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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hi I'm new to the forum and just rediscovering model railways after an absense of about 25 years.

I'm intending to build a layout in N and so I'm facing the usual quandry of getting my locos chipped, because I am convinced DCC is the way to go, but can anyone recommend a control system to start with?

Gaugemaster has been recommended to me and as I'm going to have a fair amount of space to build a big layout (and at least three children, two grandparents, two brothers and sundry hangers on to keep happy), I do like the prospect of adding extra controllers that easily. I've noticed that the original MRC Prodigy is available on ebay directly from the States at less than half the price of the identical Gaugemaster product, the US transformer will handle 240V, so I'm tempted to get one.

Would people generally recommend the Prodigy and has anyone purchased one from across the pond? If so any problems?

I'd appreciate peoples thoughts.
 

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I own an MRC Prodigy "Advance". Don't purchase an original Prodigy, as I hear there are shortcomings in this system - limitations that were improved upon in the current offerings (Prodigy Express and Prodigy Advance). The most important difference in the two current systems is the amount of amps. This is key if you are going to run several locos at once, thought I am not sure how much it impacts N scale, I am using it on an HO layout.

I can say that it is a nice system for the money. I paid $167 US for it from wholesaletrains.com (currently they are selling it at $177.50). They aren't particularly expedient in their shipping (says next day - not my experience with them so far) or attentive with customer service (days to respond to email), but the price was right.

Read up on it at http://www.modelrectifier.com/. You can also compare w/ the Prodigy and Prodigy Express, download the user manual, etc.

I use MRC 1650 decoders in all my Locos (mostly Hornby - that's why I love this forum), and I have not had any problems so far. These decoders are cheap (about $23US, or a little less in the 3-pack). I am not sure that these would be small enough for N gauge, however, but I mention it to let you know that with these decoders and the MRC controller I have not run into any issues running Hornby locos.

I am not sure what else to say - if you have a particular question, please let me know, and I will try to answer.

Regards,

Jim C>
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
Thanks Jim, I did mean the prodigy advance, as it's the same model that Gaugemaster markets in the uk, though after a bit of research it appears that MRC have discontinued it and are going wireless. I'm still tempted to go for it though as it s 100% compatible with the gaugemaster version and I can get base unit plus an extra walkaround controller, have it shipped from USA and still save about £40 on the basic Gaugemaster price.

Chris
 

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Hi Chris
I imported my MRC Prodigy Advanced system from the USA (Scaledstructures) and have had no problems wth it what so ever. At the time I paid £136 incl. P & P and there was no import duty either! (Now selling at £139.99 incl P & P) All this was just before Gaugemaster announced thay were to market the same units rebadged! You can now buy the GM version for around £199 but importing will save you around £60!
I can recommend Scaledstructures (EBay seller) Scaledstructure Prodigy Advanced and they are good on sending items too - Goods received 8 to 10 days after ordering if you pay by PayPal or credit card etc.
All that has to be done is cut off the US mains plug and fit a UK 3 pin plug with 3amp fuse fitted. Or use a UK/US adaptor plug.
The only down side is that if at anytime repairs are needed you will have to return to MRC the manufactures Though I think this is most unikely and if really needed it isnt the end of the world to do!
Good luck and enjoy...
 

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QUOTE (Brian @ 29 Jan 2007, 11:19) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>Hi Chris
I imported my MRC Prodigy Advanced system from the USA (Scaledstructures) and have had no problems wth it what so ever. The only down side is that if at anytime repairs are needed you will have to return to MRC the manufactures Though I think this is most unikely and if really needed it isnt the end of the world to do!
Good luck and enjoy...
..............And if you want to upgrade the software that will also mean a return to New Jersey - that also includes the Gaugemaster version as MRC say Gaugemaster Controls are not able to do upgrades.
 

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QUOTE ..............And if you want to upgrade the software that will also mean a return to New Jersey - that also includes the Gaugemaster version as MRC say Gaugemaster Controls are not able to do upgrades.
Not sure what your point is here David???
Any software upgrades for DCC systems that don't have the ability to download from the internet will be on a 'return to manufacturer' basis and this will almost certainly be at your cost. Your local model shop who sold you the unit wouldn't be interested and most likely by that time the warranty will have expired anyway! So, there's always a personal cost and small inconvenience involved, as far as I can see!
At the time I purchased my import and as far as I was concerned the saving over the newly launched GM version was not to be sneezed at - £135 against £225. Saving £90.
Well worth the very small risk. OK, so now the GM version has come down in price but you can still save £60.
 

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My point ius that it is a point to take into consideration when buying the sytem - do you really want to buy a system from a UK concern ( an electronics one at that ) and be told you have to send it back to America for an upgrade because the parent firm doesn't consider the uk supplier capable?
Now think of the logistics - pack up and ship item to New Jersey - cost around £12.00, add cost of Upgrade, around £25.00, add cost of return shipping - another £12.00 and hope the customs guys don't see this as another excuse to fleece you. Now add in the time factor of being without the system for up to 6-8 weeks plus add in the cost of purchasing a standby DCC system to run your layout in the meantime and I'll think you'll agree the Prodigy is not such a good buy as made out!
It just so happens I want the upgrade to the firmware, but I'm danged if I'm going to go through that rigmarole.
 

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QUOTE I'll think you'll agree the Prodigy is not such a good buy as made out!Actually, no I don't!

Post repair return shipping back to the customer is normally at the cost of the manufacturer or included in their overall costs.
There is no duty payable on any 'returned for repair goods' no matter where you live!
As for paying £25 for an upgrade I personally wouldn't bother!
As it wont make the unit any more improved in its functioning other than perhaps work with a specific decoder better. Best not to buy the decoder thats the problem, I think!

I consider your reasons stated for not buying are therfore somewhat poor and as a committed Prodigy user I have no problems what-so-ever with the unit as sold. As for up grades, I seriously doubt if one is really needed??
 

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QUOTE (Brian @ 4 Feb 2007, 16:29) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>There is no duty payable on any 'returned for repair goods' no matter where you live!

In theory, but if the paper work isn't exactly right and you get a jobsworth customs officer you can get stung.
 

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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
QUOTE (Mark Thornton @ 4 Feb 2007, 16:57) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>In theory, but if the paper work isn't exactly right and you get a jobsworth customs officer you can get stung.

Best to get the sender to mark it up as a gift then..........oops, did I say that out loud?
 

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Have you thought about another make of system? For instance with NCE you register the system by reply card, when they have an update they notify you, you then pay them $10 and they will send you out a board to fit easily inside your master unit. No return to the USA and you are not without your system for more than 5 minutes.

Steve

 

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Steve,
Now that's what I call service and yes, I have thought about the NCE system after seeing it in use at a 7mmNGA meet in Bradford.
Maybe later this year after my wallet recuperates from its latest round of expenditure on DCC fitted locos!
 

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Discussion Starter · #14 ·
I've not committed to anything yet, so open to ideas. I think I'll get some track layed first, you never know the UK prices might have fallen a bit by the time I'm ready to subject my wallet to a shock requiring recuperation!
 

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Just a few facts ;

The only exact common item between the Gaugemaster & MRC versions is the handheld - the amplifier may look the same but they are technically different inside. The output of the power supply is DC on one & AC on the other.

The Gaugemwaster version is availble for £180.00 leaving a "saving" of only £40.00

If you import from the US you have to hope that HMR & C don't collar you for import tax & VAT, then Snail Mail want a chunk of your "saving" for the paperwork.

Then, if you get the US supplier to say it's a "gift" & it goes missing you could have a problem with insurance if it's not been declared correctly.

& is upgrading the software such an issue ? - I personally know many DCC users & to date (& they probably use between them most makes of DCC) & not one of them has "upgraded" the software, although one or two have traded up hardware wise.

Import by all means, but be aware of the possible problems.
 

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With some UK model railway outlets now selling the Gaugemaster version at £179.99 plus P & P I would now buy in the UK rather than import! Unfortunately when I purchased mine the GM version was only just being released and being sold for £225 (which I think GM are still quoting!).

As for ac or dc input to the base unit. This really isn't any issue, as you would always use the power supply unit (PSU) supplied with the kit. In fact the base unit will convert any ac into dc anyway and then voltage stabilize it for use by its processors etc.

The exporters mark the packages as "Toys" which for all intense and purposes they are! Toys carry no import duty.

I contacted MRC to find out exactly what the up grade was and was it really necesary? According to MRC it's only to allow the unit to work fully with the 28 functions used on some decoders for sound. ie. This upgrade will also conform to the upcoming N.M.R.A. protocols dealing with accessory functions F13 to F28. So not an essential upgrade really. The cost, if the up grade was to be chosen, is £25 ($50) including return P & P to the UK.

As the UK versions are now, at some outlets, selling at such a low cost the case for improrting isn't any longer offering a real long term savings.
 

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QUOTE (Brian @ 14 Feb 2007, 15:49) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>With some UK model railway outlets now selling the Gaugemaster version at £179.99 plus P & P I would now buy in the UK rather than import! Unfortunately when I purchased mine the GM version was only just being released and being sold for £225 (which I think GM are still quoting!).

As for ac or dc input to the base unit. This really isn't any issue, as you would always use the power supply unit (PSU) supplied with the kit. In fact the base unit will convert any ac into dc anyway and then voltage stabilize it for use by its processors etc.

The exporters mark the packages as "Toys" which for all intense and purposes they are! Toys carry no import duty.

I contacted MRC to find out exactly what the up grade was and was it really necesary? According to MRC it's only to allow the unit to work fully with the 28 functions used on some decoders for sound. ie. This upgrade will also conform to the upcoming N.M.R.A. protocols dealing with accessory functions F13 to F28. So not an essential upgrade really. The cost, if the up grade was to be chosen, is £25 ($50) including return P & P to the UK.

As the UK versions are now, at some outlets, selling at such a low cost the case for improrting isn't any longer offering a real long term savings.

Well, it is an essential upgrade if, like me , you have locos fitted with those chips.

I'm still waiting to hear from GM if they were succesful in negotiating with MRC at the Nurnburg show to do the upgrades themselves.
Incidentally, I got my PA from MDR at that low price when GM made their announcement, although I can't see them advertised anymore on their site.
So do you deduct the cost of your postal costs from the $50.00 before you send it?
And I wouldn't guarantee customs believing the label 'Toys' - I've had stuff labeled 'Toy locomotive' sent to me from the States and been done by HMGov!
 

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David
I can understand the need to upgrade if your locos are equiped with the sound decoders effected.

The cost of post to US is the senders responsibility.
Even if GM do manage offer the up grade eventually, I bet they will make a charge for carring it out and you would still have to pay postage to send the base station to them.
MRC are charging for the upgrade so I really cant see GM offering it for free!


Besides the upgrade issue (Which won't worry me as I dont want my locos making sounds) I have found the PA to be a very good system.
 

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So, whats the problem with paying for an upgrade then ?

After all, if you upgrade your computer software you have to pay (either directly or as part of a support agreement), likewise for you mobile phone, T.V, sat-nav..................

So why would DCC be any different ?
 

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QUOTE So, whats the problem with paying for an upgrade then ?
As far as I know none


I think somehow this thread has become slanted towards upgrades???
Not sure why as I guess most sytems that are produced for more than three or so years will at some point need an upgrade if you want to operate the latest 'zimo' offered etc.
 
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