User-friendly DCC cabinet
Joe showed some interest in our DCC cabinet from our club layout on another thread. I promised to provide some more details about it.
You can see it is split into two sides, with narrow shelves on one side for the actual DCC system components, and other other into larger shelves for other electronics and wiring components. We installed a fluorescent light at the top because it was pretty dark on the top shelf to see what you were doing. The power supplies are on the bottom and plugged into a power bar, which is in turn plugged into a 110 V outlet with an on/off switch for the outlet built in. That switch turns off all power to the DCC system. We have this outlet box also feeding an armoured cable running through the layout to other outlets at satelite cabinets similar to this one for other boosters and electronics, and they are also turned off by the same switch.
The short shelves under the DCC components are loose and can be removed to make it easier to get at the wiring running behind them. We left a two inch gap at the back for the wire to run through, though we found it easier to put a terminal strip at the front because all the wire connections for NCE are at the front anyway.
The big shelves on the right host the main terminal strips, circuit breakers and toggles. I'm a big believer in terminal strips and spade connectors, since they keep the wiring neat and make it easy to change things around if necessary. Since the upper photo was taken, we moved one of the boosters out of the cabinet and installed a programming track with Power Pax unit on the second shelf. We were originally going to install some signal electronics there, but decided it was better located in another cabinet.
Terminal strips are used to keep wiring organized and make changes simple. Toggles control power to various layout sections, and circuit breakers and reverse units are mounted in behind.
The photo above shows a typical setup. The power supply wires come in from the booster and go to one end of the terminal strip on the left, and jumper wires down one side of the strip distribute it to all the terminals on its right side, and from there the power goes to the circuit breakers at the back. From there wires feed the bank of toggle switches. The toggles are mounted at the front, but not so far forward that they can be thrown by accident. These in turn supply power to the bus wires which run out the back of the cabinet to run to the different layout locations.
The top shelf is for the main yard, which is 20 tracks wide. We decided to break it down into 6 circuits to make it easier to track down problems and make it possible to keep running even if someone is working on a problem at a specific location in the yard. The lower (middle) shelf, as I mentioned, hosts the programming track. Since we plug a laptop into the command station interface when we program, this is a handy place for that track.
Obviously, you can see that these shelves are pretty deep and close together, which makes it hard to see and work on things at the back. We solved that problem by making the shelves tilt up and down. Here's how we did it:
An aluminum rod connected to the bottom of the shelf by a cable tie, and inserted into holes drilled in the walls of the cabinet allow the shelf to pivot at the back, while still leaving room for wire to pass behind.
The shelves were cut to be about two inches shorter than the depth of the cabinet. We picked up some aluminum rod about 3/8" in diameter and drilled holes slightly larger in diameter into the sides of the cabinet to accept them, lined up with a point two inches from the back of the cabinet. The cable ties the same size as the rod were screwed to the underside of the back edge of the shelf, then the shelf was held in position while the rod was threaded through the hole in the cabinet, through the ties and into the other hole; then the ties were tightened to hold the rod in place. Holes were drilled at the front of the cabinet sides for adjustable shelf pins, which support the shelf at the front.
Metal shelf pins hold the shelves up and are easily moved from one hole to the next.
The holes for the pins are made large enough so that the pins can be easily removed by hand. If you need to raise a shelf out of the way, you just lift the front edge of the shelf, and it pivots on the rod at the back. We have extra holes drilled for the pins at higher locations so that the pin can be temporarily relocated to the higher position to keep the shelf propped up at that point
The two upper shelves have been raised and pinned in place to allow access to the third shelf. You can easily get a screwdriver in to loosen terminals on the components at the back if the wiring needs to be changed.
We have found this arrangement to be extremely handy on numerous occasions. Since the layout is under construction, there are constant alterations needed to adapt to the changing configuration, and new components and products can appear at any time which you might want to add to the DCC system. It only makes sense to keep everything accessible and flexible. It's always the place you can't get to that will need the most attention.
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