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New Member

We are a small historical society in N. NH. We have a unique model RR (HO) within an old boxcar. System was built some 15 years ago or so. Big analog panel with some newer DCC controls and power packs in recent years.

We are having trouble figuring it all out, having no instructions, finding various problems and being told by some to go backward to DC and by others to rip it all out and go totally DCC. We need something that will be simple to operate and to maintain, for volunteers who may or may not have model RR or electronic experience.

I can email folks some pics and details on what we have. We'd welcome someone who could come and help us troubleshoot it and upgrade it. Any one out there near N. NH or who wants to come to the White Mts? We can arrange for a place to stay or perhaps motel costs. Volunteers welcomed..would pay if need be.

Reuben (to get to our current, modest website)


Beautiful little depot you have there. Our museum also has a small pike in a boxcar which is desperately in need of upgrades.
I guess the questions you need to ask are, how many trains do you plan to display as moving models at one time, would you like the ability to remotely operate the layout, how much interaction will the public have with the layout,( ie will they be allowed to control train functions in any way). If the answers are simple, such as only 1 train will be on display at a time, remote operations are not a concern, and the layout will be used as a toy by visiting children, then a basic dc system would be all that you require. However, should you decide that the layout needs to be either remotely operated or at least semi automated, will have multiple trains on display, and will be a display piece rather than a display toy for visitors, then a DCC system should be considered. The advantages to DCC are numerous as I'm sure you know, the biggest of which is ease of maintanance and reduction or elimination of alot of the spagetti bowl wiring under most dc layouts. Ultimately it comes down to how much time and money the museum is willing to invest in a display of this nature. Dc is cheaper but in this case sounds like it will be manpower intensive, while DCC is a bit more expensive, initially anyway, but far more manpower friendly.


Well-Known Member
I agree very largely with the previous responder.

1. You have a puzzle in power distribution.

2. No one is bouncing on his seat saying, "Oh, Oh....I know this one...give it to me. I'll have it done before school is out this year!"

3. You have some decisions to make about what the system is to do, and who should know it well enough to operate it reliably when it is needed to be operated.

I would very seriously recommend DCC and only then if you can find a couple of real keeners who will normally operate the system who would also be interested in learning how to use JMRI Decoder Pro. It is freeware, is all done through windows, and you can programme your decoders easily using files for each engine.

Even if Decoder Pro would have to wait, and isn't something you would like to tackle early, please don't discount it. For one thing, once someone does learn the system, he/she can run a tutorial for the rest of you, and your hobby/train running powers will improve as a group. It's a thought.

4. It is likely, on balance, that you will have to rip out some of the wiring in order to simplfy. DCC works best when the wiring is as simple as possible. The more relays, switches, and lengths of unneeded wire you force the signal-carrying voltage to run through, the worse the signal to noise ratio that is so important to success in DCC operations. I would certainly urge you to eliminate any blocking because, except for reverse loop management, you don't need blocks. All you need is a bus capable of delivering robust voltage to the various necessarily segregated power districts, or to far reaches of a larger layout, and then feeders from the bus up to the rails.

5. If the wiring is otherwise sound this day, then the easiest solution is to make sure all selectors or toggles are closed to allow power past them and just hook up a DCC system of about 5 amps to where the leads connect to your power supply at present. (For any reversing sections that would short by doing this, you will need power reversing modules. Tony's Train Exchange sells their PSX-AR, a superior product, but they go for about $70.)

6. Someone knowledgable will have to study the track plan, bird's eye view, and look for places where shorts might occur when a train runs a given segment of rails. Posting a diagramme of the track plan would help us to help you if you need it.



Fleeing from Al
Not much to add except that trying to run a DC and DCC layout together is generally a nightmare. I'm assuming that the layout is run by volunteers and the general public doen't have any access to the controls. If this is the case, moving to all DCC is the best solution, especially since you have no documentation of how the wiring was done. As Crandell said, the wiring, if it's in good shape, can simply be left in place with all the toggle switches in position to provide power to all the tracks. You'll probably have to go over the layout with someone at the panel and someone with an ohmeter to determine what each switch does and the correct postion to leave it in to power the tracks. Document all this as you go along so the poor saps coming after you don't have to do it all over again. :) Once you know you have power to all the tracks, it's just a matter of hooking up the right size DCC power supply and controller. You've already been given an outline of how to determine that. I'd be happy to stop by and help out but New Hampshire, while lovely, is a little far from Alabama. :D Oh, one last thought - are there any model railroad clubs within a 50 mile radius? If so, you may very well find the expert you need there.


Active Member
There are actually a few excellent clubs in Mass. Like UP2CSX said, nothing wrong with contacting them and asking for some help.


New Member

Hey guys..thanks for all the suggestions.

We will chew on them all and figure out a course of action. Being relative rookies, we would feel more comfortable getting someone who knows old and new systems inside out who can assess what we have and help us move to a more simple and less maintenance system.

I may be back at you all with some additional questions soon.

Thanks again.

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