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Thread: Recommendations for a decent power pack that won't fry my decoders?

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    Question Recommendations for a decent power pack that won't fry my decoders?

    I've been doing my DC testing for ever with a solid, dependable but old power pack that my dad bought in the 70's. Turns out that despite saying it only goes up to 14 volts, it actually seems to be putting out 18 volts under load at full throttle. Cue two DCC duel mode engines that only tolerate 15-16 volts and have realistic speed curves, and the result is two fried decoders.
    Obviously I need a replacement. I'm looking for something decent medium-medium-upper range that definitely won't put out more than 14 volts (preferably 12), but otherwise doesn't need any fancy features. (Does that mean filtered?)

    Recommendations? No idea myself.

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    Do you have a volt meter? If so, use the variable output from your pack and just turn it up so it's outputting 12 volts. Don't use the fixed output.

    Doug
    Atlas First Generation Motive Power and Treble-O-Lectric. Click on the link:
    www.irwinsjournal.com/a1g/a1glocos/

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    Quote Originally Posted by Doug Gosha View Post
    Do you have a volt meter? If so, use the variable output from your pack and just turn it up so it's outputting 12 volts. Don't use the fixed output.

    Doug
    I am using the variable DC output from the throttle. (The trains "do" respond to the throttle after all, and I'm using DC operation for testing and breaking in new engines. It doesn't even have a fixed DC output. I'm not that new.) The problem is that the upper end of the throttle range puts out more than enough volts to fry most decoders. (Measured at 18 volts via voltmeter on the track at full throttle with load, 19 volts no load. Many decoders are only rated for 15.5 volts.) And newer engines who decoder's I've fried come with a realistic speed curve that means you actually use the upper end of the throttle range, and I don't want to run the risk of frying a third decoder by simply trying to be careful not to use the top third or so of the throttle, particularly since there's nothing actually touching the scale (in "mph" for some reason), and you'd have to eyeball it. (There also seems to be a little "slack" in the knob.)

    I'd like to repeat, it dates from the 1970's and used to be my dads, and since it always worked perfectly fine I never saw any reason to replace it, since I'm going to buy a DCC system one of these days before operations start, and it's only used for testing new sections of track and for temporary test tracks. (A DCC system ins't quite suitable for bringing upstairs to power a Unitrack testing/breaking in loop.) The labeling on it gives "Output: 14 volts DC, (there's only a "variable DC and "fixed AC" hookups anyway), 18 volts AC, total 13 vac", and lists "Input: 120VAC 60 htz." (I'm assuming that's still household current, and that hasn't changed in the last half century?) Honestly I thought the throttle only went up to 12 volts (the "maximum" for HO and smaller, or so I thought.) (The hookups say "variable DC and "fixed AC.")

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    Can you position the throttle to 12V as measured by a volt meter then glue, double sided tape, screw, what-have-you, a physical object to prevent the throttle from going beyond that point? A simple piece of plastic or wood, etc. Yeah, it's a bit ghetto but you are looking for a temporary workable solution without buying a new DC throttle as you are eventually going to go DCC.

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    Sorry, I guess I thought you were using the pack to power a DCC system. In your case, it's going to be tough to find a DC pack that peaks at only 12 - 14 volts. But, if you are saying you can only get satisfactory speed with the dual mode decoders at the top of the throttle, how would such a pack work, anyway? Do you get satisfactory speed at 14 volts? If so, limit how far up you can turn the throttle as kingmeow suggested.

    Doug
    Atlas First Generation Motive Power and Treble-O-Lectric. Click on the link:
    www.irwinsjournal.com/a1g/a1glocos/

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    I think the issue he's having is that he's using DCC/sound locos.........they require a lot of juice to get the sound to turn on (I have a couple that are almost 2/3 throttle before the sound comes on) and they don't move for a little bit after that, so to get the loco up to speed, he needs almost full throttle.

    The problem he may have, is a pack that puts out a low enough voltage to not fry the decoders may deliver slow speeds. I'd say look for a Z scale pack, but that may get costly enough to where a starter DCC system would be about as cheap, and solve the whole problem. Is there a reason you are testing on DC or is it just a cost saving? I know Atlas now has a few locos out there that they advise against even running on DC (although they are supposedly equipped with dual mode decoders). They say if you want to run DC, buy the DC only loco. That seems to be the way things are headed.

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    Part of the problem is that a full feature DCC system (no point spending money on a starter system that would need an eventual upgrade, and wireless throttles are pretty much required with my layout's limited aisles (around 14' x between 12' and 16' open to the rest of a multi use room on one and a half sides)) is $600, and I don't even know what I want to use to decide. (All I really know right now is that wireless throttles are a must, I'd like the advanced throttle speed control to be a big knob, but nothing quite fits that description.)

    Second is that until the continuous running gets built (the entire track pretty much), my test/breaking in track is a temporary loop of unitrack set up upstairs on the dining room table, and I doubt a DCC system could be unwired conveniently enough to power it.

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    I'm a Digitrax guy so I can only speak for that brand but I'm pretty sure NCE is similar. Their ecosystem is completely expandable. You can get their entry level Zephyr Express Starter Set for $200 and it will not be obsolete as you later expand to more power, wireless throttles, etc. Add as you go. That's the beauty of these sets.

    For the Zephyr, many get it as a starter set and later find out that it's good enough for a larger layout and don't even need to add a booster. Many use it to power just an oval in the beginning so your temporary loop of Unitrack will work just fine with it. Just two wires and done!.

    You don't have to start off with a $600 system. And when you do decide to do that you would have learned enough about DCC to make a educated purchase. You would have learned a lot about DCC by then. You don't want to spend $600 to only learn that you should have bought something else.

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    Quote Originally Posted by BraselC5048 View Post
    All I really know right now is that wireless throttles are a must, I'd like the advanced throttle speed control to be a big knob
    Have you looked at DCC++ EX?



    You can get into it for under $100. Is small and can be portable. You can have built in WiFi for that amount so don't need another hot spot/network (use it anywhere).



    Run Wireless phone throttles with a physical throttle as show above and ( HERE ). Has probably about all the expandability that one could use as JMRI is a companion to it. The guys (around the world) that are working on DCC++ EX are adding features constantly, such as now they have EX-RAIL Automation and accessory control along with turntable control.

    If you want to move onto something else down the road you are out less than $100. You don't have to be an electronics or computer person to set it up. I have a tutorial on installing your Command Station ( HERE ).

    It is open source, almost 24 hour a day help if you need it and works very well.

    Sumner
    Modeling UP from late 40's to early 70's very loosely......

    Under$8.00 Servo turnout Control --- 3D Printed Model RR Objects -- MyHome Page
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    I have been quite happy with the Digitrax EVOXD Duplex starter set. It comes with the Digitrax 602D Duplex wireless throttle. Yankee Dabbler seems to have the best price at $495. The set comes with a DCS210+ Command Station/Booster With Intelligent AutoReverse.

    https://yankeedabbler.com/digitrax-e...art-245-evoxd/
    Just an old gandy dancer.

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    Quote Originally Posted by MRLdave View Post
    I think the issue he's having is that he's using DCC/sound locos.........they require a lot of juice to get the sound to turn on (I have a couple that are almost 2/3 throttle before the sound comes on) and they don't move for a little bit after that, so to get the loco up to speed, he needs almost full throttle.

    The problem he may have, is a pack that puts out a low enough voltage to not fry the decoders may deliver slow speeds. I'd say look for a Z scale pack, but that may get costly enough to where a starter DCC system would be about as cheap, and solve the whole problem. Is there a reason you are testing on DC or is it just a cost saving? I know Atlas now has a few locos out there that they advise against even running on DC (although they are supposedly equipped with dual mode decoders). They say if you want to run DC, buy the DC only loco. That seems to be the way things are headed.
    Yup, got to agree with you there. Buying a DCC system now. Everything's should be fine now. Except for getting two engines repaired.

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