Author Topic: Stick with Digitrax or Switch to NCE  (Read 4366 times)

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Re: Stick with Digitrax or Switch to NCE
« Reply #30 on: July 02, 2016, 12:24:59 PM »
I guess Jim is a genius!  Or he has a quirky mind which is right at home dealing with a non-intuitive systems like Digitrax.

I also work in the computer field (as a tech support engineer for large computer manufacturer) and in my hobbies I deal with mechanical assemblies and electronic circuits. I have been working in the electronic field for over 40 years and I have seen probably thousands of manuals relating to electronics and mechanical devices. UI still find the entire design of Digitrax system very awkward and their manuals very confusing.  They have re-written their manuals?  I have to see them to believe. But even with a good manual Digitrax system will remain clunky and non-intuitive. That has not changed.

I'm actually surprised at the number of Digitrax users posting in this thread stating agreeing that the system is not the easiest to work with. Usually in threads like this Digitrax owners staunchly defend it!   :)
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Re: Stick with Digitrax or Switch to NCE
« Reply #31 on: July 02, 2016, 02:02:34 PM »
I've been a Digitrax user since 1996, and while I agree that the system is not intuitive.  I went with Digitrax initially because it was the first system to offer radio walkaround throttles, and now that I know my way around it, I have no reason to switch.  But I'd add a few observations that are missing from this thread (although they have been covered in multiple previous "What DCC system should I buy" threads).

First, Digitrax DOES make a simplified throttle (the UT series) that is pretty easy to use; a knob, a switch for forward/reverse, four rotary dials with hard detents to select locos with up to 4-digit addresses, and a few buttons for functions.  Never had even a brand new operator think these were too hard to figure out.

Second, don't forget your surrounding support community.  Everyone who has DCC in my club uses Digitrax.  That means we have a mutual support group to figure out problems, troubleshoot by exchanging known good equipment, and so forth.  Never underestimate the value of this kind of support.  If you live in the middle of nowhere and are the only DCC operator within a hundred miles, OK, maybe you don't care.  But if you are a part of a community of operators that overwhelmingly use one system or another, think hard about moving from the favored to the disfavored system, even if the disfavored one might have technical or operational advantages.

Third, I think the future is JMRI for decoder programming and WiFi-connected throttles.  In this world, the system interface becomes virtually irrelevant; the command station is nothing but an interface for JMRI and the connected throttles.  For operators who like knobs and therefore don't want to use the mobile phone apps, the ESU Mobile Control II throttle is the future; it is open-source, and I think already can run the Android app that interfaces with JMRI.  If you haven't seen the Mobile Control II, look here:

Moving from Digitrax to NCE just to get a more intuitive throttle might be more expensive than investing in JMRI and something like the Mobile Control throttle.

John C.


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Re: Stick with Digitrax or Switch to NCE
« Reply #32 on: July 02, 2016, 05:34:41 PM »
I have to agree with jdcolombo, switching to NCE may be more expensive than needed.

I have been a user of Digitrax since Feb-1997, started with the Big Boy system, a PR1 an second DT200 throttle. Programming was not easy, but it was do able (I've worked with PDP-11/44, and Digital's VMS systems since 1979 so I had no fear of Hex)

By about 1991 I had my son's cub scout pack over for "Operating sessions" on the door layout.  The kids picked up the throttles and once I showed them how to acquire a locomotive they were off and running. No sound locos in 1991 so the light on/off was the main function used.

Fast forward 25 years, I now have a Super Chief system and ALL of the parts of my Big Boy system are still in use.  I have added the several UT4 decoders and still have fun running trains.  Yes I have 10  sound locos that I run from UT4's and DT400's, 90% of the sound functions that I want to use can be run with functions 1 to 10 (I don't use "freight", "passenger", "maintenance", etc sounds so I don't need to figure out how to hit F20, F19 from a hand held throttle.

Ask yourself "What do I want to do that I can not do now?" let that help guide your choice of systems.  Do you really want your operators changing parameters on the system during an operating session? ALL of the systems I have used have had some sort of learning curve.  JMRI has helped in that the translation of "add bits 1, 2, and 3 and enter that in CVx" has been replaced with a simple check box, but the JMRI UI is the same for all  systems.
« Last Edit: July 02, 2016, 06:00:04 PM by djconway »


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Re: Stick with Digitrax or Switch to NCE
« Reply #33 on: July 08, 2016, 04:40:53 AM »
I have been using a Digitrax system for a long time, never had a single problem figuring out how to use it. IMO its pretty simple to use, showed the grandkids once and there off running trains even setting up consists. Never could figure out why some people find it hard to use, the new manuals are written for someone that cant figure out how a TV remote works.       


Contrary to some posters on this thread, my decision 7 years ago to go with Digitrax was based on several logical parameters, and was not an emotional decision. 

I had the opportunity to use several different DCC systems, including Lenz, NCE and Digitrax.  I also operated extensively on Lee Nicholas' Rail Lynx controlled layout.

I found good things and things that I didn't like in every system, but what convinced me to go with Digitrax was Loconet, local use (most model railroaders I knew were using it) and the ability to run DC engines simultaneously with DCC engines.

I also find the design to be easy to use...both the DT402D throttles and the UT4 utility throttles fit my hands much better than NCE's funky hammer-head design.

My son and I spent a week of evenings constructing a test module and learning how to use the system.  Now, it is second nature to us even though the manuals are crap...and I knew that going into it, so I wasn't surprised.

I find the design of NCE throttles to look like 60's TV controllers derived from the original War of the Worlds, whereas Digitrax looks "railroady" to me for some reason.

I have zero problems programming my engines, consisting my engines, speed matching my lashups...and Duplex has nearly obsoleted my programming track.

The kids don't have problems with the little Digitrax UT4 Utility Throttles, and I want to keep 'em away from the super throttles anyway.

At shows (yes, I attend shows with my portable layout which is about 35' X 18'), I have yet to experience any signal loss or runaway trains.  I can't say the same for my friends in the other N scale modular club, who run NCE and are always having signal loss problems and other clubs stealing their trains.   

When one of that club's members buys a new non-DCC engine, they come over to my space and run it on a train because they can...even with my disclaimer that they better not park it for long on the layout.  On their NCE controlled layout, their analog engine is a paperweight...but not on my Digitrax controlled layout.  I've run lots of analog engines on my layout over the past 7 years, and have not had a single one burn up.

When I have a DCC problem I can't solve on my own, I simply go online and five minutes later...I've got the answer...without having to decipher the manual or go to the Digitrax website.

Digitrax is IT for me, and I am very happy with my decision I made 7 years ago. advice is to stick with the system you are used to, and get some UT4 Utility Throttles for the little ones.

Bob Gilmore

« Last Edit: July 08, 2016, 10:33:34 PM by robert3985 »


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Re: Stick with Digitrax or Switch to NCE
« Reply #34 on: July 13, 2016, 09:56:01 AM »
I would like to thank you all for your observations and advice. This has been a very informative thread.

Bill McBride


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Re: Stick with Digitrax or Switch to NCE
« Reply #35 on: July 13, 2016, 02:54:49 PM »
And then there's this option:

I found them on FB the other day, and they made a system that combined JMRI and a command/booster station all in one box. You hook it up to your layout, and then just use smartphone apps for throttles. It looks like they have a proprietary app, but perhaps the system will open up to other functions...


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Re: Stick with Digitrax or Switch to NCE
« Reply #36 on: July 16, 2016, 08:58:11 PM »
Im a Digitrax man all the way and the primary reason for this is the Digitrax LOCONET..
The number of options that work on the loconet to detect trains, drive signals and turnouts is quite large.
Sure the DT400 can be intimidating, however there is the UT4 or the wireless versions.
I have helped a number of people set you a separate loconet on their NCE layouts to enable cost effective detection and signalling systems.

For me, it comes down to what is the primary use of the system. If it is to just drive trains, then NCE is easy to use, but if you want to do more and go to the next level then I think Digitrax is it.

As stated above, I would only use JMRI for programming, and can use Smart device based throttles using JMRI if the Digitrax throttles are too much..
Brendan Dennis
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Re: Stick with Digitrax or Switch to NCE
« Reply #37 on: July 17, 2016, 09:16:56 PM »
I myself were a member of two clubs both using Digitrax, so of course I went that way with my home layout. At first I did find Digitrax hard to use but practice makes perfect. I still have DT100s along with my DT402R and 402D as well as UT4Rs and 4Ds. The UTs are great for kids and fit better in them than a NCE ProCab does (which I've used and found clunky). I use my Zephyr for my engine facility and my DB150 and DC100 for mainline running. I do plan to do signaling and loconet will be of great benefit. There will always be the Digitrax vs NCE debate with it being pretty split down the middle at times.

I wouldn't expect an updated throttle from Digitrax. The days of niche, purpose-built hardware human interfaces are pretty much gone. I had heard (here on TRW, I think) that Digitrax had been working on direct WiFi-to-LocoNet hardware to use with a smartphone (or pad) app, but were tripped-up by licensing or regulatory issues.

From what I heard from a friend is that they are working on a new throttle and UR9x to use along with the DCS240. As to when or what, I don't know that, just what I've been told.

« Last Edit: July 17, 2016, 09:22:13 PM by EspeeGoldenState »
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Re: Stick with Digitrax or Switch to NCE
« Reply #38 on: August 02, 2016, 01:57:06 AM »
I had digitrax and sold it as NCE is soooooo much simpler! And tech support if you ever need any is outstanding.

Black Diamond

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Re: Stick with Digitrax or Switch to NCE
« Reply #39 on: August 05, 2016, 12:27:10 AM »
I would appreciate anyone who has actual experience using both systems commenting on their user friendliness. I'm very familiar with Digitrax but have no NCE experience. I am especially curious about the ease of accessing higher numbered decoder functions from the wireless throttles.

I'm thinking of making the jump to NCE but don't want to make a mistake -- especially an expensive one.

A friend and I recently made the switch after using Digitrax for 10 years or so. His frustration programming in Digitrax, weird codes and certain things just not working had gotten pretty high. The NCE system was worth every penny and the small learning curve when it comes to consisting and a few other quirks. The throttles make programing a snap. I used JMRI with the old system and will probably connect it again just to play with it but won't rely on it for programming upper level functions the way I did with Digitrax. I understood it usually but my friend and I just got sick of the crummy DT400 series throttles and those lousy buttons. As others have said Loconet is powerful and great if your layout really makes use of it. We have no signals, no block detection, nothing, just running trains and the NCE system is a perfect fit and easy to get into the higher level programming with an good looking backlit display and intuitive interface that usually lets you go back or exit, if you get into trouble. Also for our setup the radio throttle worked better as well for some reason.

Having said all that I still have some Digitrax left in me....for some reason I still push 0 to turn headlights on and off instead of using the headlight button on the NCE throttle.  :D

Good luck with your choice.


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Re: Stick with Digitrax or Switch to NCE
« Reply #40 on: August 21, 2016, 07:48:56 PM »
I know I am late to the thread, but I have used both systems and the Wii throttle. I also noticed that Tony Koester uses NCE. When I questioned him about why, he said it is far easier for a person to come in and pick up an NCE system that any other system he looked into. His friends gave him a hard time for not going with Digitrax, but in the end even some of his diehard friends agreed that his NCE system was easier to use than their Digitrax system, and I was told several switched over. As I mentioned I have used both and chose NCE for my home layout. Very straight forward, works great with JMRI and nice size buttons with a bright easy to read screen. The only thing I like better about the Digitrax system is the twin knob design. This is very handy when running two trains on a club layout. The Wii Throttle allows for the same thing. NCE require you use a recall button to switch between trains.
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Re: Stick with Digitrax or Switch to NCE
« Reply #41 on: August 21, 2016, 08:13:12 PM »

I agree with all of your points...

from a Digitrax perspective, the double throttle does aid in Op's when you're running multiple units in a lash up and want to split them out and run them independently

my 2 cents.
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