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I use DCS only on my Christmas layout at this point...but I plan to put it on my small main layout soon. The question arises because in this post:

Jim Q says: if you block the main [the usual rule is no more than 11 track joints per block] I think you will improve your DCS performance... Just install an insulating pin in the third rail every eleven track joints or so...

Hot Water says:
For what it's worth, I had way too many power feeds to my two track main line. Someone told me to simply "cut a gap in the center rail between EACH power feed". I did just that, with a razor saw, and all my "issues" went away.

In another post:

Gregg says: I disconnected 2 of the feeder blocks (Hot only) at the terminal strip and jumpered the center rail where the insulated rail joint had been making it one long block about 30 feet and yielding a perfect dcs signal of 10

and: I've found that too many short blocks can degrade the dcs signal. Barry agrees.

Seems like Hot Water makes blocks to get a better signal, and Gregg eliminates them. Right now, I have feeders every 8-10 track sections, with no isolating cuts between sections. My layout is only 12' x 12'. Is my setup Ok for DCS, or ??????

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Great... it's good to hear that some experimentation has made a difference.... and it sounds like the gaps to create blocks was a good idea.

But, it doesn't square with the statements in the second post cited.

Seems to me either small blocks separated by gaps works for you, and large runs with no gaps and minimal feeders, works for others...


Just my own personal experience:

For the Christmas layout, I had what was essentially two loops on an 8 x 20 board. The inner loop had a passing siding and 2 reverse loops with 2 spurs..but still essentially 2 loops.

I posted a picture of the layout, requesting opinions on the blocks. I put two on each loop. Only a single feed for each block...or district as some call them. Each block was powered via a fixed tiu channel using a Z1000 brick on each channel.

Two to three engines on each loop, with two sets of passenger cars on the outer loop usually.

After install, system gave all 9 to 10 every where except over one Realtrax switch. Probably the black on it.

Make your own decisions based on that observation. I have photos of the trail track layout, and of the finished layout at this thread on the forum. The picts are here....... Christmas layout and blocks for DCS

With all the switches, and running 3 or 4 trains at a time, I have had many near collisions (thank God for that all stop button) and the breakers on the bricks have worked flawlessly. Even with the smoking engines, the passenger cars, and a third engine on the outer or the inner loop, lack of power has never been a problem. And the turnouts are driven by track power this year also!

I probably could have gotten by with the outer loop being one block/tiu channel/1Kz and the inner being the other fixed channel. But why take the chance and ruin the Christmas fun with popping breakers?!

And it will all come down in a few weeks until next year, assuming in am still around to put it up again! I hope to post a video of a trip around the track in a few days.

Hope this helps your decision. Greg

I get a solid "10" on my 11x12 room layout:

no blocks, 2 wires from the TIU to the track.

I plan on adding a 2x14 yard later this year:

and will at least have 2 engine storage tracks blocked off, so I can store/run DCS and conventional locos at the same time on the layout. I only run one engine at a time (if it's conventional), that may be THE reason I don't need blocks. Running 2 DCS engines without blocks is not a problem.

My TIU is currently under the layout, near the top end of the liftout in photo #1. It's maybe 6" below the surface.

I'm not sure if I'll have to move the TIU when I add the yard or not. I'll see how it runs then decide.

I clean my track religiously, wheels when they need it. The good thing about an around-the-wall layout is being able to reach all the track without climbing on anything.
Here are a couple of things I tried to get my layout wired when I got bogged down with signal strenght issues:

I'm in the process of building a new layout in the shape of a double track dogbone folded into a "U" pattern. The "vertical" parts of the "U" are about 30 feet and the "horizontal" about 18 feet.The track is KLine SuperSnap. I wired everything according to the guidelines in Barry's book and other suggestions presented here on the Forum. One thing that I learned is that each layout seems to have it's own digital personality. In my present layout, many blocks had very good signal strength of 8-10 and in other adjacent blocks the signal would drop to 1-2 or less. Sometimes there was a turnout involved and at other times a UCS track but in some areas there was nothing but track. What seemed to help me most was to determine where the best signals were and then remove the center rail fiber pins and let the signals in the areas with 8-10 flow along the track to the weaker areas. Eventually signal strength would decrease and I would put a fiber pin in that area and drop another power feed. The wiring proces seemed to move along a little more quickly once I just let the good signal flow as far as it could. Everything seems to be running well with signal strength of 6-10 over the layout.

There was another little thing I tried to speed things up a little. In general I would check the signal strength by running the engine very slowly and checking the readings with the handheld as advised in the DCS literature. When I wanted to quickly check the potential signal strength around the layout, I would run the engine at 15 mph and not use the signal check mode on the handheld. While running the engine I found that if I could turn the lights or smoke on and off, the signal strength was satisfactory to run the trains properly. If areas were noted where the smoke and lights could not be turned on and off, I would go back and improve those areas.

Hope this helps a little when you run into signal strength issues and want to try something a litte different when all else is not working.

Shrewsbury, MA
Ed, I've done all that. My layout is similar in shape to yours, just a few feet smaller in each dimension. The car lighting issue with signal strength shouldn't even exist. MTH should have addressed this from the beginning. Barry commented that it's a well known issue with a well known fix. Well, how about that?
I'm puzzeled! I use 4 channels from my Tiu (vers. L). I wired a star pattern in each loop. Each loop has 4 or 5 drops (16 ga) with approx 40 to 60 joints of track. I have only cut the center rail (realtrax track and switches) where the loop connects to the next loop. I have several siding which are controlled by good switches. I get a signal of 9 to 10 all over my layout which is 13 x 13 and a 4 x 10 yard. Should I cut the center rail between the drops? I also have no bulbs other than in a few switches. Sorry I don't know hoe to post a print of my layout. I had a problem in my yard when i had too many 7 engines all sitting there, so I added the switched and that seemed to cure that problem. Am I hurting anythin by not cutting the track and creating blocks between the drops?
Originally posted by HAW:
Guys I'm puzzeled! I get a signal of 9 to 10 all over my layout ...........Am I hurting anythin by not cutting the track and creating blocks between the drops?

With signal strength like that, hard to see how you would be "hurting" anything.
Just my thought. Greg

In no way is the following a challenge or picking a fight, just some of my thoughts on the subject... which may or may not be right or wrong. Big Grin

1) I believe multiple pipes would have equal pressure (ie. volts) but limited FLOW (amps), based on the narrowness of the pipe. (resistance)... the reason we use multiple feeds to a loop of track is to provide enough AMPS to overcome the resistance that the track may cause, which would result in lower voltages to the trains on the track.

2) As a ham radio operator, I understand your explanation of signal reflections, etc (in ham terms, SWR)....If these signal reflections and echoes impact DCS, then how do we get a layout with multiple turnouts that often serve to isolate sections of track, to pass a decent signal without issues?

Again, not a challenge, just some interest in an "academic" discussion of the situation.

Bottom line: it seems like the original question: TO BLOCK OR NOT TO BLOCK has a simple answer, .... IT DEPENDS ON WHAT WORKS! Wink

Right now, my situation sounds a lot like HAW's and hopefully will require no "cuts" to run DCS... time will tell.

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