An early retirement opportunity means that it is time to dust off the O scale stuff and start laying track for real - again. I now have beaucoup space, plenty of time (I hope) and far more money for MRing than I had when I started with my old Lionel as a kid. Having been out of the loop for about 15 years, although still taking the Mags, I notice that the main thing that has changed is the DCC control systems. My stuff still has the CTC 16 installed, just to indicate how long it has been.
I am not going to ask the newbie question of "Which DCC system is best?", but would like some input from you guys/gals on what you like and don't like.
Unless I find my tastes have changed I prefer...
Long mainline runs through lots of John Allen type scenery. Walkaround control. Usually no more than 3 or 4 operators. Lots of real signals controlled prototypically. (I have to find out what kind of track detector works with DCC.)
There are lots of track detectors around and MR is running a series of
4 articles covering the subject pretty thoroughly. You can get as fancy as you want, including full computer control if you're so inclined. Walk around can be with lots of plug-in points or radio or both. I'd lurk around on the Yahoo NCE and Digitrax groups for a bit to help get a feel for what's going on, too. There are other brands, but those two have pretty much all the bells and whistles you could need and lots of local support. Both have excellent service. I run NCE myself.
Jim Sherman xROADKILL snipped-for-privacy@zYAHOOa.COM < remove lower case letters, then use what's left AS lower case
The hurrider I goes the behinder I gets; which makes sense because the older I gets the more behind I gets. And I is gettin an old behind!
Being already familiar with command control you have a head start.
And you have space to do this with O-scale, wow....
I think you will find that these days wireless is the way go go regardless of which system you choose. There is a "buyers guide" in this months (April 2004) MR. I haven't read it yet, but it might help you. I've used CVP wireless for several years and like the way they feel in my hand. Too many units are too wide. I really like their older throttles with the dial a number, but I understand they can no longer get that particular part.
Any system can easily accommodate this either wired or wireless. All systems have some sort of wired utility throttle so each operator can have their own.
Each system has their own version of track detection. There are both current and inductance types. NCE DB-20 - single block, inductance type Lenz LB100 - dual block, current type Digitrax DB1 - single block, current type I've purchased a few of each and have just begun experimenting to determine which I like best. My initial thought was that I liked the power separation of the inductance type, but I am worried about the effects of putting more and more inductance into the system.
First perspective. Like you, I've been running various command control systems since 1976, so I am not twittered by the "multiple trains on one track" facet of DCC. I own(have owned) CTC-16, PMP-112, Railcommand, MRC-2000, Lenz set-100, and Digitrax Zephyr. I consider DCC to still be in its infancy. As soon as the newness of the command-control aspect wears off people will demand better systems. You will find the BEST thing about DCC over your CTC-16 is the software programmable decoder addresses. No more cutting traces on decoders and, even better, the locomotive address can be changed anytime.
I have been disappointed with the responses to the questions from all vendors except CVP. I have yet to get ANY response from NCE on ANY question I've submitted to them. Digitrax likes to refer me to user groups. Lenz always assumes I'm an idiot and gives me the obvious answer that is already in the book. When I write a second time I've gotten appropriate answers. Soundtraxx is very mixed. Sometimes I get excellent answers, other times snobby cryptic answers, and other times no response at all.
Lenz throttles have a button on them that switches the power to the the entire layout. So inexperienced people continually stop all the trains all the time. Even experienced people hit it by mistake from time to time. We tried shutting that function off but then when it shuts off for another reason we can't turn it back on from the throttles. The Lenz throttles are a bit too wide for my taste and I end up using both hands. Holding it in the left and manipulating with the right.
Many of Digitrax throttles have two control knobs so one doesn't have to constantly switch (video game style) back and forth between two trains. They are also a bit too wide for my taste. I haven't used their wireless but every picture I've seen has that stupid wire hanging out of it, seems it would constantly be in the way.
The Lenz system cuts power to the entire layout when someone is programming (even on the programming track). Most annoying. I haven't programmed with the digitrax yet, just bought it a couple weeks ago.
The Lenz has a module that uses normal wireless phones for throttles. I thought they seemed really stupid, but another person hooked one up and I was surprised how easy they were to learn and use. That makes them a really cheap wireless solution.
I've purchased several different types of decoders but had the most success with the simple Lenz 1014. With some of the fancy ones costing
3x the price, I can't even get the head lamps to come on properly without major programming effort.
Regardless of which system you choose you will want a computer interface to program locomotives with. The video game style of programming from a throttle is time wasteful and almost stupid after one uses the various computer programs to do it.