Help choosing the right DCC for my layout

Discussion in 'DCC & Electronics' started by TN_Trainman, Nov 27, 2006.

  1. TN_Trainman

    TN_Trainman Member

    Hello all,

    Well I have been looking through the Walthers catalog and the number of DCC suppliers are many.:rolleyes: so I figured I would ask here for the pros and cons of each. I have tried to narrow the field down to three by price, ability to do what I will need on my layout and general popularity.

    So far, I have the Digitrax, which to someone who knows nothing about DCC (except for what I have been reading) looks a little overwhelming :rolleyes: this may be due to the fact they have SO much to offer.

    I have also been looking at the Bachman EZ DCC system which looks much less intimadating and simpler.

    Last but not least is the Atlas system which seems sorta middle of the road.

    My layouut will be 19 ft x 9ft (on the ends) with a 3 to 4 ft peninsula (a Big E) I think the most locos I will be running at one time would be three, and then I plan to have my buildings lighted and of course other accessories.

    So guys can you give me a hand in choosing what would work best for my layout.

  2. oldtanker

    oldtanker Member

    George, I have the Bachmann EZ system. The cons there are the programing functions may not be up to what you want. I got it to try DCC. I can pass that on to my son if I upgrade. If I upgrade I will get the Digitrax system for the complete functions.

  3. Stuart

    Stuart New Member

    What DCC system to buy..

    I have been using DCC for about 10+ years and have tried a few diffrent systems. There are my thoughts on them.

    Digitrax: I have owned a Zepher and used 2 other types of Digitrax systems and found this is a good system, you can upgrade them by adding extra stuff, easy to use and understand.

    NCE: The club runs NEC on all 3 layout and yes NCE is good but I just don't like the encoder type thumby thingy..

    Lenz: This is the system I run now, I like it very much, easy to use plus with the XPA I can use the cordless phone and have walk-a-round control (Yes most system can do this)

    As for Bachmann system it is very limited plus you can use sound locos with it.

    There are many systems on the market, if you can find a local club, group that runs DCC and try to get an invite to run.. Each system has diffrent things and a diffrent feel .

  4. TN_Trainman

    TN_Trainman Member

    Thanks Guys, I will try to find out more if I can ever find a local group!!!:curse:
  5. jstump

    jstump New Member

    I have used Digitrax on my layout for about 1 1/2 years and so far it's been great. I use the DCS 100 with cordless UT4 throttles. I am no electrical wizard and the wiring has been pretty straightforward.
  6. davex

    davex New Member

    I have got the MRC prodigy advance and find it really easy to operate, Readily expandable. 3 other guys in my club have it as well and we quite often use it on exhibition layouts as well- even novices jump straight on and run it really easily.
  7. NYNH&H

    NYNH&H Member

    Digitrax is the way to go if you want a great system now that can be expanded with any capabilites you want, and still protect your investment. Digitrax is the ONLY system that uses a network-based architecture, and thus, you can add everything from one extra throttle to a layout of track detectors, signals, and turnout controls that feed data into a computer for dispatching, signalling, and automatic train control. Digitrax is great, as it can be expanded to meet the needs of any layout, from a 4x6 with two locomotives, powered only by a Zephyr, all of the way up to a basement empire with 50 throttles, a dozen boosters, and full computer control with the Super Chief, or anything inbetween. If you decide to upgrade in the future, you can always use what you have in various capacities, as part of a larger and more powerful system. I would recommend the Zephyr, as it is relatively affordable. I am getting one very soon, an upgrade from the extremely limted Bachman system. With the Zephyr, you can add a bunch of DT400 or DT400R throttles (or the limted UT4 series throttles) to run with other operators. Digitrax has radio if you want to avoid wires, and easy computer interfacing for decoder programming. Even if it takes you some time to learn the programming and consisting and advanced stuff like that, it will always be there for you on the Digitrax system when you get to using it, unlike the Bachman or Atlas. Also, if you get a UT4 throttle, the person using that has the same capabilites, and easy-to-useness of the Bachman system, and another person can be operating with the DT400 at the same time with every super-advanced feature. The Zephyr is also an advanced throttle itself, with programming, consisting, and the like, but it is tied down to the "powerpack" form factor, while the add-on throttles can be radio or wired walkaround.
  8. davex

    davex New Member

    sure- but check the prices (after all he is only looking at a small layout and 3 loco's)
  9. NYNH&H

    NYNH&H Member

    The Zephyr is only $150 right now at Tony's (normally $160 I think). It can be expanded later if needed. Its only real competitor, the NCE Powercab, is around the same, and it is not as expandable. The other systems are not full-featured systems, and cannot be upgraded, like the Bachman and MRC, or you lose some of your investment when you upgrade, like the Atlas, which can be upgraded to a Lenz system. Just because you are using a small number of locos on a small layout doesn't mean that you have to sacrifice the features of a system, or have to buy into something that can't be expanded later. In fact, the Zephyr is the same as the top-of-the-line Super Chief, except that it does not have the same amperage and voltage output (a non-issue for three locos), and can only support 10 consists acquired simultaneously, and ten throttles (again a non-issue with three locos). I know about buying into a limited system from experience, as I have the Bachman system, soon to be replaced by a Zephyr that has two DT400R Radio Super Throttles. I got good use out of the Bachman system, but you will quickly hit its limtations, and wish you had bought a "real" system (Digitrax or NCE).
  10. oldtanker

    oldtanker Member

    Dave, you are in part right. The Bachmann system does offer a lot of bang for the buck but it will support only 3 throttles total, one is DC only and to run more than 3 engines (and who doesn't want to expand) you have to buy a power amp at over 200 dollars, plus the 2nd DCC throttle around 80 and a DC power pack for another 20. If he isn't sure about going DCC I'd say sure go with the Bachmann, but he sounded like he has already decided to go with DCC and should be aware of hidden cost.

  11. UP SD40-2

    UP SD40-2 Senior Member

    TO AVOID A FORD/CHEVY TYPE WAR:rolleyes:, i will ad this;

    there are MANY GREAT DCC systems out there right now:thumb:. announce1 "WHAT IS THE BEST SYSTEM?:confused:" in general, there is NO RIGHT OR WRONG ANSWER;). the answer lies in what system suits YOU BEST:thumb:.

    MANY things will differ between each person. Money may be a factor, how it will be used, do you plan on expanding?, do you want to run engines with sound?, do you want computer interface?, do you want to go wireless?, do you want a simple system, or a more complex system?, these are just SOME of the questions you must ask yourself, and your answers will direct you to a different system, then the next person might have;).

    announce1 DEFIANTLY look to the future though, if you think you are going to expand on the system down the road, keep those thoughts in mind when buying your system, DON'T start out with a Bachmann system, and plan on going computer interface in a year or two, you would just be wasting your MY OPINION;).

    I use MRC Prodigy Advance:thumb:, i am BIG on sound, it gives me 19 different sound or lighting options per engine. i can run 99 engines on it(who would EVER do such a thing:rolleyes:), it is a simple system, i can adjust CV's on the fly, etc. it works out PERFECTLY FOR ME(emphasis on ME:D), and does EXACTLY what i want it to do:thumb:. PLEASE DON'T try and sell ME on another DCC system, I WILL NOT BUDGE;). "IS THIS THE BEST SYSTEM?", for ME...YES!!!
    **announce1 BUT IT MIGHT NOT BE FOR YOU!:eek: **

    what it all boils down to is what you want to do with your layout;). announce1REMEMBER, LOOK TO THE FUTURE, envision what you want to do with your layout for the next 5-20 years.
    announce1DON'T BE LAZY, think about what you want and research the systems that come close to what you are looking for. DCC is quite an investment, DON'T waste your money on a system you will grow out of, or will never grow into;). Tony's trains is a GREAT PLACE to check systems out, they review just about all of them:thumb:.

    I hope this post will help some of you out:thumb:.
    :D -Deano
  12. ScottyB

    ScottyB Member

    I use the Prodigy Advance on my test module and I like it a lot. It has worked flawlessly for me and I find it easy to use. I am a lone operator and once I get going on my permanent layout I hope to use the Prodigy Advance on that. It would easily handle 3 locos at a time.

    For lighting your buildings and powering accessories, just use a regular dc/ac power pack. I wouldn't rob the DCC system of any power...

    Wow UP, 24 smilies? I don't even have that many figures on my layout yet...

  13. TN_Trainman

    TN_Trainman Member

    Thanks Everyone for replys,

    I think that I will be going with the Digatrax system, after speaking with a few club members in Nashville, they say they have had excellent results with the system they have, and warrenty service has been outstanding.

    Other than that I hope each of you have a very Merry Christmas!!!!!

  14. NYNH&H

    NYNH&H Member


    A lot of people seem to love the PA, but for new users, there are a few things to be aware of. First, the PA is not a fully featured system, unlike Lenz, CVP, Digitrax and NCE, as it does not have wireless or a computer interface. The other thing is that it is said to be as easy to use as NCE, but then why not just buy NCE, as it is a full featured system with radio, computer interfacing, etc?

    The old powerpack idea is a good one. If you don't have an old one, then put the accessories on a terminal strip, so they can be disconnected if you run out of DCC power with 8 zillion lights, and hoooked up to a used power pack/ old wall wart from a dead something. A used power pack is cheaper than a DCC booster! On the other hand, if you want to turn lights on and off with your throttle... :D


    You will love Digitrax! Hopefully you will never need waranty work on anything. I have heard a few reports of Digitrax no longer fixing 10+ year old stuff, and NCE losing track of stuff that is in for warranty for a couple of weeks, and then fixing it! :rolleyes:
  15. nycentral2006

    nycentral2006 New Member

    I would stay away from the bachmann system. I had one for about 5 months and quickly grew tired of it since I couldnt program cv's, starting voltage, and special functions that came with my decoders. Also the connection to the track is not the greatest since it is a headphones style plug and is prone to shorting out the system (happened to me and blew out the system)

    I now currently have the digitrax dc50 (zephler system.. sorry about the spelling) and the dt400 throttle. Even though it only has 2.5 amps of power it runs about 5 of my locos at the same time. I also like the idea of the loconet expansion port which will alow me to run accessories to the system. The only problem that I am having is programming bachmann decoders in some of my locos. ( I have there k4 pacific, j class 4-8-4, and southern 2-10-2. All of which came with dcc on board).

    what made me choose the digitrax system is the expandability and the programming features it allows. I also chose it for the "stealing" capability so that when my son wants to "play trains" it will give him the feeling that he is actually running a loco and if he gets too crazy with it, I can take control and reign him in. VERY IMPORTANT if you have young kids.

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