NEB&W's Electrical System
"A system so good even Nehrich will use it"tm
Early Layout History
The first three layouts were operated with fairly conventional electrical systems. The first layout actually used a motor-generator set for the power, in the era before solid state rectifers.
On the third layout, each town had a fixed control panel and a train was passed off from one town operator to the next.
The fourth layout (this one) was designed around "walk-around" control, where the train engineer followed his or her train, plugging and unplugging the throttle along the way. (While the train keeps moving, the engineer has no control while unplugged.)
At first, there was to be a series of four relays for each electrical block, which could assign any one of 7 throttles to that block. The signalling system was supposed to automatically advance a given throttle assignment along the mainline until it detected another train.
After seeing carrier controlled systems in use in such layouts as Chuck Hitchcock's, we decided to switch to Dynatrol, one of these pioneering systems.
Instead of varying the voltage to a particular block to change the train speed (thus affecting all engines in that block regardless) carrier control maintains a fixed voltage of about 12 to 14 volts. Each engine is equipped with a receiver tuned to a particular "channel". The rails act as the carrier for the signal that controls that specific loco without affecting any other engines.
Dynatrol proved unworkable for the size and complexity of this layout, and in desperation, the club switched to CTC-80. Finally, as it seemed CTC-80 was no longer in production, the club switched to DCC.
Previously, the systems were all proprietary, and one was totally incompatible with any other. Thus one was at the mercy and continuing good health of whatever system one had choosen, as switching to another was an enormous undertaking.
Digital Command Control
Digital Command Control (DCC) is a hobby-wide system that allows one manufacturer's devices to work with another's. After careful consideration and a desire to get the NEB&W to operate more reliably, the club decided to switch specifically to the Northcoast Engineering (NCE) system. We have received advice and assistance from Tony's Train Exchange. Tony has been extremely helpful in providing the club with the information we needed in order to determine what is best for our layout.
The NEB&W is divided into three power districts and each district is divided into multiple blocks. Our early DCC setup was an NCE CS-01 Master Series Command Station, two NCE PB-205 Dual 5 amp Power Boosters and one VERY large power supply that supplied power for the command station and all the boosters. This worked for a long time but there were problems throughout the system that needed correcting.
We now use an NCE CS-02 Command Station with three NCE PB-105 5 amp boosters and each booster has it's own DCC Specialties MF-615 power supply. We've also installed DCC Specialties PSX circuit breakers on all power blocks on the layout (that's a lot of circuit breakers). The PSX circuit breakers also have detection built in and we have the main line and passing siding track detection connected to NCE AIU-01 Auxiliary Input Units which send the information back to a dedicated computer running JMRI software. This gives the Dispatcher necessary information during operating sessions.
We have made several attempts at setting up the NCE Radio Command System, first with the RB01 base station then with the RB02 base station and several RPT1 repeaters. We've found that there is so much piping and wiring in one section of the room that it's very hard to get a clean signal in certain spots. We expect to get the radio system running eventually.
For information on how to run a train under DCC, go to the DCC Primer.