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DCC SYSTEMS PRO'S AND CON'S

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DCC SYSTEMS PRO'S AND CON'S
Posted by CHRIS M on Thursday, January 30, 2014 9:19 PM

I am going to be converting my layout to DCC being it's getting all new track and would love to here what you have to say about the different DCC systems. I would like the ability to control turnouts and do routes and would like a system easy to use. I am considering a used MRC Advanced2 to cut my teeth, so any advice would be great.

Thanks

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Posted by retsignalmtr on Friday, January 31, 2014 12:44 PM

I only have experiance with Digitrax. I think Digitrax and NCE are the leaders and are easy to use. I have DS64 statioary decoders to throw switches individually as well as aligning complete routes. Digitrax can also run a DC loco using the address of 0. I know someone using MRC and he is switching to Digitrax.

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Posted by ba&prr on Friday, January 31, 2014 1:05 PM

I use Digitrax as well. Nce is a good choice as well. My friend has an MRC system. He's called me several times to bring my system over to program his locos as his system wouldn't. If you can, try Digitrax and NCE to see how the throttles fit in your hand. Digitrax throttles are more expesive I think, but the DT series is really 2 throttle in one. Both NCE and Digitrax are expndable, both can use JMRI which is a free software program for doing decoder programing or running your layout via a computer.  Joe  

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Posted by jrbernier on Friday, January 31, 2014 1:05 PM

  I would suggest either a Digitrax or NCE system.  Both have decent upgrade paths.  You mention you want to program 'routes' and control switches - Very easy to do from a home computer via JMRI.  The 'catch' is that MRC does not support the attachment of JMRI to their systems.  JMRI is 'free' and makes programming very simple.  Programming from the throttle is quite laborous and it is easy to make errors.

Jim

Modeling BNSF  and Milwaukee Road in SW Wisconsin

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Posted by richg1998 on Friday, January 31, 2014 1:17 PM

I can only comment on NCE. I have the Power Cab. My club has the 5 amp Power Pro. Both are very nice.

Yahoo Groups has a Group for Digitrax and another for NCE, both pretty much dedicated to their systems. Very active Groups.

Rich

N

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Posted by UPinCT on Friday, January 31, 2014 1:19 PM

I would second Jim's advice.  Whatever dcc system you choose make sure that it supports jmri.  It really makes dcc so much easier.   I am very far from being any kind of a computer expert but found jmri a lot easier to use than programming through my dcc command center. 

Good luck Derek

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Posted by MisterBeasley on Friday, January 31, 2014 2:35 PM

I've had my Lenz System 100 for about 8 years and I'm still very happy with it.  I like the hand-held throttle with the great big buttons on it.  I'm not a fan of throttles with a thousand cell-phone-sized buttons on them, even if they are more versatile.  I do NOT like the Lenz System 90 because its throttle is awkward to use.  But, these are all "personal preference" things, so I'd suggest trying each throttle yourself.

The Lenz System 100 has a "stack" of 32 locomotives that can be easily accessed by scrolling through them, or you can jump to any one simply by entering its number.  It is a 5-amp system right out of the box.

It takes an iron man to play with a toy iron horse. 

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Posted by cacole on Friday, January 31, 2014 2:37 PM

Something I consider very critical in choosing a DCC system is the availability of support after the sale, upgradability, and repair service.

NCE, Digitrax, and CVP are all made in the USA and are locally supported by their manufacturers.  Some other brands are made in China (MRC) or Europe (Lenz, Roco, etc.)

With what has often been referred to as "cheap Chinese junk" when those systems break, you're expected to just throw them away and purchase a new one.

 

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Posted by jonessy on Friday, January 31, 2014 3:10 PM

NCE here and i love it

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Posted by southeastroads on Friday, January 31, 2014 3:21 PM

Chris, I bought the MRC Prodigy as my first foray into dcc because it was the best priced system. By judiciously shopping I got the base, standard tethered throttle, wireless adapter and wireless throttle for about what a basic system would have cost from any other line. It does well.  I have had no quality issues with any of it.  I have yet to damage a decoder, eventhough I have given the system ample opportunity. Programming from the throttle is easy enough.  It is also easy enough to make numerous mistakes with that mode of programming.  But, I would stop short of recommending MRC to anyone else.  All of these systems do dcc (basically telling a microprocessor to run a macro). There isn't any magic in it.  The magic comes from the things that are possible with operation and sound.  The fact that MRC is of out of the loop when it comes to JMRI is enough to cause second thoughts.  The programming learning curve is pretty intense with these systems, and each one is different from the other once you get past the required/suggested standards.  So an automated programmer is a really big plus.  Just be aware that each system has its own set of add ons, and they don't play well with add ons from other systems.  Good Luck.

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Posted by cowman on Friday, January 31, 2014 4:37 PM

Welcome to the forums.

The advice I was given when shopping for a DCC system was "What do others in your area have?"  If there is a club or group holdiing operating sessions, having the same manufacturer makes it easier to get answers and you can take your throttle to other layouts and visa versa for operating sessions, whether it's just you and a friend or a large group.

I was leaning to NCE on my own, but was open minded.  That question made my choice the NCE PowerCab for my starter system.  It should be able to handle all the locos I will be able to run on my  layout, even with a second hand  held controller.  If I enlarge, it is expandable.  I still have a lot of the learning curve to go, but I have found the system easy to operate with the good instructions that came with it.

Have fun,

Richard

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Posted by wjstix on Friday, January 31, 2014 4:42 PM

I've been using Digitrax for about 10 years now, but have been thinking of changing to another maker - probably NCE or CVP. I want to be able to operate using radio control throttles, and frankly the Digitrax version isn't very good. It worked "OK" for a while, but virtually quit working about a year ago. I've sent the throttle and receiver back to Digitrax and they claim it's OK, but something's not working.

Stix
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Posted by rrinker on Friday, January 31, 2014 6:57 PM

 We have no problems with our radio stuff. Have to use the newer duplex at public shows, because NCE is on the same frequency as the Digitrax simplex throttles and they totally swap every Digitrax group. The 2.4GHz duplex radios work well, even when there are vendors all over with 2.4GHz wifi credit card machines.

 Suspect things like a bad power supply on the UR panel, bad Loconet cable, or, if you do have the Duplex, might need the newest firmware in both the UR92 and DT402.

                    --Randy

 


Modeling the Reading Railroad in the 1950's

 

Visit my web site at www.readingeastpenn.com for construction updates, DCC Info, and more.

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Posted by HO-Velo on Friday, January 31, 2014 7:14 PM

I like my CVP system, especially the T5000 wireless throttle.  Can't say enough about CVP's customer support, superb knowledge and helpfulness that is exceeded only by their courtesy and patients, even when dealing with an unwashed DCC user like me.

good luck and regards, Peter

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Posted by mfm37 on Friday, January 31, 2014 10:36 PM

Ditto on the Digitrax Duplex radio at public shows. We're set up at Timonium next to the NCE radio layout. I think Randy's club is on the other side. When they are powered up, our simplex is almost useless. NCE doesn't recommend having two of their radio system running in the same room either.

We also have WI throttle running. This is part of the free JMRI bundle. It allows set up of a WIFI connection to the layout. This lets anyone with an Iphone, Ipod, I tablet, or Android based tablets and phones to run their trains. The app is also free. JMRI works as well with NCE sytems. As already posted, MRC will not allow JMRI's developers access to their source code so JMRI will not work with MRC. Reverse engineering would be rather simple but also be illegal so it just won't be happening.

Martin Myers

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Posted by richhotrain on Saturday, February 01, 2014 4:40 AM

I have no experience with MRC, but I hear so much negative stuff about it that I would avoid it.

I have an NCE Powerhouse Pro wireless 5 amp system, and I am very happy with it.

I am currently in the process of setting up automatic routing of turnouts into a large downtown passenger station.  NCE makes this process pretty easy to accomplish.

Take a look at NCE.  They offer starter systems as well as advanced systems.

Rich

Alton Junction

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Posted by bagal on Saturday, February 01, 2014 5:20 AM

CHRIS M

I am considering a used MRC Advanced2 to cut my teeth, so any advice would be great.

Thanks

richhotrain

I have no experience with MRC, but I hear so much negative stuff about it that I would avoid it.

Rich

 

 
I normally use Lenz or NCE but had the opportunity to use MRC for about two hours last night. From a pure user point of view it is actually quite good. It would be easier for a new user to master than Lenz and NCE. It has a good display but doesn't work well for one handed operation. I also found the encoder to be quite sensitive and it doesn't appear to be adjustable. It has the option to use buttons for speed adjustment but it doesn't have the multi step speed change that is available on Lenz or NCE.
 
If you can get the used MRC system for a good price, and are prepared to ignore the negative comments (most of which don't directly relate to the system itself), then go for it.
 
However you might just be better to get a new NCE Powercab....
 
Bill

 

 
 
 
 
 
 
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Posted by richhotrain on Saturday, February 01, 2014 5:58 AM

bagal

 

 
CHRIS M

I am considering a used MRC Advanced2 to cut my teeth, so any advice would be great.

Thanks

 

 

 

 
richhotrain

I have no experience with MRC, but I hear so much negative stuff about it that I would avoid it.

Rich

 

 

 
 
If you can get the used MRC system for a good price, and are prepared to ignore the negative comments (most of which don't directly relate to the system itself), then go for it.
 
 
  

Well, as I said, I have no direct experience with MRC, but when I hear or read a lot of negative reviews of any product, I avoid that product.  The experience of others counts for a lot.

Rich

Alton Junction

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Posted by Guy Papillon on Saturday, February 01, 2014 6:35 AM

When I converted my layout to DCC two years ago, I bought a NCE PowerCab.  I am very happy with it.

Guy

Modeling CNR in the 50's

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Posted by rgengineoiler on Saturday, February 01, 2014 9:11 AM

With my new build and switch to DCC and after reading about each system I choose DigiTrax Super Chief Xtra and have been glad I did.  It was a real learning curve for me and the manuals really helped me to forget DC ways of doing things.  I am very happy with my decision and feel I made the right choice.  Doug

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Posted by rrinker on Saturday, February 01, 2014 10:46 AM

 I know last year Martin's club was right past ours, unless they drastically alter the placement they're probbaly in the same place. I didn't go along this time, need to save up my vacation for when I buy a house, and no railroad items I need to be spending money on at this time.

 At shows we do solo, the simplex radios work fine. Last year at the Railroad Museum of PA, we extended out over 150 feet long. Two UR91's handle the whole thing, each about a third of the way in from the ends. A few people go outside the perimeter and allow kids to run the trains, and there are no control issues.

           --Randy


Modeling the Reading Railroad in the 1950's

 

Visit my web site at www.readingeastpenn.com for construction updates, DCC Info, and more.

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Posted by CHRIS M on Saturday, February 01, 2014 12:21 PM
Thanks for all the great info! It has pretty much sent me in a new direction and likely going with NCE. It did prompt another question during my research...being I will be using Peco track do I use insul frogs or powered for DCC? Would one be easier to wire? Thanks again!
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Posted by cacole on Sunday, February 02, 2014 10:14 AM

We have close to 50 Peco Insulfrog turnouts on our HO scale club layout, and over the years I have learned how to make them practically foolproof.

The biggest problem with the older Peco design was the small tab on the bottom of the point rails that was supposed to feed power to the points when the switch was thrown.  These tabs would corrode or get bent and lose contact.  Peco's newer design has eliminated that problem.

Before installing any Peco Insulfrog turnout I solder jumper wires on the bottom to feed power to the point rails insted of relying of their friction contact method.  They even provide a slot in the crossties for a jumper to be added.

As I inistall them, I always put insulated rail joiners on both rails that diverge from the frog, and then add feeder wires to the rails beyond the frog.

We have had no problems with any turnouts since I started modifying them.  No one runs any short wheelbase steam engines such as an 0-4-0 -- a 4-6-0 is the smallest any club member runs, and it has no problems at all going through the turnouts.

 

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Posted by richhotrain on Sunday, February 02, 2014 11:12 AM

CHRIS M
being I will be using Peco track do I use insul frogs or powered for DCC? Would one be easier to wire? 

Peco Insulfrogs are easier to wire than Peco Electrofrogs since you don't have to concern yourself with wiring the frogs or adding gaps.  The Peco Insulfrogs are already gapped for you.

Both the Insulfrog and the Electrofrog are power routing turnouts.  For that reason, you should add feeder wires on all three ends of the turnout unless you want dead sections of track when power is routed in the other direction.

Rich 

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Posted by wjstix on Thursday, February 06, 2014 10:39 AM

richhotrain

I have no experience with MRC, but I hear so much negative stuff about it that I would avoid it.

When MRC first came out with DCC stuff, the decoders they offered were pretty cheaply made and many people had trouble with them. As far as I know, their DCC systems are fine, but because of the early decoder troubles many people have come to assume anything from MRC is bad.

Stix
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Posted by richhotrain on Thursday, February 06, 2014 11:28 AM

wjstix

 

 
richhotrain

I have no experience with MRC, but I hear so much negative stuff about it that I would avoid it.

 

 

When MRC first came out with DCC stuff, the decoders they offered were pretty cheaply made and many people had trouble with them. As far as I know, their DCC systems are fine, but because of the early decoder troubles many people have come to assume anything from MRC is bad.

 

Isn't that sort of the way that things work?

Rich

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Posted by mobilman44 on Thursday, February 06, 2014 11:37 AM

Hi!

All of us using DCC have asked the same question at one time or another.  

But, getting objective answers is not so easy.   As I like to say, its like asking someone of my generation "which is better, Ford or Chevy?"............   

All the major systems will work out for you, meeting basic needs.   In my opinion, the two leaders are Digitrax and NCE, and both of those will serve you well and provide a good building block for expansion.

I suggest you do some net searching on the topic, and go from there.

 

ENJOY  !

 

Mobilman44

 

Living in southeast Texas, modeling the "postwar" Santa Fe and Illinois Central 

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Posted by fwright on Thursday, February 06, 2014 1:13 PM

CHRIS M

....I would like the ability to control turnouts and do routes and would like a system easy to use. I am considering a used MRC Advanced2 to cut my teeth, so any advice would be great.

I'm coming from the perspective of one still using DC at home, but DCC with our HOn3 modular club.  Our modules are wired to support any of the major DCC systems, but our club-owned command station and booster are NCE, so we ended up defaulting to NCE.  Which works out well for the members because a Power Cab starter set works at home for the home layout and module testing, and serves as a throttle at a club setup.

But enough about me.  Some of the questions that go into a rather objective choice of DCC system are:

1) What does your "final" state look like?  How many throttles, how many amps?  Radio, tethered, or fixed throttes?  What is the upgrade path from your initial purchase to get to your final state?  The total cost is going to vary from one make to another, depending on what your final configuration looks like.  OTOH, how important to you is final cost, especially if spread over a year or two?

2) Are there particular non-standard features you are looking for?  Controlling turnouts and setting routes is easier to implement with some systems than others.  JMRI compatibility - particularly for programming decoders - is another non-standard feature.

3) The physical and control user interface is very important to some and less important to others.  How comfortable are the throttles to hold (for hand-held) and to operate?  Size of hand, button size and layout, stops (or lack of) on the rotating knobs, and so on make a difference in comfortable use.  Memorizing a few important key sequences is easy for me, but may not be to you.  The logic of the key sequences may make a difference in ease of use.

4) Will you be operating with others?  What DCC do they use?  Will you operate on their layouts?  Do they bring their own throttles when they operate on your layout, or do you furnish whatever is needed?

5) Will you be implementing/expanding beyond the basics of running locomotives?  Is the information for this expansion readily available (Manufacturer manuals, Yahoo user groups, knowledgeable buddies at the club or in your operating group can all serve the purpose if you are comfortable with that type of support.)?

Only you can determine the relative priorities of the above questions.  In my case, because the club uses NCE and I still can use DC at home, having a compatible throttle at a setup and a way to test my modules for not too much money was the highest priority for me.  NCE was the obvious choice.  But your priorities are likely different.  You might still choose NCE.  But to make a rational choice, you have to know what's important to you to base your choice on.

my thoughts and experiences, your choices

Fred W

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Posted by geomodelrailroader on Wednesday, June 06, 2018 5:18 PM

also note read the instructions before you install. NCE is used if your layout is portable or if you have a small layout. NCE can be extended but the cons are you must have the throttle plugged in at all times because the throttle is the command station. The Digitrax Zephyr is used if your layout is bigger. Cons of Digitrax is it takes up a whole room and is expencive. MRC is like NCE and Digitrax but the cons are it does not support JMRI and you have to program the locomotives manually. Lenz has a ton of cons 1. it does not fallow the standards of the NMRA so it is not compatiable with other systems dispite what Bachman and Lenz put in the manual. The Second con is you have to be wired to Bachman track in order for it to work and Bachman track has to be modified to connect to other track. And the Third con is Lenz is made in Europe so that means higher voltages. If you put an engine that does not have a decoder or an engine that is N scale without a conversion kit on any track that is wired to a Lenz system it will blow up the same thing happens to decoders that are not compatable with Lenz. Only use a system that is compatable with your locomotives and make sure to read the instructions and the NMRA rules. Don't place older locomotives or non DCC locomotives on the layout they will blow up.     

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Posted by cuyama on Wednesday, June 06, 2018 5:22 PM

geomodelrailroader
NCE is used if your layout is portable or if you have a small layout. NCE can be extended but the cons are you must have the throttle plugged in at all times because the throttle is the command station. The Digitrax Zephyr is used if your layout is bigger. Cons of Digitrax is it takes up a whole room and is expencive.

A lot of factually incorrect and/or out-of-date information in your reply to this four-year-old thread. 

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