Which DCC System?

Perhaps this has been asked before but my searches have revealed nothing.
I'm a newbie in every sense in that I will shortly, despite being a
life long obssesive railway enthusiast (crank), commence work on my first ever layout at the grand old age of fifty.
A new house has finally provided the space I need for a large OO scale layout that Ive been promising myself since I was ten.
With a background in engineering (electronics) and IT the technology holds few fears (famous last words) and therefore Im sold utterly on the idea of DCC.
The problem is the large array of DCC systems that are available and deciding on my preferred product so would be very interested to hear of others experiences.
The plan is to buy off-shelf trains and track (probably Peco) as I want to get something up and running as quickly as possible. Modelling will be confined to the scenery and although I expect (hope) to enjoy this, for me its will be all about running the trains.
All advice would be much appreciated,
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Join the DCCUK Yahoo group and ask for invites to nearby fellow members' layouts to try out a few different systems. Ths choice of handset can be a very personal decision.
MBQ
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snipped-for-privacy@hotmail.com wrote:

Very valuable advice.
The only thing I'd add, is to make sure you get an NMRA compliant system. Then any other NMRA compliant bits will work with it, and you won't be stuck with a proprietary system that won't work with other ones.
HTH
--
wolf k.

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Wolf Kirchmeir wrote:

I would add should rather than will, some are more compliant than others. From experience one manufacturer built around at top end of the frequency spec and another at the bottom so would work with all other systems apart form each other.
Chris
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Just a slight deviation from the discussion so far - I'm in a similar position to the original poster at present (in choosing a control system). One thing I've found most difficult is simply finding comparrable info on the different systems available - manufacturer's websites obviously each play up their own system, and people's opinions are always subjective. Even good model shops only seem to stock a few systems, so again, full hands-on comparrison is not easy.
Is there a website which has basic comparrisons of the main systems available, with basic descriptions of function, features, limitations and compatibility of the various systems? Oh, and using accessible language!?
Anyone know of such a site?
Ben.
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Ben wrote:

http://www.p4me.net/DCC/systems.html
--
wolf k.

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Ben wrote:

The two links given are a starter, but both are a bit out of date and lack a few critical things.
There are a handful of DCC specialist dealers around the country with test/demonstration facilities. I think it is worth a day out if contemplating spending a lot. I know of: Digitrains, Bromsgrove Models, DCC Supplies and Sunningwell Command Control. The latter are a bit limited (Digitrax + NCE), but are very knowledgeable on them.
You could ask around for modellers in your area who have a system they are willing to demonstrate (the previously mentioned DCCUK Yahoo forum is a good start). That is likely to give a warts and all view of their system (though most people will defend a 200+ purchase even if it is not really that good).
Another approach is to either spend months reading manuals, support forums, etc, to try to get to the bottom of what each system can do.
Most people I've met seem to end up with a system which is over-specified for their requirements; they have one handset and a handful of turnouts running on a system capable of driving 50+trains and hundreds of turnouts (and the system is way to complicated because it is capable of driving such a huge empire). The best systems I've driven on model railways are simple to use.
I would suggest you start with a sub-120 system unless you have a compelling reason to spend more.
- Nigel
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Nigel Cliffe,
Webmaster at http://www.2mm.org.uk/
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--Snipped--

Hi Nigel,
Many thanks for this reply, it is most helpful. Thanks also to Wolf and John, those sites did provide a useful reference... if nothing else, to give a quick view of all the popular systems available: there were some listed which seem to be established and popular, but I had never seen them mentioned before so had not considered them.
When I started looking into this, the first system I saw was Hornby's offering. I took an instant dislike to it just from the picture, probably because ten years or so ago, when I had a 'train set' layout, I always bought Hornby, but every exhibition I went to had every other make of everything on display, with all the advice being 'Don't buy Hornby because it is... too expensive / inaccurate / poor quality / too train-set-ish etc".
However, the more I look at other systems and compare expandability, compatibility, capacity, and even quality of supporting literature, I seem to be coming back to the Hornby... as you say Nigel... stick with something sub-120 for a starter. My layout will be in a loft so space is limited (for track and operators!). It will never move, let alone to an exhibition! I can't forsee ever having more than two operators, and I'm not interested in train position sensing, automatic running and all that business.
I'll be enquiring of some of the shops you mention, thanks for the details.
Best regards,
Ben.
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Ben wrote:

I would shortlist the following from the above description:
Hornby Elite; seems OK, conforms to standards. Two controller knobs (throttles) in one box for reasonable price. Some expansion with additional throttles. Might do well on a traditional loft layout. Digitrax Zephyr. One throttle as standard, but can add two more instantly if you have a couple of old 0-12v analogue controllers (only device with "jump throttle"). Additional proper DCC throttles cost from 45 in the UK (several designs, not just from Digitrax). NCE Power Cab. Probably easiest to use system which still does "everything". Depends if you like the handheld design. Can be reconfigured by owner to suit requirements (change every button's behaviour if wanted !). One throttle as standard, can add a second from about 50 (several different designs available at differing prices), but further expansion beyond two requires an upgrade to their more expensive systems (the bits bought can all be re-used). Roco MultiMaus. Single handset controller, some limitations, but works well. Can add more handsets to basic system.
I've skipped the Bachmann Dynamis because its a single handset system at present; the upgrade bits to allow second controller are not on sale yet (and the dealer pricelist which was published a while back suggests the upgrade will be expensive).
- Nigel
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Nigel Cliffe,
Webmaster at http://www.2mm.org.uk/
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wrote:

would add it already has computer connection and reasonable power at 4 AMP (said to be one for points and 3 for track). (no connection except except had an Elite for a year or so and rather like it).

Cheers, Simon
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Nigel Cliffe wrote:

You could also try MERG and DEMU. The latter's exhibition last had a large number of layouts with DCC and some quite noisy with all the diesels ticking over. Plenty of people showing off with showing how to set up sound on decoders.
Chris
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allan tracy wrote:

A decade plus of experience over the world should also be reassuring. Its hardly new technology :-)

Suggest trying the Yahoo forum "DCCUK" where you might get more specific questions answered.
I would suggest you visit several dealers (ideally specialists who have several systems for demonstration; if they only have one maker try another dealer) and modellers in your area to see systems in operation. Find out what works and what does not, each maker has pros and cons. You can spend as little as 30 on a command station or well over 500. I expect you'll be spending between 100 and 200 initially.
Basics: If it is NMRA compliant DCC, you get chips for locos from anyone, so pick the right chip for the loco based on available space, current consumption and quality of motor control. But once you buy a command station (the controller heart) you are largely stuck with that maker for additional control system components(*). So, if you want to control turnouts, signals, or even add automated running (all possible), the selection of command station maker is fairly critical.
Check how much add-ons cost, and if they are actually available. Several makers have items in their catelogues which have never appeared. Some charge a surprisingly large amount to move from their entry controller to the "fully featured" system. Others have more reasonable upgrade paths.
But, equally, its possible to be very silly and over-specify the command station. If you only run a few trains, have no signalling/automation, then I don't see a reason for buying a 200+ command station.
(*) there are a few "standard" buses to allow interworking, but being a multiple of "standards" you find that the selections across them is limited. The main ones are Xpressnet (Lenz and Roco, and to an extent ZTC) and Loconet (Digitrax, Uhlenbrock and several small specialist makers). Loconet may be better if you want to have a mimic diagram for turnouts, track occupancy, etc, and want to link this into the control system (eg CML electronics make several LocoNet based boards for such uses).
- Nigel
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Webmaster at http://www.2mm.org.uk/
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allan tracy wrote:

There are lots of different systems on the market, each with different levels of capability, limitations and abilities. Which one you require depends upon what you will do with it, which may well not be what you imagine you will do with it. Once you come up against a specification limit it's probable that there's no fix or upgrade so you will be forced to buy something better. (like with a digital camera or other consumer appliance) Within 3-5 years the technology will have upgraded to the point where you'll want the latest, so my suggestion is that you dive in with whatever you can source locally. My only real advice :-) is that you sound like someone who will want a computer interface with your DCC.
Regards, Greg.P.
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Very good advice from Greg. If you want the best price performance at approx 120 then go for Hornby Elite. Compare its spec to any other that is recommended and if it doesnt have equivalent features at around the same price then your decision is easy. It is NMRA compatible and reliable.
Any questions do ask.
Cheers, Simon
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Thanks for the very helpful replies.
Since Ive been digging I now have better idea of my requirements based on what Ive discovered DCC can deliver.
Apart from the basic train control other features I will definitely be looking for are sound (completely sold on that), point control, possibly uncoupling (still need to investigate that further) and I guess signalling.
All of the above features would be nice to have but will depend largely on how much work is involved.
A computer interface sounds nice, for the longer term; presumably there are commercial software packages available to support automation.
Yet again thanks to all for all the help.
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allan tracy wrote:

There is free software in the form of JMRI which being open source you can customise and share with others works with most systems including Lenz and Digitrax. Based on Java so not tied to Windows either.
Chris
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