A visit to the loft revealed my '80s Hornby track, locos, rolling stock etc.
I see that I junked the controllers in favour of the Zero 1 control system
inc one slave unit.
Not all locos have modules, but I wonder if I should module them or perhaps
"un-module" the ones that have them!
Has anyone any experience/expertise of this contro system? Is it worth
pursuing, or are there problems not making it worthwhile?
This might be very important because I'm thinking about a "loft" conversion
in our double garage to provide a family and animal free environment in
which to have a really good-sized room dedicated to this hobby. This could
be expensive enough without paying out for something that proves not to be
All advice gratefully rec'd about any of this, not just Zero 1.
PS. This is my first effort with Newsgroups, so please excuse any cock-ups!!
As I understand it although Zero 1 is still supported by some modern DCC
systems (sort of a very modern Zero 1 with bells and whistles) Zero 1 itself
is obsolete, it's not going to be developed further and as time goes by
support for it will wane. So although you could quite probably enjoy
yourself for the time being you may find 5 or 10 years down the line having
to either replace everything or having to make do with a system that is
increasingly difficult to keep going.
My advice then would be to scrap it now and start from scratch either with a
modern DCC system or "conventional" control. 'Fraid I don't know enough
about DCC to advise - I only got back into the hobby myself a couple of
years ago and I plumped for conventional control. I think though that with
the benefit of hindsight I should have gone down the DCC route rather than
try to salvage older stuff and make it work ... in any event much of my
older stuff has now been replaced only 2 years down the line yet I'm
committed to conventional wiring with all that entails.
Zero 1 has been obsolete for night on 20 years. Locos with Zero 1 chips
will operate (exclusively I believe) with ZTC DCC control systems, but that
are the most expensive and least reliable DCC system currently on the
My suggestion would be to dechip your locos, give them some serious running
using conventional DC control, and then look at DCC (probably Lenz) if the
bug takes you again.
Modern DCC systems are infinitely superior to the old Zero 1 system, and to
persist with that would be folly in my book.
I totally agree with John. When I started again in 2001, I bought a lot of
Zero One from E Bay, should of just flushed the money down the Loo. However,
it did give me the DCC bug, and as I was starting fresh, I went with
Digitrax. Bit of a learning curve, but once mastered is easy, reliable and
Another good reason for going with a modern DCC system is that its even
possible to chip a small loco like a terrier, something that you cant do
with Zero One chips.
You can use Zero 1 with ZTC's DCC system. I forget whether you can run Zero
1 and DCC locos at the same time, possibly not. Google will find their web
site. However if you're going to go DCC, you may be able to equip all the
locos you have and junk the Zero 1 stuff for the same price with another
supplier. Personally I quite liked the ZTC "base" controller and so went for
it a few years back. Now I might choose differently.
Phil: From being a large Zero-1 user (over 100 locos, and many duplicated
codes as a result), with a large Micromimic display of 130 points/signals
(diagram available through http://www.fillin.co.uk railway links)
I have now converted all current stock to dcc (now >150 locos), and am
about to convert the point control over to dcc too - thus losing my
current micromimic display....this being coincidental with a full loft
conversion which is currently at building regs stage, awiting going to
tender..(and which will make the existing micromimic redundant)
If you have only about 16 locos, then continuing for a while with the
Zero-1 will cost you nothing, but allow you to make easy use of whatever
If you have upto 10 locos, then the new Bachmann EZ-dcc controller will be
an easy way to change, at minimal cost (9 with modules/decoders, and 1
The cost has never been lower to change!
If you have upto 99 locos, then there is a wide range of controllers to
choose from (from minimal display' to very explanatory displays of what
you are doing)
You can use up to 10,000 locos on your system (subject to current
availablility 8-) ) ---but what this really means is that you can choose
between '2 digit' addressing (locos 1-99, (or 1-127)), or 4 digit
addressing which allows more choice.. such as trying to use the locos
running number in full eg D8002 4079 31x27
There is a FUNDAMENTAL wiring difference within each loco, compared to
Zero-1, and this may make the change a bit awkward:
Zero-12 used 3 wires, because it used only 1 half of the 'square wave' ac
waveform to drive the loco (which half depended on the direction
forward/reverse), hence the motors were ALWAYS pulsed (at 50Hz or 60Hz in
USA). No DC locomotives could be placed on the track - conversion was
With dcc, they learnt from the past, and took on the greater capabilities
in processors from the 4bit processors of Zero-1, and use '4-wire'
connections: 2 to/from the track, and 2 to/from the motor: BOTH sides of
the motor are ISOLATED from the track/chassis,,UNLIKE many Hornby or
==The power is used by full-wave rectifying the track signal/power. This
requires the isolation of motor and track - hence 4 -wire wiring.
This allowed power to be taken from 100% of the on-track waveform.
(Zero-1 was a maximum of less than 50%), and this means that..
a/ if pulse width control is used by the decoder module, it can be at any
desired rate - originally often around the old 50Hz, but now commonly
above audio frequencies (22kHz, 32kHz) for quieter running, and compatible
with coreless motors too. (Control in the decoder COULD be by variable dc
level too, but this would mean heat disipation, and a heat sink or larger
b/ with each module running at its own rate, the current is not all taken
at the same part of the power cycle - spreading the load (whereas with
Zero-1, ALL locos going eg 'forwards' took power at the same time - and
simply increased the time they took power at higher speed steps (14).
((There were some Zero-1 modules which didn't always switch off at the end
of the power cycle, at which pooint the power reversed....and the motor
went up in smoke. These early modules used Triacs, and were replaced by 2
devices by rev C or D))
Module prices are now from less than 10ukp - even without allowing for
inflation from the late 70's, that is a LOT cheaper than Zero-12 modules!
Just 2 years ago, when I started converting to dcc, the modules were about
DCC modules CAN offer much more in the way of 'features' than Z-1 modules
or plain dc locos. -- perhaps the ultimate is SOUND,, and that is why that
is the most expensive option to add at present! Usually included is
lighting on/off or direction control.
DCC modules are usually physically smaller than Z-1 modules, and therefore
easier to fit INSIDE the loco.. (except for the 4-wire isolation of old
There is a wide range of manufacturers producing compatible parts.
So you WILL convert to dcc, which will become the standard (kids starting
with Bachmann digital starts sets will look at dc wiring with total dismay)
It is not worth buying 'Z1/dcc compatible modules, because it is cheaper
just to by dcc only modules. (Unless you use continental locos, where the
later digital systems are still common, and they make 'multistandard'
modules which might work on Marklin, Fleishcmann, Trix, AND DCC systems!!
A full loft conversion is expensive, and has taken us a year in planning
so far.... so make use of what you have, whilst adapting over to how you
WILL be using it in the rebuild when the conversion is complete.
Phil Spiegelhalter: email@example.com
==== Technical Training for Broadcasters =====
Probably the most sensible suggestion, particularly if you are tempted by
DCC as the wiring for the layout is identical. The key here is that it
costs you nothing to use what you have. ZTC make compatible chips but I'd
avoid them as they are poor and very expensive. It is the route I chose and
I've yet to upgrade to DCC.
No, no, no! ZTC is over-expensive and far from the most reliable DCC
ZTC is the only one of the DCC systems that seems to need extensive
advertising. All the others appear to sell in the UK by word of mouth and
It would be cheaper to buy a top of the range Lenz system AND a set of
decoders than use ZTC.
To be honest I think the original poster should forget Zero 1 altogether and
either revert to DC operation or update to modern DCC.
I couldn't agree more. ZTC is hideously overpriced and from my experience
does not work properly.
Except that either path will cost him money and if he goes the 12vDC route
he has the complexity of wiring to worry about and may be wasting effort if
he later goes DCC. At least using his current equipment he can convert to
DCC quickly and easily.
Phil: Like all things, it depends on how the comparison is made, and what
user preferences are between different user interface designs!
A Ford Ka and a Ford Volvo are different prices!
The ZTC ads feature the top-of their-range controller, and also
frequently advertise a 'start-set- which includes examples of loco
decoders and accessory decoder and other bits. It can access all addresses.
There is a cheaper model.
The new Bachmann controller can call only 1-9 on dcc, and analogue0 on '10'
Early Lenz/Roco/LGB mouse controllers only called 8 locos
LGB controllers cost more than ZTC!
Current Roco Maus2 calls 99 addresses, as do the bottom Lenz controllers.
This unit has 'friendly' messages - many people don't like to have to look
It has a physical construction that some may prefer - metal with arm
It is LENZ compatible - using Expressnet - and so will accept Lenz add on
(I use their Telephone adapter and computer interface, as well as a ZTC
Yes, the Zero-1 compatible modules are high/over priced (that is opinion)
- but they have a monopoly in offering the 2 modes. I quickly reassessed
costs, and decided to change completely to dcc, and buy their cheaper
decoders (and Lenz decoders and now Bachmann or Maccoders)
In mainland europe, other manufacturers offer twin/multi system decoders -
and these may be at comparable prices - but of course for
Marklin/Fleischmann/Trix etc digital systems as well as dcc.
There is very little difference in decoder price, especially when buying
in 10's from ZTC to others; although prices have been moving downward
noticably over the past year or so (I started on the basis if 30ukp/loco,
and now it is 10-13ukp except for 'special' applications like small size.
(Remember that you have FULL choice in brands for decoders, whichever
controller you use: My preference was for Lenz controller Protocol which
still gives a wide choice)
Module (decoder) reliability?
Well, I've only had a few (4 or 5) failures in over 160 decoders - a
mixture of Lenz and ZTC - but must admit that I prefer the Lenz warranty.
Possible reasons I've had for modules 'losing programming' is high
temperature storage in the loft (albeit insulated) over the summer - and
I've also experienced this with more expensive broadcast equipment when it
was stored in a Cairo warehouse - so I don't blame a supplier, but
reprogramme the chip.
So I go back to what I said originally - get it going again with what you
have - at NO cost, then check that the wiring is acceptable for the new.
(If you havn't separated track power and accessory power, using 2 x 2
wires, this would be a good time to do so --- I did that >20 years ago
because of the APT otherwise triggering nearby Zero1 point modules!
TRY other controllers -see if you like 'push button'. knob or lever
operation, and what type of display you are happy with.
(One option -not compulsory- is to use a computer to do the programming -
- this may be a popular choice where the interface of the controller is
limited in its display 8-) )
The Bachmann EZ unit seeems to have got basic programming down to a few
simple push buttons!
Sound decoders - have only limited choice for UK sounds:
The ZTC versions
ESU Loksound chips programmed by SWD or yourself
(German and American sounds have a wider choice)
LGB sound modules are even more expensive than ZTC 8-)
Phil Spiegelhalter: firstname.lastname@example.org
==== Technical Training for Broadcasters =====
Polytechforum.com is a website by engineers for engineers. It is not affiliated with any of manufacturers or vendors discussed here.
All logos and trade names are the property of their respective owners.