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Thread: Noob DCC question

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    Default Noob DCC question

    If I were to buy a NCE power cab starter kit do I need anything else? (besides dcc locos)

    Does one of these kits provide power to the rails too or just the controller?
    https://www.modeltrainstuff.com/nce-...SABEgK5d_D_BwE

    Also does this work with any decoder installed loco or does it have to be NCE branded?

    Thanks

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    PowerCab works with any brand of NMRA compliant decoder. The product you link to is all you need as far as components -- power supply, booster, controller and interface panel. You will need to install a bus and feeders for reliable operation. Despite early claims, DCC need more than just two wires soldered to the track.

    PowerCab has a relatively low 2 amps output, so be aware that Frog Juicers will not work reliably. The latter need at least 5 amps.

    I think you'll find NCE's instructions pretty clear.
    Last edited by Paul Schmidt; 4th Sep 2019 at 04:48 PM. Reason: Changed amperage rating to 2 amps

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    The NCE Power Cab will work with DCC decoders and not limited to NCE brand. It is a complete starter kit so as long as it meets your layout needs, you can be up and running with just the kit. Here is NCE's description of the Power Cab system. Should answer most of any other questions you might have. Otherwise, ask here and one of the many knowledgeable members will help out.
    https://ncedcc.zendesk.com/hc/en-us/articles/201479815-Step-1-The-Power-Cab

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    As others indicated, the NCE PowerCab is a complete starter system... nothing else needed to get started.

    I started with my PowerCab, and my introduction to DCC/sound in N scale, just a little over two years ago. At the time, I had not connected with any of the BBs, so went with the PowerCab on the recommendation of my LHS. I have been VERY happy. My ONLY complaint is that the thumb wheel throttle control on mine became erratic after about a year (just after the warranty expired), so I now just use the throttle + and - keys.

    IIRC, NCE claims the PowerCab can operate 8 N scale locos (didn't look that up, might be more?)... but to give you an idea of what it can do in practice:

    My layout has about 35' of main line in a twice around configuration. Between the two passing sidings, reverse loop cut-off, small freight (6 tracks) and passenger yards (two tracks), and engine yard (7 tracks), I have 25 turnouts... 24 of them are thrown by Cobalt iP digital point motors (the 25th will be, as soon as I get around to buying one for it!). The Cobalts use a "stall motor" circuit, which constantly draws a small amount of power, when multiplied by 24 it works out to be <250 mA (probably less, but I would have to remove all four locos from the tracks to measure), but draws more power when actually moving the turnout points.

    I have four sound-equipped steam locomotives: two with Tsunami 2 decoders, one with a Tsunami 1 decoder, and one with ESU Loksound. With all of them on the track, the total current draw is 260-280 mA (most of that from the Cobalt point motors). Running any two of the three locos with coreless motors (Bachmann 4-6-0, Bachmann 2-8-0, or KATO FEF-3), with sounds on, ups the current draw to ~280 mA, well below the 2 A limit of the PowerCab. My Athearn challenger is a bit of a power hog, running alone with sound, it ups the total current draw to ~340-360 mA... again, well below the PowerCab limit. I don't think I have ever tried to operate 3 at once (too much for my brain)... but have no doubt the PowerCab would handle it just fine.

    Now, while throwing 1, 2, or even three turnouts simultaneously, I can see the power consumption spike to as much a 400-600 mA, due to the power draw of the point motors moving the points. This doesn't pose any problem for the PowerCab, even when running one or more locomotives... there is no perceptible slowing of the locos.

    One thing I like about the PowerCab is the ability to easily program in "Macros" to control multiple accessories... there are 16 available macros, numbered 0 - 15. I have macros 1-15 programmed to control all my yard tracks (1-6 are my freight yard, 7-8 my stub passenger terminal, and 9-15 are various tracks in my engine yard). As an example, macro 8 will set all necessary turnouts to drive a train from the main line to "track 8," which is one of the two passenger tracks. Macro 10 will set all turnouts necessary to drive a loco from the freight yard to "track 10," which is one of the fueling tracks in my engine facility. Macro 0 throws ALL turnouts (there are 8 of them) on the main line to the main... throwing all those turnouts at once, while simultaneously driving a loco (or two), pushes the total current draw to as much as 1.6 amps... which is starting to push the capabilities of the PowerCab system. Three of my four locos are totally unaffected by that extreme current draw... they keep running along with no detectable slowing. Only my Athearn challenger temporarily slows a bit when I use macro 0 to throw all those turnouts, perhaps because the challenger uses an older style, cored, motor that itself draws more power (tho' I think the decoder may also contribute).

    So, my experience would say that the PowerCab is all you will need to operate a small to mid-sized layout (I guess I would say mine was "mid-sized") running as many as four locos at once. But, another potential plus for the PowerCab is the ability to scale up... adding a second throttle is just plug and play. Or, adding the SB5 booster to increase available power from 2A to 5A power (the only thing keeping me from getting an SB5 is that I keep spending my money on the trains).

    Anyway... I quite like my PowerCab, and would recommend it to pretty much anyone getting started in DCC.

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    I too am happy with my Powercab, used it to convert a DC layout to DCC and it couldn't have been simpler. No issues with the throttle. I did add a Procab throttle so that two trains can run at once, and mostly use that due to the longer cord.

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    I converted my DC layout to DCC with an NCE Powercab in about 8 1/2 minutes, start to finish.

    I also melted one of my newly converted DCC locos a couple days later in about half that time, but I'm not sure yet if that was my fault or the Powercab's.

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    Quote Originally Posted by NtheBasement View Post
    I did add a Procab throttle so that two trains can run at once
    I would add that you CAN run two (or more!) independently controlled locos (meaning not as a consist) simultaneously using just the PowerCab... using the "Recall" key to swap between locos. I have set the # of recalls in my cab to 4, so have all four of my locos available by just toggling thru the recall key. Adding a second throttle allows two operators.

    Quote Originally Posted by pwh70 View Post
    I also melted one of my newly converted DCC locos a couple days later in about half that time, but I'm not sure yet if that was my fault or the Powercab's.
    It has been my experience that the PowerCab has pretty good protection against shorts. Upon detecting a short or excess current draw, PowerCab will transiently shut down and then reboot... It will continue to shut down/reboot until the short is corrected. At some point, if the short is not corrected, either the cab or loco might get fried.

    The most common reason for shorts on my layout is operator (my) error... driving a loco into a trailing turnout aligned for the other route. I have found the quickest way to shut the system down when this happens (more often than I would like to admit) is to unplug the cord from the base of the PowerCab control. I can usually "pull the plug" before the reboot actually begins. I then use my "0-5-0" switcher to push the offending loco back out of the turnout, before restoring power, throwing the turnout for the loco to proceed, and then throttling up the loco.
    Last edited by NDave; 5th Sep 2019 at 12:38 AM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by pwh70 View Post
    I converted my DC layout to DCC with an NCE Powercab in about 8 1/2 minutes, start to finish.

    I also melted one of my newly converted DCC locos a couple days later in about half that time, but I'm not sure yet if that was my fault or the Powercab's.
    Yikes! Frying loco's not fun

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    As this conversation seems applicable to the OP's thread, I'll continue it here. Happy to move over to my own thread if preferred, though.

    Quote Originally Posted by NDave View Post
    It will continue to shut down/reboot until the short is corrected. At some point, if the short is not corrected, either the cab or loco might get fried.
    That's interesting feedback, thanks. I'll have to go back through some of the other info I received, but I thought someone said their Powercab would trip completely, not allowing the constant attempt at rebooting. If what you're saying is correct, it would make sense, although I must say it makes me nervous. I would think a complete breaker trip would protect things a little better. Admittedly, I did walk away from my (running) layout, and a few minutes later my GP40-2 was making truck chowder on a picked turnout.
    I tried the quarter test, and when dropped on the tracks, everything stopped. When I picked it back up again, things resumed. That would align with your description of the NCE circuit protection.

    Quote Originally Posted by DanB80 View Post
    Yikes! Frying loco's not fun
    I've got some new trucks coming.... hopefully they were the only things that got fried!!! We'll see....

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    Quote Originally Posted by pwh70 View Post
    I've got some new trucks coming.... hopefully they were the only things that got fried!!! We'll see....
    I checked out your layout thread and saw the crime scene, that's a little worrying. I have 2 turnouts that sometimes kick the back truck onto the other track (always the back truck and i cannot figure out why) happens enough that I would almost call it often, I obviously need to look further into that issue to avoid a meltdown.

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    Dan,

    i added a post to my layout thread that might be of interest to your Powercab research. Just good to know info (purchase extra circuit protection!)

    Paul

    https://www.nscale.net/forums/showth...803#post566803

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    I did not see any mention of protection and using a 1157 light bulb. You may want to look into this. If interested, look at this reference: https://sites.google.com/site/markgu...rs/light-bulbs
    "Tell me and I forget. Teach me and I remember. Involve me and I learn." -- Benjamin Franklin

    Mario

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    After reading @pwh70 post on his thread about the power cab and circuit protection , i have circuit breakers and will install one before i get back up running again . I have often when testing the track work and wiring had the power cab detect a short and do the continuous reset until i cleared the short by either unplugging the power cab control cable or removing the loco . But what i didnt know , was that it will only do that so many times till it frys itself . Mind you , i am never away from the layout when trains are running , so i am always in top of it . But i will install a CB before i run next .

    I run a Power Cab and a SB5 , and my PSX CB works great with that combo on my past layouts .

    Steve

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    I know people who use the 1157 bulb for short protection. In my opinion it passes too much current for safe use in N-scale. I would consider a good electronic circuit breaker such as the PSX. Yes, they're kind of expensive, but at its lowest setting trips at about 1-1/2 A.

    One thing I read recently. The circuit protection in a DCC booster (such as the Power Cab) is there to protect the system. DCC circuit breakers are there to protect your equipment.
    Tim Rumph
    Modeling the Southern Railway in N-Scale

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    Quote Originally Posted by Tim R View Post
    The circuit protection in a DCC booster (such as the Power Cab) is there to protect the system.
    Yep, kind of the opposite of what a crowbar circuit does. Because the DCC system doesn't know if a $400 locomotive or a $4 needle file caused the short. It's not designed to protect either one.

    A crowbar isolates the power supply in case of a short to protect the components working off it. Thus, I've been living dangerously all these years. I should get a PSX or suffer @pwh70's fate!

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    Quote Originally Posted by Paul Schmidt View Post
    I should get a PSX or suffer @pwh70's fate!
    Not so dramatic, please!! I'm rising from the ashes, you wait and see! (hint: see my thread)

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    So the DCC starter system arrives today. Have no DCC loco's nor is my track wired up for DCC (or much for DC either) so will be sitting around for a while but I feel like I couldn't argue with 100 bucks for the system.

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    That's a good price!

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    Order a decoder for your favorite loco. When you hook the system up, you're going to want to run it.

    You might as well order a few decoders if you can (I don't know how many locos you have), because once you use it... you're going to use more of it.

    Do you have a layout in place?

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    @DanB80

    Welcome to the wonderful world of DCC!
    Hopefully it will be a pleasant experience for you like has been for so many.

    Please remember that no matter which DCC system you end up with, there will be some sort lessons to be learned being new to DCC.
    Take your time, read your instructions twice and ask questions, please feel free to bring them to the members on this board,
    there are more than enough helpful, knowledgeable members to help you through your DCC issues. This is a great group we have here on NSN.
    @pwh70's advice to pick up at least another chip is sound advice, not only so that you can run a second unit after you get it up and running but it will also serve you a backup chip that you can use to see if
    the original chip is bad or not should you run into problems, or (fingers crossed) if you fry it on a Friday night and can't make to the LHS to get another one till Monday. Or having to wait for a new one to arrive in the mail.

    Not trying to rub salt in pwh70's wounds regarding his recent meltdown, but also do yourself a huge favor and purchase some sort of an electronic Circuit Breaker as @Tim R. mentioned.
    Though these are not cheap, somewhere in the neighborhood of $35-$40 each, two of them are still cheaper than destroying a $100+ locomotive in a few seconds. Just ask pwh70 (sorry pwh70).

    I say all of this, as I did the same thing when I first got my layout up and running with DCC...."Pfffft, it won't happen to me"
    Luckily like pwh70, it was just a truck, but it could have been much worse and it only took less than 10 seconds for that meltdown to occur!
    Last edited by Allen H.; 9th Sep 2019 at 05:45 PM.
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