Hixie's Natural Log

2007-02-23 09:02 UTC The Station-Names-Inspired-By-San-Diego Railway: Power

I got some 6017 boosters for our layout and started plugging them in. While doing so I noticed that the DIP switches on my 6021 control unit were set to ON/ON/ON/OFF.

I was curious about this, because the DIP switches on the boosters, according to the booster manual, for our layout, have to be set to OFF/OFF/OFF/OFF. So I looked at the 6021 manual, and it says that ON/ON/ON/OFF is the setting for when you want to use the "new" (well, "new" as of 1993, I guess) protocol, which is compatible with almost all the "old" stuff, except the 7651 rotary crane (which, despite what little evidence Google has, does exist).

This wasn't a problem back when I first set up my control unit, but it turns out that I have since aquired a 7651 digital rotary crane. (Long story. The moral is: don't impulse buy something in the three-digit price range when you're waiting for a train on your way to leave the country.) But the crane works fine! How is it not compatible? I'm baffled. Can anyone explain why the 7651 wouldn't be compatible with the 6021 ON/ON/ON/OFF state?

What's even more baffling is that the documentation I am holding in my hands — the official manual for the 6021 unit — contradicts the 6021's official page to which I linked above, the latter of which says that ON/ON/ON/OFF is only to be used with the 1 Gauge track, and that it must absolutely not be used with HO (our layout is HO). That page says that for HO you want OFF/OFF/OFF/OFF, a combination which the manual says will enable a legacy mode in which the f1-f4 functions don't work. The unofficial reverse engineered wire-level Motorola/Märklin protocol documentation actually seems more useful and precise on this front than any of the official documentation. Except it also says "the former type of extended function decoder was mounted in some Digital coaches and in the Digital crane from Märklin. It works ONLY if the new Control Unit has Dip switch No.1 OFF", which is clearly untrue, since I have exactly that situation and it works fine!

That page also points out a couple of bugs with the 6051 interface that explain why certain things are flaky. I'll have to see if I can work around some of those bugs.

On another note, something that I hadn't done yet is estimated power consumption on the layout. We have a dozen or so trains, but about 4 of them are moving at a time, usually, sometimes maybe 6 or 8. So let's say 8 trains moving simultanesouly; the manual says that's about 80VA. There's always some accessory being activated, an additional 10VA. We only have one additional controller (the 6051), which the manual says would use 2VA. We also have a turntable, which is 10VA, and two cranes, another 10VA. So that adds up to about 112VA. Each transformer does 42VA, and we now have two boosters, so that adds up to 126VA. Talk about cutting it close. We probably need another few boosters really. That doesn't bode well, given how scarce they are these days.

However, having now tested the new setup (and then fixed the various electrical faults I caused), I have to say it is looking good! Trippling the power available to the layout has made significant improvements to the track.