Command Control System Survey

Discussion in 'Operations' started by Rick McClellan, Nov 14, 2011.


What command control system (if any) do you use on your layout?

  1. Railcommand

    1 vote(s)
  2. CTC80

    0 vote(s)
  3. Lenz

    1 vote(s)
  4. North Coast (NCE)

    15 vote(s)
  5. Easy DCC

    5 vote(s)
  6. Zimo

    0 vote(s)
  7. MRC

    4 vote(s)
  8. Digitrax

    27 vote(s)
  9. Other - Please specifiy in thread response.

    3 vote(s)
  10. I don't use a command control system.

    21 vote(s)
  1. Rick McClellan

    Rick McClellan 2009 Engineer of the Year

    I thought it would be useful to take a survey of those on the All Aboard site to see what command control system (if any) they are using. Responses will be anonymous and the objective is to see what respondants are using to run their layouts.

    Comments are welcome but please keep them positive.

    Thanks a bunch.
  2. Jim James

    Jim James Staff Member Staff Member

    Heck, I'm still using my 1979ish Troller Autopulse Momentum 2.5. I'm tempted to try an entry level system and buying a Bachmann Spectrum 4-4-0 to try it out. My small 4x8 would be a perfect testing ground.
  3. gstout

    gstout Member Supporter

    I am much too far along in terms of both time and money invested in standard DC to seriously contemplate changing over to DCC. If I were starting from scratch it would be different, but as it is, I will just have to live with the limitations inherent in older technology (although it would be nice not to be looking at the approximately two miles of wire that is now under the layout). A numberof friends who regularly host operating sessions have converted to DCC and I am envious of the flexibility it afford, although this was not the case in the beginning. It appears this technology has evolved considerably from its early days and is now very reliable.

  4. Rick McClellan

    Rick McClellan 2009 Engineer of the Year

    Jim, that's a good idea. Several manufacturers make entry level systems like MRC and Digitrax. If you go that route, please let us know how it is going for you.

  5. Jim James

    Jim James Staff Member Staff Member

    Will do, Rick. I thought I was the last person without DCC but so far the poll shows otherwise. I'm surprised. What system do you use on your awesome layout? I have wires soldered to every rail joiner(fish plate) so hook up should be easy and provide great continuity. I believe good continuity is required for good DCC quality isn't it?

    SAFN SAAP Member

    Hey Rick,

    Thank you so much for posting this up. I haven't dove into the DCC world yet. This upcoming layout will be my first. I'm a real noob with these systems. The idea of independent control seems nice, but I'm not so sure on the sound thing. It always sounds so tiny to me. It's as if the speaker is turned up too loud in volume. Of course I've only heard through Youtube, so I don't know if it's the real deal or if it the mic of the recorder influencing the sound. Either way, if I do DCC, I'm leaning towards NCE. Subscribed for further updates.

  7. Rick McClellan

    Rick McClellan 2009 Engineer of the Year


    I use Digitrax mainly because I want to be able to run 10+ locomotive consists simultaneously. Digitrax can support that load with wireless throttles. BTW there are lots of people without command control. It is a difficult topic to master, and it's a major investment for most of us and you don't want to make an expensive mistake.

    Good electrical continuity is an absolute must for command control systems. Good continuity is translated into (1) electrical feeders on each piece of track, (2) clean track/railhead (no abrasive cleaners, some use Labelle 101 for slightly better conductivity), (3) clean locomotive wheels (Labelle 101 is a good cleaner)and (4) smooth running locomotives (good motor, good decoder, etc.). It's a little bit of work but well worth it when you couple on to a car at 1 mph.

    The development of Back EMF has enabled most of today's locomotives to run very well. Back EMF is standard in most decoders and enables locomotives, even open frame motors like Athearn, to run much better. In consists, multiple decoders with Back EMF can cause the units to fight each other. Keith Robinson has found that turning off BEMF on the 2nd, 3rd unit will create a smoother running consist. In the past you had to have an expensive can or KATO motor to get a great motor. With BEMF an average motor will run like those old can/KATO motors.

    Keep us updated on locomotve performance on your layout. My approach is to solder the feeder wire directly to the web of the rail. Soldering to a railjoiner might be problematic in a couple of different ways. First loose fitting railjoiners won't be able to pass the current from one rail to the next effectively. Second, all track and all rail joiners are metal so they will oxidize over time and oxidation (even nickel silver) around a mechanical connection is an insulator, not a conductor. Keith is the electrical guru and might be able to expound on this topic more.

    I have operated on layouts without feeders on each piece of track and those with. The difference in operation of the locomotives is astounding. I recommend that every piece of track, including turnouts, gets a pair of soldered feeders to the bus wire. |-|
  8. Rick McClellan

    Rick McClellan 2009 Engineer of the Year

    Greg you are quite right. Initially, I was a very vocal critic of Digitrax because of some local layouts I had operated on. I later learned that these layouts were severely underpowered and needed more boosters. In addition, Digitrax made changes to their system and hardware which eventually won me over. I wouldn't say DCC is 100% because there are still strange, isolated anomolies that happen but I can sure put it in the 95%+ range for reliability.
  9. meteor910

    meteor910 2009 Engineer of the Year Staff Member Supporter

    I just posted my answer to the DCC survey - zero, zippo. I don't use DCC.

    Heck, I rarely use DC !!! With not much of a layout - and what I have is chock full of cars and locomotives - I rarely run anything. My joy is in building the models. I am not much of a "model railroader", but am a "railroad modeler" big time (though I'm really slowing down!)

    The DCC layouts I have operated on, such as Don's and Rick's, however, certainly do show off the benefits of the new systems.

  10. Jim James

    Jim James Staff Member Staff Member

    Dang, Rick. I forgot about soldering wire to rail instead of the joiners. Well, I'm not doing it over again. Maybe a bit of solder on the joiners as well. I thought I had my ducks in a row on this one.
  11. Jim James

    Jim James Staff Member Staff Member

    Ken, you're a kindred spirit.
  12. Rick McClellan

    Rick McClellan 2009 Engineer of the Year

    This is the beauty of this hobby. Lots of places to participate and we need them all.
  13. klrwhizkid

    klrwhizkid Administrator Staff Member Administrator Supporter

  14. meteor910

    meteor910 2009 Engineer of the Year Staff Member Supporter

    Hmmm - a kindred spirit. Is that like a good scotch?

  15. renapper (Richard Napper RIP 3/8/2013)

    renapper (Richard Napper RIP 3/8/2013) Passed away March 8, 2013

    I am very pleased with my choice of NCE for my DCC system, it has been very easy to learn and use for my full basement layout. I have both wired and radio cab control and like Rick, I can run 10 consists at a time if I want to do so. In my opinion, NCE is a lot less complex to install and use than other systems.
  16. Iantha_Branch

    Iantha_Branch Member

    I am an NCE user. NCE is a great system, and I have operated on layouts with Digitrax (Rick's mostly, but I ran a little bit on another and I have to say Digitrax is a good, solid system. Now I've only worked wireless utility throttles with digitrax, never tried programing or using a DT400 or a Zephyr. MRC also has a good system.
    If your going for a big layout with several operators and cabs (throttles) then either NCE or Digitrax are going to be a good bet. But for just that starter set to run your one person small layout then NCE is DEFIANTLY the way to go. It has a ton of features over the Digitrax Zephyr. Zephyr isn't a bad system, it just lacks a few things that NCE has (tethered throttle, ability to see your speed step, and a lot more.) I have watch a few videos online of a guy programming with Zephyr and it is a lot more complex than programming with NCE. You don't have to mess with CV's hardly at all (if you use NCE decoders you have to know no CV's at all!), and it puts words on to the screen, not numbers.
    So basically you can't go wrong with NCE or Digitrax.
    And a warning, I recommend NOT getting the Bachmann EZ command, because it can lead to several problems down the road.

  17. Iantha_Branch

    Iantha_Branch Member

    I just thought to mention, if anyone is looking to buy a system, or parts (ie. decoders, wire, lights bulbs, etc) then the best place to buy DCC stuff is here:
    They have the best prices I've ever found, and fast shipping. Now for those of you that have shopped there before, they have changed their free shipping policy. I placed an order a couple days ago and got charged $4 for shipping. The home page on their web site says that now it's $4 for packages under 2.8 lbs, and $6 for packages 2.81+ lbs.

  18. Friscorpb

    Friscorpb Member

    I purchased a starter set by Digitrax / Empire Builder in 1998 and have not had any major problems thus far.
    It is highly recommended that you choose a system that others have experience in using. You'll need the help in learning, as every system has its quirks.
  19. gna

    gna Member Supporter

    I clicked other. I have a Roco Lokmaus system. It uses the Lenz Xpressnet protocol.
  20. FRISCO4503

    FRISCO4503 FRISCO4503 Supporter

    I dont have a DCC system, but plan on getting one when I start building my layout again!!!
    I am going to do things right this time and try NOT to wind up with an Air Craft Carrier Layout as well!!!!

Share This Page