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longdavey

Budget DCC controller

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Hi folks,

My first post here, go easy on me!

 

Im starting an 8x4 layout build using my old (mostly lima) stock. Its been a while since ive done anything like this so im not really up to date with the latest developments and DCC products.

 

Ideally I woukd like to go DCC straight away but as money is a factor id like a pretty cheap option. A no frills basic controller would suit me as i'd be controlling no more than 2 or 3 locos at a time.

 

What would you reccomend?

 

Ill obviously need to convert my locos to DCC but that looks very simple.

 

Thanks,

John.

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Hi John .

i would suggest the NCE Powercab which cam operate up to 3 locos . You can add an additional booster for extra power for additional locos . The instructions are in english and are not translated from another language. Check out the NCE website .

 

Joe

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Welcome to the site John, the NCE Power Cab is a good option and can be extended as your layout grows. It is a bit complicated to program and the display is quite small, but apart from that it is good.

Another good option is the Gaugemaster Prodigy.

Both controllers can be bought for around £130 sterling.

Stay away from the Hornby controllers in particular the select as it's not NMRA compliant.

Best of luck with the layout and keep us posted.

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Welcome John,the NCE powercab is what you want.I am not very teccy but managed to program mine ok and even remembered how to program again a year later.

Mike

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Hi John .

i would suggest the NCE Powercab which cam operate up to 3 locos . You can add an additional booster for extra power for additional locos . The instructions are in english and are not translated from another language. Check out the NCE website .

 

Joe

 

+1 and very easy to use and programme

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... using my old (mostly lima) stock.

... need to convert my locos to DCC but that looks very simple.

What are you planning to convert to DCC? If you have older locos that do not run very well at present on DC, you may see a marginal or no improvement on DCC.

Consider looking through some of the threads on the DCC section here to see what may be relevant to your situation

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if you can build electronics kits, the cheapest DDC controller and throttle is from merg, you have to join of course. see merg.org.uk

 

The whole thing is under 100 euros. I have a unit and its great, but of course you have to be able to build it, so it may not be an option

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Thanks folks, certainly food for thought. I'll keep an eye on ebay for dcc controllers esp the NCE.

 

The locos i plan on converting:

Hornby A1 flying scotsman (tender driven)

Hornby class 58 (currently motorless)

Lima class 37

Lima class 55

Lima class 43 HST

Lima J50 (currently in pieces)

 

Not neccesarily looking to improve performance but to have individual control of the locos.

 

I read that while the hornby select in not nmra compliant it is still compatible with many decoders..is thid true? I like its simplicity.

 

John.

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Thanks folks, certainly food for thought. I'll keep an eye on ebay for dcc controllers esp the NCE.

 

The locos i plan on converting:

Hornby A1 flying scotsman (tender driven)

Hornby class 58 (currently motorless)

Lima class 37

Lima class 55

Lima class 43 HST

Lima J50 (currently in pieces)

 

Not neccesarily looking to improve performance but to have individual control of the locos.

 

I read that while the hornby select in not nmra compliant it is still compatible with many decoders..is thid true? I like its simplicity.

 

John.

 

John as others have suggested avoid Hornby DCC controllers. There was another thread on here only last week highlighting the limitations of a Hornby controller that could not even be used to reset a decoder to default values.

 

Check out starter DCC systems such as: Roco MultMaus, NCE PowerCab, Bachmann Dynamis, and Bachmann EZ Command

 

The next level up is Lenz, Zimo, GuageMaster, ESU and NCE ProCab

 

Recommend you invest some time checking out the ergonomics of the various systems cabs, button and control layouts, etc, throttle sliders v rotary knobs v buttons, etc. Its a good idea to download the manual for each system and have a good read. It will give you a good idea which system will suit you.

Edited by Noel

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The locos i plan on converting:

Hornby A1 flying scotsman (tender driven)

Hornby class 58 (currently motorless)

Lima class 37

Lima class 55

Lima class 43 HST

Lima J50 (currently in pieces)

 

Not neccesarily looking to improve performance but to have individual control of the locos.

 

Before you fit any decoder to your locos, ensure that they are running 100% perfectly on DC. Fitting a decoder to a loco that is not running perfectly will only make it run worse.

 

I read that while the hornby select in not nmra compliant it is still compatible with many decoders..is thid true? I like its simplicity.

 

John.

 

Like Noel, and others have said, stay away from the Hornby DCC controllers, particularly the Select, as once you have got past the initial starting phase with DCC, you will wish you had gone for something less basic. Yes the Select will work with other decoders, but it is very limited in what it will do, apart from make the loco move.

Edited by Dhu Varren

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You could try the Digitrak DCS51 , I got one about 18 months back and its a fine bit of kit, bit more expensive than the NCE powercab . I was lucky at the time I could get it but it was 2-3 months before I got a chip to fit to a train ( Buy DCC chips or eat were choices, I like to eat)

 

Running older Lima trains generally won't work that well, lack of pickups and the can motors that run OK on DC will break your heart on DCC. I alway wondered why people complained about the older Lima\ Hornby locos until I started to get new Bachmann\Hornby\ Athearn locos and saw the difference.

 

But saying that no harm in trying, I tried with a Lima IE 201 which ran like *hite on DCC but I'm going to try again in the new year with a 5 pole motor and more pickups ,thats the plan anyway.

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On a related note, I inherited a Hornby Elite but was considering changing to an NCE Power Cab (maybe with a Booster Pack for more power) or the Gaugemaster Prodigy Advance 2.

 

Is this a worthwhile change or really more of a sideways move? I'm aware that Hornby is seen more as a 'Toy' controller, particularly the Select, however I don't think the Elite has that many fans either.

 

The Power Cab seems popular yet the Gaugemaster Prodigy Advance 2 seems a bit more substantial.

 

Any thoughts would be helpful.

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TBH I'm not that impressed with the Elite at all. I had the Select, went to the Elite and it's just more of the same. The NCE Powercab is a much nicer system to use, faster to control and better button feedback when you press them. The Hornby controllers are loud, clunky and slow to use in my experience, not good at all considering the retail price of the Elite unit.

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Thanks for that Railer.

 

Yeah, I don't really like the unsatisfying buttons and as you say, slow responses, of the Elite.

 

My only hold-back of going with the NCE is possibly its lack of power, at only 1.5 amps. Do you mind me asking how large of a layout you have and what kind of power/results you get from it? It says it can power upto 3 locos at once, but I don't know if the things like lights in the cab would also be a drain.

 

I was looking at the 5 amp booster unit for it but don't know if that would be overkill as my layout is only a 10' x 8' but I would have a few locomotives and nearly all with cab lighting.

 

Fitting of the booster appears easy other than the mention of a UTP unit which doesn't seem to come with the booster pack!

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Have you looked at the Roco Z21? It's an excellent system at a great price. You can get it here http://www.scograil.co.uk/roco-10820--z21-digital-control-system-2365-p.asp

 

I have one and love it. You can plug in any throttle like the NCE Powercab or Gaugemaster Prodigy handsets. Programming is the easiest that I have found of all the controllers. Programming on the NCE Power Cab is a long winded process and some of my customers have struggled with it as they are not that tech savvy.

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Have you looked at the Roco Z21? It's an excellent system at a great price. You can get it here http://www.scograil.co.uk/roco-10820--z21-digital-control-system-2365-p.asp

 

I have one and love it. You can plug in any throttle like the NCE Powercab or Gaugemaster Prodigy handsets. Programming is the easiest that I have found of all the controllers. Programming on the NCE Power Cab is a long winded process and some of my customers have struggled with it as they are not that tech savvy.

 

I will take a look at it certainly, thanks Dave.

 

I did see your advice earlier in the thread regarding the NCE and the Gaugemaster, you said both were fairly good. Although I do now note your subsequent comments regarding your customers and the programming of the NCE. Out of those two, is the Gaugemaster that much behind the NCE? Its not bad from what I can gather from most people's comments.

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I was looking at the 5 amp booster unit for it but don't know if that would be overkill as my layout is only a 10' x 8' but I would have a few locomotives and nearly all with cab lighting.

Most decoders are one amp decoders so the maximum current draw that you will have per locomotive would be 1Amp. More than this and your decoder will fry. When the locomotive is stalled, you will have a high current draw, which will increase with a longer train and increase more I you have a gradient to climb. No matter what lighting etc., the maximum will be one amp per decorder or you'll fry the decoder.

So maybe you need one amp per simultaneously running locomotive plus anything else you need to run. If you introduce carriage lighting or lighting on the layout, turnouts that you want to control by DCC, etc. you will want to account for that also. Consider what you want to do with the layout in the future and if any additional power needs will be required. Lots of people with a lot of experience with DCC on here. Just my 2 cents.

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On a related note, I inherited a Hornby Elite but was considering changing to an NCE Power Cab (maybe with a Booster Pack for more power) or the Gaugemaster Prodigy Advance 2.

 

Is this a worthwhile change or really more of a sideways move? I'm aware that Hornby is seen more as a 'Toy' controller, particularly the Select, however I don't think the Elite has that many fans either.

 

The Power Cab seems popular yet the Gaugemaster Prodigy Advance 2 seems a bit more substantial.

 

Any thoughts would be helpful.

 

The NCE Power Cab is a great starter set, and you can always add the 5amp booster later if on an 8'x10' layout you discover you needed more power. 1.5amp may prove enough for you. The NCE Power Pro is the same system as the Power Cab but it comes with a 5amp power supply. Its really down to how many locos you want to run at the same time (i.e. moving locos not stationary on the layout). Stationary loco decoders take almost no power, its is only when their motors are running they consume power. Both systems use the same cabs which are amongst the easiest DCC systems to programme. The main reason I choose NCE over Lenz and Guagemaster (both excellent btw) was my personal preference for the ergonomics of their dog-bone hand held cabs, the feel in hand, button feel, layout, etc. I was drooling over the ESU 50200 and very nearly went for it, tempted by the lovely colour screen UI, but its games console style twin controller didn't suit our layout as we needed hand held controllers rather than a fixed base station. On a smaller layout it may well suit, as might the Bachmann Dynamis Ultima.

 

Its really down to personal preferences and the touch and feel of controls on the different systems. If you are interested in DCC sound, some cabs lend themselves better to quick access to sound functions than others. Some folks prefer push buttons for throttle, others prefer sliders or rotating pots/wheels. You just don't know for sure until you try the different cabs in hand and then you will know in an instant which ones best suits you. I spent three months a few years ago researching this and nearly got bogged down there seemed so many options.

Edited by Noel

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I will take a look at it certainly, thanks Dave.

 

I did see your advice earlier in the thread regarding the NCE and the Gaugemaster, you said both were fairly good. Although I do now note your subsequent comments regarding your customers and the programming of the NCE. Out of those two, is the Gaugemaster that much behind the NCE? Its not bad from what I can gather from most people's comments.

 

Out of the two I favor the NCE, but the problem with both of them is they are an old design. They are both American and both manufacturers have stopped developing them with a if it ain't broke don't fix it attitude.

The NCE 5 amp system is very expensive as is the bigger Gaugemaster Prodigy, what annoys me is manufacturers charging ridiculous prices just for a system that can cope with more locos. 1.5 amps is just enough to run a couple of locos at the same time.

That's why I like the Z21, it has all the features of the ESU Ecos for half the money. You can buy the Roco multimaus throttle and plug it in cheap enough.

Plus the system is easy to update. If you like I'll bring it up to you one evening to try it on your layout.

 

At the end of the day it's personal choice, research all of them and see which one is best for your needs.

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You can buy the Roco multimaus throttle and plug it in cheap enough.

Plus the system is easy to update.

 

Thanks for the offer of the demo. Will do a bit more research myself first on all three, regarding features and what would suit me best, etc, and then come back to you.

 

But if you don't mind me asking you one final query on here, I've seen the Z21 on YouTube and the way it interacts with the iPad or iPhone, it being its unique selling point. But on the subject of the throttle, can you use the multimaus (or other compatible throttle) on its own to program the locos, or is that all done through the smartphone element and you just solely use the throttle to drive the locos?

 

Basically, if you purchase the multimaus, can you do everything through the throttle also (be it program and drive) or is there some element that you will always need the iPad or iPhone for?

 

Thanks very much Dave.

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Consider what you want to do with the layout in the future and if any additional power needs will be required. Lots of people with a lot of experience with DCC on here. Just my 2 cents.

 

Thanks DiveController. Yes, I doubt I will be wanting too many locomotives running at once, generally one, at most maybe 2, with the capacity for another one maybe shunting. But with the cab lighting, etc, that may prove a bit much at times for the basic PowerCab. I will be manually controlling the switches for now but again in future, maybe better having a few more amps on hand should I go DCC with them.

 

The NCE Power Cab is a great starter set, and you can always add the 5amp booster later if on an 8'x10' layout you discover you needed more power. 1.5amp may prove enough for you. The NCE Power Pro is the same system as the Power Cab but it comes with a 5amp power supply.

 

Also, thank you for your views Noel. I was looking at the possibility of the 5 amp booster (SB5). Fitting seems straightforward but it mentions you need a UTP unit (rather than the PCP that comes with the original boxed PowerCab that becomes redundant on purchase of the SB5), and this doesn't seem to be packaged with the booster pack, unless I'm mistaken, which is strange! Trying to source one then is another matter. I doubt you can use the PCP as a UTP!

 

Have you just the basic 1.5 amp system or have you upgraded with the 5 amp to the Pro?

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Thanks for the offer of the demo. Will do a bit more research myself first on all three, regarding features and what would suit me best, etc, and then come back to you.

 

But if you don't mind me asking you one final query on here, I've seen the Z21 on YouTube and the way it interacts with the iPad or iPhone, it being its unique selling point. But on the subject of the throttle, can you use the multimaus (or other compatible throttle) on its own to program the locos, or is that all done through the smartphone element and you just solely use the throttle to drive the locos?

 

Basically, if you purchase the multimaus, can you do everything through the throttle also (be it program and drive) or is there some element that you will always need the iPad or iPhone for?

 

Thanks very much Dave.

 

That I'm not sure of, I'll check it and get back to you, I use the tablet most of the time and at shows I use Eoin Multimaus

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Blu, just FYI many of the DCC controllers can use iPhones/iPad and Android devices as wireless touch screen cabs using JMRI on a Laptop/PC connected to DCC controller via USB or RS232. (e.g. WiThrottle lite app). I was a sceptic until I tried it. There are pros and cons of using smart phones. What I like is its a good way of getting low cost wireless cabs (i.e. use phone over WIFI), but I don't like touch screen for throttle control because there is no tactile feel of throttle inputs (i.e. no feedback by feel), only visual, which means you have to look at the cab instead of the locos (i.e. keep your finger on the correct area of the apps throttle control on the touch screen). This is awkward and inconvenient when shunting, running around a train formation, etc.

 

iPhone throttle

05efa17e-8338-4c30-9476-6f116400ac1c.jpg

 

iPad twin throttle

1f761848-1296-40c2-a1c5-026bb2eba0d3.jpg

 

iPad quad throttle

d3f1b4c2-3d02-481d-97e7-712e082cefde.jpg

 

As Dave said, some smartphone apps can directly interface with some DCC systems negating the need for a PC in the loop. The ESU Mobile Control II wireless cab seems insanely expensive compared to a free smartphone, but it does have a physical throttle control knob which facilitates one handed blind operation unlike a purely touch screen app on a smartphone. JMRI is cheap and cheerful but its a good way of adding wireless touch screen cabs at close to zero cost, but only if you like using touch screen cab apps. One nice feature for sound locos is you can personalise the labels of sound function buttons for each loco.

 

ESU Mobile Control II

ESU-Mobile-Controller-II-main-pic.jpg

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That I'm not sure of, I'll check it and get back to you, I use the tablet most of the time and at shows I use Eoin Multimaus

 

Cheers. Reading on 'www.rmweb.co.uk' that it maybe possible but thanks for the research. It looks a very good system.

 

As an Austrian/German product, you have had no issues with the Z21 recognising the Murphy Models/Bachmann/Hornby loco decoders? That would be my last real concern.

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Cheers. Reading on 'www.rmweb.co.uk' that it maybe possible but thanks for the research. It looks a very good system.

 

As an Austrian/German product, you have had no issues with the Z21 recognising the Murphy Models/Bachmann/Hornby loco decoders? That would be my last real concern.

 

It's fully NMRA compliant which means it's communicates with everything. Download the app and have a play with it.

There is a good website for it http://www.z21.eu/en

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Blu, just FYI many of the DCC controllers can use iPhones/iPad and Android devices as wireless touch screen cabs using JMRI on a Laptop/PC connected to DCC controller via USB or RS232. (e.g. WiThrottle lite app). I was a sceptic until I tried it. There are pros and cons of using smart phones. What I like is its a good way of getting low cost wireless cabs (i.e. use phone over WIFI), but I don't like touch screen for throttle control because there is no tactile feel of throttle inputs (i.e. no feedback by feel), only visual, which means you have to look at the cab instead of the locos (i.e. keep your finger on the correct area of the apps throttle control on the touch screen). This is awkward and inconvenient when shunting, running around a train formation, etc.

 

iPhone throttle

05efa17e-8338-4c30-9476-6f116400ac1c.jpg

 

iPad twin throttle

1f761848-1296-40c2-a1c5-026bb2eba0d3.jpg

 

iPad quad throttle

d3f1b4c2-3d02-481d-97e7-712e082cefde.jpg

 

As Dave said, some smartphone apps can directly interface with some DCC systems negating the need for a PC in the loop. The ESU Mobile Control II wireless cab seems insanely expensive compared to a free smartphone, but it does have a physical throttle control knob which facilitates one handed blind operation unlike a purely touch screen app on a smartphone. JMRI is cheap and cheerful but its a good way of adding wireless touch screen cabs at close to zero cost, but only if you like using touch screen cab apps. One nice feature for sound locos is you can personalise the labels of sound function buttons for each loco.

 

ESU Mobile Control II

ESU-Mobile-Controller-II-main-pic.jpg

 

I agree Noel, the only drawback with touch screen is lack of feel. But it's a small drawback and compared to the Withrottle it's much more advanced. I find JMRI very basic and the Z21 app is way better. Programming is bar far the easiest of any dcc controller that I have used.

It also communicates with everything and will work with LCC in time with a software update.

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