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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I took my 12 year old son to the train show today to work on his Boy Scout Railroading merit badge. He got pretty excited about all the things that he saw at the show and wanted me to get my set out.

My dad built the layout for me a good 30 years ago. The control system was custom built by him and I can get most of it working but I think that it isn't putting enough power to the track. By custom I mean completely from scratch. There isn't a recognizable control component anywhere. The switches (the doodads that route the train from one part of the track to another) and track were standard for the day. I have spent considerable time adjusting the track and switches with limited success.

So I would like to start over or greatly renovate the existing system. Dad may have been an electronics expert but I'm into software not hardware. So need a lot of help.

In my layout I have three switches and all the custom control stuff. I have one working engine that is definitely old school. I don't have a problem going to the newer technology (DCC, right?). Wireless probably is overkill here since it' a flat 8' x 8' layout with two loops and a side yard.

Assuming I have a maximum budget of $300 what do you recommend? Part numbers would be appreciated. It's been so long since I've done any model train stuff that I don't remember many of the correct terms for things.

Thanks!

Jim
 

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Yard Master & Research
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Your Dad may of used the Kalmbach Books by Peter Thorne. You can also post a picture of his work. If you can identify the work you can fix it.
Three switches are replaceable. You can buy individual motors for them.

The layout should reflect what you want to run. DCC or just standard transformer. For the price mentioned you could find a DCC starter set.
 

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I wish you good luck in this rebuild.

I recommend the following:

For DCC, I suggest checking out the DCC wiki, http://www.dccwiki.com/Main_Page, this will offer tons of information on how to wire, build, upgrade locos, etc. I use the wiki when the manual just doesn't cut it.

As for DCC system, I recommend the Digitrax Zephyr, which runs around $179.99 to 199.99. (Depends on where you buy.) As I am not aware of which locos you are running, (DCC or DC) upgrading each engine could run you from 20 bucks to 40 bucks each, depending on basic functions to advanced functions to include sound.

Another big thing to keep in mind, The track on your layout, could be to old to run DCC current (and the signal to the locos). With the limited budget, you could start with a DC run system, which would not require upgrading the engines, and would reduce the amount of money you would need to invest.
(I recommend , ebay for used DC products, much cheaper than buying new)

New Track, there are many different kinds out there, Cheap but good working, I recommend the code 83 atlas track. (www.atlasrr.com), they even offer a free computer program to plan a layout without having to move real track around.

I hope this helps.

--Cid
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
We went to Caboose Hobbies here in town. They were recommended by a number of guys at the train show. I completely blew my budget though. We decided to start over from scratch and go all DCC.

We bought an NCE PowerCab, an Atlas DCC locomotive and a ton of Atlas code 83 track. The layout is a triple loop. We laid out the track this weekend and late yesterday started adding the roadbed (cork).

The roadbed is a major upgrade for me. The sound level and visual look shoulbe be much better! The old layout had the track directly attached to the doors. The entire base surface is made up of three doors. One 3'x6' door in the center and two 18"x6' wings. They fold up like this: \ __ /.

Because the layout is on doors that fold I have to take a little more time to lay things out so that the pieces of track going over the door sections can be removed. In the old layout my dad had the pieces of permanently affixed track meet up when the doors opened. This was problematic as those joining sections often didn't match up quite right and snagged on stuff when the doors were closed. So I decided to try a different solution.

Now for my questions...
1. According to the wiring Wiki I should have feeder wires run every 3 to 6 feet. Do I need to solder these in to the track? Or can I use the pre-soldered track connectors?
2. The wiring Wiki says to run 14 gauge wire from the booster to the bus. Will 14 gauge fit into the connector on my booster? The connector sure looks small to me. (I haven't bought my wire yet)
3. I wanted electronic remote control of the switches so the guys at the train store set me up with a DigiTrax box. I haven't opened it up yet but it appears to come with a good set of instructions. Are there any gotchas I should know about?
 

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1. According to the wiring Wiki I should have feeder wires run every 3 to 6 feet. Do I need to solder these in to the track? Or can I use the pre-soldered track connectors? You can use pre-soldered track connectors, I recommend making your own, it is much cheaper, and you can color coordinate your wires. Once you finished installing all your track and it is nailed down, then I recommend going around and soldering all the tracks together and the track connectors.

2. The wiring Wiki says to run 14 gauge wire from the booster to the bus. Will 14 gauge fit into the connector on my booster? The connector sure looks small to me. (I haven't bought my wire yet) It should fit, twist the wires together before putting them into the connection on the booster.

3. I wanted electronic remote control of the switches so the guys at the train store set me up with a DigiTrax box. I haven't opened it up yet but it appears to come with a good set of instructions. Are there any gotchas I should know about? Yes there is after you install them on the track and connect the Digitrax box (by via wires) to the command console you will have to program each switch with it's own address (just like each engine) I highly recommend building a diagram with a drawing of the layout and at each "switch" on that diagram write the address on it for quick ref. (I built a address book with pictures for my engines for quick ref.) lastly, I recommend not to power the digtrax box off the power from the command console, this leaves the power on the tracks for the engines only. I use my old DC power pack to power all my LED display lights.)
 
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