Author Topic: About to Make DCC Plunge Here...  (Read 1592 times)

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ljudice

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About to Make DCC Plunge Here...
« on: February 26, 2013, 12:19:25 PM »
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I am almost 99% convinced to go with a Lenz based system along with their Ethernet/USB interface and use IPAD's and Iphones as controllers   (I have access to 2 Ipads and 3 iPhones) and a Win7 system to dedicate to this.

I want to be able to walk around and I doubt there will be more than 2 trains running at one time.  Layout is around 23x17 but is located in the room with my wifi access point.

Eventually would like to put a few powered turnouts under DCC control too.

Focus is modern railroading -  2-3 headend units  -  maybe  DP units in rear  (I've run these in DC mode with zero issues despite a 2% ruling grade.

Very experienced with IT, networking, etc...  zero DCC experience.

Bottom Line - should I keep shopping, or just go with it?

Thanks,
Lou

Scottl

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Re: About to Make DCC Plunge Here...
« Reply #1 on: February 26, 2013, 01:09:15 PM »
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You sound like you know more about it than most! 

I would consider local support, or at least who you plan to get support from (seller, etc), and if you have any folk who might operate with you.  If there is a local standard, it might pay to consider it.

I like the Lenz system as implemented but I bought NCE because I wanted to limit my initial expense with DCC, and it has been adequate for my use.  I know a lot of people seem to use Digitrax, but I find their products clunky looking and the interfaces seem rather old school.  Just my preference, others will no doubt beg to differ.

ljudice

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Re: About to Make DCC Plunge Here...
« Reply #2 on: February 26, 2013, 01:49:00 PM »
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Thanks for the compliment - believe me my understanding of DCC is  more "I did stay in a holiday inn express last night" however...

I'm pretty much a lone wolf at this - if someone does come over,  I would definitely want them to be able to play however, which is why I like the idea of adding a bunch of wireless controllers with little cost.

And I deal with so much constant open source and/or Microsoft related technical nonsense all day, I am not really sure I want to play with open source JMRI, etc...  in the hobby - and the Lenz stuff seems like an integrated plug and play solution. I am certainly not afraid of getting more deeply into it, but I think I would prefer the option of simplicity.

- Lou


Scottl

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Re: About to Make DCC Plunge Here...
« Reply #3 on: February 26, 2013, 03:07:38 PM »
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I know it is tres-cool to use smart phones for everything, but I think DCC and the train room is one place I want to leave my phone behind.  I don't want texts, emails and (heaven forbid!) phone calls interrupting my time there, and I kind of wonder what would happen if a call came at an awkward moment of operations.

ljudice

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Re: About to Make DCC Plunge Here...
« Reply #4 on: February 26, 2013, 03:37:10 PM »
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Hadn't thought of that, but it's a good point... 

Just tested it (I have the iphone app from Lenz) - and it just puts the call through...

Crash!!!!

esa123

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Re: About to Make DCC Plunge Here...
« Reply #5 on: February 26, 2013, 04:04:59 PM »
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Take the plunge! My only recommendation is to consider how much you want to expand in the future and make sure your system is JMRI compatible as this is becoming more of a universal standard for this. With that I mind don't get MRC! I bought their top of the line wireless system a few years back and it works great but won't play with anything else (they chose this on purpose by not allowing JMRI to integrate with them) so I ended up getting a second digitrax zephyr which I now use as my primary b/c with JMRI and wii throttle I can have as many throttles as I want - I would stay away from proprietary components as much as possible especially if you're going to have a computer run with it anyways. Digitrax also has a ton of support on the web and even thought I also hate their old bulky look, they are easy to expand with so many accessories. Lenz, NCE, or Digitrax are the way to go. I would recommend a throttle command station so you can throw DCC controlled turnouts from your handheld. Entering DCC is a big choice but as a lone wolf myself once I did it I never looked back! And don't worry, DCC systems hold their retail value so if you don't like what you get you can always sell it with very little to no loss of money.

Pomperaugrr

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Re: About to Make DCC Plunge Here...
« Reply #6 on: February 26, 2013, 04:08:56 PM »
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I have the LENZ system 100 and love it.  It is very intuitive.  It works well with JMRI.  I have my old iPhone as a throttle and am also using my HTC Vivid with "engine Driver." 

If you do get a call, the system stops the trains slowly, so there is no crashing involved.

I mentioned this in my blog entry, although the blog has been woefully neglected.  (see link in my signature).

Eric

rsn48

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Re: About to Make DCC Plunge Here...
« Reply #7 on: February 26, 2013, 05:58:30 PM »
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I second with going with the "local standard" (what the other guys have) because believe me you don't want to be the only one on your block with your system.  When I was learning motorcycles I was told "when you go down on your bike, not if....." and it was true, and I'm telling you no matter what you get you going to have some kind of problem with it, it could be as simple as not knowing how to do something, or much more complicated.  You don't want to have a conversation like this, "Hey Bob, my (Brand X) system went down and I'm wondering if you could help me"; "I would" Bob replies "but I'm a Brand Y kind of guy and won't be able to help you."

Scenario two, "Hi Phil, having a bunch of guys over, only problem is I have two throttle and I need a total of five to host the ops session, could I use some of yours."  His reply, "I'd love to but I have the Ajax system and you have the Blockins system so my throttles won't work on yours."

There are more situations like the above, so its best to go with the flow so to speak.

All the main brand systems are good and will do the job.  I'm a Digitrax guy and Digitrax's reputation suffers from issues the early systems have, but you still hear them repeated to this day, even though they have long been solved.  In photography its the same, I'm always hearing that Sigma lenses have a "warm" cast to them, true about 30 years ago, but no longer true.  The early throttles could be not intuitive and I always maintained that if one suffered from insomnia, just put on a video by Digitrax on how to operate the early Chief system with the early throttle; but these issues are long gone now.
Hind sight is always better than foresight, except for lost opportunity costs.

mr_mike_m

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Re: About to Make DCC Plunge Here...
« Reply #8 on: February 26, 2013, 06:15:11 PM »
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Lou-

My anecdotal evidence (based on multiple layouts I've worked on): in our Metro-NY area, there seems to be two DCC camps. Most of the N-scalers are Digitrax, and most of the HO guys are NCE.  Being a computer network guy, the Digitrax loconet made more sense to me. I still don't know everything about it, but that's my story! :D

With JMRI on a computer, and hooked into either company's "head end", doing the mobile throttle thing is trivial for just about any smartphone, including Blackberry. I didn't know what I was doing a few weeks ago, and decided to try my ipad with my Digitrax/JMRI setup, and had it working with WiThrottle in about 30 seconds.

peteski

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Re: About to Make DCC Plunge Here...
« Reply #9 on: February 26, 2013, 07:00:48 PM »
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I don't care for Digitrax (for many reasons) but it does have some advanced capabilities other systems to do have.
NCE is a very nice all around system. Easy to understand and operate. Not sure why H0 modelers specifically would favor it.
I also like CVP EasyDCC system because...it is very easy and intuitive to operate. 

All the above systems are capable of interfacing with a computer to be controlled by JMRI. That widens their capabilities.

DCC is evolving. Things like transponding and bi-directional communication are becoming mainstream. That means that whatever you buy now, might be obsolete in 5 years. Just like any other piece of computing equipment out there.
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conrail98

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Re: About to Make DCC Plunge Here...
« Reply #10 on: February 26, 2013, 08:20:25 PM »
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I've heard nothing but good things with CVP EasyDCC but I went the local route and got a Digitrax system because I could test my stuff out on other people's layouts while mine is in the planning phase. It's almost easier to go with what your "crew" might have. That being said, more and more of the guys are using their phones hooking up to the layout through JMRI to do control then are bringing throttles to the sessions,

Phil
- Phil

mr_mike_m

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Re: About to Make DCC Plunge Here...
« Reply #11 on: February 26, 2013, 09:39:23 PM »
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One other thing I would add is to try as many systems as possible, then pick what works best for you. In my case, I was able to check out Lenz, Wangrow (NCE), and Digitrax before I arrived at my descision. No matter which system you eventually acquire, there will be a learning curve.
-MM

Scottl

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Re: About to Make DCC Plunge Here...
« Reply #12 on: February 26, 2013, 09:58:50 PM »
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Quote
DCC is evolving. Things like transponding and bi-directional communication are becoming mainstream. That means that whatever you buy now, might be obsolete in 5 years. Just like any other piece of computing equipment out there.

I agree with this thinking and it was one of the reasons I only dipped my toes into DCC with the NCE starter system.  I have been very pleased with it, and could expand it for a few operators if I needed, or computer interface.  However, if something really different comes along, I won't feel too bad in replacing it.

jdcolombo

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Re: About to Make DCC Plunge Here...
« Reply #13 on: February 26, 2013, 11:46:57 PM »
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As others have said, there are distinct advantages to having the same system as friends.  Troubleshooting, throttle interchangeability, collective knowledge about programming, etc.  DCC systems are complex; don't hang yourself out on a limb alone unless you haves VERY good reason to do so.

John C.

reinhardtjh

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Re: About to Make DCC Plunge Here...
« Reply #14 on: February 27, 2013, 05:43:00 AM »
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I operate in a round-robin group in SW Ohio.  Three of the layouts are Digitrax (2 N, 1 HO), one is Lenz (HO) and one is NCE (N).  I do not currently have an operation layout but I have some Digitrax equipment.  What is handy is that I can take my UT4 throttle to the other Digitrax layouts in case the host is short of controllers.  So matching what you have around you has advantages.  If you're usually a lone wolf type then this will be less important.  Having used the those three systems, I can say that they all work well and certainly can do what most people want.  As a computer junkie I was drawn to the Digitrax system by the Loconet feature which seems to be better than the buses offered by competitors, but may not really matter to a lot of people.

One item which you may want to consider is that both Digitrax and NCE are produced in the USA, while, Lenz is imported from Germany (or at least Europe, I'm not sure where it's actually manufactured).  The reason I bring this up is not national pride, but because the owner of the Lenz system in our group has remarked that prices of Lenz equipment seem to be going up faster than others.  AFAIK, Lenz only has one licensed importer in North America - The company originally started by Stan and Debbie Ames ( www.lenzusa.com ) which has been sold to another person a year or two ago.  The major local dealer in this area is DCC Train and they have had troubles from time to time getting product.

Aside from that, the Lenz product for wireless phones is cool.  Digitrax showed the hardware for such a system 2 years ago at the NMRA national convention but the product has not made it to market as of yet.  They farmed the software out to another company and apparently things have not gone well.  I don't know if NCE has any such product planned.  I could see it being very popular though.  That said, using JMRI isn't that bad and it has a lot of nice options which include the WiFi interface for iOS and Android platforms.

John H. Reinhardt
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