Although the GNO Northwestern is a small layout, its electronics will be sophisticated and modern. Power to the tracks will be delivered through DCC or Digital Command Control. All locomotives will have decoders installed, essentially tiny on board computers, which will receive digital information and power via the track rails from the command stations.

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Electrical blocks.

The layout will be divided into two electrical blocks, the main line (green) and the switching block (blue). These blocks will be electrically isolated from each other. The main line will receive power and digital information from the Lenz LZV100 (www.lenzusa.com). This unit will deliver up to 5 amps of track power. The switching block will be powered by the Lenz LV101, a power booster. The LV101 will receive information from the LZV100 and provide feedback information to it. Each of these units will be connected to its own transformer (15VAC – 5 amp).

The bit of red track is the programming track. Locomotives will receive their addresses on this track and have their CVs altered there when necessary. The programming track is not electrically connected to the layout tracks, but is connected to the LZV100 through a special port.

Between each of the two Lenz modules and their respective track blocks will reside one circuit breaker. These programmable or “intelligent” units are by DCC Specialties (www.dccspecialties.com). Although the Lenz modules can detect shorts that occur on the tracks and cut power, the circuit breakers take over that job, thus adding a measure of insurance by intercepting the short and protecting the DCC equipment. By default the circuit breakers will provide 3.5 amps of power to the tracks. They can be programmed with their own address on the XpressNet if desired.

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Electrical schematic.

The layout will receive information from the operators/engineers via two “cabs” or throttles. The Lenz LH100 will be main cab for running on both the main line and the switching yard. All switches will be thrown from this throttle. A secondary throttle, the Lenz LH200 will also be attached to the layout via the XpressNet adapter.

The beauty of DCC control is that either throttle can run any locomotive currently residing on the layout; they can hand off trains one to another. While one throttle is cruising on the main line, the other can be directing traffic in the switching yard and arranging trains for delivery. Both throttles can send speed and direction information to any locomotive running on either of the two electrical blocks of the layout. Either throttle can send programming commands via the programming track. In the case of a large layout, the throttles can be disconnected from their ports while the operator follows his train around the layout, and plugged into another port without any loss of information.

On the next installment I will discuss how all of these components were wired together on the layout. Thanks for stopping by.