A Guide TO Dcc Page 2 A Guide to DCC

2 Simple DCC Installation switch decoder motor decoder sound board Command station decoder DCC Only Sound and DCC 2 DCC Today As the technology continued to develop, decoders within the locomotives became more sophisticated enabling multiple functions, including generating sounds, providing unique lighting and even transponding vital data back to the controller. With the advent of more complex DCC decoders, manufacturers have had the opportunity to provide additional features to the DC control community as well. Some decoders are now available that recognize whether the track power is DC or DCC and instantly adapt. If DC, it switches over to using the DC voltage to control the motor while operating things like lights and sounds based on some default programming. If DCC is detected, the decoder looks for its commands to come through the DCC signal on the tracks. BUILDING BLOCKS OF A DCC SYSTEM One of the things that can make DCC seem daunting is the terminology. Most modelers understand the idea of DCC and the idea that a decoder is needed in each loco. But when terms like Command Stations, Boosters, and Circuit Breakers are mentioned it can be confusing as to how they fit together. Whats more, often manufacturers will incorporate one or more of these into a single unit. So what you may be looking at could appear to be different than what someone else might be looking at. To understand all these elements it is probably best to look at each piece separately. Command Station The command station (console) is truly the brain of the system. It contains the microprocessor that translates the signals from the throttles or controllers into digital commands. These commands are fed onto the tracks for the mobile and stationary decoders to decode and do what they need to do. This includes sending commands for each address to the layout for speed, direction and functions. The command station also, in some cases, keeps track of consists of locos and some even offer 2-way data communications. Boosters The processor inside the command station is not powerful enough to actually drive locomotives. That is where the booster comes in. Boosters take the command signal from the command station and boost it to be able to provide both data and power to each decoder. In effect, the booster is not simply a power supply, it also boosts signal strength. Boosters can be either integral to the command station or they can be separate. For instance, some systems combine command station and booster in one. This is one area where confusion comes in. Some owners have two boxes while others have one. Just keep in mind there are 2 functions; whether or not they are in one or two boxes is in many ways irrelevant. Furthermore, as the layout frows, the power demands may outstrip what the command station booster can provide. When that happens, it becomes necessary to add boosters. Circuit Breakers While not necessary for DCC operation, circuit breakers are a very good idea. A booster can put out anywhere from 1 to 10 amps of power. When a short occurs on an unprotected DCC layout, all the booster power feeds that short. When that happens, two things take place. One is all the power is lost from the layout, stopping everyone on the railroad. The second is all that power is directed into one small area. A short through a locomotive or even its trucks can easily melt side frames and smoke wiring. Most boosters are equipped with internal circuit breakers to interrupt the flow of current into the layout should a short be detected. However, as a boosters power level goes up, so does the possibility that a short will occur that does not exceed the boosters capacity, yet is enough to cause damage. For these situations, it is wise to break up the layout into sections fed by separate breakers. These will interrupt current flow at a much lower level than the booster, thereby protecting each section. It also allows other operators to continue to run when one section has a short. Breakers can be bought or set in a variety of ranges, but a range of 3-5 amps is typical. WHAT'S BEST FOR YOU DC OR DCC? So what control system is right for you? It depends what your needs are? What are your preferences? What are the goals of your railroad? Perhaps you have a large fleet of DC locos and don't really care to convert them to DCC. No worries. DC power packs are better than ever with wonderful motor control features. And most DCC equipped locomotives today have dual mode DC/DCC decoders, so you can still enjoy the benefits of sound and fantastic lighting effects. There are also hybrid controllers that allow you to access many of the DCC functions on a DC system. These basically superimpose a signal on top of the DC signal to force the decoder to respond to unique commands. Or perhaps you would rather not have to worry about block switches when running or you like the idea of having multiple trains, dozens in fact, on the same track. In that case, DCC is the way to go. DCC simplifies wiring, and allows your operators to run the trains, not the track. You can park as many locos on a section of track as desired, without regard to isolating sections of track. Older locomotives can be retrofitted with new, state of the art decoders that will squeeze remarkable performance out of even these older motors. Looking to get into the hobby but not sure what you need? Visit your local hobby shop. Find out if there is a Model Railroad club in the area. Maybe you know of a friend who has a system. Ask. Try them out. Find out what best meets your needs then dive in. It really is fun. Whatever you decide, this is the golden age of model railroading, with features that were only dreamed of a generation ago. It is one of the most rewarding and exciting hobbies available. A basic DCC installation allows independent two-train operation using only a pair of wires connected to the track.

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