New MRC Products announced at Amherst Rail Show

Atani Jan 30, 2024

  1. Atani

    Atani TrainBoard Member

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    The Amherst Rail Show was a huge success this year with over 16,000 people coming in on Saturday alone! While at the show, I spent most of my time in the MRC booth demoing and discussing the new MRC system:
    NEXXTLogo.png
    The Nexxt system is a comprehensive evolution from the Prodigy system while maintaining backward compatibility and providing a path forward to new technologies and features that users are asking for. The biggest features of the new system for existing users would be the new WiFi throttle the Gateway.

    Starting with the Nexxt Gateway:
    PXL_20240105_170858409.jpg

    As seen above, the Gateway plugs into the existing Prodigy Cab Bus and provides WiFi access via LCC or WiThrottle protocols to the existing Prodigy systems (Prodigy Express, Prodigy Advanced2, etc). It also provides an interface for JMRI to interact with the Prodigy systems (some limitations apply) without requiring the Prodigy PC interface.

    Next up is the new Throttle:
    PXL_20240105_171045465.jpg PXL_20240106_233320732.jpg

    The new throttle uses LCC over WiFi and contains a rechargeable battery that is estimated to last up to eight hours between charges. The buttons are as follows from top to bottom:
    1. These are function hot keys or soft buttons, the bottom of the display has the first four functions shown as touchable buttons!
    2. Surrounding the speed control knob are four buttons, the left side increment the speed step by 10 up/down and right side 5 up/down when using 128 speed step mode. In 14 or 28 speed step mode these shift to 5 and 1. The speed control knob is always single speed step up/down based on the rotations.
    3. Below the speed control knob: Menu, direction of travel, shift (used for function 10-68). For existing Prodigy users the Menu button replaces SYS.
    4. The big red button is Emergency Stop, and the remaining three are: 1,2,3.
    5. The grey button is "locomotive select" and the remaining three are: 4,5,6.
    6. The grey button is "Accessory / Turnout select" and the remaining three are: 7,8,9.
    7. The grey round button is "Programming", grey oval is backspace, 0 (zero) and enter / confirm.
    The speed control knob is usable for navigation within menus as well as numeric option hot keys. Additionally pressing the knob in (it's a button) is used for enter / confirm.

    And lastly we have the new Command Station, sorry I don't have a photo to share right now but I'll get one up soon! A few of the publicly announced features:
    • Individually controlled PROG and MAIN track outputs.
    • PROG track output with default current limit of 250mA (NMRA standard) with user configuration options to increase to ~300mA allowing power hungry decoders to not trip the current limits.
    • MAIN track output of 5A (default) and user configurable current limit in the range of 500mA to 5A.
    • Integrated RailCom detectors, Global (MAIN track interface) and Power Station (for boosters to send feedback to the CS).
    • Integrated Locomotive roster allowing configuration of locomotive name, drive mode (speed steps primarily), address and Functions (name, visibility, latching/momentary, etc).
    • Integrated Fast Clock functionality.
    • Multiple options for Consist handling.
    While at the Amherst Rail Show we gave out a brochure for the new system, a scanned copy can be seen here. Additional information can also be found on the MRC website.
     
  2. Atani

    Atani TrainBoard Member

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    Also note that we have received some feedback on the throttle and will be working on a narrower form factor in the next revision of the prototypes which we will send out to select users for additional feedback.
     
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  3. BigJake

    BigJake TrainBoard Member

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    Good to see more manufacturers supporting LCC & RailCom!
     
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  4. BNSF FAN

    BNSF FAN TrainBoard Supporter

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    Watched your interview and sounds like some interesting new items. Thanks for sharing that with us. (y)
     
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  5. Atani

    Atani TrainBoard Member

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    Thanks @BigJake and @BNSF FAN! It's definitely going to be a game changer for both the existing MRC users and for LCC in general (due to additional competition in the space). RailCom is still relatively new in the US market, I'm only aware of TCS decoders including support for it (anytime in the last ~5yrs). If other support RailCom please send me a link to the decoder as I'm collecting them for testing on the new CS and eventually the booster (yet to be announced, designs are mostly complete already).

    There was as second interview on Sunday with TWTV but I have yet to see it posted, if/when it is posted I'll put a link in this thread.
     
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  6. BigJake

    BigJake TrainBoard Member

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    ESU and Zimo also support RailCom, on their decoders and command stations. They are Euro-, not US-based, but they support the US market.

    And what was the European DCC system brand that went out of business, but was picked up by someone else (new in business, but a former employee/developer of theirs)? I don't know if that venture is still going.

    RailComPlus is not as well supported, but IIRC, it only adds a feature that, upon power-up, broadcasts the loco's identity. So as soon as the loco is placed on the track, an RC+ CS is aware of it's presence and identity, so the throttles can be so informed.

    Once RC is enabled on the decoder, there really isn't a need for a dedicated programming track, since RC provides much faster readback and verification of programming on the main, even while other trains are running on the same tracks. One could also POM it to enable RC.

    Yep, Railcom is new to US manufacturers, but not to the US market, or the rest of the MR world!
     
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  7. Atani

    Atani TrainBoard Member

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    If you have a recommended model to pick from I'll place an order online for them. I'm not too concerned with scale but more concerned how to connect it to a test harness setup since it won't be going in a loco and only used for testing purposes.

    Very cool. The NMRA also recently updated S-9.2.1 to include the address assignment based on decoder ID, which I'm working on supporting as part of the Nexxt CS (DCC side is functional but not persistent storage of assigned address / DID yet).

    Very true, it's quite popular in the EU.
     
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  8. MRLdave

    MRLdave TrainBoard Member

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    Will the new gateway work with the Prodigy Elite.......the previous WiFi module would not, which I found disappointing . If something is Elite, you expect it to be the best, and I had to buy a cheaper system to be able to use the WiFi.
     
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  9. Atani

    Atani TrainBoard Member

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    Unfortunately I can not confirm as I have not tested it. Which throttles are you using with it? If it is the Advance2 - Elite or Prodigy Wireless then it should work.

    I'll check with my contacts to find out more details on the unit and if they by chance have one on-hand that they can send me for testing.
     
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  10. BigJake

    BigJake TrainBoard Member

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    Atani,

    All my model railroading stuff is packed up in boxes since our household move. I've had too many honey-do's to get back to my trains, but I can see the light at the end of the tunnel (hoping it's not an oncoming train!)

    The Zimo decoder I used was a Zimo MX616N Nano series, IIRC, with an integral NEM651 connector, that I installed in a couple of Atlas N scale Alco S2's. It is non-sound. Both locos would crawl silky-smoothly at very slow speed!

    I also have a Kato SDP40F with a TCS K7D4 decoder factory installed, that supports RailCom, but it is a light-board replacement style decoder (no connector).

    Alas, I did not have a RailCom compliant DCC system at the time I acquired those, so I could not try out the RailCom stuff. I have since acquired a TCS CS-105 DCC system (bundle w/UWT-50 throttle,) but it is also waiting for me to unpack my trains. BTW, I really like the UWT-50 throttle's feel in my hand (that's all I've been able to do with it yet.)
     
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  11. Atani

    Atani TrainBoard Member

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    That's unfortunate but at least you are seeing the end of the tunnel and may be able to start working with your trains again.

    Thanks for the references on decoders, I've ordered the following for testing:
    • TCS T1A - 9-pin JST with hardwire option
    • ESU 59020 LokPilot Basic - 8-pin harness
    • Zimo MX634R - 8-pin harness.
    Now I'll just need to pick up a decoder tester and I should be good to go with testing RailCom functionality with the new CS.

    The CS-105 should have no issues whatsoever with RailCom, the hardware designers have done rather extensive testing on the detector circuit. At least one of the hardware designers is also on the NMRA DCC-WG.

    I like the UWT-50 for it's small size but at the same time I dislike the small size on the buttons and the two side buttons. I prefer the UWT-100 of the two.
     
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  12. BigJake

    BigJake TrainBoard Member

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    What kind of decoder tester are you going to get? I have none. The closest thing to that I have is a "treadmill" for N scale locos (that I haven't had a chance to try out yet.)

    I teetered on the -50 vs -100 wireless throttles in TCS' CS-100 bundle choices. Ultimately, the smaller (and cheaper) throttle won out. I powered up the CS and played with the throttle (not running any trains) when I got it, and am satisfied with the smaller -50 throttle. Not to say the bigger one might be nice too!
     
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  13. Atani

    Atani TrainBoard Member

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    I ended up ordering an NCE DTK board on Amazon, it's cheap and will let me swap in decoders fairly easily as part of testing on the workbench. It's mostly for CS testing and not in specific locos.
     
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  14. Atani

    Atani TrainBoard Member

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    These are surprisingly hard to find these days, MRC discontinued them a few years ago in favor of the Prodigy Advance2 hardware with external boosters (3.5A and 8A). However, I've been able to locate a "new old stock" package and am expecting it to arrive in a few days. I can confirm that it uses the same throttles as the Prodigy Advance2 / Express base units so I do not expect any major issues. I'm still not 100% certain why the WiFi module is explicitly called out as not supported, but I'm suspecting it may have been a software limitation on the older Elite base unit. I've reached out to a few more contacts for more details.

    In any case, I'll be doing some testing and confirmation that things are working correctly. If not I'll make adjustments on the Nexxt Gateway to handle any inconsistencies.
     
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  15. MRLdave

    MRLdave TrainBoard Member

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    Thanks.........I have an Elite, and an Advance. The Elite is hooked to my large home layout (16 X 42) and the Advance goes to our NTRAK setups. I have the throttles that came with the base units ( an Advance and an Advance2-Elite) and a Prodigy Wireless throttle. The WiFi module was originally purchased for use at the NTRAK layouts to let me walk around and control the trains from my phone. The wireless throttle works, but will go thru multiple battery sets where the phone will go all day on a single charge.I had hoped to do the same with my home layout, but no such luck. The Wireless throttles are virtually impossible to find, so something that would give me "walk around" capability would be great. Seems odd that the throttles are interchangeable, but the WiFi module isn't.
     
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  16. Atani

    Atani TrainBoard Member

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    Yes, sadly at least one component in the Wireless throttles and the dongles is no longer being manufactured and that contributes to the out of stock situation. There may be an alternative chip from the manufacturers but it's not easily worked into the existing designs unfortunately.

    One of the features of the new WiFi throttle is the integrated battery which should last at least eight ours between charges. I don't want to have a throttle go down during an OPS session or show.

    Agreed, I've asked for more details on this and will also be testing this locally to see if I can spot anything odd on the Prodigy Cab Bus that might explain it.

    That is a pretty good sized layout! Are you using circuit breakers or boosters to divide the layout up into smaller segments?

    Interesting usage, I thought most clubs were using DigiTrax. I'm aware of one larger On30 club that is also using Prodigy on their layout, I'll be visiting them on Saturday (Feb 10) to see what sort of havoc I can create for them with the Gateway :) I'll also be picking up a WiFi unit from them to see what went wrong with it and if I can figure it out repair it.
     
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  17. MRLdave

    MRLdave TrainBoard Member

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    The layout is in the shape of an E, so it's around 3 walls with a peninsula down the middle. The Elite seems to handle the size just fine.......in fact when I first started the wiring, after installing the first feeder (bus runs around the entire layout) I couldn't resist and put a loco on the track. To my surprise it ran the entire mainline with no issues with just the single feeder. It now has a feeder every 2 sections of flex, plus every siding.

    The club is a DC club.......but because it is NTRAK the 4 lines are all isolated. The club uses Aristo throttles for walk around capability. But members are free to bring in any power they want to run trains. So my Advance is only running one mainline, not the whole layout. Another member uses an Elite with a tethered throttle . which is not very convenient . I use the WiFi module with an old (small) tablet, which not only lets me walk around, but the split screen on the tablet lets me easily run a second train without having to switch back and forth. Wish I could do that at home.

    Any idea when the new system will be available?
     
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  18. Atani

    Atani TrainBoard Member

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    Currently targeting mid to late summer for the Gateway and Throttle and the CS in the fall or winter.

    Also sounds like your E shaped layout is pretty good, I'd recommend considering splitting it and adding circuit breakers for some added safety. The NTRAK setup sounds interesting as well, I'd imagine you shouldn't face too many issues with the new system.

    I'm also expecting the Prodigy Elite system to arrive here on Thurs for testing and I have a meeting setup for Saturday with a local club that also uses the same. We will be testing the Gateway on both and seeing what issues we encounter.
     
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  19. BigJake

    BigJake TrainBoard Member

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    Though I have no intention to switch from my CS-105, I'm happier than heck that LCC is gaining traction, and another stalwart supplier is engaging it!

    Competition fosters improvement faster than anything else.
     
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  20. Atani

    Atani TrainBoard Member

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    Competition is a good thing in this space, it will drive innovation between competitors leading to different offerings that are compatible at a core protocol level.

    I've also been in contact with various people on the TCS side, including their hardware / software devs, and we are cooperating on improving the underlying technology so we can both benefit and deliver a higher quality product to the end users.
     
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