How would you advise someone converting to digital?

R

RH Prague

Central European. the station pub is Czech !!
28 Oct 2009
333
16
Prague
Morning all. So, two years in, I'm happy with my digital, and Massoth choice. Now I'd like to ask another general question to sound out opinions, and it's about whether or not to consider extending the digitisation of the railway, namely regarding control of points and other accessories. It's prompted by the discovery that the analogue building lights wiring seems to have failed us; my brother-in-law is the electrical expert here, and he thinks we might want to renew the entire analogue cabling system. Since it was largely installed in 2009, it has done pretty well to have performed faultlessly up to now, especially as the Prague winters are always cold and sometimes with lying snow.

But overall the question is, if we are going to overhaul the set-up, is it worth investing in further digitalisation?

Quickly to describe the set-up. On the house terrace is the Massoth central station and also the LGB 50110 transformer which supplies the analogue stuff. Both have underground cables which run out to the wall at the back where the railway is. There is a big weatherproof box containing the analogue control boxes, all LGB 51750/51800 as appropriate. One 51800 box was also used to control isolated track when I was all analogue, all that wiring is still in place and perhaps should be removed as part of any renovation of the wiring setup.

I've now got 12 electric point motors on the railway. I currently have two electric signals wired up in parallel to signal motors and maybe 3 more we want to install. So, if we want to digitise that lot, that sounds like a lot of chips, a lot of money, and a lot of work...is it worth it? If so, what gear would people use? The advice has been to stick to one manufacturer , which in my case means Massoth, but I have read in other threads that they can be a pain to set up. I would never give Massoth any awards for user-friendly manuals!!

As for the buildings I've got 4 around the main station, plus the soon to be completed engine shed, and then two small stations further away from the control box. I'm quite interested in solar powering the lighting for these so I'd be interested in any examples of solar set-ups for buildings that people have.

So the questions are not very specific, but I hope are a natural progression from the first phase of this thread, which was certainly a great help to me and hopefully a few others too.
 
muns

muns

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Ok, so you have 12 sets or operated points, so you have 3 of the momentary switch boxes? The simple way would be to replace each of those switch boxes with a 4 channel switch decoder and use the existing wiring to the point motors.

Personally, I do not think that the massoth Switch decoders are a pain to configure. Minimum of 4 CVs to change (one for each switch output). You may need to change a couple of others if there is not enough umph to switch the combined points and signal pairs.

You could even wire the existing switch boxes to the Massoth 4 Channel Switch decoders to provide a more manual approach as well ad allowing you to control them via the Navigator handset.
 
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PhilP

PhilP

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Wiring (I assume that is where the fault(s) are?) is cheap to change.. - Assuming you do the 'labouring' part..

Ask yourself:
Do you want to be able to control the points etc. from anywhere? - Remotely via the Navigator.
Do you want to be able to control building lights remotely?
If 'yes'.. Can you justify the cost?
If 'yes'.. Then do it! :)

If you wire 'everything' to your DCC system, will it provide enough power?
If all above 'yes', then this need's to be a 'yes'. ;)

Dependent on where / how you feed into the switch decoders:
You may have more wiring, - So more points of failure, in the future?
Being able to use the switch boxes (as well as DCC) could be an advantage? - Or a curse, if the wiring deteriorates and causes problems.

Decisions, decisions:
:wondering::(:think:
 
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Ralphmp

Ralphmp

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Ive used Massoth throughout my layout for the past 10 years. This includes 6 of the 4 channel decoders and 4 single channel decoders (one of the 4-channel decoders operates building lighting, the others all operate LGB point motors). I have one 2 wire connection to my track (approx 65 metres) from my Massoth central station and all my decoders and LED signal lights take power from a connection to the track. Ihavent experienced any connectivity / loss of power issues and even when running 3 double-motor locos and a single motor loco at the same time I have not found an issue with the central station's ability to provide sufficient power.

Like Muns, I haven't had any issues setting up the switch decoders and have found them to be reliable in use. They are all housed in trackside buildings which is sufficient for the rather milder winters we tend to get in my part of England.

To simplify operations, I bought a second Massoth Navigator so I have one to control trains and the other to control switches, lights, etc. For me this approach works much better than trying to do everything via one handset.

Overall, I like the ease of use of my Massoth setup and the ability it gives me to switch points from wherever I happen to be on the layout.

Hope this helps.
 
R

RH Prague

Central European. the station pub is Czech !!
28 Oct 2009
333
16
Prague
Thanks for replies! Not sure yet, that I want to digitise the lot. It might help if I show a few photos, it is a pretty modest layout, utilising a very handy wall at the back of the garden. I much prefer this to ground level,, but the deal is, there will not be further land grabs, (apart from the small one this year when we uprooted a bush, and created a space for an engine shed). Basically I generally stand near the control box anyway, because that is also the main station area, which is the most active...
IMG_4216.JPG
IMG_4217.JPG
 
R

RH Prague

Central European. the station pub is Czech !!
28 Oct 2009
333
16
Prague
However I did add a short spur to this little terminus, and this is one place where I would be away from the main control box, so maybe at least here digital control of the point, which could also control lighting to the station, might be worth having.
IMG_4219.JPG
 
R

RH Prague

Central European. the station pub is Czech !!
28 Oct 2009
333
16
Prague
And here is the control box, which is a mess because we are trying to work out which connections are faulty...
IMG_4218.JPG
 
idlemarvel

idlemarvel

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However I did add a short spur to this little terminus, and this is one place where I would be away from the main control box, so maybe at least here digital control of the point, which could also control lighting to the station, might be worth having. View attachment 268271
You could use a Massoth single switch decoder for that, simple wiring, two wires to track, two to point motor, use default settings (accessory address 1) and you're done. The single switch decoder is weatherproof and can fit between sleepers near the point.
 
R

RH Prague

Central European. the station pub is Czech !!
28 Oct 2009
333
16
Prague
You could use a Massoth single switch decoder for that, simple wiring, two wires to track, two to point motor, use default settings (accessory address 1) and you're done. The single switch decoder is weatherproof and can fit between sleepers near the point.
That occurred to me but at the same time I was wondering whether I shouldn't have a 4 switch decoder there, if - and this is also a question - the Massoth decoder can also be used for controlling lights. For reasons I've never quite grasped, the LGB boxes 51800/51750 are designed to operate lighting on the one hand and points/switches on the other. They are not versatile. So we have this very daft setup at present where the point and semaphore signal motors in that photo are operated via a 51750 - whereas the lighting on the signal is operated from a 51800. Or have we missed a trick with lighting such signals?

So if the Massoth box is versatile, a 4 switch decoder could sit inside that station building and operate the point/semaphore, light on the semaphore, light for the station building, and light for the forthcoming engine shed, which will only be about a metre from that station building?

If I haven't confused everyone by now...:worried:
 
PhilP

PhilP

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You are correct. :)
 
dunnyrail

dunnyrail

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That occurred to me but at the same time I was wondering whether I shouldn't have a 4 switch decoder there, if - and this is also a question - the Massoth decoder can also be used for controlling lights. For reasons I've never quite grasped, the LGB boxes 51800/51750 are designed to operate lighting on the one hand and points/switches on the other. They are not versatile. So we have this very daft setup at present where the point and semaphore signal motors in that photo are operated via a 51750 - whereas the lighting on the signal is operated from a 51800. Or have we missed a trick with lighting such signals?

So if the Massoth box is versatile, a 4 switch decoder could sit inside that station building and operate the point/semaphore, light on the semaphore, light for the station building, and light for the forthcoming engine shed, which will only be about a metre from that station building?

If I haven't confused everyone by now...:worried:
The signal has a switch on it so far as Incan see, these can be used to control sundry lights or even act as a switch to operate a point. My mate has used the ones on his to both operate the light and pass power to relavent dead sections controlled by the light, thus if the Signal is not off the train will not move if stood in rear (behind) the signal.
 
R

RH Prague

Central European. the station pub is Czech !!
28 Oct 2009
333
16
Prague
I think i confused myself. Please forget about the signal light stuff. The important thing is that the signal is only performing a cosmetic function, showing "up" when the switch is set to the main line, and vv. It does not automatically stop trains.

So my remaining question is whether one Massoth 4 switch decoder can be used to operate a mixture of switch(point) and signal drives, and building lights? (unlike the LGB 51750/51800 boxes).
 
idlemarvel

idlemarvel

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13 Jul 2015
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I think i confused myself. Please forget about the signal light stuff. The important thing is that the signal is only performing a cosmetic function, showing "up" when the switch is set to the main line, and vv. It does not automatically stop trains.

So my remaining question is whether one Massoth 4 switch decoder can be used to operate a mixture of switch(point) and signal drives, and building lights? (unlike the LGB 51750/51800 boxes).
Yes, it can control a mix of point motors and lights, and you can control the voltage of the lights if you have a mix of LED and bulbs.
 
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D

Dan

Registered
28 Jan 2010
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Eastern MA
Zimo makes an engine decoder (MX699 series) with built in supercaps which allows the engine to run with intermittent track power issues. And many decoders will allow you to install a series of supercaps to give you on board power storage. Good thing about supercaps these do not need special charging units,they charge slowly from the track power input. I vave 5 engines over 15 years old that these still work perfectly when run. BAtteries do go bad/loose power over time and with 9 engines, you will be charging batteries and replacing batteries and this replacement cost should be viewed carefully while making your decision of Battery vs track power.