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mwiz64
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I had bought some recievers and batteries to go RC but after the hassle of finding a place to put the battery, the hassle of charging the locos, the lack of sound and the fact that my layouts will always be small shelf type layouts I've decided DCC will serve me better.

With all the foregoing in mind, what's a good smaller DCC system? I'll likely have 2 to 3 locos on the layout at one time at most. Many times only one and I'll likely never run more than one at once. I don't want to buy a big powerful system for that but I do want all the nice features like the ability to have sound and utilize some of the other features. I also don't want anything that is difficult to have serviced should the need arise. Any and all recommendations and advice is welcome and appreciated.

Herb Kephart
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Mike--

If you are going to have a small layout, and only run one loco at once--why bother with DCC? The loco that you don't want to move can sit on section of the track that is isolated from the power with a simple switch. Sound was around long before DCC so why go to the expense?

Layouts were run this way, since back in the '30's.

Of course, either way, you still have the dirty track to contend with----

Herb

mwiz64
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Dirty track to clean on a small layout seems simple by comparison when you talk about locating batteries in tiny locos and hiding charge jacks. I'll keep my mind open for now but I'm thinking about DCC. It seems there are some affordable used ones out there.... Particularly MRC ones.

Last edited on Tue Feb 19th, 2013 10:13 pm by mwiz64

NathanO
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There are may options to choose from. All the major manufactures have 'entry level' systems to run a small layout.

I use NCE. Of the two small systems they have that go for under $200 the PowerCab will give you more versatility. It will allow up to three additional Cabs and each Cab can handle at least 2 trains. The cabs can handle just about anything you can throw at them.

You will also want an NCE UTP panel or Tony's UTP panel to allow for the additional cabs. You can also us the Radio receiver and Radio Cabs with the PowerCab.

If you buy the PowerCab also buy the Auto-SW to allow for a true Programming Track. Set up one short piece of track for programing. You can put it on the layout and make it look like the end of a track that runs behind a building or put it in a City Park as if it were for a Historic Locomotive.

If you do expand to a larger layout the PowerCab can be used with any of NCE's larger systems.

The PowerCab does not have a true On Off switch so get yourself a power strip that has one.

Nathan

SJSlots
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Since Mike has kicked this off... I too have been kicking around the idea of DCC and was looking at the Bachmann EZCommand system. I'm assuming someone has knowledge of it and can advise if its junk or not.

mwiz64
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Shawn,

I cant specifically answer that question. What I do know is that system is much cheaper than the others and my guess is that I couldn't run some of the other animation type stuff I might like to run with a DCC system. I mean, they had to leave off something to make that price point, didn't they?

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Shawn,

You may want to read the manuals on the EZ Command system. They are on the Bachmann Web Site. It is very limited in what it can do. Their Dynamis system is a better choice if you want Bachmann.

Most manufactures have their manuals on line. Take the time to read them and find the ones that match your needs.

Nathan

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Hi Guys
It is an interesting question you raise about going DCC and what brand to choose.
I resisted for many years thinking I could not handle all of the functions that DCC could provide. I looked at several brands and eventually I chose Digitrax. The main reason was that most of my friends had Digitrax. This meant I had a great support base for me to learn from along with trouble shooting should the need arise and that was often. It also meant that when I have ops sessions the guys just bring along their own throttles and away we go. Saved me purchasing more than I would ever use on my own. We have since set up separate addresses and channels for each of our layouts that come up on the screen when they are plugged in, neat feature. By the way we have all converted to full radio ( Duplex) and wouldn't change a thing.
DCC has changed the way we run and operate and we all love it.
Rod.

mwiz64
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I can't imagine I'll have too many people coming to operate on my little shelf layouts. For one they will be little and for two they will be in unusual scales. That said, having help from the guys at the LHS is likely a huge benefit that I had not considered. I believe they are Digitrax dealers. Hum....

Thanks for the food for thought, Rod.

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I agree with Rod's comments.  There is a small group of us that get together once a week to play trains. We have a mixture of Digitrax and NCE systems. Both of these offer the same basic operations, and it only takes a question or two abour the hand held cabs and one is up up and away.

I feel that DCC is the way to go.  Just check out the options, then make your choice.
Like most things in this life, money is a guide as to what you get. Make sure you are not spending your dollars of stuff you will never need.

Don

W C Greene
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Yep, I have heard nothing but good things about Digitrax, it seems to be the "leader" in DCC. Don is right about spending money on unneeded features, just get what you want and buy quality products. Good luck and let us know about your decision.

Woodie

mwiz64
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What I really want is something like a Stanton system. The problem is it's expensive and I have no idea how long that system will be available. He's a pretty small supplier. No offense, Neil.

I wish the guys at Horizon (Spektrum radios) would make us something. Maybe for now, I'll just run my old MRC Tech II pack until the technology develops a little more. Sometimes living on the leading edge is fun and some times you know why people refer to it as the "bleeding edge".

I got so much to learn about building model railroads right now that I just don't want/need another complication. In this case, I can't hide a single cell 250 mah lipo in the Brookville. Anywhere I put it, it shows. If I paint it black it still looks outa place.... and I hate the idea of the loco being tied to a little tank car with a battery in it and some wires. My little 7mm 50 HP Baldwin trench loco will be the same and if I build a non armored Simplex.... Sheesh. So, I'm selling my 2.4 train stuff to another Free Rails member. I think he'll make better use of the stuff than I.

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I have a small (34" x 82"), On30, folded dogbone layout. I first had the Bachmann E-Z Command DCC system. It worked fine. I was able to run 4, sometimes 5 engines all at once (with sound) and didn't have a problem with it. Yes it was noisy with all that sound and yes it can be tough to keep up with 4 or 5 locos in such a small space without running into each other...but, it could be done. I didn't notice any loss of power or any issues at all. Not saying there wasn't any power issue, just that I didn't notice one probably because I was busy keeping all the stuff going, blowing the whistles, ringing the bells, etc.

Then I saw the Dynamis system and I bought that. Why? Because I liked the wireless controller. I can walk around, un-tethered to the layout, and keep an eye on stuff. It's great. I didn't get the Dynamis because of any extra features except the wireless controller and the LCD display. I say this because I fine tune the programming of locos using the Digitrax PR3, an old Dell laptop, and JMRI software. Your wants and needs may vary. For me, the Dynamis has everything I need right now and I got it for a song from a Favorite Spot auction on eBay. ($35..yea...thirty five bucks) The cash I saved allowed me to get the PR3.

IF I ever have a huge layout, then all I need (really) is a power booster and perhaps upgrade the receiver so I can have more receivers around the layout if I so choose or ends up being a requirement. This, however, is NOT in my immediate future unless I win the lottery and can retire. (Fat chance)

Anyway, my dos centavos and experience with DCC systems. :Salute:

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I've recently switched to DCC after many years of not being able to warrant the cost of the initial set up, especially with minimal loco running on narrow gauge operations. It was the chance to build a new bigger shed/railway space that helped the decision to change. Was going to have a bigger setting, with opportunity for up to three operators if they were visiting, and going DCC simplified the wiring headache of the track plan and its operation. Going DCC meant I was driving trains rather than trying to drive the layout.

I went for NCE, because I see a lot of guys using them at the exhibitions I go to, so have lots of people to ask for help if needed. The NCE set up was easy to get up and going with, affordable, and fairly reliable. I also like the portability of the NCE Powercab for if I need to run a small display quick and easily. I've also recently just installed a TCS decoder with the built in Keep Alive capacitors (for running through dirty track), and they are a great decoder. My really rough and sharp corners on a small mining layout always had issues with power pick up (especially with a 4 wheel gas mechanical), but with the capacitor keeping up the power supply, it has no hesitation with rolling smoothly through the questionable track sections.

Cheers,
Dan Pickard

SJSlots
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Thank you for the feedback and information on the Bachmann offering Tim. I too, at least for now, have a very small layout and plans for an additional effort were going to be roughly 36" by 72". I have to think the Bachmann offering would be more than sufficient for such a small operation and by what I have read it will allow me the 2 to 3 locos I might want on the track plan. While wireless operation is appealing how much walking around will I really need to do with s 6-foot length table? I guess if I can find a deal like you did who really cares right?

While looking at the different systems I did find this which I will read and others may find helpful: http://www.members.optusnet.com.au/nswmn2/DCC.htm

Last edited on Fri Feb 22nd, 2013 01:06 pm by SJSlots

mwiz64
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After this discussion, I've decided to hold off buying anything. I have an old fashioned MRC TechII power pack that will serve me fine on an 10'x2' shelf layout and that's my current plan. It's all I have space for, one wall in my basement.

Why the change once again? Well, as I described above, I'm having trouble locating batteries in my small locos so I thought R/C wasn't my best choice. Now with the mentioning of small locos not running well on dirty track or even curves, I'm thinking track power isn't the best either. Obviously, each system has it's advantages and disadvantages and I'm vacillating about which is more important to me. So right now, I'm just going to hold where I'm at. Once I have the track laid and locos running I can play with it some and hopefully make a more informed decision of my own.

Thanks for your advice and indulgence, guys.

Herb Kephart
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Neil Stanton has in development a system that can use a very small single LiPo cell, that recharges from the track.
The 'lectronics converts the 3.7V to 12V and has the other features of the Stanton system. The little cell is only needed to carry the loco across dead spots in the track.
Track power can be anything around 12V, AC or DC.

I have one of these RX's crammed into an On30 4 wheel Plymouth--and that is with a battery MUCH larger than needed-

PM him. I highly recommend his stuff. Usual disclaimer

Herb

mwiz64
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I'm aware of Neil's stuff. It looks nice. I might give that a try.

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A question for Tim....did you ever so far have any problem with the ir function of the dynamis unit. Do you have to have it pointed in a certain way, at a certain area, etc. for commands to be excepted? Thanks
Mike

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Hey Mike, I would figure that you of all train modelers would hold out for a well engineered R/C system for at least one of your locomotives. After all, that’s the beauty of an R/C system, it will work anywhere with any other system.

David T's turn-key systems will fit just about anything you have and Neil Stanton’s system is a plug in DCC compatible deal, meaning sound is an option and he keeps making his system smaller! Since Neil works through North West Shortline, his products are well supported by a very old company, so if that what’s stopping you, I don’t see an issue there.

Mike, I have managed to fit batteries and R/C systems in a very wide variety of locomotives and I can’t think of one that I couldn’t fit a battery in. If this is stopping you, send me some info on your locomotives and I will be happy to assist you.

I am in the process of building an add on DIY cell balancer / charging system that works on an existing AC or DC powered track supply and gives unlimited run time on a very small battery. It is just a matter of time till I program a PIC for sound; the ESC (speed control) all ready offers a usable control signal for sound generation...anyone think of that all ready? I don’t know.

I know in previous posts you had concerns about battery safety. When I read that, I said to myself, are they purposely ignoring Fe123 / Lifepo cells? It then dawned on me, that maybe some folks weren’t aware of these newer cells, which are prefect for model trains.

They can be charged at well over 10C, making re-charge times minimal, and unlike lipo’s they can be run till they’re dead empty like nickel metal batteries (so no voltage cutoff is needed) but unlike nimh's, their output is consistent till there flat dead. Bottom line here is; if you’re an electric flyer and you blow these up, you deserve what you get!

Here’s a link for some 150 Mah cells:

http://www.focalprice.com/YE178S/Universal_37V_150mAH_Fe123_Battery_for_RC__S107_Helicopter_1Pcs_Silver.html#.USrtOR2Txdw


I’m not knocking anyone’s control system, especially if it gets your trains down the track, I have used them all at some point, I’m just encouraging others to take a look at what could be possible.


R/C systems have evolved in very much the same way DCC did and they offer a brand new way to explore new aspects of RR operation, where your trains can operate perfectly, under the most adverse conditions, on old rusty looking rails, through water, in grooves cut in a scale looking streets and over warped, bent rails (just like full scale trains) places where no track powered locomotive could ever operate and with minimal or no wiring needed, your time and money can be spent on more fulfilling details of the hobby, instead of fussing with track wiring.

R/C rails are what this hobby has needed for a long time and what large scale operators have know for years.

Even real trains are R/C controlled!


Pictured below:

Old faithful, Texas Mexican Railway GP-38 speeds along at full tilt on 1S 180 Mah cell.
:s::s:

Last edited on Mon Feb 25th, 2013 06:20 pm by Craig W

Tim Rose
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To OhioMike - Yes, you do have to "stay within a sight line" of the the receiving unit. Didn't realize that at first so I'm busy running a few locos around thinking this is cool and such...walked out of the room with the remote unit on a lanyard around my neck and in a few moments everything on the layout comes to a halt! That was a bit of a heart stopping moment. Then I realized that even if you are not doing anything with the remote unit, it apparently has some heartbeat or other watchdog signal and if the remote is no longer detected by the receiver, everything stops so as not to damage your equipment. After I thought about that for a few minutes, I am happy it IS that way. This way, if the batteries die in the remote during an operating session or some similar situation, the layout will stop all locos and you don't have any collisions. I don't see this as a drawback but as a safety feature. I have never had to "point the remote" toward the receiver. The range is quite good, at least for me.

Now that I know about this, I mounted the receiver in location where it is always visible in a sight line from where I want to be. In this case it is on the front of the layout. If I had a larger, room size layout, I would probably mount it high up on the wall or perhaps on the ceiling.

mwiz64
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We have failsafe programming like that for our airplanes when they lose signal. We get to decide what those settings are. Usually, bring the motor speed down to idle and turn gently in one direction so the plane descends instead of flying away.

A halt on the railroad seems perfect! Which system are you running, Tim?

Tim Rose
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Bachmann Dynamis...

mwiz64
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I see that system advertised for about $200 at a couple places on line. That just might be what I order too. It seems reasonable.

Last edited on Mon Feb 25th, 2013 09:43 pm by mwiz64

Tim Rose
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mwiz64 wrote:
I see that system advertised for about $200 at a couple places on line. That just might be what I order too. It seems reasonable.

Whoa! Too much! The Favorite Spot has them for $113 right now...full price. I paid $35 for mine on a Favorite Spot auction that nobody but me was paying attention to. :bg: Knowing what I know now, I would pay their full price if it were my only choice and I was in a hurry. The system is definitely worth it. (IMO)

For almost all things "Bachmann", you would be hard pressed to beat the Favorite Spot. {Note: I have no interest or other fiduciary relationship to them...just a happy customer}

mwiz64
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Oh geez.... Thats cheap. Im getting one of those for sure.

Tim Rose
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Mike - Check your inbox for a PM from me...

mwiz64
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Well, I snagged myself a brand new Dynamis for under $90. Ill give DCC a try... Probably use it until RC for trains matures a little more.

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:glad:

HOSTLERHAL
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HEY MIKE,

I put my 3-piece MRC Prodigy 2 Advanced DCC system back in its factory box because I don't like those kind of digital controllers. It has a 4 amp, 15 volt DC power supply.

I went back to my simple one-piece 25-year-old MRC Analog controller with a smile...would you be interested in my new DCC controller?

I can't return it because the owner of the Train Shop where I bought it is sick of my returning items for refunds!

HAL

 

 

mwiz64
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Nope. I haven't taken the system I bought out of the box either. I'm going radio control. I just don't want to have to wire a layout or clean track.

mwiz64
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I don't model in G scale. I convert HO and On30 or scratch build in 1:35n2. There is plenty of room in O standard gauge equipment to convert them to R/C if you care to. Not everyone is up to that which is why the industry needs a more plug and play solution for R/C train operation, IMHO.

I'm not so concerned with sounds. To my ear, they don't scale down well.

Last edited on Fri Aug 2nd, 2013 03:17 pm by mwiz64

W C Greene
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Hal-if you want to know whether one can bypass a board and run with r/c, read the dozens of posts in the radio control forum here. Simply put, the answer is YES.

Woodie

mwiz64
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My one conversion that I ran across the floor was connected from the ESC straight to the motor terminals. I clipped the wires from the DCC board and removed it. It would be a simple job to replace it but I likely never will.

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I was a DCC naysayer for years, a real humbug approach to the concept, after all I had a good DC handheld and I knew cab control.

Then I bought my first DCC outfit, a Lenz Compact and was it bad. For those who have avoided this awful controller, it came with an ERR 9 for the unwary that needed a five step reset procedure. Unfortunately Lenz failed to insert this in the handbook.

So, armed with a bad experience, I was really anti-DCC until one day a nice lady at the Roco stand offered to show me the Roco MultiMaus - what a wonderful person. The main selling feature was glitch-free because it was designed for children to use, I bought a complete set of control from the nice lady at a bargain price of about $50 (ex boxed set) and I was sold.

The standard Roco set is a handheld, leads, transformer and CPU, it doesn't read CV's but I have never found to be an issue and 15 years later I still use the same outfit except the CPU has been replaced with a Lenz LZV100 but in reality, I didn't need to upgrade because I still use the old CPU for programming.

In Roco's case cheap isn't cheap, it is merely very well priced because it works period. No other needs to be made except it now runs my 1:45 trains (I started with HO) and I have looked at (and tried) systems that are four times the cost and I still stick with the MultiMaus.

Finally, when I first visited expos in Germany everyone ran Lenz and used their handhelds, now I see the little red handhelds everywhere.

Tim H  



 

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Maybe, I have lived in a cave for years, but when I was a kid, I had a really quite complicated train set or two and I had no track wiring at all. My dad fitted a couple of sidings with dead sections, operated by ex Post Office switch packs, but that was it. No point (turnout) wiring. I still wouldn't know how to wire a point, or see why I needed to.
Yet now we see spaghetti everywhere under the boards. And even the magical DCC which was supposed to stop track wiring (wasn't it?) seems to result in almost as much spaghetti.
For me, R/C is the obvious choice. Sound always sounds like a train set to me and smoke looks like Scotch mist, so both are grossly overblown. We have to accept that these are at best small models, at worst, toy trains. And so why burden ourselves with all the "must haves" just to do what others do?
Of course if you really understand all this stuff and actually DO genuinely like it, then you must go with it, but I reckon you are in a minority.

I would hate to think that some damned good potential modellers are not making models because they either aren't au fait with all the tricks or can't afford them.

I once helped a well known OO9 modeller operate his very large and well known layout and he had DCC on it. As he'd programmed it (I assume) it was just another knob to turn like any other and the DCC made almost no difference as there was never more than 2 locos on the layout anyway. It left me wondering ..."why?"

Martin


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