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DCC Command Stations & Controllers

118645 Views 10 Replies 7 Participants Last post by  Jim S
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:

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

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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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. 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.

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

Sometimes over complicated
A little pricey
Software is a little old

Overall Rating:

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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.

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

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

Overall Rating:

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