Bob's Bench

Welcome to Bob's Bench

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Welcome to the first edition of "Bob's Bench".

Many people have asked me "how do I do this" or "how do I do that", so I decided to write some "Application Notes". The premise being some simple How-To documents for specific tasks or projects. Usually all the information we need to build this stuff is included right in the product documentation, but most of the time it does require some experimentation. Since I spend a considerable amount of my time testing different parts and how to connect them together, I thought maybe someone else might like to hear about my experiments.

See the buttons on the left, and select a topic you are interested in. For each topic, you can see links to our products as well as those that we used in the experiment or project.

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The plans are always big, but the time is usually short, so I'll do my best to give you valuable insight as to how to build and connect things that are useful. If you have a specific idea for "Bob's Bench", please send them to me!

First I'd like to introduce you to my bench. We build various model railroading products here at PRICOM Design, and part of that process is to test it with other manufactures equipment. The notion of having everyone else's equipment available at my fingertips for testing is an expensive one. But over time I have managed to acquire some good tools, and hopefully set them up in a way that makes using them convenient.

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Of course if you want to test equipment on DCC, you pretty much need to have the major brands of DCC systems available. This was first influenced by our DCC Tester. How can we send a product out into the field where there are many brands of systems, without actually trying it here first? I have always believed that we should see the problem before the customer does. Is that a lofty goal? Yes, but it is a goal worth striving for. All too often we see finger pointing, "it's not our equipment that is at fault, it must be theirs". Having lived through that many times in my life, I decided to try and avoid it here at PRICOM...

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The world of DCC is complicated, and how do you choose what to get? Well for starters I got the big three that I see around, Digitrax, Lenz, and NCE. I also have an old MRC Prodigy, so that gives me 4 systems to test with. The next thing is how to make it convenient to test and actually use these different systems. My solution came in the form of a "patch panel". In my recording studio work, a "patch bay" is the tool of choice when flexibility is essential , and patching in different equipment, so I figured the same would work here as well.

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I built and wired the patch panel shown here. By the way, any of the pictures you see, you can click on to get a larger view! I like doing that because you can get the web pages to load faster, but also allow you to see the detail of a high-resolution photo, if you want to see it.

My patch panel is just a piece of 1.25" aluminum angle with a bunch of holes drilled in it. I decided that 3 track jacks, and 1 programming track jack would be the right number for testing. I can also use an external 'Y' cord to connect multiple DCC Testers (or anything else) to one specific system during testing, so the 3 track outputs per system works just perfect. With 20 jacks total, that gives me room for 5 DCC systems, we have 4 already, leaving space for one to expand. What should the 5th one be, CVP? Time will tell I guess...

Now we have DCC equipment, test equipment, tools, and some power supplies, so I guess it's time to get to work!

My first installment will be how to connect Block Occupancy Detectors to a Dream Player. I have some Team Digital DBD2's, some Dream Players, some Circuitron Tortoise motors, and an idea... So buckle-up, click the links on the right, and here we go...
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Bob Scheffler