DCC Installed

When I got home from vacation yesterday, I had a package from Action Hobbies Kingsville waiting for me.  It was my new DCC system!  The timing couldn’t have been better.  I spent about a 30 minutes breezing through the manual and then made a plan to have it installed before noon today.

I bought the NCE PowerCab system for two reasons:  the convenience of having the same system that’s used on the WRMRC layout, and NCE’s convenient expandability.  My entire layout plan is premised on three roughly sketched-out phases of growth, and the NCE system allows for very inexpensive entry with complete functionality, and no wasted products when the layout grows up to be big.



The system is powered by a wall-wart and controlled by the brick of a throttle pictured above.   It includes an interface card that is intended to be attached to the layout facia.  I don’t like having things mounted to and protruding from the layout facia, mostly because I think it disrupts the clean look of a finished facia, and also because it’s really easy to bump into and break off knobs, jacks, and switches that are mounted against the front edge of the layout.

IMG_9504I don’t plan to build a separate test track on my workbench, so the layout will do double duty.  For that reason, I inserted a DPDT switch that allows me to select between DCC and DC for test running locomotives.  I have some ideas for a programming track at the workbench in the future, but I’ll try programming on the layout for now and see how that goes.

The setup of the NCE system was simple and quick.  In no time I had the thing all neatly hooked up and running.  Here’s a shot of my most recent milestone:  the first DCC-operated movement on the layout.


I’m also pleased to have taken another step closer to having more plausible equipment operating on the layout.  An ALCO S2 was typically assigned to switch the paper plant during the era I’m modelling.  I’ve also seen photos of an RS-1 doing the honours.  This P2K S3 is a much more accurate representation than the C425 I was running in DC mode a couple of weeks ago.  The chlorine tank car is accurate, as is the CN boxcar loaded with wood chips behind it.

The few switchers I currently own are DCC equipped, so this is the first time I’ve run a switcher on the layout.  One benefit of running a short wheelbase locomotive is that I found two short pieces of rail that don’t have feeders.  Guess what I’m doing tomorrow.




Testing Sergent Couplers and iPhone Throttle

A couple of days ago, I visited Trevor Marshall and his Port Rowan S scale layout and had a chance to try out two different pieces of equipment that have piqued my interest of late.


CNR 1560 is working the Daily Effort in this shot from 1955. Taken from an adjacent field, the photo shows a wooden van being shoved down the run-around track at Port Rowan so the crew can begin the process of setting out two cars and lifting two more for the return trip.

Trevor fitted enough equipment with Sergent couplers so that he could run an operating session.   We used the Sergent-equipped fleet to run the Daily Effort to Port Rowan and back.  I can say that I like the look of the Sergent couplers, without a doubt.   Their functionality was very good, but still left a bit to be desired.  I like the fact that the couplers require a stop for alignment, just before coupling.   Some might find that tedious.   The uncoupling process functioned flawlessly, but there were a few instances when the knuckles didn’t lock after the couplers were mated.  This could be a matter of fine tuning, lubricating, or break-in.  Overall, I was impressed enough to consider running some test on my home layout (I’ll have to actually build that layout first). Until I’ve had some time to use them at home, and until Trevor has had the opportunity to work out the bugs on his, I’ll reserve judgement.  I’m very hopeful that this will work out.

It was about halfway through the operating session that Trevor mentioned his iPod app that he uses as a throttle.  I switched from the regular Lenz throttle to the iPod app and thoroughly loved it.  The app is called TouchCab and it only works on iPods and iPhones through a wifi interface to the Lenz DCC system.

I like that the app uses icons to represent the various functions (the whistle looks like a whistle graphic, the bell looks like a bell, etc.) which made me much more confident while running a train.  Speed is controlled by swiping across the screen, and is represented on screen by a graphic showing throttle setting from 0-100%.

IMG_3056The best thing about the app is that it completely removes the need for the user to think about what the different numbers on the throttle mean.  Also, having been a Mac user for nearly two decades, both professionally and for my personal use, I find the interface familiar and comfortable.  For context, I don’t own my own DCC system, so I’m always operating as a guest on another person’s layout.  So far, I’ve used NCE, Digitrax, and Lenz handheld throttles.  I find all three to be different renditions of clunky and alienating.

Clearly, the throttle app is not for everyone.  As I step closer to the major purchase of a DCC system for my home layout, the ability to run a throttle app has become a significant factor for me to consider.