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I am planning to put up a shelf with 3 side by side tracks (with interconnects) around the perimeter of my basement. I would like to have at least 3 locos running on this setup, and would like to eventually install a working signaling system, and have the trains stop at stations on the route. I work in IT so learning something new in technical is exciting. My question is what is the best DCC system to go to that can do all this functionality, that is still someone simple to use and not crazy expensive. I have looked at Hornby railmaster as an option. Want opinions on what the best options for what i want to do would be?

Thanks!
 

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Any of the major DCC systems on today's market
would match what you need for your layout.

The most popular systems are: Digitrax, NCE, MRC and Bachmann EZ.
There are others. All of these would have sufficient
power to run 3, 4 or even more non sound locos at the same time, each individually controlled by your system. The difference is mainly in the way the controller is physically designed. Some prefer the way make A works while others like another brand simply because 'it' feels more comfortable.

A starter system comes with power supply and controller
that connects to the track.
You can add wireless or wired hand held controllers that
are nice if you have friends or family who will run trains
with you. Each could control one or more trains.

With any of the systems, should your system grow and you add sound locos, you would have the option of adding a power booster to what you have.

As one familiar with digital systems, you may want to
bypass the EZ system. It lacks ability to fine tune
loco decoders. The other systems can do that.

There are products on the market that enable signal systems.
These may need 'isolated' blocks to work. You might
read up on them before you install track. One major brand is AZATRAX.

http://www.azatrax.com/

Don
 

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Don is right on with his advice. In the best of all possible worlds, younwould be able to try before you buy, but that's hard to do outside of a major train show.

One thing, though. You mention a Hornby unit. Does that mean you're in the UK? (This is why many of us put our location in our profile.
 

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I want to do something along those same lines. I will be using Digitrax, and a program called Traincontroller. Digitrax has all the hardware needed, and the Traincontroller software, will provide the automation/animation.
 

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I would advise getting your system from a DCC company not a model company. Most of their systems are built by third parties and are either feature restricted or overpriced.

I would also not advise getting a "beginner" system. Look for something with at least 3 amps.

On a personal not I would not get NCE, based solely on the one faulty system I bought and their almost legendarily rude and incompetent customer service. That said, if that system had not worked I would not know about that. The feature set is actually very good even on their cheap system.
 

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I would advise getting your system from a DCC company not a model company. Most of their systems are built by third parties and are either feature restricted or overpriced.
None of the systems recommended so far fit into that category.

I would also not advise getting a "beginner" system. Look for something with at least 3 amps.
This very much depends on the intended use, the number of locomotives to be run simultaneously, the number of operators, and whether sound decoders will be used. There are many situations where MRC's Prodigy Express and Bachmann's EZ Command (at about 1.5A each) would be more than enough system.

On a personal not I would not get NCE, based solely on the one faulty system I bought and their almost legendarily rude and incompetent customer service. That said, if that system had not worked I would not know about that. The feature set is actually very good even on their cheap system.
That's really only one person's opinion, and, FWIW, you have the distinction of being the only person I know who feels this way (especially about their customer service). And no, I'm not an NCE fanboy. I own (and prefer) an MRC Prodigy Wireless for the size of the hand held (which allows more space around the buttons) and the beefy knob vice the fragile thumb wheel.
 

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If we re-read the original post, kr0490 would like to run multiple trains at the same time, have a signal system, have the trains automated, and, has already decided on DCC. So he will need in addition to the DCC system, a signal system, track detection, a computer interface, and software to control the signals, and to automate the trains. While this could all be piecemeal together from separate vendors, Digitrax and Traincontroller, would have it all covered.
 

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None of the systems recommended so far fit into that category.
The OP was looking at the Hornby Railmaster... which is definitely in this category.

This very much depends on the intended use, the number of locomotives to be run simultaneously, the number of operators, and whether sound decoders will be used. There are many situations where MRC's Prodigy Express and Bachmann's EZ Command (at about 1.5A each) would be more than enough system.
The OP wants to run at least 3 locos. Assuming they run larger steam locos with sound and smoke in HO (more likely OO given the mention of Hornby), 1.5 amps would be limiting. Assuming they are not having, extra headroom is not going to be a bad thing. If they want to run lighting or powered turnouts or animated scenes then they will definitely want the overhead.[/QUOTE]

That's really only one person's opinion, and, FWIW, you have the distinction of being the only person I know who feels this way (especially about their customer service). And no, I'm not an NCE fanboy. I own (and prefer) an MRC Prodigy Wireless for the size of the hand held (which allows more space around the buttons) and the beefy knob vice the fragile thumb wheel.
I said it was a personal note, which literally means one person's opinion. I assume that most of their customers don't get faulty systems and therefore don't have to deal with customer service trying to blame an out of the box fault on the customer, the customer's setup and the customer's choice of models. Maybe I called the one rep on the one day that his dog died, or he was sick or his wife moved out. I don't know. Regardless, you don't get to have a rep be rude and not get called out for it. You don't get to have the rep give inaccurate information and not get called out on it. You don't get to have that rep be condescending and not get called out for it.

Is this a sore spot for me? Yes definitely. Am I saying they have a terrible product? No in fact as I mentioned I think they have a great feature set to price ratio. I also believe provide some subcontract work for other DCC companies. IIRC they produce PSX circuit breakers for DCC specialties, though I could be way off on that. I just think that all this is outweighed by the fact that in my specific case they completely failed, and because of this I will always recommend people look elsewhere.

I also agree that the MRC has superior ergonomics. The NCE IMHO has a better screen and I like the dedicated horn and bell buttons. Those made life a lot simpler when I run trains with my kid. Both those points are kind of moot for me though as I run JMRI and Engine Driver, which has those same buttons, and uses touch screens with sliders instead of a knob. NCE also seems to have the widest adoption so if you visit a club, or a looking for troubleshooting advice you will probably have more support if you use NCE. I just cannot in good conscience recommend them based on my N=1 experience with them.
 

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Firstly, I have the NCE PowerCab which, to me, is #1..I busted the encoder on the speed wheel shaft, bearing down too hard on it and had to use the 4 buttons on either side of the wheel, which do the same thing.
I called them and my experience was they were friendly and knowledgeable, and sent me a new speed wheel free of charge..That's not true about them being nasty. I truly believe that if you start out cordially instead of, say, demandingly, or angrily, they'll be cordial back.. You have to consider they get umteen calls a day from needy customers, including from Europe and Asia, that they might be abrupt with you, especially on (their) Friday when it's time to go home ! Like any product company you deal with, some employees are going to be friendly and some not so friendly. That's life..
I don't think anyone has talked about it: You 'want trains to stop at stations'. If you merely mean the ability of any train stopping due to DCC control, you got it..But, if you mean you want a system that has trains automatically stop in places, that's a different ball game altogether, and not something you can program a, say, PowerCab to do on its own..
But I'm not an electronics techy. I just play one on TV....
 

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To get it to stop at stations, you will need block detection, which you will need for a signal system anyway, plus an interface between the DCC system, and a computer, running the needed software.
Here is a 52 part series on Train Controller, if you go search through the video's, you can find one on exactly what you want to do.

 

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Any command station will do,comes down to what controller one prefers. Before moving to DCC++ I used NCE powercab, nothing bad to say about it.

Turnout actuation, occupancy detection and signalling rely much more on particular hardware such as stationary decoders, detectors etc then on command station. And it eventually comes down to what software is going to provide the logic and how layout hardware is interfaced with that software .

Look into JMRI, Rocrail or Train controller. JMRI in particular has excellent documentation describing many possible solutions. Days and days worth of reading.
Good luck!
 
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