If you are into electronics, you can build your own. Schematics for pretty much everything DCC, are available on the web at various sites. You can build your own decoders, DCC-computer interfaces, and everything in between. Open source software is available too, for controlling the layout, monitoring what's going on, setting and resetting your decoders, and even designing the layout in the first place.
Much of what I have seen is even loco-net compatible, so it will work directly with digitrax products.
Your best bet at the lower end is the Digitrax Zephyr system. It's fully capable and expandable with all the bells and whistles (yes, it will control sound units), handles 2 and 4 digit addressing and all programming modes, 14, 28, and 128 speed step modes, will write _and_ read CVs, will control as many as 10 trains at a time, has 2.5 amps power, and can use all Digitrax and third party Loconet accessories (such as throttles, IR and IR/Radio receivers, fast clocks, block occupancy detectors, and computer interfaces). It will also let you use
2 analog controllers as digital throttles (which can save you some money starting up) In the event you build a larger layout and need more power, all the accessories work with the other Digitrax systems and the Zephyr can be used as an additional booster, or as a dedicated programming station. In short, the Zephyr's only lower power, not limited capability.
No financial interest, just a very satisfied user of many Digitrax products.
I thought like you and bought the Atlas Commander system because I didnt' know if I'd like DCC or not. It works fine and I'm very happy with it except that when I visit other layouts or talk to other railroaders, or if I need help, I find that everybody uses Digitrax.
It's a Digitrax World and I wish I'd popped the extra bucks for Digitrax. As George Goble used to say, "I feel like a pair of brown shoes in a room full of tuxedos."
"Carter Braxton" wrote in news:5tHUd.1464$ email@example.com:
I risked the wrath of SWMBO and popped nearly $300 for the Digitrax Super Empire Builder. Although the layout is barely begun, I am totally satisfied. At the same time, I bought a Broadway Limited E7A. I have to say that never in my 58 years have two product so thoroughly exceeded my expectations. Kudos to both companies for absolutely outstanding products!
A layout with "3 independent runnable ovals" doesn't seem to me to need DCC. It seems totally within the capability of a couple used power packs and some Atlas "Selectors" and maybe a "Controller". Use your limited model RR budget to complete your RR, get it sceniced, to add structures, and to expand you motive power and rolling stock rosters with better quality equipment. When you get that running, and when you are ready to tear it down and start an larger RR with passing sidings and scheduled operation and meets and double heading etc., then consider buying DCC. You can always use the old power packs to power turnouts or illuminate structures and street lamps. The state-of-the-art seems to still advancing so that by then there will be better smaller decoders and better controllers available, and probably for less money.
In my experience operating on a half dozen different DCC equipped layouts, and visiting several dozen more at NMRA meets, I've only seen a couple where the operation is really improved over old fashioned toggle switch block control systems. I have yet to get through a DCC operating session where someone's unseen derailment doesn't short out half the RR, where all of a sudden locomotives start running away by themselves, where a half dozen totally different controllers show up and not even the "DCC experts" seem to know how to use all the styles to un-MU locomotives or whatever, or where the owner hasn't gotten sick of the sound and turned it off once the new visitors are done ooing and aahing. I'd rather put my money and time into another T-1 or string of new passenger cars.
You might consider DC and block control. Each oval could be a separate block easily enough, and the yard could be broken down to blocks as well. There are enough block control advocates here to provide better input. And it may well be less expensive than DCC, though if you really will run three trains on the ovals and one or more in the yards, you will be looking at multiple transformers. An entry level MRC is about at Walthers (on sale).
But I recommend the Digitrax Zephyr as have others. At LoysToys, a Zephyr plus the PS315 power supply is $160. You can even use old power packs as throttles (up to two) if you have them laying around. The Zephyr will not become obsolete in the future since it can be integrated into Empire Builder or Chief systems as your needs grow.
I would block each major area of your layout regardless of the system you choose (DC or DCC) with a switch to isolate each one. You must do that with DC, but for DCC, that allows you to turn an area completely off if you have a short to see where the problem is; for future proofing, that allows easy integration of PM42's power managers with their individual block circuit breakers and/or auto-reversing capabilities.
in article QJIUd.9902$ firstname.lastname@example.org, Bill McCutcheon at email@example.com wrote on 2/28/05 9:42 AM:
Geezer, you hit it right on the head! I have used DCC, and I don't like the idea that glitches can cause exactly what you described. If one of my locos got into a "corn field meet" as a result of electronic glitches, I think I would be ready to kick some butt. I think DCC is still "Trendy" . With block controls and DC, those kinds of things don't happen.
I have yet to get through a DCC operating session where
Thanks.. that's is what I was thinking... my layout will have 3 independent runnable ovals (that can intersect) and also 2 yards... DCC is nice... but if I do it right as I thought, and you stated.. I should have able to have 3 nice cheap used powerpaks and just have kill switches for track segments (with a nice little map on the dashboard maybe)...
Sounds good.. yeah first line of business is to build a 4'x8' table.. then put foamboard on it.. then cork and track.. once that's all running then get scenery =)
John Frankl> Geezer, you hit it right on the head! I have used DCC, and I
Geezer replied: A dissenting opinion from an old dinosaur: A layout with "3 independent runnable ovals" doesn't seem to me to need DCC. It seems totally within the capability of a couple used power packs and some Atlas "Selectors" and maybe a "Controller".***
---------------------------------------------------- Another old dinosaur agrees with Geezer. The Atlas selectors are an easy way to do common rail wiring.
Here's NMRA's excellent article that discusses power packs and common rail wiring:
Bill Bill's Railroad Empire N Scale Model Railroad:
The "cheapest" power pack that I'd use for other than running some lights in buildings is the MRC for about $50 at Walthers. For three of those (or maybe
4 if he wanted to run something in the yard, too) is $150 to $200 plus the Atlas (or other) selectors.
For the same $200 + $20 for each loco, you would have a Zephyr. So at least at this entry level, cost is not the biggest factor. The choice is how you want to operate and there have been repeated and plentiful discussion of the pros and cons of DC vs. DCC on this news group.
Beware as you read them that after about 10 messages or so, it all turns into a flame war. There is a good Atlas book about common rail wiring for beginners (using Atlas products, of course) as well as some other more advanced stuff. For a DCC primer, I recommend Digital Command Control by Stan Ames et al.
But choose your electronics based on how you want to run the trains now and in the near future, not on the price of "cheap" power packs, or "expensive" power packs, or the initial cost of DCC. The wiring for all of them is about the same since you wind up blocking DCC anyway for circuit protection and fault detection.
Oh, and I've never had a runaway train on DCC, and there is a kill switch on nearly every throttle (emergency stop).
in article firstname.lastname@example.org, Mike Tennent at email@example.com wrote on 3/1/05 5:38 AM:
I never recommended "cheap". I recommended "used". You can get early metal-case MRC packs with a quality couple amp transformer and rheostat inside at train shows for well under $10. I got a bunch that weren't working from a hobby shop that dealt in used equipment for free. You can replace the old selenium diodes with Radio Shack silicon devices for under $2, and have a quality pack. If you run can motors, you can replace the rheostat with a potentiometer and power transistor or adjustable voltage regulator for around $5. The Atlas Selector only accepts two throttle inputs. So for your $200, you can do this and have enough left over for a pair of P2K diesels, or one loco and some nice Walthers or Branchline heavyweights. Gary Q