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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hi Folks

This could prove to be quite an emotive topic, it may be difficult for you experts to totally subjective. What i'm after is some advice on which DCC system i should choose, I've done a fair bit of research but i'm still a little confused. Bearing in mind that i'm as interested (if not more so) in the technology side of running a model railway as i am any other part of the hobby i have defined my requirements as follows.

My layout will be fairly small and home based so i will only need to run 3 or 4 trains at any one time. However, I'm Fully committed to DCC and want to explore it's full potential that will include, sound, lighting for trains and layout, manual and fully automatic computer control including routes and even things like DCC controlled elecromagnetic based couplings. I'm sure you get the idea.

I'm Sure you will all apreciate that i'm just starting out down this road and i think this initial decision is going to be very important. I Think i have narrowed down my decision between two systems that appear to support my aspirations. They are the Lenz set 100 and the digitrax super chief, at the moment i'm pushed toward the Lenz simply becuase it appears to have a superior warranty and is a little cheaper.

Any advice and guidance you guys could give me would be much appreciated, also i'm out in the sticks in suffolk so if you guys know any like minded people out this way i'd very much like to meet them.

Kind Regards

Mark
 

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DT
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Lenz and Digitrax are two different systems with different communications architectures. So once you have one system, you are tied into the technology when you are looking to add other modules from other manufacturers.

XpressNet is a little more European than LocoNet. There seem to more new devices with XpressNet than LocoNet. XpressNet is not necessarily the best though. LocoNet and other architectures such as the Zimo CAN BUS have better features, but for compatibility, the XpressNet is probably better.

The best advice is to look through the previous topics in this DCC section. You will find that your question has been raised before and you will end up hearing basically the same info as what has been said before - unless those members who are biased towards one system or another are on vacation


There is a systems chart here as well that allows you to compare various features of the main brands.
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
QUOTE (Doug @ 12 Mar 2007, 11:53) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>Lenz and Digitrax are two different systems with different communications architectures. So once you have one system, you are tied into the technology when you are looking to add other modules from other manufacturers.

Where does railcom ? fit in to the equation, it's mentioned quite a lot on the Lenz website, they claim that their hardware already supports it and that the firmware update will be avaialble this spring.

Mark
 

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RailCom is not really used that much yet...

For example, the Lenz LRC120 is a DCC device that displays the number of a loco occupying the section of track to which the LRC120 has been connected. It achieves this with RailCom and will only work on bi-directional decoders that support this technology.

The RailCom steering committee made up of Lenz, Zimo, Tams Elektronik and Kuehn is moving ahead with the next phase of RailCom - basically getting things out to market. They will be pushing the technology forward this year.
 

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Mark :

There are a number of possibilities. From a global perspective , Lenz and Digitrax are the 2 leading brands. From a UK perspective, until recently Lenz was by far the dominant brand, and 3 or 4 years ago the stock UK advice was simply to buy the Set 100 . I'm not entirely clear why Digitrax has conspiciously failed to penetrate the UK - as it is the number 1 brand in the US I don't think the reasons are in anyway technical.

Howeever the world moves on - a number of new systems have since appeared , and are widely available in Britain. Consequently the common contenders here now look a bit different - and are often related to retail availability.

- Gaugemaster offer a version of the MRC Prodigy Advance. Its a little cheaper than Lenz , does not offer a computer interface (which I'd personally consider rather over the top on a small layout) but does seem to be user friendly. I know a couple of people who have them and they speak well of them and have been very satisfied. They are very widely available

- We now have the NCE PowerCab , a well specified midprice system not in LisaP4's table. Limitations are 1.7 amps and 2 cabs , but these can now be addressed through the new SmartBooster. There is no computer interface. Programming is excellent. Thanks to an experienced NCE user from the States, a number of members in the club have now got PowerCabs and seem very positive about them. Even one experienced Lenz user was very impressed , and the new US HO project will be using NCE. Notable UK suppliers are Bromsgrove Models and Digitrains who will sell it for around £95 all up. It is not compatible with non-NCE systems, and a computer interface is indicated , but in the future

- There is also the Roco Multimaus (made by Lenz. This is most cheaply and readily available as part of a digital HO trainset , which seems to be sold on a loss leader basis (I've long wondered about the role of Roco's digital in their financial problems....).What you do with the HO stock is your problem . It's a modern 4 digit system and seems to be much most userfriendly than the Lenz LH100 handset. It has certain limitations - eg limited consisting. UK retail availability seems to be limited. We are certainly thinking very seriously about using Multimaus units as additional handsets on the club Lenz 100 system in preference to more LH100 units - the multimaus would be 2/3rds the price and sounds like it might be a lot more convienient operationally. But we have some reservations going to the Committee to ask for £65 for a bit of kit that no-one's seen in the flesh

Both the PowerCab and Multimaus have the command station shoehorned into the handset , and both can be plugged into bigger systems from their manufacturers as extra cabs (NCE ProwerPro and Lenz Set90/100)

I've got nothing particular against Set100. We have one for the new club British outline project, and have no complaints as to reliability . However I personally find the LH100 handset less than user friendly - there's a certain amount of digging through menus , no control knob etc. I definitely don't like the LH90 handset. Mackay Models , the importer, have an excellent record for service

Moving into more controversial territory, the Hornby Elite is very imminent . Hornby are new to this and the system will be brand new - this is a "would you buy an operating system on release day?" question. The spec looks good, and the price is less than £100 but as the question is whether it will be glitch free from day 1 , we can't say anything until some gets their hands on one. As an Xpressnet system , it should in principle work with Lenz systems, and should offer computer interface

Hornby's DCC and specifically the Select has been highly controversial here - perhaps the safest advice re the Select is to read the thread "ring, ring". There is clearly a signal distortion on some or all Select units - I don't for a moment believe this was intentional or a design feature, and informed posters seemed to think it might be down to a single component in the circuitry. In principle there is no reason why any of this should affect the Elite. If you are considering the Lenz and Digitrax systems you mention the Select is too basic to be relevant to you.

Bachmann's Dynamis sounds advanced and sophisticated. However it won't be available till September - and Bachmann release dates are notorious for slippage

Personally I'm not willing to pay £250 for a DCC system for a small layout, and would theefore be looking at the contenders in the £90-£100 bracket (I'm leaning strongly towards NCE). However I'm not looking for computer interface - I just want easy working of points off the handset. I'm not much interested in sound either, though most if not all these systems will offer plenty of functions.

For what it's worth , Lenz will probably offer more functions than Digitrax, and given the wider options of Xpressnet kit, and Mackays' proven service record I'd incline that way though there may be slightly better route setting with Digitrax
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
Thanks Ravenser, what a minefield !!!!!!


I already have a hornby select, that's what got me going with DCC in the first place. I have already run into problems with it, but that's another story.

I know my original requirements may seem a little over the top for a small home layout but as a computer network systems engineer it really is the whole technology side that's peaked my interest. I know it's probably gonna cost me but i'd rather have a computer interface than spend money on the ultradetailed latest and greatest locos.

In your post you mention your club quite a lot, which is that and where are you located




Mark
 

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>it may be difficult for you experts to totally subjective
That's the easy bit. It's objectivity that's the hard bit.

Since no one else has mentioned them, I'm going to add the ECoS from ESU and Viessmann's commander. You can get to both companies websites from the links section, though I'm not sure that Viessmann are in the DCC section. The ECoS has a built in ethernet interface, so factor that into the plus side when comparing cost against the Lenz units. The downside is that being recent on the market, little is known about how to actually use it with current popular train control programs like "Train Controller" from Railroad & Co. You can get to them from the links section too.

ESU appear to be the company making the running in DCC features at the moment. European suppliers appear to be leading the way on features like RailCom and ABC braking. New DCC developments from Lenz have been few and far between for the last couple of years.

If MMaD weren't away enjoying himself he would strongly advise going for Digitrax as "it just works" which is what all you really want.

Best of luck!

David
 

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Just to add to Ravenser's comments on the NCE Powercab, it is possible to upgrade from the NCE PowerCab to the full NCE PowerPro 5amp system by just purchasing a system box (and a separate transformer). The PowerCab throttle then becomes a PowerPro cab, so moving up doesn't make the throttle you have already purchased redundant.

The USB computer connection for NCE is due, I'm told, at the end of this month.

Regards

John R
Bromsgrove Models
 

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While the Lenz system is good it is a long time technologically speaking since it was made and Lenz do not seem to be interested in updating or porgressing their DCC system. As said by DWB, the Ecos is your best bet at the moment, the other contenders are the Veissmann system and for budget options the MultiMaus and the forthcoming Bachmann Dynamis which is essentially an ESU budget system. Zimo are excellent but are very expensive.

ESU are developing lots of new equipment to go with the Ecos so it's still a developing system. It has the advantage of update downloads via the internet.

The DCC systems chart is needing updated as there are a few errors and omissions on it so it is not that accurate an indicator. It omits the Roco MultiMaus which is one of the best budget systems on the go at the moment. Check spec's with manufacturers instead.

Most good systems can incorporate computer control and some less good ones too.
 

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Discussion Starter · #12 ·
QUOTE (wiggy25 @ 12 Mar 2007, 22:16) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>This guy has done the lot with full computer control or you can do it yourself......how novel!!

Oh yes, thats definately useful. It's exactly what i am aspiring too although not as big.

Where is this model based and do they have open days ? I'd love to see it in the flesh and have the opportunity to ask the operator soem questions.

Regards

Mark
 
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