Tuesday, 9 July 2013

Going Wireless

The Mt Windeatt section of the layout in 2009 in England
When I decided to change to DCC, the NCE Powercab was a good choice and I haven't regretted the purchase. However, when I made the changeover, I was living in England with only a portion of Philip's Creek residing in the attic.The 2m cable between the controller and the socket that came with the Powercab didn't pose any problem, but the limitations soon became apparent when we returned to Australia and Philip's Creek was reconstituted as a single layout.

As it is currently constructed, Philip's Creek almost fills a single car garage, around 5.5m x 1.8m with several aisles to facilitate access. I bought a longer cable but was warned that its length (3m) was about the maximum before electrical losses would impact on the efficiency of the system.  While it did allow greater reach, areas of the layout, particularly the two staging areas, were still well beyond the reach of the tethered controller.
The antenna can be seen in the middle of the window

With ambitions of further extensions and the prospect of retirement potentially providing time to achieve these ambitions, it was time to resolve the problem. The declining Aussie dollar added a further imperative. Some research on the internet and a couple of chats at the Modelling the Railways of NSW Convention at Loftus indicated that the best solution for me was a wireless arrangement and an additional cab controller.

Installation was fairly simple, apart from me putting one of the batteries around the wrong way in the supplementary controller. Otherwise, it was very much a 'plug and play' arrangement and. I can now use a controller at any point of the layout.

The supplementary cab is very basic and easy to use. However, I have noticed a delay between when a  locomotive has been selected and it is ready to operate. In reality, the pause is probably no more than a second or two but in this day and age, it seems like a very long time. There was one instance when it took three attempts to select a locomotive. I'm still learning and I don't know if that is normal.

As I mentioned earlier, this purchase is an 'enabler' that will facilitate the the expansion plans, so roll on retirement! Maybe then, I'll also get around to covering the white styrofoam with a fascia.


  1. Phil

    I had a power cab to start then upgraded to a full radio power pro system & converted the cab to radio at the same time.

    While I could have saved a few $$'s by staying with the cable & it could have worked ok, I have no regrets at all going cable free.

    So far I have noted there is a slight delay in the selection being enabled on them but not really any worse than with the tethered use.



  2. Col,

    Thanks for the reassurance. It's good to know that the delay is normal. The arrangement certainly has a lot more flexibility and no cables to trip over.

    cheers Phil

  3. Yeah Hi Phil ive upgraded my powercab to a Sb3a and to radio also . Make sure that you protect your controller with at least a light bulb also if you haven't already. Ive learnt that lesson.
    cheers Peter

  4. Peter,
    Thanks for the comment. I have to confess that to date, I haven't fitted a light bulb or bulbs to my control panels. Philip's Creek is very much a single operator layout and to date, the circuit breaker in the Powercab has worked well. In the event of a short, my drill is to unplug the Powercab, correct the short and then start Powercab again. Up till now that was easy to do but, with the wireless arrangement, the Powercab may be out of reach. I had an example of this a few days ago. Fortunately, the Powercab short circuit tripped, attempted to reboot and tripped again until I realised there was a problem. However, I understand that the light globe does not protect the circuit but simply lights up if there is a short and may prevent the Powercab circuit breaker from operating thus allowing the current to continue to flow through the short circuit. Electricity is not my strong suit and I may be completely off the mark. I'd be interested to understand the lesson you learnt.

    cheers Phil

  5. Phil,

    with regards to the delay, that is normal. I have a radio system and also have a short delay.

    When it comes to the light bulb, you are correct. it wont prevent a short, it allows the power to flow through the bulb preventing the system form shutting down the entire layout.

    See my post on light bulbs for points.


  6. Ben,

    Thanks for the comment. I reread your post on the light bulbs for points and, if I understood it correctly, you are saying that a short can be tolerated (the two images of the CPH moving through the point). Revisiting a few other websites, I note some suggest a similar opinion. My earlier understanding was that a short must be corrected immediately otherwise the decoder was at risk of damage. Clearly, I need to have a rethink.

    cheers Phil