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               Which Simulator is best suited for my project?


Ngineering has been producing our lighting effects Simulator products since early 2006, and with many thanks to hobbyists such as yourself, we have shipped over 13,000 of them since that time. The various product's tiny sizes and on-board precision voltage regulation with a wide input voltage range has allow it to support many different modeling projects.

However... we have come to realize that this product family needs to be broadened to better serve particular operational aspects of model railroading, and other modeling and hobby areas and projects as well.

As a result, we have released several new low-voltage versions of  effects Simulators to better support your needs, and have added  new Simulator circuit sizes (N8108-XX & NLD8108-XX),  N8110-XX & NLD8110-XX) with more outputs and advanced capabilities to further enhance lighting effects capabilities.


We now have 3 distinct Simulator types that can each serve specific hobby requirements. We have updated our Lighting Effects Products web pages including our Product Matrix and individual Application pages to add these new products and have color-coded their part numbers for easy identification as follows:

  1. Traditional Simulator product part numbers are in bold black (minumum input voltage of 6 volts DC)

  2. Low-voltage Simulators for Analog (DC) operation are in bold green (minumum input voltage of 3.2 volts DC)

  3. Low-voltage Simulators for DCC Sound and other decoders that have 3.3-volt accessory outputs have part numbers in bold violet. These Simulators can also be used in RC (radio controlled) products that use battery power with output voltages between 3.3 and 16. Many use a standard 3.7-3.8 volt battery.


Choosing the right product for your application:


  1. Our traditional Simulator family has an on-board voltage regulator with a wide input range of 5.5-18 volts. This allows that product group to support a very wide range of DCC model railroad scales from Z to O scale (providing the rectified track voltages does not exceed 18-volts DC). With a relatively low startup voltage of 5.5-6 volts this group can also serve some analog (DC) layout operations, but typically only HO to O scale operations.


  1. Our new low-voltage analog Simulators have an on-board low-dropout linear regulator that provides much needed support for those model railroaders that do not operate in a DCC environment and need effects to function at the lowest possible startup voltages. This would cover Z and N scales, and HOn3 and HO (providing the maximum track voltage does not exceed 16-volts). This family of simulators uses a "pass-through" type regulator that allows voltages from about 2.2-volts to access the lighting effects circuitry. Full voltage regulation (and full LED brightness) doesn't occur until the input voltages reaches 3.2-3.4 volts, but the preprogrammed microcontroller running the special effect is already in full operation as the LEDs start to brighten.  With an analog track voltage of 3.3 or above (up to 16 max.) the lighting effects are at full intensity and fully operational. For the most part, this means for example, that the Mars Light will be fully operational as or before locomotive movement!

This family of Simulators has an on-board barrier diode that protects the circuitry from reverse polarity. This means the circuit will not be damaged if it is wired up backwards, it also means when it is wired the normal "engineer's side is the +DC track side", the effect is fully operational. However, when running in reverse "fireman's side is the +DC track side) the effect is not in operation. For many lighting effects, this will not be a problem because they are intended for forward operation. For those effects that need full bi-directional operation, one of our N8101 DC Power Source circuits can be added in front of the effect simulator board to eliminate DC polarity issues. The N8101 contains a very-low voltage-drop Schottky bridge rectifier which will slightly raise the startup voltage threshold of the lighting effect by about 0.2-0.4 volts.

While these Simulators are typically intended for use with track powered Analog (DC) operations, they also lend themselves nicely  to battery operation. This may offer an advantage in many structural displays and dioramas where AC power is not available for power supply plug-in.


  1. Our new low-voltage Simulators for DCC and sound decoders having 3.3-volt accessory functions have an on-board jumper in place of the barrier diode used in the analog version. This allows them to operate fully at 3.3-volts (even slightly, below allowing for LED brightness). Since track polarity is not a factor in DCC the need for this protection is not required. Also, in an RC modeling environment, battery power is known so this is not an issue. However, since this family of Simulators doesn't have polarity protection, care must be taken during wiring to ensure polarity is correct before power is applied. Otherwise, the circuitry will be damaged.

  2. For the lowest startup voltage possible in analog (DC) operation where bi-directional track operation is desired, use a low-voltage Simulator for DCC, and one of our N8101 DC Power Source circuits in front of the effect simulator board to eliminate track polarity issues. Since the low-voltage Simulator for DCC has a jumper instead of a barrier diode on its input, the net effect of adding the N8101 to the total circuit will only add about 0.02 volts to startup threshold voltage.


Analog (DC) operation with maximum voltages greater than 16-volts:


Those of you operating a DC layout in scales HO through O may have transformers that can put voltages on your tracks that exceed 16-volts. While typical operations don't have people running trains at "full throttle", occasionally there may be accidental circumstances that occur, or a need to crank up the power, so-to-speak. One simple solution to minimize the possibility of over-voltage damage to our analog Simulators is to know exactly where the 16-volt limit is on your controller's power knob. Taking a measurement of track voltage with a DC voltmeter and marking the point where it reaches just below 16-volts on the controller's faceplate (a piece of tape works well) will let you know if you're dialing up close to that value. Always mark slightly below to give a little leeway in favor of the circuit.


Operating at greater than 18-volts:


Many large and especially garden (G) scales have operational track voltages that can exceed 18-volts. While over the years we have had many customers in these scale environments report of very successful use of our Simulators, we realize special care needed to be taken to ensure the 18-volt upper limit of those products was not exceeded. To better serve this community, we recently released our N2596 AC/DC to DC Voltage Convertor. This will also provide support for many that model Lionel trains in the AC environement. For more information, click here.



Questions or ideas?


Don't hesitate to let us know if we've missed something or what we've said isn't clear. Or... if you have an idea that might better serve the modeling community, do let us know how we could help. The best way is to email us at: nsupport@ngineering.com










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