Old Layout Enters Twenty First Century (Thanks to Good Friends) By Don Bozman
It all started during my open house last November. By the end of the second day, very few trains would run, and those that did would not respond correctly to commands. The next few days were spent trying to pinpoint the problem on my 28 year old Dynatrol analog command control system. It turned out the command signals were just not strong enough and normal adjustments could not fix the problem. Calling around the country revealed Dynatrol was no longer in the repair business, and other than Gil Freitag, I could find no one else still using Dynatrol. By the second week the future of the GGN looked pretty hopeless.
Then one by one friends began to urge me to convert to DCC. But at 76, I didn't think I was up to the task. The first huge hurdle was trying to replace the 48 blocks of detection essential to running a railroad this size. In my mind it would take extensive rewiring and replacements would be very costly and time consuming. It took Ed Rains and Bruce Chubb to talk me into changing from Chubb's old "Optimized Detectors" which was on my old layout to his newer version of "Optimized Detectors for DCC". Ed showed me how simple it would be to rewire the system. Then thanks to the generosity of Harry Daniels and also Gilbert Freitag a ready built supply of the new detectors became available from the remains of Harry's old HO layout. That would solve my first two problems, but I still wasn't sure about changing.
Next, along came Randall Wilson and Robert Ashcraft taking considerable time to explain the advantages of DCC. Randall on NCE in particular. He also explained how easy the conversion would be. About then I started watching some great videos about DCC by Art Houston which led to a few personal extended phone calls. By then I knew I wanted DCC but I also knew my failing eyesight would not allow me to see well enough to solder in decoders to my existing stable of older locomotives (made before plug and play) so I still sat on the fence.
Then, in my mind, an extraordinarily amazing thing happened. The kind of thing that could only occur because of the strong fellowship shared within our model railroad community. Six good friends named Robert Ashcraft, Dave Shafer, Steve Sandifer, Tom Bailey, Jim Thompson, and Bob Barnett each came to me not only prodding me towards switching to DCC, but also volunteering to install my decoders for me. How could I resist any longer?
The new NCE system is powered by 10 amps with the railroad split into 4 power districts using 4 independent circuit breakers. I opted to use all wireless throttles so no more tripping over tethered throttles or stopping and moving to another plug in.
Thus, because of these fine folks, we had our first DCC operating session four months after the old system failed. All went very well, and the Great Great Northern Railway is now part of the 21st century. Thanks again guys!
2/28/14 Photo by Diann Wilson.
Eight of the guys that made converting to DCC on the GGN possible met for the first operating session using DCC. L to R from back to front are Dave Shafer, a very happy me, Steve Sandifer, Ed Rains, Randall Wilson, Jim Thompson, Robert Ashcraft, Bob Barnett, and Tom Bailey.Pieces of "Appreciation" cake were served over these computer generated placemats before the session got underway.
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