I'm pretty ambivalent about DCC, but the Elite looks like the best bet
for my purposes, the only significant drawback, for some, I can see is
that operation of the functions ( particualrly for sound locos) would
be a pain.
Have got sound Duchess and when playing just press function, enter number,
press button. After few goes with different sounds, done that so now what.
Normally just leave base chugging sound on and let run.
I started off with a Dynamis but I didn't really take to the speed
control - i.e. flicking a small lever up and down to adjust the
speed. I also found that it wasn't too easy to work the controller
single handed. And it was not easy to program CVs since the basic
Dynamis would not read CV values. But otherwise, it did what it
said on the tin and I shall keep the unit around as a standby system.
I then got the NCE PowerCab after seeing it demonstrated at the model
railway dealer I frequent. It allows one handed control and is
quite an inexpensive system. It also reads CVs, so CV programming is
a bit easier. I also added a slave cab which allows the independent
operation of two locos. Funnily enough, I prefer the slave cab for
operation since it is smaller than the main PowerCab controller, and
very similar to the AGW and Gaugemaster DC handhelds which I've been
used to operating over the years. I've since added a USB interface
which allows the use of programs like JMRI, which makes CV
programming a lot easier.
The PowerCab works well and I've had no problems with it. It is
quite easy to operate and program and there is good support on the
Yahoo NCE-DCC group if you run into any problems. It is fine for
small to medium layouts and the 1.8A capacity should handle a
reasonable number of locomotives in the smaller scales, although I'm
not sure about dozens of diesels with sound chips ticking over in a
I think they announce a new loco about once every two years; but it
does seem to me that it is the technological dead end / executive toy
several of us predicted, by and large. An impressive achievement that
they ( OK their Chinese subcontractor) could actually turn a hand
crafted prototype into a manufacturable CE approved product though,
I think the Elite is poor; poor user interface and computer Xpressnet
implementation has flaws which makes it chronically slow to program a loco
from a computer (I've been helping debug this for JMRI, and though the new
code is more than twice as fast, its still "very slow". With the new code,
an Elite takes over 20 minutes to perform the test operation of reading a
standard decoder's full set of CV's, a Sprog takes under 4 minutes. ).
I'd rate several alternatives much more highly.
So that's two opinions, one for the Elite, one against. My recommendation
is to try out a lot of different systems before making any decisions.
of controlling locos excellent with the two rotary controls.
Suprised at the 20 mins timing, but then am suprised at 4 mins for the sprog
as well, however, i only looked at point setting so cannot comment.
For ease of use we have the Hornby SELECT but it has only a
'small' ( 1 amp ) power output. I have heard very good reports of the
The problem of DCC is how far you want to go.
A simple basic set up like the 36-500 EZ Command controller, developed
by Bachmann in partnership with Lenz, can be bought for about =A360
new. The Hornby Elite for about =A3160.
Once you start adding control units for points etc. then the =A3's start
to climb onto your basic set up. You also have the cost of decoders
( and fitting ) which range from about =A38 upwards. Some older loco's
are harder to fit an encoder to than others.
Battery power, I agree with John, but again it's going to be costly
when it's 'new'.
G scale garden railroad layouts are quite common with battery power
but OO / HO is another matter.
In the water industry we have battery powered meters that run for 10
years on the same battery. The battery technology is almost there but
it needs to be developed with motor technology.
The problem with fast charging a battery is the life of the battery.
You can recharge a standard AA nickel cadmium battery in only one hour
but don't expect it to last for the quoted 500 recharges.
Its down to the way the Elite doesn't signal on Xpressnet that its completed
an operation on the programming track (it should signal that it has
finished). There is no way any external software (JMRI in this case) can
know whether the operation has finished. If another instruction is sent, it
might get executed, or it might fail because the Elite is busy, the software
doesn't know. So, JMRI has to guess how long to wait before assuming the
Elite has actually completed a programming step. We tried various wait
times, and arrived at one which executed the test in 20 minutes; attempts to
go faster just got tangled in a vast number of failures and actually took
longer to complete the reading of all the CV's in the loco.
The turnout setting aspect isn't affected by this issue, its purely
If it were that simple !
For any Xpressnet system, JMRI sends the command station a request to read
values from the decoder and later JMRI has to ask for the results from that
On most XPressNet systems, the time between these two events is controlled
by the reply to the request for the operation, which tells JMRI that the
command station has acknowledged receipt of the message. Unfortunately, the
Elite doesn't send any reply to these messages, so JMRI has a timer in the
code to prevent making both the operation request and the result request at
the same time.
As I've said before, I'm of the opinion that it was used to open new
markets. I live in NL and I know that there was absolutely no Hornby
presence in the shops before the advent of this system. Now there is.
I'm pretty convinced that the novelty aspect forced people to want one
and so the shops had to take up the rest of the range. The Hornby stuff
arrived before the Bachman stuff and there's still note Hornby stuff
than Bachman stuff in the big towns.
protocols and network architectures but Xpressnet lost me in many places.
The manual is probably one of the worst have ever seen. Cannot remember for
certain but think there was lttle in the way of error recovery or
notification of commands received and any expected responses defined.
So although Hornby may not have done a great implementation, they may well
have completed it to the defined standards - as opposed to what other
systems have implemented.
Have you paased the info back to them ? Know that originally they defined
the first decoder group as address 1 instead of the defined address 0, but
this was changed in a later revision of the software.
I thought live steam was a great product but with limited market - to me it
required a long layout (eg in garden) and wouldnt be of so much interest to
Had an LMS Pacific been developed then may well have bought one and built a
basic garden layout just for the fun of it.
I think that is accurate.
No, I've not contacted Hornby. Its not my code in this bit of JMRI, I was
acting as the intermediary between someone I know with an Elite which was
hopeless for doing the programming he wanted to do, and the chap who writes
the Xpressnet bits of JMRI.