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Thread: What is the best DCC controller

  1. #1

    What is the best DCC controller

    I am a beginner at model rail roading so go easy on me for now. I have a question about DCC controllers for HO scale trains and layout design.

    What brand and model of controller is the best and most cost effecient for someone like me? If anyone can answer my question it would be apreciated.

    I have an off topic question but it is related to model railroading. How big should an HO layout be and how tall should a mountain be in HO scale? I am right now working off of a 4x8 sheet of plywood in my backyard. If anyone can give me some advice on this matter I would appreaciate it.


  2. #2
    Join Date
    Apr 2007
    Greensboro NC
    Welcome to the forums.
    As for what DCC is best for a beginner, you will need to consider how large your layout will be when complete. If it's a single 4x8 sheet of plywood, almost any starter set will suffice. I have a Digitrax Zephyr that I've had for many years running my N scale layout, and recently acquired a second Zephyr for a small HO layout I'm building.
    As for how big an HO layout should be, the only limits are time, space, and money. A 4x8 is a good place to start, many people do.
    You're never too old to do something stupid.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Nov 2002
    Bellflower CA
    For a good starter system go w/ an NCE Power Cab. They also make decoders to fit most steam & diesel locos should yo get/have some w/o them. It's the easiest to start up and use. MSRP is $179.00 but can be had cheaper on the internet. People will claim Digitrax is the best sytem but your have to be VERY fluent in conputer geekese to use it!
    Andy Jackson
    Bellflower CA

  4. #4
    Join Date
    May 2006
    They are, to a unit, and across brands, extremely reliable and do what they were designed to do.

    The 'best' system for you is the one that is the best fit. Usually, that means the throttle that feels the most comfortable, that has buttons the right size for your mitts and eyesight, and the one that can provide the amperage you will need at times of peak some room to grow.

    Go to the manufacturers' sites and look at what they offer. Find out which throttle seems to have the most appeal to you in terms of overall configuration, and match the power throughput that the system can provide with your expected amperage demands. For example, if you have a smallish quality diesel and no sound system, just a straight motive decoder, you can expect that engine to need about 0.25 amps at most. Make it work hard on steep grades pulling 15 weighted cars, you may get that up to 0.4 amps...depending on the efficiency of the motor and drive, and how freewheeling the individual trucks are under each car trailing the engine.

    Add up your power requirements, add 20% for future growth, and that system should look after you very reliably for several years.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Jan 2007
    Christiana, TN
    Quote Originally Posted by DCCbeginner View Post
    ...What brand and model of controller is the best and most cost effecient for someone like me?..
    Well, we don't know enough about you and your layout plans to be able to answer that. There are many good choices out there and what is right for you depends you and your layout. How many trains do you plan on running at one time? Do you plan on having other people operate with you and if so how many? Do you have any interest in having integrated signaling and/or computer dispatchnig? Do you have any interest in wireless and if so would you want to start out wired and upgrade to wireless latter? There are many more questions I could ask as well.

    Quote Originally Posted by cajon View Post
    ...People will claim Digitrax is the best sytem but your have to be VERY fluent in conputer geekese to use it!..
    Simply put, not true. Some of the older Digitrax throttles were somewhat difficult to get used, but all of the current throttles(Zephyr, DT402, UT4) are quite easy to operate.

    Like I said before, your specific situation has a large bearing on which system would be right for you. When people respond with(I'm paraphrasing here) "use brand XXX, it's the best," without knowing the specifics for your situation, it's not helpful.

    As an example, I personally use a Zephyr with a DT300 and a BT2 throttle(niether is available anymore, but I found them on ebay)because it absolutely was the best for my situation. The Zephyr was my chioce for several reasons, but one compelling reason was I needed the abillity to have as many as 5 or 6 operators(I do plan on getting more throttles). With NCE, to have that many operators you have get the Power House Pro, I have that ability with a Zephyr for less than half the price(I am in N-scale, so the 2.5 amps will most likely be enough, but even if I have to add a booster, it will still be cheaper than going with a Power House Pro). Of course, that doesn't measn the Zephyr is right for you. Even though the Zephyr was best for me, there have been times when I have recommended other systems to people because the Zephyr really did not fit them.

  6. #6
    Join Date
    May 2006
    I am the farthest from a computer geek that a person can be and still post here. Yet, I use the Digitrax Super Empire Builder and haven't used the manuals in years. I did a smart thing and actually read them when first starting, and did refer to the manuals (one for the DT400 throttle, and one for the base station DB150) a few times over the next couple of months when I wanted to know more or do something not yet learned. Now, both of them have 1/16" of house dust on them. My throttles and DB150 have no dust on them.

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