Subscriber & Member Login

Login, or register today to interact in our online community, comment on articles, receive our newsletter, manage your account online and more!

When will the DCC companies get it?

7086 views
41 replies
1 rating 2 rating 3 rating 4 rating 5 rating
  • Member since
    December 2004
  • From: Rimrock, Arizona
  • 10,746 posts
When will the DCC companies get it?
Posted by SpaceMouse on Tuesday, April 1, 2008 8:56 AM

[rant]I've been watching DCC technology kinda sorta. I'm not a hardware engineer, but it seems that with the available technology that the DCC companies would figure out that computers would revolutionize what we can do with train control. DCC would be a must have. They would make lots of money providing all sorts of cool electronics.

But it seems like they've been doing everything to give us the best technology of the 1980's. I mean how long did it take us to get a USB interface from a single company. Computer control is still in the black box stage.[/rant] 

Chip

Building the Rock Ridge Railroad with the slowest construction crew west of the Pecos.

Moderator
  • Member since
    June 2003
  • From: Northeast OH
  • 15,227 posts
Posted by tstage on Tuesday, April 1, 2008 9:24 AM

Chip, 

Given that most MRR companies are small enterprises, I'm sure that the makers of DCC systems and components just don't have the extra revenue to invest in product development like we'd like for them to.  And I'm sure they also stick with proven but older technology to keep the costs down; both for them and for us.

Unlike cell phones, small, niche markets don't necessarily encourage investor's willingness to take risks to raise capital for developing the "latest and greatest" technology - especially in our present economy situation.  Hence, look at the pre-order stance that most locomotive manufacturers have taken lately.

Tom

http://www.newyorkcentralmodeling.com

Time...It marches on...without ever turning around to see if anyone is even keeping in step.

  • Member since
    April 2003
  • 302,278 posts
Posted by Anonymous on Tuesday, April 1, 2008 9:56 AM

Im already driving trains straight from the computer with JMRI and a Digitrax Loconet supported by a third party USB interface.

Plenty advanced for me. Keep in mind all things run on Binary. 8 bits. On and Off. and lots of them. You can say that the lamp on your ceiling is a one bit operation. lol.

1980's advanced tech means can motors, dual flywheels and all wheel pickup.

The next step will be a wireless antenna inside the locomotive instead of signal through the track.

  • Member since
    July 2003
  • From: Sierra Vista, Arizona
  • 13,757 posts
Posted by cacole on Tuesday, April 1, 2008 9:59 AM

The main problem is that when the NMRA DCC Working Group met to establish their DCC Standards and Recommended Practices, DCC was in its infancy so only the very rudimentary CVs were set as standards and RPs.

Sound decoders and all of the other gee-whiz DCC devices that are available today were not even dreamed of at the time, so every DCC manufacturer is left to their own devices to use whatever non-standardized CVs they want to use.

Over the years, different hardware interfaces such as the Sprog, PR-1, PR-2, NCE's USB Interface, etc. have been developed to fill a niche market, and JMRI has attempted to upgrade and improve Decoder Pro to work with most of these devices.

But as others have said, there isn't enough demand for the DCC manufacturers to risk their businesses investing in a very costly hardware or software development process that is likely to be a money loser.

  • Member since
    December 2004
  • From: Rimrock, Arizona
  • 10,746 posts
Posted by SpaceMouse on Tuesday, April 1, 2008 10:02 AM

 Falls Valley RR wrote:
The next step will be a wireless antenna inside the locomotive instead of signal through the track.

I've been saying that is needed for years. You do that then you can take the sound out of the loco and put it in a stereo system where it belongs. The sound "follows" (via sterophonic sound) the loco through the layout. Program in your track plan and all you need is the one receiver to locate the loco on the track through triangulation.  

Chip

Building the Rock Ridge Railroad with the slowest construction crew west of the Pecos.

  • Member since
    August 2004
  • From: Amish country Tenn.
  • 10,027 posts
Posted by loathar on Tuesday, April 1, 2008 11:21 AM
 SpaceMouse wrote:

 Falls Valley RR wrote:
The next step will be a wireless antenna inside the locomotive instead of signal through the track.

I've been saying that is needed for years. You do that then you can take the sound out of the loco and put it in a stereo system where it belongs. The sound "follows" (via sterophonic sound) the loco through the layout. Program in your track plan and all you need is the one receiver to locate the loco on the track through triangulation.  

Sign - Ditto [#ditto]When I first heard about DCC, I thought that's how it worked! Then I found out about the square wave signal in the track and thought WOW! That's dumb!! I showed it to an electronics engineer friend of mine and he said the same thing. With the new remote control technology out there I can't believe no one has done this yet.

As far as the computer automation goes, it's something I'm not really interested in. I'd rather spend the money on better locos and cars. I want to run trains, not computers. We talk about OP's layouts vs. Railfan layouts. If you take a perfectly good OP's layout and automate everything, aren't you just turning it into a Railfan layout??(food for thought...) 

  • Member since
    January 2001
  • From: SE Minnesota
  • 6,833 posts
Posted by jrbernier on Tuesday, April 1, 2008 11:50 AM

Chip,

  A completely software controlled solution is possible, but you will still need the hardware to 'amp up' the signals to go to the track.  A H/W solution is usually faster(no massive overhead like a full blown OS).  The current DCC systems like Digitrax and NCE do have a computer interface capability either by USB or a serial interface.  There is available software to 'run' your railroad if that is the direction you want to go.  Myself, I just use Decoder Pro to talk to my Digitrax system and do all of my decoder programming that way.

  Much of the current DCC technology is based on cell phone tech, it is just communication of 'packets' of information.  Locobuffer-USB is the 'interface of choice' between modern PC's and Digitrax Loconet.  You can always buy a 'USB to serial' adapter to get to an older NCE system.  I would suspect that any new systems might have USB as standard.  Then again, a lot of folks are using older 'serial' interface computers of the 'train computer'....

Jim

Modeling BNSF  and Milwaukee Road in SW Wisconsin

  • Member since
    December 2004
  • From: Rimrock, Arizona
  • 10,746 posts
Posted by SpaceMouse on Tuesday, April 1, 2008 11:59 AM

 loathar wrote:
As far as the computer automation goes, it's something I'm not really interested in. I'd rather spend the money on better locos and cars. I want to run trains, not computers. We talk about OP's layouts vs. Railfan layouts. If you take a perfectly good OP's layout and automate everything, aren't you just turning it into a Railfan layout??(food for thought...) 

There are uses for computer automation that don't interfere with operations. It might be nice for instance to be able to send a train to staging and let the computer exchange it with the next train, park it, and record its location so that you can contnue ops without managing the offstage exchange.

Chip

Building the Rock Ridge Railroad with the slowest construction crew west of the Pecos.

  • Member since
    November 2007
  • 1,089 posts
Posted by BlueHillsCPR on Tuesday, April 1, 2008 1:34 PM

 SpaceMouse wrote:
There are uses for computer automation that don't interfere with operations.

That's how I see it as well.  Having computer control does not, in my mind, mean that one is no longer running trains.  I can see plenty of potential for using a computer with a layout without using it exclusively to run the trains.  I certainly don't see the computer taking over my layout to the extent that I am no longer running trains.  The idea of letting the computer handle behind the scenes staging while I do other things is interesting but I am not so sure I am ready to hand control over to the computer.  The computer crashes enough on it's own, I don't think I want to give it a train to crash too! Big Smile [:D]

  • Member since
    January 2007
  • From: Eastern Shore Virginia
  • 3,290 posts
Posted by gandydancer19 on Tuesday, April 1, 2008 6:41 PM
Computer control is available.  Now, I'm an NCE user and wouldn't switch, but Digitrax has a lot of potential.  I just love their LocoNet.  (We have Digitrax at our club.)  CTI is a good system that will interface with most of the name brand DCC systems as long as they have a computer interface.  I was using CTI for running staging operations on a DC layout.  Now that I have DCC, I am planning to use the CTI system for signaling. I don't know how far I will let my CTI system control my layout.  Part of the enjoyment I get is by running my trains and operations.

Elmer.

The above is my opinion, from an active and experienced Model Railroader in N scale and HO since 1961.

(Modeling Freelance, Eastern US, HO scale, in 1962, with NCE DCC for locomotive control and a stand alone LocoNet for block detection and signals.) http://waynes-trains.com/ at home, and N scale at the Club.

  • Member since
    October 2006
  • From: Northeast OH
  • 883 posts
Posted by jktrains on Wednesday, April 2, 2008 7:34 AM
 SpaceMouse wrote:

 Falls Valley RR wrote:
The next step will be a wireless antenna inside the locomotive instead of signal through the track.

I've been saying that is needed for years. You do that then you can take the sound out of the loco and put it in a stereo system where it belongs. The sound "follows" (via sterophonic sound) the loco through the layout. Program in your track plan and all you need is the one receiver to locate the loco on the track through triangulation.  

Sounds like you've got an idea there.  Now its time to put your money where your mouth is.  If you want it then spend the time, money and effort to develop, market and sell it.  If you firmly believe that such an invention is needed then develop it.  Be an entrepeneur, take the risks and reap the rewards.

 

  • Member since
    October 2006
  • From: Northeast OH
  • 883 posts
Posted by jktrains on Wednesday, April 2, 2008 7:39 AM
 SpaceMouse wrote:

[rant]I've been watching DCC technology kinda sorta. I'm not a hardware engineer, but it seems that with the available technology that the DCC companies would figure out that computers would revolutionize what we can do with train control. DCC would be a must have. They would make lots of money providing all sorts of cool electronics.

But it seems like they've been doing everything to give us the best technology of the 1980's. I mean how long did it take us to get a USB interface from a single company. Computer control is still in the black box stage.[/rant] 

The technology, software and hardware, is available right now.  There is hardware for interfacing with a computer, look at Dr. Chubb's C/MRI system and his new Sunset Valley Lines.  Software is available to completely automate control, operations etc.  The issue becomes cost.  Consider needed to have block detection on every block, i/o devices to interface with the computer, the abiility to detect not just every locomotive, but possibly every car on the layout.  The cost continues to grow until it becomes unrealistic for an individual to do completely.

  • Member since
    December 2004
  • From: Rimrock, Arizona
  • 10,746 posts
Posted by SpaceMouse on Wednesday, April 2, 2008 7:48 AM
 jktrains wrote:
 SpaceMouse wrote:

 Falls Valley RR wrote:
The next step will be a wireless antenna inside the locomotive instead of signal through the track.

I've been saying that is needed for years. You do that then you can take the sound out of the loco and put it in a stereo system where it belongs. The sound "follows" (via sterophonic sound) the loco through the layout. Program in your track plan and all you need is the one receiver to locate the loco on the track through triangulation.  

Sounds like you've got an idea there.  Now its time to put your money where your mouth is.  If you want it then spend the time, money and effort to develop, market and sell it.  If you firmly believe that such an invention is needed then develop it.  Be an entrepreneur, take the risks and reap the rewards.

I've been an entrepreneur all my life. I've owned more companies that I've held jobs. But alas I can only do one or two at at time. Yes, I believe this one will make money, but for someone already with the facilities and market connections. I'm pretty well established where I am and it makes no sense to change now.  

Chip

Building the Rock Ridge Railroad with the slowest construction crew west of the Pecos.

  • Member since
    February 2007
  • From: Christiana, TN
  • 1,652 posts
Posted by CSX Robert on Wednesday, April 2, 2008 8:22 AM


 Falls Valley RR wrote:
The next step will be a wireless antenna inside the locomotive instead of signal through the track.


The wireless straight to the locomotive idea gets brought up on a forum somewhere every few weeks. We may end up there someday, but I would not hold my breath. Even if it were available right now, it would certainly cost more and likely be less reliable than DCC.

 SpaceMouse wrote:

I've been saying that is needed for years. You do that then you can take the sound out of the loco and put it in a stereo system where it belongs. The sound "follows" (via sterophonic sound) the loco through the layout. Program in your track plan and all you need is the one receiver to locate the loco on the track through triangulation.


Soundtraxx is working on a similar idea called "SurroundTraxx"(http://soundtraxx.com/products/dcc/SurroundTraxxMAIN.htm)that uses Digitrax Transponding for locomotive positioning. It was first mentioned a couple of years ago, and then all information about it was removed from their website. It is back on the website, and according to the "Sell Sheet," it is supposed to be available this year, so maybe it's not to far off.
  • Member since
    April 2003
  • 302,278 posts
Posted by Anonymous on Wednesday, April 2, 2008 8:45 AM

Wireless is into everything on computers.

The Router next to my desk has the ability to find other computers with wifi with some range, in fact it's disabled because of local college war drivers who are cutting teeth on unsecured wifis. I should know, I learned the same thing they did in class.

Reliable? Yes. Power? Not so reliable. Where we are I run a battery on every machine because the national grid has the tendancy to feed dirty power and sometimes none at all. Until solar is on my roof, I have to make do with what I have and keep wireless to a minimum.

I will be upgrading to full duplex wireless on Digitrax when it becomes availible without any worries.

  • Member since
    September 2007
  • From: Charlotte, NC
  • 6,099 posts
Posted by Phoebe Vet on Wednesday, April 2, 2008 8:49 AM
I'm perfectly happy with a speaker in the loco, but I would love to be able to add a couple of remote sub-woofers to improve the fidelity.

Dave

Lackawanna Route of the Phoebe Snow

  • Member since
    March 2005
  • 7 posts
Posted by Enzo Fortuna on Wednesday, April 2, 2008 9:58 AM

 Falls Valley RR wrote:
I will be upgrading to full duplex wireless on Digitrax when it becomes availible without any worries.

Me too (if works for Europe as predicted) and as me most of "wired" friends!

But, just as brain stimulation ....

- have read about a French company have a decoder with Bluetoth interface... This means you can use your mobile phone to run your trains (in a 5 meters  range: the "only" limitation)

That's "cheap" and "effective" !

- 'till when I need to use "pencil" or "magnets" to uncouple cars?

Cheers

Enzo Fortuna

 http://xoomer.alice.it/enzo_fortuna/Home.htm

 

  • Member since
    December 2004
  • From: Rimrock, Arizona
  • 10,746 posts
Posted by SpaceMouse on Wednesday, April 2, 2008 10:24 AM
 Enzo Fortuna wrote:

 Falls Valley RR wrote:
I will be upgrading to full duplex wireless on Digitrax when it becomes availible without any worries.

Me too (if works for Europe as predicted) and as me most of "wired" friends!

But, just as brain stimulation ....

- have read about a French company have a decoder with Bluetoth interface... This means you can use your mobile phone to run your trains (in a 5 meters  range: the "only" limitation)

That's "cheap" and "effective" !

- 'till when I need to use "pencil" or "magnets" to uncouple cars?

Cheers

Enzo Fortuna

 http://xoomer.alice.it/enzo_fortuna/Home.htm

 

There was a guy at my old club that used to control his train on the Digitrax System with his Palm Pilot.

Chip

Building the Rock Ridge Railroad with the slowest construction crew west of the Pecos.

  • Member since
    February 2006
  • From: Gahanna, Ohio
  • 1,987 posts
Posted by jbinkley60 on Wednesday, April 2, 2008 3:46 PM

 Phoebe Vet wrote:
I'm perfectly happy with a speaker in the loco, but I would love to be able to add a couple of remote sub-woofers to improve the fidelity.

Indeed.  There's a good thought. 

 

Engineer Jeff NS Nut
Visit my layout at: http://www.thebinks.com/trains/

  • Member since
    July 2003
  • From: Sierra Vista, Arizona
  • 13,757 posts
Posted by cacole on Thursday, April 3, 2008 7:30 AM

There was a very brief news item in Model Railroader in early 2007 about a man who had developed radio control, battery powered locomotives for HO scale, using what the article described as "modified decoders."  The article was too brief to be of any real value, and didn't even hint at how much money and time he had invested.

  • Member since
    September 2007
  • From: Charlotte, NC
  • 6,099 posts
Posted by Phoebe Vet on Thursday, April 3, 2008 7:36 AM
 cacole wrote:

There was a very brief news item in Model Railroader in early 2007 about a man who had developed radio control, battery powered locomotives for HO scale, using what the article described as "modified decoders."  The article was too brief to be of any real value, and didn't even hint at how much money and time he had invested.

Yea, that's what I have dreamed of:

Starting my ops session by changing all the batteries in my locos.

Dave

Lackawanna Route of the Phoebe Snow

  • Member since
    October 2006
  • From: Northeast OH
  • 883 posts
Posted by jktrains on Thursday, April 3, 2008 7:51 AM
 SpaceMouse wrote:
 Enzo Fortuna wrote:

 Falls Valley RR wrote:
I will be upgrading to full duplex wireless on Digitrax when it becomes availible without any worries.

Me too (if works for Europe as predicted) and as me most of "wired" friends!

But, just as brain stimulation ....

- have read about a French company have a decoder with Bluetoth interface... This means you can use your mobile phone to run your trains (in a 5 meters  range: the "only" limitation)

That's "cheap" and "effective" !

- 'till when I need to use "pencil" or "magnets" to uncouple cars?

Cheers

Enzo Fortuna

 http://xoomer.alice.it/enzo_fortuna/Home.htm

 

There was a guy at my old club that used to control his train on the Digitrax System with his Palm Pilot.

And you can longer purchase the Digitrax component for a PalmPilot nor can you purchase the software. Digitrax stopped producing and selling the part since there was alck of demand for it.  The software is no longer availble either.  An excellent example of a company investing the resources into a product which they believed there was a demand for, the purchases never materialized and the product is no longer produced and the software company went under.  I have the complete package and recall calling Digitrax tech support about which PalmPilot the system would work with and they told that it was no longer being produced, supported, or updated for new version of the PalmPilot.  I like it, it work great and was a look easier to use, select locos, and consist that than DT100.

  • Member since
    December 2004
  • From: Rimrock, Arizona
  • 10,746 posts
Posted by SpaceMouse on Thursday, April 3, 2008 2:38 PM
 Phoebe Vet wrote:
 cacole wrote:

There was a very brief news item in Model Railroader in early 2007 about a man who had developed radio control, battery powered locomotives for HO scale, using what the article described as "modified decoders."  The article was too brief to be of any real value, and didn't even hint at how much money and time he had invested.

Yea, that's what I have dreamed of:

Starting my ops session by changing all the batteries in my locos.

Or they could be rechargeable batteries that get juiced by plugging in your track.

 

Chip

Building the Rock Ridge Railroad with the slowest construction crew west of the Pecos.

  • Member since
    September 2007
  • From: Charlotte, NC
  • 6,099 posts
Posted by Phoebe Vet on Thursday, April 3, 2008 2:58 PM

I believe the post said battery POWERED locomotives.  If you are going to use powered track then what is the advantage of adding the range limits, expense, and complexity of radios in each one.  Why not just send the signal through the track?

Maybe I'm just not understanding.  What is the avantage?

Dave

Lackawanna Route of the Phoebe Snow

  • Member since
    December 2004
  • From: Rimrock, Arizona
  • 10,746 posts
Posted by SpaceMouse on Friday, April 4, 2008 11:10 AM

You don't have to power all the track. Nor do you have to power it all the time. You just need to charge the batteries.

All 'm saying is that if there is an advantage to batteries and radio control, you don't have to have the limitation of changing the batteries. You can charge the batteries with little effort.

You don't have to create an obstacle that doesn't exist.

 

Chip

Building the Rock Ridge Railroad with the slowest construction crew west of the Pecos.

  • Member since
    January 2002
  • From: Portland, OR
  • 3,119 posts
Posted by jfugate on Friday, April 4, 2008 2:46 PM

And if you don't have to power the track, you don't have to wire it, cut gaps, worry about DCC friendly turnouts, install short management, don't have to create booster districts or buy boosters ... and dirty track is no longer a concern! You could paint the railheads of a seldom used spur a rust color, for instance.

In other words, 80%-100% percent of the under-the-layout electrical infrastructure goes away, at a significant savings in cost and effort to install and maintain. Not having to be concerned with dirty track alone could revolutionize the operations side of hobby.

Joe Fugate Modeling the 1980s SP Siskiyou Line in southern Oregon

  • Member since
    May 2002
  • From: Massachusetts
  • 2,693 posts
Posted by Paul3 on Friday, April 4, 2008 4:18 PM

jfugate,
If you don't have power through the rail, then you also don't have dependable block detection, working signals, etc.

It'd be one thing for a home layout, but for any club what would be the point?

Paul A. Cutler III
************
Weather Or No Go New Haven
************

  • Member since
    September 2007
  • From: Charlotte, NC
  • 6,099 posts
Posted by Phoebe Vet on Friday, April 4, 2008 4:34 PM

Joe:

Thank you.  That answered my question about what is the advantage.

So I guess all you need to add to address my only complaint is powered tracks in the yard so that trains not running can be charging.

Spacemouse:

I'm sorry, I apparently phrased my post less than diplomatically, since it sounded like I struck a nerve.  It was not my intent to sound sarcastic.  Please accept my apology.

Dave

Lackawanna Route of the Phoebe Snow

  • Member since
    December 2004
  • From: Rimrock, Arizona
  • 10,746 posts
Posted by SpaceMouse on Friday, April 4, 2008 10:18 PM
 Paul3 wrote:

jfugate,
If you don't have power through the rail, then you also don't have dependable block detection, working signals, etc.

It'd be one thing for a home layout, but for any club what would be the point?

Paul A. Cutler III
************
Weather Or No Go New Haven
************

If you had a a receiver that could detect the direction of the signal, why would you need block detection. You'd always know where the engine/train was, even on the move.

Chip

Building the Rock Ridge Railroad with the slowest construction crew west of the Pecos.

  • Member since
    May 2002
  • From: Massachusetts
  • 2,693 posts
Posted by Paul3 on Friday, April 4, 2008 11:15 PM

SpaceMouse,
Is such a receiver going to be accurate to within 0.5"?  Through walls, tunnels, and multiple levels?

Paul A. Cutler III
************
Weather Or No Go New Haven
************

Subscriber & Member Login

Login, or register today to interact in our online community, comment on articles, receive our newsletter, manage your account online and more!

Search the Community

ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
Model Railroader Newsletter See all
Sign up for our FREE e-newsletter and get model railroad news in your inbox!