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Current Business Issues:

Updated: November 22, 2009

For the last 2 shows, (Brampton & Christmas) we have experienced DCC problems on the last day in the last couple of hours in the show. These problems are usually intermittent and we are having a problem trying to determine the cause, especially when the system ran well the previous day and in the morning of the last day. In my experience, intermittent problems are the worst kind to troubleshoot as they come and go at "random". In our quest to solve this mystery many theories are being put forth. Below I have some links and suggestions that may point us the right way. A good general strategy for trying to solve these kinds of problems is to "divide and conquer". What this entails is to simply split the "system" into 2 pieces and see if the problem goes to one of the 2 pieces. You keep splitting pieces and following the problem until you get it down to one little part and then the problem should be solvable now that you have located it. We do know that extremely large (Free-Mo) layouts have been successfully run using Digitrax so we know it can be done we just need to figure out where we are going wrong. This will be a learning experience for all of us, so please just hang in there and be patient, we shouldn't and needn't be going around blaming each other, we are all in this together.

Possible problems might be:

1) Bad power supply and/or too many locos running at once.

2) Loconet being taxed/strained.

3) Bad Command station.

4) Bad wiring or Loconet.

I have discovered that when using the UP5's there are really 2 kinds of Loconet connectors. (Loconet, by the way, is Digitrax's "throttle and command" bus system). The 2 front panel connectors should only be used for throttles or Loconet devices that will not be connected to any other Loconet device. The connector on the side of the UP5 is also one of these kinds of connectors, it should only be connected to a throttle or another Loconet device that is not connected to anything else. Only the 2 connectors on the back of the UP5 should be "daisy-chained" to other devices. Bob (Scott) I have the feeling that one or two of the yard UP5's may have been connected this way, (using the side connector). Can you check this and make sure that they aren't? Everyone else should check this on their modules as well. This may possibly explain the situation where certain DT400 throttles weren't able to work properly on certain UP5s. (I gotta check mine as well...) Check out Digitrax's link which talks about this, Digitrax UP5 documentation .

When connecting the DCC system to the layout, we should try to insert it into the "electrical centre" of the layout, the idea is that you will reduce the voltage drop at the extreme ends of the layout, so you want the "extreme ends" to be as close as possible. At the Christmas show, we didn't do this. We may be at the point where we need to add a booster, I am of the opinion that we should not need to do this yet, I think there is some other issue at work here. At the next show we should be prepared to insert a booster, if needed to test this theory. I have proposed earlier that we get a Club Empire builder to use as a possible booster and backup to the Super Chief. This will help and at the very least will help troubleshooting. We could try to add it in and then see if the problems disappear.

 There was an article published by the NMRA commenting on how digital signals lose strength over the length of the line and decoders can end up getting "confused". I have this article and we can investigate this as well but I don't think this is the solution to our problem as this fixes problems where decoders get confused, not command stations cutting out. The article basically recommended putting a "snubber" or high frequency filter at the end(s) of a long layout, (66 feet or more). I think what one of us can do is basically purchase a set of connectors and just make a couple of these filters to be plugged into the 2 most extreme ends of the layout.

A suggestion was made at the end of the Christmas train show that we find a large room that we could rent for 2 consecutive days to set up as many modules as we can so that we can troubleshoot this problem. If we solve it quickly then we can play and/or work on the modules. I think we should seriously look into this suggestion. (Pick a weekend or 2 days out of a long weekend.)

It was brought up that it would be good to measure the track voltage. This is a good suggestion but nobody knows how to do it. The problem is, is that DCC is an AC signal and regular meters can't measure this. I just discovered that there is a way, check out this link on the Digitrax web site: Measuring DCC Track Voltage .

Another idea that I had and will probably do is to set up a small, club owned board, which would basically act as test interface for any Free-Mo module end. It would test a module's wiring to make sure it has been done correctly and that there are no shorts. We can use this as a "check" on any new modules to "club-certify" them. Members would be able to borrow this when they go to wire their modules. I could set this test board up to buzz when it detects a short. You would be able to plug it in and wire until it buzzes!

Updated: October 14, 2009

Click here for Digitrax Club Order information

At the Oct. 14 meeting it was decided, (passed) that:

1) Until further notice, we will use one set of plastic joiners, (on the 2 inch connecting rails), between each "Cinch-Jones" connected module. The idea is that we should be able to trouble shoot shorts much quicker and isolate the problem simply by disconnecting the Cinch-Jones connectors.

2) We decided that a laser kit should be done for our next "club project". Andrew will take one meeting to go over tips and techniques on doing laser kits and then we will take a meeting or two to actually build a laser kit.

3) We will take on a plaster kit as our next club project after the laser kit. We will see if Clark is willing to do the tips and techniques for plaster kits similar to what Andrew did for laser kits.

4) We would like Bob Hill to take a meeting or two to teach us how the Car card system would work in relation to our module set ups. If it can be arranged we would like to have some sort of practice session using the car cards before the first show that we plan on using it.

5) Damon and Lucien need to create our official standards document, (or update it) mostly for the benefit of any new member.


Updated: August 12, 2009

1) Clark to get 100% NMRA registration - In progress

2) Work session in the big room at the church is scheduled for Sat. Aug 29, 2009.

4) Clark to plan possible clinics/presentations.

We had many suggestions for the program/clinics for the new modelling season, below is a list compiled from the Aug. 11 meeting:

a) DCC clinic (special version to be presented by Paul) This would be based on the clinic that Paul did for the store.

b) Roofing materials (Andrew)

c) Snow and Winter scenery and techniques (Roy)

d) Tunnel portals and castings (Andrew and Jim ??)

e) Photographic and painted backdrops and view blocks (Damon)

f) Couplers and uncouplers

g) Bridging gaps in layouts

h) Possible layout tour to members layouts

i) Model Photography and/or prototype photography (Damon and Paul)

j) Figure painting and work session (how to paint figures for your layout or modules) (Paul ??)

k) Animation (Sound, lighting animation for your layout or modules)

8) John and Roy are looking for a possible 3rd person to work with them on their Free-Mo Bala module set. This sounds like a very

exciting project and should be spectacular when done. John and Roy are hoping to build 2 modules each and the 3rd person

would build 2 more for a total of 6 to complete the set. Bob H. volunteered to draw up a formal track plan.

10) DPM Building contest will be held at Club BBQ at last Thursday Meeting in August. The rules are simple. The winner will get the "big" steak at

the club BBQ at the end of August. (If you need the rules or info please ask me, Paul Taylor and I will email to you.)

11) Church show is scheduled for Sep. 11-13 see details on events listing.

12) Clark proposed a possible NFR convention to be held in April of 2010. The proposal may include 3 groups, us with the NFR, the Erin Mills club and the Narrow Gaugers.

13) Jim will be investigating standards and costs for skirting for the modules.

14) Jim has built a prototype barrier to put around the modules to keep the public at a safe distance from the modules. The system looks like it will work very well and so far those that have seen it like it. We will have to determine how/when to "mass produce" the barriers. It was also decided that each module owner will be responsible for the barrier on both sides of his module set. We will also have to have an official vote to make it the standard. The vote was passed.

15) I will probably be going to Montreal (Delson) sometime this summer. The CRHA Railway museum there is excellent and is a must see. People interested so far are: Paul Th., Andrew, Lucien and Jim. If anyone else is interested please let me know. It would be on a weekend. For those that are interested, I will try to come up with some proposed dates shortly and then we will vote. One thought that I had, make it an overnight trip on the August long weekend, go Saturday morning and come back Sunday night, you will avoid the big traffic on Friday night and avoid big traffic on Monday night.

16) Possible new Digitrax club order. (Apparently we are allowed to do another order...)

17) Junior membership for our group. We have been approached and asked about young people joining our group. We need to figure out how we will accomodate this situation.




1) In order to get a little bit more variation in grade I was thinking that 2 modules could be built with a 2% grade (Free-Mo standard) on each. If you mate the 2 high ends together then you will have a small "hill". Now if you had a number of wooden blocks available that would be the height difference between the 2 ends of the module then you could put a few modules in between your 2 grade modules. (You would need 4 blocks per "between" module, or one per potential leg.) On a 4 foot module, a 2% grade will give you a 3/4 inch height difference over 3 feet. Remember that you need to keep the 6 inches flat and level at each Free-Mo end.

    Conceivably you could create a valley rather than a hill by putting the two low ends together. This is a little bit more difficult as that would require shorter legs. For "in-between" modules you would need to have another set of shorter legs that could be used instead of the regular legs. Or possibly a module could be suspended between the two down grade modules to give a larger valley.

    If a second set of 2 modules were built with another set of blocks, there could be even more variation in grade, this would allow two hills or valleys or one big hill or valley. Ideally these "grade" modules should be built in pairs but it may not be absolutely necessary. If one grade module was built, it could be used at one end of the layout. All modules connected to the high side would now be part of a larger hill going to the end of the layout. Come to think of it, if there were 2 modules connected low end to high end and then low end to high end, you would have a taller hill at one end of the layout. The Free-Mo grade restriction is 2% on the mainline. Just to add even more variance to this, why not build one or two of the modules with a gentle curving grade?

    This is something that we haven't really thought about as a group and showcases the brilliance of the Free-Mo standard once again.

    Something to think about??..... Any takers??  Paul


2) Digitrax Soundbugs can potentially be used for layout sounds as well as locomotive sounds. On the Digitrax Yahoo group there was a suggestion that you could use a Soundbug to generate wheel squeal on a curve. The suggestion was to use a little whisker to detect when a car is travelling across a particular piece of track and then generate the squeal noise. I was thinking that possibly without too much problem, one may be able to design a circuit that would generate wheel squeal at a number of curves in a layout using one Soundbug and a number of speakers and detectors of some sort. Paul