darticus;I guess the only way to control each train is with separate transformers. It just seems nuts to have 3 transformers or do they make transformers with 4 train controls in one transformer like years ago? Thanks Ron
Thanks for all that info. Most people have seen my little set up pics. It runs 3 trains on separate transformers and I'm thinking of a 4th trolley line with reversing. The possible 4 transformers take up almost as much room as the layout,LOL. Thanks again Rondarticus;
One transformer for each train is not mandatory. There are other ways to operate more than one train. First, there are two different "control systems" in common use today. The older technology is called DC control." (The letters "DC" stand for "Direct Current")
This is the traditional control system that goes back to the early days of model railroading. If you are controlling your trains with transformers, this (DC) is the system you have now. There are several ways to use DC control. It sounds like you are using the simplest setup. This consists of separate loops of track, each with its own transformer wired to it. One train runs on each loop, and the track of the various loops may, or may not, be connected by turnouts. If I recall your earlier posted track plan, your loops are connected, and a train can be run from one loop onto another by throwing the points of a pair of turnouts. When the train enters the new loop, it is also entering the "control zone" of the new loop's transformer. If two trains are in the same control zone then they are both controlled by the same transformer. You can't control them independently, as long as they occupy the same loop. Do I have this right?
If that is correct, then you can move on to the next step in DC control. It's called "Dual Cab Control" and uses two transformers. In dual cab control, the track will be divided (electrically by gaps cut in the rails) into several "Blocks." These blocks are simply shorter, and more numerous, versions of your present loops. Each block needs to be at least long enough to hold a train. On large layouts blocks can be much longer. Each block has wires going back to a central control panel. This is the same panel we talked about earlier. It would have a miniature diagram of all your layout's track on it. The rail cuts that insulate the various blocks from each other would be represented by breaks in the track lines on the diagram. Each block, on the diagram, would have an electric (toggle, slide, or rotary) switch mounted on the track line of that block. These switches would control which of the two transformers was connected to that block. Thus, you, and another operator, could each run a separate train anywhere on the layout by connecting the desired block to their transformer with the switch for that block. Using rotary switches, with multiple contact positions, it is possible to have more than two operators, running more than two trains. However each operator would still need his/her own transformer. That's about as far as you can go using DC control.
Cab control requires a lot of work. You need to cut all the rail gaps, build the control panel, mount a switch for each block, and do a lot of wiring. Dual cab control (and especially multi cab control) systems are really more suited to large layout with many long blocks. On your small layout, it wouldn't be much of an improvement over your present loops.
The other control system is called DCC (Digital Command Control.) This system eliminates the need for most rail cuts, a control panel, blocks, all those electrical switches, and all that wiring. One, single, DCC controller connects to the track with just two wires, and can control as many trains as you want. Any train can go anywhere on the layout without worrying about crossing into another loop's control zone, or operating any track power switches.
DCC works much like the control system for a radio controlled model airplane, car, or boat. The operator holds a transmitter and sends signals through the air, to a receiver inside the model. The receiver then controls what the model does. If there are several models operating at the same time and place, then different frequencies/codes are used for each individual model.
In DCC the signals are sent through the rails, from a DCC controller,("transmitter") to a DCC decoder ("receiver") inside each locomotive. Each locomotive's decoder reacts only to signals sent to that decoder. This means completely independent control of multiple locomotives, on the same track.
Sounds great, but there is a downside. You need to buy a decoder for each loco you are going to run, and one controller. Also unless there are Z-scale locomotives made with DCC decoders factory installed, (as there are in other scales) then you will need to install the decoders yourself. This involves some wiring and soldering of small parts inside a small locomotive. (or a steam locomotive's tender, or a dummy diesel loco.) Fortunately, there are DCC decoders made for Z-scale, available.
Well, there you have it. The ways to run several trains with (possibly) fewer transformers. By the way, in one DC wiring scheme, called "common rail", those transformers with more than one speed control knob in the same box; can cause short circuits. If you are staying with DC, and not using common rail, then you could get away with using one of those to reduce your transformer count.
Its on a shelf in front. Might have to do a bigger shelf. See Pic. Rondarticus;
From your photo, it looks like mounting the transformers on the front of your layout, (Or maybe on a sliding shelf underneath?) would free up some badly needed "real estate" on your layout.
Very good thoughts. this would save a transformer cost. Thanks RonIf you have a continuous running train you could
take a feed off it's power pack for your trolley since
it's control circuitry will automatically reverse the
polarity and direction of the car without disturbing the running
train. You may have to do some tinkering to get the
speed control right for the two but it's doable. The
2 locos won't come near overloading the power pack.
That could eliminate the need for the 4th power pack.
Another thought: A Z scale trolley will demand very
little current. You might find that a used wall wart putting
out around 6 or 7 volts DC or even less, would be sufficient to
power your trolley and it's reversing circuit. Again
you may have to tinker with the voltage to get the
trolley speed right. The advantage is the wall warts
can be very small and easily fit in the space you have.
If you don't have any laying around, the typical flea
market will have them with various voltage output.
Each has a label that describes it's output voltage and
whether AC or DC. You should find one for around 5.00