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DCC preference- MRC vs NCE

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DCC preference- MRC vs NCE
Posted by Locogirl on Sunday, August 3, 2008 4:33 PM
I'm a real neophyte in the DCC department. I've previously operated conventional DC on a large club layout, and have had next to no experience with DCC. At the present time I'm building a new medium to large size layout in my home. I've decided to make the jump to DCC even though I am apprehensive about it. I have a great deal of difficulty reading manuals because, no joke, I have a reading comprehension problem. I've looked at various user manuals on the Web, and I think that MRC's Advance wireless system is something I can understand. I'd appreciate some feedback on ease of understanding and operating MRC vs NCE. Both systems appear full featured and appropriate to my needs. I'll potentially have 3-4 operators.

I do not envision having computer interface.

Thanks,
Locogirl

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Posted by locoi1sa on Sunday, August 3, 2008 4:59 PM

 Locogirl

 By far the NCE Power cab system would be a great DCC starter set for you. Its easily upgraded and very easy to use. I have used NCE,Lenz,and Digitrax systems and By far the NCE is the easiest and most user freindly.

  Plus I believe the Power cab system cost less than the Prodigy Advanced.

   Pete
 

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 I started with nothing and still have most of it left!

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Posted by selector on Sunday, August 3, 2008 5:34 PM
Lenz is very easy to use.  You would do well to consider that as a serious contender in your research.
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Posted by MichaelWinicki on Sunday, August 3, 2008 9:25 PM

I like you, are new to DCC.

And after spending a lot of time reading posts, visiting websites and getting a good view of what was available, I settled on two criteria...

1. I definitely wanted wireless capability from the get-go.

2. I wanted something that was easy to program.  Over time I'd learn how to do the "CV" thing, but at the beginning I just wanted to be able to put in some basic info and get trains rolling!

I settled on the MRC Prodigy Advance Wireless system... I picked one up for less than $350 and I couldn't be happier!  It's not only incredibly easy to program but it's expandable and I really like the size/feel of the trottle.  The acceleration/deceleration dial has a great feel to it. 

I can't speak for any of the other fine wireless systems out there, but I give the MRC wireless system two thumbs up!

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Posted by dadret on Monday, August 4, 2008 6:23 AM
When I first got into DCC about two years ago I selected MRC Prodigy Advance mainly because of price - If you shop around you can usually find MRC products for less than NCE.  I recently converted to the Prodigy Advance Wireless and its very easy to use and I have not had any problems.
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Posted by jwils1 on Monday, August 4, 2008 10:36 AM

Locogirl:

The size of your layout and number of operators would dictate more than a Power Cab.  You would need to at least upgrade wth the Smart Booster (3 amps).  But you also indicate that you are considering wireless so you would probably want to go with the Power Pro radio system (5 amps) and add 04pr throttles for your extra operators.

However, for ease of use and less cost, the MRC Wireless (3.5 amps) might be the best way to go.  Ease of use is a big plus for MRC, definitely easier than NCE in my opinion.  3.5 amps will run a lot of trains but should you grow to need more power you could always add boosters.  I think that you, and your operators, will really like the MRC Wireless throttle.

 

Jerry

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Posted by modelmaker51 on Tuesday, August 5, 2008 1:33 AM
If you're going to have 3-4 operators the MRC is NOT the least expensive system as MRC does not offer any utillity/basic throttles which NCE does. The NCE system is just as easy to learn to use, it took me all of 5 minutes once everything was hooked up, (which took about 10 minutes, including following the excellent hook-up diagrams in the owners manual). NCE offers a couple of basic throttles, the Cab-04 & the Cab-05. Both can be had as radio throttles.

Jay 

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Posted by jwils1 on Tuesday, August 5, 2008 10:08 AM

 modelmaker51 wrote:
If you're going to have 3-4 operators the MRC is NOT the least expensive system as MRC does not offer any utillity/basic throttles which NCE does. The NCE system is just as easy to learn to use, it took me all of 5 minutes once everything was hooked up, (which took about 10 minutes, including following the excellent hook-up diagrams in the owners manual). NCE offers a couple of basic throttles, the Cab-04 & the Cab-05. Both can be had as radio throttles.

Acually MRC throttles are very competetive with NCE, and they are full-featured, whereas the NCE engineer's throttles are not (no display, no progamming, no consisting).  They are very nice throttles but not as complete as the MRC.  With one press of a key you can check your battery voltage to see how you are doing0

Some sample throttle only prices:

NCE 04p = $62

MRC Advance (plug-in throttle) = $67

NCE 04pr (radio) = $125

MRC Wireless = $112

Something that is not often mentioned about the MRC Wireless throttle is that it comes with rechargeable batteries that charge on-board.  So, unless you have an extremely long operating session (probably over 5 to 6 hours), you never have to remove and change them. 

Also, you can lock out certain operations on the MRC throttle so if you have inexperienced operators they can't accidently mess something up. 

Jerry

Rio Grande vs. Santa Fe.....the battle is over but the glory remains!

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Posted by dadret on Wednesday, August 6, 2008 7:29 AM

The Prodigy Advance Wireless comes with rechargable 600mAh batteries which are OK.  I replaced them with 900mAh batteries which will last a lot longer between charges.  I got batteries and a charger at Wal-Mart for about $20.

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Posted by AntonioFP45 on Wednesday, August 6, 2008 7:36 AM

The Suncoast Model Railroader's Club is using NCE (wireless) with great success.  http://www.suncoastmrrc.com/gallery.htm#ho

I've found the NCE throttle to be very user friendly for DCC newbie's like myself.  The display screen is easy to read.  As with all command control systems, you have to read the manual.

I'm currently building an "Along-the-wal" layout and will be going with NCE. 

"I like my Pullman Standards & Budds in Stainless Steel flavors, thank you!"

 


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Posted by jwils1 on Wednesday, August 6, 2008 12:12 PM

Here are a few more thoughts on this subject:

1. Batteries:  Keep in mind that with MRC Wireless you have to be "plugged in" to recharge.  This is easy with just one throttle as you can plug it in to the base unit.  But if you have several wireless throttles you might have to add plug in stations (MRC Extension Plates) in order to charge the other throttles.

It might be best to add a switch that would allow turning off track power but keeping power to the base unit so you can charge batteries while not using the layout.

2. Manual size:  If I'm understanding the OP correctly, if NCE would be the choice, then a Power Pro radio system would be the best solution.  This manual would be 94 pages compared to the MRC Wireless at 24 pages.  I know that the NCE is a very fine system.  There is no doubt about it.  But if reading a manual is undesireable, as the OP indicates, then this becomes a factor.  Only the OP really knows how big a factor.  By reading both on-line the OP can then make that judgement.

3. Throttle styles:  This is a very individual thing.  Comparing the full-featured throttles, the NCE is larger and more cumbersome due to being longer and having a protruding antenna.  You can get shorter antennas, but not from the factory (correct me if I'm wrong).  There may also be a possibiltiy for an internal antenna.  MRC has no protruding antenna.  From personal experience, it's pretting easy to damage an external antenna.  They just get in the way sometimes.  NCE's engineer's throttles are more compact, but still have external antennas.

4.  One-handed operation:  NCE lends itself more to one handed operation, which some find important.  But I've used a lot of different throttles and for me, two-handed is generally more comfortable.  The only time I use one-handed is when  uncoupling with an uncoupling tool.  With MRC this works just fine one-handed by using the speed push-buttons instead of the knob.

5.  Speed control:  NCE uses the thumb wheel, and push buttons.  MRC uses a knob and push buttons.  I've used both and prefer the knob but some love the thumb wheel.

6.  Computer interface:  The OP indicates no interest in a computer interface.  However, many of us feel that using JMRI is really very helpful and fun.  NCE is a big plus in this area as it includes the interface in the Power Pro and allows use of JMRI.  MRC is coming out with a computer interface, at extra cost, but early indications are that it will not allow use of JMRI.  That's a downer for many but maybe the MRC interface will do enough the satisfy the OP should that become a  need later.

I'm trying to look at this from the OP's point of view.  There is no doubt that NCE is a fine system, and more sophisticated than MRC.  But, having used the Power Cab and MRC, personally I prefer MRC.  But there are so many aspects to choices like this that each person's personal needs and preferences can only be judged by that person.

Jerry

Rio Grande vs. Santa Fe.....the battle is over but the glory remains!

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Posted by gandydancer19 on Thursday, August 7, 2008 3:27 PM

If you are not going to use a computer, NCE is the way to go as far as I am concerned. I have not had any trouble programming my loco's with NCE. (I have the Power Pro) You don't have to convert to hex back and forth like on some systems.

On the other hand, I have not seen or used an MRC system so I don't know what they are like as far as programming loco's are concerned.

If possible, try to see each in operation and also see how each programs a locomotive.

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.

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Posted by CSX Robert on Thursday, August 7, 2008 5:13 PM
 gandydancer19 wrote:
... You don't have to convert to hex back and forth like on some systems...


I don't know of ANY current system on the market where you have to use hex.
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Posted by jwils1 on Thursday, August 7, 2008 5:35 PM

Here is a good picture to show the comparative sizes of the MRC and NCE throttles, the two on the right.  The two on the left are the Digitrax small engineer's throttle and a Lenz throttle.

http://www.newrailmodels.com/Products/Accessories/Pocket/Universal.htm

 

Jerry

Rio Grande vs. Santa Fe.....the battle is over but the glory remains!

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Posted by loathar on Thursday, August 7, 2008 6:58 PM
 jwils1 wrote:

 

4.  One-handed operation:  NCE lends itself more to one handed operation, which some find important.  But I've used a lot of different throttles and for me, two-handed is generally more comfortable.  The only time I use one-handed is when  uncoupling with an uncoupling tool.  With MRC this works just fine one-handed by using the speed push-buttons instead of the knob.

Maybe it's just me, but I always tend to hold things that cost me $100+ with two hands.

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Posted by pastorbob on Thursday, August 7, 2008 10:40 PM

NCE handsdown for me.

Bob

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Posted by jwils1 on Friday, August 8, 2008 8:50 AM
 pastorbob wrote:

NCE handsdown for me.

Bob

Please explain why you say this, especially as it related to the OP.  That will help the OP to to have actual facts on which to base a decision

Jerry

Rio Grande vs. Santa Fe.....the battle is over but the glory remains!

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Posted by Locogirl on Friday, August 8, 2008 9:37 AM
To all the responders of my MRC-NCE post:

I want to thank all of you for the responses you have made! I am so appreciative of the time you have taken to illustrate the finer points of each system, and the links you have given me. All very, very helpful. I'm hoping to have a chance to run an NCE system on a layout that is roughly the same size as the one I'm building. I'm leaning toward the MRC system, but wonder if 3.5 amps are enough.

I'll have to get back to you all on this thought, as my granddaughter wants to see a train video- right now!

Later,

Locogirl
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Posted by dadret on Friday, August 8, 2008 10:24 AM
3.5 amps is probably enough for most home layouts - you can always add a booster if its not.  3.5 will probably run 3 or 4 locos at one time with no problem.The best way to figure it is just add up the amps you will be using at any one time - or the number of locos you will be running.  Your owners manual should tell you how many amps a loco draws so just add up the locos.  Sound equiped locos use more amps than non-sound.  The size of the layout is not nearly as important as the number of amps you will be using.
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Posted by loathar on Friday, August 8, 2008 1:27 PM

 dadret wrote:
3.5 amps is probably enough for most home layouts - you can always add a booster if its not.  3.5 will probably run 3 or 4 locos at one time with no problem.The best way to figure it is just add up the amps you will be using at any one time - or the number of locos you will be running.  Your owners manual should tell you how many amps a loco draws so just add up the locos.  Sound equiped locos use more amps than non-sound.  The size of the layout is not nearly as important as the number of amps you will be using.

I was using my Bach EZ command to run 3 locos last night. (2 Bachs and 1 Athearn BB current hog) And THAT system is only 1 amp. I would hope the PA2 could run at least 6-7.(or more)

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Posted by Locogirl on Friday, August 8, 2008 8:15 PM
Considering Amperage:

My layout design is 17' x 25', with an 8' x 12' peninsula. It is double track main, with numerous industrial sidings and 4 long passenger tracks behind the station. There is a 4 track freight yard. There is operational interest, but is far from intense. I envision 1 to 4 operators, with four 3-loco consists running at one time- most of them Dash 9's to SD60, 70, and 90 MAC's. That's 12 locos in motion. I tried to find the amount of amperage each draws, but couldn't find any indication in the enclosed info. I run Genesis and Kato primarily, and I suspect the draw of each is at least .5 amps, probably more. Anyone with more accurate info?

It would seem to me that I'll need boosters. Would it be advisable to break the layout into four power districts, each with a booster? Or said another way, how many boosters would the MRC at 3.5 amps require, or the NCE at 5.0 amps?

I think this finally gives a pretty complete picture of my project. Once again, thank you all for your input. I appreciate it. Hopefully one day I can return the favor.

Locogirl
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Posted by jwils1 on Saturday, August 9, 2008 11:23 AM

 Locogirl wrote:
Considering Amperage:

My layout design is 17' x 25', with an 8' x 12' peninsula. It is double track main, with numerous industrial sidings and 4 long passenger tracks behind the station. There is a 4 track freight yard. There is operational interest, but is far from intense. I envision 1 to 4 operators, with four 3-loco consists running at one time- most of them Dash 9's to SD60, 70, and 90 MAC's. That's 12 locos in motion. I tried to find the amount of amperage each draws, but couldn't find any indication in the enclosed info. I run Genesis and Kato primarily, and I suspect the draw of each is at least .5 amps, probably more. Anyone with more accurate info?

It would seem to me that I'll need boosters. Would it be advisable to break the layout into four power districts, each with a booster? Or said another way, how many boosters would the MRC at 3.5 amps require, or the NCE at 5.0 amps?

I think this finally gives a pretty complete picture of my project. Once again, thank you all for your input. I appreciate it. Hopefully one day I can return the favor.

Locogirl

Depending upon who's reading this thread you may or may not get a good answer on this.  I don't have separate power districts as I rarely have more than 6 loco running at the same time.  Here are some possible helps for you:

Power Districts:

Here is a thread that talks about power districts: 

http://siskiyou-railfan.net/e107_plugins/forum/forum_viewtopic.php?1597

If you read all the way through it you will find that Joe Fugate gives a good explanation on setting up power districts.

Short Management:

I'm no expert on this and since I normally run solo I can usually easily tell where my shorts occur.  But, with larger layouts and multiple operators, shorts can be a problem.  Here is a link to a site that has helpful videos for sale.  Volume 3 concerns electrical items and includes a section on short management using tail light bulbs.   

http://siskiyou-railfan.net/e107_plugins/content/content.php?content.26

Speed matching:

Sounds like you'll be doing some heavy duty consisting.  How do you speed match your locos?  This is where JMRI's Decoder Pro really comes in handy.  For this reason, you may want to consider NCE's Power Pro Radio with the built-in computer interface.  And, NCE has very nice consisting features.

General comments: 

It will be good if you get to try out the NCE system first hand.  If you do, try as many different operations as you can in order to get a good feel for it's capabilities.  Actually using a system often reveals little things about it that can make a big difference to you.  The more you describe your situation, the more it sounds like NCE Radio may be a good choice.

It's true that the NCE manual may be more intimidating than MRC's.  I personally even like the Digitrax manuals better than NCE's, but, I also know that just reading a manual sometimes makes it sound more difficult that it is.  It's much easier to understand when you actually have the throttle in hand as you review the manual.  For this reason, give NCE a good try out as it just might be the best way to go.  But don't let me or anyone else influence you too much.  You have to choose what seems to suit you the best.  

 

Jerry

Rio Grande vs. Santa Fe.....the battle is over but the glory remains!

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Posted by modelmaker51 on Saturday, August 9, 2008 11:37 PM

I have the NCE 5 amp power pro.

My layout is a double deck 12 x 23 with a center 1/2 dogbone down the middle. We run the same kind of consists as you, plus a 2-engine yard consist and another 2-engine consist on the branch, there might even be a switcher switching some industries. 4 engines in the consists are sound equipped (1 per consist). We haven't had a melt-down yet!

I read the manual once, it's well written, the print is large and it's in a spiral binder. What I used was the quick-start guide which is only 4 pages. Once the Pro was hooked up (about 15 minutes), I turned it on, selected loco o3, cranked up the throttle and the loco took off. I've only had to refer back to the lit a few times in the past year and half since the switch to DCC. All of my fellow operators picked it up in a couple of minutes, as everything is well labeled and ergonominically laid out. The narrower body of the Pro makes  it easy to hold and operate one handed.

Jay 

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Other builds: https://imageshack.com/my/albums 

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Posted by Woofda on Sunday, August 10, 2008 12:19 AM

NCE is my choice.

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Posted by 1948PRR on Sunday, August 10, 2008 8:22 PM

I've had my Prodigy Advance for about two years now and I love it. I've never used NCE, but I did have an Atlas (Lenz) for about six months, and sold it as soon as I could. The PA IMO is far superior.

My layout is 15x19 doubletrack with a 5 track yard, a 4 track yard, 2 passing sidings, 7 industry tracks, and interchange, and a 9 stall rounhouse with 2 5 foot engine storage tracks. I currently have 11 locos on the track (which is actually low), two of which are 2 or 3 unit F3 and FA sets, and all of which have sound (BLI or LokSound). My PA is bone stock, with no boosters, not even the upgrade power supply, and I have never had a lack of power issue.

I usually operate alone, but occasionally have a freind or two over. I can have 2 or 3 running by myself, or 4 or 5 if I have company, any more than that, and the layout is too small.

I would at some point like a PC interface, as I'm an IT Analyst by trade, but the intuitive programming of the PA is really easy, so it's not a big deal right now. The PA uses names for common CV settings like "starting voltage" = SV or 'acceleration" = ACC, instead of making you use CV numbers.

Wireless would be nice, too, but I made my own plug in extensions from CAT5 network cables and 8 pin telco unions and splitters, so now I have 3 stations with 2 plugs each plus the base unit, and with 8 foot cord and memory, I am fine.

I'm not knocking the NCE at all, in fact I think their decoders are the best for non-sound smooth slow speed control, and I wish they'd make a sound decoder.My PA has just been wonderful for me and my style.

Good luck, and I'd love to see photos or a track plan of your layout.

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Posted by Tjsingle on Sunday, August 10, 2008 9:33 PM
I bought a NCE system and I am very pleased with all the functions, Its very user friendly.

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