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Thread: Viability for a switchable DC/DCC layout?

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    Default Viability for a switchable DC/DCC layout?

    I am realizing that if I convert my entire loco fleet to DCC it will cost me a fortune. Currently about 40% has been converted and the rest is DC and some of those DC engines are older and not DCC ready requiring either milling or hardwire or both and because of this I rarely got to run much of my fleet on my old layout I know it is possible to make a layout switchable through the use of a double pole double throw switch but has anyone done this?? The Kato soundbox is also intriguing because it would be a fraction of the price of installing or buying sound equipped locomotives.

    If I do this I think it gives me a larger usable fleet for far lower cost and with the use of the Kato soundbox it gives me sound for like an order of magnitude less than DCC. I love my DCC system and engines but I am just looking at the total expense of converting all of my other engines.

    Thoughts??

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    I think @Metrolink used a Kato Soundbox and finally decided to convert fully to DCC.

    I was thinking about a switchable DC/DCC layout and I guess the biggest issue is accidentally frying a decoder or a motor if you do something strange and try to run the wrong train on the wrong system or something.

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    I still use a screw driver to switch, never did install a dpdt. I have a two-cab setup with blocks and in theory I can run one DC while running the other DCC, but like @Mac says, I'm afraid of frying something and doing that would be asking for trouble. I put a big label under each loco saying whether it is DC or DCC.

    At this point I'm only going to DC once or twice a year for my Mikado which is basically not convertible. Everything else is diesel and at this point I have converted my smooth-running locos to DCC, leaving only the Mike and two very old Atlas Kato GPs which have more miles on them than the rest of my engines combined.

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    As noted, the major issue would be making sure the DC locos were removed before firing up the DCC. Most newer DCC locos will run on DC, so that shouldn't be an issue. The other issue would be you need to wire for the DC side......isolate sidings, create blocks on the mainline,ect. That isn't really a problem, but it IS an added cost. I'm also not sure about things like reversing loops........I don't think a DCC autoreverser will work on DC. You didn't mention how big your layout was or how many locos, but since you talk in terms of percentages, I'll assume quite a few. The more you have the bigger the chance of missing one when you swap.

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    another route you could take is building an isolated DC "layout" on top of or part of your DCC layout. I am in the process of building a DC extension to my DCC layout, added an isolated interchange track (minimum 12" dead rail) and the DC with switch-back rails going up hill to a second level. All this because I bought a Shay that I don't want to deal with decoderizing

    here's one post where I began, I've made a lot of progress since then.

    oh, here's another post, for the DC addition I'm using C55. Forgot I moved posted about this over to my main thread since originally it was going to be a separate layout.

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    The LEDs are optional, but will tell you what type of power is going to any section of track.

    An an easier system to build is just put the DPDT switch going to the main track buss. Then you have an either/or power choice.

    Of course you dump your current DCC system and get a MRC Tech 6 system. They combine the two power systems into one unit and you choose which one you want to use.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mac View Post
    I think @Metrolink used a Kato Soundbox and finally decided to convert fully to DCC.
    While I did decide to convert to DCC, my most recent strategy is a bit more nuanced . . .

    My layout is still being built (though, I do still have the main dual-track loop temporarily laid just to be able to run trains while I consider the overall design for the scenery). So for now, I'm still 100% DC, using several MRC Tech II 3000GS analog controllers. I really love the large throttle-knobs of those things, and MRC's momentum and braking circuits work great! Plus, I also have the option to match the AC-transformer voltages (3000GS' do not have internal transformers) to the particular locos I'm running for greater throttle-range (12VAC-20VAC). It really is kinda neat what you can still do with a good DC-controller!



    However, when I finally build my 3' x 9' yard-extension, that will be fully DCC'd. My Dynamis Ultima DCC system permits touchscreen control over turnouts, so I'll have lots of fun switching all of my yard-ladders from the 24" touchscreen of my new Dell all-in-one Core i5 PC.

    I just bought all the track to build a second double-track loop which will be elevated over the main loop. I may retain one of the double-tracks as a DC-only track, or maybe even two. In any case, I plan to retain at least one DC-loop in the layout so that I can continue to use my analog-only Kato Soundbox (I love that thing!).

    The moral of the story is this: Since I never want to accidentally have a DPDT switch in the "wrong" position, I plan to run whatever I finally designate as "DC-only" tracks to be on completely isolated loops; i.e., no DPDT switch-positions to remember to throw correctly. Select tracks will always be DC, and others, always DCC. That way, I'll have some measure of protection from accidentally damaging one or all of my locos!

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    The Kato Soundbox like the ones MRC made years ago only make sound for one locomotive at a time. So, if you run more than one, the others will be silent. I don't think it works with DCC like MRC SynchroSound unit could. The SynchroSound units worked wit DC or DCC and came in generic steam and diesel versions. In DCC they could be assigned a number and would respond to commands from the controller as well as it's keypad.

    One possibility to add sound without adding a chip to every other loco is to build sound cars. MRC makes sound only decoders that can be installed into baggage and boxcars. Because there is more room inside the empty body of the cars a larger speaker can be used giving you bigger sound. The sound equipped cars can be consisted with the locos. You could build one for each type of engine. You have to buy a different Kato sound chip for each locomotive type anyway. Because the sound moves around the layout, the sound effect will be more realistic. As a plus the sound cars will work on DC too.
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    Quote Originally Posted by ChicagoNW View Post
    One possibility to add sound without adding a chip to every other loco is to build sound cars.
    Super boring video but I wound up with a soundcar in a lot I won -- just an example...


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    Quote Originally Posted by ChicagoNW View Post
    One possibility to add sound without adding a chip to every other loco is to build sound cars.
    That's a great idea! I could probably stuff a pretty decent-sounding speaker into an N-scale TTX F-BOX high-cube or 86' auto-parts boxcar! But does anyone make RTR trucks with built-in power-wipers (or however you get track-power into the car) so that I don't have to make my own?

    Southern Pacific | Santa Fe | SPSF | BNSF | Metrolink | CalTrain | Chicago Metra | TGV Lyria

    railways by Kato Unitrack + Unitram | electric light-rail by Tomix | construction by Kato Diotown & Tomytec Co., Ltd. | vehicles by Busch GmbH & Co. KG
    ambient sound design by Fantasonics | digital command control by Dynamis Ultima | layout automation by RailController

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    Quote Originally Posted by Metrolink View Post
    But does anyone make RTR trucks with built-in power-wipers (or however you get track-power into the car) so that I don't have to make my own?
    I don't think so. SBS4DCC makes a kit to provide pickup, but my fat fingers never could get it to work right. It involves bending the little brass tabs just so to get pickup from the wheels, but not touch anything else and short. I never did get it right. Others have had better results, so your mileage may vary. Instead, I used thin (.010 I think) phosphor bronze wire to make axle wipers. Each truck only picks up current from one rail, but with a "keep alive" (large capacitor) wired in the car - you have the room for it - it works fine. I made a 50' as well as a 40' boxcar sound car, so you'd have plenty of room in one of those giant hi-cubes.

    The closest I found to RTR trucks that provide pickup were Kato caboose trucks, but even those aren't quite right for a transition era freight car truck, and way off for modern roller bearing trucks.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Metrolink View Post
    That's a great idea! I could probably stuff a pretty decent-sounding speaker into an N-scale TTX F-BOX high-cube or 86' auto-parts boxcar! But does anyone make RTR trucks with built-in power-wipers (or however you get track-power into the car) so that I don't have to make my own?
    I guess people use Bachmann Tender trucks or Kato Lighted-Caboose Trucks (not sure about prototypical accuracy of the trucks on the rolling stock you are looking at using). The one I got has phosphor bronze wire wrapped around the axles so has 2-2 pickup effectively since each insulated wheelset only picks up one side of track.

    I think you can also use any wheel-stubs w/ an axle cuff (like Bachmann Amtrak trains come with) if you want to pick-up both tracks with each wheelset. But having the built in groove for wipers (like the Kato caboose or Bachmann tender wheelsets do) makes things easier.

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    Making your own power pickup trucks is no big deal if you keep things simple...
    http://www.nscale.net/forums/album.php?albumid=439
    The thin wiper is part of an old Arnold/Rapido passenger car lighting conversion kit. The other is home brew.
    The most exotic parts are the brass bolts, washers, nuts and/or plastic washers and nuts. The axle wiper is thin brass or soda can aluminum. The strips just ride on the axles.

    Now, if you like frustrating yourself and want to do yourself a bit of harm. You can try building trucks that pick up power from both sides. The easy part is wheel selection, Tomix makes insulated wheels with a groove on the rear face...
    http://www.1999.co.jp/eng/10058678
    http://www.1999.co.jp/eng/10057416
    A brass or phosphor-bronze strip or wire can ride in it. The tough part is transferring power while the allowing the truck to rotate freely. Many trucks use a vertical tab from the truck that contacts collection strips through slots in the chassis. Some cars will enhance power transfer with a spring between the tab and strip.

    For true self loathing, you can start with Kato Passenger Car wheels or these...
    http://www.1999.co.jp/eng/10311083
    http://www.1999.co.jp/eng/10308175
    http://www.1999.co.jp/eng/10178657
    The wheels are totally isolated from each other with a plastic tube axle. They do not have a groove making power collection a little tougher.
    Last edited by ChicagoNW; 3rd Dec 2017 at 06:54 PM.
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    I have a dual powered layout controlled by 2 DPDT switches (the layout is basically 2 big loops) and I only run DC or DCC at one time just for safety sake and for the fact that they're not all of the same time period.

    It was the only way I could keep the DC equipment that couldn't be converted running on the layout as well as upgrading to the latest and greatest.

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