Help... which DCC system?

Discussion in 'DCC & Electronics' started by Jonnyspeed, Dec 20, 2005.

  1. Jonnyspeed

    Jonnyspeed New Member

    Looking for some assistance choosing a DCC system. I will begin building my first semi-perm layout next month in the basement of my house. It will be HO scale and will occupy the walls of a 10x16 room. Basically it's a modified Ian Rice design with a scenic side and a staging side. I would like to someday have a fully computer interfaced DCC system that is capable of running fully automated "operating" sessions. My goal is to be able to just let the trains run when guests are over or when I just feel like watching. Other times I would like to be able to run in semi-auto mode where the system runs scheduled trains as I operate a local switch job. Of course, full manual mode for times when several people want to operate together is required as well. I would like to have realistic signaling tied into the system somehow...Can this control trains and provide safety at crossings and switches and such? I really like the features that Digitrax offers, but I also really like the simplicity of the NCE Pro Cab. I want to run my trains not become a PHD in DCC if possible.

    I've been a model railroader most of my life. I've done DC N and HO and most recently O Gauge 3 rail with Lionel TMCC. DCC is somewhat new to me. I've read a lot about it and feel that I understand the basics, but I would like advise from those of you that are more experienced with what I would like to accomplish.

  2. Woodie

    Woodie Active Member


    I chose the NCE Pro because of it's computer (serial) iface. I haven't tried it yet. Of course, you've then gotta consider what software................ :eek: :eek:

    Because it'll be the capabilities of the software that will limit/allow etc what you wanna do. Not really the DCC system you choose. (although that will have some impact).
  3. 60103

    60103 Pooh Bah

    Johnny: There must be some clubs in your area that are doing this. Try to make contact with someone (maybe the hobby shop can guide you) as it's a good idea to have someone you can ask when you run into problems.
  4. zedob

    zedob Member

    I'm about ready to convert to DCC, just because of the wiring simplicity and the sound factor. I have a small shelf switching layout that is supposed to be of the early 1900 era ( I may be bumping it up towards the early transition era), so my requirements for alot of the "bells and whistles" (I never realized how appropriate that saying is when it comes to MRRing and DCC) is not that heavy. Even the basic sound capable reciever is about the most I would ever need.

    I'm in the same boat right now. LENZ, DIGITRAK or NCE, they all look great. All of them are quite capable for what I need, but for some reason I have a thing for handheld throttles that use a knob instead of push-buttons. Maybe it's because I grew up with them.

    I know LENZ has the 90 series, which is compatible with their whole line, so I am leaning towards them. I like the simplicity of the handheld. Less buttons.

    I don't care for Digitrak's controller. It doesn't look comfortable to me. However, to be honest I've never held one before and may really be shying away for ethstetic reasons only, not because of lack of capability on DIGI's part.

    NCE's throttle looks like my remote. Excuse me, one of my TV/VCR/DVD/Stereo remotes, which I'm still trying to figure out. Again, I'm making judgements on ethstetics, which because of my layout and it's requirements, or non-requirements, does happen to play a part in the decision making, for me.

    Like I said, I have no doubts that these three systems are quite capable of anything I, or most MRRers for that fact, would ever need in a DCC system. I jsut figured I'd give my $.02 from a different perspective. I haven't seen too many modelers comment on how the throttles actually feel in the hand.

    Anybody want to chime in? I still ahven't made my decision, yet.
  5. Woodie

    Woodie Active Member


    I just bough the NCE Pro with the Pro radio cab. I knew it would have too many buttons etc when all you wanna do is go forwards, backwards, and turn headlights on/off blow the whistle etc, but you've gotta have a comprehensive cab controller on the system somewhere.

    So I also bought the basic "knob" cab as well. So you're not constantly looking for what button does what when all you wanna do is drive the train.

    Having said that, the base NCE "knob" cabs don't have a LCD display, and, when running a few locos from the one cab, you do forget which loco the cab is assigned to sometimes, and there is no way of telling. Especially if you've let the layout run for a few minutes, and.... "damn..... which loco was I last controlling???"

    What's the prob you might say? Just "select loco" again, and away you go, however if the last loco was a different one.... well..... you get the prob that I've started in another thread!!!!

    Mind you, I'm only going on two days since I opened the box on mine!!
  6. zedob

    zedob Member

    Hey, thanks Woodie,

    Good point about the LCD screen. I didn't think about its neccessity since I don't have more than one loco at the moment, but we all know how long that's going to last.

    I like the idea of wireless, but I can see the throttle is going to end up in the living room, or I'll hear it from the wife about how she hates it when she tries to change the channel on the TV and picks up the wrong remote.:D

    I've also been following your DCC posts hoping to get some info as you work with your system.:thumb:
  7. MasonJar

    MasonJar It's not rocket surgery

    I have a Digitrax Zephyr at home, which will appeal to you if you like the old MRC powerpacks. It has a large rotary knob for speed control, and a lever to control forward/brake/reverse. Along this line, I also like the new UT-4 and UT-4R throttles. They have rotary switches to select the loco number, a large dial for speed, and a threeway switch (again for forward/brake/reverse).

    The DT series of throttles take a little getting used to, but do have the advantages of two small knobs (and a display) for control of two locos at once.

    I chose Digitrax in part because that is what the majority of local operators I know use, plus the modular club ( has a ready supply of "gurus" to answer my questions! ;)

    I have used the Lenz system at a few layouts I have visited, and do not like the pushbutton speed control. Overall though, the throttle fit nicely in the hand and the owner reported complete satisfaction with the system.

  8. 60103

    60103 Pooh Bah

    I find that throttles are like cars -- Consumer Reports may find the controls awkwardly laid out, but after you drive it for a month you don't see the problem.
    I often think that many controls should be set with a screwdriver, rather than a large knob -- especially a large knob that doubles on a very common function.
    (Rant over).
  9. zedob

    zedob Member

    I've used a handheld throttle ever since I can remember, plus my layout is strictly switching with manual turnouts, so I need to follow my train around with my hand on the throttle/brake at all times. Safety First! :thumb:

    I used to be worried about which system (of the Big 3) was better, but I've come to the conclusion that all are top notch. They all are way more than I will ever need, but for the price of the starter sets and the choice of cool add-ons, I can't see really going wrong with any of them. Guess it's just a price and personal preference thing, for me.

    Now, who do I buy from? I hear Tony's has a good rep. I thought about buying some of the cheaper deals out there, but I think I'll buy through an established dealer on this investment. I'll pay more for customer support.

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