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Author Topic: Bachman EZ Command switches versus Atlas  (Read 6589 times)
Vermonter

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« on: January 17, 2010, 10:59:27 AM »

Does anyone know how the two types of switches work together? Will I need a separate power pack to run the Atlas switch machines? I think they use AC current. But, not sure what the EZ command switches use, AC or DC?
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jward


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« Reply #1 on: January 17, 2010, 01:24:41 PM »

it is a common misconception that atlas and other twin coil type switch motors need ac. they will work on either ac or dc. in fact, if you use dc, you can hook them up to a capacitor discharge circuit that will prevent the motors from burning up if you press the button too long.
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Jeffery S Ward Sr
Pittsburgh, PA
Vermonter

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« Reply #2 on: January 17, 2010, 01:46:46 PM »

JWARD, thanks for a quick response and sorry for the delay in responding (was at church). Can I go a little bit deeper, please. So, let's say I have JUST the power pack that comes with the BACHMANN EZ Commander Sets. (in N scale). You're saying I can wire the switches to the one and only output terminals that the power pack has? Wouldn't that tend to reduce power going to the track? The plan I am anticipating putting together has approx 10 switches. BTW, we can go offline to email if you prefer?

Thanks, Ron
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ABC
Guest
« Reply #3 on: January 17, 2010, 02:07:23 PM »

Well, if you are planning on running multiple engines, then on top of that potentially throwing some switches concurrent with each other then you would be better off buying a cheap power source for your turnouts.
Also I am confused by this statement:
Quote
I have JUST the power pack that comes with the BACHMANN EZ Commander Sets. (in N scale).
The controller that comes with the Digital Commander sets is the E-Z Command DCC system, and is not offered in N scale. Also are you referring to standard turnouts as "EZ Command switches" or DCC equipped turnouts.
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jward


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« Reply #4 on: January 17, 2010, 02:15:59 PM »

to be honest, i am not that familiar with the ez command as i don't have one myself. jim banner would probably be able to answer better than i can.

that said, twin coil switch motors only have a momentary duty cycle. that is, they are only energized when they are being thrown. they do take alot of current for a split second though, and you might find that objectionable. i had them wired into a dc power pack on a dc layout for many years without problems, but dcc is different and much more finicky.

i would think having a capacitor discharge circuit would rob power at a lesser rate for as long as it takes to charge the capacitor, but when throwing the switches you wouldn't notice the current drain as it isn't coming from the power supply, but rather the capacitor being discharged.

like i said, jim is the resident electronics expert, and if he tells you something different than what i say, i'd go with his advice.....
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Jeffery S Ward Sr
Pittsburgh, PA
Jim Banner

Enjoying electric model railroading since 1950.


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« Reply #5 on: January 17, 2010, 05:06:57 PM »

thanks, Jeffery, for the endorsement.

I think there is some confusion here between ac, dc and DCC and perhaps a misunderstanding of just where E-Z Command fits in.

Alternating Current, or ac, constantly reverses its direction of flow.  The 60 Hertz power that comes out of a wall outlet changes direction 120 times every second.  The advantage of ac is that it is simple to use a transformer  to increase the voltage for less loss when power is sent over long distances and to decrease the voltage to a safe level for final use.  In the case of our model trains, that safe level is usually between 12 volts ac and 16 volts ac.  AC power can be used to light lights, throw switch machines and run ac motors.  If you run ac through some electronic components known as rectifiers, you can change it into Direct Current, or dc, which always flows in the same direction.  DC is very useful for running dc motors because dc motors will run in one direction with the current applied in one direction, but if you reverse the direction of the current, the direction of the motor will also reverse.  Additionally, if you vary the voltage, which is the amount of force or push the current gives, you can also control the speed of the motor.  This is just what we need for running trains forward or backward at different speeds.  With a hand full of electronics components, we can take the safe ac voltage from a transformer, rectify it into dc, then control the voltage and the direction of the dc for running trains.  These controllers are generally called "power packs" and are differ from the transformers used to control old Lionel and MARX trains by the inclusion of the various electronic components.   

To get the dc power to our trains, we feed it to the rails, one connection to each rail.  Then, in the locomotive, the motor is connected to the rails via the wheels.  More voltage on the rails means more voltage to the motor which means the locomotive goes faster.  If we reverse the connections to the rails and apply an increasing voltage, the locomotive again goes faster, but in reverse.  If we put two or more locomotives on the track, they all pick up power from the rails and they all go faster or they all go slower or they all go in reverse, all at the same time.  Usually, though, we don't want all our trains playing copy cat with one another.

This is where Digital Command Control comes in.  DCC is a special form of ac that is connected to the track all the time.  It gives a constant ac voltage to all the locomotives on the tracks, so we need to do something different than just change the voltage to control their speeds.  And the ac is constantly reversing direction so we cannot use that to control locomotive direction.  So how can we control the locomotives?  Along with sending power along the tracks, DCC can also carry messages, usually referred to as "commands."  That information has a lot in common with email sent over the internet.  Like email, it can be sent to any one of a large number of addresses.  And like email, all the other addresses ignore commands not addressed to them.  In the case of DCC, the commands can tell the locomotive to speed up, slow down, switch to reverse, turn on or turn off any of many functions like lights and sounds,  and even how to interpret various commands.  All this control information and decoding of commands occurs in a tiny electronic package called a decoder that sits inside the locomotive.  These decoders, some of them smaller than a dime, have roughly the electronic functionality of a programmable calculator, which is pretty amazing when some of them cost less than $20.

To generate the commands that let the decoder know what we want to have happen, a "command station" is used.  when we operate our trains, we tell the command station what we want a particular locomotive or even a group of locomotives  to do and the command station  translates that information into digital bytes addressed to the particular locomotive(s).  We tell the command station what we want by adjusting the controls on a "throttle."  A throttle typically includes a speed control, a direction control, a series of push buttons for function control, and some means of selecting what address (locomotive) we want our information sent to.

There is one more piece of equipment needed to make it all work and that is a booster to raise the DCC signal, including the digital commands from the command station, up to a power level that can run our trains, their lights, and possibly their sound systems.  That is a "booster" which is rather like an audio amplifier except that it is designed to handle digital signals.  In a simple system like Bachmann's E-Z Command, the throttle, command station and a small booster are combined into one box which is sometimes referred to as a "digital commander."  Higher powered external boosters and extra throttles are also available.  As a quick review, this is how the information flows:

You >>> throttle >>> command station >>> internal booster >>> external booster (Maybe) >>> track >>> locomotive >>> decoder >>> motor, lights, etc.

If you are still with me, congratulations.  That is a bit more than I had originally intended to say.  But I told you that to tell you this:

Locomotives are not the only things that a command station can send commands to.  It is also possible to have decoders in or connected to lights, turn tables, signals and turnouts, to name a few.  Bachmann makes two types of turnouts ("track switches"), one that is operated by the application of either ac or dc power and the other operated by DCC commands via a decoder within the turnout.   For a DCC turnout, the information flow looks more like this:

You >>> throttle >>> command station >>> booster(s) >>> track >>> turnout >>> decoder >>> switch motor >>> turnout position.   

For regular turnouts, including Atlas turnouts, we do not need a DCC system to operate them.  We could operate them off the track output of a DCC command station or booster but that would take away power from any trains that were running.  If more than a few trains were running, they would all stop and the turnout would not throw because the locomotives plus the turnout(s) would draw more current than the booster inside the command station could produce.  A much better way of operating regular (non DCC) turnouts is to use ac or dc between 12 and 16 volts and rated for at least 1/2 amp.  This could be an extra power pack, an old Lionel/MARX transformer, or a "wall wart" power supply (looks like a fat plug on the end of a cord) rated anywhere from 12 to 20 volts and at least 1/2 amp or 500 milliamps.

Jim
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pdlethbridge
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« Reply #6 on: January 17, 2010, 05:34:35 PM »

An example of what things can be done with the electronics that are available today, I have a layout that's about 64 sq. ft. I use DCC exclusively to control everything on the layout. I normally only run 1 loco unless I use 2 as a consist to pull a longer freight. The DCC system allows me to choose the lead loco and which direction it would be running, lights, etc. and the second loco of the consist and which way it is facing or running. The controller I have (NCE Power Cab) lets me do even more than that.
The turntable has its own decoder and can be run from my hand held controller and the decoder is set so it can tun on and off the lights in the roundhouse. Each of my 11 atlas turnouts are controlled by the hand held too. I used  gadgets( ds-64) from digitrax that are self-powered and control up to 4 sets of turnouts each by capacitor discharge so I get a quick and powerful snap that won't burn out the solenoids. These special decoders can be set up for routing or cascade switching that lets you choose the route you want your train to go.
The add on for the layouts today are getting better and cheaper and are making model railroading with Bachmann products a blast
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ABC
Guest
« Reply #7 on: January 17, 2010, 06:17:29 PM »

Quote
These decoders, some of them smaller than a dime, have roughly the electronic functionality of a programmable calculator, which is pretty amazing when some of them cost less than $20.
Did you see the picture I posted?
[I'll look for it...hold on...here it is]

This is image is the property of Digitrax Incorporated, and I am not claiming it as my image.
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Vermonter

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« Reply #8 on: January 17, 2010, 09:33:05 PM »

To all, wow, this is what I like about these forums. One question, and it spawns several different view points.  Thanks to all of you; I've got a lot to digest.

Forgive me, but I mis spoke when I said the EZ Command switches. What I have is one of the EZ Track sets that Bachmann sells. I tend to confuse the power packs/systems. Is the electricity on those power packs AC or DC?
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ABC
Guest
« Reply #9 on: January 17, 2010, 10:10:55 PM »

Is the electricity on those power packs AC or DC?
The power to the rails is DC, and the terminals coming off for accessories are AC.
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Vermonter

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« Reply #10 on: January 21, 2010, 04:55:55 PM »

oK, FINAL question (bet you've never heard that one before)!! Anyhoo, So the accessory terminals are AC. Can you tell me the voltage? Really, what I want to do is mix a few of the Bachmann regular turnouts (meaning, NON DCC) and the Atlas brand turnouts since I have been able to find both versions on Ebay. And, of course, I need to know that they are compatible. I did call BACHMANN today and found out that their EZ Track Power Packs have their 2 AC accessary terminals in between the output to the track and the AC input from the wall. 
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pdlethbridge
Guest
« Reply #11 on: January 21, 2010, 07:54:09 PM »

They are normally 16 volts AC. As you only have them running a split second, they could run off the accessory terminals of your power pack.
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Neon Man

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« Reply #12 on: February 12, 2010, 09:52:35 AM »

thanks, Jeffery, for the endorsement.

I think there is some confusion here between ac, dc and DCC and perhaps a misunderstanding of just where E-Z Command fits in.

Alternating Current, or ac, constantly reverses its direction of flow.  The 60 Hertz power that comes out of a wall outlet changes direction 120 times every second.  The advantage of ac is that it is simple to use a transformer  to increase the voltage for less loss when power is sent over long distances and to decrease the voltage to a safe level for final use.  In the case of our model trains, that safe level is usually between 12 volts ac and 16 volts ac.  AC power can be used to light lights, throw switch machines and run ac motors.  If you run ac through some electronic components known as rectifiers, you can change it into Direct Current, or dc, which always flows in the same direction.  DC is very useful for running dc motors because dc motors will run in one direction with the current applied in one direction, but if you reverse the direction of the current, the direction of the motor will also reverse.  Additionally, if you vary the voltage, which is the amount of force or push the current gives, you can also control the speed of the motor.  This is just what we need for running trains forward or backward at different speeds.  With a hand full of electronics components, we can take the safe ac voltage from a transformer, rectify it into dc, then control the voltage and the direction of the dc for running trains.  These controllers are generally called "power packs" and are differ from the transformers used to control old Lionel and MARX trains by the inclusion of the various electronic components.   

To get the dc power to our trains, we feed it to the rails, one connection to each rail.  Then, in the locomotive, the motor is connected to the rails via the wheels.  More voltage on the rails means more voltage to the motor which means the locomotive goes faster.  If we reverse the connections to the rails and apply an increasing voltage, the locomotive again goes faster, but in reverse.  If we put two or more locomotives on the track, they all pick up power from the rails and they all go faster or they all go slower or they all go in reverse, all at the same time.  Usually, though, we don't want all our trains playing copy cat with one another.

This is where Digital Command Control comes in.  DCC is a special form of ac that is connected to the track all the time.  It gives a constant ac voltage to all the locomotives on the tracks, so we need to do something different than just change the voltage to control their speeds.  And the ac is constantly reversing direction so we cannot use that to control locomotive direction.  So how can we control the locomotives?  Along with sending power along the tracks, DCC can also carry messages, usually referred to as "commands."  That information has a lot in common with email sent over the internet.  Like email, it can be sent to any one of a large number of addresses.  And like email, all the other addresses ignore commands not addressed to them.  In the case of DCC, the commands can tell the locomotive to speed up, slow down, switch to reverse, turn on or turn off any of many functions like lights and sounds,  and even how to interpret various commands.  All this control information and decoding of commands occurs in a tiny electronic package called a decoder that sits inside the locomotive.  These decoders, some of them smaller than a dime, have roughly the electronic functionality of a programmable calculator, which is pretty amazing when some of them cost less than $20.

To generate the commands that let the decoder know what we want to have happen, a "command station" is used.  when we operate our trains, we tell the command station what we want a particular locomotive or even a group of locomotives  to do and the command station  translates that information into digital bytes addressed to the particular locomotive(s).  We tell the command station what we want by adjusting the controls on a "throttle."  A throttle typically includes a speed control, a direction control, a series of push buttons for function control, and some means of selecting what address (locomotive) we want our information sent to.

There is one more piece of equipment needed to make it all work and that is a booster to raise the DCC signal, including the digital commands from the command station, up to a power level that can run our trains, their lights, and possibly their sound systems.  That is a "booster" which is rather like an audio amplifier except that it is designed to handle digital signals.  In a simple system like Bachmann's E-Z Command, the throttle, command station and a small booster are combined into one box which is sometimes referred to as a "digital commander."  Higher powered external boosters and extra throttles are also available.  As a quick review, this is how the information flows:

You >>> throttle >>> command station >>> internal booster >>> external booster (Maybe) >>> track >>> locomotive >>> decoder >>> motor, lights, etc.

If you are still with me, congratulations.  That is a bit more than I had originally intended to say.  But I told you that to tell you this:

Locomotives are not the only things that a command station can send commands to.  It is also possible to have decoders in or connected to lights, turn tables, signals and turnouts, to name a few.  Bachmann makes two types of turnouts ("track switches"), one that is operated by the application of either ac or dc power and the other operated by DCC commands via a decoder within the turnout.   For a DCC turnout, the information flow looks more like this:

You >>> throttle >>> command station >>> booster(s) >>> track >>> turnout >>> decoder >>> switch motor >>> turnout position.   

For regular turnouts, including Atlas turnouts, we do not need a DCC system to operate them.  We could operate them off the track output of a DCC command station or booster but that would take away power from any trains that were running.  If more than a few trains were running, they would all stop and the turnout would not throw because the locomotives plus the turnout(s) would draw more current than the booster inside the command station could produce.  A much better way of operating regular (non DCC) turnouts is to use ac or dc between 12 and 16 volts and rated for at least 1/2 amp.  This could be an extra power pack, an old Lionel/MARX transformer, or a "wall wart" power supply (looks like a fat plug on the end of a cord) rated anywhere from 12 to 20 volts and at least 1/2 amp or 500 milliamps.

Jim



What an absolutely GREAT post!    Grin

It is excellent, and Bachmann should be proud of this man's knowledge and abilty to explain in understandable terms some of the workings of DCC!

I'm a 59 year old newbie finally getting started in N scale modeling and bought Bachmann's "Yard Boss" set.   I have the same sorts of questions about power routing switches, and that's how/why I stumbled in here.  Tongue

Anyway, I like my little "Yard Boss" 0-6-0 . . .  but of course want to expand it and advance to a DCC setup  (2'x4' coffee table layout), and I would like to use one manufacturer's track, locos, DCC systems, etc.

Bachmann seems OK to me, and once again, I appreciate Jim's knowledge and will be lurking around trying to pick up some more of it!


All best,
Joe
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"I've got my facts pretty clear . . . all I want now is to know what they all mean."
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