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Handbook - Set-Up

This section describes the tasks that must be carried out prior to the operation of a layout. Included in this description are the planning of the layouts, testing of individual modules, the physical set-up of the layout, the set-up procedure for the DCC system and the initial placing of cars on the layout.

This page was last updated on December 30th, 2010.
Table of Contents
1.     Set-up Planning

2.     Testing Procedures for Modules
    2.1    LocoNet
    2.2    Wiring

3.     Set-up Procedure
4.     DCC Set-up
    4.1    Chief /Booster Requirement
    4.2    Setting Up the Chiefs / Boosters

    4.3    Option Switches

    4.4    Connecting and Testing Chiefs / Boosters

    4.5    Final Set-up Steps

4.     Placing Cars on Layout

1.    Set-up Planning

a)    The set-up dates are scheduled by the Executive with approximately 4 to 6 week intervals between set-ups from the beginning of September to the following May. Holidays and major train shows and other events that will draw away members are taken into consideration. These dates are published on the Web Site when confirmed with booking agent.

b)    A Club member is selected by the Set-up Co-ordinator to co-ordinate the track planning process. Any member who wishes to try their hand at track planning should contact the Executive.

c)    A call for modules from the Track Planner will go out about three to four weeks prior to the set-up date. Members are encouraged to reply promptly so the track planning may begin in a timely fashion.

d)    Two weeks before the set-up a first draft of the Track Plan will go out to the members listed on the Operations e-mail list.

e)    As Operations list members make comments about the track plan, revised versions of the plan will be periodically published to the Operations list for comments.

f)     One week prior to the set-up a final Track Plan will be selected, cleaned up and sent to all members on the Members e-mail list. This plan will also be posted to the Web Site.

g)    One week before the set-up, a Set-up Foreman will be selected by the Set-up Co-ordinator and the Membership informed.

h)    Set-ups generally start on the Friday evening if the room is available. If not available, it will begin promptly at 08:00 AM on the Saturday morning.

i)      It is desirable to have all modules delivered by 07:00 PM on the Friday evening. If unable to comply with the Friday evening deadline, then by 08:00 AM on the Saturday morning at the latest with prior arrangement with the Set-up Co-ordinator and Set-up Foreman.

j)      For special set-ups away from our normal location, a plan and schedule will be set-up by the Set-up Co-ordinator or Event Co-ordinator and sent to the members.

2.      Testing Procedures for Modules

2.1  LocoNet

Hook up a single Chief to the module and run a decoder-equipped locomotive using all of the different plug-in locations for the throttles, including directly from the Chief, and all of the LocoNet connectors.

If you can control the locomotive when the throttle was plugged directly into the Chief, but not when it plugged in to the module's own throttle jacks, check the LocoNet connection between Chief and module and make sure the LocoNet wiring under the module is intact. If these check out, try connecting the module's LocoNet to the Chief at one end and the LocoNet of another module that was previously tested and approved to the other end. Plug the throttle into the working module. If the locomotive works, the problem is likely to be in the throttle jacks on your module. If this doesn't work, or if the locomotive never ran at all, check the track and wiring (see below). Also make sure the locomotive wheels are clean.

2.2  Wiring

With the Chief connected to your module, connect the power bus on your module to that of a module that has already been tested and approved. Do not connect the tracks yet. If the Chief beeps 4 times, there is a short circuit in the connection between the two modules. Check the wiring at the terminal strips on your module to see what has been reversed.

If everything checks out, connect the tracks between the modules together. If the Chief indicates a short, make sure the feeders on your module have not been wired in reverse.

3.      Set-up Procedure

Everybody particupating in the Set-up should be familiar with the HOTRAK Emergency Medical Procedures - click here.

a)      The Set-up Foreman will guide module owners to appropriate areas of the room where their modules will be located.

b)      The Set-up Foreman will direct Members to areas where help is required or work needs to be accomplished, i.e. set-up Club Modules, help module owners with their modules, help move blocks of modules and a myriad of other small tasks.

c)      The Set-up Foreman in conjunction with the Road Foreman will determine where the Anchor Point of the Layout will be and all modules will be set up and located from this starting point.

d)      The Anchor Point is normally in one corner of the room that is near the centre of the Layout.

e)      The approximate sequence of events to set up a layout are:

-     Move Boxed Modules into the room to the general area where they will be set up.

-     Remove Modules from the Box and install legs.

-     Stand Modules up in their approximate location.

-     Clamp together Module sets.

-     Clamp together individual modules in to blocks (16 feet or less).

-      Starting from Anchor Point position module sets and blocks into their final position and clamp.

-      When modules are in their final position and clamped together, Joiner Rails may be added between modules. If spacing between Track ends is to tight add cardboard shims between modules to fit Joiner Rail.

-      Install Fiddle Yards.

-      LocoNet and Track power are connected between modules. Watch out for GAP signs and do not connect Track Power at that point.

-      Set up Command Stations. Location determined by Road Foreman.

-      When majority of layout is in its final position Track power wiring is installed under the modules to the various Blocks. Road Foreman leads.

-      When all modules are in place Track Power is turned on and Blocks are tested.

-     The LocoNet is tested after Command stations are powered up.

-     Test Engine or Track Cleaner train is sent around Layout to check for problems.

-     Accessories are added to modules (Buildings, Autos, and details).

-     Rolling Stock is distributed around Layout

f)       Non module owners are encouraged to help module owners in the set-up of their modules. Some Module sets require a specific sequence to unpack and set-up and this may only require the owner at this time, so don’t be put off if your offer to help is refused.

4.      DCC Set-up

4.1  Chief /Booster Requirement

Each reverse loop requires a Chief or booster unless equipped with an ARSC. All remaining Chiefs/boosters should be assigned to sections of the mainline. Chief/booster sections should vary in size depending on the number of locomotives that will operate on each section of the layout. Note that the Chiefs/boosters are not necessarily physically located near the track they control. Instead, all Chiefs/boosters are centrally located for ease of set-up and troubleshooting. A 2-wire cable connects their power outputs to the sections of track they control.

Each Chief must be designated as either a Master (one only) or Slave (all the rest), and as either auto reversing or non auto reversing. The rules for determining this are:

a)      The Master must not also be controlling a reverse loop.

b)      Only every second (or further apart) Chief can be set to auto reverse.

c)      If the Master is next to a reverse loop, it must be set to auto reverse.

The diagrams below illustrate how to configure layouts with 3, 4 or 5 Chiefs and two reverse loops.

d)      M = Master

e)      S = Slave

f)       AR = auto reversing

g)      NAR = non auto reversing)



h)      Joiner tracks between each Chief's mainline section must have insulated rail joiners at one end, or one of the modules adjacent to the section break must have insulated rail joiners already built in to all rails on the mainline. Note that the large wyes used in the HOTRAK reverse loops already have these insulated rail joiners installed. Joiner tracks between modules should remain disconnected at this stage, to ease troubleshooting later.

i)        Leave the track power bus disconnected between each Chief's mainline section. For example, at the same point where the joiner tracks have insulated rail joiners. Ensure the track power bus does not connect back on itself around a reverse loop. Leave the LocoNet disconnected at approximately the midpoint of the mainline. The LocoNet must not be connected back on itself around a reverse loop.

j)        Do not connect the LocoNet to any Chief or booster at this time.

k)      No rolling stock or locomotives are allowed on the track until the system has been tested and is operational.

4.2  Setting Up the Chiefs / Boosters

The following steps may be performed on all Chiefs simultaneously as they are not connected:

a)      With the power supply turned off, connect the power supply to the POWER IN (RED terminals) on each Chief.

b)      Set the SCALE switch to HO scale. Setting the scale to N is recommended for home use, as it gives a better low speed range for low power locomotives and provides the most realistic operation, but we use HO during club set-ups to provide more voltage.

c)      Turn the power supply on.

d)      Plug in a DT100 throttle to either of the Chief's LocoNet A/B connections.

e)      Set the Chief's MODE switch to OP.

f)       Press the MODE/DISP key on the throttle to enter "Switch" control mode. Browse through the option settings using the throttle knob. The option switch number appears on the left side of the display and the right side of the display shows either "c" (closed) or "t" (thrown) to indicate the current state of the option switch. Use the direction keys to change the option switch setting.

4.3  Option Switches

For HOTrak operations, the option switches should be set as follows:
 (format is OPS Switch No, HOTRAK Settings, Factory Default Settings)

a)      OPSW#1 "t" "t"

b)      OPSW#2 "t" - Master "c" - Slave "t"

c)      OPSW#3 "t" - non auto-reversing "c" - auto-reversing "t"

d)      OPSW#18 changes the length of time a Chief will wait before shutting down the layout when it detects a short circuit. A longer wait can allow a momentary short circuit (for example, a metal locomotive pilot brushing the rails when travelling over a slight hump) to be resolved without forcing the entire system to shut down. The default is "t", which gives a shutdown time of 1/8 second. To increase this time to 1/2 second, use setting "c".

e)      OPSW#44 may also be set. This option switch changes the number of slot refresh areas (for example, the number of things that can be active on the system at one time). The default is "t", which provides 22 slot refresh areas. Setting "c" provides 120 slots, but at the cost of a lower refresh rate (for example, the frequency with which the system repeats instructions to locomotives), which may produce sluggish response in some decoders.

Once all option switches are set, set the MODE switch on the Chief to SLEEP.

4.4  Connecting and Testing Chiefs / Boosters

The following steps may be performed on all Chiefs simultaneously as they are not connected:

a)      Connect the Chief to its section of the track power bus using the RAIL A/B connections (BLACK terminals). Do not connect track power or LocoNet between sections at this time.

b)      If applicable, connect the Chief to a separate programming track using the PROG A/B connections (GREY terminals).

c)      Set the MODE switch on the Chief to RUN.

d)      Check the track power status using the direction indicator lights on the DT100 throttle as follows:

e)      Both Solid ORANGE - System track power is OFF

f)       Both Flashing ORANGE - System is in "Stop" with track power ON

g)      Both UNLIT - System is in "Run" with track power ON

h)      Turn on the track power using the throttle by simultaneously pressing the RUN/STOP and "+" (plus) buttons. Once track power is on, you can toggle between "Run" and "Stop" by simultaneously pressing the RUN/STOP "+" plus buttons again.

i)        Check that the Chief's TRACK STATUS indicator is lit ORANGE.

j)        Connect the Chiefs at each end of the layout to their own section of the LocoNet. The end Chiefs are the only ones that connect to the under-module LocoNet. All other Chiefs are connected only to other Chiefs via the LocoNet booster cable (see below).

k)      Check that each end Chief's NET indicator is lit solid RED, indicating that that section of the LocoNet is OK. If the indicator is unlit, there is a short in the LocoNet.

l)        Once all Chiefs' track and LocoNet connections have been checked and shorts all corrected, turn off track power to all sections using the throttle by simultaneously pressing the RUN/STOP and - keys.

m)   Set the MODE switch on the Chief to SLEEP.

4.5  Final Set-up Steps

a)      Disconnect all DT100 throttles from the system except for the one controlling the Master.

b)      Connect the short LocoNet booster cable (also called the bypass cable) directly between each Chief in series. Remember that other than the end Chiefs, Chiefs are connected only to Chiefs via the booster cable.

c)      Turn each Slave back to RUN mode. The Slaves must be brought online before the Master.

d)      Turn the Master back to RUN mode.

e)      Using a DT100 throttle, turn the system track power ON and set the system to "Run".

f)       Put a locomotive on the track and drive it around the layout. As the locomotive reaches the gap between modules, connect the joiner track and then drive across to the next module. If a Chief beeps when the locomotive crosses a gap between sections, reverse the track power leads on one of the Chiefs controlling the sections adjacent to the gap. If one of these Chiefs is the Master, reverse the track power leads on the Slave.

g)      Once this test is complete, the layout is ready for locomotives and rolling stock.

4.      Placing Cars on Layout

a)      All cars placed on the Layout for the Operating Sessions are to remain there for the weekend. If you cannot leave cars for the weekend do not place them on the Layout for use in Operations.

b)      The Chief of Operations (COO) will generally work from the Yard.

c)      Select a Waybill from those made available by the COO.

d)      Ensure the car type, car length and type of load on the waybill match your car. For example, do not select a cement hopper waybill for a wheat hopper.

e)      Insert the Waybill into the Car Card inside the plastic pocket.

f)       Place the car at the designated location on the layout and Car Card into the Holder[1] for that location. If the Spot already has the required number of cars, then place the car in the Yard.

g)      If the Car Card Holder is not available at this time lean the Car Card up against the car being careful of the scenery. At no time shall any Car Cards be propped against any scenic item.

h)      If no Waybill is available to match your car then place the car in the Yard. It will be used to assemble Locals and Through Freights.

[1] Car Card holders should indicate the max number of cars for the location on the label.  A template for card  holders can be found at http://www.hotrak.ca/Library/Car_Card_Holder.html