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1  Discussion Boards / General Discussion / Re: Insulated joint and gaps on: March 19, 2018, 09:55:35 AM
Yes, you can do that to allow you to control the spur power.  It is often done when the spur will be the place where an engine or lighted cars will sit for a long time without being used, such as a enginehouse track or a passenger car yard.

Just recognize that there are a lot of historical implications for the words "block" and "power district" that don't really apply to that situation.  For example, it the days of DC, "blocks" were intended to allow operation of locomotives independently of each other by putting them in different blocks.  So, the voltage and polarity of the tracks was set-up to be controlled independently in each block to control locomotive speed and direction.  With DCC, that type of track parameter control is not necessary to control locomotives independently, so it is not used for different isolated sections of track.

Another aspect of electric supply to a block is whether it has a circuit breaker that is set up to control just that block (or maybe a group of blocks that is not the whole layout).  If so, then that block is a "power district."  A short circuit in a power district causes all of the locomotives in that district to stop, but the locos in other districts (with their own circuit breakers) will keep running.

One place where you do need to control the power to a block is on a "reversing loop", where the track configuration makes a locomotive end-up going in the opposite direction on the same track (loop or wye).  In that case, there will be some point along each of the rails where the DCC power phase (or polarity for DC) will need to change, at an electrically isolated rail joint or gap.  If you do not have at least one isolated joint in each rail of a reversing loop, you will get an immediate short circuit as soon as power is supplied to the track.  But, you really need two gaps in each rail for a reversing loop to work, because a locomotive picks up power with more than one wheel on each rail. So, whenever the locomotive crosses an insulated gap, it will be picking up current from both sides of the joint at the same time.  If the polarity/phase are not the same on both sides of the gap when the locomotive crosses it, there will be a short circuit.  So, the trick is to have two gaps in the rails of a reversing loop that isolates a section of the rails that is longer than your train, or at least the part(s) of your train that pick-up electric power.  The isolated section needs to have a double-pole-double-throw switch set-up to reverse the polarity on that section when it is thrown.  That way, it can be set to have the rails match phase as the train enters one side of the reversing section, and, then while the train is in that section, the phase is reversed with the dpdt switch so that the phase also matches when the train leaves.  That can be done with a manual switch, or, these days, there are special circuit breakers that will reverse the polarity of the rails instantaneously to clear a short circuit (and, if that doesn't clear the short, it then acts like a regular circuit breaker and cuts-off power to the rails).  The track plan posted by the OP in a companion thread does not include a track configuration than makes a reversing loop, so this part of my reply is for others, or for the OP at some later time when he decides to make a more complicated layout.
2  Discussion Boards / General Discussion / Re: 2 EZ Commands? on: March 18, 2018, 10:41:26 AM
Direct radio control of locomotives, whether by Bluetooth (which piggy-backs on the technological developments driven by cell phones) or stand-alone radio systems (which are more expensive), require electronics in each locomotive that are not common on the market, today.

While it is true that there are commercial sources for add-on electronic boards to make a regular locomotive work with direct Bluetooth control, that is not something that a beginner in the hobby is typically ready to tackle.  It is similar to the more usual situation of a beginner with a DC locomotive that wants to make it a DCC locomotive by rewiring things and adding the necessary electronics.  For large scale models like S, O, G and larger, there is plenty of room to add things inside, and the parts are large enough to be robust against ham-handed beginners' skills.  With HO, there is usually enough room, but things are getting more fragile and easily broken.  For N, there is often simply not enough room, and there is often breakage of both model details and mechanism unless the hobbyist is both knowledgeable and skilled.  

So, a beginner who wants to run his locomotives via Bluetooth control is limited to what is available with that technology already installed, which is not many at this time.  And, many folks just don't like the interface that a cell phone screen provides for a locomotive throttle, compared to the regular DCC throttles that have real knobs and buttons.  The cell phone interface seems to make the "engineer" spend more time looking at his cell phone than his train, because there is no tactile feedback and it is easy to click on the wrong pseudo-button if you are not looking at the screen.  Some companies are starting to develop dedicated model railroad throttles that have knobs and buttons and use Bluetooth, but those are not cheap or fully developed at this point.  Bluetooth may be the main-stream system in the future, but, for now, it is pretty limiting for a beginner, especially in small scales.

As for running a locomotive on battery power, that too is a technology that works in large scale models but not is small scales.  In theory, it eliminates the whole job of wiring track for power and keeping wheels clean for electrical contacts.  It would stop stalling due to loss of electric contact to the motor.  On the other hand, it will require repeated recharging of the batteries, which may become a nuisance during realistic operating sessions.  And, there is also the problem of Lithium-Ion batteries that can catch fire.

So, from a beginner's standpoint, the choice is really whether to buy just whatever locomotives are available with Bluetooth to run separately from the DCC loco's EZ Command system by using  cell phones as throttles, or to buy a better DCC command station and additional throttles that connect to it.

Remember, the EZ Command DCC set-up can already run multiple trains at the same time, as I described before,  BUT, it is inconvenient to do it that way because there is really only one throttle that is integral with the command station, and you must keep switching that between locomotives to control changes for one at a time while all are running.  Using Bluetooth control does not change that if you are using only one cell phone for a throttle.  

And things might get really complicated if that cell phone is also still your telephone and calendar, and, while running one or more trains, you get a telephone call, a calendar reminder, or even an OS upgrade.  So, most folks use old, deactivated cell phones for their Bluetooth throttles if they are really into that part of the hobby.  For just running any old train around a circle, none of that is much concern, but the OP of this thread seems to be thinking beyond that.
3  Discussion Boards / General Discussion / Re: 2 EZ Commands? on: March 17, 2018, 07:53:30 PM
(I don't have any of these and have no interest in getting any, so I am no expert - somebody should correct me if I am wrong on this.)  I think the EZ App from Bachmann requires a "decoder" in each loco that is made to receive Bluetooth radio frequency signals through the air instead of DCC signals through the rails.  That is different from other apps that require a Bluetooth receiver that connects to a command station, so that you can use your cell phone as a throttle to control any DCC equipped loco.  So, your EZ App can only control the locos that Bachmann provides with these particular Bluetooth decoders, not other locos from other manufacturers or even other Bachmann locos that have regular DCC decoders. 

Other manufacturers that make more sophisticated DCC command stations that have radio control (add-on) features are also now working on adding Bluetooth control add-ons that essentially mimic their regular radio control systems, except that you can use cell phones as throttles instead of having to buy radio-equipped throttles that are particular to the manufacturer's radio control system.  Those are a lot more versatile than the Bachmann EZ App and the locos specific to it.
4  Discussion Boards / General Discussion / Re: Insulated joint and gaps on: March 17, 2018, 07:36:27 PM
First, "gaps" are just one type of "insulated joint" so far as track wiring is concerned.  You are right that plastic rail joiners are true "insulated joints."  They both join the rails together physically and isolate them electrically.  By design, they actually prevent the rails from moving together by putting a thin plastic material between the rails.  They are most commonly used with sectional track as the sections are joined together.

On the other hand, "gaps" are more commonly used with long pieces of "flex track" that is laid (instead of many pre-formed sections of track) and cut to fit.  Gaps are usually just that, cuts in the rails wherever an electrical isolation is needed.  But, layouts have a tendency to expand and contract as the temperature and humidity change, so rails tend to slide a bit, and can close a gap that is not filled with an insulator, causing short circuits.  So, many people put a bit of plastic in the gaps they cut and then file it to the shape of the rails so that it is not noticed.

Switch (turnout) frog isolation is a lot more difficult to explain because there are so many different types of construction on the market.  Basically, there are the pre-DCC designs that often just use plastic frogs with the conducting rails coming very close together so that electrical contact with wheels is not lost for very far.  They were fine when used with DC power, even though the often created short-duration short circuits as extra-wide metal wheels passed over them, because DC power systems are not so sensitive to shorts as are DCC power systems. The Atlas code 80 turnouts are one example of this type of construction.  Turnouts designed for DCC have frogs that are either larger plastic sections that keep the out-of-phase rails farther apart, or frogs that are made out of metal and electrically isolated from both rails.  The idea with the isolated metal frogs is that they can be set up to be provided with the proper phase of power with an electrical switch that works in conjunction with the movement of the turnout. This allows locos to go through the turnouts very slowly without stalling for lack of power at any point. There are some sectional track products like Kato that have this already set-up for you, and others like Atlas code 55 track where there are just attachment points for you to use to electrically power the frog with a wire that you need to connect to an electrical switch that you provide and set-up yourself.
5  Discussion Boards / General Discussion / Re: bus wiring on: March 16, 2018, 03:18:23 PM
First, what you seem to have there is only one block, because you have not indicated any insulated rail joints (or gaps) that make one section of the railroad electrically isolated from other part(s).  That is OK for a small layout.  If you want to make the inner loop and outer loop separate "blocks", you would do that with a separate bus to feed each loop and put "gaps" in the two crossovers to electrically separate the rails in the inner loop from the rails in the outer loop.

Typically, for DCC layouts, people do that only so that they can put separate circuit breakers on each block, so that a short in one block only stops the train(s) in that block, while the trains in other blocks continue to run.  But, with a low-power command station, the circuit breaker for the command station is usually set lower than the lowest separate DCC circuit breaker on the market, so that would be kind of a waste for your consideration, right now.

As for the ends of the bus(es), it really doesn't matter on a small layout.  For large layouts, the longer wiring on the buses can start to distort the DCC signals and mess-up train control (all over the layout, not just at the ends of the buses).  So, there are "snubbers" that are really just a capacitor and a resistor (of the proper values) connected in series across the wires for the two tracks, which basically absorb the DCC commands so that they don't reflect back along the wires from the ends. 

But, what you have drawn will work fine as one block that can control multiple trains running on any loop(s), using one command station.  If you want to have 2 or more people independently controlling 2 or more trains at the same time, you need to use a command station that can connect with multiple throttles, but you don't need multiple blocks (like you would need if it was a DC layout instead of a DCC layout).
6  Discussion Boards / General Discussion / Re: 2 EZ Commands? on: March 16, 2018, 10:29:21 AM
What you are asking seems to be a little different than what you really mean.  So, let's be careful to be clear so that you don't make an expensive mistake.  

Obviously two people could set up two entirely separate loops with two Easy Commands and run a train on each one totally independent of the other.  That is true even if the two loops are set up with one totally inside the other.

But, it sounds like you really want the two loops to be connected somewhere, so that the train on one can go to the other loop.  That is where you would cause trouble.  One problem is that the electrical pickups on the locomotive wheels would be picking up power from both command stations at the same time as it crosses the gap from one loop to the other.  A problem like a short at that point might be able to double the voltage through your loco because the two power systems are not bonded electrically.  And, they might feed double the current through the short.

Another potential problem is that the control signals to the train would be coming from one command station, then both, then the other, as the locomotive changes loops.  Unless the two command stations were sending the same signals to that loco's address, the loco may get "confused".  I am not sure what the Bachmann DCC command station logic is like, but command stations that comply with NMRA standards will also "get confused" when two are connected together on the same rails, which is what the loco will do when changing loops if each loop is on a different command station.

You probably already realize that the Easy Command can run more than one train at a time, so that you could power both loops with one Easy Command and run two trains independently at the same time. Except that the Easy Command can only send signals to change speed, direction, lights, etc. to one loco address at a time.  I did that for years under a Christmas tree - running two locos with one Easy Command.  When I had only one loop, both locos were on the same loop, and I just kept switching the Easy Command between addresses to control the speeds so they became matched and neither train caught up to the other.  That can be difficult, because there is a problem unless you keep track of where the speed dial is set for both trains and switch to a vacant address between switching to the other locomotive so that you can reset the speed dial to where you left it for the other train without affecting the one you are switching from.

And, of course, with 2 loops, it does not matter if the trains are running at different speeds or the same speed, so you could even use the same loco address for both with one Easy Command, so that they would both start and stop, etc. together.

But, what it sounds like you really want is two throttles that can drive two locos independently anywhere on the whole layout.  To do that, you need a different DCC system that has a single command station that can use multiple throttles.  You can only have one command station hooked to the layout, but command stations like those made by NCE and Digitrax (and others) can take inputs from multiple throttles and send them out to multiple locos in a coordinated manner at the same time.  

If you are serious about the hobby, getting one of the main-stream command stations is a good next step.  It would give you much more control of your locos, both in where they can run and how independently you can control them, plus, you would have better control of functions like sounds, lighting and grouping multiple locos to run together in single trains with one controller (called "consisting" or "MUing").
7  Discussion Boards / N / Re: B&O EM1 tender trucks on: March 05, 2018, 09:05:28 PM
Yardmaster, I see that you deleted my post when you finally replied to Inkaneer.  That deleted my instructions to him (and others) on how to sign-up for notification if and when the parts he needs become available.  You should provide those instructions in a follow-up post if you must delete my posts.

The fact is that Bachmann's parts are highly sought after, both the detail parts and the mechanical parts like all-wheel, low-friction, electrical-pickup trucks.  When they are offered on the parts catalog website, they tend to sell out fast because they are not being bought just by people who want them to repair Bachmann locomotives, but also by people who want to use them to either "kit-bash" Bachmann products into models that Bachmann does not sell, or to use them with non-Bachmann products to improve those other things.

I think that Bachmann should take this as a compliment, and try to actually support that parts market.  It would not only increase Bachmann's sales, it would expand the whole hobby and put Bachmann in a leadership position, plus provide for more reliable application of Bachmann's "lifetime warranty" to actually repair damaged locos instead of just replacing them with current locos of a different type that the owner may not really want.

8  Discussion Boards / General Discussion / Re: “Frog” in turnout on: March 05, 2018, 11:25:24 AM
They even make fishplates for N scale.  But, they can't be sale thickness. So, putting them on the insides of the rails may cause derailments.  (Putting them anywhere may cause mental issues in this scale.)
9  Discussion Boards / General Discussion / Re: “Frog” in turnout on: February 19, 2018, 08:09:00 PM
If it had been named in more recent times, when acronyms were in-vogue, maybe it would have been called a TOAD, for Train On Another Direction.  A doubt very many of the acronym guys ever saw the bottom of a horse's foot.
10  Discussion Boards / N / Re: ballasting n gauge on: February 18, 2018, 09:18:21 AM
I assume you are using Woodland Scenic ballast, which is really walnut shells that have been ground-up and painted.  So, they float on water.  That tends to make the glue application change the shape of the loose ballast that you carefully created with a brush.  Using a mister to wet the ballast might help avoid floating the ballast, if you can figure out now much misting is enough and how much will cause float.

Another possibility is to use heavier ballast materia, such as Arizona Rock and Mineral, which is actually rock that has been ground-up.  However, loose particles of that are much more detrimental to locomotive gears if they get picked-up.  And, some of those particles are magnetic, so it is easier to pick them up with steel parts on the locos.  If you do use the rock ballast, you still need to use "wet" water, because just the surface tension on those small rock particles is enough to float them on regular water.
11  Discussion Boards / General Discussion / Re: Compatibility of Bachman Speed Controller to Foreign N Scale Engine on: February 07, 2018, 11:27:05 AM
Many of the previous replys are making more confusion than clarity.

"N gauge" is 9 mm, and track all over the world is all 9 mm for N gauge.  But, real railroads in different parts of the world have different track gauges.  So, when somebody scales-down their trains, buildings, people figures, etc. by the ratio of real track gauge to 9mm, they get slightly different numbers.  That means that "N scale" is different between different countries that have different real railroad track gauges.

But none of that applies to the OP's question.  What he wants to know is whether he can use a U.S. version of a Bachmann electrical power supply to run a train made in Germany, and use Bachmann track.

For the track, the answer is probably "yes".  The gauge of the track and wheels should be the same 9mm.  But, I said "probably" because there are some differences in wheel flange size and the spacing between running rails and guard rails on switches that differ between manufacturers in the various countries, and those sometimes cause problems with trains derailing.  The best way to know the answer is to ask a very specific question that provides the actual foreign N scale engine to see if anybody here has tried that combination, already.

As for the power pack, basically, 12 volts DC is 12 volts DC, but not all Bachmann controllers are actually set at 12 volts.  (For example, I have a basic Bachmann DCC unit that really provides 18 volts, but I use it to run N scale equipment that is supposed to see no more than 14 volts.  My Bachmann DCC engines have survived my early use of that controller.  But, I also have some other manufacturers' locomotives that are not supposed to be exposed to more than 16 volts, so I ended-up getting a better controller from NCE.)  That is more a problem with Digital Command Control (DCC) units with internal electronincs than it is with simple direct current (DC) units, where the motors just see the voltage on the rails, and that is varied from 0 volts to whatever makes the train go fast enough.  However, now that many locomotives are "dual mode" (that is, able to run on DC or DCC), it might still be an issue if the locomotive is dual mode and is used on a DC controller that goes over the voltage rating of its internal electronics.  So, if the OP's foreign locomtive is purely DC, with no internal electronics, he is probably safe using any Bachmann controller.  But, if it is a "dual  mode" locomotive, then he probably should actually measure the output of the controller he wants to use to be sure that it is not too high.
12  Discussion Boards / N / Re: What is the status of the new 2-8-0s with dcc and sound? on: January 18, 2018, 01:29:57 PM
Well, I see these are listed in the Micro Mark "Winter 2018" catalog.  But, nowhere else, yet, so probably still not available. 

It would be nice if the Bachmann folks would at least tell us here on their own forum what the current schedule looks like. 
13  Discussion Boards / General Discussion / Re: DCC Locomotive on Dc Track on: January 07, 2018, 08:16:43 PM
The "half-speed" in the newer loco is compared to "full speed" in an old 1970s loco, which typically has an unrealistically high maximum speed.  So, perhaps a lot of what you are seeing as "slowness" is really a change in how the newer  locomotives are being manufactured to run at more realistic speeds.

To put matters into an objective framework, can you measure (or calculate) the length of the loop you are running the locomotive on and time it for a lap using a stopwatch (or smart phone app)?  And tell us what scale the locomotive is.  That way, we can calculate the scale miles per hour, and see if there is a real problem.
14  Discussion Boards / General Discussion / Re: Warning labels on: December 16, 2017, 12:21:35 PM
I suspect that this thread could easily get too political for this forum.

Before it does, I just want to say that this is clearly a case of "crying wolf" to the point that no informed consumer pays any attention to such warnings because everything has a warning and (almost?) none of them are really inportant to personal health or safety.  It has simply become a way for lawyers to make a system that is for the benefit of lawyers to exploit.

I believe that there is actually NO product available anywhere in the world that does not contain at least some miniscule quantity of some substance that is associated with cancer or reproductive issues.  That even includes pure water, which naturally contains tiny traces of Tritium, the radioactive form of hydrogen.  And, ionizing radiation has been proven to cause both cancer and reproductive mutation.

So, without regulations that specify allowable minimums and allowable containment measures that do not invoke warnings, these requirements are absolutely useless to anybody but the predatory lawyers who prey on legitimate business people for "bounty" fines.

15  Discussion Boards / General Discussion / Re: Warning labels on: December 15, 2017, 07:29:15 PM
Perhaps you can get a more definitive answer from somebody on the manufacturing side, BUT, if that label is one "requried" by the "State of California", then it is pretty much meaningless.  To sell things in California, a label must be added if the product contains anything that California has decided a person should not eat nor inhale, even if the product contains that material in some manner that makes it all but impossible to be either eaten or inhaled.

On the other hand, I have not noticed any of those labels saying anything about generating dust that may contain lead, so maybe this is not one of those silly California warnings?  Or, did they just get sillier?

Does anybody have a real answer?
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