Wiring a Portable Layout for DCC

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I am currently in the process of designing a portable HO scale layout that I would like to wire for DCC. Having done quite a lot of research on the Internet about DCC, it seems that the information is almost exclusively aimed people with large, permanent layouts. I was therefore wondering if anybody on this form could help with a couple of issues I am pondering...

[Just as a quick bit of background, the layout will comprise three 5'x2' basboards, making a total size of 15'x2'. One of the boards will have a traverser staging yard.]

1) The "backbone" of any DCC system is the power bus. In permanent layouts, two wires of appropriate size are taken around the layout and dropper wires from track soldered to them. This approach could prove quite tricky on a portable layout but with an adequate depth of board, should be possible. However, there is the problem of how to connect the power bus across baseboard joints. Does anybody have any suggestions or recommendations about how this can be done?

2) I was planning on installing a combined command station and booster on to the central baseboard, and utilising a wireless hand-held cab to drive the layout, including switching all points. Is it safe to mount such a unit directly on to the wooden baseboards (due to heat generated by the unit) or should it be free-standing?

3) With only one cab on a small layout, I would only ever anticipate running one locomotive at a time (the reason for going DCC is for the practice for a larger layout at some point in the future and the flexibility it brings). Would I need a booster on each board, or would the single booster on the central board be enough to power the layout?

Finally, I wanted to put on record how useful the "Wiring for DCC" website has been. For example, I was wondering about using the new Peco Code 83 turnouts and thanks to the advice given on the site, I am now know exactly what is involved. So, as a newcomer to the DCC scene, thank you very much.

Ben Abbott, UK

-- Benjamin Abbott (benjy14@freeuk.com), February 07, 2005


1) Check out the NMRA standards on Modular Contruction and wiring.


-- (Gurriesm@macconnect.com), February 07, 2005.

1) Check out the NMRA standards on Modular Contruction and wiring.


Radio operation at conventions may not work do to other wireless system running at the same time. That ability for them to coexist will vary with the radio system you use and the brand name.

2) The system will not get warm unless you run lots of engines physically running down the track at the same time. Do not put the system in a box. Let air flow around it.

3) A good rule of thumb for HO is about 0.5A per running engine for full power . Engines sitting on the track do not consume any power worth worrying about. A 5 Amp booster should be able to run 10 engines at one and still have some power to spare. Chances are not all engines are running at full speed at the same time.

-- mark Gurries (gurriesm@macconnect.com), February 07, 2005.

Hmm...from a UK prospective:

for #1, a pair of bus wires strung lengthwise down the modules will work well. Either bare or covered copper wires, with a appropriate (more than 5 amp) plug can be used. Remember that the bus will have to carry the current of a short circuit that is _just_ below the trip point of the booster. I'm not sure what is available off the shelf in the UK for connectors, but search out your local electronics supplier and ask. If you have to, you can use 2 or more pins for each of the two bus wires. (IE using two connector pins each of the 5 in a DIN plug to give around 4A capacity).

Don't confuse the bus wire with the control wires, the control wires are very low amp signal wires.

2. It should be fine for a typical UK branchline to mount a (for example) Digitrax booster semi-permanantly to the baseboard. Heat is not usually a factor unless things get very warm (+30 C or more may cause problems, but usually from decoders not booster)

3. A single booster for the entire layout will be more than adaquate for 2-10 train operation, depending on the motors in the loco's. Since I doubt you will ever manage more than 3 moving trains at a time, there is no issue with using a single booster for the entire layout.

Feel free to Email me, I have a fairly extensive UK layout that is DCC and is modular (Semi-portable).

James Powell

-- James Powell (wx732@pacificcoast.net), February 27, 2005.

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