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Hi, new forum member with a real rookie question. I'm in an apartment and don't really have room for a HO layout, but I'm collecting HO loco's and cars. I wanted to make a small 4' track to simply test a locomotive when purchased to make sure the sound, lighting and motor works.

I'm thinking an inexpensive DCC controller and completing the small track section via wires (left rail end to left rail beginning and same for the right rails.) So it would be a simple straight or curved section of track. Is this feasible?
 

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Hi, and welcome. Yes, whatever you can craft that you can fit in, and live with, is what you can use to test rolling stock. Note that it might be instructive to have at least a single #5 turnout ('DCC-friendly' is best) somewhere in your trackage so that you can test how easily the locomotive negotiates that kind of turnout*. The odd locomotive balks over certain turnout configurations.


*-A turnout is also known as a 'switch', but in our hobby we use electrical switches as well, so it can be confusing. The proper engineering, real-world, term for a 'switch' to change train directions is 'turnout'. Every turnout has a switch, comprising the head blocks, throwbar, and points rails that move sideways.
 

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if you have basic electronics knowledge, a DCC++ setup would be very low cost .... on the other hand, ready made DCC setups can be obtained reasonably
 

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For a 48" test track, you could do this:

- buy a 48" piece of 1x3 or 1x4 lumber at Home Depot or Lowe's. You might spend a little extra for a piece of birch rather than pine (less likely to warp).

- buy one Kato #2-150 (4 pcs straight track, 9.5")
- buy one Kato #2-151 (1 pc terminal straight track, 9.5")

If you wish to secure the track to the board, there are "pilot holes" for screw mounting (accessible on the underside of the track pieces).

It will look good and you'll have wire leads ready to attach to your dcc unit.
 

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Just make sure you put some kind of wheel stop at the ends of the rails. You don't want something running off the end and getting damaged.
 

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This is my 4x4 test track for standard and narrow gauge (HO and HOn3). I use DCC++ and plan to use this track for testing various bits of controllers and sensors. The turnouts were hand-laid and I incorporated a bit of torture into the layout with that S-curve on the left. The bottom of the oval provides sectional track issues going from a straight immediately into a curve, while the top of the oval has smooth easements. The design was created to test future code for controlling two locomotives operating on the track at the same time, either the same or opposite directions, with the possibility of one loco shuffling cars between sidings and hopefully representing some of the worst situations I might see on a real layout. But for now, it also works great to test DCC locos as I get them set up.

 

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At train shows one or more of the vendors will
have a multi gauge loco test track set up. It is
usually 3 to 4 feet long, similar to what you propose.

For that short length, a single pair of wires from
your DCC controller to a mid point in the track
would be sufficient.

As suggested, including one or more turnouts can
add more interest to your facility. As a matter of
fact, some of our members have built small switching
layouts not much larger than 4 feet long. You might
find that one of those layouts will fit in your apartment
and will let you enjoy your new locos.

Don
 
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