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DT
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4,794 Posts
ashleyh made a good suggestion of putting together a users review / guide of the different DCC systems around. In this day and age of word-of-mouth marketing, this could be good if it is honest and positive. I'll pin this and make an index on this first Post, linking it to the various systems that members are using.

Lets keep the information specific to the systems that we are using. Give info honestly and list features that you use. A resume with positive and negative points could round off the post. Give an overall rating too if you like. Use these images:

Poor
Problems that let the system down and limit usage
Does what it says on the box, but could be better
Good, with one or two small issues that could be addressed
Perfect

DCC Command stations & Controllers

Lenz Set 100 by Doug
Arnold DCC Controllers by Doug
Digitrax Super Chief by Makemineadouble
ESU Ecos 50000 by neil_s_wood
Bachmann Dynamis by ashleyh
NCE Powercab by wiggy25
Hornby Elite by wiggy25
ESU Mobile Control for ECoS 50100 by neil_s_wood
Roco Multimaus Pro Review by Moonraker

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DT
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Lenz Set 100


See specs here

I've had this set for 14 months. I've used Arnold DCC controllers for about 6 years and still do, connected to the Lenz via the XpressNet (XBUS) connection.

I actually bought it in the US as it was a little cheaper there than in Europe. Nutz hey, buying European engineered products in the US of A
The UK RRP is £244. You can get £100 knocked off that by buy in in the US, but then you have to add on shipping and possible import duties. Do you own sums.

The Lenz is a good quality system. It has never failed or let me down. It is well made, robust. Both the LZV100 command station and the LH100 hand controller can take the rough handling of someone like me who is building a layout around the system.

It can be very easy to use, but it can also be complicated. Doing the every day things that you do become second nature. It is easy to program a decoder in Direct mode or CV mode. There are other modes supported, but I don't use them. I feel that for issues that I don't use often, I have to refer to the manual. Even though some steps are intuitive, some are not and it is best to refer to the guides. Some steps to accomplish relatively simple steps can be complicated or arduous. Switching a point for example takes 7 keystrokes to throw the point. This is nuts so I use other means to do the job. Either using a DCC keypad (Arnold) or using manual DPDT switches on the control panel. As with other complex systems, it is a good idea to keep the manuals handy.

One question to ask is whether you like to use buttons or a dial to control the loco. I would say that a dial is perhaps more intuitive. Left for slow, right for fast. The buttons of the LH100 hand controller give very precise control. Small button up to increase the speed by one step, big button up to increase the speed by eight steps. There are similar down buttons to decrease the speed. In an emergency, these can get confusing. You may not want to press the red 'Emergency Stop' button (most of the time I forget to anyway as I don't use it much), but we always end up pushing the limits a bit too far. Confusion can set in when you are switching between locos and they all are going at different speeds... I do like the precision though. I like to see locos move very slowly and this cab controller is great for that. Perhaps I'll end up using the LH100 in the yards and perhaps use the Dial controllers on the mainline. If I could afford it, I would buy another two LH100 controllers though for the other parts of my layout.

The command station software is a little old, but apparently the upgraded version is being worked on now and the units can be sent back to the factory for an upgrade when it's done. I'm not using may complicated functions, but I have connected the unit to a PC with the USB computer interface accessory. PC decoder programming is great and playing around with loco control is fun. I don't have plans though right now to control my layout with a PC. I use computers in my day job, I don't need them as an integral part of my hobby
There is no loco database or extra data stored for the loco. This shows it's age. It does store a 'stack' of long loco addresses and basic control of your whole fleet of loco sis very easy.

I have the LZV100 command station connected to 4 LA152 XpressNET Adapters around the layout. These allow me to unplug the hand cab controller and walk around to another post and plug in again. Great quality control, but I'd like a wireless system.

I have used the Lenz client support and had a prompt reply in English from the German technical staff. We were struggling to identify a problem on my system and it ended up being a capacitor on the track feed connector that was causing the unit to lock after programming a loco. I was using a temporary Hornby track set connector whilst the layout was being built. The tech staff had never come across this and were glad that it was solved and that they could add it to their support knowledge base. Apparently the UK support for Lenz is very good too. http://www.mackaymodels.co.uk/ is the UK importer and distributor of Lenz products. I did call them once, but after not finding what I wanted, I've never bought anything from them.

I'll be using Lenz as my main system for some time. It does exactly what I expect it to do and what I want from a DCC system. Lets hope that they keep they product up to date and give us some nice add-ons in the forthcoming years.

Positive
Well made
Reliable
Complete feature-rich system
Good compatibility and inter-connectivity
Good support

Negative
Sometimes over complicated
A little pricey
Software is a little old

Overall Rating:


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DT
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Arnold DCC Controllers

I'm adding this here as I feel that these devices are still a great option for someone wanting to get into DCC. The units may not be available in most shops , but there are still a few shops on the web that stock them and of course you can pick up the units on eBay.


Arnold Digital Central Control unit connected to a Digital Loco Control and a pair of Digital Keyboards

A little history:
Arnold was a German company specialising in N-Scale locos and rolling stock. They developed this DCC range in the 90's. It was relatively cheap and it worked well.

In 2001 Lima S.p.A. was established, merging of all previous companies belonging to the Rivarossi Group (Rivarossi, Arnold, Lima, Jouef and Pocher). In 2003 Lima was forced into liquidation.

In October 2004, Hornby Plc, signed a decree which allowed the Liquidators of Lima S.p.a. and in December 2004, Hornby Plc, announced that it had completed the acquisition of certain assets of Lima S.p.A in liquidation for Euro8 million (Approximately £5.5 million).
I first bought the Arnold Digital Central Control (86201) and used it by itself for a few years. I then added a couple of Arnold Digital Loco Control (86210) units and a couple of Arnold Digital Keyboards (86220). I used these units with the S4 Arnold Digital Decoder (86250).

Sure these units only have short addressing, 5 funtions and are quite rudimentary, but they work well and are reliable. You can connect the units together either by using the integrated lateral plugs (IIC-BUS). These also allow connection of certain Märklin devices so you see where the potential lies.

You can also use the XBUS to connect devices. XBUS is a precursor to XpressNet. Using the LMAB wires, you can connect remote devises to the central command station.

I use my Arnold units together with my Lenz LH100 with no problem at all. The only issue is the lack of long addressing, so it can only control trains that are set to short addresses. I quite often have my kids playing with the Arnold devices whilst I'm on the Lenz. When using the Lenz, I don't use the 86201 Central Control, but rather the 86210 Loco Controls and 86220 Digital Keyboards. I like to keep a spare controller on my work bench for testing purposes. This does the job perfectly.

Arnold Digital Central Control (86201) features:
* compact device including central unit, loco-control, programming device and amplifier
* control of 119 locomotives
* sensitive controlling by 28 speeds steps
* 10 multitractions (consists) with up to 4 locos each
* knob to control the loco's speed
* separate buttons for forward and backward running
* operation of 256 switches (points or signals)
* programming device for all features of new and former decoders
* illuminated display with 2 x 16 characters
* multilingual: English, German, French, Italian
* amplifier with a maximum output of 3,0A

The documentation is a little basic, but it says all you need to know. Keep it handy for reference. There is obviously no support for these products, but in all the years that I've used them, I have never needed any support
There is a little button battery inside (for time and language preferences) that need to be changed every few years.

You can pick up Central controller for less that 50 Euros and the other controllers er even cheaper. Use an eBay search (like this) and don't be scared to search the German and other European eBay sites too.

Positive
Well made
Simple
Easy loco programming
Easy to use and intuative
Reliable
Cheap (if bought on eBay)

Negative
Software is a little old
No support
No updates available
Not sold in shops

Overall Rating:


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The Digitrax Super Chief Radio Equipped Set


See specs here

My background in DCC started in 1994, my first system unfortunately wasn't Digitrax. What attracted me to the system initially was a third party fast clock
but when my UK manufactured system burst into flames for the second time I decided it was time for a change.

I've been using this DCC combination since 2000. In that time the Digitrax units have given total and complete reliability. Maintenance has involved the replacement of the Batteries in the DCS100 command station. The great strength of Digitrax is loconet the command bus system which is identical to a computer network cable. This enables the command station to talk to the various components in the system, and unlike other systems enables them to talk back to the command station. My particular system also has radio control, I was able to use this illegally while residing in another country. You can of course use the system without radio control simply by using a trailing cable, or switching Infra Red. An approved Radio control system will be available for the UK this year (2007).
The handsets with Digitrax are a pleasure to use. The DT400 throttle is common to all Digitrax systems and is fully interchangeable. It features two knobs to enable control of two loco directly while memory allows the user to recall up to 16 loco's at the turn of a knob. Functions F0 - F12 are currently supported, plus a full range of commands to work turnouts and signals from the handset. The Display is clear and simple to understand. Programming is also via the handset and this allows 4 modes of programming. Direct, ops mode, paged, physical register mode. Digitrax also offer the UT4 which a much simpler throttle suitable for visitors and the young who may not understand the more complex DT400. Documentation for the system is excellent and it's well supported by a wide range of ancillary system components from stationary decoders to occupancy detectors,auto reverse units, and a vast range of mobile decoders. Finally Digitrax has Transponding which means with the right equipment a locomotive can be identified anywhere on the system. Commands are common through the range of equipment, even down to the Zephyr starter system. My system has stood the test of time without ever having a software upgrade or the unit having to returned to the factory for repair. It does everything one can expect of a system costing less than £300 excluding a transformer.
Digitrax is the worlds most popular DCC system. I confidently recommend this system to anyone looking to make a start with DCC. I haven't list the capcity of the system as anyone intrested can view this on the Digitrax web site. My system is 5 amps and together with the DB150 booster was powerfull enough to run 80 odd loco's on my layout over 25 of them with sound. There's a choice of three voltages, and I consider this to be essential on any top class system
http://www.digitrax.com/

I rate my system


Positives
Loconet the best cab bus system available
Well made
Simple but Suffocated
Easy loco programming with all possible modes
Ultra Reliable, dependable
natural progression and interchangeability throughout the product range
Strong range of supporting product
No longer classed as expensive, especially with the weak US Dollar
Brilliant support via the discussion group on Yahoo
Love the handsets they are real class
Strong web site also offering good advice and support in ENGLISH
Good local support in the UK
A growing range of Dealers
Variable voltage

Negatives
Documentation while comprehensive can be daunting for the beginner
9 volt batteries used to power untethered handsets so you need rechargables

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ESU Ecos 50000



Although I have been into DCC for about five years and while I have intend to upgrade it was only comparatively recently that I made a decision on what I was going to upgrade to. I had several specific requirements which needed to be addressed and I knew it was going to be a big purchase so I put a considerable amount of thought into it.

I wanted a degree of automation without having to hook up to a computer.
20 functions as I use a lot of digital sound locos and need some future proofing.
Easy use as I am often entertaining people when I am showing my trains and need to see what is going on at a glance.
At least two cabs.
Ability to accept downloads from computer.
Modern design and software as most systems are now a bit dated.
Ability to expand.

With all these factors in mind, and taking into consideration what is currently available, I spent hours rummaging through user manuals looking at specifications. What emerged was most existing higher end designs were quite old and were being challenged by newer bottom end systems which had similar specifications and capabilities. However there seemed to be a new generation of top end systems emerging which went beyond the older systems and offered new capabilities. There was Zimo who have a system which does incredible things at an incredible price, however this was too much cost wise. Fortunately there were two other systems which were soon to be released made by ESU and Veissmann. They were new and innovative, offering capabilities beyond that of the older top end systems. The Ecos had some excellent features and would be released before the Veissmann commander. It also looked a hell of a better! If I am paying more than 600 Euros for a system I don't want it looking like a "Fisher Price toy". Additionally as ESU are the major manufacturer of digital sound decoders and they are used in most of the locos I own they seemed the logical choice. So I ordered one.

It arrived a few days ago and I am impressed with what it does so far. It is like a mini computer. From the minute it is turned on the large screen is offering advice and is easy to use.



I had it up and running in no time. The model I bought came from Germany so it came with German instructions. I had already downloaded the English language instructions previously so I used these to assist me with setting the system up. They weren't really necessary though, most processes are self explanatory and easy to work through.



I had logged my first loco in the data bank within minutes. Rather than allocate just a number the loco is also given an alphanumeric name, for example PENN GG1.

This is the "enter new loco" screen as it comes up.



This is how it looks once filled in.



It can also be given an icon from a bank of, well too many to count.



This together with the alpha numeric name makes the argument between two digit and four digit addressing seem somewhat redundant, they are both a bit old. The ECoS Central Unit can manage up to 16384 Locos, so it will be a while before I reach capacity. My wife will kill me if I reach that!

Once it has been added to the list of locos you can run the loco. The loco then shows on your screen as an icon at the top with a speedo dial below showing the speed of the loco.



The actual address number appears in the centre slightly to the right, the black triangles indicate the direction and the functions show in negative (black) if they are activated.



The loco functions are shown around the dial. You can allocate a picture icon for each function if you wish to personalise it.



When you add a loco to the list you can specify the number of speed steps. These can be seen on the speedo dial. Note here the GG1 has 28 and the Class 31 has 128. You can see also on the top line that some of the menu buttons are the same on each side, these are for each individual cab.



Like most things on the Ecos this is set by means of a drop down box. This one lists which decoder types the loco has so you can input the information.



The large screen is an excellent feature and is something that really helps. I found a lot of DCC systems had very small display screens and tried to convey too much information in too small a space. This led to difficulty in deciphering symbols and having to memorize too many making these systems hard and confusing to use. The Ecos has a touch sensitive screen which makes for extremely easy use. The large screen means that words can be used rather than a tiny symbol making things clear to the user. It is essentially like using Windows in many ways. There are on screen help menus so that help is never far away and you do not have to leave the system and start leafing through a lengthy technical manual to figure out what an ambiguous symbol means and the resulting implications.

One of the features I wanted was some limited automation. This is provided in two ways. There is automated switching triggered by occupancy detectors which I will set up at some point in the future and there is the shuttle feature.

The shuttle feature uses occupancy detectors to enable terminus to terminus running. The loco or train will leave a given station or terminus and upon reaching the occupancy detector at the opposite end will slow down at a rate you determine and stop at the station at the other terminus. It will sit there for a pre-determined time and then depart to the other station. This is an ideal feature for terminus to terminus layouts. I intend to install a few of these in my layout. I have a Veissmann occupancy detector which I will install in coming weeks to start some shuttle routes. This allows trains to run while you chat to people without you constantly having to pay attention to your locos. It also removes the necessity of having to have a loop layout so trains can run constantly. You can do up to eight shuttle lines.

As the automated switching can trigger magnetic accessories too you can have boom gates etc activated as well as points. The routes can be named too so that they can be called after the destination or any other name you wish. The Ecos can manage up to 1024 routes with up to 256 magnetic accessories each. You can also put points in the depot area, and each magnetic accessory can be assigned its function, so you can differentiate between regular, double or 3-way turnouts from de-coupler tracks or streetlights, etc.

Decoder programming is easy. There is programming on the main or in a designated programming track. You can call up, and check, all the features of a decoder while it's operating on your layout. All the parameters are shown in plain text for easy comprehension.

You can also use your old or starter system with the Ecos through the Ecosniffer port. So at some point I will connect my old system to use the handheld. There is a remote control made by ESU which can go with this system or alternatively the new entry level system which ESU has made for Bachmann will also be fully compatible and has a remote control of sorts which can be used with this.

All in all I think this is an ideal system which is very easy to use. The software makes complicated functions very easy to do. The system is self explanatory and employs a help feature similar to Windows which you can use when unsure. I actually found it very similar to Windows to use. I believe it is the best system for the money as it fulfils all of my requirements but, obviously, other people may have different requirements so look at the features, see what you will use and what you will not. There are many features which I have not used yet and as this system has huge capabilities I will cover some of it's capabilities in detail such as the shuttle feature as I discover them in my blog. A review of it's entire capablities would be too extensive to do in a column like this. I don't really see how you can improve on this unless you spend a lot more money on something like Zimo but Zimo do have their shortcomings. Look at the size of the screen and the format of the information. We also don't fully know what new features will be provided for the Ecos. I'm more than happy with this and would thoroughly recommend it to any potential buyer.

Link to official site: ESU Ecos

Rating:


Positives
Easy operability.
Easy loco programming.
Touch screen.
20 Functions.
One of the most recent designs.
Made by Europe's most popular manufacturer of sound decoders.
Basis of a currently expanding range of DCC equipment.
Good compatibility with other systems through Ecosniffer.
Can be used with AC and DC digital.
Shuttle feature.
Automated switching and magnetic accessories.

Negatives
Relatively expensive although you certainly do get your moneys worth.
Support is mainly German language although there is an online forum if you do speak German. If you buy in the UK there is your dealer.

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BACHMANN DYNAMIS - FIRST IMPRESSIONS



I received my Dynamis a couple of hours ago from The Signal Box. Ordered yesterday for £80 + p&p, so very impressed with their service, and obviously struck lucky on availability.



My layout is currenlty non-existant due to a recent house move, but I will set up a test cicuit shortly. However, I have already powered it up to have a 'play', and these are my first impressions.

I have owned/tried out a fairly large number of DCC systems, currently I have a ZTC 505, and a Roco Multimaus which is feeling a bit poorly so is on its way back to Germany shortly. I also used to have an Intelllibox, and briefly owned an EZ-Command (too basic for my needs), and a Select (VERY briefly, nuff said). Anyway, back to the Dynamis...



The Dynamis is nicely presented and packaged in a window-style box giving view of both the handheld unit and the command station. The main headline on the front of the box states 'Full NMRA DCC conformance', complete with the appropriate logos.

Opening the shrink wrapped box reveals an ESU branded power supply rated at 2.3 amps. The 3 pin plug can be unclipped and replaced with the supplied Euro 2 pin plug if required. The handheld controller has multiple branding printed on the back, including Bachmann Branch Line, Spectrum, and Liliput, so it is cleary designed to be distributed within the Bachmann Industries group as a whole.



The build quality appears good, the plastic has almost a slight rubber feel to it, and the unit feels comfortable to hold. there are 2 battery compartments held in place by clips on the top rear. It was a slightly nerve racking moment for me, as the first cover sprung open. If there is a weak point to the design, it may well be these clip fit covers, as there is some force placed on them by the battery springs once the batteries are loaded. I would have preferred screw fixed covers, but time will tell.



Powering up the unit, the first thing that grabs you is the quality of the display, which has backlighting and everything appears in dark blue on a grey background. My eyesight is not the best, but I find the display very clear and bright. The text font is a little unusual and takes a bit of getting used to, very small 'Y's for example, I can see some people taking a dislike to it. I think it is a compromise to fit as much information in as possible. The backlighting goes off after a preset amount of time without a keypress (This can be altered).



By default the unit powers up ready to control loco 3, but the unit defaults to STOP mode, and a green LED flashes on the base station, becoming constant once the stop button is pressed to allow power to the track. The default speed steps are 28, I quickly changed this to 128 and was impressed to find that a gentle up or down nudge of the joystick gives precise single step control over the speed settings, something I was not able to achieve with the ZTC lever. Holding the joystick either in the up or down position allows much more rapid change to the speed of travel.





The manual makes no mention as to whether it is possible to READ CV values. This question has already been raised in another thread, no definitive answer has yet been given. The packaging and manual make great play of the fact that the Dynamis offers full CV programming, but if the device cannot read back the values many will see it as a dealbreaker.





I stress that I do not yet know the answer to this, I will have a play tonight and then post back. If the unit can read CVs then the value for money for £80 is almost unbelievable, if it cannot read CVs then it places the unit in the same category as the Roco Multimaus to be honest. I.e. full loco programming and accessory control, bu no CV reading ability.



Hope this is useful information.

Regards
AshleyH


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Ian Wigglesworth
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750 Posts
Review NCE Powercab

Before we start, I would like to point out that I started with the Bachmann EZ command and for what it is it works very well, but it is VERY limited!
I then went to Digitrains luckily for me they are only 10mins away, they have a full demo layout set up with all of the major DCC systems connected so you can go and have a play and try all the systems with sound chipped locos, it really is the only way to get the best system, you can ask on forums but what I like you may hate!!!
After trying the systems and looking at my budget the NCE PowerCab really was the only choice.

Ok here we go:-



In the box you get the hand control or should I say, Power Cab
Seven feet flat cable
2 pin power supply, I bought mine from Digitrains who supplied a 2pin adapter plug.
Power Panel (marked PCAB-PP)
Coil Cord (4 wire) to use as Pro Cab
Power Cab user manual

The 7 foot flat cable has 6 wires connected in the RJ12 connectors at each end this is plugged into the LEFT HAND socket on the PCAB-PP.
6 cores as 2 cores provide power to the track.

The coil cable has only 4 cores connected in the RJ12 connectors this is ONLY used when you want to connect another cab to the RIGHT HAND connector on the PCAB-PP.

It can also be used to connect the Power Cab to a Powerhouse pro box(the track power in this system is fed directly from the powerhouse pro box)

The power supply is a maximum 2amps, but I have run 2 OO gauge loco's 1 with sound and 2 N-gauge locos all at the same time, with another decoder running a OO turntable!
I still had some power left!!

Just as a bit of information, the PowerCab doesn't have a separate output for a programming track, you can however buy an automatic switch from NCE that when you enter program track mode will automatically switch between main line and program track.
The two wires from the PCAB-PP go straight into the auto switch, this then has two outputs one to the mainline and one to the program track.
The reason for program track...there is reduced power, not enough to run the loco but enough to program it, this should prevent damage to the decoder if you've wired it up wrong!
I haven't done this, I have used a DPDT(double pole double throw switch) the two wires come from the PCAB PP and into the switch, in one position the layout is all mainline, in the other position one section of track is completely isolated and this becomes the program track.

It seems to work very well, but also means I can drive my locos onto the program track flick the switch then program them.

It would be useful to download the manual from NCE at this point as it will help to reference the buttons.

PowerCab Manual

The PowerCab is only a starter system and as such can only hold 2 locos in its recall memory, it would be nice to have more but too many and it would take forever to scroll through a big list!!

The recall stack just means that when you run two locos, by pressing the RECALL button will swap between the two running locos, the speed and direction are remembered and stored so if you speed it up it will speed up from its current speed, to add a 3rd loco you will need to press SELECT LOCO then the loco address then enter.
When you do this one of the other locos will be forgotten by the cab, it may still be running but the speed and direction will not be saved you will need to re enter its address to control it again, but as its not in recall memory as soon as you change something it will default to a stop and start from a stopped position.

Hard to explain that!

For a starter system it does have a lot of features, you can operate functions and accessories such as sound chipped locos and points but not only that you can also program macros or routes.

To operate loco functions such as sounds or lights, you just select the loco then by pressing the number keys will turn on that function, pressing the number again will turn that function off....how simple is that!!
It also has some short cut keys so if you press lights the lights will turn on, press BELL the bell will ring etc.
When you press these buttons the number will show in the display to tell you which function is still active.

To operate points you just press SELECT ACCESSORY then the address of the accessory, on screen you will get a 1 or 2 pressing either one will switch the point.
The Power Cab will allow you to set up 16 macros, each macro can contain 8 points, but you can link each macro!!

So press the MACRO button then the macro number and all of the points you have set up will all move in the direction you have set, fantastic and very easy!

There are all the different set ups you can use to, setting up the cab control, consists, function mapping, motor control and lighting effects (when the loco has a NCE decoder fitted!)
You can also set up the cab in two modes, one for mainline operations so that no matter how many times you turn the thumb wheel it just speeds up to max or slows down to a stop.
Or you can put it into shunting mode so that when you turn the speed down it will stop the loco then make it go in reverse without having to press the direction button.

One feature that is very useful is the ammeter! (current draw of locos)
Instead of using the clock you can enter the cab set up and just select track current, amazed that a starter system has this feature, you would be surprised at how little current modern locomotives draw.

The system can easily be added to by using the Smart Booster or the other standard boosters, each type needing its own 3amp power supply.
The Smart booster does allow a further 3 cabs to be attached it also allows the cabs to be disconnected and moved around the layout as a true walkabout type system.

You can add one more cab to the basic Power cab system, there are 3 cabs to choose from including another Power cab!

You can also buy the Powerhouse pro box and 5 amp power supply and plug you Power cab into that and have a full Powerhouse pro set up.

Support is excellent, I have had quick replies to any of my questions from NCE and the upgrades are easily done, as NCE send out a little Eprom chip that gets plugged into the Power Cab.
BromsMods played a blinder here and acted on behalf of us owners and arranged shipping of the new Eproms, Like I say excellent support from NCE and UK suppliers!

Over all a VERY easy user friendly system, the manual is very good and easy to follow, the on screen instructions make it simple to follow things through.

The features on this system are quite amazing, I really couldn't class this as a starter system, there are just too many features on it.
I have no hesitation in recommending this, the features and price make it very hard to beat.

POSITIVE

Amazing value for money
Excellent support
Easy upgrade path
Very easy to use
Easy loco programming
Function operations simple
Ability to program routes
Feature Rich

NEGATIVE

USA 2 pin power supply
Only 2 locos in recall stack
Still waiting for PC interface

OVERALL RATING:


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Ian Wigglesworth
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750 Posts
Review Hornby Elite

I did this review when the Elite first came out, since then there has been another firmware update it is now at V1.2

So some things will have been changed from my initial review I will try and highlight these as I go along....I don't have the Elite anymore so can't confirm what has or hasn't been fixed.

To start with, I have been using the NCE PowerCab for quite sometime and it is a fully featured system and very easy to use but, I wanted to try a console type system and until the Hornby Elite became available there was nothing in this price range.
It really does pay to try as many systems as you can before you buy.
Yes the ECoS was out there, along with it's price, and I just can't afford that sort of system, and most of what that can do would be wasted on my layout.

When you get the Elite it only has 1 pair of wires to connect to the track, bit of let down really as you will need 2 pairs of wires, one pair for the main track and one pair for the program track.
You have to put the loco on the program track to program the address, so you can't do a lot without wires to connect it to a program track.

The instruction manual I found very clear and easy to follow, there are menues and by selecting the menu you will be presented with sub-menues.
These are all selected by pressing down on the control Knob 1 or 2 doesn't matter when in general programming.
The following menu chart makes things easier to find.



So to program a loco?
Very easy, it's just a matter of pressing the Menu button down the side of the screen to access the menu, by pressing control knob 1 or 2 will confirm your selections.
When running the loco, the top left hand of the display will highlight with TRAIN, when you enter a program mode this will stay lit but next to it another highlight will appear SETUP.
When you program an accessory then the TRAIN highlight will go out and ACC will light on the top right hand of the display.
The Control knobs turn very easily, but you can feel notches as they turn, all buttons and the control knobs do give a satisfying click when pressed not like some, when you have to wonder if you've pressed it or not!





The two pics show control 1 and control 2 identified by the number top right hand of the screen.
To switch between the two control knobs you just turn the one you want to control, which ever you turn becomes the active one, very simple.
I programmed controller 1 with a loco and set that off on it's way, did the same with controller 2.
I then just pressed loco entered another address and controlled that 3rd loco in a siding all very easy.

From the manual.

"The Elite can hold 254 locomotives in memory. At any one time the Elite can in theory have running(providing power is available) or on standby 64 locomotives, if you call up a 65th loco, one of the previous 64 will be removed."

By going into a menu you can also not only use an address but also name the loco as well as shown in the photo, TREMATON, which is Trematon Castle (will only fit Trematon.)
To enter the letters it's a little like text messaging just press the number keys until the letter you want is displayed. If you rotate control knob 2 though you do get some other symbols appear and lower case.

There are loads of features that are available and all are easily accessed using the function buttons and confirming with the control knobs.
The Elite has been designed with the newcomer in mind, but will also enable experienced users to make the most of the CV settings.
Take for instance the start up voltage, in the menu you can select START V and enter a value upto 255, (this depends on the decoder used and if it can be adjusted)
This will then program CV2 with the value you have selected.
CV2 is the start voltage, which you can also change in the direct programming mode.

Programming an accessory decoder is much the same as programming a train, it will also allow you to name the accessory, such as POINT1, POINT 2 etc, very useful!



This shows the accessory address, top right hand corner shows ACC so you know it's an accessory address.Once an address is selected, to change the point you just press the control knob. Press it will go one way and the direction arrow will change, pess it again it will go the other way and the direction arrow will change back.

The functions are one area that could be improved, you have to press function then select the function number which turns the function on.
To select another function you have to press funtion and select the new function number which turns that new function on.
So you select function 1 then select function 2, both are now on.
You can quickly switch off the last function, in this case 2 by using the on/off button.
To switch off function 1 however you have to press function , then number 1 to make it the last programmed function.
Also I have found that when you switch on a function for controller 2 it automatically switches it on for controller 1.

This bug has been fixed so that each controller turns on it's own functions, you still need all the buttion presses to operate function though

A little bit of firmware tweaking needed there, yes it works but it's a bit long winded, it would be nice as well to select if a function is a quick on off pulse or permanently on, for using bells and whistles.





Control 1 and 2 showing at the bottom are functions 1 and 2 which have been switched on for each controller.

A nice feature is the control knobs, turn them slow and the segments in the centre, where the RED ARC is take forever to black out, turn the contol knob quick and they black out quicker!

The start up direction has been changed along with the way the segements fill in on the new firmware

So it's for beginners?

Well no, not really it's also aimed at the more experienced user as well, all the CV values can be read and written to depending on the decoder used of course.
You also have DIRECT, PAGED, REGISTER and OPERATE(on the main) programming modes.
I did have an issue programming CV29 using a ESU Loksound decoder in DIRECT mode, it wouldn't read back the correct value I had entered.
I then used PAGED mode all ok, it does actually say that in the decoder manual though.

The Digitrax DZ123 was fine in direct mode, for both reading and writing values.



CV 29 read showing a value of 35.

I believe this has been sorted in the V1.2 firmware

I have also programmed my two SMD82 accessory decoders, which are programmed by CV's
I use these as they can be programmed to give routes, something the Elite can't do, to be fair a few systems can't program routes either.
It's nice to know though that by using the Elite with the SMD82 routes are possible.

I have had some strange things happen such as changing direction on the main or on the program track.
Lost complete control of the loco, it was like it wasn't there.
I found that in the CONFIG menu there is a setting for EXTENDED address, as I use 4 digit addressing I thought I had set this but have found when you turn the power off it resets to SHORT, which confuses the system.
This may have been fixed in the latest firmware update(V1.2)
Another firmware tweak! which I have to say is a very easy process.
Download the new firmware from Hornby connect up the Elite to the PC with a standard USB cable and follow instructions. New firmware installed.
Yep that easy I've already done it. The Elites come with version 1, I have updated mine to V1.1

I would recommend this system, for a good console type controller.

POSITIVES

Two control knobs makes it easy to control two locos
3 amps to the track 1 amp for accessories.
Very easy to update firmware, at present they are also free!
Alpha Numeric display use name and address your locos.
Naming points, nice if you need to double check which one your going to operate.
Seperate output for program track.
Built in PC interface, works with RR&CO and Rocrail

NEGATIVES

Function control very long winded with too many button presses.
Looks a little bit plasticky.
Not as intuitive as some of the other systems.
Too expensive, compared to the competition.

OVERALL RATING:


Please leave comments in this parallel topic (HERE)
 

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ESU Mobile Control for Ecos 50100



The ECoS was designed to be a central command station around which other features could be attached. One of the more significant of these is the Mobile control for ECoS which enables wireless control of switches and locos. This product was only recently released and will broaden the ability to control large layouts.

The mobile control comes with an instruction manual and an alternative cover for the compartment into which you plug the reciever module. The insutruction manual is a photocopy and the downloadable copy from ESU's website is larger, clearer and in colour. This is better as there are diagrams showing clearly how to instal the receiver module correctly. This is something you don't want to stuff up as if you break the receiver module, the rest is worthless.

There is also an alternative cover for the compartment where the reciever model isinstalled. This differs from the existing one in that it has had one of the catches which holds it in place removed. I had to significantly modify this second panel as I could not get it to fit. Once the receiver module was installed there was a gap of only 0.5mm between the receiver module and the side of the compartment. The width of the plastic cover is around 1-1.5mm and also has another 1mm where the catch protrudes, in short it would not fit. I had to cut out a large chunk of plastic to get it to go in place as I did not wish to leave the receiver module unprotected. This expensive modern piece of technology is now held in place by a comparatively cheap piece of sticky tape! It is unlikely that many other people will have this issue as I have not heard anyone else report this, it is merely a result of the positioning of the pins on the circuit board. I did not wish to force the plastic cover in as breaking the pins is not a desirable conclusion to setting this up.



There is no stand provided for the mobile control to sit on however this is not a big issue as it can stand where ever you like it.

I had concerns about how this instalation would go as there have been reports on the ESU ECoS forum of the mobile control not coming up on the set up menu. To explain this I need to tell you that in order to use the Mobile Control for ECoS as opposed to the regular Mobile Control you must at least have software version 1.1.0. Once this is installed, when the receiver module is inserted and the ECoS restarted, in the set up menu beside the Ecosniffer and S-88s in the menu should be mobile control.. Some people have had problems getting this to happen and have had to re install the previous software updates to get it to work. In my case it did not show on the first attempt. I shut down the ECoS and fiddled with it a bit and there it was second time. This was a bit of a relief as I now have a multitude of wires emanating from the back of the ECoS and it gets to be a pain to unplug them all to take it indoors to the computer to update it.


Set up screen where Mobile Control must be shown

I sould also point out that the manual specifically says to remove the batteries from the battery compartment while doing this. Although I didi read this I did forget while doing this and had no problems. Once the receiver is installed you then allocate your locos and points to the Mobile control. You do this by going into the screen shown on the set up menu. Each receiver module can handle four Mibile Controls.



Once this is done you can switch your mobile control on. It takes a while for the information to transmit from the ECoS to the controller so you can go off and do something else in the meantime.



Once it has loaded there are two menus you can choose from. One for locos and one for switches. It is all in German to start with. You cannotchange the language until you have uploaded the information from the ECoS to the Mobile Control.





You scroll through the locos and as the highlit names arise the scroll sideways across the screen with the full name in a ticker tape fashion. To select a loco or a point you click on the central rotary control. It is similar to using a mouse on a computer. The first thing I have noticed here is thatthere is far greater slow motion control than on the ECoS. While ou get exactly the same speed steps and can choose the same settings it is easier to get fine control as each forward movement of the rotary control is half a speed step. The mobile control allows you to operate 20 functions on your locos.



The functions are shown on the left hand side as a series of squares. To access functions from 11- 20 you press the shift button. The squares increase in size when they are activated. The above loco has functions one, five and seven activated. Direction is changed by clicking the central rotary speed controller. Speed is incresed by rotating away from you and lessened by rotating towards you.

If a loco is under control on the ECoS the speed step flashes and it will not allow you to control the train. Icons for locos are more limited than the ECoS but are adequate.

Points are activated in a similar manner and operated through another menu. You can allocate and control a total of 64 magnetic articles or points from the Mobile Control.



One issue I have noted is that the stop button is located at the bottom right of the keyboard. This maens that you need two hand to activate it as your thumb cannot readily reach it. This is the only thing I could find that could be improved.

In some ways it is similar to operating a mobile phone. The two top buttons give choices for yes and no or select and exit. It is very easy to use and ergonomic. Once you have found your way around you find yourself looking at the trains while controlling them rather than the controller. It works fine even when the control is not in line whith the ECoS. In fact I went out side the garage to test whether it would trun things on and off and it all worked perfectly. I only had this delivered a couple of days ago and I am very impressed with it. It is likely to be my main method of controlling the layout as it enables me to stand at the scenic side of things and admire the view rather than hiding round the back. I do like the fact that it is a good size and only contains what is neccessary. Many hand controllers are very bulky as they try to include too much. This is one of the benefits of being the extension of a central command station rather than the central command staion itself.

I would certainly recommend this to anyone who has the ECoS as an essential piece of kit. Several of these mobile controls can be used from one ECoS so if you have friends round you can all stroll around operating with the mobile controls. It is important to mention it is only a controller and not a programmer. It will only control what you have already set up on the ECoS, but it does it well.

It is interesting to note that ESU have releasing a radio control version of the Dynamis this year. It remains to be seen whether this is intended to replace or compliment the Mobile Control for ECoS, although I do note that this controller eviewed here does not appear on their new website but is only mentioned. The specifications are almost identical and it may be possible to use both forms of radio control together. I do prefer the single handed format of this controller though.

Positives
Good ergonomic hand held
easy and intuitive to use
excellent fine speed step control
greater freedom when controlling your layout

Negatives
location of stop button
slight delay of a second in activation of functions
Support mainly German language

 

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Peter Lucas
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330 Posts
Roco Multimaus Pro Review

View attachment 3259

The system is well packaged in a box containing:

The handheld controller
The control box
A USB computer interface
Rocomotion layout control software on CD
A track connection cable
An instruction manual in English, German, French and Italian

There are three extra things needed to use the system:

Three AAA batteries for the hand held controller
A transformer delivering 18-24v DC or 16-18v AC. I used a spare AC plugpack I had.
A second track connection cable for the programming track. The retailer gave me one.

After connecting the control box to the plugpack and loading the AAA batteries, I was able to drive a train immediately using code 3. Adding my remaining locos was a very simple matter of adding a name, an address and the number of speed steps (all 128 in my case). The names are limited to five alpha or numeric characters. My locos are all Great Western so I use the four digit cabside numbers followed by P (for passenger), G (for goods) or R (for railcar).

The list of locos can be reordered any way you wish and locos selected by scrolling through the list. Alternatively, you can just enter the loco address to select a loco.

Operation with one hand, left or right, is easy and tactile using your thumb to turn the speed control wheel forward or back. The function keys are also within easy range of your thumb and their status shows on the screen. Anyone with a small hand would have difficulty operating the controller with one hand due to its shape. In the event of a derailment, etc. the hand controller slips into the pocket very easily when two handed repairs are needed.

The hand controller is true wireless, not IR, and therefore does not need line of sight. I have been able to move around my layout and control was reliable at all times regardless of which way I was pointing.

The function keys work in a very neat way. Most of my locos have sound decoders so I use the function keys a lot to trigger whistles, safety valves, injectors, horns, etc. To turn on a long lasting sound, like a safety valve, I just touch the function key to start it and then again when I want to stop it. This is often called "latch" operation. If I am sounding a short sound, like a whistle or horn, then I press the key and hold it down for at least a second and then release the key to finish. A second key press is then not needed to stop the sound. This is called "momentary" operation.

Double heading (yes, it is called that, not consisting) is easily set up by selecting the locos and pressing the menu and zero keys.

The Multimaus Pro will handle up to 2048 points in the usual manner and has clearly labelled buttons to switch the points. You can also set up a maximum of 64 "routes", each of which can be given an alpha or numeric short name and can contain up to 16 point settings. These routes can be selected by scrolling through the names or by address.

Programming is possible on the main or on a service track, the choice being by menu selection. An internal relay switches over between the main and the service track so no plugging and unplugging is needed. CVs are changed in the usual way by entering a CV number and value. CV 29 settings are just a matter of making some menu selections with no need to be concerned about bit positions and calculating decimal equivalents.

Rocomotion software was included with the Multimaus Pro and contains three modules, all derived from Railroad & Co's products:

Using a personal computer to control a layout including train location
A program which lets you add your own pictures into the layout control software
Using a personal computer to read and write CVs by point and click

I had a little play with these but will probably not get to using them seriously until I have made some more progress on my layout.

A comment was made recently that the "Train Set" DCC systems had issues and were unlikely to survive because DCC is a sideline for those manufacturers whereas for specialists like NCE and Lenz it is their entire business. I agree but think that Roco is the exception. The Multimaus Pro is the equal, if not better, than any of the specialised systems I have tried out and/or investigated in choosing my new DCC controller.

Positives
Reliable wireless
One hand control with reversing, thumb operated speed control
Very easy to use and configure using English menu selections
Worked immediately with my Hornby, Bachmann, Loksound, Lenz and TCS decoders
Neat ability to use function keys on a "latching" or "momentary" basis
Comes with all the PC software I am ever going to want
Does everything I can think of
Very good value for money
Negatives
More expensive than non-wireless systems
Service track lead not included in the box
Otherwise nothing that I have found so far

View attachment 3259
Regards
Peter
 

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72 Posts
Bachmann E-Z Command Review

OK here is my review of the Bachmann E-Z Command DCC System which I own!

(image just one found from google at this time untill I can take some pictures of my system)


Over all its pretty simple, plug and play like a DCC should be really, never had DCC before this so I figured "ok Ill be spending about an hour for each loco that I have (I have One now, and I did have a second one that got traded off for another basic Bachmann DCC engine) and I do plan to use it with another one that I usually use with my DC system...

now as soon as I opened it up I saw three items, the controller, the power plug and the wire that would go from unit to track, simple how I like it! The plug that hooks into the controler looks to be the standard 3.5mm connector.

overall I like its easy and the programming is just push the function button (make sure you have your train address selected for the train to be programmed to) then just hit function again (you may have to hold it down, i honestly forget how to do the programing as I only have three trains that I use it with and they are already pre-programmed.

PROS:

Simple, easy to use
small
can run up to 9 engines at a time

CONS:
Could be made with more functions

OVERALL RATING:
 
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