Model Train Forum banner

1 - 20 of 25 Posts

·
Registered
Joined
·
56 Posts
Discussion Starter #1
I've heard good things about MRC controllers and I'm looking to purchase some for my new layout. However, there seems to be a bewildering array of them, and I don't know how to choose. I'd like a simple controller for a DC system with enough power to operate several trains. What do you suggest?
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
9,897 Posts
That's a tough question to answer without knowing a little more about what you intend to do and how big a layout you intend to have. You say "DC" and yet "enough power to operate several trains". While those goals aren't totally incompatible, running multiple trains from the same controller requires some complex wiring and switches, and you also have the problem that EVERY train on the layout will receive the same DC voltage, and therefore be running at the same time (not necessarily at the same speed, though, because of motor and drive train differences). You will need isolated sections of track to park trains.

So are you planning multiple, unconnected tracks which you will feed with power from a single controller and watch trains run, unconcerned with independently starting, stopping, or controlling speed?

To achieve independent control of multiple trains in DC, you need a series of isolated blocks, each with it's own separate power pack (or one unit with multiple rheostats and outputs. If that's what you want, your needs are much better addressed using a DCC system. Many newcomers assume they want to stick with DC because they assume DCC is difficult to set up or complicated. It isn't. It's more expensive, but that's offset by ease of set-up and operation.

All that said, it's tough to go wrong with any MRC product. If you really do want straight DC (although it sounds to me that you don't, really), you can exclude any MRC product with "Prodigy" in the name. That's their DCC lineup. Depending on where you're shopping, people may have a variety of older stuff in stock still available but there really aren't that many options in their current production. A lot of the older models would be fine, too, but unless you can tell us which model(s) you're considering, it would be impossible to recommend any specifics (MRC has produced a lot of models over 70 years in business). You also don't mention what scale you're planning. If it's O, you're going to want one of the high powered " Throttlepack" line, if one of the smaller scales, the Tech7 is their high end model, and the AMPAC 780 version has dual throttles and outputs. The less-sophisticated version is the Railpower series, with the AA370 version having twice the voltage output, so that would be a better bet for powering more tracks simultaneously. The Tech6 is a kind of semi-DCC controller, which allows you to control lights and sound independently (on a single locomotive -- all trains receiving power from that controller would activate sound and lights simultaneously).

Hopefully, that's helpful. If you can give us more specifics, we can help you narrow the field even more.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
56 Posts
Discussion Starter #3
So are you planning multiple, unconnected tracks which you will feed with power from a single controller and watch trains run, unconcerned with independently starting, stopping, or controlling speed?
Thank you for the quick read and helpful response. I should clarify that although overall I intend to have several controllers, at least one of them I would like to be able to run two or perhaps three trains on a main loop without worrying about controlling or stopping them independently. That is the one that would need more power output. The others could have less output.

Among the controllers I've looked at are these:
Tech II 1400, 2400, 2500
Tech 4 200, 220, 260
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
1,045 Posts
65steam, I don’t think you’re going to be able to do what you want with DC control of multiple trains on one main loop. The controller will put a voltage on the track that all 2 or 3 engines will receive. The problem will be that each engine will run at a different speed at that voltage. So at some point, you’re going to get a collision of one train running into the back of another because of the speed difference.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
878 Posts
65steam, I think those models are all out of production Walthers has 1300 and 1370 in stock,
"Power up to 5 average HO trains. Solid state circuitry delivers 18VA output" Others available on ebay.
Only current model with momentum (if that's important to you) is Ampac 760.
I think they're all good.
Also:
Check out his 852B 1.5 Amp handheld throttle/controller, $45.
Has PWM and Momentum.
No, I don't work for him... 😂
And no idea at this time about delivery...
Also requires a 12-18VAC supply, like a 40 watt doorbell transformer, etc.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
8,695 Posts
65Steam

As Mark has pointed out, a DC powered layout that is capable of running
3 or so trains on the same layout is going to require a Power Pack for each
train, numerous electrically isolated track sections, a panel of switches to direct
the power and a rat's nest of electrical wiring. And when you get it
all set up, you'll have to sit there and manually throw the panel switches
to follow each train and manipulate the various speed controls. When all
is paid for and done...you've probably spent more money AND TIME
than it would have cost you to start out with DCC...Digital Command Control.
With ONE DCC controller and a PAIR of wires to the track you can run
3, 4 and more trains at the same time, each independently speed controlled to avoid
crashes. No isolated sections, no panel full of switches and no complex
wiring.

DCC works by putting a continuous appx. 14 volts modified AC on
the track at all times (train lights stay on always)...
it also sends along digital data that decoders
in each loco use to cause the loco to move FW or REV and at what
speed. DCC is the easiest electric system to set up and the easiest
to operate when you have more than one train. If you can use
a TV remote you can run a DCC layout.

And yes, MRC does make a very good DCC system.

Don
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
56 Posts
Discussion Starter #7
Thanks for the help. It's a lot to think about, but you've given me some clear directions.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
56 Posts
Discussion Starter #8
Converting to DCC opens up a lot more questions to consider. If I wanted to install DCC in my older locomotives, where might be a good place for me to start looking at basic, inexpensive decoders?
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
845 Posts
65 wrote:
"If I wanted to install DCC in my older locomotives, where might be a good place for me to start looking at basic, inexpensive decoders?"

You're missing an important "first step".
You need to know if the engines you have are "dcc ready" or not.

"Dcc ready" usually means that the controller/light board on the loco also has a "plug" on it (usually 8 pins on an older engine) that can accept a dcc decoder.

If it IS dcc ready, there will be a "dummy head" plugged in, allowing for normal dc operation.

If there IS NOT a dcc ready plug on the board, that means you have more work, sometimes A LOT more work. A decoder would have to be "hard wired" into an engine like that.

Once you "do an inventory" on ALL your engines, you'll know what kind of dcc decoders might work. Make sure you keep some written notes around for reference.

You may need a mix of 8-pin decoders, and some "loose wire ends" decoders as well. There are also some engines (usually steam engines) that require major work to get dcc installed into. Just be aware of that.

You can also visit the decoder manufacturer websites, which have compatibility charts and in some cases, installation instructions with illustrations. TCS has a good area for this.

Also look on YouTube -- there may be videos for the particular engines you have.

Making the move to dcc is best done by doing investigating and exploration before you set yourself in a particular direction. Again, go to YouTube for videos of the various systems out there.

I'm a fan of the Roco z21 wifi system, which can run from any smartphone or tablet. But these are getting a little harder to find, so if someone was thinking of "wifi, tablet-controlled" dcc, I'd suggest the Digikeijs DR5000. It's actually a little cheaper and has the wifi router built-right-into it. It also works with the free z21 app. But be aware that you need a PC running Windows to set up the DR5000. I've heard it can also be done on a Mac (which I have), but haven't tried it.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
9,897 Posts
Converting to DCC opens up a lot more questions to consider. If I wanted to install DCC in my older locomotives, where might be a good place for me to start looking at basic, inexpensive decoders?
Any decent online retailer will have a good selection. I shop at Modeltrainstuff.com and Trainworld.com, for the most part. Tony's Train Exchange and Litchfield Station are also good places to shop for DCC.As long as you don't want sound, they're all pretty inexpensive. Anything by Digitrax, NCE, or TCS will be fine. Use Bachmann and MRC decoders with care. I think MRC's DCC systems are top notch, but their decoders are hit or miss. Don't worry, though, you can use any make of decoder with any brand of system.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
8,619 Posts
When you say you want to run "several" trains on the same track, do you main complete trains (locomotive(s), cars, and caboose), or two or three locomotives pulling one complete train?
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
56 Posts
Discussion Starter #13
I'd like to be able to run two trains on a mainline loop, one of them with two locomotives.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
8,695 Posts
65steam

You are saying you want to run 2 trains, one of them with 2 'running' locomotives.
Easy to do with DCC. The 2 locos in a train is said to be a 'consist'. Your DCC
controller manual will have instructions on how to 'tell' the two consisted locos they should
operate as one, a matter of pushing a button or to to set up. Speed match of the
two consisted locos can be of importance, however. This too can be set up with DCC.
Meanwhile, the 2nd train with one loco would still have it's
independent control.

Don
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
56 Posts
Discussion Starter #15
Between the simplified wiring and the improved control, I think that I will move to DCC. The price of a basic command system is comparable to that of several DC controllers, and the money saved on electrical switches could be applied to DCC decoders. I've been looking at how to retrofit my locomotives to DCC and getting quite excited. Thanks for this helpful conversation.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
4,211 Posts
Between the simplified wiring and the improved control, I think that I will move to DCC. The price of a basic command system is comparable to that of several DC controllers, and the money saved on electrical switches could be applied to DCC decoders. I've been looking at how to retrofit my locomotives to DCC and getting quite excited. Thanks for this helpful conversation.
65steam;

I think you have made a good choice in going to DCC. You might benefit from a good book on the subject. The book, "Basic DCC Wiring" by Mike Polsgrove, covers a variety of DCC subjects well, including a chapter on installing DCC decoders in locomotives. You can order a copy from Kalmbach Hobby Store or from www.amazon.com The files below are some I've written for new modelers. They cover a wide variety of Model Railroad subjects. Read through any of them that interest you.

Good Luck & Have Fun!

Traction Fan
 

Attachments

·
Registered
Joined
·
4,211 Posts
Thanks for the resources!
65steam;

You are very welcome!
If you're shopping around for DCC systems, I use, and recommend the NCE Powercab system. It's super simple to connect (two wires from the DCC controller to the track), simple to program (basic directions written in plain English) and simple to use. The entire DCC system is contained in one small hand-held unit. It can handle 5 or more trains as is, and is expandible, so you won't ever outgrow it. The NCE Powercab sells for about $200, but there are discounts available.

Traction Fan
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
56 Posts
Discussion Starter #19
If you're shopping around for DCC systems, I use, and recommend the NCE Powercab system. It's super simple to connect (two wires from the DCC controller to the track), simple to program (basic directions written in plain English) and simple to use. The entire DCC system is contained in one small hand-held unit. It can handle 5 or more trains as is, and is expandible, so you won't ever outgrow it.
That's just the one I had in mind! I'm glad to have your endorsement. I'm heading out to the hobby store tomorrow to see what they have in stock and then I'll order whatever else I need online.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
9,897 Posts
Any of the MRC Prodigy units are excellent too. Personally, I prefer MRC's slightly less-cramped layout, and the big, durable knob rather than the fragile thumb wheel on the NCE. But you won't go wrong with either. Good luck.
 
1 - 20 of 25 Posts
Top