Bachmann EZ-Command Review
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Bachmann EZ-Command Digital Starter Set
Text and photos by Gary Leigh
Now I am a complete newcomer to digital. What has put me off experimenting until now was the relative inaccessibility of obtaining digital equipment as no local stockist has it, and the cost of a complete conversion. That is not to say that if somebody came up with a low cost entry point into the world of digital and made trialling of the digital experience easy then I would not at least experiment.
Therefore when I popped into my local stockist recently and he announced that he had a special offer on the Bachmann Digital Starter Set I was at last tempted. So I rushed off home like a kid with a new toy desperate to open up my newly acquired box of goodies and see exactly what all the fuss about digital control was about.
Bachmann have clearly put some thought into what they should offer digital newbies and include 2 tank locomotives in the set, a few wagons, an oval of track together with a siding, and of course the EZ-Command digital control unit. This permits instant simultaneous operations of trains which immediately gives anybody new to digital who buys this set a taster of the digital experience. OK, I accept that the locomotives are not anything special however the aim of the set is to allow railway modellers to experiment and play around without making an otherwise hefty investment in equipment that they may later regret purchasing. Now does this philosophy of Bachmann work?
I wanted to stick with the contents of the set so I assembled the layout shown on the box cover and then read the instruction manual. This was straightforward and I fitted the power clips to the track and plugged the lead into the port on the EZ-Command console marked "Track". The mains lead was plugged into the port marked "16V AC In" and basically that was it all set up. Lights immediately shine on the console and default to the loco with chip identification 1 and the forward arrow. The two tank locos were placed on the track, with one of the locos in the siding. The instructions reveal that the blue loco is factory set with chip identification 1 and the blue loco with chip identification 2.
So I turned the control knob and the blue loco started moving forward. The red loco remained stationary in the siding. Bachmann include an "Insulfrog" type of point with the set meaning that power was not getting to the red train in the siding anyway and this seems a bit strange. The stockist did mention this and indicated that Bachmann may include "Electrofrog" points in the set in the future. However, for the newcomer to digital, Bachmann may feel that it is better to be safe than sorry and include the type of traditional isolating point that is used by 12V DC analogue operators.
So, I bought the blue loco to a halt on the main line, switched the point into the siding, and pressed button 2 on the EZ-Command console. Then I turned the control know and wow! For the first time ever I had two locomotives on one section of track without incorporating isolating sections in the track.
The next step was to get the blue loco moving again before the red loco ran into the back of it. Now at this point it has to be said that it is a very good thing that Bachmann provide low cost locos to experiment and practice with as I would be less inclined to jump right in at the deep end with 2 locos if it was a couple of my highly detailed Gresley tender locomotives that I was going to operate! Moving on, to switch the identification between loco 1 and loco 2 on the EX-Command console all you do is press button 2. Now even I can cope with this sort of simplicity! Loco 1 continues to move at the speed that was last set for it, and you then turn the control knob to bring loco 2 into motion. So now both locomotives were running on the same line. To move control back to loco 1 you hit button one and then slow it down. By now you probably understand what is required. In the event of everything going pear shaped with clear signs that you are about to experience a worst case scenario on your layout then Bachmann very kindly fit an emergency stop button which brings everything to a halt. Now when my kids started to play I did need this function as you can imagine!
Having got to grips with EZ-Command it was now time to invite younger family members to have a play. Now my younger family members are not into model trains and think dad is slightly off his rocker. However, they did seem to enjoy the experience of controlling 2 trains at the same time on the same track and over the subsequent days asked me if they could have another go! Even my wife has had a play and she normally thinks I am more off my rocker than the kids when it comes to model trains! She feels that controlling several trains at a time requires the use of her brain and she has certain strongly held views of how the male brain works and how simple we males all are!
So clearly digital control does seem to make railway modelling interesting for those who otherwise would pass on the idea as a hobby.
One bonus that I was not aware of with the EZ-Command console is that you can control one "standard" loco without a chip fitted by pressing button 10 on the console. So it is possible to operate 3 locomotives immediately without even opening one up and working out how to install a chip. So I had a go with this and selected a loco and placed it on the track. It made a buzzing sound when it was stationary but I was told that this was to be expected and that all digital trains did this, and so do the analogue trains when placed on the track. The sound is pretty authentic and it almost sounds like a steam loco when is it stationary at a platform. Anyway, it was just as easy to control a normal loco as it was the 2 digital set tank locos. In fact I found it easier as slower movement seemed possible than with my analogue controller and this may have been because there was full current in the track rather than a small amount of current and the controller was sending pulses to the electric motor to drive it. I am not a technical person but it is my understanding that the motors in locos receive a pulse from the track to drive them which helps to make control that much better.
There are plenty of pictures for you to look at so that you can see for yourself what I have been featuring in this review. The pictures include images of the innards of the console and the locomotives and it is remarkable how Bachmann get all the digital equipment into the 2 tiny tank locomotives but they manage it. I could say more about my initial digital experience but I will stop here for now and maybe provide an "EZ-Command part 2" in a few weeks time.
The Bachmann EZ-Command chips are about £10-£12 each to upgrade locomotives to enable digital control but check with your stockist or the catalogue to see if the loco that you wish to fit a chip into is already DCC ready. This means that all you have to is plug the chip in. Beyond this it can get more complicated but if you need further help with this then of course Model Rail Forum will help you out.
For anybody contemplating digital then Bachmann do make it very easy for newcomers to try it out and to experiment with. There are those who say the system is basic but I found the instruction manual and the console easy to use and this is a very low cost introduction to digital. After a few weeks with the EZ-Command system you may very well have the desire to upgrade to a system that is all singing and all dancing and enables control of 80 locomotives at a time with smoke, and sound, and lights, etc. But as a starter set this offering from Bachmann is well worth considering and at the price you cannot really go wrong.
EZ-Command console ports
EZ-Command console rear
Stuart manages to squeeze all the components in
Stuart and Greg loose their cab roofs
EZ-Command console buttons from the inside
The wagons that come with the set
EZ-Command console button click plungers for motherboard
Bachmann transformer plug with 16V AC output
Bachmann track power clips