Newbie: Locomotive with DCC installed?

Discussion in 'N / Z Scale Model Trains' started by Cheetah20, May 24, 2007.

  1. Cheetah20

    Cheetah20 Member

    I'm still afraid to get this thing
    BUT I'll be putting up the boards this Friday.....
    then to pencil in my layout then buy my FLEX tracks......
    BUT.....*(want to go DCC)
    need an engine at a resaonable cost and the style will then dictate what cars to get.

    Locally..there is NOT alot of choice out here and to buy online scares me at times when you spend so much money and wonder how to get help if something goes wrong with it.
    So....WHERE DO I LOOK?
    any deals out there or thoughts on buying an engine with DCC encoder???
    thanx gang :mrgreen:
  2. Cannonball

    Cannonball More Trains Than Brains

    If you're concerned about customer service if there are problems with your loco, I would suggest staying off of eBay and check some of the hobby store sites online. Most of them should honor a complaint the same as your local LHS would. If they don't, they won't be in business for long.
  3. davidstrains

    davidstrains Active Member

  4. Cheetah20

    Cheetah20 Member

  5. umtrr-author

    umtrr-author Member

    Model Train Stuff is the web name for MB Klein. They are very reputable.

    My guess is that you're considering an Atlas locomotive with DCC already installed. In another thread you tossed out the $150 number. If that's Canadian and including shipping and PST/GST, my quick calculation says that's probably about right at a standard discount price.

    There are some other excellent dealer choices as well; many of them get my column so I hesitate to recommend one over another as I don't think that would be fair. Do make sure up front that they ship to Canada as some do not.

    You can look around a little more and pick up a less expensive loco but your choices might be limited. The non-DCC locos are going for a lot less money (I'm seeing brand new Atlas locos on eBay selling for under $25!) but I won't fault you for starting straight away with DCC.

    I do need to ask the "dumb" question though: do you have a DCC control setup already? That's going to run over $100 (US) easily also and you can quickly spend $200, $300 or more on that. It's been shown (at least to the point that I am convinced) that longer term, DCC is less expensive than DC control if you're starting from scratch.

    Disclaimer: I don't do DCC; I'm too far entrenched with older equipment that would cost a fortune in time and money to convert; plus 99% of the time I'm the only one who operates, when I get to that which is not often. There are definitely people here who know a lot more about that subject.
  6. Cheetah20

    Cheetah20 Member

    you know....I HAVE been thinking it over as I want to build my layout for '2' to work on now and one to have ready for the future as I too am NOT rich.........
    I do NOT have a control setup yet and I know they are expensive...
    ~Maybe I should get a 'regular' engine and leave the DCC for the second....down the road...that way I may learn more about DCC
    BUT>> should I still get a DCC power supply???
  7. Jim Krause

    Jim Krause Active Member

    By "regular engine" do you mean a DC powered loco? If this is what you are talking about, you will need a conventional DC power supply. DCC will not operate a conventional DC loco unless you convert it to DCC by adding a decoder. I would suggest some reading up on both DC systems and DCC. DC (direct current) the older system, supplies 0 to 12 volts power to the locomotive via the rails. Control takes place within the power supply and is routed through the rail as voltage change and polarity change. See MRC's Tech 4 series power supplies for examples. DCC (digital command control) supplies power to the locomotive via the rails but also adds digital control signals for an onboard decoder which tells the locomotive how fast to go and in which direction. Additionally, if the decoder is sound equipped, various noises are generated through a speaker on the loco. So you see, two different worlds and different equipment.
  8. Cheetah20

    Cheetah20 Member

    yes...sorry...DC loco
    so its DC or DCC way or the other?
    Thanx Jim.....
  9. Cannonball

    Cannonball More Trains Than Brains

    There are a few locos out there that can run on either but they are going to cost you some bucks.

    You can also buy locos that run on DC but can be converted to DCC later on.
    If you are intent on moving to DCC at some point but want to start in DC because of cost, this would seem to be the most viable option.
  10. Cheetah20

    Cheetah20 Member

    Thanx Cannonball
    yeah...I'd like to go DCC eventually.....
    BUT I don't want to buy a power supply for DC then have to buy another one for DCC..would this have to be?...
    I hear you can NOT mix the 2...without spending MORE $$$$$$$
    Maybe it would be easier and cheaper in the long run to just START on DCC with its powersource?????????
  11. umtrr-author

    umtrr-author Member

    Some of the DCC systems utilize a DC powerpack as their source, so it would not necessarily be a waste of money.

    If I had to take a "do over" I would probably start with DCC, since I think it is less expensive in the long run.

    Where you start depends on your budget. There are some locomotives for which DCC decoder installation is relatively simple; you could start with the DC version and then switch it later.

    If you are really on a limited budget (I suspect you might be) then I would suggest looking into DC first. I haven't seen many things that more frequently lead to abandoning the hobby (or others, for that matter) than frustration over not being able to have a satisfying start on a tight budget. There are definitely ways around this, and we can help with that, but it probably wouldn't hurt to get a sense of what you can spend to get started.

    No worries-- the vast majority of us started this way.
  12. Cheetah20

    Cheetah20 Member

    thanx again umtrr-author ....
    Not that tight...but not rich either..just want to do it right the 1st time..
    I can spend a lil more..want to stay ATOP of this as I had with my digital camera, my big screen TV and my computer, I guess
    'boys with toys' ya know !!
    so a DC powerpack and a DCC ready engine?
  13. Cannonball

    Cannonball More Trains Than Brains

    Sounds like a good start. :thumb:

    Since you're going to be busy with trains for awhile, can I have your big screen TV?

  14. umtrr-author

    umtrr-author Member

    Rats, I was going to call dibs on that!

    Anyway, yes, I agree with the idea of a DC controller and a DCC ready loco.

    Let us know what you buy and we'll suggest companion rolling stock until you beg us to quit!
  15. Cheetah20

    Cheetah20 Member

    you guys are too good!!!
    Thanx again
  16. Jim Krause

    Jim Krause Active Member

    Sounds good to me too. Just make sure you get a DCC ready unit and not one that is a new but 20 year old model that could be converted to DCC with a bunch of modifications. They are still out there on Ebay and in some shops. Buy from a knowledgable shop that actually knows what DCC ready means.
  17. baldwinjl

    baldwinjl Member

    Let me back up and muddy the waters, just because....

    Most DCC decoders WILL run on DC. Sometimes there is a setting that has to be made, but many (most, some?) will detect DC and switch automatically. If you buy with a decoder already installed you'll spend a little less that buying DCC ready and putting in a decoder later.

    I would start DCC, and go from there. Digitrax Zephyr is not prohibitavely expensive, and you only have to do things once.

    As far as what is available with a decoder, most Atlas locos are available either way. Katos do not come equipped, but the intsallation is generally pretty easy. Life-Like/Proto, to this point not so easy. On-line, MB Klein is a good place to check. There are other (Fifer, Wig-Wag, Feather River) that seem to get generally good references.

  18. Cheetah20

    Cheetah20 Member

    "baldwinji" thanx....I think....however'... I'm more confused !!!!
    so IF I get ..lets say that Digitrax Zephyr..(DCC decoder) ....
    it would run my DC engine? ...........
  19. Jim Krause

    Jim Krause Active Member

    About decoders---Decoders are solid state devices that take a digital signal from a command station and turn it into information that tells the locomotive which direction to go and and at what speed to operate, plus the previously mentioned sound functions if so equipped. Decoders are designed to standards established by the NMRA. Consequently they are for the most part able to be operated with any DCC control station. There are standard plug-in connectors in the so called DCC ready locos to make them simple to upgrade to DCC. Also in a DCC ready loco, the motor will be insulated from the rails so that power must go through the decoder. The loco is set up to operate on DC power as it comes from the factory by a circuit card that is removed when installing a DCC decoder. Loco's that are not DCC ready will have to have some wiring changes made and may not have adequate room for a decoder without some rework.
  20. baldwinjl

    baldwinjl Member

    The Zephyr is the control system, not the decoder. The Zephyr will in fact allow you to run one DC locomotive, though for several reasons most people don't like to do it on a regular basis. I think that it ends up being more of a test mode than anything.

    What I was trying (apparently unsuccessfully) to suggest was that if I was debating starting out with DC versus DCC, I would choose DC, unless I never expected to have more than one locomotive on the layout. There are enough locomotives available with DCC already installed that this shouldn't be an issue. And as you gain experience, I you'll find it possible to get a decoder into almost anything. The Digitrax Zephyr or the NCE PowerCab are very good entry level, yet expandable DCC systems, that in the end won't really cost a huge amount more than a good DC controller, and will give you much more capability.

    The only exception I'd make to what I said is that if you are absolutely against a wall budgetwise, DC is cheaper. But if you plan to end up going DCC in the long run it will cost you more, both in time and money, to start with DC and then change over, in my opinion.


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