DCC on a smaller layout with two trains

Discussion in 'N / Z Scale Model Trains' started by mcbane666, Feb 4, 2008.

  1. mcbane666

    mcbane666 Member

    Ok so I'm looking for information on DCC, looking for pros and cons on the following information.

    1) I think I would only ever run two trains, at most three.

    2)I have a Bachmann steam loco that isn't DCC equipped but other ones in this spec are. how much work would this be to switch over.

    3) which DCC brand do you suggest

    4) are there features a system like digitrax Zypher might be missing?

    5) I have a high end MRC DC controller already, is it worth the money to go to DCC?

    6) in the future I plan to have a larger layout but I don't plan to ever run more than 3 trains tops. and I don't run in clubs or with other people.

  2. Nomad

    Nomad Active Member

    Answer to 1 and 6. With dc you would have to wire blocks to run more than 1 train at a time. With dcc no blocks are needed.
    #2. Depends on how much room there is for a decoder.
    #3 and 4. I use NCE. I can not say about Digitrax.
    #5 I have a hi end mrc dc controller also. I now use it for building lights and stuff, so it's still not going to waste.

  3. dannparks

    dannparks New Member

    My requirements and needs are about the same as yours and after looking at a lot of systems, I got an NCE PowerCab. Being a newbe, it has all the sophistication I need. Everything is in the handset, so it is easy to wire and doesn't need space for big power supplies and boosters. You can also use it on another layout by just buying the plug-in plate for the new layout. The ergonomics also allows you to hold it and operate it with one hand, so you can fiddle with one hand and move the train with the other.

    Although only 1.6 amps, I have run 6 locos at once on flat track. The main drawback for me is that it can only recall (or have under active control)two locos or consists at a time, but I find running more than two at a time is a train wreck waiting to happen anyway. I know it isn't a top-end system, but it is working very well for me -- and the price was right.

    Anyway, my 2 cents. DCC is definately the way to go, and you don't need a top end system. You might have to go through some convolutions to get old locos converted, but hey, what an excuse to buy some new motive power anyway.
  4. Squidbait

    Squidbait Recovering ALCO-holic

    If you're going to run more than 1 train, DCC makes sense. Wiring is so much simpler.

    Depends on the loco. Most Spectrum locos come with a DCC-plug, so adding a decoder is just a matter of opening the tender (1 screw) unplugging the dummy plug and plugging in your decoder.

    If it's a Bachmann "blue-box" or "white-box" it would be quite a bit more work, because you'd have to run wires to the motor, track pickups and headlights. There's soldering involved.

    Most of them are quite good. It really boils down to what you want in features and price. Digitrax, MRC and NCE all have starter sets in the same snack-bracket. The Digitrax Zephyr comes with a base-station, while the NCE and MRC systems have a hand-held walkaround throttle. I prefer the walkaround, but that's a matter of taste.

    About the only one you really want to think twice about is the Bachmann EZ Command. Sure, it's cheap, but it doesn't have many functions, and if you want to expand it, you're going to be paying what you would have for any of the other systems.

    This comparison table is pretty overwhelming, but it lists most of the main features you'd be concerned about for most of the brands you'll see, and some you've never heard of (or me, for that matter!)

    Yup. Keep the DC throttle for powering accessories, workbench testing, whatever. But DCC is definitely worth it.

    You say that now! :p :D It doesn't matter. With a bigger layout, DC wiring becomes more complex. DCC is simple, simple, simple. It more than offsets the difference in startup cost.
  5. mcbane666

    mcbane666 Member

    Mine is a Spectrum and with the other ones that came into the store that day having DCC i'm guessing it won't be an issue.

    It looks like the Zypher is my way to go, thanks for the chart.

    What do I need to know about sound? will the Zypher handle this? do all DCC modules handle sound?

    am I going to pay more for sound?

    also what about motors, do they all handle DCC well?
  6. Squidbait

    Squidbait Recovering ALCO-holic

    That's good. Although fitting sound into some of the Spectrum tenders is a bit of a chore.

  7. mcbane666

    mcbane666 Member

    lol would a bachmann steamer be considered cheep?
  8. Squidbait

    Squidbait Recovering ALCO-holic

    It depends. They've cleaned them up a lot in the last couple of years.

    I have an IHC Mogul that I put a decoder in, and I can't get it to start smoothly... no matter what I set the start voltage to, it just jack-rabbits off. It's got a cheezy little Johnson 250 motor in it instead of a decent can.

    Of course some decoders will let you adjust the pulse frequency to the motor, which can let you fine-tune things a bit, but a cheap motor is still a cheap motor.
  9. rogerw

    rogerw Active Member

    Nothing worse then a little johnson:mrgreen: Sorry couldnt resist
  10. jesso

    jesso Member

    Thanks for finding that comparision chart! It was very useful to me. It helped me finalize a decision.
  11. nkp174

    nkp174 Active Member

    Which spectrum engine is it? The first run of 2-8-0s were good at frying decoders. The more recent ones, from my understanding, have no such problems.
  12. MasonJar

    MasonJar It's not rocket surgery

    Two notes about the Digitrax Zephyr that I didn't see covered here.

    The Zephyr does not have walk-around/wireless capability. It is styled like a "traditional" power pack, and as such, remains in one place. However, you may add wireless receivers and use other throttles with it - virtually all Digitrax components are plug and play.

    The Zephyr has the ability to use "smooth" (i.e. not "pulse") DC output from a powerpack as a throttle. Two such installations can be made in fact. So you will already have two throttles for your two engines (the Zpehyr plus your power pack).

  13. mcbane666

    mcbane666 Member

    So my throttle attached to the zypher can run a DCC loco?
  14. MasonJar

    MasonJar It's not rocket surgery

    Yes. It is via a feature called "jump throttle" (or jump port, I can't recall off the top of my head). There are two inputs in the back, and the Zephyr interprets the incoming voltage as a speed command to be relayed to the loco. The loco must still be equipped with a decoder (although even this is not 100% true - Zephyr can run one (1) loco without a decoder on address "00").

    In order to activate the sound features (if any) of your loco, you still use the keypad on the Zephyr. If you want to read more about it (than I can currently recall...;)), the manual is available as a pdf at the Digitrax web site.

  15. mcbane666

    mcbane666 Member

  16. rogerw

    rogerw Active Member

  17. pgandw

    pgandw Active Member

    I really like the idea and concept, and I really enjoyed your earlier DC pushbutton throttles as well.

    One of my beefs with almost all the portable throttles has been the need for a 4 conductor plug. I haven't seen many that work well and quickly over the long term. In studying the circuit, it appears the ground (common) carries all the way through from the AC source to the output, meaning those 2 conductors could be combined. Is my analysis correct?

    The reason for combining conductors is that I would love to use 1/4" stereo headphone jacks for the throttle connection. Simple, sturdy, easy to use, but only 3 conductors. I could even combine with a power on/off switch if the momentary shorting across conductors while plugging/unplugging would wreak havoc with the throttle and/or power supply.

    I welcome your thoughts on this.

    thanks in advance
  18. mcbane666

    mcbane666 Member

  19. MasonJar

    MasonJar It's not rocket surgery

    No specific help. but sound decoders can be had from:


    and possibly others... any luck at their respective websites?

  20. mcbane666

    mcbane666 Member

    I have looked at Digitrax and MRC, but I'm not sure if i'm missing something like, one that can be modified to work.

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