DCC systems

Discussion in 'N / Z Scale Model Trains' started by BDC, Oct 22, 2001.

  1. BDC

    BDC Member

    I'm looking at purchasing a DCC starter system in the future and I was hoping to get some opinions. I'm primarily considering between the Digitrax Chief II and Lenz 01 Professional Set. Cost really isn't an issue as I will have a couple of months to save for it and I would rather err on the side of too much for now versus not enough for later. These seem to be the two most popular systems on the market, although I know that other companies are offering sets. However, I don't know if all of them have the interoperability that Digitrax and Lenz do.

    Also, while we are on the subject, what are your opinions on decoders? Digitrax supposedly has the most advanced design, but Lenz has an excellent warranty that covers mistakes by the installer. Plug-and-play or drop in decoders are preferable to the SIY (solder it yourself) kind, but only the high quality (and price) engines have circuit boards.

    I appreciate any advice or opinions you have!
  2. roryglasgow

    roryglasgow Active Member


    I don't know much about DCC, but there is an article in the November 2001 Model Railroader that might be useful. The writer compares the current DCC systems available, noting their advantages and disadvantages. From what I recall, both systems you mentioned are expandable.

  3. billk

    billk Active Member

    Not DCC proficient either, but one of my main concerns would be if the decoders will fit into N-scale equipment. Anyone have any experience (good or bad) with this?
    Bill K
  4. Woodie

    Woodie Active Member

    DCC and standards

    I would also check out the NMRA standards and definitions for DCC. Look here

    Then check the DCC standards. I would look for DCC that is NMRA compliant. My research (done six months or so ago) if I remember rightly the Lenz system used some different functionality and standards from the NMRA ones. That may have changed now, I don't know. Anyway, I'm not interested in Lenz, as they do not sell it here.

    The NMRA Standards are written in a bit of jargon, and you need a bit of computer literacy to understand them, however they are very indepth, and would be more than sufficient to write you own computer interface specifically for you needs as well.

    I'm leaning towards NCE or Digitrax (Soundtrax), but haven't purchased anything yet.
  5. BDC

    BDC Member

    I have read through the article in MR several times, but I had hoped that it would go into greater depth, such as a side-by-side comparison, any problems the author had with each system, and which ones he would recommend.

    As far as fitting the decoders into the engines, Atlas and Kato have been making locos with circuit boards that pop right out and are replaced with DCC circuit boards. Also two companies, Aztec and Southern Digital, make replacement frames for locos with spaces already milled out for the decoder. I will probably go with Southern because they are a little cheaper and the new frame is made of a heavier materiel to retain traction. Also, Aztec requires you to mail them your engine frame first, and they send you a milled frame that had been sent to them by a previous customer.

    I am starting to lean towards the Digitrax system, especially with some of the vendors willing to upgrade the controller for a low fee. As far as decoders, I am still undecided. Oh well...
  6. nscalejim

    nscalejim New Member

    I am currently using the Digitrax Empire Builder and I love it. It takes several more like many hours of experimentation to get used to it, but it will pay off. I still do not know all the aspects of the system, but that will come in time. As far as decoders go, I buy the engines w/ the decoders already installed. It saves time and the combined cost of both the engine and decoder is more than if you purchase the two together. I hope this helps
  7. upguy

    upguy Oregon Western Lines, CEO

    I'm about to puchase a Digitrax, Chief II (Radio). I expect it to do everything that I will ever be able to comprehend, and then some. In fact, I need to quit visiting the forums and get it ordered!:D
  8. upguy

    upguy Oregon Western Lines, CEO

    Well, I have ordered the Digitrax Chief II (radio). It arrived on the 21st and I spent all day Saturday (Dec 22) trying to figure it out and struggling to get some engines programed. I was able to get some Atlas SD60's going, and I hope to get a few Kato SD40-2's going tomorrow morning. (I figure that these should be about the easiest to program.) Once I have a clue what I am doing, I may be able to tackle some more complicated ones. Sunday afternoon I hope to hook things up to the main layout and to see what happens. :D (This smilie subject to change if things don't go as planned.)
  9. upguy

    upguy Oregon Western Lines, CEO

    This DCC system is going to be really great once everything gets wired the way it should be. Right now I am just sending the signals through the track (it is supposed to have a bus wire with smaller feeder wires connecting to the track every 6 feet or so). The locos run great for about 25 feet, at which time they lose their signals...sputter and die. Within the next month I hope to find enough time to do a better job of wiring. Until then it's fun to work several engines in the yard. :D

    Unfortunately, I also need to finish installing the lighting in the room, which can't be done until I get the grid work in for the drop ceiling, which can't be done until the materials arrive, which can't be done until the financing is in order, which.... Darn, it could be a long time before the trains are really running like they should! :(
  10. Catt

    Catt Guest

    Upguy,welcome to the real world of model railroading.:D :D

    Gotta learn to proof read these things before I post them.:(
  11. Matthyro

    Matthyro Will always be re-membered

    I dont have DCC yet but its great reading about everyones experiences. As I build the M.A.T. I am putting feeders about every three feet . Feeders are six inches long and connect to a gauge 18 bus wire. This is working very well with my old analog power supply. Once our Canadian dollar gets a little better I will be getting a Digitrax Empire Builder with radio so I can do wireless walkaround. Currently the price here is in excess of $600
    Canadian. I can't for the life of me believe that money investors think that our dollar is only worth 62 cents US.

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