Electrics – Installing & Setting Up DCC Concepts Ground Shunting Signals
Electrics – Installing & Setting Up DCC Concepts Ground Signals
In this article, we take a look at installing & setting up the DCC Concepts Ground Signals. Ground signals/Position light signals, allow a train to move into a section under caution, the line ahead may be occupied so the driver must drive at a speed that enables him/her to stop short of any obstruction. There are several types of ground/position light signals which include:
Associated position light signals (APLS) are attached to the main aspect signal. These are only illuminated when a shunting movement is allowed/permitted to take place. When the main signal aspect is showing red, the position light displays two white lights at an angle of 45°, which indicates that a driver may pass the signal with caution. When not cleared, the associated position light is unlit, and the train driver must obey the main aspect signal.
Ground position light signals (GPLS), are always illuminated. They are located either near to the ground or on their own on a post with no nearby corresponding main signal. The ground position light can display the following aspects:
- Either two red lights or one white light and one red light in a horizontal arrangement. This means the driver must stop.
- Two white lights at a 45° angle, which means the driver can Proceed. The driver may pass this signal with caution and at a suitable speed that allows the train to be stopped short of any obstruction that may be ahead
Shunt ahead signals these are fitted with either two yellow lights, or one white and one yellow light. They are usually found located at the exit of marshaling yards and sidings. They can be passed at danger for a movement in the direction for which the signal cannot be cleared. For example into a headshunt rather than onto the mainline. This setup prevents the signal from having to be cleared every time a shunt move takes place within the sidings that don’t need to enter the running line. When a shunt ahead signal is cleared, it then allows access onto the mainline.
Limit of Shunt as the name applies is the limit that a shunt move can take place too. A limit of shunt signal has two permanently lit red lights set up in a horizontal configuration, which means Stop. No train is allowed to pass the limit of the shunt signal, as the direction will be against the normal direction of travel. Limit of shunt signals are permanently lit and they do not display any other aspect.
The type we’ll be fitting are the Ground Position light signals. We’ll be fitting the DCC Concepts Diesel Era type ( DCD-GS-BR-D). The likes of DCC Concepts, Train-Tech, CR Signals, Eckon amongst others produce ground signals & ground signal kits, from steam period right up to the current modern-day versions. The DCC Concepts pack we are fitting comes supplied with 12 ground signals, & an encoder unit.
We’ll now look at how to install & set up these signals.
The pack I’m using is the 12 ground signals pack with an encoder unit. The encoder unit will operate 12 ground signals, but extra ground signals can be added via Y junction sockets which allows extra ground signals to be plugged in, we’ll take a look at this later. The pack comes complete with instructions & an information card. The ground signals can also be bought in smaller packs without the encoder unit, the encoder unit can also be bought separately as well. Additional encoder units can plug into the supplied encoder unit which gives you 12 more ground signals per each additional encoder unit.
Other items included in the pack are, supplied drill bit for making the holes in the baseboard for the ground signals. A set of mounting screws for the encoder board.
One encoder the brains of this system. This encoder board is what the ground signals plug into. A plug-in link cable is also supplied for linking this encoder to any additional add-on encoders.
A pack of Alpha Y-Connectors. These allow you to link two ground signals to one switch outlet, so ideal for where pairs of ground signals are needed, on a crossover for example.
Lastly, the actual ground signals themselves. These come pre-wired complete with a miniature plug, so they can be plugged directly into the encoder. The ground signals are on short wire runs, so I’d recommend buying either the additional extension wire packs which come with the plugs pre-fitted, & the extension lead connectors. Or buy just the wire only pack which will allow you to cut the wires & solder a longer length of wire to the signal. Ideal for those furthest away ground signals.
The extension wire packs with pre-fitted plugs come in four lengths, these being 150mm, 300mm, 750mm & also 1 meter. The wire only pack comes supplied as a 10-meter length. The photos right & below show the additional wire packs.
The first job is to mount the encoder board. Either mount it under the baseboard or in a mimic control panel. Four screws secure the encoder to the underside of the baseboard ( highlighted by the four orange arrows ).
Next, run two wires from the DCC power bus or directly from the DCC controller/command station. Strip the ends of the wire & insert them into the green terminal on the encoder board. Make sure the stripped exposed wire ends are fully inserted into the green connector. Then tighten the two grip screws to securely hold the two wires. As highlighted in the photo opposite right.
Now drill the holes for the ground signals. I found the supplied drill bit wasn’t quite big enough for making the hole to take the pre-fitted plug on the ground signal. So ended up using a slightly bigger drill bit to make a suitably sized hole. The ballast was removed from around where the ground signal will go, this is to allow the ground signal to sit flush & level on the baseboard. The ballast will be relaid after the fitting of the signal.
Next, feed the plug, wire & metal tube on the ground signal down through the drilled hole. Then apply a small amount of glue to the underside of the rectangle base, apply just enough glue to hold the signal in place. A point I’d like to mention here, it’s worth painting the rectangle base block of the ground signal in a concrete colour before fitting. It’s also worth making a signal ID label on your printer to cut out & glue on to the signal. You could use the DCC address that the signal will be assigned too, which will help identify it on your layout.
Next, plug the ground signal into the control board as shown in the photo opposite right. Please note that there are 12 plug sockets along each of the two long sides of the control boards. These plug sockets are in pairs & duly labeled so, so for example plug socket outlet pair 1 is labeled 1L & 1R. These paired plug sockets give you two outlets per DCC address, left & right (or normal & reverse). This allows you to have a pair of ground signals per DCC address. More details can be found on The DCC Concepts website here:
For the locations for the ground signals that are further away from the encoder, the supplied pre-wired ground signals only having a short length of wire will not reach. The wires will need to be extended. Two ways to do this, the first is to use the supplied connector plug socket boards (see the second photo opposite right) with the various length pre-fitted with plug sockets wire extensions.
With the wires cut on the ground signal, untwist the pair of wires slightly & strip the ends of the wires. Then tin the stripped wire ends with solder.
Next, from the wire pack, cut a suitable size length of wire long enough to extend the wire from the ground signal to the control board. Then pair back slightly the ends of the cut extender wires. Then strip the ends of the wire & tin the exposed wire ends with solder.
Next, from the wire pack, cut a suitable size length of wire long enough to extend the wire from the ground signal to the control board.
The DCC Concepts wire pack comes with two lengths of coloured heat shrink, cut two pieces long enough to cover the soldered joint. Heat shrink can be purchased online & from any good electrical components parts supplier. Slide the cut length of the heat shrink on to & down the wire so that it’s clear of the exposed wire end. Then proceed to solder the wires together. Solder red wire to the red wire & solder the black wire to the black wire. Then slide the heat shrink over the soldered wire joint & hold the soldering iron need the heat shrink to shrink the heat shrink into place.
As highlighted in the photo opposite right.
Now repeat the process at the onther end.
We now have an extended wired ground signal ready for fitting. So as before, drill a mounting hole big enough to allow the plug to go through. Then feed the plug & wires through the hole. Apply a small amount of glue to the signal base & stick it in position.
Then plug the signal into one of the plug socket outlets on the control board of your choice.
Proceed to fit the remaining ground signals as needed. If you need to fit more than the 12 ground signals that come with the ground signals pack, additional control/encoder boards can be bought & linked up to the first control/encoder board via the supplied linking wire.
Now switch on & power up the layout. With the layout powered up, then slide the switch on the control/encoder board to the on position. The onboard display on the control/encoder board will now light up.
Next, on your DCC control system call up the accessory address number one, & press the direction button or throw/close button on your DCC controller. The ground signal plugged into outlet number 1 (L1 or L2), will then change accordingly.
On the control/encoder board it comes set up from the factory with accessory addresses 1 to 12. So outlet plug socket labelled L1 & R1 is accessory address number one, outlet plug socket labelled L2 & R2 is accessory address number two & so on up to 12.
However, you may want to change the DCC address on the control/encoder board. So if you change the address of outlet one to say address number 20 for example, then the rest of the outlets will then be address in number sequence from address number 20 up to address 32, as it always programs the addresses in blocks of 12.
Press & hold either of the two ACC-SEL push buttons down, then whilst keeping the ACC-SEL button held down, slide the power switch to the on position. The display on the control/encoder board will now flash. Release the ACC-SEL button.
With the display flashing, you can now choose the address you wish to set. The ACC-SEL button nearest to the on-off switch is known as ACC-SEL 1 & the ACC-SEL button on the right is known as ACC-SEL 0.
You can now choose the address that you want outlet/output/ socket number one by momentary presses of the switches on either side of the display. The ACC-SEL 1 switch will now change which of the 4 digits is changed (it cycles through each of the four digits). The ACC-SEL 0 switch ( the one furthest away from the on-off switch ) will change the actual value of each digit. It will cycle through numbers 0 to 9.
With the address set for outlet one, press & hold the right-hand button ACC-SEL 0 until the display flashes YES. Then let go of the button. Outlet number one will now be reprogrammed with its new address number, & the rest of the outlets will be addressed automatically in a number sequence upwards from the address number given to it.
And that’s it, the ground signals are then operated by the DCC handset /controller, DCC Concepts Cobalt Alpha, Alpha Central or even a computer control system.
For traditional DC users, DCC Concepts have the following items which allow you to use these ground signals on a DC control layout. The items from the DCC Concepts range is as follows: Alpha Sniffer, AEU & Alpha Switch-D. For further details please contact DCC Concepts https://www.dccconcepts.com/
That’s it, all installed & enjoy operating the signals & driving your trains to the signals accordingly. In the video clip opposite right can be seen a short video clip of a ground signal working.