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I'll cut right to the chase on the questions:

1.) Can a single DCC receiver run multiple motors at once?

2.) If a single receiver can, how many can it run? These motors would be separated from one another and not wired together.

3.) Is there a major difference in N scale receivers vs HO scale receivers?

I'm working on a project where I need to drive 4 independent motors. All the motors will be attached to the same two rails. I'm looking for recommendations on the what DCC receiver to use. I understand the basics of how DCC works but I don't know much beyond that. Are there low end and high end receivers with different levels of control and abilities?

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All the comments below are based on motor control decoders without sound.

The decoders are rated with how many amps they can manage continously and short term.

How many motors depends on the amperage of each motor.    So the question cannot be answered accurately without that information.    What is the motor current rating (amps).

An N scale motor is generally very small, and draws very little current.    Therefore a decoder with small low current components can be used and the decoder can be built very small.     And HO motor is bigger and generally draws more current and needs a decoder with a higher rating which usually means bigger.    An O scale loco usually has even larger motors and draws more current and therefore needs a higher rated decoder that is generally larger and more expensive.

Technically, for motor control, there is no difference between HO, N, and even O decoders except as mentioned on what kind of current and sometimes voltage they can handle.    There used to be very low end ones that only used 14 speed steps for control, but I don't think any of those are made any more.    I think most you find today will be 28/128 speed steps for control and the decoder decides this automatically.      There are differences in the auxilliary outputs from the decoders for lights and other accessories.    There are very cheap ones that only have the motor control, and 2 functions - one for front light and one for rear light.    The more expensive ones  usually 5-6 outputs or more for all sorts of lights and whatever you want based on the amperage rating again.

NCE makes a great motor control only for O scale, model D408SR.     this decoder has a 4 amp continous rating and a 10 or 12 amp (I can't remember) stall rating.     If your motors draw one amp apiece under load, this decoder would do the job.     It is about 1x2x1/4 inch, so is quite large but very capable for control.   I think it has 6 aux outputs.

That makes sense that it gets divided by amperage. I suppose I'll have to find myself a motor or four and get the amperage rating off them.

The D408SR (which I will look up) does sound appealing. That size isn't too bad. This is technically an O scale application but I want to run motors for other stuff; not locomotives.

And on that note, does the horn count as an aux output? How does the sound file for the horn work on a decoder? Can you upload your own or do you have to buy one with the horn you want?

The amperage does not divide by number of motors, unless wired in series.   If you wire in parallel, the amperage accumulates (ADDS) to a total.

On sound decoders, the horn is not a separate function.    If you want to add some sort of horn device to a 408, you have to use one of the functions.    The NCE D408SR is NOT a sound decoder.    it has not built in sound chips or functions.

Sound decoders are a whole different animal and are not nearly as standardized as motor control.    The NMRA standard defines the motor control CVs and how they work.    To be NMRA compliant, a decoder has to follow these standards.     Sound is/was not part of the standard, so each company has gone their own way and added variouis memory and access methods to create hundreds of control variables in some cases.

Most sound decoders with a horn installed, and many have a choice of 8 or more horns.    Also, if want to download your own, I think you can.    To download  you have to have a programmer specific to the individual decoder brand as near as I can tell.    QSI, SoundTraxx, Loksound are a few of the major sound decoder suppliers.   MRC and Digitrax may have some also.    I have not checked to see if NCE makes sound decoders or not.

I am not well versed in sound.   I have installed quite a few sound decoders, but I just used the sounds available on the decoder and the options they offered.   I have not downloaded new sounds.    And to be honest, I can't tell the finer points of sound.    I can tell an EMD from a Baldwin and and Alco, and I think I can hear a turbo but I am not that good at picked the sounds by hearing them.

Depends on the brand for the horn.  I use ESU decoders in O (The LokSound L or XL) because they allow for custom sound files, so you can make it sound whatever you want (As well as working in conventional AC if there isn't a DCC command base.).

As for can the decoder run multiple motors, like stated above, you have to see the current rating vs the motor draw.  And you need the stall current of the motor, there are several online tutorials on how to do that. And another thing is you have to look at the command base you are planning to use, can it supply 'track' power to all those motors at once, stall current.

@prrjim posted:

   And to be honest, I can't tell the finer points of sound.    I can tell an EMD from a Baldwin and and Alco, and I think I can hear a turbo but I am not that good at picked the sounds by hearing them.

I appreciate all the info! That makes sense about parallel vs series. I didn't even consider that. I'm at the funny point where I need to pick components and to see what components I need to pick so I guess I will get to it and ask more questions as needed.

@sinclair posted:

Depends on the brand for the horn.  I use ESU decoders in O (The LokSound L or XL) because they allow for custom sound files, so you can make it sound whatever you want (As well as working in conventional AC if there isn't a DCC command base.).

Awesome! I will look them up. Thank you! I will have to see if this will work because one sound is the sound of a DC motor moving the crane along the rails. The other sound (the "horn") is really more of a siren. I don't know how exactly that would work. I can get a 10 second clip of a siren. I just need DCC to play the sound when I hit the "horn" button. Likewise, I can get a sound of a crane in motion. I just need DCC to play it when I move.

What the heck are you building Billy?

An overhead crane for my steel mill on the layout. I've been working with @G3750 and we're starting to source parts and figure a way to drive it. DCC seems to be the simplest solution.

The biggest problem with installing sound decoders in N Scale is where to put the speaker.  Most of the time it goes where the fuel tank is on the bottom of the diesels, but that requires milling (or drilling) the frame halves to accommodate the speaker.  The simple law of physics is that the smaller the speaker the worse it sounds.  HO is much easier and sounds a lot better.  N Scale NON-SOUND decoders are easier as well.

In terms of the throttle controller you can make one for around $35.  I did.  Just search for DCC++ and JMRI Arduino Controller.  You can control the loco from a laptop, desktop, tablet, or phone.

John

Last edited by Craftech

Yes.  You need an Arduino uno or mega , motor controller shield to mount on it, a DC power supply (wall wart) for the Arduino, and a USB printer cable to attach the Arduino/motor controller to a laptop for programming on a programming track.  The software and setup requires a bit of digging around, but essentially the open source JMRI Decoder Pro is your interface software.  Once you program the decoder with that you can either open a throttle with the device (laptop, etc) you programmed it with or run Wi Throttle which is seen by a wireless device such as your phone or tablet as a network.  Apple and Android both have engine throttle apps that will connect to the JMRI network and from that app you can enter the address of your locomotive (default is 3), turn on the engine power, and run the engine from the wireless device.

If you want to take it a step further you can buy an inexpensive raspberry Pi 4 (which is a tiny but powerful computer) instead of using the laptop or desktop.  It works off of a micro SD card with the entire interface and OS on it and preprogrammed to start the Arduino setup and send out a wireless signal which your phone or tablet can connect to.  That is AFTER programming the loco in the first place.

John

Last edited by Craftech

I am familiar with those.   I am more familiar with ones without the extra hook.   I worked in a Seamless tube plant for about 5  years as part of my first job.   We used overhead cranes to do all movement within the plant.   Generally 5 and 10 ton lifts.

I had a thought that if the motors for the trolley and winches have a low enough current draw, you could  use some thing like the NCE D408sr (no sound unfortunately).    You could  use the motor control to move the bridge, and then use functions to raise and lower the winches and move the trolley.   That way, you would only need one address and you could access all the moves.

I saw a wrecking crane that a guy had converted to DCC from whatever Lionel uses.    He had different addresses, (I assume different decoders) for each type of move.    Move the crane, rotate, raise/lower hook, and raise/lower boom.   It was really neat, but the more I thought about it the more I thought it was cumbersome to have to enter a new address for everything.    I got to thinking it would be neat to do it with the function keys.

@prrjim posted:

I am familiar with those.   I am more familiar with ones without the extra hook.   I worked in a Seamless tube plant for about 5  years as part of my first job.   We used overhead cranes to do all movement within the plant.   Generally 5 and 10 ton lifts.

That way, you would only need one address and you could access all the moves.

It was really neat, but the more I thought about it the more I thought it was cumbersome to have to enter a new address for everything.    I got to thinking it would be neat to do it with the function keys.

Good deal! I worked in a foundry so we used the extra hook for flipping stuff over and pouring the ladled iron into another ladle to cool it off some. I wish I had video of that second part because you just don't see 60 tons of liquid iron pour like water from a cup everyday.

This part with the address is something that concerned me as I got to reading. It would be annoying to have to swap addressed for every little thing but I haven't read up on the function keys. I just read about a super basic DCC setup.

@BOB WALKER posted:

Why use a the complexity of DCC to power motors that are not in a locomotive?

DCC seems very simple to me. Am I missing something? I wonder if the intro video I watched was TOO basic. Maybe there's more to it.

I'm having concerns over having a decoder for each motor because that means more addresses but on the other hand, the wiring is so simple. The rails can be connected via jumper wire. Then it's just a decoder to a motor.

DCC was created to provide real life characteristics when running model locomotives and is quite effective in this mode. DCC's capabilities include speed momentum adjustment, numerous sounds like bells and whistles and various light controls. For control of motors that are used to animate other devices, switches and potentiometers would seem to be a whole lot simpler. Also, servos can be used very effectively to create controlled movement.

DCC for motor control is very simple to wire.   Not as simple as direct DC however as mentioned above.    But it is just 2 wires from the rails to the decoder, and 2 wires from the decoder to the motor.    Everything else  you do with it is an accessory add-on.     You could wire the decoders in parallel if you had one for each motor as you suggest.    Each would respond only to its unique address.    You would have to program them one at a time however, at least the first time.    After that you could program directly to each address and the others would ignore it.    this is called "programming on the main" in many places.     With digitrax, it works just fine, and there is no way to access more than one address.    So you can't program more than one decoder that way, unless they have the very same address.    I have done this many times to adjust momentum or other things on a specific loco.

Based on what you guys are saying, I think DCC makes good sense in this application because I can add power to my crane wheels. I can then power the rest of the crane from there. The ability to adjust momentum is appealing to me and I'm looking for sounds. I wasn't going to add lights but I could. The cranes at work had/have them.

So I think the business with the addresses is really what's holding me back. Punching in an address every time I need to control a different motor might get old. Could I use multiple remotes? As in, one per address? Disregard what it probably costs. I'm just on the learning curve at the moment. I have seen those remotes that plug in. Could each motor have it's own controller?

So just for kicks and the sake of learning,  let's say I want to roll with the Flat Can Motor style 2430 from Micromark.

It's rated for 12VDC and has a 0.53 amp stall current at 12VDC.

I have no wiring diagram yet but I was planning to wire this as one side of the building has a runway rail. That rail is wired to the bridge rail. The hoist motors are going to get power from those bridge rails. Then the other side is wired the same way. So I believe the wiring will resemble having four trains on a stretch of track. I think that's wired in parallel.

I believe parallel means the amps are summed up so I would need a bit over 2 amps and would need decoders rated for that number (or a bit more).

How am I doing so far?

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