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Chip recommendations for my 'fleet'? - DCC - Tutorials - Getting You Started. - Your Model Railway Club
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 Posted: Fri Jul 18th, 2014 07:02 pm
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Keith M
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I'm hoping that those with experience of chipping loco's may be able to recommend the best chip(s) for my 'fleet' of loco's. I'll list them below and welcome any advice (including "get rid of it!"), but what I'd really like is to be able to standardise on one type of chip in most, if not all units. As I'm beginning the build of a fictional Southern Region layout, loosely based around the late 50's/early 60's, my fleet is almost entirely steam, with the exception of a couple of EMU's.
Hornby Q1 class C21 (Super detail)
Hornby "Schools" class, "Dover" R257.
Hornby "Battle of Britain" "41 Squadron" R074.
Hornby "Merchant Navy" "Bibby Line" R2204 (Super detail).
Wrenn 0-6-0 tank, Southern 1127. W2207.
Hornby 'Collectors club' Southern 0-4-0 tank. R3213.
Hornby Industrial 0-4-0 (Trewavas Aggregates) R2940. (I'm planning a Quarry!).
Hornby M7 tank 0-4-4. R103.
Lima "Battle of Britain" "Winston Churchill" (5106W)
Triang 2 car EMU S1057S/S1052S.
Bachmann class 411 4 car EMU set 31-426A (21 pin DCC ready).
Most of my 'fleet' have been what I'd call "low mileage, one owner" loco's, with a couple bought new. I'm quite prepared to use the Lima and Triang stuff as scenery if the general opinion is not to bother with DCC conversion for such old stuff, and I'd like to use Lenz chips as I see the general opinion seems to be that the extra price is worth it, and I have Lenz DCC control anyway. With the exception of the 4 car EMU, I can't see a need to control more operations than forward/reverse, as I'm not planning loco sound or lighting, so wondered if an 8 pin wired in chip (maybe the 'Standard' Lenz chip) would fit my needs, and is the 21 pin chip for the 4 car EMU necessary, or is it best to strip out the unnecessary board and just wire in a more basic chip? All advice and opinions are most welcome to a "DCC Virgin"!
Cheers,
Keith.

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 Posted: Sat Jul 19th, 2014 02:50 am
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MaxSouthOz
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Hi Keith

I'm probably the worst one to ask, as I use exclusively Loksound decoders.

If I were to fit non-sound, I would only use Lenz.  They cost a bit more, but it will save you grief in the long run.

Hornby and Bachmann are cheap, but they don't support all of the Functions.

TCS and DCC Concepts (which are the same decoder), have holes in their speed tables, which require clever mods.

Once again, I'm probably your worst option, but I never plug decoders in.

I always REMOVE THE CAPACITORS and then strip all of the wiring out and rewire the loco to the NMRA colour specs.

But that's just me.

This is one of those places in the Hobby where it's important to do it right the first time.

There are plenty of guys here who will help you.

Cheers



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 Posted: Sat Jul 19th, 2014 01:06 pm
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RFS
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I would certainly recommend Lenz decoders.  They are not more expensive than the basic "train set" decoders if you shop around.  I've just bought a batch from one of the German box shifters (http://www.modellbahnshop-lippe.com/) . A batch of Standard+ decoders cost me just over £15 each whilst a couple of 21-pin silvers cost £20 each - quite a discount compared to Hatton's.  They have a special offer till the end of September of free shipping, which is via UPS.  I ordered on Tuesday afternoon, got shipping details email on Wednesday and UPS delivered on Friday. Almost all communication is in English.
 
The 4CEP takes the 21-pin easily and runs very well with it. I certainly wouldn't bother doing anything else.  The Q1 has an 8-pin socket and the decoder fits easily. I suspect your MN R2204 is not DCC-ready but hard wiring is not a problem as there's plenty of space.
 
I can't speak for your earlier locos, but the Lenz Standard+ decoder has 1-amp output, compared to 500ma for the Hornby R8249 and I suspect these earlier mechanisms have more power hungry motors. However, you may have a problem with space inside the smaller locos.
 
One other benefit of Lenz decoders is that they have short-circuit and overload protection, so you can't fry a decoder by wiring it wrongly or overloading it!



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 Posted: Sat Jul 19th, 2014 03:47 pm
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SRman
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Darn, Robert!! I have just finished ordering some Lenz decoders from Hattons!!  :tongue

I would go along with most of what has been said here.

I also like ESU LokPilots, which (along with Lenz) seem to work particularly well with Heljan diesels. Both types have overload protection.

I do like TCS decoders generally and don't have too many problems with them - I reckon they are one of the best compromises between cost and features (i.e. value for money). They are not as good as the Lenz and ESU brands but sre usually cheaper, and have their goof-proof warranty, which means they will replace any decoder that blows up, regardless of whether it was your fault or theirs. The TCS DP2X-UK is a particularly useful decoder as it will plug straight into the likes of the current Hornby M7 without the need to remove any of the precious weights from the side tanks. Otherwise, the M1 in its various forms is a good high capacity (1 amp plus) but very small decoder for tight spaces, and the Z2 is a tiny decoder ideal for hard-wiring jobs like Dapol and Hornby Terriers.

I would avoid the Hornby decoders, not only because of their low (0.5 amp) capacity  but also because they are delicate and fry easily. If you have any of these, save them to use as function only decoders for jobs like controlling directional and interior lighting in trailers (like DMU driving/unpowered trailers).

Older Triang/Hornby types do use more power than later mechanisms, so the SR EMU, R103 M7 and R074 Battle of Britain would be best with the likes of a Lenz Silver, ESU LokPilot 4 or the somewhat cheaper TCS T1. 

The Merchant Navy and Q1 would benefit from a Lenz mini or TCS M1P or DP2X-UK.

All of my non-sound Bachmann EMUs (4 CEP, 2 EPB, MLV) have Lenz Silver 21-pin decoders which work very, very well in those (the sound-fitted ones have ESU LokSound decoders). I would be inclined to leave well enough alone and use the 21-pin decoders on the existing circuit boards and wiring.

I have done one of the Wrenn/Hornby Dublo R1 0-6-0 tanks, but also included a new 'neo-magnet' for the motor to reduce power consumption. I used a TCS  M1 decoder for this one - I couldn't quite fit a slightly higher powered T1 in the space.



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 Posted: Sat Jul 19th, 2014 10:33 pm
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Keith M
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Due to todays heavy rain, I've spent the afternoon finding my way into about 8 of my loco's, investigating available decoder space against the options. I think my way forward is to complete stripdowns of the rest of my 'fleet' and decide quantity and type(s) of decoders I'll need, then look at a "bulk order" from that German box shifter, especially as I see that Sterling is a bit stronger against the Euro nowadays. My M7 is one of the earlier incarnations, so not "DCC ready", and getting a decoder into the 0-4-0 and 0-6-0 tanks could be a 'shoehorn job', but nothing ventured, nothing gained, and I reckon for these it'll have to be the Lenz 'Mini'. I had a look inside the 4EMU, and that'll be just a 'plug-and-play' job, so I'll stick to the 21 pin for that one, 8 pin 'plug-and-play' for the Q1 but my idea of using one decoder type looks a non-starter, mainly due to available space, or lack of. Am I correct in assuming that a programming track does not need to be long enough to put a loco through it's paces? I'm thinking of a short length of track off the main layout rather than having an isolation facility somewhere on the layout itself to do the programming on. As an aside, yesterday I acquired a 'non-runner' Bachmann "Lord Nelson" class loco which was otherwise like new (and cheap!). Half an hour spent sorting it has resulted in a very sweet running loco, another candidate for DCC conversion!
Keith.

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 Posted: Sat Jul 19th, 2014 10:49 pm
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MaxSouthOz
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Hi Keith.

It sounds like you are making progress.

I have two programming tracks on my main layout.  One is the Lenz PT and one is for my second Lokprogrammer.

They are switched in and out by means of double pole double throw (DPDT) switches.

The reason I've done that is so that once the loco is put on to the layout, I don't have to handle it again. 

That's important with steam locos with all their crank rods, etc.

Once they are programmed the sections of track revert to normal running.

The two programming sections are in the main line, which also has an in track speedometer for speed matching.

Having them on the main line means that they are close to the operator (me).  I've found that helpful if I'm trying to count the number of chuffs per revolution, for example.

Just a thought.  :cool:



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 Posted: Sat Jul 19th, 2014 11:33 pm
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RFS
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Hi Keith

Firstly that Lord Nelson.  It's one of Bachmann's wonderful "split chassis" types and one of the most difficult to convert to DCC, as it basically has to be dismantled and re-assembled.  Probably needs to be one of your later conversions!

A programming track is basically just for setting up the decoder's CVs.  It just has a very low voltage, so if you've made a mistake and got the wiring wrong it won't do any damage to the loco or decoder.  When the DCC command station sets a CV it does "pulse" the loco so it may jerk slightly forward, so for this reason the track should at least a couple of feet long.

I have my programming track doubling as a siding, and like Max I have a DPDT switch that switches it from track power to programming track power. I've made it long enough so I can drive the whole of a 4CEP onto it without having to split off just the powered coach. I also acquired a Lenz decoder programmer off Ebay recently (for less than £30 when the RRP is £145). This allows me to have the programming track independent of the main layout (ie I can use it without having the rest of the layout powered down). I use Lenz's CV Editor to manage the CVs, and this program also allows me the flash the firmware of my Lenz decoders to current levels as required.

I'm running DCC automation with RR&Co TrainController and for speed profiling I have three consecutive blocks in my storage yard for doing this.  TC will measure the maximum speed of the loco over the centre block and I then adjust CV5 until I get a reasonable value (no more than 70mph).



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 Posted: Sun Jul 20th, 2014 10:20 am
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SRman
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Yes, the short programming track is fine. I have a spare yard length of track set aside - currently in a temporary position but will be set up under the main line upper level when I get to laying that!

I have  6 pole rotary switch set up to the programming track, with connections to:

 1. LokProgrammer

2. Off/isolated

3. NCE Power Cab (with possible USB connection to computer and JRMI Decoder Pro)

4. Off/isolated

5. NCE Power Pro with connection to computer and JRMI Decoder Pro

6. 12 volt analogue DC controller (added afterwards - shows as 'Off' in the photo).




Certain types of decoder, especially Hornby ones, will leap forwards when you program them, so a little bit of provision for overrun is desirable. Alternatively, use a rolling road setup on the track.

The reason for using the Power Cab is that it has a little more power on the programming track, suitable for recalcitrant sound decoders. Otherwise the Power Pro is fine for most such jobs.



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 Posted: Sun Jul 20th, 2014 07:01 pm
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Keith M
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Funnily enough Robert, the "Lord Nelson" was bought from a guy in Derby as a runner, but turned out not to be. He halved the price as an alternative to refunding me, and I took a chance on stripping and finding the problem, something of a "Baptism of fire" for me, as I had not previously stripped a loco, although I'm a retired Electrician, so the electrical side was no real challenge. It transpired that the two chassis halves looked (judging by the marks) as though someone had hammered them at the top, thus 'peening-over' the two halves into a short-circuit! Some dressing back to shape with a file, and a little judicial insulation added as a 'just-in-case', together with much cursing during the fiddly reassembly process resulted in a real bargain. That said, I feel I am now quite conversant with the Bachmann split chassis!
Talking of Ebay, just this afternoon, I picked up a new Lenz USB L1 computer Ethernet link control unit for just under half retail price to go with my Lenz 'Set 100'. Just got to find time to strip and check the rest of my loco's now, so I can make a list of my decoder needs before I go shopping with that German box shifter!
Keith.

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 Posted: Sun Jul 20th, 2014 10:08 pm
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Brian R
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Hi Keith, I'm coming late into this, but I am another who has tried Hornby and Bachmann and given up on them because of lack of features and a tendency for them to blow up. I too have settled on Lenz standard+ and find them much better.



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 Posted: Tue Jul 22nd, 2014 04:14 pm
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RFS
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Keith M wrote: Talking of Ebay, just this afternoon, I picked up a new Lenz USB L1 computer Ethernet link control unit for just under half retail price to go with my Lenz 'Set 100'. Just got to find time to strip and check the rest of my loco's now, so I can make a list of my decoder needs before I go shopping with that German box shifter!



The LI-USB has been around for a long while and has been superseded by the 23151 USB/Ethernet. However it works fine provided you have the up-to-date drivers.  The driver disk is way down-level and only usable as a coaster! The unit uses the common FTDI chip and latest drivers are easily installable.  I would suggest following these instructions here, which I've just done to update mine to current FTDI level (2.10.00)

http://mike.itsfido.com/2013/10/lenz-li-usb-on-windows-8-1-x64-with-jmri/

Likewise the CV Editor on the disk has been replaced with the one on the Lenz web-site whose current version is 1.1.7.

Edit: another tip - make sure that the LI-USB firmware is flashed at the same level as your LZV100.  Should both be at 3.6.

 



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 Posted: Tue Jul 22nd, 2014 10:55 pm
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Keith M
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Funny you should tell me this Robert, but now I know about this, I can give it a try, as my Windows 7 laptop can't recognise the L1-USB. I'm not a Windows fan (I now use an Imac), so I struggle with it. I downloaded the version 3.6 software upgrade from the Lenz website, and have it installed, but not gone any further since it's not recognised the L1, and in all honesty I was stumped, but as I'm not in any rush to use it yet, decided there was plenty of time to research the problem. A few hours later, and here you are putting the solution right under my nose! I'll give it a go when I get time (it does seem a bit 'long-winded!'), but thanks anyway.
Keith.

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 Posted: Wed Jul 23rd, 2014 01:28 am
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MaxSouthOz
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Hi Keith

Most model rail stuff is Windows based, so Macs need a bit more skill.

Despite that, the people I know who have Macs, love them.  Go figure.  :lol:

Post your question here  https://groups.yahoo.com/neo/groups/DigitPlusbyLenz/info

You will find plenty of help.

Cheers



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 Posted: Sun Aug 17th, 2014 03:15 pm
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Keith M
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Well, I got my initial order of 7 Lenz decoders from the recommended German 'box-shifter', got them all fitted ok (only 2 loco's were plug-in "DCC ready"), so, having in the meantime bought a couple more loco's and a Bachmann 2 car EMU, am now about to order a few more decoders. The only problem I have now is how to strip the tender of my Hornby R257 "schools" class tender driven loco to get to the motor and see what space is available, and I've posted to this effect in the 'all things Hornby' section of the forum. I found that even the 0-4-0 tank loco's were no real problem to get a standard decoder in, the only really difficult one (for which I had to use a 'Silver Mini' decoder) was the "Merchant Navy" loco, which was really quite tight for space, surprisingly enough! It's been a nice change to do a bit of decoder fitting instead of hours spent soldering dropper wires to track and laying it,- might even have a loco or two actually running on part of the layout by Xmas if I carry on at this rate!

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 Posted: Sun Aug 17th, 2014 03:42 pm
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Hi Keith,

Good to see that you are progressing your decoders without too much grief. Some pictures of your layout progress ( with these demon droppers ) would be interesting.

Cheers

Toto

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 Posted: Sun Aug 17th, 2014 07:21 pm
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Keith M
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Not really that much layout-wise to show yet. I will get around to taking and posting a few pics of the small part of the layout that is well on the way to completion when I get the chance. thanks for your interest,
Keith.

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