http://www.hotrak.ca experienced similar problems over the past 3 years and has worked out changes to the way we operate and how we put our command stations/ boosters together.
You are all being included in this e-mail as you each have expressed an interest in solutions to this problem. Ottawa Valley HOTRAK
In this e-mail, I will carry on with how we hook up the command station to the LocoNet and the Command Station to the boosters.
To connect the command station to the LocoNet, simply run a 6-wire cable from the command station into one point into the LocoNet.
***Connecting the Boosters to the Command Station***
To connect the command station to the boosters requires a modification in your wiring. We have found that, if the boosters are connected to the command station with 6-wire cable, the boosters will, at some point in time, start fighting with the command station for control. That is, a booster will think they are a command station and start sending out signals into the LocoNet. The command station fights back but you have signals which create epileptic fits in the system. his is particularly true if the boosters receive their signals via the LocoNet cabling that is installed in the modules. This will usually happen if the boosters are dispersed throughout the layout. It is very easy to plug a 6-wire cable into the nearest UP3/5 panel or RJ12 telco jack that is installed in the side of a module. So, the idea here is to connect the boosters directly to the command station. This, however, doesn't solve the fighting that goes on between the boosters and command station for control.
To make sure the boosters aren't fighting for control, you cut the wires for Pins 3 & 4 (red & green) that feed the boosters. You are relying on Pins 1 & 6 to provide commands to the boosters. It turns out that the signal on Pins 1 & 6 are an exact copy of the signal on Pins 3 & 4. The cables for your boosters should be fed from a central hub. That is, the cables are not daisy-chained from one booster to another. This means you will have to fabricate a special box with a feed coming into the box from the command station, and a number of cables coming out of the box which goes to each booster. Within the box, it is a simple matter of soldering each colored wired together (whites to whites, blacks to blacks, yellows to yellows, blues to blues). You don't solder the reds and the greens (pins 3 & 4).
This means that, if your boosters are dispersed throughout the layout, you will have to run this special cabling throughout your layout to each booster. If your boosters are centrally located, this isn't as much of a problem.
Now, before you go out and start constructing a special box to do this wiring, hang on until we get finished with this dissertation. There are more things you will want to stuff inside this box. But this will be in another e-mail.
***Throttle Power Sequencing***
This may be slightly off topic but it is an issue which we at HOTRAK followed when we first started to have problems. When these problems first arose, we thought it was because the batteries in our throttles were low. So, we regularly changed throttle batteries. It seemed to work for a while but then the problems arose - right in the middle of a major module rally that was opened to the model railroading fraternity. Talk about embarrassment and loss of credibility for DCC and our Club!. The problem is definitely not with the batteries in your throttles.
All a throttle battery does is
a) provide power to keep the display lit when the throttle is unplugged. It has nothing whatsoever to do with keeping track of any signals you have sent from the throttle to the command station. It is the command station and only the command station that keeps track of signals. If you remove the battery from the throttle, it will have no impact on signals sent from the throttle to the command station.
b) if you use infra-red, it will power the throttle to send infra-red signals to the UR90 receiver.
c) if you use radio, it will power the throttle to send radio signals to the UR91 receiver.
That's all a battery does.
The throttle receives its power for sending and receiving signals from the command station in the following sequence:
1) a UP3/5 panel if the UP3/5 panel is powered by a wallwart
2) a UP3/5 panel if the UP3/5 panel is connected to the track power bus (remember in a previous e-mail I said to make sure that your UP3/5 panels were connected either to a wallwart or to the track power bus. This is why.)
3) if the UP3/5 panel is unpowered, the throttle gets its power from Pins 1 & 6 in the LocoNet (the white and blue wires).
4) an RJ12 telco jack derives its power from Pins 1 & 6 in the LocoNet (the white and blue wires).
So, the bottom line is this. A battery in a throttle has nothing to do with powering the throttle. If you don't believe me, read your DT100, DT300, DT400, UT1, UT2, UT4 manuals and find a sentence which very clearly says that the battery powers the throttle for receiving and sending LocoNet signals.
Next e-mail we'll talk about power draw of the different types of throttles and why you probably started having problems when your members brought in those brand new DT300 and DT400 throttles.
PS - If you have any questions about anything so far, let me know.
Hello again. I hope you are still with me after sending you that last e-mail. These instructions were ones that were developed based upon how we set up our modules. I think you will be able to extract the key elements from these instructions and modify them to suit your purposes.
There are 3 key elements to remember here.
Decoders set so that analog is off.
Pins 3 & 4 (red & green) are not connected to the boosters (including reversers). Instructions for the boosters (including reversers) come from Pins 1 & 6).
Setting the OpsSwitches are most important!! There are a couple of settings that you will not find in any documentation. One of our members has a direct line into Digitrax and many of these switch settings are based on these discussions.
The sequence that the command station and the boosters are powered up is most important!! If you power them up out of sequence, you will end up with problems.
Finally, here is one of the major secrets for good LocoNet operation. It is still in its experimental stage so you assume all liability if you decide to use it. Ottawa Valley HOTRAK has been using this for the last 16 months with very excellent success.
***Powering Pins 1 & 6***
When we first experienced problems with the LocoNet, I sent out a number of questions to the Digitrax@Yahoogroups discussion forum looking for answers. Sad to say, I didn't get the response I was looking for. Most answers said to get rid of the RJ12 telco jacks and install UP3/5 panels. But they never explained why we should replace them. To replace all of the UP3/5 panels would have cost us a small fortune. we were looking at over 60 modules with 2 jacks per module or 120 UP3/5 panels at $25 - 30 each.
One of the best responses I got was from Rex Beistle who is on the forum. At the same time, we did some testing of voltage drops. One of our members brought out an oscilloscope and we measure LocoNet current and voltage. It was most interesting to see how the voltage hovered around that threshold 7 volts. WE also measured the power draw on different types of throttles. I don't have the numbers right at this moment but I will send them out later on. Here's what we found.
UT1 and DT100 throttles had the lowest current draw
DT300 and DT400 throttles were hogs.
Our problems started to happen as our membership increased from about 16 members to about 30 members. These new members were bringing out the newer DT300 and DT400 throttles. Power for Pins 1 & 6 comes directly from the DC side of the power supply that powers the command station. As more throttles are added to the LocoNet, the power continues to drop. When the power in Pins 1 & 6 drops below that threshold voltage of 7 volts, the command station goes into epileptic fits and locos start to run away. This may be caused by the throttles sending weak signals, which results in noise or erratic signals.
The command station tries to recover the situation but has difficulty doing so because these weak noise signals keep on coming. One solution is for everyone to unplug their throttles from the LocoNet so that signal transmission can settle down. It may take a bit of time for the command station to recover - if it does.
We then decided to disconnect Pins 1 & 6 from the Command Station that feeds into the modules. That is, Pins 1 & 6 of the LocoNet cable that goes from the Command Station into our modules was disconnected. Instead, we powered Pins 1 & 6 from a 12 volt regulated power supply. This meant that, regardless of the number of throttles plugged into UP3/5 panels or RJ12 telco jacks, the voltage on Pins 1 & 6 remained at a constant 12 volts DC.
Our problems disappeared.
In my next e-mail, I will share with you a schematic of how this internal LocoNet wiring has been arranged within our special power bar.
Hopefully, you are all still with me.
Let's just recap a bit. Again, I apologize if I have oversimplified things.
Track power buss is most important. Every mechanical connection can degrade the power getting to the tracks. Insufficient track power feeds can degrade the power getting to the tracks. Use the quarter test (in Canada, we use the loonie test) on every piece of track. If the coin doesn't trip the command station/ booster, you have problems.
Make sure that every decoder in every loco is set so that analog is off. A short in the tracks will cause this type of decoder to send out faulty signals.
Throttle batteries have no impact whatsoever on the functioning of a throttle - except to send infra-red signals or radio signals when the throttle isn't plugged into a UP3/5 panel or an RJ12 telco jack.
Throttle power comes from the following:
a UP3/5 panel that is connected to a wallwart
a UP3/5 panel that is connected to the track buss
LocoNet Pins 1 & 6 if the UP3/5 panel is not connected to a wallwart or the track buss
LocoNet Pins 1 & 6 if the throttle is plugged into an RJ12 telco jack.
I've already forwarded to you the OpsSwitch settings for the command station and the boosters. And I've indicated that, if all 6 wires are connected to the boosters from the command station, the command station and boosters will fight with each other as to who is controlling the DCC system. The solution is to disconnect Pins 3 & 4 (red & green) from the cables that feed the boosters.
At Ottawa Valley HOTRAK, we have developed a special "power bar" which incorporates the features which I have described and which I am going to describe. In addition to being a 110 volt power bar, it also contains a set of cables for the boosters, a cable which goes to the command station, and a cable which feeds into the module LocoNet. In due course, I will send you a schematic of what this LocoNet wiring looks like. In the meantime, try and visualize these instructions we use for setting up the command stations and LocoNet. I will send both the OpsSwitch instructions and the command station/booster setup instructions as separate MS Word documents. For the moment, here are the instructions.
Recognize that each command station/booster is mounted on a ½" piece of plywood with its own power supply, fan, and fuses.
Command Station Setup
1. As soon as track plan is finalized examine layout and determine how many Blocks are required and where Gaps should be.
· Wyes have natural gaps built into them.
· Yards should be isolated.
· Take into consideration locomotive density, switching complexity, known problematic modules and distance when creating a Block.
· Mark Gaps on diagram and label Blocks with numbers starting from the West loop to the East loop and then any remaining branches.
2. Pick a central location to set up master Command Station and Boosters.
· Command Station Shelf is 4’ long and fits best on a straight 4’ module.
· A good location is where there is limited people traffic and switching.
· Take into consideration the source and routing of Mains Power.
· Take into consideration the routing of Track Power from the Boosters to their Blocks.
· Track Power should be injected near the centre of a block when possible.
3. Determine resources required.
· Master Command Station should be a DCS100.
· The Master should not power any block.
· Reverse loops should be powered by DB100s only (we also use DB150s and DCS 100s).
· Add one extra station as backup (DCS100 preferred).
· Typical requirement, two DCS100’s, two DB100’s (for loops) and one of any Command Station/ Booster per block between Loops.
4. Request resources from owners by e-mail.
Setting Up The Power Bar
5. When modules are setup where there will be Gaps, place a label on the module where the gap is to show Joiner Track installation crews where to put in insulated rail joiners.
6. Retrieve from storage the Command Station Shelf and green Gym Bag containing wires, connectors and Club DB100.
· The Command Station Shelf has three components mounted below the shelf.
· There is a Power Bar, Power Supply and a LocoNet Splitter Box.
· The Power Bar is for Powering Command Stations and Boosters.
· The Power Supply supplies +15 VDC to Pins 1 and 6 of the LocoNet via the LocoNet Splitter Box.
· The LocoNet Splitter Box isolates the Slave Boosters from the LocoNet and replaces Rail Sync (pins 1 & 6) with +15 VDC.
7. Before installing shelf turn it over and release Power Cord, three LocoNet cables for Master and LocoNet and the seven LocoNet cables for the Boosters.
8. Sort out the number of Booster Cables required and bundle and store remainder (one for each loop and one for each block).
9. Clamp Command Station Shelf with Power Bar facing out to the back sides of legs with large clamps from Club supplies.
10. Do Not plug in Power Bar.
11. Place Master Command Station on the left end of shelf and line up Boosters to the right of it.
12. As each station is placed on the bar plug its Power Cord into the Power Bar (if units are properly grounded this reduces the potential for Static Discharge damage to the electronics).
13. If you have more Boosters than will fit on the shelf then clamp an End Plate across the legs at the left-hand end of the shelf and then clamp the excess Boosters to the End Plate.
14. When the majority of the modules are set up and in their final position you may proceed with stringing wire for track power.
· A Male connector is three pins and one socket. A Female connector is three sockets and one pin.
· There are sets of Adapter connectors with a female connector connected to a male and female connector.
· The Track Power cables are similar to extension cords, with a male connector on one end and a female on the other.
· There is one 100’ cable, two 50’ cables, a number of 25’ cables and a few shorter pieces (some cables may already have a male female combo on one end).
· When unrolling cables **** DO NOT DROP LOOPS OF CABLE OFF THE ROLL***** this will put twists in the cable, which will cause kinks which will eventually make a mess of the cable.
· Roll the spool of cable along under the modules as you go.
15. Pick a Block and an appropriate length of cable to reach the booster. You want the shortest run of cable possible.
16. Use an Adapter if required and connect the cable to the centre of the block.
17. Unroll cable back to the Command stations/ Boosters (our Boosters are centrally located).
18. If you are a few feet short and the connection point in the Block can be moved closer to the Command Stations then it is best to move the connections and only use a single cable.
19. If you need to extend the cable then you can use another Cable as short as possible. The aim is to have as little cable as possible between the Command Station /Boosters and to the modules.
20. Connect a single male connector to the Booster then connect this to the cable running to the module.
21. Label the Booster with the Block # or Loop name.
22. Repeat for each Block and Loop.
23. There is a short white cable that is generally used to connect the Block where the Command Station is located to its Booster if you are near the centre of the Block.
24. Check the Gaps between Blocks and ensure that the Joiner Rails have insulated Rail Joiners and the track power buss connectors are Not connected under the modules.
Powering Up - Track Power
25. Before applying power.
· All DCS100 Mode switches to the OFF position.
· All DB150 Mode switches to the OFF position.
· All DB100 (used as reversers) Mode switches to the PR center position. If Mode Switch is in the OFF or ON position, on powering up, the unit will NOT act as a Reverser. Use the ON position if the DB100 is to be used in a regular block that does not require reversing.
26. Plug in Power Bar. Master and all Boosters should now show a Power On light and Track Status Lamps may be on or off.
27. When setting Op Codes, unit being set must be disconnected from LocoNet.
28. Use a DT100 throttle with battery in it for setting OP Codes and plug directly into front of Command Station.
29. Start with the Master and clear the memory as per Road Master Quick Reference card. (Hyperlink here to file)
30. Set Master Op Codes as per Road Master Quick Reference card.( Hyperlink again)
31. Leave Mode Switch in the on position and plug in cable labeled Master from LocoNet Splitter Box.
32. If Track Status lamp is not lit, do a Run/Stop & + to bring up Track Status.
33. Unplug the DT100 throttle from the Command Station and plug it into a Booster (DCS100 or DB150).
34. Set Op Code 2 as per Road Master Quick Reference card.
35. Plug Booster Cable from LocoNet Splitter Box into the unit. Track Status lamps should light on units unless there is a short in the Block that is connected to it (see Track Power Fault Finding).
36. Repeat steps 9 to 11 for each Booster unit.
37. You should now have track power in all Blocks and Loops.
38. Star from the Loop on the West End of the layout and go to where the Gap is with Block 1 on the straight through tracks.
39. Test for power on the rails on each side of the Gap using the coin test. Correct any problems; see Track Power Fault Finding.
40. Short across one of the gaps in the rails. i.e. bridge the coin across the insulated rail joiner. There should be no power or short indication.
41. Test the leg of the Wye that connects with Block 1 in the same way looking for power on the rails on both sides of the gap and no power across the rail gap.
42. Step 14 through 17 Test for proper operation of the West Loop Booster.
43. Move to the Gap between Block 1 and Block 2 and check that insulated rail joiners have been inserted and the trailer plugs are not connected.
44. Check for power on the rails on each side of the gap and correct if power missing.
45. Check for power across a Rail Joiner. There should be no power or short indication. If there is power across the gap this is a Phase Reversal.
46. If there is power across the gap then go to the Booster for the next block and reverse the wires for the Track Power to the second Block.
47. Retest gap, there should be no power across it now.
48. Repeat steps 19 to 23 for each successive Block correcting any Phase Reversals across a gap by flipping the power wires of the next block.
49. When you reach the East Loop Repeat step 14 through 17.
Power Up - LocoNet
50. Plug LocoNet Tester into one of the LocoNet cables coming from the LocoNet Splitter Box. You should have four lights.
51. Plug in the other LocoNet cable from LocoNet Splitter Box into the Eastbound LocoNet of layout. You should have four lights on the Tester. If not you have a short in the Eastbound leg of the LocoNet (see LocoNet Fault Finding)
52. Remove LocoNet cable from the East and move it to the West LocoNet. You should have four lights on the Tester. If not you have a short in the Westbound leg of the LocoNet (see LocoNet Fault Finding)
53. When any shorts East or West of the Command Stations have been corrected remove LocoNet tester and plug both LocoNet cables into the East and Westbound LocoNets.
54. Test LocoNets starting at the Command Stations and go either East or West.
55. Correct any faults found along the way.
56. Radio Receivers and IR Receivers do not require any external power. They receive their power from the LocoNet.
57. When all Radio Receivers are connected on the LocoNet then set the address to Channel 3 using the procedure on the Road Master Quick Reference card.
58. This completes the set up and everything should now be operational.
These instructions may sound a bit hairy but they will start to become clearer as you visualize yourself working through them. You will probably have to adapt them to the setup that you use.