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Hi guys I'm building a new layout that will one day hopefully be pretty large (approximately 100 points, 20-30 running locos). However the first section (the main station, based on Newcastle Central Station) features 24 points and I'll have probably 6 locos running at a time. I've decided to use computer control as I want the layout to be at least partially automated and I like the idea of controlling the layout through my PC; gives me lots of ideas for hidden webcams and it's easy to update. I'll be using the JMRI program with xtrkcad reader (the layout was designed using xtrkcad).

Anyway here's my question; as I'm using computer control can I go for a system around the £100 - £150 mark (that's compatible with JMRI) and hook it up to my pc? Would that be sufficient to control the layout to the degree that I want (I'm guessing I'll need occupancy detectors too)? Will the DCC system simply be a broadcaster and receiver for the PC so I can skimp on expensive features? After looking at the comparison chart i was thinking about the Bachmann dynamis.

My second question is regarding the power source, my layout will essentially be 4 medium sized display layouts linked by metres and metres of track, there are no points on the connecting lines so I figure the best would be to power each board individually with power supplied to the connecting sections from the main boards. Is my thinking right? If so please recommend a suitable power source for my first board (24 points, 4-8 locos)?

Cheers guys!
 

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Some controllers are better than others at doing different things, and while price is a factor, in your case I would be looking at what the PC interfaces are like and what accessory decoders are available.

One innovation that may be close to happening in the RailCom initiative (essentially bi-directional communication between decoders and controllers). What happens with this is still unknown, however the Nuremberg toy fair is just over a month away so a lot more could be revealed in the next 6 weeks.

In terms of desk-mounted controllers, the ESU ECOS was cutting edge 12 months ago. However, Marklin have released a new system in October, so I would surmise that ESU and Uhlenbrock (Intellibox 2) are likely to announce new controllers at the toy fair.

Cheers

John
 

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Hi

If the layout will be large then a walkaround system will be important. Forget the Dynamis, its IR range is limited and it really is not suitable for a large layout. It also has weaknesses in that you cannot read Cvs in decoders and therefore tune them properly.

You are at least 50% under-budgeting.... a limited low power system is not the way to start given your planning.

The system I would recommend wholeheartedly to you is the NCE PowerHouse Pro: Big enough power wise for a large layout and it has a computer port built in. It will easily interface to PC and for example is fully supported by JMRI, RR& Co and others. NCE have also released a new product called the "Mini-panel" which can be used for automation and other automated control.

It is still nowhere near as expensive as the EU made systems John mentioned and is at least as competent, as well as being a much easier system to use and far more comfortable in the hand.

regards

Richard

QUOTE (oitoitoi @ 28 Dec 2008, 06:38) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>Hi guys I'm building a new layout that will one day hopefully be pretty large (approximately 100 points, 20-30 running locos). However the first section (the main station, based on Newcastle Central Station) features 24 points and I'll have probably 6 locos running at a time. I've decided to use computer control as I want the layout to be at least partially automated and I like the idea of controlling the layout through my PC; gives me lots of ideas for hidden webcams and it's easy to update. I'll be using the JMRI program with xtrkcad reader (the layout was designed using xtrkcad).

Anyway here's my question; as I'm using computer control can I go for a system around the £100 - £150 mark (that's compatible with JMRI) and hook it up to my pc? Would that be sufficient to control the layout to the degree that I want (I'm guessing I'll need occupancy detectors too)? Will the DCC system simply be a broadcaster and receiver for the PC so I can skimp on expensive features? After looking at the comparison chart i was thinking about the Bachmann dynamis.

My second question is regarding the power source, my layout will essentially be 4 medium sized display layouts linked by metres and metres of track, there are no points on the connecting lines so I figure the best would be to power each board individually with power supplied to the connecting sections from the main boards. Is my thinking right? If so please recommend a suitable power source for my first board (24 points, 4-8 locos)?

Cheers guys!
 

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I think that ultimately, buying a DCC controller is similar to buying a stereo.

At the bottom end of the price range that while it works, pretty soon you have something that you notice it deficiencies and you want a better one.

At the top end it is very expensive (the new Marklin CS II controller is EUR630.00) and ultimately doesn't really give you that much more that a really good mid range system (maybe my hearing is a bit defective, to much heavy metal shaking windows as a teenager!).

If you are going on price the key thing to ask is how upgradeable is it. Richard really does promote the NCE controller for one simple reason. It is future proof (at the moment at least), and is probably the best mid range priced controller out there.

My father in law has one, but being a Marklinist at heart, I really do prefer a desk mounted controller than a walk around throttle! Guess I am just to old to change.
 

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QUOTE (john woodall @ 28 Dec 2008, 16:18) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>If you are going on price the key thing to ask is how upgradeable is it. Richard really does promote the NCE controller for one simple reason. It is future proof (at the moment at least), and is probably the best mid range priced controller out there.

*** Actually you could delete the words "mid priced" - I sell many brands but to me the NCE is fully the equal - at the very least - of the most expensive systems out there. Better in usability, equal or better in features and streets ahead as a "train driving controller".

The exception may well be the full Zimo system, which is a top shelf walk around system, but there is a serious money difference there....

Before any Maerklin, ESU or Veismann owners scream foul, I'm talking in terms of "as a quality train driving controller" - frills such as shuttle and fancy screens are not part of my definition of a train control system - they are computer-like facilities integrated into a system.

Personally I prefer all those those things separated and on a full sized screen, with the full power of a PC behind them, not "PDA like" as in ESU and similar, which means, no matter how good, they are inevitably limited in ability and screen interface within the controllers memory limits.

With Samsung & others just releasing a well priced range of larger touch screens... I think the "full PC + walkaroud control system" is the way of the future... for those who like the technocrat approach to the hobby.

Richard
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
QUOTE (Richard Johnson @ 28 Dec 2008, 08:13) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>Personally I prefer all those those things separated and on a full sized screen, with the full power of a PC behind them, not "PDA like" as in ESU and similar, which means, no matter how good, they are inevitably limited in ability and screen interface within the controllers memory limits.

With Samsung & others just releasing a well priced range of larger touch screens... I think the "full PC + walkaroud control system" is the way of the future... for those who like the technocrat approach to the hobby.

Richard

Those were my thoughts exactly, personally I hate PDA's, I'm even a bit iffy on laptops! I looked into the NCE model, it looks very good but quite pricey. What are your thoughts on the Digitrax Super Chief? I hear great things about loconet.

I really liked the 20A DIY kit described on the quick links section, that would set me back £100 or so. Using that, is there a system around that comes without a power supply that I could connect to the DIY power supply (as not to waste money)?

Basically I think this is the list of specifications that I need in addition to the standard stuff:
- Can use occupancy detectors (for a maximum of 40-50 zones)
- Allows complete control via a computer
- Can program routes via the computer
- Can operate a timetable via the computer.

OR

Would it be better to just go for a simple system now; no computer control, minimal power (I'll still probably build my own power source), no feedback that's required for occupancy detectors etc. and upgrade in a couple of years or so when there's more available on the market and the industry is more standardised? If so please recommend one! Please note that walkabout capability is still important.
 

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*** The NCE is a better sytem for your purpose than the digitrax and about the same price.

You can connect all of them to a power supply of your choice - my preference if you want to save $$ is an unused laptop computer power supply - rock stable and usually 18v at appx 4 amps - perfect.

If you want to start smaller buy the NCE PowerCab now and add the 5 amp system box later - that will split your costs so you can get started now and there is NO downside - the handset for the powerCab has all the full system functions and actually becomes the bigger system controller justby changing to the second cord and connecting it to the ystem box (the powercabe even includes the cord ready for the upgrade). It also includes the power supply you'll need - all for GBP100 appx.

Richard
 

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I have both versions of the NCE systems and can wholeheartedly reccomend them everytime i go to the layout it is a pleasure to use them, easy to follow instructions with scope on the Powercab to expand its facilities in the future as has been outlined from Richard ..... overall if you can afford it oitoitoi go for the Procab.
 

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Thanks so much guys for the help, looks like I'll go for the NCE powercab for now, looks a good deal for the £120 or so. One more question though (it may sound retarded), what's the difference between buying a £60 3A booster/smart booster (what's the difference there?) and buying a £240 PowerPro 5A System Box in terms of features/use?
 

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*** If you want the powercab as part of a start now/upgrade later concept the for the next step the full system box is the best path.

Using the full system box will give you extended stack size (one button recall of loco's) and other things like direct computer interface. There will be NO limitations with the full 5A box but the smart booster really just adds a little more power to PowerCab, and does not extend connectability or features.

Richard
 
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