To DCC or not to DCC? And if so, how? : LUSENET : Wiring for DCC : One Thread

I am in the process of building a room sized N-scale layout. It has one double track RR with a large yard, and a single track RR with reversing loops and an interchange with the double track (OK, so it's a big room). I want to be able to run 4 to 6 trains at once (two on double RR mains, one or two on single RR main, and one or two in yards. There would be one to three operators. I can do this with block operation: Its advantages -- it's cheaper, I don't have to wire locos as with DCC. Its disadvantages -- lots of wiring, complex and sometimes impossible to follow block switching to do everything I want at the same time. Enter DCC: Looks good from what I've read. But how well does it work in N Scale? I would like to hear from people who really use it. One hobbie store owner, who does not like DCC, told me horror stories of radio interference, electric motor interference, intermittant shut-downs, etc. Any truth? Are there other downsides? Beyond that, I like what I've heard: Huge advantage -- running trains where and when I want. Disadvantage -- wiring locos. How hard is it? I've thought about trying DCC by buying an MRC 2000, since it's in my budget, and getting a better system later, if I can handle it. But I've read MRC's loco decoders have a lot of limits. Can I use the MRC 2000 with Digitrax decoders, for example, so if I decide to go to Digitrax two or three years from now I'll be able to use 128 speeds and other functions MRC decoders don't support? From what I've read they should, but I want to know from people who have actually done it that it would work. From what I've read I really prefer the Digitrax system to the MRC, but I'm afraid to invest that much in a system that I might not like. My estimates of the cost of a basic MRC system are: Console $100, Power Supply $25, Handheld $25, Reversing Module $25, and about four loco decoders $120-$150 depending on exact models. Total for system that will control five trains with separate controls: about $300. For Digitrax, costs would seem to be: Genesis $180 (controls one loco), two Handhelds with two throttles $100 each - $200, Reversing Module from other source $25-50 (will MRC work?), and decoders as for MRC. Total cost for system with five separate controls: about $550. The difference is enough that I can't swing Digitrax right now, but can MRC. Am I missing anything? Is there a way to make the Digitrax system cheaper and still end up with five controls? I realize this is a lot to ask in one note, so thanks in advance for those who wade through it all and especially to those who share their experience.

-- Robert N. Stradling (, August 28, 1999


I have been using the Power House Pro DCC system from North Coast Engineering for about 8 months on an 18 X 32 ft layout, admittedly on HO scale. I love it. All the advantages you cited. I stayed away from Digitrax and MRC because of some of their incompatibilities for growth (Genisis Vs BigBoy Vs Chief, etc.) and the not so obvious use of the hand-held by casual operators. NCE is identical/compatible to Wangro System One as they share engineering designs. I have had no trouble with NCE decoders. The NCE current limit trip works well so I have not seen any of the welding horrors at track switches. (I also fix my track and rolling stock to minimize derailments.) My am radio doesn't object to any DCC electrical interference when placed on the layout. I use one Lenz AutoReverse loop controller to serve 4 separate reverse track sections.

The only drawback of the NCE system is that it does not support the analog mode of operation where one engine can be operated without a decoder. (This doesn't work very well anyway if you need reversing loops.) I'll let others answer about their experience with decoders on N scale, but they all look too big to me.

The downside of thinking about starting small with DCC is that you will quickly want all your engines to be equiped with a decoder. Let's face it. 10 locos = $250 to $500 or more depending how fancy you want to get. This will be your largest unexpected expense. Don't skimp here if there are discrepancies. You will want all of your engines to have the same controlability.

Don't get too caught up in saving miles of wiring or eliminating track blocks. If you plan on an automatic signaling system you will still need to segment the track into signal detector blocks. It is somewhat easier to place track occupancy detectors out near the track to be between the DCC bus wires and individual track feeder drops.

-- Don Vollrath (, August 30, 1999.

I am using EasyDCC from CVP Producst and am very happy. I am using decoders from NCE, Digitrax, and Lenz, including some N scale decoders in my HO switchers. All have worked equally fine, except for one particular Digitrax decorder which they have redesigned and will replace when called. EasyDCC allows you to get started for well under $300. The Command Center has two throttles built and sells in kit form for $199 and their booster kit is $59. Add a transformer and one or more decoders and you are ready to roll. Walk around throttles can be added later as funds allow. This is a fully compatable DCC system, which you will not have to replace as you upgrade. N scale decoders are more expensive, but I recently purchased one for under $25. The market is driving prices down. I have operated on N-scale layouts with no more problems then encounted on HO layouts. I would not be afraid to install DCC in N- scale. I recently built a large expansion (new basement) and weighted the cost of DCC vs my old DC set up. The simpler wiring with DCC was a major cost savings over the old block system with rotary switches, etc. And the ease of multiple trains/operators on the same track has been worth the extra initial cost.

-- Douglas Harding (, September 02, 1999.


I'm also in HO but our club has a large N gage layout. The decoders now becoming available will fit into your N scale equipment. Someolder equipment will require some modifications, but there's plenty of help available to guide you through it all. I second the use of EasyDCC system. The components can be bought already assembled from CVP for only $10 to $20 extra (I really recommend the command station assembled for only $20 extra)!. When you expand with multiple boosters and several hand helds the total system costs are less than even disounted Digitrax systems. The EasyDCC can handle any of the many different decoders - but you really should plan on the feature set you want. The really nice thing about the EasyDCC system is the programming methods and the hand held cabs being very easy to learn and use with out a lot of learning and practice time. I haven't had any real problems with interference or bad operations with DCC. Most who have had those kind of problems have traced them to some really bad wiring issues and/or some compatibility issues with earlier equipment that's now obsolete. You should see the Alan Gartner site for wiring (http:// and check out the CVP site ( for a system you can grow with.

-- Ed McCamey (, September 04, 1999.


First you are correct on several counts of the limitations of the MRC system. Espcially their decoders. I would not recommend anyone to purchase a new MRC system, they are always for sale used somewhere, Ebay is a good place to pick up a used MRC.

The reason they are easy to find used, is the same reason I do not recommned anyone buy one new, they are to limited currently, and most will find this limit early on, then move on to another system with more capablities.

As far as your dealer goes, this must be the result of his dislike for DCC, or more then likely his mis-undertanding of it.

As far as using Digitrax decoders with MRC, and even visa versa, MRC decoders with Digitrax. Yes they all work very well togehter, but note within the limits of each. That is a Digitrax decoder on a MRC system will work fine, but you will not have access to all the functions and features of the Digitrax decoder. Same with an MRC decoder on a Digitrax system, the system will have features that the decoder can not use.

I have been using Digitrax ever since it first came out, in 1995 I bought a Digitrax Challenger, then upgraded to a Big Boy, today I use the Digitrax Chief. The Digitrax systems are designed to be upgraded and expanded with the least amount of hassle and cost to the user. Infact on my layout today, with all the ungrades from the different systems, all peices of equipment are in use, except for the orginal Challenger throttle, everything else, boosters, other throttles, everything is compatable and in-use with my Chief. My layout also includes DS54's for turnout control, a computer with WinLok software, and just about everything else that the LocoNet can do. This includes feedback, positive position control, and a CRT CTC dispatchers panel. All on the LocoNet telco cable. I also have the DT100R and UR91 for wireless radio operations. The wholes system includes a DCS100 command station, 4 DB100 boosters, 6 DT100 throttles, 1 DB200 throttle, 1 DT100R throttle, 12 DS54's controlling 48 turnouts, block detection, signalling, 1 computer and MS100 interface. Everything with a Digitrax logo on it connects with a single 6 wire telco cable called the LocoNet.

At this stage, I would highly recommend you go with the Digitrax system over the MRC, even if this means buying the Digitrax in peice meal, such as dropping an added throttle for now, or what ever. You can always purchase these latter on.

Also if you like visit my web pages, Model Railroading with DCC, the url is at the end of this message.



Remember Always Have Fun and Enjoy!, Don Crano Akron, Oh NMRA #096211 Visit Model Railroading with DCC at:

-- Don Crano (, September 14, 1999.

Thanks to all who answered me. I ended up buying a Digitrax Empire Builder. I am very pleased with the way it runs one DCC compatible N scale engine (a Kato RS-2). A Minitrix K4 Pacific I converted does not run so well (pick-up sensitivity seems to be very high -- but all the electrical connections do check out). Since I was only able to convert a couple of my engines at this time I was counting on being able to use the analog mode to run one engine of my choice. But with the Digitrax unit, it seems zero speed isn't zero in analog. I asked the dealer if that was right and he said that's how all Digitrax units work. Analog mode is basically a come-on. Sigh! Well, I am planning on converting everything eventually, but I am disappointed. Oh well...

-- Robert Stradling (, September 28, 1999.

Some private e-mail I got in reply to my last note made me suspect what the dealer told me was wrong, so I called Digitrax. They were very helpful and confirmed that my unit was not working right. They are sending me another DB150 to replace my bad unit! Kudos to Digitrax for a quick response.

-- Robert Stradling (, September 30, 1999.

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