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REGION #2902
Turkey Creek Division

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By Dave Eisenstein, NMRA Life Member 0578
POM* of The Greater Kansas City Society of Model Engineers, and President and Chief Gandy Dancer of the Sedalia & Omaha Western RR.

Most of us have graduated long ago from the push or pull trains of our childhood. That means that we run electric trains whether you call them steam, diesel or trolley. (Live steamers excluded!)

After we master the arcane art of hooking up a power pack to at least two rails and experience the satisfaction of seeing our train roll, many of us want more. More functions, ditch lights, whistles, bells, headlights, car lights, EMF (electro-motive force), 2 or 3 color signals, turnout controls, dispatcher boards, DCC (digital command control) and much more.

This article will try to show you how to get great information on these points, FREE, FREE, free from the Internet from the great masters of the art of model railroading. I need all the help I can get and perhaps most of the rest of us do too.

No computer? No problem - use your nearest public library's Internet connection. Your librarian will help you find just what you want.

You don't know how to program? You don't have to program to download and print out some of the best schematics, PCB board outlines at the ready, and usually, great articles on how-to. Herein are Internet site addresses, called URLs, on all sorts of electrical control, simulation, lighting, sound, power supplies, block occupancy detectors, track wiring, turnout wiring, etc. My contribution: Finding many of the sites and giving you a brief review of what to expect.

Schematics: You cannot read them? They turn you off? You will find it very easy to learn what the various symbolic drawings mean so you can interpret what you see. It is not hard. Hz for Hertz, meaning times per second. M for million, K for thousand, but most interesting are the parts' symbols, of which only a few of the most common are reproduced here. You may even have an ARRL Handbook - any of them, no matter how old - will give you the parts' outlines of resistors, capacitors, motors, transformers, transistors, SCRs and the like. Oh ARRL is the American Radio Relay League - radio communication group. Oh yes, this is the symbol for ohms:

Greek letter Omega

Their Handbook also has excellent chapters on breadboarding for DIY (do it yourself), construction techniques, testing and trouble-shooting, useful to us model railroaders even though you are not a radio amateur. Buy one at a book sale.

Of course, as a dedicated NMRA member, I remember to look at the Electrical Symbols in Recommended Practice RP 41.1. It is excellent. Don't forget the NMRA data sheets found under D7 section headings. These are fine basics for all of us. Most of these are also available on the Internet (see below).

For the newest and most up-to-date ideas, see these computer accessed URLs! I have tried to categorize them, but you will find much overlap. Some of our NMRA members who write these things are quite good in many areas of electronic knowledge and have been known to stray into scenery, painting, buildings, etc., which are not the subjects here.


Fred Horne, of Santa Fe, New Mexico. A retired Electrical Engineer who models in N scale, but his ideas and schematics are good for any scale. He describes various power supplies from very simple to quite elaborate; you will learn a lot. He has DCC tips, also. His NAT (not a throttle) design is super for making full use of your present power pack. His schematics are well-done and easy to follow. He keeps adding to his site content, frequently. http://www.awrr.com/

The Ken Willmott link is broken. A substitute will be researched, and this link will be replaced as soon as a substitute can be found.

Ken Willmott writes entertainingly on a throttle design project going from simple to complex with pulse width modulation (PWM). Keep this address tuned in every so often. Unfinished, but he will surprise us all with new concepts. http://wits.on.ca/rail/electronics/default.htm

Rich Weyand Cooler Crawler was Ken Willmott's inspiration. Although Rich sells kits and built up throttles as Tractronics, he has made all of these systems schematics and articles available on the Internet. He even updated his ten (10) electronic articles originally published in the Mainline Modeler. His modules do not require a PC (personal computer). He gives away all of his secrets and simplifies everything. He even makes it SECSI. (No definition given here!) http://users.rcn.com/weyand/tractronics/ttinchom.htm


Rob Paisley is simply amazing. He has ten articles on transistor throttle circuits, plus an SCR (silicon controlled rectifier) throttle, a test bench power supply, a 3 Amp, Three Terminal Regulator-type Throttle. He also has on tap at least twenty-five (25) other circuits ranging from Automatic Reversing Loop circuit to a Fast-Acting Electronic Circuit Breaker. See to believe. Knowledgeable and clear writer. http://home.cogeco.ca/~rpaisley4/CircuitIndex.html

Mark Rolllins has 18 drawings done for easy recognition (NO part symbols) of electronic circuits for lighting locos, cars, tall structures, train detectors and more. Done in colors, so for best results (and easier to read) use a color printer. http://www.mrollins.com/circuit.html

Wayne Roderick, EE, PE. Retired. He has his Teton Short Lines (TSL) in Pocatello, ID, where for over 34 years he has tried and proved many circuits, throttles, lighting, sound, track detection, 3 color signals and much more. His articles that I have downloaded can and do fill a large 3 ring binder. He also keeps updating and adding more concepts all of the time. He is a fairly new convert to DCC and uses Dick Bronson's (see below) BOD (block occupancy detectors) for DCC after developing and using 3 other types of BODs, all discussed. He is not only brilliant, but is easy to read and explains from his own real life experiences on the TSL. http://www.tslrr.com/

Stefano Curtarolo, is an Italian with wonderful drawings in color of how to wire up Tortoise type machines for throwing turnouts. (Torti?). His drawings are supplemented by Don Crano's well-written comments on how to improve the BBM on Tortoises. BBM is Break before make. An international collaboration in model railroading!! His diagrams also show multiple crossovers with multiple machines. http://www.aurotrains.com/aurotrains2.html

The Rob Hupfield links are broken. A substitute will be researched, and these links will be replaced as soon as substitutes can be found.

Rob Hupfield is the guru of RRSim, which you may join if you have a computer and have an e-mail address (some ISPs are free such as JUNO). The site is wonderful and you will like to download 12 (count 'em) pages of URL sites for Model Railroad Control and Simulation Resources. It is huge, including commercial and modeler sites as needed. Join the RRSim for getting e-mail messages from other members on these subjects. Includes comments on Dr. Bruce Chubb's C/MRI which merits attention, even if not free. OTOH (On the other Hand), if you do have access to MR (Model Railroader Mag.) Dr. Chubb did reveal all there, so it is almost free. ISP above stands for Internet Service Provider; many charge $20.00/month. http://members.home.net/rrsim/ This for RRSim. http://members.home.net/rrsim/resources.html This for Resources.


Allan Gartner might be regarded as the real guru of DCC; decoders, stations and boosters with power supplies. If you want DCC, this is a must for everyone, including the DIYselfer. (Do it your selfer.) Brilliant and needed even if you buy it all manufactured. You will want another 3 ring binder, if you like him at all. Shows links, too. Links are addresses to other like sites on similar subjects. http://www.wiringfordcc.com/

The Mike Brandt link is broken. A substitute will be researched, and this link will be replaced as soon as a substitute can be found.

Mike Brandt. A US writer for basic DIY for DCC. Simple and effective for PC (personal computer) users. He started it all on the DIY idea, I truly believe. He hosts an interface for MS-DOS computers. This means you can use a 286 or 386 computer, if desired, which are doorstops now; dirt-cheap or a gift from a friend No need to buy Windows 95 or Windows 98 or Windows 2000 for this. http://web.syr.edu/~mobrandt/dcc-mb/dccmbhom.htm

Lars Lundgren editor for TMWDCC system from Sweden. Based upon Mike Brandt's basic ideas for DCC he expanded. Inexpensive and awesome. Complete DIY NMRA compatible for home using PIC 16C84 computer chip with memory. Runs either 4 or 8 locos independently. http://tmw.dreamhosters.com/index.html

Robert Cote Canadian modeler. Built a simple mini-station using PIC 16C84, following Mike Brandt's system with help from Lars Lundgren. Excellent ideas and a well done schematic. It needs no separate computer. For example, I bought the PIC from him, with it already programmed by him and a four locomotive key-pad for $20.00. I am thrilled and hope to DIY soon. Looks like DCC need not cost an arm and a leg after all. I sincerely doubt if I would ever want to run more than four (4) locos at one time on my layout, the SOW Lines. http://www.minidcc.com/

NMRA. A booster that Robert Cote uses and recommends is found at this NMRA site. It uses an L298 dual driver and may/or may not be hooked onto a computer as you desire. Look under the heading Schematics. It is called a Serial Port Booster Schematic with Feedback Control Circuit 1.4 and is a GIF file. GIF is a type of graphics file used by many computers and is ubiquitous. http://jdb.psu.edu/nmra/dccfiles.html

The following link is broken. A substitute will be researched, and this link will be replaced as soon as a substitute can be found.

The above site also has a FAQ (frequently asked questions) on DCC, Version 1.9, Published by the NMRA Electrical Committee. Worth getting; eleven (11) pages. Also handy is a NMRA Glossary of terms for DCC found at: http://www.tttrains.com/nmradcc/glossary.html This last site hosts many other NMRA pages as a free service to the world. Worth visiting even though a commercial site, for good advice, freely given.

The following links are broken. Substitutes will be researched, and these links will be replaced as soon as substitutes can be found.

A list of NMRA standards and RPs (Recommended Practices) for DCC is found at http://users.vnet.net/paulrver/dccbasic.html It is written by Roger P. Hensley. Hosted by Paul R. Rivers.

Dean Probst is a computer engineer for Fairchild Semiconductor. He has developed a decoder for his N scale locomotives. Decoders are needed one for each locomotive on a DCC controlled layout. DIY, yes. He even includes a computer program to program each decoder and PCB outline.. Fabulous. http://ourworld.compuserve.com/homepages/deano32/

MERG. A group of British modelers who have schematics and extremely good ideas. They even show a PCB plotter (free) to be used on a computer using Exellon and Gerber (not the baby food) instructions for the printed circuit board maker when you order one made. A Mr. Bolton takes Probst's N decoder and enhances for HO decoders and shows how. Yep, start another binder, just for MERG. http://home.freeuk.net/merg/resources

Larry Puckett, Editor of the mag. Model Railroading made tests on many open frame and can motors to show mfr., model, the current in amps to help you choose a decoder for your locomotive. Table, last revised in 1998. Excellent. http://www.geocities.com/Heartland/estates/6675/stall_currents.htm

End of Broken Link Section

Don Crano. A most interesting and prolific writer who really knows his stuff. Mostly DCC subjects and he has an opto-isolated BOD (block occupancy detector). He is an EE (Electrical Engineer) but keeps things simple for us lay-persons. He has much more, under hints. http://www.mrwithdcc.com/

Dick Bronson comments on wiring are well worth reading and keeping. While he is a DCC fan, he has developed a BOD (Block occupancy detector) that may be used on either DCC systems or on DC (direct current to the track) systems. His BOD is also opto-isolated, but does it a different way than Don Crano does. Opto-Isolated? What is that? An extremely good way to keep circuits from interfering with each other, just as a transformer isolates, only better! Dick also sells his PCB for his BOD reasonably, but furnishes the design for those who DIY. Dick even writes about a DCC controlled coupler, using a muscle wire. That is truly ingenious. http://www.rr-cirkits.com/index.html

The following link is broken. A substitute will be researched, and this link will be replaced as soon as a substitute can be found.

Mark Gurries. Honored member of Silicon Valley Lines RR Club. He hosts a frank discussion of DCC systems and choices. Eleven (11) pages including names and URL addresses of most DCC manufacturers. http://www.falken.net/dave/svl/dcc.html

Robert Backway. Australian and an NMRA DCC SIG Aussie Repr. He has a number of well-done electronics articles including a Train Shuttle Throttle with a PCB Layout plus schematic. He also has pages of good links around the world. http://members.iinet.net.au/~backway/OzDcc/index.html


Tapiola Parish is host to Helsinki, Finland's RR Club. Don't worry, this site is in good English. It fully describes their first electric control system with a CDU (Capacitor Discharge Unit) for more power. Well written and easy to understand. Then it describes their latest TMW-DCC with good description. Fits with next site. http://www.taprk.org/eng/

The following links are broken. Substitutes will be researched, and these links will be replaced as soon as substitutes can be found.

Pekka Siiskonen. Helsinki, Finland again with info on Train Controllers or Throttles. He develops from ordinary car battery chargers with transistors in Darlington configurations with capacitors and resistors to get acceleration and braking. Reference is made back to Rich Weyand's Cooler Crawler and Ken Willmott's URL and his throttle design notes. Looks like fun! http://www.taprk.org/eng/pakki.htm


Steve Marchant, at the University of Nottingham, UK. He has very simple ideas and links for PCB, codes, etc. for building inexpensively your own programmable integrated computer circuit to its own EPROM memory from your own PC. May use on all PCs from 286 up to megaHz Pentiums. You can also use Linux and Red Hat Linux, if desired as your DOS (disk operating system). Suggest you do not access unless you are really willing and interested in making your own model RR controller. If so, you will be able to program your PIC16C84 in-system with your own PC. http://www.ccc.nottingham.ac.uk/~cczsteve/pic84.html

Also refer back to Robert Cote above for PIC16C84 info.

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Well, that about wraps it up. There are computer accessible interest groups that are specified on the NMRA pages, such as DCCSIG, SignalSIG, RRSimSIG, CompuSIG, OperationsSIG and Layout DesignSIG (LDSIG), available for chat groups by way of e-mail, if you are interested. Most of these also publish hard copy for articles within their realm of interest, available if you join for a nominal fee.

If I have left out names and addresses that should be included, please write me and the editor might allow a followup article. I am sure that there are good sites that I do not know about, that others may tell us. I have tried to keep this article within the bounds of using electricity. Maybe UFOs will tell us of other sources of power and control! Have fun.

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Footnote: I hate footnotes, and stay away from them. So . . . *POM means plain ordinary member. This one is found at

David Eisenstien
1229 West 65th St.
Kansas City, MO 64113.

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