where to start with DCC?

D

Durango_Scotty

Registered
5 Feb 2019
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Kansas City
Hello. I am new to getting back into the swing of things with model railroading (G Scale) and there has been one question nagging me this whole time, “How to independently control my locomotives with continual power through the track?” I know this is odd but I have a variety of engines across the brands and am not sure how to get them into one system that I can personally control or do automation with a computer. I do not want to do radio control and yes I have a good amount of knowledge in radio control as I am also heavy into RC cars/trucks and RC boats. Here is a list of the locomotives I have, and if you could provide a cross-platform solution, that would be amazing. Thank you for your time and knowledge!!

The list:
Lionel
2 Union Pacific GP-20 Lionel Engine

LGB
1 Mogul Steam Locomotive Engine 2018D
1 Royal Gorge Gray Engine 2020
1 Green Stainz Engine 2020D
1 Christmas Stainz Engine 2020
1 Diesel Shunter 22620
1 LCE Bullet Train 90950
1 UP Passenger Engine FA-1 23570
1 UP Passenger Engine FB-1 23582

REA/Aristocraft
1 Napa Valley Switcher Steam Loco 21332
1 Napa Valley GE U25-B Diesel 22132
1 Napa Valley FA-1 Diesel 22032/22048 (not sure which one)
1 Santa Fe Freight FA-1 Diesel 22027
2 Santa Fe Freight FB-1 Diesel 22077
 
idlemarvel

idlemarvel

Registered
13 Jul 2015
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Ascot
If you have ruled out RC then DCC is your answer. All the locos listed could be fitted with a DCC decoder, some may already have one fitted. DCC will also enable automation. If you don't know what DCC is you have some reading to do. :)
 
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Durango_Scotty

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If you have ruled out RC then DCC is your answer. All the locos listed could be fitted with a DCC decoder, some may already have one fitted. DCC will also enable automation. If you don't know what DCC is you have some reading to do. :)
I have done some reading and from my reading, I know about the MTS system from LGB but heard its only for LGB. I know about the Aristocraft version, Marklin, and PiKO but am not sure which ones would work for my locomotives.
 
Neil Robinson

Neil Robinson

Registered
24 Oct 2009
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11
N W Leicestershire
There is a reasonable level of compatibility within most brands.
Some questions that may help future contributors.
How many locos of what type will you run simultaneously ( this will determine the required current and therefore central unit)?
Do you wish to have DCC controlled sound?
Are you likely to use multile lighting effects such as ditch lights, separate classifcation lights, Gyra lights and rotating beacons?
 
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Greg Elmassian

Greg Elmassian

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8 Mar 2014
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San Diego
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You will use modern decoders in most of your fleet. Forget using an LGB DCC system, too limited, too expensive, etc.

This also means you will be getting sound in your locos (and smoke control if you want), and can pick from any decoder manufacturer that suits your fancy (normally driven by sound file availability)

Consider something with good support in the US.


OK from here on I am talking the DCC system, not the decoders:

You should look at the NCE system, which will be 10 amps out of the box, has excellent throttles and is inexpensive for what you get. It will run everything except old serial MTS decoders, which should normally be thrown away (hoo boy!)

If you want to spend more, you can go Massoth, but support in the US is not great, and it's more expensive.
I would not recommend ESU in the USA.
If you want to go whole hog, you can go Zimo like me, but it's even more costly.

I don't recommend Digitrax, NCE beats it in pretty much every category, functionally they are pretty much in the same class.

A lot of the system "feel" comes from the throttle, see if you can visit a club using the candidate equipment.

(I am NOT recommending cheap or "starter" systems, based on the number of locos you want to have, the cost of the DCC system itself will be less important than the cost of outfitting your fleet with decoders).

Greg
 
D

Durango_Scotty

Registered
5 Feb 2019
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0
24
Kansas City
There is a reasonable level of compatibility within most brands.
Some questions that may help future contributors.
How many locos of what type will you run simultaneously ( this will determine the required current and therefore central unit)?
Do you wish to have DCC controlled sound?
Are you likely to use multiple lighting effects such as ditch lights, separate classification lights, Gyra lights and rotating beacons?
So as of now, I have to put the set down and then pick it up as I am limited on space. So the most I would run is 3 or 4 locos on a single track. I don't know much about the lighting so I can't really answer those questions.
 
D

Durango_Scotty

Registered
5 Feb 2019
6
0
24
Kansas City
You will use modern decoders in most of your fleet. Forget using an LGB DCC system, too limited, too expensive, etc.

This also means you will be getting sound in your locos (and smoke control if you want), and can pick from any decoder manufacturer that suits your fancy (normally driven by sound file availability)

Consider something with good support in the US.


OK from here on I am talking the DCC system, not the decoders:

You should look at the NCE system, which will be 10 amps out of the box, has excellent throttles and is inexpensive for what you get. It will run everything except old serial MTS decoders, which should normally be thrown away (hoo boy!)

If you want to spend more, you can go Massoth, but support in the US is not great, and it's more expensive.
I would not recommend ESU in the USA.
If you want to go whole hog, you can go Zimo like me, but it's even more costly.

I don't recommend Digitrax, NCE beats it in pretty much every category, functionally they are pretty much in the same class.

A lot of the system "feel" comes from the throttle, see if you can visit a club using the candidate equipment.

(I am NOT recommending cheap or "starter" systems, based on the number of locos you want to have, the cost of the DCC system itself will be less important than the cost of outfitting your fleet with decoders).

Greg
Thank you so much. you gave me a lot of the information that I have been trying to find and couldnt piece together. I really appreciate your response!
 
Greg Elmassian

Greg Elmassian

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8 Mar 2014
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San Diego
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Yep, you need to start with a 10 amp system if possible, a 5 amp one will not be enough, and in my opinion, 8 amp would be marginal.

If you start with that criteria, you will winnow out the candidates right away.

I used NCE for years, but I have steep grades and I have 2 consists that pull 10 amps each, so I was at the limit of the NCE, going to the Zimo I got to 20 amps, but it's a very expensive system. I love it though.

Perhaps some of what I have written in my site will help: (I try to be objective)

Main page with introduction and "what DCC can do for you" DCC

Main page to list of different manufacturers: DCC manufacturers detail pages (note the menus to many more pages at bottom)

A "decision process" page on how to decide on the best system for you: DCC Systems - How to choose

There's many more pages there...

Greg
 
PhilP

PhilP

G Scale, 7/8th's, Electronics
5 Jun 2013
22,481
165
Tamworth, Staffs.
As with any job, system, tool.. Go for the best you can afford / justify, at the start..

Looking at your list, you have quite a few bigger loco's, so a 10 Amp system from the get-go..
if you were in Europe, I would put Massoth near the top of the list, but being in the US, I would look to Greg's advice and the NCE system.

PLEASE try to find someone local, or a club, and see what they are running with.. - Having someone who also has the same system, is worth any amount of reading and forum posts.. Even if they do not know the answer, two heads are always better than one to muddle-through.

The initial cost of the 'system' will seem high, but you will eventually spend more on decoders, but at least you spend that money over time.

PhilP.
 
dunnyrail

dunnyrail

DOGS, Garden Railways, Steam Trains, Jive Dancing,
25 Oct 2009
14,424
185
71
St.Neots Cambridgeshire UK
I know what the guys said about Control Systems is great advice. But I would first before you spend work out what you think you would like to do with a Garden Railway.

- Do you just want to see big lashups of Locomotives on big trains circumnavigating the Garden?

- Do you want Timetable Operations?

- Do you want to drive just a couple of Locomotives on a modest Railway.

-Do you want an Automatic Operation with Trains Running all over the place to just sit and watch?

The answer to these and perhaps some other questions may help you to decide on that big spend of a system. Perhaps a little reading or even research via YouTube (YT) may help you with those answers. All of the above can be seen on YT particularly Operations which is my thing, they will be of smaller scales but the principles scale up nicely.
 
Greg Elmassian

Greg Elmassian

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8 Mar 2014
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San Diego
www.elmassian.com
All the things Jon asks are important things to answer on how you build your layout.

But, not sure they are relevant to the type of DCC system purchased GIVEN that the OP has stated a number of locos so it's assumed that he needs a fair amount of amperage and not a starter system. for example operations probably has little to do with the brand of DCC system.

If you want automated control, a system that interfaces to JMRI is a good idea for automation, but there's a lot of options, and most of the top systems have SOME means of interfacing to a computer system for the automation.

Greg
 
dunnyrail

dunnyrail

DOGS, Garden Railways, Steam Trains, Jive Dancing,
25 Oct 2009
14,424
185
71
St.Neots Cambridgeshire UK
All the things Jon asks are important things to answer on how you build your layout.

But, not sure they are relevant to the type of DCC system purchased GIVEN that the OP has stated a number of locos so it's assumed that he needs a fair amount of amperage and not a starter system. for example operations probably has little to do with the brand of DCC system.

If you want automated control, a system that interfaces to JMRI is a good idea for automation, but there's a lot of options, and most of the top systems have SOME means of interfacing to a computer system for the automation.

Greg
I beg to differ with your summation Greg, what one will want to do will have a great effect on the capacity of the DCC System as we so amply found out on the Ruschbahn when during Operations up to 8 people would be driving Trains at the same time with a few extra Locomotives sat with their Sound Systems grumblinag away all Drawing Amps. The original LGB System certainly struggled with the requirements but the upgraded Massoth that was finally purchased coped admirably having more ooompf.

We often go round in circles with the questions that someone like Scot has asked, but the fact remains it is sensible to do some research on where one would like to be before spending lots of bucks. While Scot has indicated that he would like Automatic Control I always think that is worthwhile to be devils advocate and ask do ‘you want all your trust in a Computer running your trains all the time’, I visited such a line once and it was about the most boring spectacle I had ever seen.
 
Greg Elmassian

Greg Elmassian

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San Diego
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My summation is based on what the OP said... "So the most I would run is 3 or 4 locos on a single track. "

That puts him squarely in the 10 amp range in my book, and 8 amps could be iffy.

Do you still care to disagree? If so, tell me your reasoning please.

My reasoning is you design the system for the worst case, 4 locos all running with lights and smoke and sound.

You quoted 2 of my sentences:

But, not sure they are relevant to the type of DCC system purchased GIVEN that the OP has stated a number of locos so it's assumed that he needs a fair amount of amperage and not a starter system. for example operations probably has little to do with the brand of DCC system.

If you want automated control, a system that interfaces to JMRI is a good idea for automation, but there's a lot of options, and most of the top systems have SOME means of interfacing to a computer system for the automation.


Which of these do you disagree with?


Greg
 
D

Dan

Registered
28 Jan 2010
197
2
Eastern MA
I have the original 55000 MTS I system and I purchased it for $20.00 US. Great for running a loco around the Christmas tree.
Also I have the MTS II P- system, and use it for testing locos for MTS users.
And I have the MX1 and MX10 Zimo systems and these are awesome. MX1 is 8 amps and I run 4 outdoor trains with it and 3 of them are single motor LGB engines, no issue with current!! Greg runs bigger trains with bigger current draw so he needs the 20 amp MX10.
 
LGB333

LGB333

Active Member
Hi Durango - After being a DC/Analog large scaler hobbyist for almost 30 years, I finally got the bug and went DCC almost four years ago. For my small 15 x 6 foot indoor layout I started with the German Piko Central Station ($275) and a Massoth DiMax Navigator wireless, handheld controller ($350 - $375). Massoth.de Germany makes Piko's DCC system, so components are interchangeable. The Piko CS is 5 amp capacity which you power with a 5 amp DC power supply. You can expand the Piko capacity for very large layouts by adding 1 - 5 Piko 5 amp Booster units ($270) each powered by a separate 5 amp DC power supply, all controlled by the Piko Central Station and Piko or Massoth Navigator. So the Central Station and each Piko Booster would power separate track blocks in your layout to operate as one continuous operating system. I tested this out in my existing outdoor layout last Fall which has two loops with track switches connecting the two loops (with isolators), the outer looper powered by the Central Station and the inner looper powered by the booster.

I also have the 12 amp Massoth Central Station ($900) which has computer interface capability. It must be powered by a separate 5 amp DC power supply. During the last four years using Massoth components, I've found good support through the Massoth Dealer, AllAboutLGB.com
Wendy & Mohammed BenDebba, 3539 Newland Road, Baltimore, MD 21218, USA Tel: 410 235 3642 E-mail:info@allaboutlgb.com

I've also found the Massoth folks in Germany pretty responsive through their email: hotline@Massoth.de They also have a telephone contact. I had an issue with their sound file on a Massoth eMotion XLS Sound Decoder that I had installed into an LGB 2063 D&RGW #50 shuttle diesel.......the CV for changing the bell to continuous on/off ring didn't work. They replied they had fixed the sound file and I should download the file and reinstall it into my decoder using their PC Interface Module, and it then worked! You can download the PDF Installation and Configuration Manuals on any Massoth product at either AllAboutLGB.com or Massoth.de
 
Greg Elmassian

Greg Elmassian

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San Diego
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An important thing to point out about "adding" more current capacity for more trains on the same track, is while you can add more boosters, like the example above, for a "total" capacity, you cannot take a 5 amp booster, and add another 5 amp booster TO THE SAME TRACK.

So, if you have a section of track with 2 locos, and steep grades, 5 amps may be marginal. I'm an extreme case, but my mainline heavy freights and my streamliners EACH use 10 amps on the steepest grade, so I started with systems that were 10 amps, and added more "power districts" in 10 amp increments.

Since then I have gone to a 20 amp system, since I like to never run a system at full capacity.

So, the advice is: plan and build for where you are going, so you don't buy and then jettison components that won't work later.

Keep asking questions and thinking it through.

Greg