I (or rather my children) have a Hornby DCC railway set. You'd think
this would be ideal for controlling from a computer, but it appears
to be rather expensive...
The "Select" controller provided with the set has an RJ-12 socket for
connecting to other controllers, and apparently uses XPressNet, which
runs over RS-485. The "Elite" controller, which has a USB port, costs
about 150 pounds.
The computer I'm planning to use (a Mac) doesn't have a serial port,
and USB-to-RS-485 converters appear to also be ridiculously expensive.
Furthermore, the JMRI website implies that the connector on the
"Select" may not be fully compatible with other manufacturers'
Is there a cheaper solution? Are there reasonably-priced compatible
controllers from other manufacturers?
As for software, it appears that JMRI might work, but I wouldn't mind
writing my own.
But the costs of computer-DCC interfaces and associated software will be
high, because it's not exactly a mass market. Keep in mind that most DCC
users want it because it makes locomotive control feel more hands-on.
They don't want a computer interface. That preference also reduces the
market for what you want.
OTOH, if you do write your own software, you should find a ready market
for it. Because of Apple's mania for total control, there's little Mac
software beyond the basic stuff available.
HTH and Good Luck,
Basically, no, the Select is a "toy" product.
The "Elite" is at the typical entry price for a proper model railway
product, though other makers offer far better designs (the ergnonomics of
the command structure in the Elite is terrible). Also, support in JMRI (and
other software) is not as good as that for mainstream control makers (eg.
Lenz, Digitrax, ESU, NCE).
Moderately cheap ways of computer control:
SprogII. This is a computer USB device. With the computer it can drive a
modest layout, using for example JMRI. But you don't get any handsets
(except via JMRI). Around £70.
Hornby Elite (but I think its a poor choice), around £150.
Digitrax Zephyr plus Loconet-USB adaptor, unlikely to see change from £200.
NCE PowerCab plus USB adaptor, probably around £160-170 including the
Build your own with MERG kits; the new CBUS based stuff looks promising, but
the complete command station isn't ready yet. (The old MERG command station
is antique history).
JMRI has support for various external throttles, such as Wii game
controllers, iTouch/iPhones, arbitrary USB devices, etc. etc..
Number of people are happy with Elite computer interface so dont dismiss out
of hand. Its a USB connection. It requires a device driver - that is
provided by Hornby for a PC, not sure about the Mac.
I did write some software to control points and it wasnt that difficult.
About £100 for a booster.
The Sprog as it comes delivers about 1amp. That's enough for two or three
OO locos moving simultaneously, though there are exceptions where an
individual loco would over-load the Sprog.
( I did a test recently, running four small Scalefour locos simultaneously,
and estimated I could get up to around a dozen before overloading the
Be careful joining MERG now..
My experience is that its a money grab thru subscriptions. You join now
supposedly with a 12 month sub at £18-ish , and in April , they terminate
that sub, telling you that a renewal is due as all subs start in April..
Complain and they send you an £8 'voucher' that can be used against purchase
of their kits ( if thats what you want, and there is no alternative.) . They
were still selling annual subscriptions at Warley NEC for £18 that last 5
months maximum, and denying that all subs are renewed in April...
Then the Treasurer suddenley doesn't respond to emails and letters ... Be
Nothing sinister at all. It's all clearly written in the membership
details page :-
"Membership is currently £13.00 annually for members within the EU,
there is also a joining fee of £4.00. The membership year runs from
April 1st - March 31st. and a £1 MERG voucher is issued to new members
for each expired month at the time of joining. New members also receive
a copy of a recent Journal and any accompanying Technical Bulletins."
"The new members rates are shown in the following table. "
" Rate for payment by UK cheque Rate for payment by Paypal
Resident in Europe including UK £17.00 £18.00"
(Table doesn't copy in correct format in newsreader of course!)
A fast read of the exhibition flyer does not seem to contain reference
to the £1 vouchers, which I will bring to the attention of the
Treasurer. Although this is on the website and would be automatic.
And I think that membership details would be very clearly spelt out by
those on the stand at Warley, or any other exhibition.
I must say, with no connection whatsoever to the committee, that I have
been a member for many years and consider it an absolute bargain. You
get much more information, cheap kits, a website, forum and as much
advice as you want for what is after all just 5 months of one model rail
magazines. And those mags contain very little information!
The OP will get much FREE advice and access to cost only kits.
And I'm sure that the current Treasurer would be mortified to hear of
your complaint re emails. Mind I too would ignore any that were
spiteful or rude!!!
: Be careful joining MERG now..
: My experience is that its a money grab thru subscriptions. You
: supposedly with a 12 month sub at £18-ish , and in April , they
: that sub, telling you that a renewal is due as all subs start
: Complain and they send you an £8 'voucher' that can be used
: of their kits ( if thats what you want, and there is no
alternative.) . They
: were still selling annual subscriptions at Warley NEC for £18
that last 5
: months maximum, and denying that all subs are renewed in
: Then the Treasurer suddenley doesn't respond to emails and
letters ... Be
Someone or some people will end up answering to a small claims
court, if not trading standards, if they are not careful, *if*
they are trying to pull a stunt like that!
Peter Ayre was the treasurer, and I joined in cash at Warley 2008 ( Nov
2008 ) with NO mention that it was for four months, It was spelt out many
times , by several on the stand it was for TWELVE MONTHS subscription. By
February 2009 I am getting emails saying I need to fork out another £17 (
from memory) for the membership for the next twelve months. I emailed Peter
Ayre , with an explanation and asked why?
This is the email I received back
According to our records, you have yet to renew your MERG membership for
If you have paid your renewal. you may either be, one of the unmatched
payments, an error in the database, or a payment in transit. Please contact
me so that I can investigate.
If you are intending to renew but have yet to do so, please ensure I receive
your payment by 30/06/09 in order to maintain your membership and to avoid
the additional £4 new member charge that is charged to lapsed members.
If you have decided not to renew, I would like to thank you for your past
support and hope you have enjoyed your membership. If you have any feedback
about your non-renewal it would be appreciated.
For all membership matters please email me at email@example.com.
Merg Membership Secretary
I again emailed Peter Ayre , and received yet more copies of the same email.
This year , Warley November 2009, I approached the MERG stand and waited to
be accosted to join. It didnt take long once I asked about the RFID display.
I asked about membership and was told yet again the spiel about how it was
£17 for 12 months membership. I rephrased the question several times , and
NEVER once was it mentioned that it was till April 2010- and then renewed. I
moved to the other end of the stand and waited for someone else to take up
the 'membership' thread.. Again it was £17 for a full 12 months membership
starting at the date of Warley. I walked away , but returned later that day
, spoke to a third group of stand salesmen and was given the spiel again
about it being for full 12 months.
MY point is this - join NOW and you are paying £17 for membership till April
this year - then its a renewal subscription.
No I didnt see the website , all very well to be wise after the event, I was
at WARLEY NEC . There is life outside the web sites...
"Dickie mint" wrote in
message news: firstname.lastname@example.org...
: Nothing sinister at all. It's all clearly written in the
: details page :-
: "Membership is currently £13.00 annually for members within the
: there is also a joining fee of £4.00. The membership year runs
: April 1st - March 31st. and a £1 MERG voucher is issued to new
: for each expired month at the time of joining. New members also
: a copy of a recent Journal and any accompanying Technical
That is only acceptable if the voucher can be redeemed against
the next years membership fee, the above suggests that they can
only be redeemed against 'club shop' items... *If* that is the case then they are acting almost like an
(unlicensed) credit agency, how many must join after April each
year and thus have money tied up in such a way! IIRC traders
can't insist on giving credit notes, they *have* to offer a
refund (either cash or via bank transfer) if that is what the
customer wants. Looks to me that the MERG needs to modify their
membership management arrangements.
The only time there is a legal requirement for cash refunds is when
goods purchased are faulty or not as described. In other circumstances
a trader can refuse a refund or insist on an exchange or credit note.
Most big name retailers these days go well beyond the legal
requirements and will offer no questions refunds for a short period.
Given the very clear description of the MERG membership terms I see no
problem with issuing vouchers.
Now, clearly there is a situation, so far described from only one
aggrieved persons point of view, where the volunteers on the
exhibition stand may be giving out inaccurate information. That need
addressing and any neccessary remedial action to be taken.
I suspect MERGs accountants and auditors have better grasp of the
situation than the man on the clapham onmibus, so to speak.
Annual subscriptions, taken for new members part way through a year, are
normal in all sorts of fields (*). Join part way through the year and you
get a renewal after a few weeks/months at their annual renewal date, and no
discount/refund for the part-year.
Some organisations do operate an "overlap" date, where joining say, 2 months
before the year end, will get you 14 months membership, but that costs the
existing members money in subsidising the new member for 2 months.
Quite frankly, for most small/medium societies, a rolling membership date
would be administratively difficult, and probably impossible to get
volunteers to run the arrangement; an annual renewal results in six-eight
weeks of intensive work and then its all done for another year.
It is important that prospective members should know how things work, and
misrepresentation should not happen. I've no idea what MERG told "turbo".
(* my own list of organisations with the annual renewal date, and thus
charge a full year for part-year new members:
two massive national charities.
my professional (work) society, costs about £150/year to maintain
my partner's professional society (a different one)
several model railway societies
a national cycling club.
There may be a few more I have forgotten about.
It's not quite as simple as that.
You need to consider the data format as well as the electrical
The simplest way is to buy the Lenz USB to XpressNet adapter, but I
offer no guarantee that the Hornby kit will play properly. I know ZTC
equipment had or maybe still has issues with XpressNet compatibility.