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Who, besides me, is a relative novice at running trains using DCS, and how is it going?

I will start us off. I have had DCS for less than 1 month, have had my ups and downs with it, but more recently my experience has been up. Lately, I have very much enjoyed the speed control running trains with prototypical slow smooth speed on my layout, the billows of smoke that one gets with track power set at 17 or 18 volts, and the handheld remote, especially for using the electrocoupler feature for switching maneuvers.

I will share more details later, after some of you folks have chimed in.

Maybe this thread can serve as a DCS support group of sorts.

LOL, Arnold

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Arnold, thanks for starting a good thread (at least from my selfish perspective, it's a good one   ).  I literally just started wiring TODAY of my first layout with the homerun/star approach. Past layouts with TMCC but without DCS used the bus wire approach. Doesn't seem like rocket science, but I tend to overthink new things.

I purchased a used TIU and remote several years ago, but have only used them on a carpet layout at Christmas.  Perhaps out of fear with MTH's closure, I recently bought a back-up remote and TWO back-up TIUs. Just dealing with versions will be a new experience.

Looking forward to reading everyone's comments and advice.

Mike, maybe someone more knowledgeable than me can give you a more definitive answer, but my guess is that a Z1000 is fine for running a PS3 locomotive on a modest-sized layout.

I also think that starting with the DCS Remote Commander you have is probably a very good way to start out with DCS.

I got the same Remote Commander about 7 years ago and never used it. I got it because it came with an MTH train set that included a CSX PS3 diesel, and a few freight cars. At that time, I was only interested in the trains that came with the set, not the DCS Remote Commander.

The way I got interested in DCS is through running LionChief Plus (LC+) engines using the LC+ dedicated remote units. I was, and still am, very happy with the user friendliness of running LC+ engines using the remotes.

Then, I gravitated to DCS because I had several PS2 and PS3 locomotives, and wanted to run them like I run my LC+ engines using the remotes.

Arnold

Arnold, I don't reckon I fall into the novice category of DCS users as I've been using it off and on since it first debuted around 20 years ago now. Nevertheless, nearly every time I use DCS it's always an adventure of sorts, and I will say unapologetically there's always something that goes amiss for me, though undoubtedly sometimes its operator error. In my experience the simpler the layout the better DCS works...there's so many variables on factors that effect the system.

Just today I was building a lashup using DCS...it took me a while but it kind of all comes back as I went through the buttons and scrolling, etc.

@Paul Kallus posted:

In my experience the simpler the layout the better DCS works

Paul's response reminds me that I should have provided more details.

My layout is exactly 10 x 15 feet with an additional 11 x 4 feet L section.  There is about 160 linear feet of FasTrack with 12 switches all on track power.  I'm using two channels on one TIU for essentially two isolated loops.  Each channel or loop has two power/TIU hookups.

I was new to the hobby when I built the layout so I didn't get silly about wiring.  Ignorance is bliss.  I just connected one piece of track near the TIU and another at the furthest end of the layout.  It worked like a champ the first time I hooked it up.  My advice to any newbie is: start simple.  Unless your layout is enormous or complicated, then just hook up the TIU and see if it works.  Later on, if you want to get Barry's book, do star-wiring, and build a control panel that looks like the space shuttle, then go for it.

@MikeH posted:

Unless your layout is enormous or complicated, then just hook up the TIU and see if it works.  Later on, if you want to get Barry's book, do star-wiring, and build a control panel that looks like the space shuttle, then go for it.

That's likely good advice especially if adding DCS to an existing layout. Since I'm building a new layout, I figured best to go with the recommendations in Barry's book. My last layout had TMCC with bus wiring (easy peasy).  I've used DCS on a Christmas layout like you described (one hot, one common wire from TIU to each loop also simple).

To your point, though, I'm not planning any accessory or switch control via DCS or TMCC for this new layout.  For one, my layout isn't that big and, two, I want to retain some of the old postwar operating appeal. Maybe I'll change my mind someday on that, but I doubt it.  Just want to run trains with a remote control device.

My biggest challenge ahead, I think, is using 2 TIUs.  I have many small transformers, no 180W bricks, so I'm using 2 transformers and therefore 2 TIU channels per mainline.  Each mainline is about 80' in length, so there's room to run 2 trains on each simultaneously, but I can't see a single 90-100W transformer handling the load of 2 trains. So, 1 TIU will cover 2 mainlines each broken into 2 districts.  I'm putting the switching and storage yard on a separate TIU.

Otherwise, 100% on board with your advice.

I relate to almost everything that has been mentioned above.

I relate to what Paul said because I am likely only to use the basic features of DCS for the foreseeable future, and I know I'll be making operator's mistakes. To avoid them, every time I start up an engine using the DCS remote, I turn to the DCS Operator's Manual and follow the step by step process therein.

Barry's book, mentioned by Raising4daughters, is indispensable; I regard it as my DCS bible. And, I also am not planning any DCS accessory or switch control.

At this point, having installed the TIU and running DCS for only 2 weeks, I am content with the basic DCS features.

I have 2 Z4000 transformers and the Z4000 Receiver to use the Z4KTracks, but I have not connected the Receiver yet. I got the Receiver because MTH may be closing its business soon, and I want the option, down the road, to run my Postwar and PS1 engines using the DCS remote.

I also recently acquired the necessary equipment to run TMCC and Legacy engines using the DCS remote, but have not hooked it up yet. Again, I want the option to do so, down the road.

Arnold

Thanks to OGR FORUM-ites who affirmed my existing MTH Z1000 transformer and already-installed DCS Remote Commander would be more than adequate for the MTH Aerotrain (equipped with PS-3) when placed on my modest-size L-shaped layout for its inaugural run.  That loco will be the ONLY MTH train on the layout. All my other locos are either Lionel TMCC or LionChief+.

I know some hobbyists have wired their layout with BOTH Lionel TMCC and MTH DCS wiring in place and simultaneously active; both brands of locos run fine.  However, I wired my layout through a low-tech knife switch; one side of the switch connects a Lionel 135w "brick" through a TMCC Command Base to the track, the other side connects a MTH Z1000 with DCS (through a Remote Commander) to the track. I don't want or need to run Lionel and MTH locos on the layout at the same time.

Four lockons connect track power around the layout through bus wiring which works great for all the Lionel locos.  I'll soon know if my existing bus wiring will satisfy the MTH loco. I know MTH recommends "star" wiring, but I hope I can avoid installing a duplicate wiring path with a "star" pattern for distribution of track power to the Aerotrain.

Mike Mottler

Mike H  - Yes a Z1000 is more than enough.

Raising4Daughters -  My layout is roughly 30x 50 with four loops on the main table and 4 powered districts (basically loops but connected to the main). I use one TIU for the main with each channel powering a loop ( although I could have powered all four with one transformer, I used 2-Z4000's). On the other table I use 4 Z-1000 Bricks to power that TIU. TIU's are set to operate together and I have had NO PROBLEMS.

You did the right thing by buying Barry's book and setting up like he suggest. Your problems will be minimal. I started back into the hobby in 2013 and purchased MTH. I now have Lionel and Atlas along with a Williams. As you grow Barry's book will answer 90% of any questions with the rest being answered here. JUST REMEMBER in your posted question include Make of train, Number (20-21264-1 as an example), How you are powering layout, and What items (TIU, AIU, Legacy 990, Z1000, etc). It will speed up an answer from here on the forum. This forum is always the go to place to ask. Best people with experience trying to help everyone, whether new of experienced.

Both of you enjoy the trains.

Arnold - you already know all this so continue having fun and keep asking questions. None of us know everything!

Curtis

Mike

You can run TMMC and Legacy using the wiring for DCS. I do with no problems. DCS will run TMCC and Legacy (as a TMMC engine) thru the remote with nothing added. Legacy run as Legacy will require Legacy system and SER2. If you have a MTH wifi unit you can then purchase the premier app ($25) and get 99% of legacy thru the MTH app.

I have been using DCS for about 18 years, but mostly just to occasionally run trains for many of those years.  I have 2 TIUs and added Wifi to each one a couple years ago.  I do have AIUs for switch and accessory control - don't let them intimidate you - they are just glorified switches (that just happen to require good bifocals and even better fine motor control to physically install LOL).  In the last year, I have added TMCC control through Base1L.

I am a technologist at heart, but I still run into those cognitive lapses we all sometimes have.  Reading Barry's book in the past 6 months was a great refresher.

My best advice is to try any parts of it you want!  There is always someone here on the forum to help.  I try to help where I can but am usually late to the dance.   Since its basically a toy, its really built to be manageable by most anyone.

On a side note, Barry was very gracious in helping me in the forum during my early foray into MTH and DCS.  I was so saddened upon my return to hear of his passing.

Use of star wiring as described is not a unanimous agreement.  When my son gave me a DCS set the week it came out some 20 years ago, I plopped the TIU between transformer and track and have been running ever since (much expanded).  I have 12-gauge bus running around the layout for ground, and 14-gauge wire runs from the 72 toggle switches on my control panel out to individual blocks.  It was designed that way in the early 90s to permit multiple locos to be run conventionally.  The late Marty Fitzhenry also did not use star wiring.

I love this post.  Some of us struggle with compatibility between MTH DCS and Legacy ,,,,, i have both and for the love of me, still dont "get" why there are four inputs and four outputs ... and why the transformer post #1 has to be on

I have four separate loops like @ CurtisH but when i plug loop two into the TIU i am still controlling it from lever one on the transformer

I bought Barry's book, but i am lost ... i am sure that i will figure it out with time

Steve:  Not only do the tracks have to be powered, which is done through the 4 channels, but the electronics inside the TIU needs to be powered, continuously.  MTH had provided two ways for this to be accomplised.  The first, and best, is through the AUX port; any 12-18-volt power supply of at least one amp will do.  An alternative method provided by MTH is that, if nothing is plugged into AUX, the TIU wll seek to obtain power from the FIXED 1 input.  Problem with this is that, if the transformer handle is pulled back, the TIU shuts off and you lose control on all channels.  Therefore, the use of a separate power supply---not your train transformer---feeding AUX is highly recommended.

There are 4 channels to provide greater power and signal strength for larger layouts, and to provide two vehicles---VARIABLE 1 & 2---for using the remote to provide control of track voltage when running conventional.  This gives walkaround control when running conventional.  I never have to touch a transformer handle

You may feed multiple inputs from a single transformer "handle" or you may use separate "handles" or transformers to provide more power.  I have a large layout, capable of running many engines at once, and use 6 channels (2 TIUs)  I also have an MTH product, no longer made, that controls voltage output of a Z4000.  The feed that through FIXED 1 & 2 (one handle each) and feed the other 4 VARIABLE channels from an OLD ZW and a PH-180.  The result is that I can, from the remote, control the voltage on all 6 channels, separately, if I want to run my ancient conventional locos,  Having 25 DCS locos, I usually have all 6 channels fixed at about 16 volts.

As someone stated, a nice thread.  A couple of thoughts:

1.  I was told not to run switches off of track power, as it interferes with the DCS signal.  You can usually get away with 3-4 switches, but 5 or more you should put them on their own power source.  Now with the Rev. L TIU and software updates this might have changed.

2.  If you are running 4 command loops and no non command trains,  you don’t need 2 TIU’s.  The 2 variable channels can be changed to fixed mode with a couple of key strokes on the remote or APP.  You can save the extra TIU for a spare.  The other big plus is if you using the APP, you only need 1 WI-FI unit as each TIU requires it’s own WI-FI interface.

@mrmacher posted:

As someone stated, a nice thread.  A couple of thoughts:

1.  I was told not to run switches off of track power, as it interferes with the DCS signal.  You can usually get away with 3-4 switches, but 5 or more you should put them on their own power source.  Now with the Rev. L TIU and software updates this might have changed.

2.  If you are running 4 command loops and no non command trains,  you don’t need 2 TIU’s.  The 2 variable channels can be changed to fixed mode with a couple of key strokes on the remote or APP.  You can save the extra TIU for a spare.  The other big plus is if you using the APP, you only need 1 WI-FI unit as each TIU requires it’s own WI-FI interface.

If you are using Fastrack switches, simply remove the jumper on the back side and replace it with a 22uh choke on each switch. That will help prevent any degrading of the DCS signal. In addition, switching generally occurs only for a "nano-second" at a time.

It's great that DCS veterans are sharing their wisdom with novices here.

Somewhere I read, maybe in Barry's book, that one can keep the auxiliary power source (for me it's a Z500 brick) plugged in all the time to power the TIU, and doing so avoids the need to reboot the TIU. Also, doing so is comparable to keeping one's computer on all the time.

Do you think that keeping the TIU powered up all the time (with the little red light on) is a good idea? Could doing so be a safety hazard?

Arnold

Well My TIU is powered with an extra 12 volt DC power adapter that I had in the parts drawer. These can bought online for around 10 bucks or so. Just make sure that you get one that is rated for 1.5 or more amps (in case you decide to and an AIU later on). But Arnold's z500 brick also works.  Th AUX power port on the TIU is not picky, just keeps the volts to 21 or less.

My TIU Aux power supply turns on and off with everything else on my layout, I don't see the need to always leave the TIU powered up if everything else is powered down. My who layout is plugged into a nice power strip that provides me with a master switch or one can opt to get one of those remote control outlets so that all of your power can be hidden under the layout and turned one and off with a small dedicated remote control button.

Last edited by H1000

It's great that DCS veterans are sharing their wisdom with novices here.

Somewhere I read, maybe in Barry's book, that one can keep the auxiliary power source (for me it's a Z500 brick) plugged in all the time to power the TIU, and doing so avoids the need to reboot the TIU. Also, doing so is comparable to keeping one's computer on all the time.

Do you think that keeping the TIU powered up all the time (with the little red light on) is a good idea? Could doing so be a safety hazard?

Arnold

Hi Arnold. My tiu is powered by a leftover brick from a z-1000. Both are plugged into a power strip and when I’m finished running trains, I turn off the strip, removing power from both. Start up is the same way, with the press of the power strip button. I have never had a problem and my tiu has operated flawlessly doing  this for over 15 years. I never leave the tiu continuously powered on.

I would NEVER leave any device on a layout powered up.  AT my age, I can't accept the grief that would accompanying rebuilding my house.  I also don't know what you mean by booting up a TIU.  When powered up, it's functional in well under 5 seconds.  I do not believe that Barry would have countenanced leaving a TIU or anything else powered up.  I also have everything plugged into a power strip.  One switch turns on everything

For those, like me, who love to do switching maneuvers, especially with locomotives with front and back electrocouplers, DCS using the remote unit is such a pleasure, as is LC+ using the remote or App, and I imagine the Legacy operating system (which I don't have) is too.

In fact, switching maneuvers using the remote when running PS2 and 3 is the main reason I got DCS to begin with.

It might be interesting for us to share why we each got DCS, and what we like best about it.

Again, for me, it was to improve my switching operations on my switching layout. Arnold

Here's a question related to DCS:

With the transformer at 17 or 18 volts running DCS, the illuminated caboose is so bright it looks like a nuclear fusion reaction is happening in the caboose. What can be done to make the light in the caboose less bright?

Does changing the bulb to an LED make it less bright?

Same questions for the lights in passenger cars.

Arnold

Last edited by Arnold D. Cribari

Here's a question related to DCS:

With the transformer at 17 or 18 volts running DCS, the illuminated caboose is so bright it looks like a nuclear fusion reaction is happening in the caboose. What can be done to make the light in the caboose less bright?

Does changing the bulb to an LED make it less bright?

Same questions for the lights in passenger cars.

Arnold

When I first installed command control on my layout, I noticed the same with my older postwar lighted rolling stock. They were made to operate on layouts with much less voltage and the bulbs were all 14 or 16v. I changed a bunch to 18v. You can get them cheap on Amazon. I’ll see if I can post the link to the ones I used  when I get a chance. The LED option should also work if you get the bulb made for 18v or install the right resistor.  The traditional bulbs from Amazon are much cheaper and an easier solution, imho.



Edit - Here is the link to the 18v bulbs - https://www.amazon.com/CEC-Ind...QP74FD81AA3ED3V3NPMQ



You can find the ones with the Ba9 base (non screw) also with a quick search at similar prices.  One other point though, I have found that for smaller layouts, you do not need to run the DCS at 17-18 volts. I regularly run mine "cool" at 16 v. I believe lower voltages significantly extend the life of the the electronics (i even have 2 engines with the dreaded  ps-2 5 volt boards that are over 20 years old that run superb after heavy usage).  If you are not running many trains simultaneously or lashing up, lower voltages easily work. Also, don't judge track voltage by the z-4000 readout - use the track voltage as measured by the dcs handheld as read by your respective engine. Its in the engine's menu and its far more accurate of a measurement of track voltage. Try it out and  see for yourself. At 16 volts, you may find that you don't need to change any bulbs after all.

Last edited by Strap Hanger

Hi Arnold, it's been awhile.

I've been running DCS for 6 years on my two layouts.  One TIU for the table layout and one for the overhead.  Both are powered with PWZW's,  and both use the AUX power for the TIU's.  Both are plugged into a power strip that I shut off when done running trains.   I use the handheld remote, only.  Seems more intuitive.

My overhead runs 4 MTH engines, pulling an average of 25 cars each, along two 100 foot mainlines.  The power draw is large with all that consist to pull.  One thing I did to help that issue was to replace all the passenger car lamps with GRJ's device that allows you to use LED light strips instead of the incandescent bulbs.  Each mainline has a bus wire, and is only connected in the four corners.  I've never had an issue with signal loss.

That layout has five switches, which are separately controlled and rarely used.  Since it goes around the rec room ceiling, I mostly run it every two weeks during poker games.  I'm mostly a looper.  The boys love watching the trains go by during happy hours.

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The larger table layout uses DCS on only two of the 7 mainlines.  The upper three levels utilize Lionel LCP+ engines and one Z4000.  Two of the lines are for conventional trains only, using one PWZW.

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This layout is much more complicated than the overhead.  I still don't do much switching, but the DCS system allows the MTH NH and UP engines the ability to go up and down between levels without those, otherwise dramatic, changes in speed. 

My motive for DCS is two-fold.  First, I wanted to be able to run multiple trains on the same long mainline.  Second, I wanted to maintain consistent speed on inclines, declines, and corners.  All the features of DCS are cool.  The sound capabilities are great, smoke is great, PSA's are great.  Like many of the guys, I don't use all these features often.  Best is the portability of the remote in a large room.

Of course, I'm familiar with your layout.  You should have no trouble with your DCS power and setup as you describe it.  BTW, I finally was able to add a Yankee Stadium to my layout!!  Haha, the only thing is, I had to build an N scale layout over the pool table to accomplish it...

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Regards to all,

Jerry

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It is a good idea to power your TIU through the AUX port rather than Fixed 1, but no need to keep it on all the time. Just plug the AUX power source into a strip and turn it on/off each time you run trains.

In my case, for convenience, I have most of my electronics plugged into a strip connected to a common light switch. I just flip the switch and everything fires up, but no need to go to that extreme.

As to the lights, one alternative is to buy a bottle of paint, such as Tamiya Clear Yellow, and paint each bulb as heavily as needed to turn the brightness down.

Thanks, also, to Strap Hanger, RJR and Mallard4468.  Your contributions on this thread were very helpful to me. Arnold

Agreed. So many folks share, understanding that there are n00bs sitting in the stands, watching how Kewl it can be. Arnold, your baseball field is FUN. Jerry, I had Yankee Stadium on our bucket list with my wife. She taught me how to scorecard games while watching them on t.v.  maybe someday

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