Getting Started with LGB DCC

curtis

curtis

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I didn't want to hijack @Anglican's thread so I opened a separate one here. I did look around for similar posts on the forum but found a few answers different answer but I wanted to get the community's thoughts on what is best for us. There is a promise from that I will edit this post with a summary of what I've learned make it easier for others in the future.


Yes, both MTS II and III are now obsolescent systems that are no longer made by LGB - BUT they will still work just fine for most purposes, and many, many people are still using them. As such, provided you can get a complete package as a second-hand purchase (power supply, central station plus one or more handsets with or without a wireless receiver module) then it will still give you a good few years of use at a very reasonable price. I would avoid the early "serial" MTS II systems, but a later "parallel" one is just fine (just make sure that ALL components of the system are parallel-enabled, either with a "P" suffix on their part numbers or a little black and white "P" sticker on the item); an MTS III setup is an even better option, as it allows the use of a Massoth Navigator as an alternative to the LGB handsets.

Provided you get a setup that is fully working and in good condition, it will provide a perfectly serviceable and relatively low cost entry into large scale DCC. You can even still buy brand-new "new-old-stock" MTS sets from the likes of Modell-Land in Germany.

Jon.
Following on for Jon's advise, I looked up the MTS (MZS) III system from Modell-Land - fortunately, I live in Berlin so that works well. On their site I found the Digital set MZS LGB 55106 + transformer 04112 + cable. If I understand correctly, if I get these set I would only need to get the decoders for the locos. . saw in another thread advise to not use the LGB decoders (but the thread was quite old). I can theoretically use any large scale decoder to get this working - is that correct?
 
dunnyrail

dunnyrail

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I didn't want to hijack @Anglican's thread so I opened a separate one here. I did look around for similar posts on the forum but found a few answers different answer but I wanted to get the community's thoughts on what is best for us. There is a promise from that I will edit this post with a summary of what I've learned make it easier for others in the future.




Following on for Jon's advise, I looked up the MTS (MZS) III system from Modell-Land - fortunately, I live in Berlin so that works well. On their site I found the Digital set MZS LGB 55106 + transformer 04112 + cable. If I understand correctly, if I get these set I would only need to get the decoders for the locos. . saw in another thread advise to not use the LGB decoders (but the thread was quite old). I can theoretically use any large scale decoder to get this working - is that correct?
I was a bit in the dark ages when I used LGB MTS, my System was a (P) Parallel the one before III that you are looking at. I used Massoth Decoders on that with no issues other than Loco Number Programable being limited to was it 21 or 22 max? Not sure if the series III can manage higher. Probably not a problem if you do not have so many Locomotives but to make life easier for myself and guests I like to make the number match the last 2 digits on the Loco. Thus my 99 5903-2 is ‘32’ on the Handset. This works fine with my Current Massoth System.

As for Chips, the old LGB 55021 are somewhat limited by today’s standards but if you are on a Budget they can be a cost effective way to get going. Just remember that they are also limited on the Loco Number (CV1) to the 21 or 22 that I referred to earlier. The Series III should will no difficulties accessing them and updating them if you have the correct add-on kit to access the Chip CV’s. Not able to advise on the III System what you would need for this, but I expect someone will chip in with the answer (no pun intended). A friend of mine has the all singing all dancing later LGB System that I hate, but has no problems updating his old LGB Chips including 55021’s.
 
Greg Elmassian

Greg Elmassian

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Unless on a tight budget, would not recommend the LGB system, too limited and clunky. Also good advice to stay away from the older LGB DCC decoders that had limitations.

No reason to start out in the dark ages of DCC.

Greg
 
PhilP

PhilP

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You need to ask/answer the following questions:

What / how many loco's do you want 'on-track' at any one time?
What make(s) / model(s) of loco. - Single-motor small, or multi-motor big, will make a difference to your requirements.
What do other modellers / groups in my area run? - Support and advice from others is worth much!
What is my budget? - Could you stretch this as it will be a long-term investment.
Do you want sound? Point (turnout/switch) control? Lighting, or other track-side effects? - All adds to current you may require.

Answers to these questions will steer you towards a system that will give many years service.

Don't buy on price alone. - Older systems will be limiting in some-way, and may prove a bad investment.
 
Zerogee

Zerogee

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25 Oct 2009
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When considering decoders, also note that Massoth-built ones are generally both better AND cheaper than the LGB types that they are a direct replacement for.
For example, if you wanted to use a direct-plug-in decoder for an LGB loco equipped for such an installation, you will find that a Massoth "L" decoder is a direct replacement for an LGB 55021, and is both considerably cheaper AND more versatile (eg: it has a SUSI socket for a future sound upgrade, which the 55021 lacks).

I totally agree with Greg and Phil about buying the best system your budget will stretch to - and I did emphasise the obsolescent nature of the LGB gear - BUT I know quite a few people still running extensive layouts using old MTS II/III kit and I still think it is an entry point worth considering if your funds won't reach as far as something more modern and fully-featured. Of course, this advice (like everyone's on here) is worth exactly what you paid for it.... ;)

Jon.
 
Greg Elmassian

Greg Elmassian

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If you are really "getting started" you have no need for the old MTS system that can limit you to 14 speed steps, limit the number of locos, and supports serial functions.

Modern decoders are cheaper, have more functions, and have sound and motor in a single decoder.

Likewise a modern DCC starter set will have more capability, and if cost is an issues, get a Roco unit and use your cell phone.

Greg
 
dunnyrail

dunnyrail

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I would go along with what Greg says, but if you are on a Budget a good well preserved LGB ‘P” System will serve you well till you feel confident to spend more Money.
 
curtis

curtis

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All, I wanted to say thank you for your responses. That have been extremely informative. My girlfriend was actually fine with investing in the MTSIII system. However, we discussed it a little more and I realised that it's going to be a couple more years before we have a home with a garden (currently living in Berlin). As such, the MTS system will be even more obselated. We decided to defer the decision until we're looking to setup something more permanent (it's a lot of money just for me to tinker around with). Further, given there are better and cheaper decoders around now - it will be beneficial to see what is available in a couple of years instead of taking the current LGB MTSIII limitations.
 
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perpetualnewbie

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I found that as I only have temporary setups and/or only room for 1-2 locos at a time, a lot of the more powerful systems' benefits are hard to use. A lot of people seem to be happy with the old LGB system but I found the variations of the older LGB tech a little confusing and I did think it might be getting a bit late in its lifecycle to commit to.

Being slightly contrary, I went for a Marklin Mobile Station with their "gauge 1" track box - the small LGB starter set power adaptor fits it. The G1 track box is not high power anyway, I think it will run two small or one large loco at most, but it is fairly modern and works with both standard DCC and with the MFX chips in new LGB locos. I've not tried it with an older MTS chip but it's supposed to cope. The mobile station can serve as an extra wired handset for LGB/Marklin's very expensive, very techno-flashy "Central Station 3" if I ever upgrade that way, though I'm not currently in a position to take advantage of one. All I wanted for the time being was to be able to buy the occasional new LGB loco and be able to use the functions it has as-is, and this works fine for me, for now. This option might suit you if you don't run much-higher-current-draw locos from US manufacturers, or large multiple-loco consists, or lots of trains at once.

Any maker's DCC kit ought to work fine if it can cope with G scale's relatively high track voltage. However initial loco setup with MFX is very convenient as everything auto detects (I think MTS had a similar advantage in its day?). Funnily enough this is of most benefit on a simple, basic controller. A member here kindly invited me to try his splendid Massoth system which is obviously superior in build quality and enormously so in raw power, but most of the functionality advantages are ones I couldn't really harness and it's a pretty big step up in price.
 
Greg Elmassian

Greg Elmassian

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For an inexpensive system, you can go a wired throttle with the $150 NCE PowerPro system, and a $50 5 amp booster from Tam valley, and a cheap power supply $18 (or an old laptop power supply - often free)

So for right around $200 you have have a very full featured DCC system 5amps, 20 volts or so. You can add wireless with a cheap laptop, and a USB interface and a cheap router and you have a system that will do everything except serial functions and use cell phones as wireless controllers as well as have your wired full featured throttle.

Also you can go the Roco route and use a cell phone with their Z21 system.

The point I am making is that you can get a modern system for not a whole lot of money and have something to "play" with.

MFX can be very convenient, but beware that you are really locking yourself into a particular manufacturer, and really the whole idea of DCC is the ability to mix and match control systems, decoders, etc.


Greg
 
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perpetualnewbie

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That would also be a good option, though costing a bit more than what I went for, it looks like it has a better upgrade path. I must have looked at the wrong Tam Valley booster as the one I found was 3A, same power I ended up with. It's enough for the LGB locos, some makes are much thirstier. Some of those brands are not common this side of the pond, but I think most of them are available one place or another. There are probably lots of possible combinations, but some bits of DCC gear that are aimed at the HO/OO/N set are a bit vague in their specs as to what voltage they'll permit, cutting down the options quite a bit.

Can't agree on MFX lockin though. Maybe there were MFX only locos in the past or in other scales? but I never saw a G scale one that didn't also work on DCC, and the controller works fine with DCC chipped locos too. If it didn't interoperate I'd have run a mile. As it is, since LGB is relatively widespread here and other makes less so, the convenience was a small but nice plus.