1. spiffy trains

    spiffy trains TrainBoard Member

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    On the blue rail subject have a friend that lives in australia the guy told him that he is not selling to australia either.
     
  2. MaxDaemon

    MaxDaemon TrainBoard Member

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    This is one of those things that pretty much impossible to agree or disagree with. I'm heavily invested in DCC and love it. I can't imagine switching back to DC and losing the sound, independent locomotive control and lack of block wiring to worry about.

    However, that said, I do understand the issues - problems with live or dead frogs, sound that dies at a switch connection or bit of dirt on the track, and general persnicketyness of the connection are some things I've struggled with.

    However, I DO want to have independent locomotive control and the sound/lighting. So, I'll have patience and really clean my track and learn all about how to make my dead frogs into live ones. After all, isn't a live frog better than a dead one?

    .
     
  3. mtntrainman

    mtntrainman TrainBoard Supporter

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    If I ever have to give up my large layout and DCC...

    [​IMG]

    I will go back to my 'Hanging HCD' double track and my TechII....

    [​IMG]

    It was DC and only had 1 feeder to each loop...and ran fine.

    I would miss my DCC but IMHO DCC is overkill on a 32x80 HCD layout.
     
  4. kmcsjr

    kmcsjr TrainBoard Member

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    If you have the DCC equipment, and like DCC I don't think it's ever overkill. Slow speed control is so much better on some units, with DCC.
    BTW, I almost ended up with your folding door layout. Glad I got the larger hanging one.


    Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
     
  5. jdcolombo

    jdcolombo TrainBoard Member

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    Well, to each their own, but . . .

    Legacy locomotives can be converted to DCC, usually quite easily. Anything with light boards on it can be done in about 15 minutes. Yes, you do have to take the frame apart to wire the motor, but if you're in this hobby and can't disassemble a diesel for cleaning/lubrication purposes, you need to learn that skill, which is pretty easy to do, since basically all diesels follow the same design (splt frame; worm gears fitting into dual flywheels, motor in the center held in by a plastic subframe, etc.). Take one apart and put it back together, and you know how to do 'em all.

    As for maintenance, DCC doesn't require any more than DC. I don't know why people think this; in fact, DCC is generally more robust with slightly dirty rail, because it's putting a constant 12-15v to the track. If you've got dirty track, you need to clean it, whether in DC or DCC.

    Finally, there's just no way to recreate prototypical operations using multiple engines with DC only. You can't stop a train and add helpers (well, it is possible to do this with complicated gapping techniques that allow you to kill power to the front of a stopped train while you add power to the back, but that's a lot more complicated than simply stopping the train anywhere, calling up the number of the helper loco consist, adding it to the back, and then moving on). You can't have multiple switchers working on different yard tracks, or different ends of the same yard track while pulling a train into the receiving yard and simultaneously dispatching a train out. You can't properly match speeds on locomotives of different manufacturers (or even the same manufacturer sometimes), allowing you to build that weird-looking consist that has an RS3 in front, a GP9 in the back and an RS11 in the middle. If all you want to do is run a single train around and perform switching moves with a single engine (or two well-matched locos), then yes, DC is fine. And for small layouts (e.g., a hollow-core door layout) where this is pretty much all that is going to be going on, DC works great. So the notion that DCC is more difficult with large layouts is exactly wrong - large layouts that make any attempt to recreate prototypical operations are exactly the layouts that need DCC. It's the small layout running a single train where it doesn't make much sense.

    I suspect that the real reason people leave DCC (or don't try it to begin with) is the horrible user interfaces we have to live with in the DCC world. This IS a problem - people shouldn't have to learn how to program individual CV's and values for bits and bytes and become a binary programming expert to run their trains. This is what causes the frustration in a lot of folks, and it is a real issue that could be solved by Apple or Google or Microsoft or Amazon or nearly any high-tech company that depends on easy user interfaces to sell products. But for some reason, DCC companies are basically still living in the DOS operating system era. It's nuts, and I don't blame folks for saying "to heck with it; I just want to plop down an engine and go." This reason for staying with or returning to DC I completely understand. The others are . . . a bit daffy.

    John C.
     
  6. DCESharkman

    DCESharkman TrainBoard Member

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    DCC rocks! Would never go back to DC. All the naysayers are just misinformed or do not care to get informed.
     
  7. Point353

    Point353 TrainBoard Member

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    Or would rather not have to convert a 50-year accumulation of locos.
     
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  8. kmcsjr

    kmcsjr TrainBoard Member

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    I couldn't disagree more. It's a hobby, play the way you want.
    John
    You've nailed the DCC hurdle. Programming hasn't evolved with technology. But, I think JMRI and DCC++ are amazing solutions. In O, the easier to use solutions are proprietary. MTH and Lionel have their own solutions. Yes, you can buy equipment and run both on track, with constant AC running, but you need both systems. And dropping the MTH board into another loco isn't possible, on many locos. IF you can even find a kit available. You would think there would be a rush to create a better commercial interface AND a wireless DC solution, but given the market size and the number of different vendors, maybe it isn't worth it, with JMRI sitting there and DCC++ evolving. Isn't there already a European system with a bigger screen, tha hasn't really taken off, in the states.


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  9. jdcolombo

    jdcolombo TrainBoard Member

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    Marty,

    JMRI is a much better interface, but think about what it takes to get it operational: you need a computer, you need to download the software, install it, make sure you have the current version of Java to run it (and make sure you have the current version of JMRI, which is not always clear about which version is the right one), then you have to connect your command station to your computer, which usually requires some sort of interface that connects to a USB port configured as a serial port emulator, then you have to deal with it not working because you've got the wrong port selected, etc. And even when you are done with all this and have a working JMRI installation (I do, BTW), the interface really isn't THAT intuitive - just try doing some function mapping, for example.

    Yes, both ESU and Zimo have advanced command stations with large screens (I think ESU's is a touch screen), but they haven't "taken off" here in the US because of cost (ESU's system is about $800 with a wireless throttle; Zimo's is even more, I think) and lack of aggressive marketing (Zimo has limited distribution in the US; ESU is becoming much better known because of the LokSound and has an entire US operation headquartered in Pennsylvania, so it may soon overcome the marketing barrier to its command system, although price is still an issue). I really don't get the prices - you can buy a fully functional desktop computer with a 23" monitor for under $300; in fact, you can get a Raspberry Pi and a monitor for $150. A command station is nothing but a dedicated computer with a signal booster attached - the idea that this should cost $800 (or even $500) is something I don't understand. Maybe DCC++ will fix all this eventually, but not any time soon. Right now it is still a "hobbyist" tool that I'd never recommend to someone starting out.

    Here's what we need. First, throttles all need to be WiFi enabled - no proprietary radio systems. WiFi is ubiquitous and these days nearly everyone has a WiFi router in their house. Throttles need to be like ESU's Mobile Control II, but more reasonably priced. Second, the command station needs to come with a touch screen - it doesn't have to be a big one, but let's say a 10" one. You plug in the command station, attach two wires to the track bus, and the first thing the command station does is read the decoder information for every single engine you have on the track. Decoders have manufacturer ID's, so the command station would know what decoder it is, and like JMRI, would have a stored database of all the possible CV's. So it could read through all the decoders, identify them, and store the current CV's. (Maybe this would have to be done by having you put each engine on a programming track; not sure why this should be, though, since command stations are capable of programming on the main, although I know that they usually can't READ CV's via this mode. Not sure why that is.).

    This command station would have two operating modes. Operations and Programming. You press the "programming" button on the touchscreen, and you are presented with a list of your engines. If you put a new engine on the track, that one is listed first. You press the icon for the engine you want to program, and now you are taken to a Turbo-Tax-like interface. This interface gives you a list of options: Change the address; program a speed table; program the lights; program function keys; etc. One press of the touchscreen takes you to each function, and the interface asks questions in normal English for programming. E.g., "Please enter the address you would like to program on the touchscreen." "Your locomotive is programmed to run in the normal direction; if you would like to reverse the direction of running, please tap here." "Your locomotive has the option of running on both DCC and normal DC enabled; if you would like to disable normal DC capability, touch here." Etc.

    For speed programming, the command station would instruct you to place the locomotive on a clear section of track, and adjust the throttle to the desired top speed. It would then automatically program the decoder in CV5 with the correct value. Then it would ask you to move the throttle to half-speed, and program CV6. Etc.

    All this is doable with current technology. It just takes interface programming, which I agree is hard (my son works as a software engineer for Microsoft, so I'm well aware of the difficulty of getting a user interface "right"). But it is doable. And if we had a system like this, I suspect the DCC vs. DC debate would die a quiet death.

    John C.
     
  10. Inkaneer

    Inkaneer TrainBoard Member

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    And all I wanted to do was to run a train. Not interested in running 2, 3, 4 or more at the same time. Not interested in having multiple units from different manufacturers operate together. Just want to run a train. Complexity is the breeding ground of problems. To adapt an old saying to our situation, "To error is human but you need DCC to really screw things up!"
     
  11. acptulsa

    acptulsa TrainBoard Member

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    What about those of us who actually enjoy the challenge of power dispatching? If we consider operating blocks part of the fun, does that make us misinformed or stubborn?
     
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  12. MaxDaemon

    MaxDaemon TrainBoard Member

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    The nice thing about it is, you CAN continue to run a DC system with a single locomotive and switching, or do whatever you want to.

    And if you, for some reason, want to add DCC later, nothing stops you from doing that too.

    It's a great hobby - you can dig into electronics, make a detailed scene with perfectly groomed weeds, run 10 locomotives at once, have all your switches perfectly prototypical, or run a single train on a John Allen TimeSaver.

    It just depends on what you have time and inclination for.

    And how many other hobbies can you truly say that about?

    .
     
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  13. jdcolombo

    jdcolombo TrainBoard Member

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    And this is EXACTLY the situation where I'd tell someone "Forget about DCC." You don't need it; it complicates you life for no reason.

    John C.
     
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  14. JMaurer1

    JMaurer1 TrainBoard Member

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    Jdcolombo: Your comments on DCC are right on the head. I WORK as a computer tech and I still have to (almost always) refer back to the manuals to do most things with my (Digitrax) DCC system. The software/firmware issue makes me CRAZY when I start thinking about it for too long. Even the programming to 'fix' most of the issues is fairly easy and straightforward, but the MFRS (who are usually designers and not programmers) don't do anything to fix it. JMRI is a band-aid (a very good band-aid, but one none the less). The original promise of DCC was an EASY, INEXPENSIVE was to run trains without tons of wiring. The prices of the systems and especially the decoders have never come down (it was predicted that they would be so cheap - under $5 for a decoder, that every engine would just come with one factory installed). I have even thought about making my own...but don't want the other problems that come with being a MFR. Some day someone will do this right...just not today, and tomorrow isn't looking good either.

    If I was only going to run one or two trains at a time, DC is the best (and by far cheapest) way to go.
     
  15. kmcsjr

    kmcsjr TrainBoard Member

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    This is a great thread btw. There is room for the manufacturers to make money. The $5 decoder would have all the motor control, of one of my favorite steam manufacturers built in decoders. Not the greatly improved control developed by others, for money. Couple that with all the proprietary development and you may as well ask x box to accept play station cartridges. I know MTH has deaf ears to developing a cheap board that would allow control of any O gauge loco on their system. For Lionel, that idea got picked up by a third party and isn't thriving. There needs to be a business reason to make these changes. That said, I don't know why some manufacturer hasn't come out with a truly universal from end. I SUSPECT that the manufacturer that says they have a pretty GUI that makes it all easy will go bankrupt trying to actually support ever changing decoders that other manufacturers have a vested interest in NOT supporting, for the super app company


    Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
     
  16. Inkaneer

    Inkaneer TrainBoard Member

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    Allow me to quote my own post in order to clear up something. Let it be known that I do have a DCC system that at home. I also am involved in an Ntrak club where I run my analog stuff using the Aristo radio throttles. My DCC system is a MRC wireless that does not support non DCC locomotives. Both systems allow me to accompany my train around the layout. That is the key as far as I am concerned. I got the DCC system because the Aristo system is no longer available. If it were, I would probably never have gotten DCC. The MRC system is relatively simple to use but not nearly so when compared to analog. Like I said, "All I wanted to do was run a train."
     
  17. Espeeman

    Espeeman TrainBoard Member

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    I'll be happy enough if I can find a decent DC handheld throttle. I haven't done any reseach yet so I won't ask. ;)

    Same here!
     
    Last edited: Jun 13, 2017
  18. jdcolombo

    jdcolombo TrainBoard Member

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    Many years ago (25) I built a DC throttle system with handhelds that could be detached and plugged in around a walk-around layout. It wasn't a radio throttle, but the engines would keep running at the set speed when the throttle was detached and moved to another plug-in (my recollection was that the plug-in was a standard 1/4" phone jack). I'm pretty sure the plans for this throttle came from an article in MR from even earlier (1980's?). I no longer have the throttles or the article, but someone who had the entire MR archive on DVD that they sold might be able to find it. I recall that there was an original article, and then a correction published to fix some mistake in component values. I also recall that the whole system was pretty easy to build, with very common parts that could be ordered even today from some place like Digikey or Mouser, and wasn't very expensive, even when I built the system 25 years ago for my first layout, before switching to DCC in 1996. And it worked great - it had slow-speed pulse control like the MRC Tech II's that were king of the hill at the time and ran my Atlas/Kato GP9s, RS3's and SD9's like silk. If you're looking for a handheld DC throttle system that can be used as a walkaround (or not, as you wish), you might try to dig this up.

    I also briefly used the Aristo radio system; I didn't use it long, because I liked my home-built walkaround system better, even though it didn't have radio capability.

    John C.
     
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  19. thomas

    thomas TrainBoard Member

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    With my little 4X4 portable layout( I lost the battle for the spare bedroom) DCC certainly isn't needed and I too just want to run trains without as much frustration as possible. Ever since I went with Kato Unitrack just about all frustration is gone on my little layout. But that being said I still would like to be in different areas of the layout to view things as the trains are running and still be able to control them without having to carry the power pack with me. So after many many yrs of train running I finally moved up to the closest thing to DCC in the way of hand held throttling by getting the MRC Control Master 20 power pack. Can't believe I waited so long, this thing works great and one thing I like about it is when hitting the Brake switch it doesn't just stop on a dime like the one on my other power pack but slows down nice and easy pretty much prototypically. These power packs are not being made anymore and I was fortunate to get the older one which has a fan to keep it cool. Not DCC but close enough for me and no frustration either. :)
     

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  20. DCESharkman

    DCESharkman TrainBoard Member

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    Perhaps I was not clear in my post. If you are a fan of DC, I am 100% behind you on that. What I meant and was unclear because it mostly stayed in my brain, was that the people that move to DCC and complain without really trying or taking the time to learn it and then turn around and bash it are just not trying to learn it. Most of the brick walls to success are in the mind, not the technology. Wiring is a great deal easier for a DCC layout. Decoders are not cheap, but they are offset features and capabilities not found in DC operations.

    If you are happy with DC, that's great! If you are happy with DCC that's great too! But to bash one over the other is just silly.
     
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