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Sunday, April 15, 2007

Model Railroading's Urban Legends

Perhaps it is in my DNA. Maybe it is because I have a low IQ, really I don't know. When some genius makes a statement I don't agree with, I just have to say something. In the past 18 months, I've certainly fallen for Model Railroading. Along the way a few things fall into a category I call Model Railroading's Urban Legends. You know, stuff that someone says and others repeat until everyone believes it. Here is my list. It is sure to grow, maybe even shrink. If you disagree with something on my list and some of you CERTAINLY will, post a comment and unless you dishonor my Momma, I'll likely post it. IF you are able to change my mind, I'll even remove it from the list. Want to adds something to my list, go ahead, and if I agree, I'll put it on.

As time permits, I'll comment on them individually.

To be clear, Joe Daddy believes each of these statements to be ether totally false or unsupported, not proven or simply an absurd opinion.

The Urban Legends of Model Railroading
  1. Real model railroaders don't use Code 100, it is like Lionel Tinplate
    Absurd, some of the finest model railroads in the country use code 100 rail, which, from what Joe Daddy understands is most prototypical when modeling the current modern era.

  2. DCC wiring is much more difficult than DC ever was, for many technical reasons.
    Untrue - Some DCC experts have be working diligently to make us believe that DCC is much harder to wire and less tolerant of problems than DC. That is just untrue. DCC without block detection is very simple. Add block detection and it becomes somewhat more complex but never approaches the difficulties one has with DC in switching CABs, poliarity etc. And signaling is signaling with or without DCC. Update To claim that DCC is harder to wire than DC seems a terrible slight to those who created elegant and elaborate methods to allow DC to control complex model railroads. A complex DCC implementation is not nearly so difficult as doing the same with DC.

  3. We recommend you twist your DCC bus wires.
    Unproven, unlikely - DCC experts tell us that twisting will fix DCC bus wires that are installed inches apart. But they also said, and the testing of Joe Daddy and others proves that Keeping (or returning) the wires back close together provides the fix. So, why twist, just don't split the wires apart in the first place? Here is a good question, what genius recommended the wires be separated two or three inches in the first place? As far as interference goes, model railroad track is an incredible dipole antenna. Any radiated signals are more likely to come from the track than the wiring. So, how do you twist the track? Twisted DCC bus wire makes it much more difficult to connect track feeders. Workmanship being the chief cause of wiring related problems.
    Hot off the web from Digitrax

    Digitrax Web site

    Twisted Feeders?

    Some internet experts INSIST that DCC bus wires must be twisted, presumably to prevent crosstalk and interference. Is this required by Digitrax?

    Digitrax does not require twisted wires on feeders etc, but suggests appropriate wire sizes and keeping feeder run lengths to a minimum because of resistance/power loss issues.

  4. We recommend you put terminators on you DCC bus wires.
    Unproven - DCC experts tell us that on wires longer than ~30 feet, we need to put terminators on them. The Digitrax website says they are unnecessary. One of these experts is wrong, we either need them, or we don't. Which is it? I'll go with Digitrax until there is better proof.

    Digitrax Website
    What's not clear to me from this article, the Digitrax book, etc, etc. is whether or not the layout track wire bus needs to be terminated somehow.

    The wire bus is there to distribute the electricity and DCC signal to the track, which is, in turn, transmitted to the decoders which use that track. That bus does not need to be terminated, since it acts like the electrical receptacles in your home.

    Now the schematics all show two independent bus wires, "hanging loose in thin air" at either end, with the feed in the middle. I understand that the feed location isn't that sensitive. But at the same time I'm wondering about crosstalk, etc if the bus wires do 'hang in mid-air'.

    Experience has shown that this is not an issue.

  5. Use the biggest wire for your DCC bus that you can, preferably 12 gauge twisted.
    Absurd - DCC experts tell us we should avoid problems by using larger wire. Joe Daddy advises you use the charts on the DCC Dealers web page or use an ampacity chart to determine the actual wire size needed. If the calculations call for #16, use it, if you need #10, go for it, but don't follow some silly rule of thumb. I have never met real engineer who did not need to calculate the exact requirement for something. It is in their DNA.

    If you suspect your wire size is too small, before you rewire your layout, go to the farthest piece of track from your DCC booster and short the track. If the DCC system powers down you have adequate wire. Better yet, use an RRamp gauge to monitor the health of your layout. If your layout fails the short test, you are more likely to have a cold solder joint or a poor connection than wrong size wire. Most layouts with runs shorter than 50 feet can easily get by with 16 gauge wire. Workmanship, especially cold solder joints are the chief cause of DCC related wiring issues.
    Bonding small feeder wire to large #12 sized DCC bus wire can be a problem with workmanship.

  6. You cannot have too many feeders, at least one every section of track is best.
    Not true - Too many feeders can needlessly complicate the DCC bus. If you have sectional track, solder 3-5 sections together at the rail joiners and solder a set of feeders to that 3-5 section piece. For flex track, solder 2 or 3 sections together and connect feeders to them. Use color coding, make sure you do not have any cold solder joints and organize your wiring so it can be traced later. Wiring and connections that make perfect sense today are confusing and seem unnecessarily complicated several months or a year later. For complex layouts with signaling, block detection and lots of lighting, it helps to make drawings of your systems and organize, organize, organize your wiring.

  7. Foam scenery is cheaper than other form of scenery.
    Not true - Foam is actually more expensive than many other alternative forms of scenery. Why, you might ask, the Styrofoam we all relate to as foam is not the blue or pink foam we have to purchase at the local big box store for almost the same price as 3/4 plywood. And foam is NOT a renewable resource, if you are interested in things like that.

  8. Foam scenery is faster and cleaner than other forms of scenery.
    Maybe - Scenery speed is more a function of skill than types of materials. Shaping and carving foam is every bit or more labor and time intensive as alternative forms like screenwire/cardboard lattice and plaster cloth. As for cleaner, I'd rather clean up a few drops of plaster splat than to be cleaning foam flummers out of my clothes, hair, computer and . . .

  9. Foam makes better layout roadbed than plywood.
    Maybe - One thing we can all agree on, foam is lighter than wood, it is also more dimensionally stable, however, it is still foam and without wood or steel supports it just does not work. A shelf layout is one of the few reasonable uses of a foam 'only' roadbed.

  10. Drywall mud is not plaster it is gypsum
    Oh please, use the dictionary, look it up.

    plas·terplas-ter, plah-ster] Pronunciation –noun

    1. a composition, as of lime or gypsum, sand, water, and sometimes hair or other fiber, applied in a pasty form to walls, ceilings, etc., and allowed to harden and dry.
    2. powdered gypsum.
    3. plaster of Paris.
    4. a solid or semisolid preparation spread upon cloth, plastic, or other material and applied to the body, esp. for some healing purpose.
    –verb (used with object)
    5. to cover (walls, ceilings, etc.) with plaster.
    6. to treat with gypsum or plaster of Paris.

    Still not convinced, go to and notice it it is owned and operated by the US GYPSUM Company one of the country's largest producers of drywall mud.

  11. Xuron rail nippers wear out too fast
    Oh, how I love this one, it goes something like this:

    Please where can I find some music wire, and BTW, what is it? Thanks.

    Well, I found the music wire yesterday at the LHS, seems I couldn't have found it on the web except at Guitars R Us. Anyway, thanks. Oh, BTW, I have been trying to cut the music wire with Xuron rail nippers that are suppose to be so darn sharp, which BTW they don't cut rail very good either. . . LMAO

    Rail nippers are for cutting HO and N gauge rail and soft things like soft plastic, small copper wire (under 16 gauge) and toenails. But for the life of me, I've even read where someone claimed that cutting plastic sprues ruined his Xurons. I wonder if it was our music wire genius.




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