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Planning on Jumping to DCC and Need Help Deciding

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  • Planning on Jumping to DCC and Need Help Deciding

    When it comes to DCC I am a real novice and beginner. My layout currently runs on DC. However, I do have a Bachmann EZ Command system that I can hook up when I need to run something in DCC. I know it is a very basic system and has many limitations.

    Now that I am in the process of redoing the layout, I am ready to make the jump into DCC with both feet and I am looking for recommendations on a good starter set or system. I would like to run multiple trains some of which may use two or more locomotives. I am still on the fence whether I like sound or not at this time. I am undecided about operating turnouts, signals, and such things at this time.

    I am looking for any advice, tips, recommendations, etc.

  • #2
    Tom I got into DCC a couple of years ago I have an MRE OUTFIT. Really enjoy it seems like you are not as limited with blocks and such. I went to my local train club and got information from them on how to set it up.



    • #3
      Some questions:

      1. How many locomotives do you want to power at any one time? This determines how many amps of power the DCC system needs to provide.

      2. How many electrical blocks does your DC layout have? Do you ever have visitors who operate the layout with you? These help decide if you need more than one 'power district'.

      I've operated on layouts where turnouts are thrown from DCC throttles. It takes time to change mode on the throttle and type half a dozen keystrokes to select and throw the turnout. This is OK, even prototypical if you're switching and the real loco would be stopped while crew hopped off and did the work. As a visitor, it was rather fraught to walk around the end of a peninsula and discover my train approaching a turnout lined wrong: Read the number on the flag, slow the train, do all the keystrokes, see if the points moved....

      I first learned DCC on an original Lenz system, where throttles have a minimum of buttons. There are only a few members of that club who can make up a consist without opening the manual. I've found the same situation where 1st generation NCE and Digitrax are in use. 2nd generation throttles are larger, with common functions having dedicated buttons and usually instructions printed on the back. Proprietary 'wireless' throttles are much more flexible for operations-oriented layouts, but they have less range and ability to 'see' through obstacles like my house's chimney than 'WiFi' solutions using tech developed for the Internet.


      • #4
        Digitrax systems are the better in my suggestion. I've had it for years on my layout, and operated other systems at clubs and always thought the Digitrax to be the best and easiest to use. Below shows a starter system, and a better upgrade system if interested.

        DCS52 Zephyr Express: All-in-one Command Station/Booster/Throttle

        Zephyr Express gives you simple to use Digitrax Complete Train Control for a great price. It offers simplified advanced train operation for any size layout and is fully expandable. You won’t have to start over when you want to do more with your railroad.

        Or for a more upgrade; EVOX Evolution Express Advanced 5A/8A Starter Set

        Everything you need to get started with Advanced Digitrax Command Control. Evolution Express is perfect for most home and club layouts. It offers excellent speed control, prototypical consisting, the full range of programming features and much more. Maximum capacity, maximum features. Take it to the Max with Evolution Express!

        Pacific Northwest Logging in the East Coast


        • #5
          I don't have much experience with Digitrax's new offerings, but I can say the user interface on everything before them was challenging for a lot of users. NCE and MRC both provide solid systems with much more intuitive user interfaces. That said, Digitrax has solid hardware and customer support.

          NCE and MRC both provide growable, user-friendly systems, though I'd offer NCE provides a wider range of components and solutions. I use an NCE PowerCab with a USB interface and JMRI's WiFi throttle.

          Sound, accessory controls (turnouts, turntables etc) can all be added later, as you desire. The only real consideration right now is how many locomotives are you prepared to convert to DCC? Some are as simple as putting a plug in a socket, others can require a complete teardown and rebuild.

          There are a lot of good choices for systems that are available, and I think your considerations should be price point, ease-of-use, and availability of expansion and support.


          • #6
            I went for NCE in part because other modelers in my area used NCE, giving me a group of people I could ask questions if I needed.

            Model Railroader has done comparisons of systems in the past. I don’t know how recently.


            Not everything that is faced can be changed, but nothing can be changed until it is faced. James Baldwin


            • #7
              If there is a local group that you are friends with, Mike's answer is about as much as you need to know. Local hands-on help is hard to beat. I'm a Digitrax guy, because the group that introduced me to DCC was 95% Digitrax. I bought the Zephyr and still use it at the bench.

              Take the red pill


              • #8
                Thanks for the answers thus far. They have given me somethings to think over.

                My idea is to run two mainline trains while running a switching operation. I would be looking at 4 to 6 locomotives at the most. One thing I would love to do is run a coal drag powered by my Proto 2000 Lehigh & New England Alco’s in a FA-FB-FB-FA consist.

                My current DC layout has only one electrical block.

                I am a lone wolf in these parts. I do not know of any modelers around me. The two that I did know were into N and G, no HO. Both have moved over the last ten years. I avoid the closest hobby shop like the plague. The owner is a jerk and some his hang around customers are obnoxious. My son and daughter went in there before Christmas to get my Christmas gift. According to him the counter person was nice and helpful but some of the other customers were know it all jerks. I used to travel to Wilmington, DE to go to a hobby shop but they closed many years ago. I may have to suck it up one day and visit the shop again, otherwise it means a trip to South Jersey or northern Delaware. Even in Pennsylvania I would have to travel about 30 to 40 miles from home to find a shop that specializes in HO.

                There is only one club that I am aware of in the area. I was going to stop by but COVID messed that up. I have visited them a couple of times during their Christmas Open Houses.


                • #9
                  I have digitrax as shown and like it. I did however fry an On30 motor using it in analog mode. Perhaps my fault but I will never place an analog loco on track with digitrax again.

                  The happy side is Bachmann has motors for the On30 Shay. Fixed but a 30 dollar lesson.



                  • #10
                    NCE. Having 1 block will give you a bit of an advantage not having to undo a multi block layout.

                    NCE Power Cab is a great starting point.
                    Karl Scribner-Curmudgeon

                    Cedar Swamp
                    SW of Manistique, MI


                    • #11
                      potsy. Did you mean MRC? I’m not familiar with MRE.


                      • #12
                        +1 for the Digitrax system.. i have an older chief with wireless unit and it has been a joy to use it.. back in the days when i belonged to a club, i could take my locos and my throttle , plug in and run .. single units or consists