LocoNet for non-Digitrax Layouts
The first question you may ask is “Why do I want to create a Digitrax LocoNet when I am using another DCC system?
The answer is simple. Most DCC systems have not implemented any signal system hardware along with their DCC systems.
Digitrax is one of the few, if not the only DCC manufacturer that has brought out any hardware that can be used for setting up a signal system. Yes there are other manufacturers that have signal system hardware available that can be used with most DCC systems, but the Digitrax SE8C, BDL-168, and DS-64 were specifically made by Digitrax for Digitrax and other DCC systems. Yes, they have designed their boards so they can be used with other DCC systems. They do not however, tell you how to do it easily.
The SE8C is the Signal Decoder, the BDL-168 is a Block Detection board, and the DS-64 a the Turnout Decoder. All are connected together and to a computer via the Digitrax communications line called LocoNet.
The next question that you may have is “Why do I want to use these Digitrax boards instead of some others?”
Because Digitrax did an excellent job of designing and building these decoders. Their manuals are easy to understand, and the boards can be easily programmed. Of the other signal systems by third party manufacturers, most of them also use LocoNet to interface with the computer. I have an NCE DCC system and I would not trade it for anything. But I do love the Digitrax signal system. Take a look at the other systems if you like. You should do this anyway so that you know what is available. Download their manuals and read them. Then make your choice of what system you want to work with.
The following PDF file is a paper that I wrote that explains how to build a stand alone LocoNet that can be used for the Digitrax signal system. It can almost be considered a step by step guide. However, to do it right, you must read it. This may sound silly to some, but the current group of modelers seems to think that they can just look at a diagram and hook things up and it will work. This is far from the truth. So please read the paper as well as looking at the drawings.
NOTE: The Digitrax BDL-168 requires a GROUND connection from your DCC system. If your DCC system does not have a ground, you MIGHT be able to use a Pseudo ground. This is not a true ground, but a small circuit that has most of the electrical properties that a ground has.