How would you advise someone converting to digital?

R

RH Prague

Central European. the station pub is Czech !!
28 Oct 2009
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Prague
Thought I would best put this here rather than in the Digital section, as at this stage I am looking to just tap into your general thoughts and experiences.

My Mum has sadly passed away; there will be some money in the will, and I believe she, and especially my late Dad, would be happy if I invested some of the cash in my hobby.

So currently I have an analogue railway in the garden, it is in its 9th year, and remains pretty straightforward. Basically a large dumbbell with some sidings, unlikely in track terms to expand much. Total of 9 locos, one of which is Otto, another the track cleaning loco; I think all the others are capable of being chipped. Everything is LGB.

Hopefully without going mad I would have enough cash to not need any scrimping and saving. So what would you recommend for me? Which system ? What are the pitfalls to anticipate?

Thanks in advance, as always.
 
stockers

stockers

Trains, aircraft, models, walking, beer, travel
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Find a mate or club and see what they are doing.
Everyone will tell you thier system is best (mine is, it's absolutely brilliant!) but you cant beat seeing it in action. Also, if you get a bit stuck, there are people to help.
Just make sure you get a system that is designed for large scale voltages and current. My track cleaner is chipped - no problem. The Otto will be a challenge but I am sure it can be done.
My final advice - stick with one manufacturer - digital should be cross compatible - but it 'aint. Decoders from various manufacturers are not too much of an issue but when you get to boosters, controllers, etc. things can go wrong.
 
PhilP

PhilP

G Scale, 7/8th's, Electronics
5 Jun 2013
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Wot Alan said...

Personally, I would avoid the Marklin CS3, but I may be becoming a bit of a luddite! ;)

I would also ask yourself the following:
1. how old am I?
2. how is my general health?
3. do I have any problems getting at my track, to clean and maintain it?

If there is a pot of money, could this be the time to think about being able to enjoy your hobby into your latter years? - Might it be a better investment (partial, perhaps) to sort any problems with your track?
Maybe even raising it? - Dependent on answers to the above.

Other than that.
Secondhand is not a 'no-no' (considerable savings to be had), but I would avoid any of the LGB 'red-box' items..
 
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Zerogee

Zerogee

Clencher's Bogleman
25 Oct 2009
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First off, condolences on your loss - I went through the same thing just over a year ago....

On happier notes, I'd echo everything that Stockers and Phil have said - while an LGB MTS3 system can be had quite cheaply, and is still a perfectly serviceable option, it is obsolescent now and probably not the best choice if you're starting from scratch; personally I'd suggest going with some Massoth kit, it's generally well-made, reliable and versatile and a lot of the DCC folks on here (at least this side of the Pond) use it. I don't think you'd regret purchasing a Dimax central station and a Navigator. It's also purpose-built for large scale garden use, rather than being a "boosted" version of a system originally intended for smaller scales (which can be the case with some other makes).
All that is only my opinion, of course, and Stockers' advice about seeing what people in your area are using is very sound.

You say your layout is basically a dumb-bell - do you mean a single line with actual reversing loops, or simply a dog-bone style "pinched oval" with a double track in the middle? If you have reversing loops then you'll need to add a reverse loop control module to the shopping list of whatever system you buy.

Jon.
 
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Gavin Sowry

Gavin Sowry

Garden Railroader and Raconteur
27 Oct 2009
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How would you advise someone converting to digital?

With difficulty, in my case. I'd rather spend on stock, rather than control.
May I pass on my condolences, always difficult times
 
Gavin Sowry

Gavin Sowry

Garden Railroader and Raconteur
27 Oct 2009
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Hutt Valley, NZ
Wot Alan said...

Might it be a better investment (partial, perhaps) to sort any problems with your track?
Very, very sound advice. No matter what control system you want to use, it will never overcome deficiencies in trackwork.
 
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MTheStrong

MTheStrong

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Wot Alan said...

Personally, I would avoid the Marklin CS3, but I may be becoming a bit of a luddite! ;)

I would also ask yourself the following:
1. how old am I?
2. how is my general health?
3. do I have any problems getting at my track, to clean and maintain it?

If there is a pot of money, could this be the time to think about being able to enjoy your hobby into your latter years? - Might it be a better investment (partial, perhaps) to sort any problems with your track?
Maybe even raising it? - Dependent on answers to the above.

Other than that.
Secondhand is not a 'no-no' (considerable savings to be had), but I would avoid any of the LGB 'red-box' items..
Please can you explain why you would avoid the Marklin CS3.
 
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PhilP

PhilP

G Scale, 7/8th's, Electronics
5 Jun 2013
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Please can you explain why you would avoid the Marklin CS3.
*All opinions are my own, YMMV of course.*

Marklin have had 'something similar' for smaller scales for some time, but it is with their acquisition of LGB they have developed this for the larger-scale market.

1. The system is proprietary to Marklin.
Although it will support DCC equipment, it is Marklins' interpretation of the NMRA standards, and there have been 'gotchas' reported.
2. The Controller (I do not consider it a 'throttle', or even hand-held) is large, not the most robust device to have outside, not particularly weather-proof, and (IMHO) overly complex for wandering around with to control your layout.
3. To get wireless control:
You need to have a suitable smart-phone. Download and install 'the app'. Buy and configure a suitable router.
Not an inconsiderable expense, and getting these to work together may be a challenge for some.
4. There appeared to be some 'features' with the CS2, and hence it was superseded by the CS3 quite quickly.
5. There are limitations to the amount of current the basic system can cope with. - Booster required for larger systems.

You may agree or disagree..
A little like the BMW / Mercedes or Apple / PC debate, but I think the above points are valid in this particular case.
 
MTheStrong

MTheStrong

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*All opinions are my own, YMMV of course.*

Marklin have had 'something similar' for smaller scales for some time, but it is with their acquisition of LGB they have developed this for the larger-scale market.

1. The system is proprietary to Marklin.
Although it will support DCC equipment, it is Marklins' interpretation of the NMRA standards, and there have been 'gotchas' reported.
2. The Controller (I do not consider it a 'throttle', or even hand-held) is large, not the most robust device to have outside, not particularly weather-proof, and (IMHO) overly complex for wandering around with to control your layout.
3. To get wireless control:
You need to have a suitable smart-phone. Download and install 'the app'. Buy and configure a suitable router.
Not an inconsiderable expense, and getting these to work together may be a challenge for some.
4. There appeared to be some 'features' with the CS2, and hence it was superseded by the CS3 quite quickly.
5. There are limitations to the amount of current the basic system can cope with. - Booster required for larger systems.

You may agree or disagree..
A little like the BMW / Mercedes or Apple / PC debate, but I think the above points are valid in this particular case.
Thank you for your reply. I have 2 points to make:

Firstly, I agree that you require a router and an App to run the system wirelessly. However the costs are IMO not expensive, for example a TP Link Nano router and the Maerklin App costs less than £30.

Secondly, you mention limitations to power. The basic system for G Scale is powered by either the Maerklin 60101 switched mode power pack or the LGB 51095 with a maximum output of 5 amps. This is virtually no different to the LGB MTS 3 system.
 
PhilP

PhilP

G Scale, 7/8th's, Electronics
5 Jun 2013
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Tamworth, Staffs.
Cost (of wireless) is more to do with the smart-phone.
I feel the level of knowledge to get it to work (for someone CONVERTING to digital may well be a problem.

Whilst 5 amps will be adequate for a small / starter layout, the OP was asking for advice to convert. - Inference, an established layout, and loco roster..
Whilst 5 amps may be fine for a few LGB loco's, if those form USA Trains, or Aristocraft are to be run, then 5 amps may well be limiting.
 
MTheStrong

MTheStrong

Registered
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Cost (of wireless) is more to do with the smart-phone.
I feel the level of knowledge to get it to work (for someone CONVERTING to digital may well be a problem.

Whilst 5 amps will be adequate for a small / starter layout, the OP was asking for advice to convert. - Inference, an established layout, and loco roster..
Whilst 5 amps may be fine for a few LGB loco's, if those form USA Trains, or Aristocraft are to be run, then 5 amps may well be limiting.
The OP mentioned that all his locos are LGB!
 
dunnyrail

dunnyrail

DOGS, Garden Railways, Steam Trains, Jive Dancing,
25 Oct 2009
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I would not now go the digital route though it is what I am at the present. Battery is the future as many have shown on here. You can even have the benefit of a Digital Sound Chip with direct control from a modest size hand set no larger than a Massoth Dimax. No track cleaning, no wiring with 9 Locomotives you are not too far forward to worry and you can always Battery Up your Locomotives so that they can be Battery or Track Power at the flick of a switch. If I were starting out new that is the route I would be going and I am gradually but slowly converting my current fleet to Battery. Possibly within a 18 months to 2 years I will be pretty well mostly battery.
JonD
 
stockers

stockers

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All that charging - couldn't be arsed. Horses for courses of course.
 
Rhinochugger

Rhinochugger

Retired Oik
27 Oct 2009
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All that charging - couldn't be arsed. Horses for courses of course.
Ferzackerly - a lot of the personal preference is because we want to take a particular route, and thankfully we are all individuals with our own different ideas.

While I don't see DCC as a realistic solution for my railroad, with only three loops with manual points, and usually no more than three trains in operation at any one time, that doesn't mean that somebody with 9 locos and sidings couldn't benefit from DCC both in train movements and point operation.

So having said that - I'm no help. 'cos I haven't gone over to the dark side, I think partly because I can't be arsed to have to link a phone or computer to something or other to run my railway :rofl::rofl::rofl::rofl::rofl:
 
maxi-model

maxi-model

UK/US/ROW steam narrow gauge railways 1:1
27 Oct 2009
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What do you think DCC will allow you to do that you can't do at the present and what is the cost in achieving that ? You say you have a simple layout you do not plan to develop much. It seems to only benefit would be the running of multiple locos at the same time and, if fitted, the full use of all the flashing lights, bells and whistles on a digital sound card. Apart from the initial outlay, for the base station, there are two lots of expense, decoders and sound card, that will become obsolete with time. As might have gathered, I'm not a fan. Max
 
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stockers

stockers

Trains, aircraft, models, walking, beer, travel
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It was the sound cards that convinced me 'Maxi'. I was running my previously fitted 2-10-2 on KentKeiths garden line and the distant whistles (its quite a big garden) did it for me.
I agree if you dont want it - dont do it but, to me, there is far more to DCC than running multiple engines. Sitting in the hot tub whilst having control of all your railway is one of the advantages.
It can also depend on what your local running mates use. If all my neighbours were running battery my digital stuff would not be of great use when visiting, but as most of them, including the GSS area group, are DCC. I am happy - and that's the main thing..
 
Gizzy

Gizzy

A gentleman, a scholar, and a railway modeller....
26 Oct 2009
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I went down the DCC route for sound. I brought a MTS 2 system from Zerogee, which still runs fine today.

I had to convert some of my fleet to digital from analogue, but I did this over time. New (or rather 2nd hand) purchases have been for at least DCC fitted locos, preferably with sound too.

I can still run analogue, battery and live steam if required, so I've covered all bases....
 
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LGB-Sid

LGB-Sid

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I started building my railway a year ago and have set myself a very limiting weekly budget :( I decided I needed digital control, I only have three Locos at the moment I have converted two with Massoth L decoders and left the original basic sound in them both Stainz, the third still building / bashing and it will get the bells and whistles but they cost more.
I now have 9 sets of points all Manual at look at them and think that is going cost to control them from a hand set.. and I still have more to add as the line expands so I get exercise and walk and set them by hand :).
I picked up a secondhand LGB MTS III P for less than £200 complete with handset for my system as Massoth kit was out of my budget. Would I buy the LGB extra kit to expand and convert it to wireless probably not at it's price even though the wire to my handset is a pain at moment.
Was it the right choice to go digital no idea really I suppose I did it to get the sound in engines in the end that I can play at the press of a button. Would battery have been better for me not sure at the time adding a chip to an LGB stainz seemed hard enough never mind converting it to battery power, but I am sure I could have done that as there is a lot of help and information about.
I only have a 5 amp system and I know it will be a limitation and again don't think I would buy and add LGB boosters etc, but I might just get away with it as I will only probably ever run single motor engines based on the budget I set.

The above is only my limited experience as a newbie who went digital last Xmas and has sat watching trains go round pondering was digital the best choice for me :), getting an LGB MTS system wasn't too expensive, converting and buying things to control with it was and is probably a lot more than I envisaged.
 
pugwash

pugwash

impecunious pirate
17 Nov 2009
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Sitting in the hot tub whilst having control of all your railway is one of the advantages.
Until you drop your smartphone :mask:
 
R

RH Prague

Central European. the station pub is Czech !!
28 Oct 2009
318
13
Prague
Thanks for the great replies up to now.

To answer some of the questions about my current setup and motivation. Sorry, should have used "dogbone", not dumb-bell. No reversing loops.

Good point about investing track. Actually it runs along the back of the garden and at a very good height (see fotos from when I started in 2007, and then in 2014. My wife always says i only decided to buy the house when i saw that wall at the back :) ) Long straight main line. Most of the points are electric. Mainly I enjoy watching the trains go by from different angles. It is certainly big enough to have 2 trains on the main line; been playing with that in analogue but it isn't exactly relaxing :) Sound is the other thing. Got a couple of magnets down to trigger whistles, but after a while it gets too much. Finally, the potential sociability of it. It has been a solitary hobby up to now, no kids in the family, and no club scene either, it's a very expensive hobby for Czechs. But neighbours families are interested.

Re batteries, indeed "all that charging". That's the deal breaker for me.

Looks like generally Massoth gets a vote of confidence?

Is it true that digital is more tolerant of dirty track than analogue? The height makes most of it easy to keep clean, but in the last year there has been a stretch of straight track where the trains slow up, and I think it is because it is dirt sensitive.
 

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