Digitrax Throttles

Discussion in 'DCC & Electronics' started by dwight77, Jan 25, 2005.

  1. dwight77

    dwight77 Member

    I have about decided (95%) to go with a Digitrax DCC Zephyr starter system and possibly one more throttle. So far the choice of the Zephyr is based on the relative cost for entry level plus the fact that the local Scale Rails uses Digitrax exclusively. The question is which Digitrax throttle??? the DT100 (I have seen some on e-Bay), the DT300, the DT400, or the new UT4?
    I don't have a huge layout; 5' by 10' (max - it is still under re-construction - may be a foot shorter), and I have about 8 engines right now. I wouldn't anticipate running more than 2-3 trains at any one time - although I hope to put decoders in all of them. I was curious as to what those of you who have used Digitrax throttles have found good and bad about the various models they have available. I will also be checking with the local members but I was just looking for "second" opinion.
  2. George D

    George D Member

    I have a DT 100 and a DT400. The DT 400 is all I use now. It's more user friendly for acquiring a loco, stealing a loco, or MUing. It also uses a single button for sounds like the bell or whistle rather than the two step process of the DT100.

    Size does matter. :D

  3. siderod

    siderod Member


    I just converted from stone-age to 21st century...err, that is to say, DC to DCC. I bought the Digitrax Zephyr and my cousin supplied me with a DT400R (R means Radio) throttle...i've operated on almost every throttle Digitrax has put out (still wanna get my hands on a new UT4) and i like the DT400R the most...But, to use the Radio function, you need to get a radio reciever (extra hundred bucks), and i wouldn't think a small layout would need it. I got the 'R' for 2 reasons...i wasn't footing the bill, and my local club uses radio almost exclusivally...if your club only uses tethered, you should be alright with just the DT400, save a bit of money.

    Hope that helped,
  4. MasonJar

    MasonJar It's not rocket surgery

    Between the tethered and the radio throttles, you have one other "compromise" option - IR. Works relatively well in a smallish room with reasonably clear site lines (you can mount the receiver up high if you want).

    We use the DT throttles at my local modular club, and they work great. I have used the UT series too, they feel more like a DC powerpack with the big knob and toggle switch for direction. My advise would be get sample(s) in your hand and see what works for you.

  5. billwv

    billwv Member


    I've recently purchased Zephr and DT400. The DT400 is great, as others have said. One consideration is if you plan, now or in the future, to run sound equipped locos, the DT400 has 12 functions -- needed for full use of sound.

  6. Gary Pfeil

    Gary Pfeil Active Member

    I have Dt100's, 300's and one 400, as well as the original UT throttle. I prefer the 300's. Mostly based on the feel of the smaller throttle. I used the 100's for years so got used to the size I guess. Still use the 100's over the 400, but the 400 is good for guests. The UT I use for switching the yard, I'd like to get the new one too. All except the UT are IR.
  7. dwight77

    dwight77 Member

    WOW!! Thanks for the response on the throttles. There is one question that I should have asked and that is how much of a benefit is it having a visual display like on the 300 and 400 units versus not having it on the UT4????
  8. Alan B

    Alan B Member

    The DT400 and especially the DT400R are over priced and over qualified for an engineer's throttle. The Zephyr has all the dispatcher's throttle commands that you'll need. And, it won't be eating batteries or nearly as subject to abuse that the DT. On a smallish layout, I'd go with a Zephyr to handle the dispatching and programming. It would also serve as the lead throttle if necessary. Two MRC 55's could be used as jump throttles. They are cheap usually around $30 on ebay. Or, if you really want some digital capability, go with a UT. The UT-4 looks promising. I suspect that when the UT-4 becomes widely available, the remaining UT-1s on dealer shelves will depreciate quickly. (But, that's the story of everything Digitrax. No upgrades.)
  9. dwight77

    dwight77 Member

    Alan B: You don't sound like a proponent of Digitrax. Any other ideas or suggestions????
  10. Alan B

    Alan B Member

    If your DCC budget is in the $150-$200 range, the Zephyr is your best choice. I like the way the UT-4 looks. I haven't seen one for real yet. The UT-1 worked well though. I really disliked the DT400R. Too many key stokes for an engineer's throttle, too much cost, it sucked batteries like an electronic vampire. (As a dispatcher's throttle it's fine.) Quality control seemed to be a problem as well. The UT-1 had none of those problems. But, it didn't have a radio. I think the UT-4R has real promise if you are using Digitrax. (Remember, I think the DT400 and DT400R are strictly for the dispatcher. Only one is needed.)

    If your budget is bigger than $200, I'd look at the Lenz Set-90 or Set-100 or if your budget is in the $400+ range, the NCE system looks very attractive. If your budget is below $150, some stripped out Lokmauses (Lokmice?) are floating around. Cheap, compatible with Lenz and made in Austria. Tough combination to beat.
  11. railwaybob

    railwaybob Member

    Which throttle to buy will depend on two things - how much money do you want to spend and how do you like the feel of the throttle.

    You can get good used DT100 and UT1 throttles on E-bay for a good price. There's the odd DT300 that shows up now and then. You can get a DT400 at full price at your hobby shop but be prepared for the price. Then there's the new UT4. Very reasonable in price, even with radio. But you'll then have to buy a radio receiver if you get any throttle with the radio option.

    As MasonJar said, there's also Infrared which is standard in the DT300 and DT400 throttle but requires direct line of sight with the IR receiver. So, it's either radio or tether. And the tether isn't all that bad.

    Then there's the feel. The DT100 and DT300 are similar in size, look and feel. They'll easily fit in your hand. But they're crowded with lots of buttons but you'll quickly get used to that. The DT400 is the stretch version of the DT300 with even more buttons. Almost the size of those old TV channel changers. But there's lots of versatility packed into the throttle. The UT1 and UT4 are similar in look and feel to some of those handheld transistor throttles - a big knob you can twirl with your thumb and a direction switch which you can flick with the crook of your index finger. The same size as the DT100 and DT300. But less versatility, bells and whistles than the DTxxx series.

    All of these throttles are nice and easy to use, very lightweight, and have all kinds of functions on them. They all will make the train go, reverse it, turn on the lights, sound the bells and whistles and a ton of other things that haven't even been thought up yet. Others will do even more things like throw the turnouts. It all depends on what you want to spend and what you want to do. They're all good quality throttles.

    If you get the chance to visit a model railroad club or a friend, or your hobby shop, try each type out in your hand.

    Whichever throttle you buy, you won't regret as DCC takes you to a higher level of model railroading. And with Digitrax, you've definitely got lots of versatility and ease of operation with new products coming out every year.

    So go that extra 5%. Make it 100% and get into DCC. For some tips and tricks, visit my website, click on DCC and select a number of chapters on the subject.
  12. HoosierDaddy

    HoosierDaddy Member

    I'm leaning towards the Zephyr as my first foray into DCC, and one of the reasons is the ability to use a "smooth DC" power pack as a jump throttle. One thing that I haven't been able to figure out is if the MRC Tech 4 200, which I have, is a "smooth DC" power pack or not. Anybody know?
  13. Bikerdad

    Bikerdad Member

    Talk to the guys at Scale Rails. If, as is likely, they're using radio control, then your best bet will be to get either the DT400R or the UT-4R. You don't need to get the radio control receiver to use either of these, as they are both IR capable. You can save a bunch of moolah and just get the IR (UR-90 Panel) receiver for your home layout, which will still allow you to both jack in and walk around untethered.

    One shortcoming to the Zephyr as a throttle is its lack of "throttle memory" because it uses a potentiometer, rather than an encoder, for speed control. When you switch from one loco to another, you get the same throttle setting for the new loco as the old one had. So, if for instance, you've got a passenger train highballing on the main, with the throttle cranked to 85%, and you switch locos to your yard switcher, as soon as you've completed the switch, the yard loco will jump to 85% throttle. Then, when you dial it down to 20% and do some switching, when you change back to the passenger train it will drop to 20% throttle unless you selected a nonexistent address first, dialed the throttle back up to 85%, and then selected the passenger train.

    The DT300 and DT400, and the UT-4 series throttles all have ways of 'remembering' the throttle setting that a loco was last at, so they don't have this problem. It IS an annoying problem that can cause all sorts of havoc on your line. DAMHIKT :curse:
  14. siderod

    siderod Member


    Yeah, i've found that can be a problem too...BUT i have found a way around it.

    Train A, Address 1800 is on the main, doing 75%. Train B, Address 9528 is going to be switching in the yard at 25%. I'm controling 1800. TO switchin to 9528, i punch loco, enter 9528, turn the throttle down THEN press loco. 9528 will start at 0%, not the 75% that 1800 was at. 1800 will stay at 75%. Then, once i'm done with 9528, i stop him, hit loco, enter 1800, crank the throttle to roghly 75%, let it sit for a second or 2, THEN press loco again. No problems, everything picks up with very little to no hesitation.

  15. MasonJar

    MasonJar It's not rocket surgery


    A smooth powerpack is one without the "pulse" feature. My Tech II has a switch to turn off the pulse. Pulse is great to help with smooth slow speeds in DC, but tends to confuse DCC equipment (apparently, including the Zephyr) and it definitely is not decoder friendly. That is to say - if you run a decoder equipped loco on a DC layout, it should be with a smooth powerpack. (Some decoders allow this - there is a CV to set for it).

  16. sumpter250

    sumpter250 multiscale modelbuilder

    I've been using the zephyr, here at the shop, for programming installed decoders. The newer sound decoders, don't always respond to the zephyr, and I've found that sometimes things work better when I connect a DT400 to the system, and use it to program.
    The DT400 also has two throttle knobs, and can select two independant locos.
    Great for running one at the head end, and one as a pusher (not MU'd)
    There's good/bad in everyones throttles......it becomes what we're used to using, as opposed to what we have to learn to use, that makes the greatest difference.

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