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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I am considering various DCC systems and I am wondering if anyone has bought and used the Gaugemaster Prodigy Advance system.
If so could you post your thoughts on it.

I have tried the Digitrax handheld and did not like it, I like some of the functionality of the Lenz system 100 but prefer a dial to control speed.
Maybe I will wait and see what Hornby come up with.
 

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DT
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I would wait a few weeks and see what becomes available.

I personally think that the UK version of the Prodigy Advance is a little expensive. It can be bought cheaper in it's original form from the US.

Model Rail Magazine wrote some words on the Gaugemaster DCC control system last month, but it was clear from the text and the photos, that the people writing the article knew very little about DCC and the item that they were supposedly meant to be reviewing. I don't think that they even unpacked it and tried it out.

They did mention that they have now given it to their DCC expert for a test, so perhaps we may here more on the subject from them.
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
I did notice an American company selling the original black MRC version on Ebay for £139 including post. Only possible downside is if anything went wrong it would need to be shipped back to the States where the postage costs would negate the initial saving.
 

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Remember that these things are solid state for the most part. I've had DCC units for 5 years with nothing ever needing to be sent in.

I'm not sure if Gaugemaster would repair anything themselves - most likely just send it back to wherever its made. I'll check up on that though and find out what service they will be doing.
 

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Actually Lenz does have a model with a dial.

My own bias and totally un-scientific opinion would rank the systems like this:

Uhlenbrock/Twin Center
Pros: Complete line of products, form factors (They just look and feel good)
Cons: Sprechen Sie Deutsch?
My system of choice.

Lenz
Pros: Wrote the book on DCC, their decoders are the best
Cons: Don't like their cabs.
If they had better cabs this would be my system of choice.

Zimo
Pros: Their technology is awesome
Cons: They like to do things their own way so you really need to go all the way with them.
Their cabs look like HP Calculators so if you can't add 2 + 2 (actually 2 Enter 2 +) without Reverse Polish Notation this is the system for you.

NCE
Pros: High Quality and very powerful system
Cons: Built for the American market, I didn't see any really small decoders for my stuff. Cab could kil somebody if you hit them with it.

Digitrax
Pros: Very popular in the US, why should this matter? Tried and true for many years of prototype operation. Kept the good stuff left out the BS
Cons: Ugly, hey this is my list!

All the rest.

Notice I didn't list any set manufacturers? The issue with these are that they will always be somewhat behind the companies who's bread and butter is DCC. If this doesn't matter to you then forget everything I said.
 

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Folk reading this should be made aware that both Doug and Dennis are overseas from the UK and probably depend on mail order as they don't have local stockists. That is their perspective.

They are also pretty knowledgeable on DCC!


Its a bit unfair to knock the Prodigy review in Model Rail made by folk who are not DCC experts. I found the review interesting as it was not out of my depth and written by real people who understand the market that Prodigy Advance is aimed at. That is absolute beginners.

Notwithstanding all this there is something that has been overlooked.

The most important consideration for a large number of modellers in the UK I would suggest is "can I pick it up at my local stockist?"

1 mile away my local stockist does Bachmann EZ-Command and Lenz. Sells the chips and all the accessories.

And he also happens to be a Hornby stockist with Hornby DCC just around the corner.

Basically if I went DCC the choice is made!

However if you do depend on mail order then the choice is somewhat mindboggling and Prodigy Advance is readily available now in the UK and with the Gaugemaster name behind it!

Happy modelling
Gary
 

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I don't understand the critisum of the Digitrax handheld. The DT400 is the best handheld in the world, and for people who want a simpler H/H the UT4 is perfect.
With Digitrax you have the choice of either a button or a knob, and you can control two loco's at the sametime IE there's two knobs. (this is ignoring recall where the stack can be up to 16 other loco's).
With Digitrax you have to read the manual to get the best out of the kit. You simply cannot compair Ez-DCC with Digitrax they are totally different markets and applications.
The strength of Digitrax lie in the handhelds. They are perfectly suited for walk around layouts, perhaps over kill if you have a 4' x 8' table top layout.

DCC systems should be bought on features and expandability 1st. In this regard you have to look at the market leaders first: People who look to change into DCC should
examine and try out Digitrax, NCE, Lenz. The principle division between systems is the cab bus. IE loconet, express-net.
 

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QUOTE They are perfectly suited for walk around layouts, perhaps over kill if you have a 4' x 8' table top layout.

How many railway modellers in the UK have anything over 4' x 8'?

A very low proportion.

These hi tech manufacturers design for massive set ups and for operators running 10's of locomotives. Many of the features that you pay for are redundant and will rarely if ever be used by a large number of modellers in the UK.

Why has EZ-Command been so succesful in the UK?

Because it was designed with the train set railway modeller in mind.

I suspect Prodigy Advance was also designed with the train set modeller in mind and only includes features relevant to this market.

Why should somebody pay huge money for DCC control when their layout is a 6' x 4' and they operate no more than 4 trains at a time?

That is a very good question!

It great that some manufacturers are at the cutting edge and offer all sorts of wonderful features. But at a price!

As you can tell I am a cheap skate and would only want to pay for features that I am going to use!


On a tiny layout I am perfectly happy to control my points by hand although it would be nice to have the option to control remotely points in the future. I would like to have smoke and sound and operate about 4 locomotives at a time maximum. Two automatic return loop devices would be nice. And a hand held control sounds good but not absolutely essential. What gives me this and no more?


EZ-Command does not offer the smoke and sound control (I believe) however the new return loop device is a big turn on for me. I would go as far as saying that this is critical to my thinking as it permits the construction of a relatively narrow layout with two loops at each end.

A question for Garry D100? What is critical for you in your DCC control thinking?


Happy modelling
Gary
 

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The one venue where the Prodigy will score well is in the Model Railway club environment. The daisy chain for the hand controllers makes positioning multiple operators simple and they have the ability to unplug, move station, plug in and carry on....

60134
 

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Daisy chaining throttles is all very well if you're in to that sort of thing, but personally I think I'll stick with my Digitrax wireless throttles so I can run my layout from the other side of the room without cables dangling about for my dad to trip over.

Incidently my current layout is 8 feet long by 10 inches wide, I usually have 2 loco's running but occassionaly (sp?) 3 when I'm feeling adventurous. Yet I wouldn't dream of buying a low end system, I want my system to grow with me, I don't want to have to replace the whole thing when/if I build a bigger layout. The bast advice I ever heard when buying a DCC system is to buy the best you can afford, if you can afford (say) a Digitrax Super Chief buy it! Don't just buy a system because it is cheap, you will regret it, and yes I am talking from personal experience.

On another note don't be worried about your system needing to be returned overseas for repair; in 10 years of DCC use I have NEVER had to return anything. In fact the only thing that has ever failed was a stationary I accidently drilled a hole through about a week ago!


And don't forget to check out the DCC Systems Comparison Table, it was put together with the assistance of modellers who have actually used the various systems (including this lot!).
 

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I think I would be a bit cautious with the MRC, my experience with their decoders was that they were only good for the bin, granted that was several years ago, and maybe they have improved.
After Digitrax my second choice would be NCE, dosn't cost too much but gets the job done and has lots of features. It has a good reputation for simplicity. My third choice would be lenz. Zimo I'm not convinced they have suffucient volumes for critcal mass
and sustainability. I've only seen one Zimo system in use in the UK.
 

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The advantage of NCE over Digitrax in my opinion is their ease in running consists which is something that is very important to US modelers that run freight which is the vast majority.

As far as Digitrax, people who buy their systems in my experience tend to love it and never look to change. They have as complete a line of products as anyone could want.

Be careful when you say that a system is "good enough" or "all I'll ever need". There might be a feature you learn you want only to be left out of because you went with a starter system like computer interface or full sound control. (4 independent channels)

To me something is a starter system because it forces you to start over again and again.


Oh and by the way I live in the US and model Deutsche Reichsbahn and Bundesbahn giving me good reason to go to Canada or Germany on buying trips.
My layout is aroun 10' by 30 inches and I plan to have walk around. So who can say.
 

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Discussion Starter · #13 ·
My list for choosing a DCC system is something like this (in no particular order);

1. System cost
2. Accessory costs
3. Ease of use
4. A good cab, preferably with dial control for speed
5. Accessibility for all functions easily (want to run sound chiips)
6. Expansion
7. PC integration. Not too interested in automation at the moment but maybe in the future to a small degree
8. Good support from manufacturer

I took the chance while at Warley to have a go on a couple of systems and these were my early initial thoughts;

Lenz
Nice cab, but the version I prefer (System 100) is buttons only for speed.
Seems well built and well established.

Gaugemaster
Only a quick play, initially thought the cab was a bit big but can see how it would be simple to use and comes with powerpack as standard.

Digitrax
This was the one I most eagerly wanted to see, but was a bit of a disappointment with the cab. I liked the idea of having two dials to control two locos, but when I tried it they were very notchy. There are hoards of buttons which make it look complicated. Not sure if I would use them all or if this is part of the future proof design.

Hornby?
Well I will need to see this offering before a final decision.

Either way I only ever want to buy one system and invest in that. I don't want to buy a cheap one and then find limitations in a few years. Conversely I don't want to but an horrendously expensive system (Zimo) and find I never use the fancy bells and whistles.

Thanks to all for making this a great read for me.
 

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Except for Zimo most of the others (besides the starter sets) are not that different in price. So I would move price a lot lower. Testing the cabs is the way to go. See if you can find an NCE as they have big but nice cabs, especially if you run consists.

You'll find the ones that target the American market have more buttons because they like them that way. In America the market for DCC is in running protypical operations so they need to call up trains , etc with the least amount of button combinations. so that means more buttons. They also run a lot of muti-locomotive consists. That needs to be done easily.

Euros (Germans) are into the bells and whistles so their controlers are not as large but the underlaying system tends to have more features, The Lenz is more about the software. I think many are hoping for better controlers.
 

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You know, I look at that list a couple of posts above and I agree with it all.

That's why I'm still buying Arnold DCC units off eBay until something better comes along.

They are still available, they're cheap, they work well and have a good interface. Expandable, and all that, but no support as the company is defunct. You don't need it though as the products work. On the web, www.arnold-digital.com was set up to give people basic help and product pricing guides.

I still find the Arnold interface just as good if not better than Lenz. I haven't tried Zimo - I'd really like to, but until we see something really better, I'm sorted.

I bought a booster today to help in my layout expansion program.
 

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QUOTE (Garry D100 @ 13 Dec 2005, 20:46)Digitrax
This was the one I most eagerly wanted to see, but was a bit of a disappointment with the cab. I liked the idea of having two dials to control two locos, but when I tried it they were very notchy. There are hoards of buttons which make it look complicated. Not sure if I would use them all or if this is part of the future proof design.

Let me guess you used one of these;


However there are 6 other throttles in their range, so how about one of these;


The DT400 is brilliant for programming, but for just running trains the UT4/UT4R takes some beating IMO. This is one of the things I like about Digitrax, choice!
 

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Discussion Starter · #19 ·
Thanks LisaP4 for that information.
Have you used them at all? I wonder if they are smoother in operation than the main cab.
 

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I've been using the DT400 & the DT400R since they were introduced, they are simply brilliant. I also have two UT4's which is simple and great for visitors, it fits the hand nicely and operation is smooth. I highly recommend both trottles.
I've just been reading about a few problems with a MRC gaugemaster prodigy on another forum. If your going with DCC, best go with an established manufacturer, used to dealing with problems.
 
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