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Thread: AC vs DC vs DC with HO

  1. #1

    Default AC vs DC vs DC with HO

    We've got Bachmann tracks and Bachmann DCC locomotives. We're also about to get some non-DCC stuff for my 4-year old (our excuse for getting into this...).

    Some questions:

    * Is all HO stuff DC powered? (vs. AC)?

    * Will a non-DCC power unit/controller also work if we put DCC locomotives on it? i.e. will they work or will I burn something out? I assume they will not be able to run "separately" but will all go at the same speed setting etc.

    * When the term "DC" is used, as opposed to "DCC", does this assume a difference in how it will react to the controller/power unit, and not the type of electrical power (AC vs. DC)?

    I'm obviously new to this (since 40 years ago), and want to make sure I get things right and don't hurt anything when learning....

    Any additional thoughts and explanations around the questions above and the things I'm forgetting to ask would be great!

    Thanks.
    --------------------
    Mike

  2. Default

    Any Bachmann unit you've bought will run DC.
    DCC is Digital Command Control which basically runs a computer signal through the tracks. A DCC engine picks up those signals and converts them to functions such as Light on/off, forward, reverse, speed in pre defined steps etc.
    Most DCC engines will also run on DC, but DC engines will not run on DCC.
    The DCC decoders usually have a dual function which allows them to run on either. DC engines lack the decoder board to pick up and act on the digital signals.
    The great thing about DCC is that you can have more than one loco running at any time and controlled separately. This includes different speeds, directions etc. Sound is also present on some which adds a whole dimension to running trains.
    I suggest you spend time looking over the forums. There's a lot of info here.
    Model Railroad Magazine also has a good forum with plenty of info.
    Good Luck and welcome back into the hobby.

  3. #3

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by MikeL View Post
    We've got Bachmann tracks and Bachmann DCC locomotives. We're also about to get some non-DCC stuff for my 4-year old (our excuse for getting into this...).

    Some questions:

    * Is all HO stuff DC powered? (vs. AC)?

    * Will a non-DCC power unit/controller also work if we put DCC locomotives on it? i.e. will they work or will I burn something out? I assume they will not be able to run "separately" but will all go at the same speed setting etc.

    * When the term "DC" is used, as opposed to "DCC", does this assume a difference in how it will react to the controller/power unit, and not the type of electrical power (AC vs. DC)?

    I'm obviously new to this (since 40 years ago), and want to make sure I get things right and don't hurt anything when learning....

    Any additional thoughts and explanations around the questions above and the things I'm forgetting to ask would be great!

    Thanks.
    -HO items are both dc and ac, if its dcc controlled it will be ac and if its not dcc it will be dc.

    -dcc stands for digital command control, and dc stands for direct current.

    the way dc trains run is the controller has a variable resister inside it and as you turn up the speed it allows more current to flow to the tracks and the train will go faster.

    dcc the whole track has an ac current and each train runs off the ac current, the signal is sent through the tracks to each train and the motherboard inside the trains receives the signal and then changes speed, direction and lighting etc

  4. #4

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    Thanks for the replies. This tells me that the DCC system I bought will allow me to run once we get my son's Thomas and Friends non-DCC stuff at the same time with the Thomas controller. It will then run direct current, but the two trains - the Thomas trains (non-DCC) and the DCC engine/trains for the other Bachmann set will both run at the same time on the same tracks but will not be separately controllable for speed, etc. Did I get that right?

    If so, since the Bachmann EZ-Command controller will allow 1 DC engine to run along with the several DCC engines, will it be running direct current or alternating current?

    Just trying to make sure I understand both combinations and won't ruin anything.

    Thanks.
    --------------------
    Mike

  5. Default

    Quote Originally Posted by MikeL View Post
    Thanks for the replies. This tells me that the DCC system I bought will allow me to run once we get my son's Thomas and Friends non-DCC stuff at the same time with the Thomas controller. It will then run direct current, but the two trains - the Thomas trains (non-DCC) and the DCC engine/trains for the other Bachmann set will both run at the same time on the same tracks but will not be separately controllable for speed, etc. Did I get that right?

    If so, since the Bachmann EZ-Command controller will allow 1 DC engine to run along with the several DCC engines, will it be running direct current or alternating current?

    Just trying to make sure I understand both combinations and won't ruin anything.

    Thanks.
    it will be using alternating current, BUT in a tricky way. the dcc throttle will ,use something called extented square wave. it will stretch one of the AC (+,-) wave to the maximum and shorten the other wave to the minimum (-,+)
    due to the speed of the alternating, the DC engine wont have the time to react to the opposite current, and will keep going forward, wave wil return to normal when you issue the command to stop moving, and invert when going reverse. however, it not good for dc loco to stay iddle on the layout, you will notice their engine will "sing" due to the ac current, this, over long time, can burn motors

    Because the current keep being AC all other dcc loco wont be affected in any way
    _____________
    Julien
    "I reject your reality and substitute my own"
    - Adams Savage

  6. #6

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    All good answers, especially Julien's answer about how AC current is tricked into being seen as DC by a DC motor. The E-Z Command will run one DC engine while you're running DCC engines at the same time. You will be able to control the speed of the DC engine by selecting zero on the controller and that of the DCC engines by selecting their number on the controller.

    It sounded for a bit like you were asking if you could have a DC powerpack and a DCC controller both hooked up to the tracks and active at the same time. For anyone else who may be thinking of doing this - Don't. The DC current will feed back into the DCC controller and there's a good chance you could destroy the innards in a few minutes. Once you hook up a DCC controller, only use the DCC controller for power supply to the tracks.

    The E-Z Command is a little different than other DCC systems since it has a plug on the back that allows you to use a Bachmann standard DC powerpack to give you speed and direction control of a DC engine without having to select it. You can pick one up on e-bay for around $20, and it might be a worthwhile investment since you are planning on running DC engines.
    Regards, Jim
    _______________
    HO Scale Modeler

  7. Default

    Quote Originally Posted by Grant F View Post
    -HO items are both dc and ac, if its dcc controlled it will be ac and if its not dcc it will be dc...
    This can be a little misleading because there is a such thing as HO AC, which is NOT DCC. While the DCC signal is AC, it is very different from what most people think of when they hear AC. AC is usually a 50 or 60 HZ sine wave, whereas DCC is a square wave with a varying frequency normally in the 4000 - 9000 HZ range(it can vary even more when running a DC locomotive). This is important because you can not buy an HO AC locomotive and run it on a normal 2-rail DCC layout, in fact, it will short out because HO AC is "3-rail," so the wheels on each side are electrically common. I put 3-rail in quotes because the third "rail" is a row of studs in the middle of the track. The studs are on the ties and are not very noticeable, so it looks much better than an actual third rail. Many current HO AC locomotives are digital and will actually run on DCC, but it still has to be 3-rail

    HO AC is not common in the US, but it is fairly common in Europe. None of the US or Japanese manufacturers make any HO AC equipment that I know of, but several of the European manufacturers do.

  8. #8

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    Quote Originally Posted by UP2CSX View Post
    It sounded for a bit like you were asking if you could have a DC powerpack and a DCC controller both hooked up to the tracks and active at the same time. For anyone else who may be thinking of doing this - Don't. The DC current will feed back into the DCC controller and there's a good chance you could destroy the innards in a few minutes. Once you hook up a DCC controller, only use the DCC controller for power supply to the tracks.
    Actually, Jim, I was really looking to see if the non-DCC controller could be used with DCC locomotives/engines as well as non-DCC trains at the same time or not at the same time - I wanted to make sure that if I put a DCC engine on the tracks when I had the non-DCC power pack connected that I wouldn't burn either out....

    But thanks for looking out for my possible mistakes - they will be many!
    --------------------
    Mike

  9. Default

    Quote Originally Posted by MikeL View Post
    Actually, Jim, I was really looking to see if the non-DCC controller could be used with DCC locomotives/engines as well as non-DCC trains at the same time or not at the same time - I wanted to make sure that if I put a DCC engine on the tracks when I had the non-DCC power pack connected that I wouldn't burn either out....

    But thanks for looking out for my possible mistakes - they will be many!
    If the decoder is a modern one, it is likely to be what is known commonly as "Dual Mode", meaning it comes to you from the factory set to sense which current it is being presented at the rails. It will behave somewhat differently, but it will move and you can control such things as the bell and whistle with some switch throwing....at least, that was the case with the QSI brand of decoders a few years back.

    Sound equipped engines will begin to make sound as you dial in DC voltage from your power pack, and near 6 volts they will then begin to move. This can be awkward because any DC engines you have placed on the same powered rails will want to move as soon as they get 3 volts or so.

    I hope it is clear to you that DC current is variable and controlled by yourself. The DCC signal is imprinted on non-variable square wave AC current that is usually very close to a constant 16 volts or so. The decoder is what meters out pulsed DC voltage to the can motors in either case. In a way, the decoder rectifies the AC current and distributes it to the various thingies that need current on the engine....lights, motor, speaker...

    -Crandell

  10. #10

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    Thanks - this makes sense - I really appreciate everyone's help!
    --------------------
    Mike

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