"Entry" level DCC controller?

pbfoot May 13, 2007

  1. pbfoot

    pbfoot New Member

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    I've recently gotten back into the hobbie a little. I have a 4 year old son and bought a couple of the Bachmann HO Thomas the Tank Engine sets around Christmas along with another engine and some rolling stock. (He's ok at seeing the Rio Grande F7A with some coal cars, be he goes nuts when the Thomas locos and rolling stock comes out...and of course we needed a turntable and a round house.)
    Ok, the dreams of many trains in motion, dozens of turnouts, and train yards were awakened again...and now, unlike when I was a growing up...I have "some" money to spend.

    Ok, without the turntable and a train yard, this little 4X8 setup was simple as a DC setup. Bring the mainlines togther feeding a turntable and suddenly even Daddy pauses when a train goes in the yard.

    So for the question? Which DCC control would y'all recommend that could grow a little over the years? And what is possibly "good enough"?

    Options I am considering are:
    Bachmann EZ Command: Cheapest, looks simple (forward, reverse, knob, buttons for the address), current looks a limited at 1A continuous, stuck with one output voltage, new booster is going to be $200, you can hook one additional throttle, not digital feedback of what you're doing.

    Digitrax Zephyr: Operations looks as simple as Bachmann, higher current rating which I probably won't exceed anytime soon, about three times the price as the Bachmann, recommended by local retailer, and I believe it's what the N scale club uses around here, two additional throttles possible

    MCR Prodigy Express: Still has a knob for little hands, looks like you can upgrade the booster to a 3.5A for <$150, inbetween on the price,

    NCE Power Cab: Looks similar to MCR PE, different style buttons

    Is there any specific limitations of any of these. Since this will be my first entry into DCC, I'm not sure what we will "need" in the future. With the Thomas stuff, we won't be using any of the really advanced functions, but some would be nice to have in the long run....

    I can see adding a few more locomotives on HO scale and when my son gets a older, transitioning to N scale...of course at that time, it might be time to upgrade anyway.

    For decoders, I was thinking about using Digitrax DH123D.

    Thanks for the help.
     
  2. Gats

    Gats Staff Member TrainBoard Supporter

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    Welcome to TrainBoard CK!

    This is an occassionally asked question in this forum. There have been replies in the past that will help you in your decision, and I'll post the links below.

    Personally, I use a PowerCab and found it will do just about anything the bigger systems do but with a lower amp output (which can be added to using the Smart Booster), no PC connectivity (coming at some time soon) and the downside of not being able to move the PowerCab controller to another plug point without stopping trains. In standard trim it will accept a second controller which negates the aforementioned issue by moving it.
    Adding the SmartBooster will give you an additional 2 controllers over standard (for 4 total) and the ability to move the PowerCab controller without stopping trains.

    In updating at a later time, the PowerCab controller can be used in a larger Pro Cab system, or now as part of a club situation, with a simple reprogramme of the controller address.

    http://www.trainboard.com/grapevine/showthread.php?t=87948

    http://www.trainboard.com/grapevine/showthread.php?t=87984

    You can also try the search function for any other questions you may have. They may have already been answered. :)
     
  3. Cleggie

    Cleggie TrainBoard Member

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    Hi Ck, welcome to TB,

    just my $0.02 worth, I would pass on the Bachmann EZ-DCC I have one and although it is ok, easy to set up and use it doesn't have the expandability that you need.

    Also you miss out on some of the features that come with sound equiped locos, so I would go with NCE which is what I am planing to get to replace my Bachmann set.

    Then again it is your choice, see if you can try some of these different systems out (friends, club or LHS) and find one that best suits your needs.
     
  4. pbfoot

    pbfoot New Member

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    That's what I thought about the Bachmann setup. Good for now, simple and cheap, but it is probably worth getting a more advanced setup to keep things interresting for a while.

    I'm trying to ignore the thought of how to get the "peeps" and "poops" into a sound decoder to put in one of the Thomas locomotives. I figure we'll eventually get some diesels with lots of sound and lights in the future. (We dusted off the old wistle for sound purposes.)

    I figure the other three DCC sets would probably be a lot better long term. I like the handheld design a little better for myself plus you can always stow it off layout when done. The computer interface is probably not necessary unless I went to N scale and had lots of time on my hands. Multiple throttles will eventually be a must and are doable on all of the other sets. I am leaning toward the NCE since I like the layout a little better and most discussions I have seen are NCE vs. Digitrax.

    I am probably going to use Digitrax DH123D's for the Thomas stuff.(Cheap, simple, fairly standard.) I may step up to something that has BEMF for the "real" models.
     
  5. CSX Robert

    CSX Robert TrainBoard Member

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    If you're interested in N-scale, why wait till your son is older? You can get Thomas, Percy, James and Henry in N-scale(My 7 year old son has all 4).

    I have the Zephyr and I really like it. One thing I want to point out is while it has two jump ports that let you use DC power packs as throttles, it will support a total of ten throttles. One of the reasons I went with the Zephyr is you can get a PC interface for it right now. I also plan to have a layout where 5 or 6 people can run trains at the same time, which would not be possible with the PowerCab's 2 or 4 cab limit. The Zephyr is the only one I have ever used(other than a MRC Command 2000), but from what I have read the EZ-Command is the easiest to use. The MRC and NCE units are the next easiest. This makes the Zephyr the hardest of the entry level units, but I still would not consider it difficult at all. If you know anyone in the club, you might want to see if they could let you try out their system to see what you think of it. I really liked the walkaround design of the PowerCab and seriously considered getting it but felt the Zephyr met my needs better.
     
  6. pbfoot

    pbfoot New Member

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    See repost below...
     
    Last edited by a moderator: May 15, 2007
  7. pbfoot

    pbfoot New Member

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    At 4 years old, my son can rerail the HO stuff a lot of the time. Lionel would have been the easiest to work with for him but price and required real estate for an O scale were working against it. I figured the N was a little on the delicate side for now.
    He has Thomas, Percy, and Gordon. I'm waffling over adding James or Edward to the collection in favor of some GP-40's or maybe a 4400. Actually the lack of handrails on F7's, Thomas stuff, and similar are a little friendlier to small hands. Unfortunately the Thomas stuff has international couples so "Troublesome Trucks" and regular trucks don't mix well.
    Thanks for the input on the Zephyr. I figure most of these will be fairly easy for basic operation.
     
  8. ScottS

    ScottS TrainBoard Member

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    I just started using DCC, and a couple of friends recommended the Zephyr. I couldn't be happier. it was very plug and play. even made changing the addresses easy as well. I really like that i can hook up some of the old DC throttles i have, that is a great feature. I'm excited to start playing with some stationary decoders once i get the layout down.
     
  9. pbfoot

    pbfoot New Member

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    Thanks for the input y'all.
    Well, after reading a bit more, I'm going to try the NCE. I like the walkaround style a little better. It was a toss up between that and the Zephyr. I also ordered some basic Digitrax decoders to start out. I would have gone all NCE but it seams the Digitrax decoders are a little more common. Got a solderless one for the Athearn RTR F7A.

    I figure I can just get another mobile decoder for the turntable motor. It is an Atlas turntable, so it has a reversing loop built in....there is a point where it flips the contacts on the track on the turntable when you turn it past 180.(I'll check to make sure it doesn't short when it does this.) Any other suggestions?
     
  10. Gats

    Gats Staff Member TrainBoard Supporter

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    I think you will be happy with your choice, CK.

    Though I haven't got mine wired to the layout, which is still under construction, it does get used in setting up locos on the workbench using Bachrus Saddles. I like it as it is intuitive to a degree.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: May 17, 2007

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