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I’ve got a digitrax Zephyr Express and am interested in knowing if this is enough to run a single MTH engine. My concern is it’s limited to 13 volts according to the website, but for my engines, I think it’s got enough current. It’s a small 4x10 loop with two turnouts so I can park a trolley and run a short MTH Christmas train and vice versa. Neither would run together. If the zephyr won’t work, what’s a good DCC module for this limited size? It won’t grow. I plan to do an HO layout when we move so I can repurpose it, but this will always be for my wife’s Department 56 Christmas village. Spending a a grand on a controller may be overkill.

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Coming back to this. It doesn't work great for my 8'x4' oval with two turnouts, just my shorter 4x4 oval test layout. I'm not exactly sure why. As the layout gets bigger, voltage drop seems to be my problem. I'm running 12 gauge for the bus wire, and 18 gauge stranded for the feeders (all < 8"). No matter what I do, I can't get enough power to the tracks. The train can start, and I can control it, but it won't run very far. My fluke is showing 9.8V AC on the track (the digitrax should be putting out ~14 I think), and I plan to put my portable meter on it later to see what the peak to peak actually is.

The Digitrax system really isn't built to work with 12 gauge wiring though, so that's a problem too. The connectors just barely fit.

What other systems have people used for MTH trains in a small to medium layout, no booster? Money IS an object, but I'm willing to go a little ways to get what I want. I've got an ESP32 with Mike Dunston's SW I can use because I can put a bigger voltage brick on it to try to "solve" the voltage drop problem, assuming that's the issue. The challenge is the only control board I have is limited to 2 amps, which I think is probably cutting it a bit close. Nice thing about ESPCommandStation is that I can see the current consumption directly.

Anyone have any thoughts on either why it's not working well, or what I can do to improve? I can post a track layout later (my mac is waiting on a repair), and a picture of my drops connected if that would help.

I use Fastrack, with feeders dropped from the little underside connects (spade, clip?) for each track segment, except the turnouts. That's usually where the train dies too. However, while it's running, when it does run, the lights flicker a LOT and it may just shut down randomly anywhere on the layout. I don't think this is a current issue, but a voltage issue. Hence the willingness to try the DB210, that might be a good choice. Higher voltage, with more current, and better connectors for this setup. Ordered that from Amazon just now. I have an 18V 5 amp hobby transformer to power it. I'm also upgrading my terminal blocks, what I'm using now are small for 12 awg, and I'm going to beef up the bus to feeder connections, probably soldering them. I'm also going to clean the track extensively before the next test.

I'm not totally convinced it's not the MTH trolley. We got the Christmas trolley a few years ago, and it didn't run well with the DCS setup, same issues. At the time, I chose to switch to DCC because I knew more about it, and because the DCS app limited what you could do with their cheaper wifi explorer. Since I cut the cord, I see they allow you to upgrade the app to get the missing sounds/capabilities. C'est la vie. I did order a new Christmas engine and a few cars from MTH from their 2020 catalog, but that doesn't come for a while, so I have to wait. I'm going to see if I can find a used PS3 engine on EBay for cheap enough to use for comparison and testing. I'm also going to rebuild my little 036 circle as a small test track for experimentation.

**Edit**

It's the 52 Zephyr.

Last edited by PeteB

Ok, got the DB210 and a 20V power supply capable of 8.5 amps. I've got enough power now. I cleaned the track, and tried the Zephyr again. It got a little farther (tracks were very dirty), but still had issues. But I installed the DB210 and now it's working like a champ. I'm going to clean up some of the drops, and solder a few joints around the turnouts like you said @Doug-Sr. It still flickers a bit when it hits them. But I don't have my drops between the turnouts wired either, so that may help as well.

Thanks a lot for the suggestions. I didn't pay enough attention to the boosters from Digitrax as an alternative, so I didn't consider them. But that was a good fix. In hindsight, 3 rail tracks plus a power bus is a LOT of wire to power, and I can see a small solution just not working for anything even a little bigger like mine. Plus, having a newer Lenovo laptop power brick that is 20V made it possible to keep the costs down. The place that just RIF'd me may never even miss it .

Last edited by PeteB

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