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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I am planning a new layout after fifteen years away from the hobby; I am very out of touch!! I had planned DC but several replies to other questions I have raised here have convinced me that DCC is the way to go. All have advised me to do much research to make sure I get the system best suited to my needs. My research so far has shown me that there are a lot of questions that had not occurred to me.

My planned layout will be a terminus to fiddle-yard about 16 feet long plus sector plate fiddle-yard. 90% of operation will be shunting of stock, mainly carriages but some freight, to make up trains. I am planning to use Kadee couplings, which I have used successfully before, as I am looking for 'hands-off ops" My main need is reliable realistic slow speed movements. I think it unlikely that more than two locos will ever need to move at the same time but there may be up to eight to ten locos on the tracks. I am planning a central panel with point operation and uncouplers switch controlled as of old sooner then moving around with a handset controller.

My research has found the Digitrax DCS 52 Zephyr Express which has all the components in one unit. It has all the functions I think I am likely to need and a separate direction switch and speed control knob which appeals. The output is 3.5 amps.

Does anyone have experience of using this unit and is it likely to be appropriate for the layout planned. You comments would be much appreciated.

Boslandew
 

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On power output, my experience is that you can have a lot of locos on your layout before you run out of power. So 3A should be fine.

The one thing that can become a problem is a lot of power hungry accessories at start up. I use servos to control points and signals and they all suck up the juice at power on while the system works out what to do with them. I reached a stage where the power surge was enough to prevent the system powering up at all. I resolved the problem by having a separate power supply for the servos. Most accessory decoders will provide one set of inputs for the DCC signal and another for power. On a small layout the track power which is carrying the DCC signal can be connected to the power socket but watch out for start up problems.

David
 

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My observation is that Digitrax isn't very common in the UK. More people seem to use the
NCE system. I have an NCE system with wireless throttles. In terms of human-computer-interface design, I'd say that the NCE throttles are probably the easiest to use on the market, next to ESU ECos.
The NCE system is well designed and has a bus system for feedback decoders if you need them.
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
Another problem I hadn't anticipated with DCC, David. Although I think my lack of knowledge may unintentionally have solved the problem. I still have a transformer left from my last layout and not realising that control of points etc via the controller was common place, I was intending to power points, uncouplers etc from a separate power source and think I probably will stick to that.

Thank's also for the info about 3 amps. It should certainly be enough to power the minimal number of locos that will run at any time on my layout.

Big day tomorrow. I'm off to order the timber to build the layout.

Regards

David (Boslandew)
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
Thank you for the info GPP. I am starting fresh with DCC so any help is appreciated. I am looking for simplicity as much as anything and thought the Digitrax system offered that in one unit. I'll certainly look at the NCE system - I think they sell them in my local model shop. I haven't got as far as feedback decoders yet - more research needed!!

Regards

David
 

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I think you will find that Digitrax is quite common place in the UK, and readily available from a number of suppliers.
I have used Digitrax for almost 20 years now with no real problems.
Stay Safe
Dave
 

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Digitrax is reasonably common in the UK, with reasonable support. I've used an old Zephyr (DCS50) for over 16 years, its fine, its very expandable, and quite capable.

But, both Digitrax and NCE are years out of date compared to some European systems, such as Roco, Digikeijs and ESU. There are newer features such as RailCom which will not work fully on either NCE or Digitrax, even with a pile of third party add-ons.
NCE's radio (wireless) handset system isn't legal in the UK (wrong radio frequencies for UK), though that hasn't stopped one or two dealers selling them, but it is illegal to use it.


If wanting to operate turnouts, doing it via handsets (be it the Zephyr or the NCE Powercab) is awful. Select turnouts, type in a number, press direction, then something happens, then you can go back to driving a train, its just so much rubbish. Both will support better methods, via either a button control panel, or a diagram on a tablet/phone, but its more money to spend to get that functionality.

For many people, and if not anticipating using automatic running (which costs a whole load of extra money), its much cheaper and simpler to stick to direct wiring from switch panel to motor devices which operate turnouts and signals.




- Nigel
 

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But, both Digitrax and NCE are years out of date compared to some European systems, such as Roco, Digikeijs and ESU. There are newer features such as RailCom which will not work fully on either NCE or Digitrax, even with a pile of third party add-ons.
Personally, I think they are all out of date! The very fact that DCC runs on a 1980's antiquated network protocol which isn't even properly bidirectional and doesn't even have a proper ISO-style network stack is why hardware changes are always necessary to be able to enhance it eg RailCom which is nothing but 'bit fiddling'.
My view is that the network communications to locos should all be wireless. Take power from track or on-board battery. Accessories need a constant wired power supply, but they could take network coms via wire of wireless.
To my mind, DCC needs pulling into the 2020's and use modern/current networking technologies such as those used in computers and many white goods products including phones.
If it used a proper networking protocol, enhancements would be easy because they would be nothing but software programming and the sending of messages. The problems with DCC at the moment is that the messages and the hardware are one and the same thing. They shouldn't be.
European DCC systems are indeed ahead, certainly on the user-interface aspects, but out the back-end, they are still using old-fashioned 1980's technology.
Why in this day and age do we even have to 'program' addresses into decoders ? Evert computer network card has a unique NIC address applied in the factory so they never need programming. DCC should be the same...oh, sorry, forgot, it is still using a quasi 4bit/8 bit addressing system so can't handle 32bit numbers or bigger. The story goes on...

I'm not trying to put anyone off! It works and it is a lot of fun but could be a lot better.

For many people, and if not anticipating using automatic running (which costs a whole load of extra money), its much cheaper and simpler to stick to direct wiring from switch panel to motor devices which operate turnouts and signals.
Personally, the notion of a driver changing their own turnouts in front of them doesn't work for me. DCC throttles are simply the wrong user interface for this purpose and, of course, they bypass any form of signalling or interlocking in place. A separate panel is the way to go!
 

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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
Many thanks for that, Dave. From the literature the DCS looks very compact and ideal for mounting on a panel which is how I plan my layout with points etc powered and operated separately.

Cheers

David (Boslandew)
 

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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
Some interesting views here. My plan is to use a DCC controller from a fixed position only to drive the trains slowly and realistically, mainly for shunting with no space for higher speeds. I'm going to run all the accessories, points, uncouplers from a separate power source and operated from a switch panel, I am of a like mind with GPP that driving and operating points are completely separate functions and more realistically controlled separately. I have no plans to extend or increase complexity so a system with one throttle that gives smooth, slow-speed operations will suffice.

From that point of view the Digitrax DCS 52, 3 amp output, with separate knob throttle and direction/braking, would appear to fit the bill. However, I speak as one who has never even seen a real live system yet so have a lot to learn.
 

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... I speak as one who has never even seen a real live system yet so have a lot to learn.
You really want 'hands on' to evaluate. Why have a control interface that 'does the job', when there might be one that's a positive joy to use?
 

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Discussion Starter · #13 ·
You're right of course, its a question of where and how to compare actual performance? I don't think our local club is open yet even if they have a DCC layout. Still, its early days, I'll keep looking.
 

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Personally, I think they are all out of date! The very fact that DCC runs on a 1980's antiquated network protocol which isn't even properly bidirectional and doesn't even have a proper ISO-style network stack is why hardware changes are always necessary to be able to enhance it eg RailCom which is nothing but 'bit fiddling'.
My view is that the network communications to locos should all be wireless. Take power from track or on-board battery. Accessories need a constant wired power supply, but they could take network coms via wire of wireless.
.........
I think you've just described the ProtoCab system ( Acc+Ess Protocab ). But they've been at it for about ten years, and its still struggling to get going beyond a tiny niche of users, and doesn't easily fit into current RTR items. And their stack is proprietary, which I suspect is another barrier.

You're right of course, its a question of where and how to compare actual performance? I don't think our local club is open yet even if they have a DCC layout. Still, its early days, I'll keep looking.
A shop ? Most are now open. If you said where you lived, someone could point you to a decent shop with a range of stuff to try. You might have to book a trip and travel. I can think of about half a dozen shops across the UK who actually understand DCC systems and have a good range, rather than sell you what they have on the shelf this week.
 

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Discussion Starter · #15 ·
I'm in deepest West Cornwall, Nigel. I have been to Kernow Models in Camborne who are excellent although I don't think they have any DCC systems up and running. I am going to London in November but from previous correspondents on this Forum the London model shop scene looks pretty sparse. Penzance is a long way from anywhere but if I had some addresses day trips could be the answer.
 

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I'm in deepest West Cornwall, Nigel. I have been to Kernow Models in Camborne who are excellent although I don't think they have any DCC systems up and running. I am going to London in November but from previous correspondents on this Forum the London model shop scene looks pretty sparse. Penzance is a long way from anywhere but if I had some addresses day trips could be the answer.
Your nearest may be DCC Train Automation, who I think is "south west" (but that's South West for me, but "a long way east" for you!). Or DCC Supplies (Worcester).
There is nobody in London, model shops have all been priced out.

- Nigel
 

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Discussion Starter · #17 ·
Many thanks. DCC Train Auto is about a three drive so would make a good day out (provided I found a little retail therapy for my dear lady wife on the way) and Worcester about four hours, conveniently en route to my brother!!
 

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A bit of a trip but Digitrains in Lincoln would be one of, if not, the best place to see and try out DCC systems. You can buy them and decoders etc after trying them out. Plenty of good advice too. Even though I'm in Oz, they're my go to shop for anything DCC.
 

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Discussion Starter · #19 ·
Hello Hoosou downunder, Another interesting one, many thanks. Its right across the country but conveniently not far from my brother. I'll keep it in mind.

regards

David - Upover
 
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