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Best DCC choice


Kallaroonian

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I’m sure this debate will have raged previously but I had a quick look back through the last 6 pages of DCC questions and can’t find any obvious threads on the subject.

 

Q. if you were going to use DCC for a large loft layout (around 11m long and 130 turnouts) which DCC system would you use?

 

Most of the operating could be sensibly done from one area so there isn’t a “need†to be able to walk around although it might be a nice to have. Future automated operation of the mainline via the DCC system would be desirable but shunting areas of station and yard would stay manual. Points would be electrically operated. Very distant future computer control (ie via PC connected to DCC system) might be of interest.

 

I had been thinking about an ESU ECoS but it’s been suggested to me that this wouldn’t suit a large layout and the NCE system would be better. Is this a valid comment? The ECoS gives a very polished appearance when compared to the NCE (which does “look†a bit like a science project) – but looks aren’t really the issue and the system needs to be functional.

 

I look forward to the comments !

 

Thanks

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I’m sure this debate will have raged previously but I had a quick look back through the last 6 pages of DCC questions and can’t find any obvious threads on the subject.

 

Q. if you were going to use DCC for a large loft layout (around 11m long and 130 turnouts) which DCC system would you use?

 

 

Thanks

 

1. Try several and use the one that you are most comfortable with. Ignoring the "toy train" systems the others have pretty much the same functionality but differ in the user interface and that is a personal thing.

 

2. For me it is NCE.

 

3. There is an excllent review and summary of systems on the Model Rail Forum.

 

Brian

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I’m sure this debate will have raged previously but I had a quick look back through the last 6 pages of DCC questions and can’t find any obvious threads on the subject.

 

Q. if you were going to use DCC for a large loft layout (around 11m long and 130 turnouts) which DCC system would you use?

 

Most of the operating could be sensibly done from one area so there isn’t a “need†to be able to walk around although it might be a nice to have. Future automated operation of the mainline via the DCC system would be desirable but shunting areas of station and yard would stay manual. Points would be electrically operated. Very distant future computer control (ie via PC connected to DCC system) might be of interest.

 

I had been thinking about an ESU ECoS but it’s been suggested to me that this wouldn’t suit a large layout and the NCE system would be better. Is this a valid comment? The ECoS gives a very polished appearance when compared to the NCE (which does “look†a bit like a science project) – but looks aren’t really the issue and the system needs to be functional.

 

I look forward to the comments !

 

Thanks

 

You may think you don't need to wander around but at 11m long I think you will soon tire of staying in the one spot especially if you need to tweak things or get a derailment. You would get exhausted going back & forth. Therefore that might point you towards something wireless. I use an NCE Power Pro system myself which I have converted to wireless & its the best thing I ever did.It allows me to stand at any part of the layout I need & operate or view from there.

In regards to point operation I operate mine from local panels at a few locations around the layout using MASTERswitches which operate a combination of Peco & Seep point motors.

If you put up a plan of what your layout will look like we can get a better idea of what you might need.

My advice would be to try all the systems before you buy & remember looks aren't everything.

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  • RMweb Gold

Not all systems are licensed for radio use in the EU. I think Digitrax still awaits approval, for example, although I'm fairly happy with their Infra Red option, which doesn't need approval. Anyway, adding plug-in points around the layout isn't that expensive. As has been said, far more important that you are comfy with the controls and general feel of a system - most can have extra boosters added to enable more power if that actually proves necessary.

 

Get your hands on some demo systems and then worry about other issues. You'll soon identify your preferences for feel, and then you can check out customising to suit your layout's needs.

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I had been thinking about an ESU ECoS but it’s been suggested to me that this wouldn’t suit a large layout .

 

Not true. I have an ECoS and it works a 14' x 16' 4 track loop line featuring hidden sidings, freight yard, London terminus and preserved railway without any problems. You can have 10 locos under control at once (5 on each side of the screen), it has route settings which means you can set all the points with 1 click of the screen - the latest updates even allow you to draw your trackplan and put the routes and points in so you can see how the points are set.

 

ECoS can also have add-on controllers - they do their own radio version or if your loco decoders can take a sniffer address you can use any controller you like, i previously used a Bachmann dynamis but now have an NCE Powercab as the slave controller. ECoS is expensive but very good for a large layout.

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I agree with all that has been said. Make sure you have tried out the systems which you can get your hands on. Personally we are Digitrax with PC automation via RailRoad&Co. With over 100 detection blocks, over 70 points (all digitally controlled but also with "local" shunting boards) circa 80 metres of running line, separate shunting areas and static decoders also for a large number of accessories we've found Digitrax fully expandable, well supported by RailRoad&Co and reliable.

Totally agree that you WILL want to walk round so add additional connection points (or in Digitrax case InfraRed receivers if you do not want tethered controls).

While you may not choose Digitrax it is certainly worth considering and trying out.

 

Andy

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I agree with all that has been said. Make sure you have tried out the systems which you can get your hands on. Personally we are Digitrax with PC automation via RailRoad&Co. With over 100 detection blocks, over 70 points (all digitally controlled but also with "local" shunting boards) circa 80 metres of running line, separate shunting areas and static decoders also for a large number of accessories we've found Digitrax fully expandable, well supported by RailRoad&Co and reliable.

Totally agree that you WILL want to walk round so add additional connection points (or in Digitrax case InfraRed receivers if you do not want tethered controls).

While you may not choose Digitrax it is certainly worth considering and trying out.

 

Andy

 

For connect-ability and sheer power plus expandability you will need Digitrax or Lenz. Both systems give the ability to plug in at different points on the layout that have been so equipped and Digitrax gives the option of infra red.

 

Most of the others mentioned are designed as consoles which are still just as good but require you to stand or sit within arms reach of the console.

 

The biggest advantage of the Digitrax and Lenz systems is the extra throttles you can add which is rarely possible with the other systems or at greater cost. Both systems are purpose built for multiple operators and large layouts. There has been discussion about the number of trains one can safely control. The consensus is three and I firmly believe that you need three throttles to do that well. Obviously, multiple operators might need three each and on larger layouts with multiple locos one needs a large loco stack.

 

I have Digitrax. DCC control of points needs a lot more button pushing until the computer control and automation offered is installed. Since I did not envisage this, I abandoned DCC control of points for manual control via a switch panel.

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I have a loft layout much the same dimensions as yours and I opted for Lenz, purely on the basis that eight years ago it was probably the most stable. Obviously there has been much development in the DCC world during this period but I recently had a chip upgrade on my LH150 equipment and the three handsets and I must say I am very pleased with what I have. I think also you get what you pay for and I know of a colleague who tried to do it the cheap way but came unstuck. I only operate the locomotives on the Lenz system, using Lenz Silver and Standard decoders, Bachmann decoders and ESU Howes Sound, all my points (260 of them) being operated by minature rotary switches and Peco point motors via a CDU, haven't had one fail yet. Lenz isn't cheap and some of the equipment has been around for a few years but I think it's what's inside it that counts. I didn't think their was much advantage in having DCC points mainly on cost grounds. I think its horses for courses, price, availability, and backup. Living in Oxfordshire, we have the main Lenz importer only twenty miles away and they are excellent. If you live nearby you are welcome to come and look. Hope you get what you want.

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As already said, the best DCC choice is the one that is best for you.

For a large layout as described in the OP, walkabout capability may be preferable; but if the OP is content to operate from a fixed position, then a console based system (with or without extra handheld throttles) such as the ECoS may be more suitable.

May I suggest that this aspect (handheld, console, or both) really needs serious consideration when drawing up a short list of prospective systems.

 

 

 

 

For connect-ability and sheer power plus expandability you will need Digitrax or Lenz......... The biggest advantage of the Digitrax and Lenz systems is the extra throttles you can add which is rarely possible with the other systems.....

Only Lenz or Digitrax? What about....

NCE

MRC/Gaugemaster

Zimo

plus a host of other brands not commonly available in the UK (e.g. Uhlenbrock, CVP Easy-DCC, Roco, Tams, Rautenhaus etc.) ?

 

 

There has been discussion about the number of trains one can safely control.

The consensus is three and I firmly believe that you need three throttles to do that well. Obviously, multiple operators might need three each.

While I agree there is a limit to the number of moving locos one can juggle at once, you don't necessarily need a separate throttle for each one. This is DCC, not DC.

A throttle that allows quick toggling or instant selection between locos will do the job; probably quicker that juggling different handsets.

There are also some handsets that have twin throttles, such as Digitrax's more comprehensive models, or allow independent control of two locos on wheel/knob and push buttons .

Then there are touch screen consoles which allow instant access to several locos at once and usually have direct control via twin throttles (the ECoS has twin motorised control knobs).

 

 

DCC control of points needs a lot more button pushing until the computer control and automation offered is installed.

......I abandoned DCC control of points for manual control via a switch panel.

It depends on the system.

It's true to say that many handsets (usually from the older legacy brands like Digitrax, Lenz etc,) and some consoles, are not very good for DCC control of points or routes.

However other handsets and consoles are much easier to use in this regard and are better designed for point/route control.

 

In addition, some modern console systems can do it straight off their display screen using touch control.

(e.g. ECoS b10652-07af7.jpg - Veissmann Commander_large.png )

 

There are even external hardware options, such as linking a track diagram or mimic panel (with push buttons or switches) into the DCC system, with no computer control involved (e.g. available for use with NCE, ESU, or 3rd party modules for Digitrax).

 

A couple of manufacturers even do modular DCC track control panels (Veissmann GBS and Uhlenbrock). However these are rather expensive and nowhere near as flexible as a computer software solution.

For example.....

 

post-6858-078580500 1285837026_thumb.jpg

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  • RMweb Gold

We use Digitrax exclusively, at the time of commissioning the signals Digitrax presented the best option for controlling them.

Would we choose it now ? hard to say.

 

As Ron has said the best choice is the one which suits you, think about what you want it to do over the next, say, 5 years, and the choose a system which can do that, new stuff will always come along and change your view but you need to make a decision eventually, don't wait for the next developments, once they are in there will be more in the pipeline.

 

To emphasise, "hands on" can't be beaten when making a choice.

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As already said, the best DCC choice is the one that is best for you.[.......]

 

 

Only Lenz or Digitrax? What about....

NCE

MRC/Gaugemaster

Zimo

plus a host of other brands not commonly available in the UK (e.g. Uhlenbrock, CVP Easy-DCC, Roco, Tams, Rautenhaus etc.) ?

 

Delete MRC/Gaugemaster from the list. The original request wanted potential for computer control/automation. MRC does not offer that because they will not allow other companies to write software to work with their system.

 

 

Write out a list of "must haves features" (which can include price, and an English speaking dealer who knows how the system works!), "will be needed in near future" and "nice to have but not essential". Whittle down the possibles to a shorter list. Don't base any "essentials" on a maker's "will be out shortly" catalogue announcements; they've all missed dates by years and failed to launch previously announced products. Make your decision on what is out in shops at the time of purchase.

 

There is no substitute for trying things hands on, ideally on a layout which bears a passing resemblance to what you propose to build. Then you can find out all sorts of subtle things around handset weight, button position, can you read the screen, etc..

 

 

- Nigel

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I'm an NCE man. Started small with the powercab, which is more than capable of handling a smaller layout. and the Procab is suggested that it can handle larger layouts.

 

For me what swung it was not just been able to control turnouts but the ability to set up routes (macros) on the handset easily also when I bought my powercab it was less £100 with the option to use the handset and add other components to make it up to procab level

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I have just converted to Lenz, have no issues at all,proven name, solid build and upgradable, huge system which covers most things, like PC control, Phone Control, and much more. The advice given by many is look and try before you buy, Look= Look at your layout and what access you need, look at your power requirements, look at how many locos are realistically going to be controlled at any one time, do you have others helping you run your layout, are you looking to expand the system capabilities in the future. Look at what you can afford. Try= taking the opportunity to read up about the different systems, they may all do basically the same thing i.e. control trains, but they do it in a variety of ways. When you have a shortlist find out the shops that allow you to try them out, give them a go and see which feels right for you. Before I bought my Lenz I went to the retailer and was able to try the full range of functions on a test track, the ease of use and system sold it for me. If you are not in too much of a hurry most of the main players usually pitch up at Warley and let you have a play with them its a good way of testing systems one against the other.

In all honesty each of us who have decided on or bought into a system will have our own favourites and recommend that one, but I believe there are no really bad systems on the market, there are systems that are more appropriate than others for our particular use, try before you buy.

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I have been having some email discussions with Richard and it's actually those discussions that led me to start this thread. I am in Perth. He has suggested powercab while I was originally looking at the ECoS. Unfortunately Richard doesn't really do demos so it really is going to be a case of online research followed by a small leap of faith.

 

I'll post up the layout design a bit later on. I'm not sure which part of the site is the best place for this but will probably put it in the Layout and Track Design section

 

rgds

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