Saturday, January 24, 2015

DCC control

So far I've been doing my test runs on the N scale Palmer Industrial Park with the NCE PowerCab I keep on my workbench for programming and testing.  It works, but it's not a permanent solution - I wanted a radio throttle, and I wanted the PowerCab back on the workbench.  While I wouldn't mind cannibalizing the DCC system from my dormant O scale layout, I wanted something newer and more appropriately sized for N scale.  The O scale layout has a SystemOne command station and an NCE 10 amp booster with a large transformer in an even larger metal case.

The NCE SB5 seems like a pretty ideal package for a small layout - it's got some limitations compared to the top of the line PowerPro CS02, but none of them matter for a layout like mine.  (I can't imagine I'd need more than 8 cabs or run more than 12 trains at once no matter how much I might expand the layout).  For further limiting the 5 amp output, an NCE EB3 (electronic breaker) floating around from a previous project seems perfect. For the radio throttle, reusing the RB02 radio base station from the O scale layout was a no brainer, but the throttle itself wasn't quite so clear.  I have a radio ProCab - it's very nice, but I like the feel of the cab04p better.  I have a cab04pr, but it's getting a bit long in the tooth, and I don't like the idea of pulling the back off all the time to flip dip switches to change the cab address (yes, it's that old) from one of the low numbers supported by the SB5 to the high address available to me for use on friends layouts and vice versa.

Bottom line: I went to my friendly local hobby shop and ordered a new SB5 and a new cab04pr.  They arrived yesterday.  Today I set the new system up.

Top to bottom - power supply, SB5, EB3
The SB5 and the power supply it comes with are mounted to the plywood between the end legs with velcro.  The EB3 is set for the lowest trip current (2.25 amps) and the fastest trip time (10 ms).  The coiled cord plugged into the cab bus that leads upward goes to the RB02 radio base station which is sitting on a box in the middle of the teardrop end on the backdrop.  It all works very nicely.  There was only one thing that irked me a bit - the plug on the power supply that came with the SB5 was a little too big around to let the track bus connector that also came with the SB5 plug in properly.  I shaved about 1/16" off one side of the power plug, which solved the problem.  In the detail crop below the power plug is actually sticking straight in, it just looks like it's angled down because of that 1/16" flat spot.

Shaved 1/16" off side of power plug
It's nice to have a permanently wired up system in place, with a radio throttle.  I think the SB5 was the perfect choice.

The one lingering question is what exactly will I do if I want to start up the O scale layout again?  While it is in theory possible to have two separate NCE radio systems share the same space, it seems like a pain.  I think the simple solution will be to retire the SystemOne command station, and run a control bus lead from the SB5 over to the O scale booster.

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