Points and DCC

Peter C

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Hello all,

As I explained in this thread, I am rebuilding my layout. It's going to be DCC and I was wondering - if I wished to be able to control the points automatically/remotely, how would I go about it?
The controller I'm using is the Hornby Elite. I have watched the video from Hornby on YouTube about how to control points with the Elite, but I still have some questions:

-I will potentially have 5 sets of points on the layout. The Elite, through programming a Point Controller to 61, will let me control points 61, 62, 63, and 64. How does this work? How does it assign points to each number? I assume it may be through the way they are plugged into the Point Controller.
-If I chose not to use the Elite and Point Controllers, for whatever reason, is there a way of having the point motors being controlled by something other than the Elite? As in, have the points operated as if they were running DC, and controlled by levers or a separate controller, so they would be separate from the Elite, and leave the output from the Elite free?

(Sorry if that second question was a bit difficult to understand).

Thanks,

-Peter
 
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MarkyT

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Hello all,

As I explained in this thread, I am rebuilding my layout. It's going to be DCC and I was wondering - if I wished to be able to control the points automatically/remotely, how would I go about it?
The controller I'm using is the Hornby Elite. I have watched the video from Hornby on YouTube about how to control points with the Elite, but I still have some questions:

-I will potentially have 5 sets of points on the layout. The Elite, through programming a Point Controller to 61, will let me control points 61, 62, 63, and 64. How does this work? How does it assign points to each number? I assume it may be through the way they are plugged into the Point Controller.
-If I chose not to use the Elite and Point Controllers, for whatever reason, is there a way of having the point motors being controlled by something other than the Elite? As in, have the points operated as if they were running DC, and controlled by levers or a separate controller, so they would be separate from the Elite, and leave the output from the Elite free?

(Sorry if that second question was a bit difficult to understand).

Thanks,

-Peter
Model railway point actuators are usually 12v solenoids or geared motor drives, so they could easily be wired totally separate from the DCC if you want. It sounds as if you assign the first address number and the following three number are automatically applied to the other outputs of the point controller. You'd need to identify the point numbers on a layout diagram and connect them up accordingly to the correct terminals on the controller.
 

Peter C

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Model railway point actuators are usually 12v solenoids or geared motor drives, so they could easily be wired totally separate from the DCC if you want. It sounds as if you assign the first address number and the following three number are automatically applied to the other outputs of the point controller. You'd need to identify the point numbers on a layout diagram and connect them up accordingly to the correct terminals on the controller.
Thanks very much - very useful. :)
I'll have another look into the Hornby Point Controller - last time I looked at it, it was very expensive, though - not going to get my hopes up!

-Peter
 

SCH117X

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Other DCC point modules should work with the Elite, like decoders you do not need to stick to one make as DCC standards require compatibility between maufacturers. One with a built in capacitor discharge unit is best with solenoid point motors such as those done by Train tech http://www.train-tech.com/ If you want to control them separately from the Elite then wire them up as you would on a non DCC system.
 

Peter C

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There’s a channel on YouTube called Simon’s Shed, he is building a n gauge dcc layout and there are videos about points motors on there.
OK - thanks. I'd heard of Simon's Shed, but had never really bothered to watch the more technical stuff as I find it gets boring sometimes. I'll have another look at his channel. :)

-Peter
 

takno

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OK - thanks. I'd heard of Simon's Shed, but had never really bothered to watch the more technical stuff as I find it gets boring sometimes. I'll have another look at his channel. :)

-Peter
His channel perks up quite a lot at 1.5x speed, which I find this is true of a lot of the model rail ones tbh. It's got some interesting n-gauge stuff, and tends to be a good representation of how to get stuff done for people who don't want to become full time expert modellers. For most technical stuff you'll get more (possibly too much!) detail from Everard Junction or Dean Park.

He's switched over from the boards which control multiple solenoids to the DCC Concepts rotary motors IIRC, which are a lot more expensive but if there are only 5 points on the layout you could do it for about £100, which isn't too bad.

To be honest I'm not convinced it's worth using DCC for the job anyway. just wiring in a few manual switches would probably be easier than getting the addresses and the controller set up, unless the layout is very large.
 

Cowley

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His channel perks up quite a lot at 1.5x speed, which I find this is true of a lot of the model rail ones tbh. It's got some interesting n-gauge stuff, and tends to be a good representation of how to get stuff done for people who don't want to become full time expert modellers. For most technical stuff you'll get more (possibly too much!) detail from Everard Junction or Dean Park.

He's switched over from the boards which control multiple solenoids to the DCC Concepts rotary motors IIRC, which are a lot more expensive but if there are only 5 points on the layout you could do it for about £100, which isn't too bad.

To be honest I'm not convinced it's worth using DCC for the job anyway. just wiring in a few manual switches would probably be easier than getting the addresses and the controller set up, unless the layout is very large.
I must admit that I’d looked into it a bit, and I decided it was easier to go the old route with point motors and switches.
It’s already a lot easier wiring up a DCC layout because you don’t have to factor in isolating sections etc.

Edit - Plus it’s quite nice to have a few clunky switches for the points...
 

takno

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I must admit that I’d looked into it a bit, and I decided it was easier to go the old route with point motors and switches.
It’s already a lot easier wiring up a DCC layout because you don’t have to factor in isolating sections etc.

Edit - Plus it’s quite nice to have a few clunky switches for the points...
I keep meaning to get something working with the small pile of microcontrollers I've got kicking around so that I can control all the points from a single bus wire, and then run a schedule from a computer, but then I'm more interested in the electronics and computer side than i am the modelling bit, so I tend to end up on massive diversions like that
 

Peter C

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His channel perks up quite a lot at 1.5x speed, which I find this is true of a lot of the model rail ones tbh. It's got some interesting n-gauge stuff, and tends to be a good representation of how to get stuff done for people who don't want to become full time expert modellers. For most technical stuff you'll get more (possibly too much!) detail from Everard Junction or Dean Park.

He's switched over from the boards which control multiple solenoids to the DCC Concepts rotary motors IIRC, which are a lot more expensive but if there are only 5 points on the layout you could do it for about £100, which isn't too bad.

To be honest I'm not convinced it's worth using DCC for the job anyway. just wiring in a few manual switches would probably be easier than getting the addresses and the controller set up, unless the layout is very large.
Oh OK. Thanks! :) I watch Dean Park and Everard Junction, and they do get boringly detailed sometimes!

£100 for control over all my points doesn't sound too bad, as you say, but if I could do it for cheaper using a separate DC system that would be lovely.

-Peter
 

Peter C

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I must admit that I’d looked into it a bit, and I decided it was easier to go the old route with point motors and switches.
It’s already a lot easier wiring up a DCC layout because you don’t have to factor in isolating sections etc.

Edit - Plus it’s quite nice to have a few clunky switches for the points...
Haha! "Route"! :) Get it? Railways? Routes? No?
(I'll get my coat....)

Anyway - yes. I'll be honest - that was the main reason I wanted to have the DC-controlled points - the clunky switches: just like a real signalbox. :)

-Peter
 

Cowley

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I keep meaning to get something working with the small pile of microcontrollers I've got kicking around so that I can control all the points from a single bus wire, and then run a schedule from a computer, but then I'm more interested in the electronics and computer side than i am the modelling bit, so I tend to end up on massive diversions like that
Ah you see, I really struggle with computers but don’t mind the modelling side of things.
I could do with borrowing you to do the bits I don’t understand Takno!
Haha! "Route"! :) Get it? Railways? Routes? No?
(I'll get my coat....)

Anyway - yes. I'll be honest - that was the main reason I wanted to have the DC-controlled points - the clunky switches: just like a real signalbox. :)

-Peter
I see what you did there...
Yes clunky switches are good I find. Plus it’s quite good fun doing the analogue wiring if you’ve got a decent soldering iron and a few skills.
Plus you could buy a uniform and go all in...
 

malc-c

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A while ago I worked with a guy who developed a circuit to control points using small switches and low amperage wire rather then having to use heavy cable from a Cap Discharge unit. We turned the circuit into a PCB and had some made.

Basically you use one of these next to each point, using short lengths of heavy gauge cabling to a standard solenoid point motor. Then use thin wire from small toggle switches to trigger the discharge. The boards also contained a rely that switched the polarity of the frog as well

Here's a short video of the development. - Overkill using a PIC micro to generate pulses to simulate switching :)


More info on the development and the pros' and cons can be found on the Bridgebury Gate website

http://www.bridgeburygate.com/electrics.html

I believe that the chap may have a few to sell if anyone is interested. We were selling kits to make five units for £45, and we've just had another batch made. If you have a serious interest then drop me a PM and I'll put you in contact with the guy.
 

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Peter C

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Sorry for restarting this thread, but seeing as I'm thinking about this topic again, I wanted to know:

What would be the best way for me to power the switches and motors for the points?
How would I wire the system up?*



My thinking is as follows:

12v power supply > Switches > Motors

Is this right? I'm thinking I'll need a bus wire, from which wires go through the switches and to the point motors. The bus wire would connect the power supply to the switches. (?) The power supply I'm thinking of is this one here, from Gaugemaster:
http://www.gaugemaster.com/item_details.asp?code=GMC-M1DC&style=&strType=&Mcode=Gaugemaster+GMC-M1DC
And so the full wiring would be as follows:
Mains > Gaugemaster Transformer > Bus wire > Switches > Motors
Is this right?

My current thinking is that each motor will be powered by a separate switch and therefore each motor will have its own wire coming from the bus wire. Would this be the best way of doing it? If you look at my current plan:
upload_2019-12-5_16-11-49.png
It shows where the point motors would be. The larger black lines show the main running lines on my layout, and the diagonal lines between them show the main points. Each of these main sets of points is actually formed of two individual points and each individual point would have a motor for it. Could I wire up a switch so it controls two motors at the same time?


Thanks very much. I know this has been quite a lot, but I just wanted to know these things.

-Peter



*I understand this sounds stupid, but I'm not amazing at wiring. I know I need:
  • A soldering iron
  • Black wire
  • Red wire
  • Pliers
Is there anything else? Thanks in advance.
 

Peter C

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12v can struggle a bit on point motors. Best to fit a capacitor discharge unit.
Thanks. Call me stupid, but what is a "capacitor discharge unit"? Is 12v too much for point motors or too little?

Thanks,

-Peter
 

SCH117X

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Thanks. Call me stupid, but what is a "capacitor discharge unit"? Is 12v too much for point motors or too little?
16v ac is more the norm for working solenoid point motors but even then a noticeable buzzing can arise as a solenoid struggles to throw the point. A capacitor discharge unit is fed by the ac supply and when the switch (or whatever) is thrown to change a point brief powerful current is passed through the solenoid ensuring it the point throws with more likely a noticeable thud. You can also work a number of points off a single switch. Gaugemasters pdf gives more info http://www.gaugemaster.com/instructions/cdu.pdf
 

malc-c

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Peter, don't feel stupid... like all things if you are new to a subject it can be hard to pick up the terminology used.

A capacitor discharge unit (CDU) is basically a large value capacitor that is charged up and stores the power needed to throw point solenoid motors. When you apply voltage to the coil of a solenoid point motor it generates a magnetic field which repels / attracts the bolt inside it thus moving the point. It can take a fair bit of umpf to make that happen, so the CDU is used to store the current to provide that umph when needed. The drawback of traditional CDU's is that they are normally large and bulky and you need to run thick wires the length of the layout to the point motors. The alternative as I mentioned above is the SPUD as described here http://www.bridgeburygate.com/electrics.html Basically this is a small CDU that has enough umpf to switch a point. It is placed next to the point motor, so the thick heavy gauge wiring is kept short (another advantage). Then you only need small switches and thin wire between the SPUD and control panel to activate the point motor. Most point motors work well on 16-22v - we used 18v DC when developing the SPUDs

If you want to use SPUDs then drop Russel a mail via his website in the link provided, I'm sure he will have some spares availble.
 

Belperpete

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A friend showed me a system that he had just bought at Warley that seems a good compromise between conventional point control and DCC control. It has a small control unit with built-in CDU next to each point. The points are controlled by push-buttons, but rather than running individual wires from each button to the points, a bus-wire is run from a control board in the panel to the individual point CDU/control units. For a small extra cost, a DCC interface is available, which allows you to also control the points from your DCC controller. So normally you can work the points from the control panel, but if you wander around to the other side of the layout, you can operate the points from your handheld DCC controller. Food for thought. This seems to be the system:
https://megapointscontrollers.co.uk/
 

malc-c

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A friend showed me a system that he had just bought at Warley that seems a good compromise between conventional point control and DCC control. It has a small control unit with built-in CDU next to each point. The points are controlled by push-buttons, but rather than running individual wires from each button to the points, a bus-wire is run from a control board in the panel to the individual point CDU/control units. For a small extra cost, a DCC interface is available, which allows you to also control the points from your DCC controller. So normally you can work the points from the control panel, but if you wander around to the other side of the layout, you can operate the points from your handheld DCC controller. Food for thought. This seems to be the system:
https://megapointscontrollers.co.uk/
Yeah... I mentioned the systems that Megapoint Controllers make earlier in post #4

An alternative would be to use one or more of the megapoint controllers. Have a look at some of his videos https://www.youtube.com/user/davefcy/videos I'm sure his addressable controllers interface with either solenoids or servos to activate points
They look really good, and as you say using DCC interface would give freedom away from a fixed panel. But (and I don't want to seem patronising to Peter, so I mean this with good intent) as Peter is still getting to grips with things and lacked the understanding of what was meant by a CDU, maybe with us throwing in the complexity of DCC and these controllers into the mix will only add to the confusion.
 

Belperpete

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Thanks. Call me stupid, but what is a "capacitor discharge unit"? Is 12v too much for point motors or too little?
As others have said, 16v is better than 12v. Resistance in the wires to the solenoid can be a problem. After time, as the points and the solenoid become stickier, the solenoid might not have enough "oomph" to change the points reliably. However, even at 12v, you can easily burn-out most point solenoids fairly quickly if you keep the power on for too long. A CDU solves these problems by applying a very brief, high-power pulse to the solenoid when you first operate the switch or button. If you keep the switch or contact closed, the power drops to a level that shouldn't burn out the solenoid. The power comes from a capacitor in the CDU that is recharged between point operations.

There are two ways to use a CDU. One is to have a single, large unit at the control panel. With this method, you need to keep the resistance of the wires to the points as low as practicable. Also, if you operate two points one straight after the other, the CDU capacitor may not have recharged enough after the first point operation to operate the second point.

The second method is to have a separate CDU for each point solenoid. This avoids the problems of the central CDU, but is more expensive, although the individual CDUs can be smaller and cheaper.
 

Belperpete

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Yeah... I mentioned the systems that Megapoint Controllers make earlier in post #4
They look really good, and as you say using DCC interface would give freedom away from a fixed panel. But (and I don't want to seem patronising to Peter, so I mean this with good intent) as Peter is still getting to grips with things and lacked the understanding of what was meant by a CDU, maybe with us throwing in the complexity of DCC and these controllers into the mix will only add to the confusion.
Indeed you did, but what wasn't readily apparent (to me at least) from your posting was that the megatrains controllers allow operation by either DCC and/or by conventional push-buttons. As the OP was specifically asking for advice about the two methods of control, I thought a system that permits both options was very pertinent. You can start off with a panel and add DCC control later on, or alternatively start off with DCC control and add a panel later on. The system looks quite simple to implement for a newcomer.

Perhaps this is the point (groan!) to mention that I have no connection with megatrains, I was just impressed by the system.
 

malc-c

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Perhaps this is the point (groan!) to mention that I have no connection with megatrains, I was just impressed by the system.
Same here. The guy has developed a very modular system making it attractive to either DCC or CD camps, and provides the options to migrate from DC to DCC without the need to replace existing modules
 

Peter C

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16v ac is more the norm for working solenoid point motors but even then a noticeable buzzing can arise as a solenoid struggles to throw the point. A capacitor discharge unit is fed by the ac supply and when the switch (or whatever) is thrown to change a point brief powerful current is passed through the solenoid ensuring it the point throws with more likely a noticeable thud. You can also work a number of points off a single switch. Gaugemasters pdf gives more info http://www.gaugemaster.com/instructions/cdu.pdf
OK - thanks very much! :D

-Peter
 

Peter C

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As others have said, 16v is better than 12v. Resistance in the wires to the solenoid can be a problem. After time, as the points and the solenoid become stickier, the solenoid might not have enough "oomph" to change the points reliably. However, even at 12v, you can easily burn-out most point solenoids fairly quickly if you keep the power on for too long. A CDU solves these problems by applying a very brief, high-power pulse to the solenoid when you first operate the switch or button. If you keep the switch or contact closed, the power drops to a level that shouldn't burn out the solenoid. The power comes from a capacitor in the CDU that is recharged between point operations.

There are two ways to use a CDU. One is to have a single, large unit at the control panel. With this method, you need to keep the resistance of the wires to the points as low as practicable. Also, if you operate two points one straight after the other, the CDU capacitor may not have recharged enough after the first point operation to operate the second point.

The second method is to have a separate CDU for each point solenoid. This avoids the problems of the central CDU, but is more expensive, although the individual CDUs can be smaller and cheaper.
OK - thanks very much for the explanation. :)

-Peter
 

Peter C

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Thanks all very much for your help on the topic.
Having read the responses, and looked around online, I decided that maybe trying to do a full wiring system (with limited space on my layout due to the nature of where the baseboard is) isn't really for me at this stage.

I've been watching the videos of Barrie Davis on YouTube (channel here) and he uses Gaugemaster systems to control the points on his (DC) layout. I was looking around online, and whilst I couldn't find the PCU-1 controller (an example of which can be found here), I did find a PCU-2. The difference between the two is that the PCU-1 is the main controller and the PCU-2 is designed to be a slave device, I assume to give more switches to each "signalbox" on the PCU-1.

However, I don't want to have different "signalboxes" and therefore the PCU-1 would be useless to me, as quite a bit of its functionality would be lost. I'd just need something which I can wire into the transformer, wire into the point motors, and go. The PCU-2 is here. From the picture provided, there is an "AUX IN" screw thing (screw terminal?) which I assume is where the wire from the transformer screw terminal would go, and there is also an "AUX OUT" screw terminal, where I assume the wire back to the transformer would go, thus completing the circuit. Furthermore, I assume I could also attach the wire from the "AUX OUT" terminal to the "AUX IN" terminal of another PCU-2, and then the "AUX OUT" of the second PCU-2 would go back to the transformer?

My thinking is that I could do the same as Barrie Davis (as in using the Gaugemaster systems) but as I described in post #1 of the thread - the point control would be separate (electrically) from the DCC train control system, thus making it simpler and easier.

Would this make any sense? I am grateful for all of your posts and in no way am I saying they were useless, but it's just a bit complicated for me (which is no fault of you lot!).

Thanks,

-Peter :)
 

SCH117X

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Thanks all very much for your help on the topic.
Having read the responses, and looked around online, I decided that maybe trying to do a full wiring system (with limited space on my layout due to the nature of where the baseboard is) isn't really for me at this stage.
Peter

All you need is the basic CDU unit like this one
http://www.gaugemaster.com/item_details.asp?code=GMC-CDU&style=main&strType=&Mcode=Seep+GMC-CDU
wired up as per the pdf I mentioned earlier. In terms of the necessary switches you have a number of options, and the cheapest is simply to use a probe and stud systems especially if you use nails or screws for the studs with the wire to the point motor wrapped tightly around the nail or screw and preferably trapped between the nail/screw and the hole in the board; usually people set the nails/screws/ proper switches in a drawing of the layout so its obvious which throws which point each way. If you have a hefty soldering iron a touch of solder helps with the contact of the wire with the screw/nail. For the probe I always used a multimeter lead, a pair are available for £1.49 including postage on Ebay https://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/Multimet...566317?hash=item3d8f15a86d:g:OKEAAOSwmF1dJa5d or from 90p if you order from Chinese seller
 

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