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NCE Products New to Me

NCE AR10
Auto Reverser and Circuit Breaker

Brief Description

The AR10 is a combination auto reverser and circuit breaker. Trip current can be set from 1 to 10 amps. Includes status indicators for short detection and auto reverser polarity. Connection only requires four wires attached with screw terminals. An external short indication LED and manual reset button can also be added.

My Experience

The first good experience with any NCE product is the clear, concise, and easy to read instructions. It always answers my potential questions without having to contact their technical support or perform experiments before using their product.

Use with Frog Juicers

The section of my layout that requires auto reversing has a number of turnouts within it. I make extensive use of Tam Valley Depot Frog Juicers. Frog Juicers draw a small amount of current, sense when there is a short on a turnout frog, and reverses the polarity of the frog when needed. I was cautiously optimistic that I could get the Frog Juicers to work the AR10. I was prepared to work with some of the AR10's advanced features, if needed, to get them to work together. As it turned out, no problem! It worked fine just setting the trip current dip switches on the AR10.

My booster feeding the AR10 is a 5 amp system. Per the AR10 instructions, I set the trip current to 4 amps. This is easily done with the AR10's dip switches. I was hoping that if I set the AR10 trip current higher than the trip current of the Frog Juicers that things would work and they did.

If you are using a low current entry level system that can only supply about 2 amps, the AR10 will work set at 1 amp, but I would not expect it to work with Frog Juicers since you would not be able to set the AR10 trip current above that for the Frog Juicer.

Other Useful Information

As delivered, the AR10 comes set for 1 amp. So it should work with their Power Cab right out of the box. For higher powered system, you will probably only need to set the trip current via the AR10's dip switches. NCE has informed met that the AR10 can be set to 1, 2, or 3 amps when used with a Power Cab as the Power Cab has some energy storage capability.

The AR10 has three LEDs - "Short", "Normal", and "Reverse". Don't get hung up if the "Reverse" light is lit most of the time. "Normal" and "Reverse" are just labels. They could have just as easily been labeled "Thisaway" and "Thataway." As long as the "Short" LED isn't lit, indicating an overload short in your reverse section, you should be happy.

No soldering is required. Everything is a screw connection.

Less sophisticated auto reversers have trouble with sound equipped locomotives. So far, it worked with the one sound locomotive I tested. In the coming weeks when I finish wiring my mainline and can run trains, I will try it out with other sound locomotives.

You can fine tune the AR10 to delay its response time, how long it is shut down, and how it restarts. You can look at the restart as a type of soft start. All these things are programmable through CVs. Everything worked for me without having to change any of these. If you make a mistake and want to start over, there is a factory reset you can do.

If you choose, once a short is encountered, you can disable automatic reset and require a manual reset with a push button. Don't give yourself a headache muling over the pros and cons for doing this. From the factory, the AR10 comes with automatic reset enabled. I have left mine set up for automatic reset.

Finally, if you want a remote indication of a short on a control panel, the AR10 has a provision for this as well.

Enjoy! You will have this up and running in no time!

NCE EB1 v1.1
Electronic Circuit Breaker

1.25" x 3.75"
The new v1.1 EB1 replaced the jumper pins with a DIP switch to set trip points and a button for set up.

Improvements Over Original Version and Brief Description

There are a number of noteable improvements for this new version of the EB1. One game changer is that the lowest trip point is lower than the old version. It is now 1.5 amp(A); making it suitable for lower power entry level systems. I also noted that the jumper pins, and the sometimes tough to handle and see shorting plugs, have been replaced with DIP switches (in red above) and a set up push button.

The new EB1 is the same size as the original EB1. So it is still much smaller than some other electronic circuit breakers on the market.

No soldering is required. Hook-up is easy with just four wires - two to the booster and two to the track.

It remains capable of handling up to 10 A.

In addition to the lowest trip point going down, the other trip points have changed somewhat. This is not important. Just pick a limit that isn't too low for your locomotives and lower than your booster trip point. I have a 5 A booster and have chosen 3.3 A for the EB1 trip point for my layout.

My Experience

The first good experience with any NCE product is the clear, concise, and easy to read instructions. It always answers my potential questions without having to contact their technical support or perform experiments before using their product.

The instructions say that when you screw it down, not to get it too tight or else the board may bend and crack some components. That's good advice. Just barely snug it down. For insurance in my layout room that isn't always heated and cooled, I snug down and then back off the screw just a tiny bit.

Use With Frog Juicers

Another consideration for setting a trip point for me is that I am using Frog Juicers from Tam Valley Depot. They are designed to trip about 2 A. It was important to me that the Frog Juicers and EB1 work together. With the EB1 set to 3.3 A, everything worked fine.

Other Useful Information

It has a status LED indicating everything is good or if the EB1 has tripped. An external LED for a control panel status can be added. Also, if you want a manual reset, you can do that, too.

The advanced user can change the response time, the shutdown time, and the soft restart "custom startup" as well as give it an accessory address.

NCE Switch8-Mk2 & Button Board

 

Switch8-Mk2 - photo is coming

 

Button Board

Overview of Features

NCE has several products for turnout control using DCC. The Switch8-Mk2 is designed for controlling Circuitron Tortoises and other stall motor type switch machines that draw less than 40mA. Since Tortoises usually draw less than 20mA, you can drive two Tortoises in a crossover on one Switch8-Mk2 output.

The Switch8-Mk2 can drive up to eight 40mA switch machines. If you don't need 8 outputs, the NCE SwitchIt Mk2 can control two Tortoises.

The Button Board is designed as an extension of the Switch8-Mk2. It is not a stand-alone product. It adds the ability to use buttons or toggle switches to operate the switch machines attached to the Switch8-Mk2. Once wired together, think of them as one unit.

You don't have to have a Button Board or even a control panel. The Switch8-Mk2 can be accessed with your throttle (SEL ACCY button on NCE throttles) or JMRI and smart phone apps.

NCE accessory decoders, like the Switch8-Mk2 and the Button Board, can be used with other DCC systems that support accessory decoders.

Powering the Switch8-Mk2 (and Button Board if used)

The Switch8-Mk2 has the ability to add an external power supply. Note that it is not intended to be used standalone and needs to be attached to DCC track power. You will probably only be worried about drawing a lot of track power if you have a lot of Switch8-Mk2's and Button Boards or you have a entry level system that only provides a couple of amps of track power.

Connecting the Button Board to the Switch8-Mk2

It only takes three wires to attach the Button Board to the Switch8-Mk2. There are a couple of things to watch for. One, my Switch8-Mk2 has two three-screw connectors. One is for the future Relay Board. The other is for the Button Board. The Switch8-Mk2 is clearly labeled. Two, the three screws on the Button Board are not in the same order as on the Switch8-Mk2. When wired, they cross. Again, both boards are clearly labeled for GND, +, DATA. Now that I have given you a heads-up on these, you will be paying attention. You won't have any trouble hooking them up.

Programming the Switch8-Mk2

Note, while there are instructions for programming features of the Switch8-Mk2 in the Button Board instructions, there is more detail in the Switch8-Mk2 instructions. Look to the Switch8-Mk2 instructions whenever programming.

The Switch8-Mk2 comes with it's outputs programmed for accessory addresses 1 through 8. This is easily changed to any DCC accessory address.

If you hook up a switch machine and it throws in reverse of what you intended, you can just swap the wires on the Switch8-Mk2. You can also program the Switch8-Mk2 to reverse that output. The choice is yours.

You can use a typical toggle switch, a momentary contact toggle switch, or push buttons. Momentary switches allow you to control a single switch machine from several control panels.

You can also use a single pushbutton to control a turnout. You just put the Switch8-Mk2 in toggle mode. Every time you press a given button the switch points will flip. I'm a minimalist when it comes to control panels; mainly because I have spent countless hours wiring club control panels with dazzling indicator lights. For what? If you can see the turnout, you will probably look at the switch points to make sure they have flipped the way you wanted. (You can wire a turnout to provide position feedback, but most people don't wire their turnouts that way. More wiring and more cost! However, if you are planning on signaling, this is something you might want to do.)

There are two inputs on the Button Board for each turnout. When using the toggle mode, which input provides the toggle feature? Maybe both? I couldn't resist. I had to find out. As it turns out, either input will toggle the associated turnout.

Another cool feature is that you can program the Switch8-Mk2 to ignore the Button Board. If you are having an open house for the public, you can effectively kill your control panels to keep little hands from crashing trains. Turnouts can still be thrown by the dispatcher or anyone with a throttle equiped to do so.

NCE Light-It
Universal Lighting and Signal Decoder

Under Construction

Light-It
Actual size: 15 x 18 x 5 mm (0.59 x 0.71 x 0.02 inches)

Overview

The Light-It is very versatile lighting decoder that is well thought out and is well-suited to all its possible uses. There is a lot to be said about this little device. Besides illuminating cars and structures, it is can drive the lighting of a crossing signal and of-course, signals. To avoid flicker when illuminating a passenger car or caboose, it even has a provision for a keep-alive capacitor.

Useable with any DCC system. However, not all DCC systems can access the Light-It in all its ways (for example: Some system do not support signal addressing.)

Features

It looks big here, but in actuality it is just a little bigger than a dime. This is so that you can put it inside HO passenger cars, cabooses, or structures needing illumination in most scales.

If you are illuminating a structure, passenger car or caboose, it comes with a built-in white LED. This can be disabled by cutting the trace under the X in the photo above.

It can drive each output up to 10mA and already contains the required series current-limiting resistor. You change the brightness of each LED output by setting CVs.. (Note: It cannot be used with incadesent light bulbs.)

Addressing

It is flexible in how it is addressed. You can assign it a locomotive address and control it with locomotive functions. This is how you might want to use if lighting a car or caboose. You can make the lights flicker, too! Each LED is individually controllable.

You can also control it as an accessory decoder. This is another way you might want to light your cars, if you don't want to have to select them as a locomotive. Accessing it as an accessory decoder is how you might want to illuminate buildings. You can even mimic failing flourescent lights or mercury vapor lights with their slow turn-on.

Finally, you can address it as a signal. Normally, you would use the NCE Mini-Panel or JMRI. NCE throttles also allow you to address it by pressing SHIFT and CLEAR buttons simultaneously. If this doesn't sound as convenient as most NCE throttle commands, don't worry. You probably will only use this for testing a signal. You don't want operators changing signals themselves during an operating session!

Wiring it Up

To keep it small, you will have to solder all connections to the Light-It. I suggest the following tools to make soldering to it painless.
- a magnifying light
- a 15 watt soldering iron with a pointed tip
- a third hand
- 0.031" diameter rosin-core solder
- thermal wire stripper. Especially useful on very small diameter wires. These are expensive. Get a used one on eBay.

My initial use is for signals. I may do a pasenger at some point.

Take it one step at a time.

RESUME HERE


 

AR10
Auto Reverser & Circuit Breaker

EB1 ver. 1.1
Electronic Circuit Breaker

Switch8-Mk2 & Button Board
Light-It
Signal & Lighting Decoder
   

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