I am returning to railway modelling after a long abscence.
A local "expert" tells me that I should keep clear of Hornby's Dcc and
I will not be running more than two locos, but I would want to operate
points and a turntable.
He advised me to get NCE, which is twice the cost of the Hornby offering.
Any opinions would be welcome.
I do not live anywhere near a model railway club.
Either one is OK for what you contemplate. Early vesrions of both had
glitches, but current production is NMRA compatible (ie, it conforms to
the international open, non-proprietary standards.)
You will need a controller for as many locos as you will run at the same
time, plus one for the turnouts etc. Generally speaking, DCC is very
good if there are several operators running trains over several routes
at the same time. On a smaller layout, traditional DC will do as well,
and often better, especially for the single operator.
I strongly suggest that you a) buy a book on DCC (make sure it's recent,
not more than a year or two old); and b) go to an exhibition, and talk
to the exhibitors running with DCC.
I have a running love - hate relationship with Hornby DCC. Having
said that I find that it works well once you understand the problems
and can get beneath the bullshit which seems to have dried onto the
I cannot afford the overpriced offerings and have made a determined
effort to make those things that I can afford work.
In your situation with only 2 locos and some point & accessory control
I would recommend the Elite. The Select will do the same job but I
find it slow and it is unable to do two things at the same time.
All of my problems have stemmed from poor installation of track and
particularely points which do need to have isolated frogs which are
fed either from the operating blade or an aux switch -- I use the
former as it forces me to keep the points in good order.
There are several FAQS which Hornby do not mention but will be
available here I am quite sure!
Good luck with your choice but cherish the thought that spending lots
can cause bigger resentments when the same problems arise that you
could have bought for less!
NCE is good.
If you want really cheap then get the Bachmann EZ rather than the
Hornby Select. If you can afford more, buy the Hornby Elite. Look for
good deals on the cheap controllers that have been split from sets
(e.g. eBay, hattons). I got an EZ to play with for less than £30.
I would avoid the Hornby decoders. Bachmann decoders are made by ESU
and are much preferred. For this reason, but locos as "DCC ready"
rather than "DCC on board" or whatever buzzwords the particular
manufacturer is using. You can (in theory and generally in practice)
use any manufacturers decoders with any command station. NCE decoders
are good. Zimo are the Rolls Royce brand.
Even for a very small layout, DCC can bring a lot of pleasure in
improved controllability and lack of any requirement for isolating
section switches once you have more than on loco. The cost of a basic
DCC controller plus a couple of decoders is comparable to the type of
DC controller you would need to buy to get the same slow running
Because the NCE is probably the easist to use, lowest priced, full-feature
DCC system you can buy.
( I don't use NCE, there are various areas where its not the best option for
The cheaper ones have serious compromises; cannot read-back settings from
locos (so what was the maker's original value before you change it?), in
some very cheap toy train-set models they cannot change the settings in
locos (don't think you want to change things? you will, even if its just
the volume in a sound loco or the starting and top speeds).
Decoders; be cautious about any trainset brand decoder, whether factory
fitted or in a packet from a shop. Some trainset brand decoders are OK, but
some are rubbish.
The exception is sound decoders where all the UK outline OO ready-to-run
locos are fitted with ESU LokSound's (as superb decoder).
Webmaster at http://www.2mm.org.uk/
I dipped my toes in the DCC waters with a Dynamis, which was one of
the cheapest startup kits at the time - two years ago. It worked well
and did what it said on the tin, and it still does. But it wasn't
long before I started to investigate DCC further and then found the
limitations of the Dynamis when it came to programming decoders.
I then had a look around and went for the NCE PowerCab which was, at
the time, one of the cheapest startup sets which would give me the
more advanced facilities I now wanted. The NCE has worked extremely
well and I have now augmented the original PowerCab with a second hand
held controller which gives me two individual controllers.
So you might be as well to go for one of the cheaper setups from the
big makers which will allow you to run your two locomotives, and let
you get a feel for DCC. But be prepared to look around - as I did -
when you want to get more involved in DCC than the basic outfits will
allow. Starting off with an inexpensive setup at least lets you
establish your own parameters for what you want in a system so that
when you want to go for something better, you at least know the
questions to ask, and what to look out for, based on your own
Unfortunately there were considerable limitations with Dynamis that the
extra box was to cure, however once you added the cost of that box it was no
longer a reasonably priced option. Did upset a lot of people, especially
those who went for that instead of the Hornby Elite - which doesnt suffer
from those limitations.
Can definately recommend the Elite.
I think (as far as it goes) your 'expert' is giving you sound advice. Lenz
& NCE are both worth looking at, but Lenz would always be my recommendation
if price isn't a real issue. NCE is a good second option.
Gaugemaster's Prodigy II (developed my MRC in the USA) is another good
mid-market option in the UK.
Personally I wouldn't touch Hornby DCC with a barge pole, but it is popular,
mainly (I suspect) due to the name on the box.
Reminds me of the saying 'Just because you are paranoid it doesnt mean
theyre not out to get you'. Some of us bought the Elite on price/feature
considerations, and are still happy with our purchase. Had one for a couple
of years now and still havent outgrown it.
I also know people who are perfectly happy with both Select and Elite
systems, and also the basic Bachmann E-Zmate DCC trainset controller, but I
come across far more (almost on a daily basis) who have on-going problems
with all three.
On the other hand in seven or eight years of handling Lenz equipment, I've
only had one customer with a serious issue, and that was down to a fault on
his system, rather than a design problem or compromise.
I just wish Hornby had spent a little more time at the design and
development stage before rushing their product into the market place.
They'd probably have avoided much of the antagonistic response had they got
it more right, first time.
I can sympathise with those sentiments.
Last week I emailed Hornby to get answers to why the Elite unit
setting up instructions (in English) do not correspond to those which
show up on the Elite screen.
I have not yet had a reply but as usual found the answer myself in a
supplimentary handbook lurking in the packaging of the Elite (I
discard nothing these days). The Units supplied to Europe have books
written in French,Spanish,Italian and German. Voilà, the supplement
simply needed a touch of translation. Being lazy I had downloaded my
English version from the Hornby website BUT there is no mention of the
supplement/addendum. This little booklet does however drop hints at
the potential difficulties between the Elite and (walkabout) Select
and setting for more definite point control.
Personally I've had great luck with digitrax. I like the loco net
system. I use both a db150 and a DCS100 booster. Once I learned the ins
and outs of the DTS400 throttle it was simple to use. I like operating 2
trains on the main, 2 or three in the yard and being able to operate
tortoise switch machines all from this throttle. I have 4 DS64 switch
I've had best luck with TCS and Sound Traxx Tsunami decoders in my
locomotives. TCS has a great 1 year no fault warranty.
Personally I believe in spending a little more and getting a really
great product over spending less and hating what I buy. This hobby is
supposed to be fun and DCC is problematic.
The hardest thing for me was learning from the DCC manuals. They are
written by engineers for engineers. I had to spend hours on the news
groups as well as online and phone advice to finally get a complete
understanding of the DCC programing issues. Once you learn them, it is a
fun experience with DCC.
I feel the only draw back to DCC is dirty track. It's not as forgiving
as DC and keeping wheels, pickups and track clean is a full time
It is interesting that you found the handbooks to be "written for
engineers". My view is the complete opposite. The various tech
data that I have read for several marques have been either sales
based ( extolling virtues and ignoring problems) or completely
juvenile. Groupes like MERG invariably get carried away and invent
whole dictionaries of acronymes which mask the often simple message
During my time designing control systems for ships and industry there
was always the main thought that operating a system safely and
efficiently should not require a PHd in button pressing.
I have yet to discover whether CV54 & 55 control the differential or
integral components of the acceleration curve so have to spend too
long messing about to achieve a result suitable for the X914 motor.
I use the Bachmann 36-533 (when I can get them) as they mostly work
straight from the box and are affordable! They are susceptible to
spark derived interference but I would be prepared to believe that all
decoders are. I do not use Hornby units because they are proved to
be too frail ( wires falling off etc).
I paid my subs to MERG for a few years but found that after a lifetime
in electronics was having to relearn the acronym world ( just as I did
one time in the acoustics world) but in any case the whole business
was being pushed into more and more PC control which was not my
ambition --- too much like taking work home!
Not all decoders are equal. There is a quality curve, in control, features,
handling of interference, etc.. Its not totally related to price, but is
roughly in line. The best are Zimo, but they cost a lot more than Bachmann
branded ones. The ESU made Bachmann ones are decent at a budget price.
PC's have two main uses in DCC systems:
One is layout control/automation, and I understand why many don't want to go
The other use is decoder setup.
I am baffled why people are happy to type numbers into a keypad when a
computer will give you a graphical display of what is going on, label the
fields with sensible names, let you save things to the computer (so you can
go back to it), etc....
If you have any interest in customising what your locos do, then get a copy
of JMRI/DecoderPro and work through the tutorial on its use. You may have
to purchase a hardware interface box to go between your computer and the DCC
command station. (This assumes you don't have a Gaugemaster or Bachmann
DCC system; those cannot connect to third-party systems).
I am not convinced that MERG is particularly useful for someone just wanting
their models to run. MERG do make a few handy kits (notably the accessory
decoder), but most of the stuff is cannot be deployed without a lot of
effort learning how it works, and how to make use of the useful bits. MERG
also have an excessive number of TLAs for quite simple concepts. Buying
off-the-shelf technology is a lot easier for most people.
Webmaster at http://www.2mm.org.uk/
with only two locos on a layout why spend money on DCC?
Peco turnouts isolate sidings, spurs and passing loops so conflicts
can easily be avoided.
If your layout is large enough for two locos to run at the same time
then you obviously have two circuits.
Railways basically operate as one loco per block and a little thought
before wiring will allow you to do the same on your model.
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