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Ian Wigglesworth
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Having read numerous posts on this and other forums about the different DCC system controllers out there, I do believe we are becoming obsessed with the latest gizmos and gadgets.

Yes, I was taken by the ESU ECoS and Viessmann commander, but in the real world I'm never going to use these systems to the best of their ability!
Is this just buying for the nice flashy lights and screen? (big boys toys and all that)

I have the NCE PowerCab connected to a smallish 7x4ft layout which still needs alot of finishing to do.
On top of this in one corner is a small N-gauge layout, which is finished, just need to connect the point motors up.
This is all controlled by my PowerCab and SmartBooster, which in all honesty I've not really used in anger yet!

I also have my little N-gauge so called exhibition layout, which is finished bar the shouting which is controlled by the EZ-commands.

The two systems I have are more than enough for what I will ever run, so are we all getting ahead of ourselves in wanting all of the latest gizmos and gadgets just because they are the lastest and 'best'

Having tried and used the DCC controller to operate points and now built a switch/mimic panel I have to say that I
prefer the switch panel, just seems more hands on realistic to me.
You still need the extra wiring for point indication(well I do so I know whats set to go where! old age!), regardless of which system you use(ok so I may be proved wrong here!) so unless you start and want to go for the full PC automated layout, something which to be honest really doesn't appeal to me at all.
Is there any major need to go for DCC control of everything?

Yes I completely understand that there are some decent size layouts where these types of controllers will come into their own, but these tend to be from those with experience and have had chance to 'play' with other systems and have found the 'one' for them.
They also have in mind how far they are going to take the layout and to what level of automation.

Wouldn't it be better to get the controller that most fits our own layout and personal preference, and spend the rest of our hard earned, on very good quality decoders and rolling stock to get the best running performance?

It's just my opinions but I do think that alot of time and thought needs to be spent choosing the right system and if it means the very simplistic 'basic' system fits you and your layouts needs so what...spend the rest on really good decoders and locos!

Cheers
 

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I agree with you. As I said on another thread recently, my EZ controller does what I want it to do, so why should I get anything more expensive? Like you, I prefer operating points by switches. When I get signals installed they will be operated either by mechanical means or by switches as well.
 

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Just another modeller
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QUOTE (wiggy25 @ 7 Jun 2008, 21:15) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>Having read numerous posts on this and other forums about the different DCC system controllers out there, I do believe we are becoming obsessed with the latest gizmos and gadgets.

***Yes Ian, I do agree with you. (although as a qualifier - there are modellers who really love the frilly stuff for its own sake, and thats OK too)

my thoughts:

I often think that (mostly new) DCC'ers are totally blinded by the tinsel and forget the core important issues - and this is magnified because most retailers wouldn't know or care enough about DCC to advise them properly anyway... all they want to know is "cash or card"

Basically most competent systems will do more than the modeller will really need.... I'd suggest that though they'd never admit it, faulty thought processes and bad advice do a lot of harm here - So once the opening of the box is done and the excitement is replaced by reality , my guess is that more than 50% actually wish they'd bought something else after a very short time.

This is why I will never sell a system until a customer has talked it through with me and I understand their habits, their expectation, their perceived wants... and their layout aspirations.

as I said in the thread discussing the Veismann...

"We spend too much time looking for the fancy look and wowing at the technobabble - but its train control we are looking for so it should really be all about defining what feels nice and instinctive to use, defining operator roles and control methods properly etc before you get carried away with the techno-toys"

and

"My general advice: Most respected brands will do all you need, so don't just look at the fancy stuff for a controller before you have decided on the basics - walk around or panel type system etc etc etc... sure you can always add things but the core choice will make or break the pleasure you get from DCC."

Ignoring limited competence trainset controllers that indeed do a good job introducing modellers to DCC such as the EZ command and Roco totally.... and ignoring the Select ebcause it still isn't really DCC at all

To me the most important functions / critical decisions on a full system to ensure happyness for owners will always be:

desk type or walk around (a simple personal preference)
does it have a full 4 digit or long adddress ability with no limitations (Aliasing is nice too but not all that important)
does it communicate clearly to me (bye-bye all Lenz, Roco, FLM, Uhlenbrock, many others)
direct one button access to functions (bye -bye Hornby Elite)
comfortable ergonomics and logical keyboard layout (bye bye digitrax chief and empire builder, lenz 90... Roco & many others)
convenient one handed operation (bye bye MRC and gaugemaster)
ability to read back decoders + programming track option (bye bye Dynamis, Roco, many others....)

The simple fact is -

DCC was never designed for what many expect it to do - DCC in fact is NOT really a layout control system, it is just a great train control system that happens to be able to also control accessories as an afterthought (which is why there's absolutely no standardisation in accessory busses....)

In fact while all DCC systems CAN handle it to a degree DCC is quite clumsy with layout control really compared to a computer or a manual panel... So, frankly ther than great train control there are few other things that really matter - all other issues are simply window dressing

Regards

Richard
DCCconcepts
 

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Choosing a controller is a very personal thing. I'd put in the same category as choosing what car you drive. Essentially they all get you from A to B but with quite so many additional features?

As for accessory control, I don't think any DCC control system is there yet particularly with regard to the feedback aspect. Each system has its own bus and protocol and I've decided none are really suitable for what I want. So although I have an ECoS, I will be using separate panels with switches and position feedback for points and hopefully signals.

David
 

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Hi Ian,

A bit of both actually.

I have a decent Hi-Fi system which I am completely happy with.Its more than enough to me.
I also have friends which have, as they put it, state of the art very very Hi-Fi systems. To be honest when listening to both I can't hear the difference in sound quality whereas they, among themselves ,argue extensively how the low frequency sounds of the cimbals are not so good etc.. which sounds gibberish to me cause I can't hear the difference.

I own a ESU Ecos and all my decoders are Esu lokpilots or Loksounds. In my opinion they complement each other perfectly and its headache free which was my prerequisite in buying one cause down hear we do not have a modelrailroad shop around the corner. Believe me, once I had decided on DCC I did extensive research on all consoles. Do I use all its facillities? Hell no. Than why did I buy it? Security, I guess for a not troublsome operation.

I also have friends who are quite happy with their Select's. So let it be....as long as he and I are happy.

Besides there is a saying in Turkish:" I am not rich enough to buy cheap things"

Baykal
 

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I think that the car analogy is a good one. There is a place in the market for Rolls Royce and for cheap Far Eastern imports. If I had to spend a large amount of time driving I would buy something better than my elderly Vauxhall; as I potter around and do less than 5000 miles per year it is is more than adequate. Also you pay your money and make your choice. There were people in East Germany whose dreams centred on owning a papier mache Trabant. When it comes to DCC, I like gadgets and gizmos. They are part of the fun (does this make me a Jeremy Clarkson of the DCC world? What a terrible thought).

So while I almost always agree with Richard Johnson, whose contributions seem to me to be based on common sense and extensive experience, I am not with him on this one. When after a lot of hesitation I went DCC I started with what seemed to me the most sophisticated system on the market at the time (2000), which was an Uhlenbrock Intellibox. I have never regretted this, though rivals have overtaken it, as recognised by Uhlenbrock who have announced a revamped version for next year. Richard is absolutely right that DCC is much better as a train controller than controlling other things, at which it can indeed be clumsy, but there are still some good things that you can do with it. I started with the idea that there was no point in using DCC for point control. Changing individual points with a long series of button pushes on a controller is ridiculous. On my layout, which is a terminal station to a fiddle yard, the station points are all traditionally controlled but the fiddle yard has point decoders (controlled from a panel with a MERG encoder). Apart from saving a lot of wiring, digital control enables me to set up a route into any of the 8 tracks in the fiddle yard with the press of one button on the Intellibox or two on my infrared controller. I find this good.

To dismiss the Viessmann Commander as a technotoy with flashing lights is to do it an injustice. If you look at its full specification it offers (assuming that planned devices reach the market) a great deal of flexibility and many possibilities. I would like one (though I am not going to buy one).
 

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Ahh there nothing like a couple off good gadgets and gizmos. For a while I wanted it all but it became a real pain trying to learn how to control my new dvd tv etc. In the end I just want to press play and watch a movie or listen to some music.

Model trains now, it's not so different, I had a chat with Richard, many moon's ago, cash in hand and he had what I wanted in stock an ESU Ecos. I walked out with a NCE power cab and have never looked back. The kids find it easy to use and I do also. I have not even tapped into half of its functions, you have to read the manual for that!

On the other hand there will be a few rare few modelers out there who will use eg Ecos and other's to there full potential. So keep em coming, we need constant development, its part of our nature.

Gimmie Gimmie, I may not buy but I do like to look!

If you really think about ebaykal Turkish saying it makes a real lot of sense "I am not rich enough to buy cheap things" We have all heard "Buy cheap, buy twice".

m
 

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Ian Wigglesworth
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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
Martin,

I agree, I wasn't trying to have a go at any of the new top end systems, but when I read some of the forums and you have new people to DCC wanting these top end systems it does really make you wonder if they really have thought it through correctly.

TWG, I understand exactly where your coming from and we all like gizmos and gadgets!! nobody is suggesting that we dimiss the Viessmann, it is a fantastic looking controller, and if it lives up to it's reputation it should be the one to beat.
As much as we would all probably love to have one how many of us would actually use it to it's full potential?

Like Martin I've probably not used even 60% of the functions available on the PowerCab!

I agree entirely with each to their own, but if those new to DCC are better informed then they have a better chance of buying something that suits them which will ultimately lead them to have a much better experience and/or understanding of DCC.
 

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A bit late on this one, I had been thinking of changing the FLM Twin-Centers on SL to............... I looked at the ECoS but ruled them out because of the attitude of the UK importers, thought I'd wait for the VM Commander & then decided in a burst of tightfistedness not to bother at the present time. The Twin-Centers do exactly what is required of them on SL.
The Twin-Centers control only the locomotives & as there are only 4 operational points on "stage" they, as well as the ancillery accesories are switched conventionally so really, at the moment I do not require any further features.
I have a Lenz LH100 to control my garden railway & that again does the job.
My partner in crime Dave likes his Multimaus as again it does all he requires.
Quite a few of our customers use the GM Prodigy (which I & many others can use one-handed) & again has all the features that they require.

At the end of the day it's up to the modeller what he or she requires from a system. Yes, its a bit like mobile phones, cars, hi-fi or anything technical, although (as someone else has said) if ready made systems get much more expensive a basic laptop with suitable interface & programming gets more cost effective.
 

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QUOTE (dwb @ 7 Jun 2008, 16:14) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>As for accessory control, I don't think any DCC control system is there yet particularly with regard to the feedback aspect. Each system has its own bus and protocol and I've decided none are really suitable for what I want. So although I have an ECoS, I will be using separate panels with switches and position feedback for points and hopefully signals.

David

I thought that RailCom was supposed to provide manufacturer independent feedback from decoders? RailCom has been developed by a important group of German/Austrian DCC manufacturers (ESU, Lenz, Kuehn, Tams and Zimo) who have been taking the lead in this. I know Zimo have implemented the h/w for RailCom on all their decoders (mobile and stationary). Software upgrades have been provided at regular intervals to update decoders as RailCom features have been implemented. With the MX31ZL controller, you can see the current speed and consumption (in amps) for any loco. Presumably, you get position feedback for points and signals from the attached stationary decoders, although I have none implemented yet, so I haven't seen any RailCom messages from stationary decoders. Must get the real layout built soon and stop messing about with a test track! The documentation for the MX82 decoder (for points and signals) implies this can be done and status lights can even be set directly by the MX82W.

Of course I am assuming that RailCom (or something very similar) will be approved by the NMRA (as an optional feature) soon. It seems that NMRA has gone very quiet on this issue after making a lot of progress a few years ago. It seem the basic protocol has been defined (in RP 9.3.1), but not the actual messages (RP 9.3.2), so it's got stuck somewhere. I though they were close to agreement on this topic (called bidirectional communcition, or revisions to RP 9.3.1 and RP 9.3.2). Does anyone know the current status? Having RP 9.3.1 without 9.3.2 is not a lot of use, as you need the messages to be defined as well as the protocol.

If you have RailCom enabled decoders, then surely you can have a system which always knows the position of points and signals. Of course how you display this information will depend on the control system you implement.
 

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I am a great believer of trying before you buy. Unfortunately for most of us there is not one shop where we can go that there is a full range of controllers that we can have a play with them and make an informed decision.

Yes there are low cost versions out there but you get what you pay for. I am not saying that expensive is best, but once you move into the mid-upper price range you get what you pay for.

As to what I consider to be a slavish mentality towards the NRMA compliance, there are both good and bad points to this. Europe is the home of DCC innovation. Does the RailCom initiative really need the support of the "NMRA compatible tag" given the players involved, or will it ultimately be simply a marketing tag that once the specs are developed, the American manufacturers will use the Europeans R&D and make out that it is their initiative?

John
 

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QUOTE (john woodall @ 8 Jun 2008, 08:20) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>I am a great believer of trying before you buy. Unfortunately for most of us there is not one shop where we can go that there is a full range of controllers that we can have a play with them and make an informed decision.

Yes there are low cost versions out there but you get what you pay for. I am not saying that expensive is best, but once you move into the mid-upper price range you get what you pay for.

As to what I consider to be a slavish mentality towards the NRMA compliance, there are both good and bad points to this. Europe is the home of DCC innovation. Does the RailCom initiative really need the support of the "NMRA compatible tag" given the players involved, or will it ultimately be simply a marketing tag that once the specs are developed, the American manufacturers will use the Europeans R&D and make out that it is their initiative?

John

***You shouldn't dismiss the NMRA compliance so easily John. Neither side of the pond holds sway over its decisions.

Without it DCC would be nowhere near where it is today, and in fact its MOROP and EU standards that simply rubber stamp the NMRA specs and adopt them, not the other way around, because NMRA is actually the only truly Global standards body - NMRA really is NOT a US-centric body when it comes to DCC - it has strong input from good minds and well intentioned representatives from many countries including UK, EU and AU and its standards are influenced by good minds from all places.

If its slow its because its totally volunteer run and it is careful to liesten to all - on all things it formalises the process but awaits input from others before finalising the detail of things, and on the subject that raised this point, Railcom, the drive I see from Mfrs is sadly lacking to the point where I see it quite possibly falling on the wayside before long.

Train control evolution was NMRA standards controlled and its now great globally and across all brands thanks ONLY to NMRA standards - You question the need for standards but look at those things NOT covered by them... accessory control for example is a disaster, clumsy and very poorly coordinated.

Whilst standards are not yet done for some things such as accessory the NMRA has been careful to reserve CV ranges to allow it to happen... If Mfrs are allowed to willy-nilly hijack key CV's for their own purposes this would kill future standards evolution - so without NMRA oversight, DCC future evolution is doomed!

Accessory and "non train control" items were not originally considered as part of the standards and NMRA regrets this now, as the divergence / anarchy that reigns now is a result of this omission.

However there is a very positive initiative driven largely from the NMRA technical chair and US+EU modellers & makers of DCC to create a completely new global accessory bus that will be able to at last bridge all brands - this is actually underway... this I feel will at last bring all the elements together and make digital railways what it should be.

As a final positive for NMRA - they have just had good success in preventing a single company claiming rights to sound generation over DCC systems - a thing that would have been a huge problem for modellers of all prototypes, so you should thank them, not question their mandate!

Richard
 

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QUOTE (TWG @ 8 Jun 2008, 00:31) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>I think that the car analogy is a good one. There is a place in the market for Rolls Royce and for cheap Far Eastern imports. If I had to spend a large amount of time driving I would buy something better than my elderly Vauxhall; as I potter around and do less than 5000 miles per year it is is more than adequate. Also you pay your money and make your choice. There were people in East Germany whose dreams centred on owning a papier mache Trabant. When it comes to DCC, I like gadgets and gizmos. They are part of the fun (does this make me a Jeremy Clarkson of the DCC world? What a terrible thought).

So while I almost always agree with Richard Johnson, whose contributions seem to me to be based on common sense and extensive experience, I am not with him on this one. When after a lot of hesitation I went DCC I started with what seemed to me the most sophisticated system on the market at the time (2000), which was an Uhlenbrock Intellibox. I have never regretted this, though rivals have overtaken it, as recognised by Uhlenbrock who have announced a revamped version for next year. Richard is absolutely right that DCC is much better as a train controller than controlling other things, at which it can indeed be clumsy, but there are still some good things that you can do with it. I started with the idea that there was no point in using DCC for point control. Changing individual points with a long series of button pushes on a controller is ridiculous. On my layout, which is a terminal station to a fiddle yard, the station points are all traditionally controlled but the fiddle yard has point decoders (controlled from a panel with a MERG encoder). Apart from saving a lot of wiring, digital control enables me to set up a route into any of the 8 tracks in the fiddle yard with the press of one button on the Intellibox or two on my infrared controller. I find this good.

To dismiss the Viessmann Commander as a technotoy with flashing lights is to do it an injustice. If you look at its full specification it offers (assuming that planned devices reach the market) a great deal of flexibility and many possibilities. I would like one (though I am not going to buy one).

***Reading your post I actually don't think we disagree at all
. Anyway, its an interesting discussion!

You enjoy the technotoy aspect but my first paragraph acknowledged that was a specific motivation for some and was not in any way a negative... and in choosing your system, you also made a series of specific and conscious decisions ....and chose a system that you felt met your own criteria - most however simply do not, buying on the hype or the feature list rather than the reality of need or understanding of ability - the frills rather than the substance.

In fact given the approach you indicated, I'd guess that you subconsciuosly made several of the choices on the list I offered during that process.... and therefore made a good decision for yourself. MOST do not unfortunately.

Clear thought processes taking into account important issues are all I am advocating.

Re the Veismann: I don't dismiss it - in fact it was noticeable by its absence from my post as were the Zimo, ESU and NCE systems, all of which I regard as excellent control systems without many if any peers in their categories.

NCE is the best by far of the "serious train driver" hand control based systems, with the level of its functions / convenience / ease of use & structure of its handset and communication exceptional.

ECOS is the best matured of the new generation of interactive systems and Zimo is a rolls royce product that bridges the two in many very clever ways.

Veismann is the "Glam blonde" of DCC at the moment... Super pretty & very clever but behind it its just "family" to ECOS's approach, so nothing really special - its simply another in the ECOS mould - a PC structure based product designed for a model railway, but sotware driven solutions need huge constant investment to evolve stably so without the power of an ESU behind it, no matter what its merits, it will possibly be overtaken quite fast by the ECOS evolution....

DCC itself is very, very basic digital technology.... its only the fancy displays and menu interface driven structures that need the frills, so the cost addition is always mostly for the cosmetic stuff, not the down and dirty pragmatic performance improvement.

I also in fact on one level really love the hi-tech stuff but... All the glamour or colur LCD screens in the world can't replace the importance of solid competence in operational software... so.... What is certain is that none of the glitz and glamour of these new products will help the modeller unless HE chooses according to real need and THEY remain usable and perfect at the grass roots level.

Despite my pragmatism here - Its hard not to like the big displays etc.... so I think we have exciting times ahead: Hopefully, many will end up with the best of both worlds!

Richard
DCCconcepts
 

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Horses for courses really. I did a lot of research before I bought my controller and I thought the ECoS fitted my requirements best. I'm not keen on the big clumsy handheld controllers that some systems have, I wanted a large screen where the information is clear and I don't have to learn a system of code to understand what's going on, I wanted something that is future proofed, I wanted digital conrol of points and routes, I wanted a degree of automation as well as a central command station where everything can be controlled from; so thats what I bought.

It's up to everyone to assess what his requirements are and buy a controller that fits those.
 

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I have read this topic with great intrest, and i thought i was getting left behind with all the strides being made with DCC control, but maybe im not, Simplicity is what i need, i have to confess, that some of the terminology used when talking about these controlers is totally beyond me, it goes in one ear and straight out the other, maybe im a technophobe? i have had a model railway since the age of 7, some 50 years now, and some years back bought a Lenz LH100, i stripped out all the old wiring to my loft layout, reconnected all the isolated sections of track, and not looked back, all i use my lenz for is running my locos, and very succesfully too, my points (some 20 in No) are lever and rod operated, (just like the real thing used to be) DCC has bought simplicity to running my trains, and thats what i enjoy, running trains, my layout is set in the late 50s early 60s, i don think there was even a calculater around then, any way as some one said earlier its horses for courses, and this old horse likes it kept simple, because thats where i get my enjoyment from this great hobby.
 

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Ian Wigglesworth
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Discussion Starter · #16 ·
Thunder,

I agree entirely!
I started this post not to flame or try and get people wound up, it was just that I've nearly succumbed to the spending vast amounts of money on something I would never use!
Yes I have bought accessory decoders to operate points, but I still have to add switches and wire them back to an indicator board, not strictly needed, but it's what I prefer having now tried both ways.

If new users to DCC read this, I just hope that they think a bit more about exactly it is what they want from their own layout and what they intend to get from the controller they're looking at, and not neccessarily jump in and by the latest most expensive controller on the market, or what everybody else is using!

Reading the posts above most have said they bought the system they have, after extensive research into what is available and what the controller would do and how they wanted it to work within their own layout.

As the saying goes ones size does not fit all.

I still read posts asking if you can still use the 'old fashioned' switches to operate points even when using DCC!
Seems to be a lack of information out there still!

Cheers
 

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QUOTE I thought that RailCom was supposed to provide manufacturer independent feedback from decoders?

It does but it is slow to appear. I only buy decoders capable of recognising asymmetric DCC signals and which have RailCom support built in which almost restricts me to Zimo only.

I was hoping that RailCom would solve my "problem" regarding feedback from accessory decoder but progress is painfully slow and in the extra time it has given me to think, I have wondered about the wisdom or need to run everything back through the track which is why I have decided to have a separate bus for accessory control and feedback.

David
 
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