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Hornby DCC

4810 Views 17 Replies 8 Participants Last post by  Gary
Q: How many digital technologies do Hornby possess?

Q: Do you think that they will design a new system from the ground-up or reuse some of their existing technology?

Q: Will they produce a new system themselves or will they do so in collaboration with and existing DCC manufacturer?

Q: What are the possibilities that they may or may not produce a NMRA compatible system?

Q: Will DCC finally become a mass market commodity (amongst hobbyists) with Hornby producing components and decoders - thereby bringing the price down?
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Hornby will have used the Zero 1 technology.

Happy modelling
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I was very suprised when Hornby produced "Live Steam", I thought we were going to get a DCC system then. Live steam cannot really be a commercial success. What chances for DCC ?, my money is on Hornby teaming up with one of the existing systems, if they do offer DCC.
Any non compatable system would be dead in the water, but who know's with Hornby.
All current DCC users are using main stream equipment and there's a lot of them. It dos'nt make commercial sence for Hornby to wonder off and produce their own thing.
As a public company Hornby main odjective is to produce profits. Development of their own system would very high. I back the introduction of a basic unit, along the lines of EZ-DCC from one of the known DCC manufacturers.
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I think it will have to be NMRA compatible, no doubt about that.

Hornby now own "Arnold" which we haven't heard much about. Didn't they have a DCC compatible system or am I mistaken.
QUOTE As a public company Hornby main odjective is to produce profits.

Are we saying that the objective of a private company (Peco, Dapol, Bachmann, etc) is to loose money?

Their main objective surely is to deliver what the customer wants. And profits enable a company to invest in new products such as Hornby DCC.

They will be coming out with a fully functional system which can be linked to a PC and which permits control of the trains and layouts remotely via the internet and the use of a webcam. I will then be able to help control the layout of my mate in Australia from my own playroom, and at the same time chat to him via head mic. And I also want to be able to control my loco and layout cab style from my PC monitor and mouse in the same way that I control trains on the Microsoft Train Simulator.

Thats what I want anyway!

Happy modelling

PS now how do I answer those questions?
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There are rumours that Hornby are teaming up with Digitrax.

While it's only a rumour and there's no proof one way or the other, it would make a lot of sense, Digitrax is the only full feature system on the market, and is also the most expandable, with the only fuul feature starter set on the market!
I'll answer the first.

Hornby have 3 digital systems.

The first, Zero One, was the first digital system available. Proprietary to Hornby, gitchy and clunky. It was not a good system. At least they should learn from that mistake

The second is the Scalextric Sport Digital slot car system. There are some similarities but also some big differences. SSD is roughly based on DCC but is much simplified as it only needs to control 6 cars and no accessories. The encoding system is the same and the pulse widths for 1 & 0 are the same. However after that SSD sets it's own standards. There is a preamble followed by a continuous repeating stream using a single address for all six cars with the data being the throttle position for each car. There is then a simple checksum for this complete block of data. With the building blocks of this system developed by Generics of Cambridge, they could build a new DCC system from the ground-up.

The third, is the Arnold Digital System. A mid-market system, bought by Hornby as part of the Lima acquisition in 2004. Arnold was made part of the Lima group in 2001. More info in the Arnold system here. This system uses two buss systems: IIC-BUS which are compatible with some older Märklin Interfaces, and the XBUS which is basically an XPressNet connection (developed by Lenz).

I think if they had looked hard at the Arnold system, it could be a great foundation to any new and modern DCC system. It has everything that a modern system requires: good functionality, expandability, features, compatibility and is relatively economical.
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The first, Zero One, was the first digital system available. Proprietary to Hornby, gitchy and clunky. It was not a good system. At least they should learn from that mistake
I think at the time system one was a bold leap. It was a non standard system that lacked sufficent support. It was way ahead of it time, given the advances in micro chips, and micro electronic's as a whole.
The entry of Hornby into DCC (assuming here it will be Standard NMRA compatable system) is to be welcomed as spreading the net of DCC users.
Intresting times.
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Hornby have made this official statement on their website in the last few days:-

QUOTE Hornby announced earlier this year that a new DCC system would be available in 2006. More news on this exciting project will be announced when the new range for next year is released (from January 1). From then until its release news will be regularly published on and in the modelling press.

Happy modelling
If Hornby are going to introduce a DCC system, it might be politic for them to reexamine how DCC chips are fitted to their steam locos. Given that newer models appear to be more finely detailed, with relatively fragile parts, dismantling them is not particularly easy. If DCC is a way forward, then Hornby need to consider designing models to which chips can be fitted with the minimum of fuss. Your website guides are good and clear, but highlight the current failings in the designs. It might be worth asking Simon Kolher or others at Hornby, how far they carry out reverse engineering on products made by rivals, both at home and abroad, and where they intend chips to be sited in the future.
They should follow Peco's lead, and factory fit the decoder!
From my experience with the Arnold system it's only being used by a few crackpots...
but if Hornby didn't allow that to dissuade them the Arnold system could serve as a viable foundation. I understand the the Arnold system was designed by Lenz so maybe they can turn to them one more time.
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QUOTE They should follow Peco's lead, and factory fit the decoder!

Now the model railway market in the USA is at least 5 times the size of the UK.

And DCC in the USA is a relatively mature market.

Are there any American model loco manufacturers that fit chips as original equipment?

And if there are, do they offer a no chip option?

Lets see if there is a mass market precedent for this.

This really is a question for our overseas friends but anybody can "chip" in
if they want to!

Happy modelling
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I would have to say that it runs the gamut. Some offer DC and DCC versions, some are DCC ready and some still have their heads in the sand. Personally I prefer that they just made them DCC ready and I can choose my own chip.
Gary, where do you get the figure of '5 times' and how do you define 'mature'.

I think that plenty of Americans may use DCC, but that does not mean that they know all the answers. Their locos are big and square. Easy to take apart and to chip. So easy in fact that sound decoder chipping is a no-brainer.

The size of our European locos mean that we have to struggle a bit harder and use other methods to get things to work.
QUOTE Gary, where do you get the figure of '5 times' and how do you define 'mature'

The USA have 5 times the population and they are about 10 years ahead of the UK in terms of the marketing of DCC so relatively mature. When I buy the American Railroad Modeller magazine (occasional purchase) it is full of full page adverts for DCC and has been for years. It is big business in the USA but in the UK it is very much a cottage industry with a few small distributers and one onshore manufacture (for the moment of course). I read somewhere that the USA railway modelling market is now worth one billion dollars which is about £600m. That probably makes it more than 5 times the UK market.

QUOTE They should follow Peco's lead, and factory fit the decoder!

Back to the question of fitting chips as original equipment.

Ok so it happens in the USA.

For those models that are produced with chips fitted as original equipment, are these identical models to those offered without chips, or are they unique models that are not available without chips?

I am not too familiar with the US market.

How many different eras are there and how many different companies?

Is/was the same loco operated by many different companies?

In the UK we have Stanier locos and LMS, we have Gresley locos and LNER, we have Bulleid locos and Southern, we have Churchward locos and GWR and then we have the BR standard locos and the different regions and then the privatisation period. That is about 1000 different types or more for such a small country!!!

How does this compare with the USA?

What I am getting at is that is there the massive variety of locomotives and liveries in the USA that we very clearly have in the UK, and given that there is this massive variety in the UK, how could Hornby possibly satisfy everybody by only chipping some locos? (and Bachmann also of course)

You can see it is very complicated!

Are modellers going to be happy paying for something they don't want if Hornby fit chips to everything?

Happy modelling
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It seems to me that the single most important factor for a DCC system, outweighing all other considerations, is compatibility.

This seems to have been well established in USA, a very large and influential market. Then it follows that this large and solid base should be built upon further by Hornby, that is if they want even a small part of the USA potential. But maybe they don't. Even so, it would still make sense to be an influential part of a world standard, assuming that Hornby wants to progress its recent Continental acquisitions in mainland Europe. It would actually make considerable sense if Hornby were to rationalise all of their European acquired technology and standards in an effort to rationalise their entire product line for the future.
Interesting to note the definition of DCC in the Hornby Jargon Dictionary:-

QUOTE DCC (Digital Command and Control)
The application of computer technology to control the movements of locomotives.Each locomotive is fitted with a decoder (or 'chip') which is uniquely programmed and recognises its own identity and responds only to those control signals which are addressed to it. DCC also allows a wide range of extras including controllable lighting and on-board sound.

Clues perhaps?

Happy modelling
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