Saturday, June 20, 2009

Buying and Hooking Up a DCC System

After many months of reading up on all the different DCC systems, looking at the pro's and con's, talking to different people and listening to their opinions, I purchased an NCE Power Cab at the Model Railroad Craftsman ( stand at the Epping model railway exhibition.

Three weeks later I've only just had time to have a read through the manual, and look at hooking it up to a simple test track to have a bit of a play with.

Of course the first thing I needed to do was hook up some wires to the tracks and like most things that's not as simple as it sounds.

Like often happens, when it's 7pm at night and you begin these projects you can't just run down to the shops to buy the materials you need. This was the case with wire unfortunately, with me only having some big thick wire I normally use for wiring up rather beefy ignition systems in cars. However I did have some CAT5 network cable laying about, and thought that it would probably be ok for my simple test track use. I don't think this is the best wire for the layout however and will use something a little more robust.

So after stripping the ends of two pairs of wire, I tinned the ends with solder and began to solder them to a length of Peco code 75 rail. I don;t necessarily have any trouble soldering the wire to the rail, but it's always a fiddly job and I've wondered if there isn't a better way?

When building my points, I use printed circuit board for certain sleepers, and it occurred to me that this may also be a good way of hooking up power to the rails rather than simply wiring power directly to the rails.

So armed with a piece of pcb, I drilled two small holes through it, one at each end, and cut an isolating gap in each side of the pcb. The wire was fed through the holes so it was flush on one side, and then it was soldered on both sides of the pcb. The pcb sleeper was then very easily soldered to the rails.

I had wondered if there wold possibly be a voltage drop using this method, however after attaching a 9 volt battery to the wires, I grabbed my multimeter and got the following readings.

9.49 volts at the battery terminals, 9.49 volts at the end of the wires where they join the pcb, and 9.49 volts measured off the rails a couple of inches away from the pcb sleeper. This tells me that obviously my soldering skills are not too bad, and that at least as far as volage is concerned there is no perceptable drop with this method.

I can see some definite advantages by using this method, and can't think of any disadvantages, but I would be interested to hear if anyone can think of any.

After doing all the soldering and testing the voltages and taking some photos along the way, I decided it was too late to go and unpack my Garratt and give it a run, and decided to update this blog instead as I haven't written much lately.

Maybe tomorrow I'll finally start playing with my new DCC system!

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