Cheap decoder for point motors?

 
  EGJ Rail Beginner

I would like to control point motors using Engine Driver on my phone via a Wifitrax WFD 30 (such a great product that negates the need for JMRI and a laptop and internet and all the other stuff - I love it).

Anyhow, that's not the point of this thread. What I'd like to know is: is a DCC Concepts Cobalt IP Digital or Circuitron Smail (inbuilt decoders) worth it? Or is it easier (probably not) and cheaper (it doesn't seem so) to get a separate decoder for a basic Cobalt or Tortoise? All the add ons become quite fiddly and expensive. Is it better just to put up with manual throw and use a frog juicer? I don't want a control panel.

I'm new to DCC and find it gets a bit overwhelming and never ending. I can't help thinking it's all old tech and clunky - That's why the WFD 30 is great.

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  dthead Site Admin

Location: Melbourne, Australia
DCC at track level has two types onf Decoders - Loco Decoders and Accessory Decoders.

The Accessory decoders are used for points, signals things that are not in a loco ( thus size is usually bigger). Most DCC suppliers have some accesory decoders in their range.

The trick is to match the accesory decoder tot eh type of point motor you have or intend to use.  Stall motor types, like tortoise work sidderent to  say peco point motors, so there are different types of decoders - as a general rule.

Colbolts are stall motors and come as just the motor or with a DCC decoder onboard.

Which is best? Which is cheapest ? What combo point motor + decoder is the cheapest ?

Some more electrically minded have made DCC decoders out of microprocessors, Picaxes, arduinos but  it  can be a lot of work to do it - and no set eand clear instructions as many have done it - just have to understand their info.

Hope that helps - a little.

Regards,
David Head
  rainynight65 Locomotive Fireman

is a DCC Concepts Cobalt IP Digital or Circuitron Smail (inbuilt decoders) worth it? Or is it easier (probably not) and cheaper (it doesn't seem so) to get a separate decoder for a basic Cobalt or Tortoise? All the add ons become quite fiddly and expensive. Is it better just to put up with manual throw and use a frog juicer? I don't want a control panel.
EGJ Rail

I have 12 Cobalt motors on my small layout - 10 Cobalt IP Digital, 2 Cobalt SS. They're all connected with two wires only, I 'm currently not using any of the other connections. All my turnouts are insulfrogs. The Cobalts were a good chunk of my budget, but so far they've given me little to no hassle - mount, program, off you go. So I'd say yes, they're worth it. Cobalt IP Digital motors are also cheaper per unit than if you were to use regular Cobalts and additional decoders.

You could use cheaper servos and Arduinos or similar to control your turnouts - it will cost less but take more time to get it set up and working. There's plenty of information about that on the net - I may go down that route for my next layout.

I'm new to DCC and find it gets a bit overwhelming and never ending. I can't help thinking it's all old tech and clunky - That's why the WFD 30 is great.
EGJ Rail
NCE is pretty much the epitome of clunky old tech...
  DJPeters Deputy Commissioner

I realise you are not made of money however when it comes to things like control of something then buy the best you can afford as buying that and installing it all correctly will give you trouble free operation for many years where as the cheaper ones might cause a lot of hair loss by pulling it out if you know what I mean. The same goes for loco decoders some cheap decoders are little more than junk and Hornby decoders etc fall into that, they work fine on a Hornby controller some times but use them on any other controllers that are not Hornby then you get major problems. So in that case do not believe that all decoders are equal and the price is the only difference, if you go that route you will soon find that what I say is correct after a while.

Hornby proclaim they are are approved by the NMRA but most that have used them doubt that very much, like I said these decoders do all kinds of things on other brand controllers everything from not working at all, to frying the decoder instantly even if correctly installed, in between those two there is a whole range of things that might happen as well. So if you have to get decoders of any type get good ones, alright it might cost a lot more, but it might save your sanity in the long run though.
  Aaron The Ghost of George Stephenson

Location: University of Adelaide SA
Buying off the shelf is more convenient if you have less than quite a bit of understanding in electronics.

I designed my own DCC system from scratch, it’s cheaper than buying off the shelf so long as you don’t have to pay for the education in order to know how to do it.

Somewhere out there on the www is a guide I made to making your own decoders, point motors, control panels, signalling and scratch made system.

I say it’s out there somewhere, its a free site and I don’t have the login details anymore to take it down. I get hundreds of emails a year asking for help and further info and I just don’t reply, I don’t have the time to support most of the people that look at it.


The beauty of those from non electronic engineering/computer science background people buying from companies or shops is that you have someone whom is paid to (hopefully) help you when it goes awry. Although many companies these days outsource tech support to ‘forums’ where users can fulfil an obligation to their customer for free. I no longer participate in any DCC forums because I realised that I no longer wanted to provide free advice and support for companies who provided me with nothing in return.

Free intellectual property comes with tech support that matches the price you paid for the information. If you use my designs (or anyone else’s - mine is not necessarily best, easiest or cheapest) and you can make it work, great! However, if you cannot workout the calibration of the point motors be prepared to break points, bend moving signals, burn motors, have the wrong lights illuminated on panels and be really disappointed when you email and get no response - I barely even look at the email on the site.

The one piece of advice I will give if you really want to build your own point decoders is contrary to advice above, avoid any design that mentions PICAXE or Arduino, both are certain to be woeful. Go with a design that uses PIC (or ATMEL which is also okay) not the ‘kiddie’ variants of these which will have all sorts of time handling issues giving you intermittent cases of working or not working and you’ll never know why.
  NSW3802 Junior Train Controller

I would like to control point motors using Engine Driver on my phone via a Wifitrax WFD 30 (such a great product that negates the need for JMRI and a laptop and internet and all the other stuff - I love it).

Anyhow, that's not the point of this thread. What I'd like to know is: is a DCC Concepts Cobalt IP Digital or Circuitron Smail (inbuilt decoders) worth it? Or is it easier (probably not) and cheaper (it doesn't seem so) to get a separate decoder for a basic Cobalt or Tortoise? All the add ons become quite fiddly and expensive. Is it better just to put up with manual throw and use a frog juicer? I don't want a control panel.

I'm new to DCC and find it gets a bit overwhelming and never ending. I can't help thinking it's all old tech and clunky - That's why the WFD 30 is great.
EGJ Rail
Lenz sell a unit that allows you to setup 6 points to operate twin coil or slow motion point motors.

The LS150 provides a distinct address for each set of points and a switch can be wired in parallel to manually operate each set of points.

i have used these units and found them easy to setup and work.

Hope this helps,
Les
  NSW3802 Junior Train Controller

I would like to control point motors using Engine Driver on my phone via a Wifitrax WFD 30 (such a great product that negates the need for JMRI and a laptop and internet and all the other stuff - I love it).

Anyhow, that's not the point of this thread. What I'd like to know is: is a DCC Concepts Cobalt IP Digital or Circuitron Smail (inbuilt decoders) worth it? Or is it easier (probably not) and cheaper (it doesn't seem so) to get a separate decoder for a basic Cobalt or Tortoise? All the add ons become quite fiddly and expensive. Is it better just to put up with manual throw and use a frog juicer? I don't want a control panel.

I'm new to DCC and find it gets a bit overwhelming and never ending. I can't help thinking it's all old tech and clunky - That's why the WFD 30 is great.
Lenz sell a unit that allows you to setup 6 points to operate twin coil or slow motion point motors.

The LS150 provides a distinct address for each set of points and a switch can be wired in parallel to manually operate each set of points.

i have used these units and found them easy to setup and work.

Hope this helps,
Les
  NSW3802 Junior Train Controller

I would like to control point motors using Engine Driver on my phone via a Wifitrax WFD 30 (such a great product that negates the need for JMRI and a laptop and internet and all the other stuff - I love it).

Anyhow, that's not the point of this thread. What I'd like to know is: is a DCC Concepts Cobalt IP Digital or Circuitron Smail (inbuilt decoders) worth it? Or is it easier (probably not) and cheaper (it doesn't seem so) to get a separate decoder for a basic Cobalt or Tortoise? All the add ons become quite fiddly and expensive. Is it better just to put up with manual throw and use a frog juicer? I don't want a control panel.

I'm new to DCC and find it gets a bit overwhelming and never ending. I can't help thinking it's all old tech and clunky - That's why the WFD 30 is great.
Lenz sell a unit that allows you to setup 6 points to operate twin coil or slow motion point motors.

The LS150 provides a distinct address for each set of points and a switch can be wired in parallel to manually operate each set of points.

i have used these units and found them easy to setup and work.

Hope this helps,
Les

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