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Johnson Bar Jeff

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« Reply #15 on: June 02, 2009, 12:35:37 PM »

Heh. For me, not only would DCC have to be made easy. It would have to be made downright idiot-proof. ...  Cheesy
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Yampa Bob

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« Reply #16 on: June 02, 2009, 05:27:01 PM »

The manuals list "features", not "benefits". Anyone who is in marketing or sales knows the difference, obviously the manufacturers haven't a clue.   

About a year ago, I bought one of the three mentioned (which shall remain nameless). I selected one locomotive equipped with a DH123 for a test project. After three weeks of reading, "programming" and lots of practice, I sent the thing back for refund.

Through it all, I never found a single benefit, no improvement over what I had with the default decoder settings and using my EZ Command.

I think the problems with the "advanced" controllers are poor user interface and practically useless instructions. Having a chart for the specific decoder, and a few pages of simple instructions for the controller would make it so much easier. But again, the controller with the most "features" wins.

I suggest that before investing in a higher end controller, ask yourself if the benefits derived will be worth the expense, steep learning curve and frustration.
« Last Edit: June 03, 2009, 08:08:36 AM by Yampa Bob » Logged

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Jim Banner

Enjoying electric model railroading since 1950.


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« Reply #17 on: June 02, 2009, 08:25:22 PM »

As Bob has said many times, he does not need more than a simple, basic system to run his trains on his railroad the way he chooses to run them.  I believe him and respect his choice.

However, not everybody's choices are the same as Bob's.  I don't know what the "usual" choices or the "average" choices are - I only know what my choices are.  Even so, it might be interesting to compare a few of those choices, and it might help explain why some of us want more than a simple, basic system.

Take locomotives for example.  Bob, if I remember correctly, runs trains with single locomotives on a flat layout.  He has no problems with compatibility because he does not run radically different locomotives in consists.  My layout is based on mountain railroading.  I need to double head, both to get my trains up the grades and to represent the trains I see in the mountains.  Now if I had a truck load of money, I could just go out and buy locomotives in lots of 2, 3 or 4, all the same kind, and expect that they would (mostly) run together as sets.  Failing that, I am using the locomotives I have slowly collected over 40 years or more.  Some run well together, most do not.  And with a simple, basic system, there would be nothing I could do about it.  Being able to adjust CVs allows me to program speed tables into my locomotives so that I can run any locomotive or consist of locomotives with any other locomotive or consist.  So running an A-B-B-A set of an Atlas, two Bachmanns and an Athearn (pun intended) works just fine for me.

I seem to remember Bob talking about running one or two trains at a time, most of the time.  And so do I, when I am railroading alone.  I enjoy having one train running interference while I switch another in the main yard.  The challenge is to make up/break up trains but still have the main line clear when the other train runs through.  However, the other way I enjoy running trains is with a group of friends.  To do that, I need a DCC system that will not only supply enough current for half a dozen or more double headed trains but can also handle enough throttles that each operator has a throttle.  Here it really helps that a number of my friends use the same system and can therefore bring their own throttles.  Most simple, basic system can be upgraded in terms of power, but not too many can be taken along to serve as throttles for a more complex system.

In addition to having enough power and enough throttles, I found I also needed enough power districts.  Here the problem is that all the operators, myself included, are human.  That means from time to time we will run a signal and short things out.  When the layout was run as one big block, a single short used to shut everybody down.  Then it would be a scramble trying to figure out where the short was and what had to be done about it.  Now that the layout is divided into districts, a short can shut down only a part of the layout - the rest keeps on operating.  This is a complication that Bob has avoided by sticking to one or two operators.

Bob has also managed to avoid the question of what to do with diesel headlights when you run locomotives in consists.  I don't believe I have ever seen consisted diesels in the real world running with lights on between units.  So I try to arrange my multi locomotive consists to run with only the forward most lights on, whichever direction the consist is running.  This is easy to arrange - if you can program CVs and choose Advanced (decoder based) Consisting.  Even with decoders that do not support Advanced Consisting, it is often possible to reprogram them for independent control of the reverse lights, if you can set the proper CVs.

Bob has also chosen to forgo the pleasures of BEMF control.  In my books, BEMF control is the ultimate when it comes to slow speed control.  And I am slowly working on equipping all my switch locomotive with it.  Just about any locomotive will let you bang cars together and tow them away.  But with BEMF control, you can back onto a car so slowly that you can watch the couplers open, slide into one another, and close.  I like to say that with BEMF control, you can back onto a caboose at lunch time and tow it away without spilling a drop of the conductor's soup.  But you need to be able to change CVs to turn BEMF control on.  The default is normally "off" so that it will not interfere when consisting locomotives.

By choosing to accept the manufacturer's default settings, Bob has chosen a low momentum setting, probably about right for the locomotive running light but way to quick for a heavy train.  This is not a bad choice - most of us ran that way in dc for years, simulating heavy trains by turning the throttle up and down more slowly.  That is a great way to let your audience see it as it should look.  But we ourselves miss out on the feeling that we are driving a heavy train, jamming it into notch 8 just to lift it out of the yard; applying brakes way before the station to get it stopped in time.  However, I am with Bob on this one, particularly at train shows.  I am the guy who gets so busy talking to the public that sooner or later one of my buddies is yelling at me to "stop your train! NOW!!"  At that point, I don't want the realism of driving my locomotive half way through his train just because I couldn't slow down fast enough.

These are the main things that Bob has chosen not to use.  As I said before, I respect his choices, even though they are not my choices.  As always, for both of us, Rule 1 will apply.  (Rule 1 - this is my railroad.  Rule 2 - in all cases of dispute or criticism, see rule 1.)

Jim   
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Pacific Northern


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« Reply #18 on: June 02, 2009, 09:59:15 PM »

To get back to the suggestion that a DCC information board be added to this site. I, myself,  think it is a great idea.

What does Mr. Bach Man think of the idea?
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Yampa Bob

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« Reply #19 on: June 02, 2009, 11:16:02 PM »

Jim has brought up some interesting points, however we're comparing apples to oranges, that is a small flat layout with one or two operators compared to a larger layout with inclines and a group of operators.

1.  Lighting control. Now this is one I will give Jim, if you read my thread "Directional Lighting" you will see that is one of my main concerns. If there could be one feature added to EZ Command, I would like the ability to control the headlight and taillight independently. However we can live without it.

2.  Flexible consists. I don't run radically different locomotives in consist, first because I don't need to as I have multiples of each type, and second because I don't see different locos being used on the real railroad. The coal trains here usually have six matching AC4400s. Most of my diesels are double headed, I just don't have room to pull a lot of cars. 

3.  BEMF.  Now this one puzzles me. Operating a backhoe and other heavy equipment for many years taught me "finesse" of controls. I can also back a loco into a car so slowly there is no jar. (unfortunately I can't see the knuckles moving)

4.  Multiple locomotives. I also run one train on the mainline while working cars in the yard, usually with an assistant using the Companion throttle.  "Park and run" without block control was our main incentive to go DCC. (Now if I could only get my wife to park "her" train on a siding when she is through running)  Angry

5.  Momentum. Again finesse with the throttle allows realistic starts and stops. There is a long section devoted to this feature in the manual, but the company was honest by adding the following note: "An easy steady hand on the throttle can also accomplish the above".

I welcome Jim's comments, model railroading runs the entire spectrum, and I want everyone to see both sides of the issue.  Each modeler needs to find his or her "niche" to determine controller needs and wants. 
« Last Edit: June 03, 2009, 08:13:13 AM by Yampa Bob » Logged

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Rule Number One: It's Our Railroad.  Rule Number Two: Refer to Rule Number One.
pdlethbridge
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« Reply #20 on: June 02, 2009, 11:55:14 PM »

This is a great topic and there is so much more to model railroading than running trains.  Pre built buildings vs kits, DCC vs Analog, steam vs diesel, plywood vs foam and the list goes on. Each topic, and there are so many more are all worth discussing on this board.
    One side topic to the ez command vs every one else is the use of other devices that are operated by DCC. This is the only area that I see as a limitation to a fine system. When you go beyond 10 addresses, your in trouble and I don't see how the ez command can conquer it.
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Yampa Bob

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« Reply #21 on: June 03, 2009, 01:38:46 AM »

Actually I only have 9 addresses, and that's plenty for our small layout. The benefit of running mostly diesels is that they look good, and realistic, running in consist.

We run two GP40, two GP35, two AC4400, and my favorite, a Rio Grande AB for the Yampa Valley Mail. That's eight locomotives using only 4 addresses.

Two Roundhouse vintage locos (my wife's favorites) for excursion lines, plus two switchers, one for each yard. I will be adding two SD70M this fall to complete our roster.
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pdlethbridge
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« Reply #22 on: June 03, 2009, 02:34:54 AM »

And if you have a DCC turntable and 15 DCC turnouts, what do you do then?
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Yampa Bob

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« Reply #23 on: June 03, 2009, 02:58:34 AM »

No, you have 15 DCC turnouts, all mine are remote at Phippsburg, and manual at Craig yard, just like the real thing. I enjoy playing switchman and "walking" the yard throwing switches.

I have abandoned the turntable idea for now, as we don't have them out here and with diesels they are not needed.

I run my trains for relaxation, the less thinking the better. Remember I have to run mostly by feel, not by sight.   Cool
« Last Edit: June 03, 2009, 08:15:19 AM by Yampa Bob » Logged

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Rule Number One: It's Our Railroad.  Rule Number Two: Refer to Rule Number One.
WGL
Great Northern


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« Reply #24 on: June 03, 2009, 03:42:21 AM »

 When I installed my first DCC decoder, the difference between that & my Bachmann DCC onboard locos was obvious:  sudden starts, accelerations & stops with frequent uncouplings vs. gradual starts, smooth acceleration & gradual stops with few uncouplings. 

 My locomotives with sound had it installed at the factory.  Intermountains' master volume can be changed manually with the included wand, but BLI locomotives must have volume adjusted by programming.  My Heavy Mikado's sound is so loud that it vibrates in the tender, despite my lining the inside of the tender with electrical tape.

 Much more could be done with DCC.  I wonder what other features members would like.  DC had some interesting features that might be brought to DCC.  I think it was Lionel that had a way of requiring the steam locomotive to stop periodically for water.  A passenger train would stop briefly at a depot & then resume its trip.
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jward


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« Reply #25 on: June 03, 2009, 09:41:51 AM »

wgl,
you asked about what other features i'd like to see in dcc.

they pretty much already have them all, they just need to be made more user friendly. here are my favoutires:

1, back emf. the ability to control locomotives at low speeds is great! it is no substitute for bob's easy hand on the throttle, but it sure does enhance it.

2. programmable momentum. my locomotives load up slowly just like the real ones.

3. speed matching. i can take radically different locomotives and program them with the same speed curves. this makes it easy to use helpers to push that heavy coal train up the mountain.

4. the ability to program locomotives to run long hood forward as was common with locomotives like gp9s and rs3s.

5. signalling. in dc days this is what seperated the men from the boys. adding signals was difficult because the signal circuits had to be custom designed and built. people kill me when they say block control wiring is difficult. try adding a signal system to a dc layout if you want to see a rats nest of wires....
at least one dcc manufacturer offers a plug and play signal system, using a bus that greatly simplifies the wiring, plus offering a computer interface as well.

some improvements i'd like to see would be decoders that were not as susceptable to dirty track. decoders that won't take off at full throttle when you power up the layout. (yeah i know, turn the analog off. but what if i want to run my locomotives on a friend's dc layout?) sound decoders that truly capture the feel of the real ones. there are a few outstanding ones, but most fall short, some missing the mark completely. if i'm going to spend $100 for sound it BETTER be right.



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Jeffery S Ward Sr
Pittsburgh, PA
Jim Banner

Enjoying electric model railroading since 1950.


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« Reply #26 on: June 04, 2009, 12:27:20 AM »

Bob, I don't mind if my layout is an apple and yours is an orange (or the other way around) as long as neither of us has a lemon.  Actually, that is a pretty good analogy of what I am trying to say - one of us can choose apples, the other can choose oranges, and PD can choose (insert fruit of choice here) and none of us are wrong.  The same with our layouts and how we use or do not use DCC.

Jeffrey said it well about BEMF control.  I didn't mean it replaced the steady hand but rather in many cases makes it effective.  I have a few old Atlas/Kato RS-3s that you can slowly turn up the throttle and they start so smooth you are never quite sure when they started.  But I have a lot more locomotives that start with a bit of a jump.  I don't mean like the old train set locomotives where you turned the throttle up slowly and the speed was zero, zero, zero, zero, then 30 smph with nothing in between.  I mean relatively good ones that start at 2 or 3 smph with kick start, 5 or 6 smph without.  (Kick start is usually on by default with most DCC on board locomotives.)

What I would like to achieve with switchers is that when I turn the throttle to 1% (of full throttle) the locomotive starts and runs at 1/2 smph, each time, every time.  And then I would like the locomotive to increase speed in 1/2 smph steps each time I advance the throttle another 1%.  By the time I get to 100% throttle, I would like the locomotive doing 50 smph, which is top speed for a lot of switchers.  Matching speeds to throttle settings is pretty straight forward with a speed table.  But it only works for speeds the locomotive is capable of running.  If a locomotive cannot run in that 0 to 3 or 0 to 5 smph speed range, no amount of careful throttle adjustment will make it do so.  But BEMF control can force it to run in that low speed range whether it wants to or not.

BEMF control is like having a super hand controlling the motor's power supply.  The super hand knows how fast you want the locomotive to go by where you have set your throttle.  If the locomotive is not doing the speed you want, the super hand instantly increases or decreases the power to the motor, forcing it to do the speed you want.  There are limitations - super hand cannot apply more than 100% power or less than zero power.  Super hand also has to deal with momentum, real physical momentum, not programmed momentum.  Super hand would work best without flywheels and with coreless motors, but we have flywheels and avoid coreless motors for other reasons.

BEMF control is often compared to cruise control, and in fact can be used that way as well.  But its use to allow full range low speed control is often an even more important use.

Jim
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pdlethbridge
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« Reply #27 on: June 04, 2009, 01:25:30 PM »

actually Jim, my layout is a banana, you keep the oranges and apples. Grin Grin Grin Grin Grin
What's easiest for Bob is the way he built and operates HIS layout. I do the same with mine. Bob apparently doesn't like bananas, but prefers oranges. That's fine with me. I prefer bananas on cereal over apples and oranges. Grin Grin Grin Grin Grin Grin Grin Grin Grin Grin Grin Grin Grin
« Last Edit: June 04, 2009, 01:30:37 PM by pdlethbridge » Logged
boomertom
Clinchfield/C&O modeler


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« Reply #28 on: June 04, 2009, 02:10:44 PM »

I have run with DCC systems ranging in complexity from simple (EZ-Command) to complex (Digitrax) with a midpoint thrown in (Prodigy Advanced).

From my experience as an operator, each system makes it easy to operate trains in a realistic manner. MRC and Digitrax are more walk around friendly than our EZ Command but that is subjective.

IF you wish to modify CV's and participate in a group as I do, you can always find someone to do this task - this mayactually be somewhat of a sub hobby interest in its self.

Would I like a more advanced system ? I can honestly say I don't know. For the Present, like Bob, the EZ Command fits my needs ( truthfully my old MRC Tech 2 and a few Atlas Selectors could do much of the same.

The most positive about this forum is the more technically inclined users of more advanced systems do not sneer at those of us using the EZ Command like some other DCC forums do.

Tom
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Tom Blair (TJBJRVT68)
Jim Banner

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« Reply #29 on: June 04, 2009, 02:58:34 PM »

Jeffery, your items 1-4 exist.  It is just a matter of setting the CVs.  Setting CVs is not very intuitive when you are dealing with the numbers, but programs like Decoder Pro make it much easier because of its use of plain language.  There are other programs for dealing with signals, including panel pro.

Two out of three of your wish list items are also available.  Lenz Gold decoders allow capacitor backup, battery backup and battery only operation as a way around dirty track.  At a train show two years ago, I did a demonstration of one of these decoders installed in a two axle large scale locomotive.  I used battery backup.  It was amazing, even to me, to see the locomotive start up, accelerate and decelerate, then do it all again in reverse, all the while running on a section of track that had the rails covered completely with electrical tape.  Even though I did this in large scale, the components were small enough to fit into a dummy B unit in H0.  With capacitor backup, the decoder and capacitor would fit in a powered unit.  I think these decoders would be more popular in small scales if space hogging sound systems weren't so popular.

Turning analogue operation on and off is a snap in programs like Decoder Pro.  It is so easy that can you simply turn it on before you go to your friend's house and turn it back off afterwards.  You don't have to know which CV to change or the values to put into it.  But I wouldn't go to Decoder Pro for this alone.  A postage stamp sized crib sheet can include all the information you need and can be stuck to the bottom of each locomotive.

The third item is being worked on.  The largest problem facing sound systems, particularly in diesels, is lack of room for a big enough speaker.  Reproduction of those low, growl notes of a diesel requires a big speaker.  There is no way around it.  But big speakers do not fit in our small locomotives.  Luckily, they will fit under our layouts.  This would not be much help except for an idiosyncrasy of our hearing system (outer ear, inner ear, and brain.)  Our hearing system can pinpoint quite accurately the source of high pitched sounds but has great difficulty locating the source of low pitched sounds, the very ones we can easily have emanating from under the layout.  For a small layout, one large speaker under the layout can handle all the low notes from all the locomotives while the high notes come directly from each locomotive.  For large layouts, multiple large speakers can be used, spaced out below the layout.  In this case, the low notes from any particular locomotive can be directed to the nearest speaker, where they combine with the low notes from any other nearby locomotive.  But here is the best part - the low notes from our particular locomotive do not suddenly jump from one of those under the table speaker to the next, they are cross faded from one to the other as the locomotive is moving.  Obviously this system requires three pieces of information from the locomotive - where it is, what direction it is moving, and how fast it is moving.  Direction and speed data are regularly broadcast by the railroad's command station.  The locomotives whereabouts is normally handled by transponding hardware, the same stuff that is used for signaling and other purposes already.

Nobody, least of all me, is going to claim that any of this is as easy as taking a DCC onboard locomotive out of its box, putting it on a DCC track, and operating it on address 03.  Nor is the hardware required inconsequential.  But anyone who has managed to install and program a mobile  decoder should be able to learn to install and set up any of this hardware.  It is just more of the same.  The hard part is usually the paying for it.

Again, it all comes down to choices, like Bob and I have been talking about.  But the choices are a little harder when it comes to a follow around sound system or a system of operating signals.  Each choice usually involves at least three questions:
- do I (we) want it?
-  can I (or the club) afford it?
- am I  (or the club) willing to commit the time and effort to learning how the system works, to learning how to adjust and program it, to installing it, to adjusting and programming it, and to maintaining it?
If the answer to any of these questions is "no" then don't do it.  It is not the choice for you.

Jim

Tom, I hope I have never given the impression that I sneer at E-Z Command or its advocates and users.  Fact is, I am both an advocate of E-Z Command and a user.  In this thread, Bob and I have both been talking about choices, why we make them, what the results are.  Neither of us has made any claims about right and wrong or claims that any one system is the best for everybody.  That would be the antithesis of our thinking.

Jim
« Last Edit: June 04, 2009, 03:07:02 PM by Jim Banner » Logged

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