My DCC Upgrade

Discussion in 'DCC Control' started by paul_l, Dec 27, 2020.

  1. paul_l

    paul_l Staff Member Administrator

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    My current DCC system is an NCE PowerCab, probably made produced by a certain Danish, and is just about perfect - just my opinion, but I know I'm right :whatever: :avatar:. I can hear the handgrenade pins hitting the floor. :avatar:

    Ok, I hear you say if it's so good why are you upgrading it ? and it's a fair point.

    Firstly why do I believe it's so good, well as an entry level system it provides almost all of the functionality of the full blown PowerHouse or Seperate Command Station (CS02) systems, the limitation being the number of throttles and input / outupt devices it can support ( 3 throttle devices and 3 acessory devices - any combination of USB interface, AIO or MiniPanels), the 1.5A power output limitation and finally you can't roam with the throttle as the PowerCab throttle is also the command station and booster in one unit, so disconnecting the PowerCab and you've just killed the power to the layout..

    NCE offer an upgrade process, and one of the great features of NCE equipment is it doesn't become redundant when you need to upgrade.

    To overcome the limitation of the PowerCabs 1.5A power output, and the fixed throttle issue, you can upgrade with the SB05 (a 5A Smart Booster), which is essentially a headless Power cab combined with a 5A booster in a box.
    The PowerCab hammerhead controller when plugged into a Socket, will powerup and detect that another Command Station is in control (this could be another PowerCab, a Smart Booster, or a Powerhouse system), the PowerCab throttle will then behave as a standard Power Pro hammerhead.
    This being the recommended upgrade path for the PowerCab, and for most would be the correct path to go down.

    However for me I have two issues to overcome, firstly I have started to model O gauge, and will generally require more current than smaller scales - the SB5 would fix this issue. I also want to carry out some form of track dectection and automation. Even for Victoria Road in it's current 11'6" state would require more I/O boards than the PowerCab/SB5 could support, so the SB5 won't do. This dilemma has been on my mind for a while, and left me with the option to upgrade to the full blown CS02 + Seperate 5A boosters, or the PowerHouse system which is a CS02 Command Station and 5A booster in the same box. With the price for both solutions being between £400 and £600 - depends if bought seperate or bundled with a PowerPro Hammerhead, I've held back, for exhibitions I got away with it as Toto would bring his PowerHouse system, but now, I'm wanting to extend Victoria Road my OO gauge layout as well as build something a bit more adventurous in O gauge than Another Bridge. Ebay has come to the rescue and I have just won a Powerhouse system.


    It will take a wee while to get here - that's what you get for buying during the holiday period with a lockdown added on top :facepalm: but it will get here, and now the constraints are lifted.

    More will follow once I get my grubby mits on it.

    Paul
     
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  2. Gary

    Gary Wants more time for modelling.... Staff Member Administrator

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    Nice pick up Paul. :thumbs: That will certainly make a difference !

    On my US layout, I added a NCE Cab o6 to the layout at the opposite end. This is connected to the rear of the Powercab Control Panel (PCP) and a line runs to the PCP of the Cab06. This way I can still have two operators and up to 3 locomotives in service. I just don't have the capacity to run more locomotives....

    Cheers, Gary.
     
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  3. paul_l

    paul_l Staff Member Administrator

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    I have a cunning plan - I will need to replace the PCP panel on Viccy Rd for a UTP (Universal Track Panel).
    Then I will build a box (actually I know the box that will be re-purposed), which will have both the NCE Powerhouse, and PowerCab systems installed and storage for my throttles and power supplies - 5A + 1.5A + PC ATX supply for the layouts +12, +5V & +3.3V requirements. On the recessed lid will be a UTP & PCP connector panels. The UTP for normal connection to the layout, and the PCP for PowerCab throttle to be connected to a set of Program tracks also on the recessed top lid.
    On the rear panel will be track power connections - there may well be a couple to MERG 5A boosters added in the future to give power districts.
    Giving a comprehensive portable solution for both powering / controlling the layout(s) and carrying out Programing Track duties independant of the main Control Station, which should also help prevent mistakes of programmining the whole layout by mistake :facepalm:.

    Once the Powerhouse arrives I will have Two hammerheads (PowerPro & PowerCab) plus like yourself a Cab 06 mine is the potentiometer version, I think I may get the digital version as it makes it easier to swap between loco's, the question may be whether I get the radio versions, this would be for home use and not exhibitition use due to the lack of channel segregation on the NCE system - probably it's only achilees heal.

    Paul
     
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  4. Gary

    Gary Wants more time for modelling.... Staff Member Administrator

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    Sounds like a man with a plan !

    If going down the wireless route, keep that for home. Last year at the Rosehill exhibition, there was trouble with two separate layouts running the same wireless address. Should have seen the head hunting going on as the chaps with the larger layout were outraged !

    My Cab 06 is the potentiometer version too. You are right about swapping out locos as I'm sure the digital version has the recall feature like the Powercab...

    Cheers, Gary.
     
  5. paul_l

    paul_l Staff Member Administrator

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    The problem is you need to zero the potentiometer, otherwise the loco will jump to the setting of the potentiometer when you select a new loco. It would have been to have had a center indent for when used in shunting mode - center off similar to the old Hammant and Morgan controllers. Great for shunting in a yard, no need to keep changing direction via the switch.

    Hopefully, I'll get into the shed and rescue the box so planning can be started.

    Paul
     
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  6. paul_l

    paul_l Staff Member Administrator

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    The package arrived on the 31st - so well packaged my Auntie would be well impressed.

    Now to source a power supply - Using Mark Gurries NCE site for reference I gained the following information

    upload_2021-1-2_12-34-0.png

    The power supply needs to provide at least the rated current, it can provide greater than the rated current without issue.

    I will be using an old Lenovo Laptop power brick (p/n 45N0111) 170W 20V 8.5A DC, as from the above table the DC range is 18 to 24V.

    For those PowerCab users look at the current rating 1.5A/3.0A. According to NCE's specs the PowerCab can provide 3.0A - needs the v1.65 ROM, and the 6 wire flat cable (between PowerCab throttle and PCP) should be as short as possible as all the current will pass through the cable, and the PowerCab will get warm if ran at 3.0A for long periods of time, but would allow a PowerCab to be used on heavier loco's on a rolling road by swapping out the standard supply for a 12V 4A DC supply - I have been doing this for several years but didn't realise the PowerCab could supply the extra current.

    As a reference MarK Gurries NCE Main site is invaluable.

    Paul
     

    Attached Files:

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  7. paul_l

    paul_l Staff Member Administrator

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    A few pics of the controller


    Now when NCE says that the PH1 is a CS02 Control Station and 5A booster in the one box they are not kidding, so much so that you have to make the connection between the two



    Now this does have an advantage, if the booster goes wrong you can still use Command station.

    NCE users have been waiting for some time for a USB connection, and so I am relegated back to a Serial Port connection, now getting a PC nevermind a laptop with a serial port is going to be rare or have more grey hairs than me. Luckily for me I have access to several USB / Serial convertors.


    Now just need to get hold of a serial to serial cable (straight not a Null Modem). I will get a couple of various lengths to cover both home and exhibitions.

    Why not just get a short cable then a USB cable to connect to the computer ? I hear you ask (well someone may read and maybe think it :whatever:), USB like the serial cable standard suggest a max length of 15m (45ft), however a serial connection using a baud rate of 9600 (a common console speed) over typical Cat 5 cabling, the maximum length increases to 100 – 150 meters (328 – 500 feet). Now that is some size of layout and also allows the command station to be some distance from the PC.

    Also ordered up from Ebay are some resettable fuses

    upload_2021-1-4_17-6-50.png

    5A at 30V, for the PSU to the NCE Powerhouse and additional boosters

    and some 2A at 16V for the outpust from the PC ATX PSU, which will provide 12V, 5V and 3.3V

    upload_2021-1-4_17-7-58.png

    The 12V supplies will be used for DCC accesory bus, and to supply the NCE PowerCab used for independant Program Track and test track facility on the unit.
    The 5V will supply the 5V accesory bus, although this will be for devices closer to the supply unit, devices further away from the panel will use the 12V Accy bus, and use a 5V regulator circuit (7805) to provide the required voltage. This will avoid the chances of DC voltage drops over distance. Also Local USB devices (hubs etc) will also use the 5V supply.
    The 3.3V supply will be handy for future use - RaspberryPi's native voltage is 3.3V.

    I will also be adding Digital meters to display the output voltage of the supplies.

    Paul
     
  8. paul_l

    paul_l Staff Member Administrator

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    While looking at the posts, I did think NCE users will know what a UTP (Universal Track Panel) or PCP (PowerCab Panel) panel is.

    Front view

    Left hand - UTP Right hand - PCP


    Only distinguishing difference from the front is the Red LED on the PCP panel - however there is a pair of holes on the UTP panel to allow you to install an LED to indicate panel is active.

    So both panels have a pair of RJ 12 (6P6C - 6 pins wide with 6 connectors) sockets.

    The difference is on the rear.

    Left hand - UTP Right hand - PCP


    Both have 2 RJ 12 sockets, for daisey chaining the Cab Bus

    The UTP panel has a power socket in the middle to allow additional 12 - 14 V DC 0.5 - 1.0A power supplies to be added. These are only required if your Cab Bus is longer than 10 to 15m (30 to 40 ft), to overcome any voltage drops.

    The PCP panel has a power supply (12V 1.5A DC for the PowerCab - can be upto 3A) socket on the left hand side, and a Track power outlet on the right hand side.
    Only 1 PCP is needed on a PowerCab controlled layout.

    On my layouts (Victoria Road & Another Bridge), I will now be removing the PCP's and replacing them with UTP (I could leave them in place and just use them as UTPs (just disconnect the power supply and Track power outlet - as they are no longer required)). As I intend to use the PCP panels to create a couple of test tracks / programming tracks. PowerCabs are brilliant for this as they can provide higher current outputs for required for Sound decoder programming, and also leave the main command station running the layout and the PowerCab for test / programming tasks, really useful at an exhibition where you don't want to stop the layout to allow these tasks to be done.

    Paul
     
  9. SRman

    SRman Full Member

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    I followed this upgrade path some years ago, reusing the Power Cabs as Pro Cabs on the Power Pro system, but retaining the ability to use the Power Cabs for the programming track and for exhibition demos.

    I have never regretted my original choice of the Power Cab system.
     
  10. paul_l

    paul_l Staff Member Administrator

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    I'm the same, no regrets at all, and would recommend any Pro system users, when they need to buy a second cab spend a little more and buy a PowerCab instead of a ProCab, to give them the additional independant functionality.

    Paul
     
  11. Gary

    Gary Wants more time for modelling.... Staff Member Administrator

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    I use the UTP on my US layout and have it connected via a NCE bus cable (12'). Into the uTP I plug my Cab 06.

    Just remember you can't use a normal 6 wire RJ12 telephone cable as the NCE cables have reversed plugs on each end...

    Cheers, Gary.
     
  12. paul_l

    paul_l Staff Member Administrator

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    I have bought both 6P6C (RJ12) and 6P4C (RJ11) connectors, and made up both 6 pin and 4 pin cables. Currently the only use of the outer pins on NCE equipment is for the power from PowerCab handset, for all other devices the 4 wire RJ11 is all that is needed.

    Easiest way to make up a straight through cable for NCE is to use flat cable. One side is flat with a seem or rib running down it's length, the other side has a curved surface.
    Trim the sheath back on both ends. Take one RJ11 for 4 core cable or RJ12 for 6 core cable plug with the tang facing down and insert with the flat side up. Crimp the end. Now take the other end and with the tang facing down insert the curved side into the plug and crimp. If you hold both plugs side by side with the tangs both pacing down, the wire colours should be the same for each pin.

    The're actually very easy to make up to any length to suit the interconnects between your UTP/PCP/Command Station.

    Paul
     
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