Model Train Forum banner

1 - 20 of 75 Posts

·
Registered
Joined
·
255 Posts
Discussion Starter #1
I have removed the last DC controller from my layout which was supplying power to the switches which drive the turnout switch machines (The old school device).

What are my options to provide power to my turnouts while I make the conversion to a more DCC friendly turnout solution?

Thanks,
John
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
890 Posts
I assume you want to switch over to DCC decoders for the turnouts?

In the short term you can still run DC turnouts... is that what you're doing or do you want to switch everything over at once?

What turnout motors are you using now?
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
255 Posts
Discussion Starter #3
I assume you want to switch over to DCC decoders for the turnouts?

In the short term you can still run DC turnouts... is that what you're doing or do you want to switch everything over at once?

What turnout motors are you using now?
The layout is from the 1980's which I am going to be running till I can build myself a more modern layout. Meanwhile I am trying to use this as a learning opportunity to learn what is needed for DCC as I make the conversion. Currently I am running these...

https://www.modeltrainstuff.com/atlas-ho-585-code-83-remote-switch-machine-right/

And I would like to keep them while I work on more important changes to the layout such as re wiring and Auto Reversers.

John
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
890 Posts
Someone will be along to answer your question(s). I think you can get decoders for 3-wire motors, but have no experience with them (yet).
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
255 Posts
Discussion Starter #5
Right now I have no lights or automation on my layout. Its just a mountain with trees and turnouts. I am reading that people are using computer power supplies to provide the different level of voltages that a layout uses. Is that becoming common practice? Is that something I should really consider?

At this time, I would think it would be best to just get power to the switches as they are and not convert them to DCC as I still dont have a way to power them unless they get power from track power.

John
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
2,343 Posts
Converting fully to DCC would probably mean getting rid of the old style solenoids, although you might be able to find or build a DCC controller that works with those types. If you're a DIY type you can use a $6 arduino to run up to sixteen $1 servo motors, each controlling one turnout, and you only need a 5V power source for all of that. Of course that'll take a lot of work including rewiring and mounting new motors, so in the meantime it's best to just keep one of your DC power supplies handy to run the turnouts.

You can also look at the AC output printed on your existing power supply, and find something online that matches. For HO that will probably be somewhere around 16-20 VAC, but you don't have to match it exactly.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
4,206 Posts
Atlas twin-coil switch machines

The layout is from the 1980's which I am going to be running till I can build myself a more modern layout. Meanwhile I am trying to use this as a learning opportunity to learn what is needed for DCC as I make the conversion. Currently I am running these...

https://www.modeltrainstuff.com/atlas-ho-585-code-83-remote-switch-machine-right/

And I would like to keep them while I work on more important changes to the layout such as re wiring and Auto Reversers.

John


John;

The switch machine shown on your modeltrainstuff link is an Atlas twin-coil design that, in one form or another, has been around for over 50 years. It's very simple, and has a wide range of acceptable power supply options. It will operate with DC or AC voltage in the 12-18 volt range. What it will not do is operate correctly, or even safely, when powered directly from the 15 volt modified AC output voltage of a DCC controller. Doing that can damage the DCC system.
If you want to operate your turnouts with a DCC system, you will need a device called a "stationary decoder." The way it works is that the DCC system sends out digital command signals riding on top of their 15 volts AC output voltage. These digital signals tell the decoders in locomotives what to do. They also tell the stationary decoders what to do. The stationary decoder then sends a simple analog voltage pulse to the switch machine which then moves the points of the turnout.

However, many modelers prefer to use their DCC systems only to control trains, not turnouts. Their turnouts are controlled "old school" fashion with push buttons, or toggle switches, mounted on a traditional control panel. So, which way do you want to control your turnouts?

If you want to do it with your DCC system, then NCE, Digitrax, and MRC all sell stationary decoders. Most will operate either DC stall motors, like the popular Tortoise motor, or Twin coil machines like Atlas or Peco. They should advertise this capability, and it's something you should check before buying. Many are "multi channel decoders, meaning that one decoder can operate more than one turnout, usually 3 or 4. You would need a decoder that has the capability of operating a Twin-coil machine, and you might want to use a multi channel decoder to handle several turnouts.

On the other hand, If either temporarily, or permanently, you prefer to use the "old school" method, then all you will need is a control panel with two momentary push buttons per turnout, and a common power supply to feed electricity into all the buttons. That power supply can be an old DC power pack's accessory terminals, or one of those little black cube "wall wart" power supplies, like those used to recharge cell phones.
If you plan on permanent use of twin-coil switch machines, I recommend using a turnout control called a Stapleton 751D. It is a high quality electrical switch, and has a built in "CDU" (Capacitive Discharge Unit) The CDU prevents burning out coils by holding a button down for more than a second or two, which is all-too-easy to do. Also low quality turnout controls, like the blue button type from Atlas, have been known to short circuit internally, causing a twin-coil switch machine to emit smoke and die. A CDU can also save the coil, if the button shorts like this.

The attached file, "All about Turnouts", explains more about turnouts, switch machines, CDUs, etc.
If you plan on using Atlas turnouts, which I don't recommend! (I recommend using Peco turnouts instead, as they are much better quality) the second file, "Improving Atlas turnouts" explains how to correct most of the Atlas Snap Switches defects.

Hope that helps;

Traction Fan :smilie_daumenpos:

View attachment All AboutTurnouts rev 5.pdf

View attachment Improving Atlas turnouts pdf version.pdf
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
890 Posts
Right now I have no lights or automation on my layout. Its just a mountain with trees and turnouts. I am reading that people are using computer power supplies to provide the different level of voltages that a layout uses. Is that becoming common practice? Is that something I should really consider?

At this time, I would think it would be best to just get power to the switches as they are and not convert them to DCC as I still dont have a way to power them unless they get power from track power.

John
Traction fan has given you a bunch of info to read. Keep one of your DC transformers and power your switches as is.

There are automation solutions, but I don't think they are all that common. JMRI is an open source solution, but from what I understand takes some work. Traincontroller software is another I've seen people use and looks pretty powerful if you want that kind of automation:

https://www.freiwald.com/pages/traincontroller.htm

For lights, the old school methods is probably fine. You turn them on and turn them off, not much to it.

So, I don't think the majority of stuff available is all that complicated or evolved, though as you're already doing, upgrading to DCC is probably a good choice.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
4,206 Posts
DCC & turnout control

Converting fully to DCC would probably mean getting rid of the old style solenoids, although you might be able to find or build a DCC controller that works with those types.

Shdwdrgn;

Any DCC controller will operate twin-coil solenoid machines WITH a stationary DCC decoder that has a Twin-coil output. (most do)

No DCC system should be used to attempt to operate switch machines (solenoid, or motor) WITHOUT a DCC stationary decoder. Doing that can damage the DCC controller.

Traction Fan :smilie_daumenpos:
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
255 Posts
Discussion Starter #10
Long term is to get this layout converted to Tortoise switch machines. But for now, I want to find a power supply system which will allow me to keep my Atlas Blue double sided switches and twin-coil switch machines.

I dont want track power running my accessories. I want to keep those items separated.

So what are my options for providing power to my Atlas switches?
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
255 Posts
Discussion Starter #11
Traction fan has given you a bunch of info to read. Keep one of your DC transformers and power your switches as is.

There are automation solutions, but I don't think they are all that common. JMRI is an open source solution, but from what I understand takes some work. Traincontroller software is another I've seen people use and looks pretty powerful if you want that kind of automation:

https://www.freiwald.com/pages/traincontroller.htm

For lights, the old school methods is probably fine. You turn them on and turn them off, not much to it.

So, I don't think the majority of stuff available is all that complicated or evolved, though as you're already doing, upgrading to DCC is probably a good choice.

Keeping an old dc controller maybe my only option for the time being. I was just trying to clear space on my layout area dedicated to the controllers.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
890 Posts
Any wall-wart of the proper voltage will do the trick.

One other thing. I only currently run a holiday layout, and I use Azatrax products to run my signals and block control for turnout automation. It's little pricey, but it's more or less 'plug and play' for what I want to do. You can look in my posting history for some stuff I've done.

I also suggest you look at Traction_Fans history, he has a plethora of docs with a bunch of information, which is also posted in some of the sticky threads at the top of the various forums... and he's not alone, there's a lot of stuff in the sticky threads.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
4,206 Posts
Computer power supply?

Right now I have no lights or automation on my layout. Its just a mountain with trees and turnouts. I am reading that people are using computer power supplies to provide the different level of voltages that a layout uses. Is that becoming common practice? Is that something I should really consider?

At this time, I would think it would be best to just get power to the switches as they are and not convert them to DCC as I still dont have a way to power them unless they get power from track power.

John


John;

I don't see any reason for you to buy a computer power supply just to provide voltages for your model railroad. That could probably be done, but there are simpler ways. You say that right now you simply want to get power to the "switches"/turnouts. That's fine. You simply need some power supply that provides 14-20 volts either AC or DC. If you have one of your old power packs, that's ideal. Just use the AC "accessories" terminals as your turnout power supply. Another power supply is one of those little black cube things that plug into a wall outlet and are used to charge cell phones, or power other electronic gadgets around the house. They are nicknamed "wall warts." Again, any output from one of these should be in the 14-20 volt range and it doesn't matter whether that AC or DC. The output voltage is usually printed on the outside of a wall wart. Besides power, you will also need some kind of buttons to control the turnouts. Do you still have those blue button turnout controls that come with Atlas Snap Switches? for that matter, do you have Atlas switches, and are they "Snap Switch" type turnouts, or "Custom Line" turnouts? The custom line ones may not come with either blue button controls or twin-coil switch machines. It would help to know what you have so we know what we're dealing with. Can you post a photo of one of your turnouts? Also a photo of any turnout control buttons you have?
Do you have a DCC system yet? If you do, is it hooked up to the track now? You should not try to operate your turnouts with track power. If your track power is coming out of a DCC controller, then operating turnouts from that track power could damage the DCC controller. The turnouts need one of the preceding separate power supplies.

Please see my prior response, including the attached pdf files, for more information.

Traction Fan :smilie_daumenpos:
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
4,206 Posts
Automation? Maybe? Maybe not?

Traction fan has given you a bunch of info to read. Keep one of your DC transformers and power your switches as is.

There are automation solutions, but I don't think they are all that common. JMRI is an open source solution, but from what I understand takes some work. Traincontroller software is another I've seen people use and looks pretty powerful if you want that kind of automation:

https://www.freiwald.com/pages/traincontroller.htm

For lights, the old school methods is probably fine. You turn them on and turn them off, not much to it.

So, I don't think the majority of stuff available is all that complicated or evolved, though as you're already doing, upgrading to DCC is probably a good choice.


Tom_C;

I'm not at all sure the OP is asking about automating his railroad, or just considering buying a surplus computer power supply to get voltage for turnouts, and maybe structure lights, etc. It's not easy to tell.

Traction Fan :smilie_daumenpos:
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
4,206 Posts
Stickys

Any wall-wart of the proper voltage will do the trick.

One other thing. I only currently run a holiday layout, and I use Azatrax products to run my signals and block control for turnout automation. It's little pricey, but it's more or less 'plug and play' for what I want to do. You can look in my posting history for some stuff I've done.

I also suggest you look at Traction_Fans history, he has a plethora of docs with a bunch of information, which is also posted in some of the sticky threads at the top of the various forums... and he's not alone, there's a lot of stuff in the sticky threads.
Tom_C;

The sticky thread that has all my files, and contributions from other members, is the "Help a new modeler to get started" thread at the top of the "Beginner's Q&A" section of the forum. There are two other sticky threads adjacent to that one which also have some useful info, though the electrical one seems a bit to complicated for beginners, to me.

Traction Fan :smilie_daumenpos:
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
4,206 Posts
Long term is to get this layout converted to Tortoise switch machines. But for now, I want to find a power supply system which will allow me to keep my Atlas Blue double sided switches and twin-coil switch machines.

I dont want track power running my accessories. I want to keep those items separated.

So what are my options for providing power to my Atlas switches?
John;

The same options we have suggested to you. A DC power pack, or a wall wart power supply. If your eyes haven't glazed over from all the advice we've been dumping on you, you might look at another thread here on the HO forum about "Power Pack for Atlas remote switches" by caldwest. It covers some of the same issues.

Traction Fan :smilie_daumenpos:
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
778 Posts
John, don't fret over it..Keep your switch machines if you like. They're certainly nicer in appearance that the bulky older type...It's only a matter if you don't mind the noise they make. Use your existing power pack AC to power them.
Go ahead and convert your layout to DCC (I love my NCE PowerCab)..If you have gaps in your track from analog DC block control, merely close those gaps (solder may be enough), hookup the DCC throttle (2 little wires to track from DCC panel rear) and, other than whether or not you have a reverse loop somewhere, let em roll !!
You can modify your switch track control later on after you get the jist of your new throttle.
Remember this: All DCC locos come with factory default 3 as their address..You can use the number on the sides of cabs to be their new addresses. You'll have to learn how to do this kind of programming at the get go soon as you have 2 or more locos. If you don't they'll both run at the same time and recieve the same exact programming you've given one..M :)
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
890 Posts
Tom_C;

I'm not at all sure the OP is asking about automating his railroad, or just considering buying a surplus computer power supply to get voltage for turnouts, and maybe structure lights, etc. It's not easy to tell.

Traction Fan :smilie_daumenpos:
Right now I have no lights or automation on my layout. Its just a mountain with trees and turnouts. I am reading that people are using computer power supplies to provide the different level of voltages that a layout uses. Is that becoming common practice? Is that something I should really consider?

At this time, I would think it would be best to just get power to the switches as they are and not convert them to DCC as I still dont have a way to power them unless they get power from track power.

John
Traction_Fan, I was just addressing a comment to provide information, not suggesting anything.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
255 Posts
Discussion Starter #20
I am running a NCE Twin DCC system for the track, and JMRI on a Macmini so I can use a 11in tablet and my cell phone for controllers. I really have NO interest in hand controllers such as the hammer heads. I will be adding a NCE power house controller and 5 amp separate booster to this layout in the future. Which is why I am not worried about converting my turnouts at this time.

Due to the limitations of my DCC config as it is currently, it sounds like any 14v to 20v power brick will do the trick for turnout control to get me running again. No one has said to modify it with resistors, light or anything. So I will look into one of those to get power to the turnout twin coil setup and hook it straight up.

I just want to get things hooked up and working again as simple as possible which as someone suggested maybe to re hook up a DC controller again. This being as I have larger issues to address where my funds can be better spent.

The only reason for thinking about the computer power supply is first I have a bunch of them around my house. Second, planning for the future upgrades to my layout which will include turn table control, led lights, and turnouts.

Again, I first have some track repair to make. In a prior thread, I discussed consolidating 2 lines of track into a single mainline making my oversized loop into a dog bone (single mainline with a reversing loop at each end). Plus I need to add 48x18inch of layout space to the side. And a 12ft x 2ft staging yard on the back edge. All of that before I change over my turnouts to something more modern.

John
 
1 - 20 of 75 Posts
Top