New to Garden Railways

pdxtrains

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25 Apr 2021
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Welcome to the Forum. I know very little because I have a very small outdoor garden layout which I bring in each winter here in the Pacific Northwest of the United States. My local hobby shop owner strongly discouraged me from going DCC. He said the track must be kept very clean to get a clear signal, and encouraged battery use or just DC current. I have been using DC current and am investigating battery power.

That's my two cents, and advice I received for the Oregon outdoor railway set up.

Cheers,

Thom
 

Greg Elmassian

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Unfortunately the advice that the track needs to be very clean for DCC is at least 10 if not 20 years old.

Try to get advice from someone current in the hobby. I was told the same thing when I started, and in it's infancy DCC did not like brief power interruptions.

Bad and antique advice.

Greg
 

pdxtrains

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25 Apr 2021
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Portland, OR
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Unfortunately the advice that the track needs to be very clean for DCC is at least 10 if not 20 years old.

Try to get advice from someone current in the hobby. I was told the same thing when I started, and in it's infancy DCC did not like brief power interruptions.

Bad and antique advice.

Greg
I'm glad to hear this. DCC must be very convenient in a Garden railway. Thanks for updating the information I received.
 

Airbuspilot

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I'm glad to hear this. DCC must be very convenient in a Garden railway. Thanks for updating the information I received.

Thanks for your thoughts on track power and battery’s. I have never been impressed with track cleaning vehicles but the one used on this railway is incredible, it took the tarnish layer off track which had been unused and outdoors for the winter leaving an as new rail. How many times you can realistically use it is another question.
 

jimmielx

45mm gauge track - approx 16mm scale (1:19)
24 Oct 2009
670
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Hastings, UK
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Just to echo what Greg said - DCC in the garden is no problem at all. I’ve been in the game for ten years - most of my kit is that vintage - and I experience very little problem with rail cleaning.
In the winter I’ll probably run a track cleaner round most of the line before I run - takes 5 minutes max and isn’t strictly necessary each time. In the summer I may need to clean sections of track which are under certain plants which give off a weird sap - maybe a couple of times a week as long as we are running regularly. I do have a section of track which runs behind a shed and is accessible only by emptying the shed and opening hatches in the back - I have cleaned that around three times total over the last year.
I use an LGB track rubber to clean the rails. It’s ten years old and I just treated it to its first new pad. It makes very short work of anything on the rails.
As an example: today the first trains went on the rails at around 10am, most of the day we’ve had six trains running, I sit here at almost 10pm with the final two (a railcar and auto trailer) operating a shuttle service while I watch the darkening sky with a jolly nice rum in hand. And I am happy to report that, as would be expected, everything has run perfectly - certainly no loss of contact or stalling or anything like that. My railway is DCC and automated, so that’s how it must run and it does. The one time I found it really challenging to get the track power to run was when it was snowing quite hard and as fast I was cleaning the snow away it was falling and refreezing on top of the rails. I gave up - it was too cold anyway.
One thing though - it is critical to get the DCC from one rail to the next. In the smaller scales I believe a bus is favoured. I’ve read of that being done in G scale too, but it seems a bit unnecessary when you’ve got two giant brass conductors (the rails) to carry the current. What you do need however is to electrically join each rail - and not with the supplied fishplates, which will work for a bit but will give up in the end. Options would be to use the fishplates and solder a jumper across or use some sort of rail clamp. I favour the Massoth type for several reasons.
The main thrust of this though is that DCC outdoors is just fine, with good installation and a little maintenance it will be trouble free. I expect the same is true of battery (or live steam!) operation, but I think I’ve read enough on this forum to know that neither requires no effort!
 

Paul M

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25 Oct 2016
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I think regular use helps an awful lot, if you only run your railway once every couple of weeks, you will have some problems
 

Airbuspilot

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Cyprus
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Just to echo what Greg said - DCC in the garden is no problem at all. I’ve been in the game for ten years - most of my kit is that vintage - and I experience very little problem with rail cleaning.
In the winter I’ll probably run a track cleaner round most of the line before I run - takes 5 minutes max and isn’t strictly necessary each time. In the summer I may need to clean sections of track which are under certain plants which give off a weird sap - maybe a couple of times a week as long as we are running regularly. I do have a section of track which runs behind a shed and is accessible only by emptying the shed and opening hatches in the back - I have cleaned that around three times total over the last year.
I use an LGB track rubber to clean the rails. It’s ten years old and I just treated it to its first new pad. It makes very short work of anything on the rails.
As an example: today the first trains went on the rails at around 10am, most of the day we’ve had six trains running, I sit here at almost 10pm with the final two (a railcar and auto trailer) operating a shuttle service while I watch the darkening sky with a jolly nice rum in hand. And I am happy to report that, as would be expected, everything has run perfectly - certainly no loss of contact or stalling or anything like that. My railway is DCC and automated, so that’s how it must run and it does. The one time I found it really challenging to get the track power to run was when it was snowing quite hard and as fast I was cleaning the snow away it was falling and refreezing on top of the rails. I gave up - it was too cold anyway.
One thing though - it is critical to get the DCC from one rail to the next. In the smaller scales I believe a bus is favoured. I’ve read of that being done in G scale too, but it seems a bit unnecessary when you’ve got two giant brass conductors (the rails) to carry the current. What you do need however is to electrically join each rail - and not with the supplied fishplates, which will work for a bit but will give up in the end. Options would be to use the fishplates and solder a jumper across or use some sort of rail clamp. I favour the Massoth type for several reasons.
The main thrust of this though is that DCC outdoors is just fine, with good installation and a little maintenance it will be trouble free. I expect the same is true of battery (or live steam!) operation, but I think I’ve read enough on this forum to know that neither requires no effort!
Just to echo what Greg said - DCC in the garden is no problem at all. I’ve been in the game for ten years - most of my kit is that vintage - and I experience very little problem with rail cleaning.
In the winter I’ll probably run a track cleaner round most of the line before I run - takes 5 minutes max and isn’t strictly necessary each time. In the summer I may need to clean sections of track which are under certain plants which give off a weird sap - maybe a couple of times a week as long as we are running regularly. I do have a section of track which runs behind a shed and is accessible only by emptying the shed and opening hatches in the back - I have cleaned that around three times total over the last year.
I use an LGB track rubber to clean the rails. It’s ten years old and I just treated it to its first new pad. It makes very short work of anything on the rails.
As an example: today the first trains went on the rails at around 10am, most of the day we’ve had six trains running, I sit here at almost 10pm with the final two (a railcar and auto trailer) operating a shuttle service while I watch the darkening sky with a jolly nice rum in hand. And I am happy to report that, as would be expected, everything has run perfectly - certainly no loss of contact or stalling or anything like that. My railway is DCC and automated, so that’s how it must run and it does. The one time I found it really challenging to get the track power to run was when it was snowing quite hard and as fast I was cleaning the snow away it was falling and refreezing on top of the rails. I gave up - it was too cold anyway.
One thing though - it is critical to get the DCC from one rail to the next. In the smaller scales I believe a bus is favoured. I’ve read of that being done in G scale too, but it seems a bit unnecessary when you’ve got two giant brass conductors (the rails) to carry the current. What you do need however is to electrically join each rail - and not with the supplied fishplates, which will work for a bit but will give up in the end. Options would be to use the fishplates and solder a jumper across or use some sort of rail clamp. I favour the Massoth type for several reasons.
The main thrust of this though is that DCC outdoors is just fine, with good installation and a little maintenance it will be trouble free. I expect the same is true of battery (or live steam!) operation, but I think I’ve read enough on this forum to know that neither requires no effort!
Thanks James, your point about connecting the track at each rail joint is something I will follow up. On my own N gauge layout I use multiple feeds around the track, not really a bus a but similar Idea. I will check the Massoth clamp, another new device to me. Robin
 

jimmielx

45mm gauge track - approx 16mm scale (1:19)
24 Oct 2009
670
20
Hastings, UK
Country flag
I think regular use helps an awful lot, if you only run your railway once every couple of weeks, you will have some problems
Whilst I agree that regular use keeps things nice and clean, I have not experienced any problems after leaving my railway for a several weeks. I just give the railhead a quick clean with the track rubber and then I'm good to go again. As I said above, I believe the crucial thing is ensuring good connection from command station to the rails.
 

Madman

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25 Oct 2009
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Pennsylvania, USA
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Welcome aboard Robin.
 

jimmielx

45mm gauge track - approx 16mm scale (1:19)
24 Oct 2009
670
20
Hastings, UK
Country flag
Thanks James, your point about connecting the track at each rail joint is something I will follow up. On my own N gauge layout I use multiple feeds around the track, not really a bus a but similar Idea. I will check the Massoth clamp, another new device to me. Robin
You have a few options when it comes to rail joiners. LGB track comes with brass fishplates, I think other brands come with similar joiners. These will work initially, but after a while, in my experience, can become a failure point for good conductivity.

My favoured joiners are the Massoth regular length brass ones
I find these very easy to fit and remove if needed as the screw head is facing up, they also provide good rail alignment.
IMG_6780.jpg

They do a longer one with 4 screws and a shorter one for tight sleeper spacing as well selling them nickel coated Track Connectors & Co. – Massoth Elektronik GmbH.

Another type is the side screwed clamps - a couple of varieties are shown here. 332 Clamps - gardenrailways.co.uk
Piko do clamps which go straight onto the rail, or larger ones which go over the top of the clamp. Then there is the split jaw type.
I have not tried the split jaw type, but do have some Hillman joiners which are similar to the Piko ones. I find several problems with them. They are tightened by a screw on the side with an Allen head - doing this with an Allen key is slow, if I can get a screwdriver with an Allen head in then it is faster, but that is only possible with good side access to the track. Over time I have found that the Allen heads wear so the driver slips round in the screw head. In the picture below you can see that I've sawed a slot into one of the screws. I also find that these require the rails that are being joined to have exactly the same geometry otherwise the clamp will only grip firmly onto the larger rail - this shouldn't be a problem if you use all the same brand of rail, but I have still encountered it. The split jaw type would not have this issue. That said these also provide good rail alignment.
IMG_6775.jpg


Finally you can solder across the fishplates. If you are good at soldering rail then this will be the cheapest option - I can do it just about, but don't enjoy it much! The below is a picture of a not very good solder joint...!
IMG_6779.jpg

Since you are looking at occupancy detection you will also need to use some insulating rail joiners. Again I'd recommend the Massoth ones which are very similar to their regular clamps but made of plastic. An additional bonus is that you can make an electrical connection on both sides of the joiner too.
IMG_6781.jpg

Piko and LGB sell simple plastic fishplate style joiners which are a lot cheaper than the Massoth ones. However as the rail needs to be slid in you can just undo and straight lift any track up and also I find that they don't hold the rails in alignment very well - fine on a straight, but I'd avoid them on a curve.
IMG_6777.jpg

So from me the take-away is to use the Massoth joiners. I have a motley collection of solutions gathered over the years, but am now slowly moving to those.
 

Greg Elmassian

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8 Mar 2014
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There are 'ball end" allen head (hex head) drivers that make off-axis tightening of the allen head screws very easy. I do not like the hillman type clamps as the square cutout for the rail foot causes stress risers, which cause them to crack, and also wedge too tightly to the rail foot, making disassembly difficult. I just received some used ones, and half of them had to be discarded.

I use split jaw ones, much sturdier, and the advantage of the allen head bolts is that you can tighten them with no slippage as opposed to slotted head screws where there is no standard for the slot size.

I have a web page showing several types of joiners and an analysis of each, pros and cons.