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I know this has probably been asked before. I'm just starting out I've decided dcc is the way for me.
I'm starting hopefully my first layout next year,I've been looking around im thinking of either hornby dcc or hornby hornby elite dcc.
My trains ive been collected are anything from triang to Bachmann. I can i think retrofit my own decoders,is this correct, all i want to do is move trains around and fit smoke to a few, and motors for points.
Will this work.
Thanks
Neil
 

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You'll find lots of reviews and experience reports if you search around the internet.

Personally, I wouldn't bother with Hornby or Bachmann's DCC systems. They're difficult to upgrade, control is annoying in a lot of ways, and as companies they're not really clued-up on what is possible.

For loco decoders, strongly recommend you start with ESU, Lenz or Zimo, and then, having experienced quality control judge other decoders against those (many other decoders are sadly lacking in control finesse, yes they work, but they just lack the fine quality). For some locos, you'll have a DCC socket inside to connect the decoder. For others (older) types, you need to wire the decoder into the loco (or wire a socket into the loco, which is what I do if there is space).


Suggested control approaches:
Traditional-ish systems: Start by looking at NCE PowerCab or Digitrax Zephyr systems. Both relatively easy to upgrade and add additional elements. Both supported by various computer applications.
More modern systems: Digikeijs (but can be a bit techie) or Roco Z21 (note the capital Z, don't bother with the white small-z version). Those have far more integration with tablets, phones and computers, plus will take throttles (handsets) from several makers.

Point control. Possible under DCC, but through a DCC handset can be a right pain (a few people like it, most loathe). So, you have an option of leaving that as analogue wiring (generally vastly cheaper to stick to the old way), or building a control panel which talks to the DCC system. Those control panels can be switches/lights with a device which links it into the DCC system (different device types needed for each system maker), or can be software on a computer/tablet/etc. Software panels are hugely flexible in their design, and relatively cheap to build - a 10inch touch screen tablet costs about £100.



- Nigel
 

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I agree with Nigel about Hornby / Bachmann, as you will undoubtedly end up with buying one of the better systems. It makes more sense, financially and ease of use, to go straight to the better ones.

To add to Nigel's control panel comments, with a similar observation, in that there are some good plug-and-play panels available for setting up control panels and the DCC Encoders panels, which are well worth a look. Again simpler than starting with a home constructed panel, with loads of separate wired circuits and then considering upgrading later.

A good look around, before diving into something will be well worth the time and will also reveal some useful ideas / equipment you were not aware of previously.

Julian
 

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I will add to the above good suggestions, worth visiting a DCC specialist retailer, either at their premises, or at a show if these become operable. (If you are anywhere in East Anglia, hearty recommendation for Kevin Dickerson at Coastal DCC, nearest such specialist to my location.)

My frank opinion on RTR models of the 'Triang epoch': unless they are superb runners on DC, don't bother. DCC decoders cannot fully overcome the mechanical shortcomings of poor torque and direct worm drive on an axle, and also require good current collection which pick up from mazak wheels doesn't reliably deliver. (I have my 'best XO4 ever' in a 1950s Princess worked on to add tender pick-up, with an expensive 2A continuous rated Zimo decoder to cudgel decent running out of it, for old times sake.)

Start with a modern low current consumption can motor on a multistage gear train RTR model which the economically priced Lenz standard and Zimo MX6xx decoders will operate beautifully: effortlessly offering the fine control that in the past required the likes of Portescap mechanisms and Morley and similar brands of controller.
 

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I second 34C's advice to visit a specialist. Your choice will come down to how you prefer to control your trains - handheld or desk console.
Thinking ahead, if you think you'll end up with a large collection of locos, being able to choose the next loco to control quickly may be a factor.

A good DCC system is not going to be cheap, probably about the cost of several locos but the control benefits you get are tremendous.

I have two systems
- An original monochrome ECoS for a large layout in the loft
- A Roco Z21 for a shelf layout in my study/office.

David
 
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OK after the layout thread looks like its OO so as to dcc I use the Roco Z21 which has a good capacity I have over 200 locos on the Z21 so that should be enough, because the graphics are provided by an Android or ipad (I found this to be best) it is a bit cheaper it is also obsolescent proof so that was a big sell for me.

The next issue are decoders, Bachmann are mostly 21 pin and either the Bachmann own 21 pin or DCC Concepts 21 pin are good, and for Hornby nearly everything is 8 pin so I use the DCCConcepts 8pin nano direct as it is hardly bigger than the blanking plug so gets rid of the cables, all the above works together very nicely also the warranty is good, Richard at DCCC is a member here and very helpful if something goes bang - or melts!

As above everyone has their own options and there are other decoders such a 18, 6 and 4 pin options so ask again if you come across one of those.

I have a thread on the Z21 so perhaps you should look that up.
 

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Whatever control system you go with look at Zimo decoders first. They are £20 each regardless of socket and you will not get anything better for the money, and anything cheaper will be of lesser quality.

As was stated above, fit a socket if there is none in the loco (I prefer PluX sockets such as the Zimo ADAPLU sockets since it is easy to upgrade lighting and sound later if you want to - other sockets have less function connections and a more limited range of decoders that fit).

You really need to know what you want from your control system before anyone can recommend one, there is no universal 'best' system, just best for doing certain things.
 

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I agree with Suzie, Zimo decoders seem to be the best. When I first started with DCC I tried all sorts, although the Lenz and ESU I didn't try because of the price, so I can't comment on them. The other thing I found was that the Zimo, compared to a Hornby had a higher current rating. Interestingly a lot of the other decoders that supposedly had a higher current rating in reality didn't seem to have it, as demonstrated by fitting them in old Hornby and Bachmann locos, by them failing in a puff of smoke. So far I have never had that issue with a Zimo. Perhaps it is me but I even found the Zimo sound decoders were better than LokSound ones, although everyone raves about them. For DCC controllers as I used do electronics as a job I managed to buy a broken Hornby Elite and Fleishmann twin Track controllers off EBay and fix them. The Hornby Elite I find is easy to use but a bit dated, so I tend to use it for only programming and testing, it is also incredibly expensive for what it is. The Fleishmann although they don't make it anymore is really good, because it can control two trains at the same time but its programming mode is not as good as the Elite's. The Roco Z21 looks really good as does the Digikeijs which look to be more modern and have wireless capability which means you can control the trains while you are walking about, really useful on a large layout if you have a derailment.
 

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As to me I have not used any Zimo decoders so have no opinions on those, I have some ESU and here I would also point out the ESU decoder tester an invaluable bit of kit, I usually prog the decoder using this as it cuts down connections so it often decodes when the loco decides to be awkward, this is really recommended a top purchase.

 

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Until the advent of Zimo's £20 decoders, I mostly used ESU for both sound and non-sound decoders. I also used TCS, one Hattons and a few DCC Concepts. Zimo's £20 range tips the scales in their favour.

I really don't think you can go wrong with ESU or Zimo.

I am of the view that there are ESU and Zimo decoders. And there are others, none of which come close. Can't comment on Lenz decoders as I have never used them.
 

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A £40 Lenz Gold is nearly as good as a £20 Zimo. The only thing that Lenz has that Zimo has not is the jst-9 socket option, otherwise I would have changed all my Lenz decoders for Zimo by now. The Lenz decoders do usually need some configuration to get good performance, but they can be made to work.

I have four ESU decoders, three with sound, and I am sure one day I will be able to get basic adequate performance out of at least one of them - until then I will just tear my hair out every time I try and use them.

The Zimos all just work out of the box without any need for configuration, they make life so much less stressful.
 

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The pick of Lenz decoders is the 'standard'. Typically a pound or two cheaper in the UK than the Zimo MX6xx series but only available in wired 8pin, will operate any competent mechanism beautifully. That's my 'default' decoder (I regard DCC as a utility and lowest price is what I want for utilities) because I still hard wire about a third of my purchases to overcome factors such as manufacturer ineptitude in decoder socket positioning.

But with manufacturers at last getting with the programme of neat and tidy decoder socket installation in appropriate locations, Zimo's MX618 and MX638 (Next18 and 21 pin) are increasingly purchased.

It's all 'invisible' in operation; the mixture of various Lenz decoders, some near 20 years old, earlier Zimo MX63 and 64 and their current decoders, and the long withdrawn Bachmann badged ESU v1 lokpilots all perform well. All of these either come with or can be configured with the Lenz F4 suspend CV's 3 and 4 feature, invaluable when moving locos off scene, as I typically apply values of 60+ to reproduce the high inertia of rail vehicles.
 
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