 2 is a GML Memory walkaround throttle, similar in function to the Inovator 2000, except it's chord uses a headphone jack to plug in the traveling hand held throttle.

    My throttle #3 and #4 are aristocraft radio walkaroud throttles. the base unit is wired to the layout traditionally, and the radio hand held units controll them, and through them a locomotive.

    My throttle #5 is another GML throttle..

    I have a control panel that has a six position ratary switch for each block, and the output wire froom that rotary switch runs through an on of switch, so I can lill the power to any block easily.

    also I use power routing switches, either hand laied or Peko; so I can run any train into a siding, throw the switch to the main, and the power to the siding is turned off, so I can run a different locomotive on that block.

    I have been using a set up like that for over fourty years, and it is easy as pie to me; that said the back side of my control pannel looks like a spagetti bowl; and may be intimidating to some one who is not used to it.

    I also use DCC at the club, where we have a digitrax system. I am learning DCC, have done some sound decoder installations, and DCC has some advatages; the largest being sound. I have a lot of old brass locomotives, many of them too small to fit a decoder, and almost all of them would need to be remotored; so I am not tempted to go with DCC at home. I have purchased a basic NCE DCC system which I use to program locomotives, and to power a small HON3 portable layout for my single narrow gauge sound locomotive. I much prefer the NCE system over the digitrax, as the documentation is much beter on the NCE system, and I have had much bettter luck programming. My layout thread is in the logging mining and industrial section, my Narrow gauge efforsts have threads in the narrow gauge section.

    Both the cost and complexity issues of DC VS DCC will depend on the number of locomotives you have, and the dificulty and expence involved to get decoders in them , and the number of throttles you want to have available . for me good sound is the reason to go with DCC, and that means a Tsunami in every locomotive, that translates to close to $100 per locomotive. In all things, you don't need a lot of locomotives; one really good running locomotives is better than six or ten mediocre runing locomotives. If you have one really good running locomotive with really good sound, you will find yourself running that locomotive most all of the time, and the others will just sit there.

    99% of the time, it is just me running my trains. most of the time a second person is there, I'm coaching them how to operate thier train, so there is only one train moving (my main railroad is point to point, no continuous running ) I have the extra throttles for the very rare operating session .

    Good luck choosing a system I am commited to a walkaround system, weather DC or DCC At the club I use a MRC controlmster (some big number) to provide DC power for the narrow gauge . it, like the innovator, uses a phone plug; I found that if the MRC unit was acidently plugged into the inovator control loop, it would smoke a $60 handheld controller, so the MRC unit was moved as far as possible from the inovator 2000 control loop.

    I will try to follow this thread if you have more information or questions.
  8. zathros

    zathros -----SENIOR---- Administrator

    Thanks for the link Steamhead, and Thanks for the info Bill. I wish I had a bigger house to set up a track. I just don't have the room! :(
  9. Bill Nelson

    Bill Nelson Well-Known Member

    a simple DC block power diagram


    here is a link to the folks that made my throttles #3 & 4, have been in use for over 18 years with no real problems. I have had great service out of this company, I recomended a usefull change to the design of his throttle, and he built one incorporating that change, and sent it to me free of charge.


    here is a link to my throttle # 1, which has been in use for over 20 years. I have had to replace the phone jack plug a couple times, b but have had no other issues with it.


    this is a link to the tread on my home RR

    Good memory walkaround units are not cheap, and by the time you have bought one or two you are in the range of a decent DCC system (I much prefer NCC)

    wiring a DCC layout is simpler on surface, but you have to wire decoders in your locomotives or buy locomotives with them already in. the simplicity of the wiring is ofsett by the fact that once you get into DCC you have to deal with programming. I'm slowly learning on DCC, but to an old school guy like me, it is really another hobby.

    If I posted a photo of the back of my control pannel, it night give you nightmares, but with five throttles and fourteen blocks ( see my thread in the logging section), but if you just have two power packs, you can use sPDT (single pole double throw) switches to route power to the insulated rail of any block. I have drawn a diagram of how it has been done since the dawn of time. I don't care what the DCC folks will say, but it is much easier to wire a block like this than it is to install and program a decoder in a locomotive.

    Right now I have one foot in the DC world, on my home layout, and on the narrow gauge portion of our club layout, and the other foot in the DCC world at our local Clarksville Tn club layout, where I have five sound equipped locomotives. Good sound pushes the cost of a decoder from $15-$20 up to $100-$120. when running a DCC train I like a walkaround controller with lots of option buttons, and those are not cheap.

    the cost and trouble equasion is going to be different for every different modeler. If you are new to the hobby, you can buy locomotives with decoders factory installed. If you are like me and have some 20- 45 year old brass locomotives, they will need to be re motored, as well as having decoders installed. I have a lot of geared locomotives that I have re motored and regeared to get them down to a prototypical speed with DC. DC slows them down even more making them way too slow.

    Usually If I have an electrical annomally on my DC layout, it knocks out a block or two. We have had annomallies at the club that have knocked out the whole DCC system for weeks at a time while we try to wrap out heads around stuff that is way more complicated than my messy nightmarish DC control pannel. When that happens , I can run trains on the narrow gauge (DC) .

    The sad truth is with DCC we are dealing withe stuff nobody I've met knows well enough to explain it to me, and untill a couple years ago I was an automotive technician. some times folks would ask how something worked, and one of my co workers would say FM F***ing Majic. I love DCC, it is awesome when it works, but it can be frusterating as **** when it doesn't.

    Bill Nelson

    Attached Files:

  10. markp

    markp New Member

    bill thanks for your input I'm still at odds on whether to run dc vs dcc? Markp
  11. steamhead

    steamhead Active Member

    I also have some older locos (DC) that will never get converted to DCC, but I still like to run them every now & then. So I "converted" my layout to be "dual mode"-both DC and DCC (only one mode at a time). by the addition of a single DPDT toggle switch. Now I got the best of all worlds...!!

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