MRC Prodigy Express

Discussion in 'DCC & Electronics' started by Herc Driver, Jul 26, 2006.

  1. lester perry

    lester perry Active Member

    Prodigy Advance does not run DC. I still have old system hooked up for that. I will probably never completely do away with it as you never know what you may desire to run. The only short fall I see with the Prodigy system is no wireless controller.
  2. Herc Driver

    Herc Driver Active Member

    Thanks again everyone for the insight. I'm checking out the DCC on-line info...just read over Tony's Trains DCC info...good stuff.
  3. Gary Pfeil

    Gary Pfeil Active Member

    Just wanted to chime in in regards to the running of analog (non dcc) locos on a dcc system. I don't know about other brands, but you can do so with Digitrax. Woodie's warning about never placing a non dcc loco on a dcc powered layout is not really correct, the only motors which will be damaged are coreless can motors, which none of the mass produced models use. I believe there was a company which made brass narrow gauge steam which used these motors, so you do need to be aware. There has been a lot of controversy regarding this issue, as the motor does heat up. But in all the reading I've done at the Digitrax Yahoo group, no one ever told of a motor being damaged, only the possibility. The reason a motor heats up is that dcc track power is a square wave ac, I don't remember how many cycles it uses, but it is high. This causes the motor to move in one direction for a small fraction of a second, then the other, repeatedly. This movement will not cause the loco to move, but will heat the motor windings. The motor will be heard to be "singing". This is actually quite annoying to me, and a reason not to bother running dc locos. However, I have had many dc locos on my layout for many hours with no problems. And the singing drops in volume when you run the loco. You run an analog loco on dcc (for systems which allow it) by using address 00 In Digirax, this is reseved for analog. What actually happens to get the motor running is called, by Digitrax, "zero stretching". One side of the pulse of the ac is extended, the other shorted, so that the motor sees primarily one polarity. Thus the loco moves. The address 00 can indeed be mu'd to other, dcc, locos and run in a consist. The only limitation to this is that the analog loco can not negotiate reverse blocks wired to reverse block modules as dcc locos can. Reason being that it is the decoder in dcc locos which determines the proper polarity, not the track. You would need to wire toggle switches as on a straight dc layout to get thru a reverse block. One other minus to using the zero stretching to run dc locos is that it makes certain lighting configurations act in an odd way, I do not remember what that situation is.
  4. Herc Driver

    Herc Driver Active Member


    Thank you sir for the information! I really have appreciated the info everyone has offered...I don't want to make an expensive mistake. For my layout, I'm thinking of wiring it to allow for non-dcc diesels to used from time to time. There will be very few that I don't think I'll switch over to dcc. I'm guessing many people do this too. Then again, if I go with a Digitrax it sounds like I wouldn't even have to change the layout wiring but simply utilize the 00 address.

    Well - back to more reading and comparing.
  5. Gary Pfeil

    Gary Pfeil Active Member

    The one thing I didn't mention, but someone else did, is that you can only control one dc loco, or rather one set of dc locos running together, at a time. Because every dc loco on the layout will run when you advance the throttle set to address 00. Because of this, it is wise to have tracks you can turn off to store the dc locos you are not using while using another. Also, this eliminates the annoying "singing"

    I was in the early stages of layout building when I went dcc, I think about 6 or 7 years ago. I had only built and wired my rather extensive hidden staging yard and a loop of mainline. The staging yard had block wiring, the rest was one block. At that point I went dcc but like so many others I had a lot of locos (30 years in the hobby at that point) and some were really old, and not easily converted. So I thought I would be running analog locos quite a bit, and wired my reverse blocks to allow manual as well as automated control. I did not bother with blocking the entire railroad, just the staging areas. This due to the fact that only one train can have analog power anyway. I just wanted to be able to turn off the staging tracks to eliminate the singing, and possibly protect the motors. To get to the point, I never run my analog locos anymore. I will run a new loco a bit prior to installing a decoder, but that's about it.

    Depending on the size/complexity of your layout, I'd think twice about bothering with block wiring with the thought of running dc for very long. It's just so much nicer to not worry about flipping switches to keep a throttle connected to your train. Of course everyone feels differently about this and you must decide for yourself.
  6. pgandw

    pgandw Active Member

    Herc Driver

    Let me preface by saying that I am not yet a DCC user. However, I have been studying the various starter systems for my Dad (who is building an N scale door layout) and I'll just give you my thoughts. Consider the price you paid for my advice, and act accordingly.:) But I have no loyalty to a particular DCC manufacturer either.

    Bachmann - far less expensive than anything else. Only Bachman is limited to 2 digit addressing - which is probably not a limitation on a small layout. It (I believe) is limited to 10 addresses total, which may be significant in your case. No computer interface - this may or may not be a breakpoint for you. Computer interfaces allow you to connect a laptop and directly program decoders using Decoder Pro, and even have your computer serve as a "throttle" on some systems. Since my Dad doesn't own or want to own a computer, he could care less about this feature. Cannot write/change CVs in decoders - this is the back breaker for most with the Bachmann. This means you cannot change the factory programming of the decoders; you are stuck with the manufacturer's defaults. Can operate a DC loco in packet "stretch" mode.

    MRC Prodigy Express/Advance - Handheld/walkaround form factor. Express cannot read back CV values, but can write them. Advance does both and has more power (power doesn't matter much in your present case, all have enough to run 3-4 N locos at once). I don't know of any other significant differences between the two. Neither has a computer interface, nor can they operate a DC loco in packet "stretch". Expandable (add another Express/Advance and additional throttle plates). 4 digit addressing like all the others except Bachmann. Considered to be very easy to use.

    NCE Power Cab - Handheld/walkaround form factor. Computer interface available. Most important limitations are: No packet "stretch", stack of 2 locomotives. To control a third loco, you must release one of the 2 existing ones - park it and "release", then "acquire" the new one. If Power Pro is added, stack is expanded to six. Expandable. Considered easy to use.

    Digitrax Zephyr - fixed power pack form factor; can easily add additional throttles (at a cost), both wired and wireless. Computer interface available. Can plug in existing DC power pack as a "jump throttle" to control speed and direction of a DCC loco. Can do packet "stretching" to run DC loco as others have detailed. Expandable. Digitrax is most widely used DCC system in US. Biggest limitation is form factor and user interface - user interface is considered more difficult than the other systems by those who have used multiple systems. If you remember or understand the calculator wars over RPN vs algebraic entry (RPN has virtually disappeared although engineers generally preferred it, and HP was the big gun behind RPN), this is a similar situation. Has to with whether you enter the desired action first followed by the loco address or the loco address and then the desired action. Digitrax is the opposite of all the others. Wireless throttle has to be plugged in to change locos.

    Easy DCC is not addressed because they don't have a "starter" set that I know of. Lenz I haven't researched yet.

    For most folks, one of the limitations is usually a deal breaker, and narrows down the options to one or two choices.

    my thoughts, your choices
  7. Herc Driver

    Herc Driver Active Member

    Wow! Fred, thanks for the great comparison. That is more concise than most of the Model RR mag's and more informative too. I sincerely appreciate taking the time to type that out. And I agree with you, probably one of the limitations will be the deal breaker. What I'd like to do is run a two to three engine lash-up, and two switching engines for a total at any one time of five diesels. I would like to keep the DC wiring hooked up still and by that I mean keep the turnouts powered by a seperate DC system so that I could take all the DCC loco's off and run DC if I wanted to. I have no interest in using a DCC system to run my turnouts at this time. I'd like the programability of sound, but can't afford to do that yet. One of the basic systems would suffice for now, and for the next few years I believe as I doubt the layout will grow any larger or get more complex than it is now. I think I'm going to take everyone's advice and Not block off any areas of the track...I'll just create a programming track away from the layout. Again, thanks for the great information...I'm sure you've helped me amd many others reading this thread.
  8. UP SD40-2

    UP SD40-2 Senior Member

    OK Herc, now I'm going to put MY 2 cents in and REALLY screw it uptooth1. i have wired my dads layout to run DCC or DC...AND, you can leave ANY locos on the layout:thumb:. its VERY EASY, just takes a few toggle switches;). FIRST,I DO believe in blocked engine tracks, even if you just had DCC engines you should have them. think about this, when you turn on DCC, EVERY DCC engine you have on the layout, the motor IS running, even if it is just sitting there!:eek: unless an engine has QSI, QSI decoders CAN be turned off;). now think about the wear on the motor that you arent using, just sitting there running because you DON'T have it on a blocked track. ALSO, buy putting blocked tracks for engines on the layout, you can now keep DCC AND DC engines on the layout, WITHOUT TAKING THEM OFF!:thumb:. remember though, if you are running DCC, make DARN sure your toggle switches to the DC engines are OFF! AND VICE VERSA! use the same buss lines for BOTH systems, but BE DARN SURE to put a toggle switch in the positive wire BETWEEN your system and the track, FOR BOTH SYSTEMS! buy doing this, the power(current) from one system, will NOT run into the other;). i have set up the last 2 of dads layouts this way, because he has a ton of DC engines that he cant afford to convert them to DCC(retired, fixed income), and has 4 DCC engines, one with sound. Herc, you CAN run BOTH SYSTEMS, LIKE A CHARM, just NOT AT THE SAME TIME. as far as running your turnouts, that CAN BE DONE TOO. if you ARE interested in setting up your layout the way i have explained, i WILL check back on this thread tomorrow night;), if you want, i will post diagrams of just how EASY this CAN be done:thumb::D. Herc, however you wish to do your layout, i wish you the best of luck!:D -Deano
  9. Thoroughbreed

    Thoroughbreed Member

    I have a whole fleet of athearn blue boxes I'm about to endeavor into the world of dcc, I've been researchin and found the tce decoders look to be the easiest for this task, and even give great directions with pics for the apllication. I'm thinkin tce cause price is a factor with this many to convert at once and simplicity helps too. Alot of soldering to do. Now as far as controllers, I have no clue yet what I'll use, as dcc is supposed be cross compatable with the other manufacturers correct?
  10. Gary Pfeil

    Gary Pfeil Active Member

    Deano, dcc locos sitting on powered dcc track do not have their motors running. What makes you think so? The decoders only apply voltage to the motor when you choose their address and advance the throttle at least to speed step 1. Perhaps you are referring to their sound? If so, the Soundtrax decoders allow a loco to be mute until selected.

    I do agree its a good idea to have tracks which can be shut off if you are going to run dc locos. Their "sound system" is quite annoying! Of course, if you want to run two or more trains with dc locos, you need to have dc power supplies, a fully blocked layout the same as you would with straight dc, and the switches you refer to to select either dc or dcc. I have no desire to have to match cabs to blocks via switches ever again. In my case, this over rides any desire to run multiple dc trains. So full block wiring, for me, isn't needed. If there is a loco I just have to run, I convert it. I should say though that I don't run that often, I usually prefer to work on the layout. So that is a factor too!

    If one does want to be able to use either dcc or dc, use one or the other at a time, inadvertantly running from a block connected to dcc to one powered by dc would be bad!
  11. Iron Goat

    Iron Goat Member

    HERC... Try these links also:

    Gary is right about running other non-DCC lokeys on a Digitrax system, so it will handle both (but I think it will only handle one non-DCC engine at a time, while you can run multiple DCC ones). As far as "hand held's" go, the price is not that bad... I got mine for 49.95 at my LHS. 'Hope all of this this helps...

    Bob sign1
  12. Herc Driver

    Herc Driver Active Member

    Good to see ya back online Iron Goat! Thanks for the info!!
  13. Woodie

    Woodie Active Member

    In the true sense of things, Garry, you are correct, however I would err on the side of caution. Unless absolutely certain, then I wouldn't be doing it with my DC locos. Remember that a lot of DC locos also have 12 V incandesant globe headlights, or constant brightness circuitry (using 1.5 V globes, or LEDs and diodes and dropping resistors) designed to use 12 V. The 15 V of DCC wouldn't be doing them any good. And on that point, DCC constant track voltage can be anything, and still work (theoretically). It is only a "standard" that it is 15 Volts. (14.5 Volts for HO, I think is the NMRA DCC 'standard'). My NCE Pro will supply voltage up to 27 V AC to the track (for the larger G scales etc). The additional voltage (14.5 V AC) is to allow for "voltage drop" in the circuitry of the decoder(and DC rectifier) so that 12 V DC can be applied to the motor. The track supplied DCC voltage can usually be adjusted inside your command station. (Your command station cannot provide a higher voltage to the track than your power supply voltage, of course)

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