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Author Topic: Is DCC worth the price/time?  (Read 23665 times)
Atlantic Central

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« Reply #45 on: August 13, 2007, 09:14:42 AM »


My operational goals are:

to be able to "operate" each train, up to 8-10 operators,


Have 4-6 trains on the double track mianline under automatic or semi automatic operation while 1-4 yard/industrial trains are run by operators,

and to have full signaling and block detection for dispatching and train storage in stagging yards. Total number of trains stored - 30-35.

Not to offend, and he did great pioneer work, but Bruce Chubb's approach is obsolete.

Oak Tree Systems and Signal Reasearch use a better approach. Each block has a throttle with detection built right onto a card that interfaces directly with the computer. No power packs, no Relays, No power wiring matrix.

Cost of Oak Tree System layout with 40 blocks, 100 turnouts w/signals and 7 throttles:

CBC8-8 block throttle card x 5 = $200 x 5 = $1000
power supplies (one per card) x 5 = $20 x 5 = $100
IO48 in/out info card (signals/turnouts) x 5 = $130 x 5 = $650.00
computer interface    $60
Hand held controllers x 7 = $200 x 7 = $1400

Using your assumption of a free computer = system cost $3210

So the system is $1300 less then DCC and I get signaling and detection free. Your pricing does not even begin to address that.

Forgeting about automation or collision control which is in the software, adding signalling and detection to DCC is like starting over on another whole seperate infrastructure. More wire, more devices, etc.

Not to mention those decoders, which I will not have to install. AND, this type of computerized block control holds the future of layout based sound with better sound fidelity from larger speakers. (If I ever take any real interest in sound)

« Last Edit: August 13, 2007, 04:11:52 PM by Atlantic Central » Logged
Atlantic Central

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« Reply #46 on: August 13, 2007, 10:46:46 AM »


A few more thoughts, when I mentioned relays in my orginal post, I was not refering to using them for detection or computerized block control.

I use a few relays for special "sub block" circuits in yards and at large juctions. Just need a few for special situations.

Please understand, I understand DCC completely, I looked very deep into it and keep up with it since many I model with use it. But it is not well suited to MY goals. If I was building a different type of layout, it might be perfect.

My operating goals in more detail:

Walk around control of mainline trains is boring to me. I would rather be a railfan at that point.

I want to be able to run my "whole" railroad by myself, or with my friends.

For switching, a well wired DC "zone" control approach works just as well since you can only "run" one loco at a time. I have never seen the prototype switch the same area, at the same time, by two locos. In fact my Son is an Engineer on the Canton Railroad. Safety rules limit how and when two locos operate that close to each other.

I like the "on stage/off stage" mainline operation concept. Trains come out of stagging, run through the "mainline" part of the layout, then return to stagging. Some of those trains enter/leave the only "yard" on the scenic portion of the layout.

Local trains are made up in that yard, leave for industrial areas, do their work and return. Just like every big city I have watched trains in or looked at railroad maps of.

In my view, having only 2 or 3 or even eight miles of mainline, with industries scatered along it, and working a local the whole length of the same run your mainline trains run, is not prototypical or realistic.

The large Class I type systems I model did not/do not have many industries directly off the main line. I realize many modelers these days do just the industrial area or just the main line. I want a fair amount of both.

Look, everything we do is a compromise, everyone has different goals and is willing to compromise different things.

Here are a few things about DCC I have no interest in or things I dislike:

Most of the handhelds have TOO many buttons and use worthless (in my opinion) computer type icon pictures to identify them.

I have no interest in turning headlights on and off, making coupler noises, etc.

I would have some interest in bells, whistles and horns, but much of that I can do with automatic features at crossings etc.

I have no use for helpers or consisting as I have found many of todays "different" locos run fine together for double heading and the period I model was one of "matched" multiple uniting for the most part.

Obviously, DCC will be a major player in the future of the hobby, but there is strong evidence that it will by no means be universal any time soon. Many times when operating friends DCC layouts, things go wrong, different things than with DC, but they still go wrong. Decoders don't respond, wireless handhelds loose communication, derailed trains shut down large sections of the layout, etc. Not better than DC, not worse, just different. Better is some ways, worse in others in my opinion.

Again, DCC assumes everyone wants the "popular", "walk around", "indvidual" control of being the "engineer". The model press has done a good job at "selling" this idea, but not everone is buying. The stalled growth of DCC is the proof. If DCC was taking over so fully, than BLI/PCM would not be offering the BlueLine and Bachmann, Athearn, Atlas, Intermountain, and a long list of others would only be offering DCC locos.

But they are not.

« Last Edit: August 13, 2007, 11:12:50 AM by Atlantic Central » Logged

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« Reply #47 on: August 13, 2007, 07:06:15 PM »

   Jim,Rich and Sheldon,

    Would you take your discussion elsewhere and let us get back to answering  Big Sol's question --- is it worthwhile for HIM to use DCC to run trains on his 3x8 table (whether it is a "Layout" or no).Don't think that he will have room for 150 locos and 8-10 operators.

    Eric UK
Atlantic Central

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« Reply #48 on: August 13, 2007, 07:18:23 PM »


I rendered and opinion on that, DCC is worth the price/time and suggested that Big Sol, or anyone/everyone should consider how they want to run their layout before investing in ANY complex control system.


This is what happens in normal conversation, they progress.


You are not the board police.


P.S. - If Big Sol didn't get it by the first page of this post, it does not matter.
« Last Edit: August 13, 2007, 07:28:23 PM by Atlantic Central » Logged

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« Reply #49 on: August 13, 2007, 07:22:26 PM »

It seems that Sol and many others might learn a great deal from this discussion.  One of the things he may learn is that many model railroaders, having found a method that works for him, decide that is the only way to do it.

Chief Brass Hat
Virginia Tidewater and Piedmont Railroad
"Only coal fired steam locomotives"
Atlantic Central

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« Reply #50 on: August 13, 2007, 07:25:53 PM »


One more thing, you blast us for our sidebar into computerized block control, but what about all the layout, size, shape, radius, etc, etc discussion? When the Bach Man needs a moderator, he will let you know.


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« Reply #51 on: August 13, 2007, 08:02:57 PM »

I've got a 36" wide board, so yeah, I'm stuck with 15" turns for now.

Actually, since you ended up using flex track (on one end anyway) you could go with 17" radius. Just drill a hole in a yard stick and make yourself a compass, then trace the largest radius space will allow. You can leave your straight sections as is, and ease into them.
Jim Banner

Enjoying electric model railroading since 1950.

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« Reply #52 on: August 14, 2007, 03:59:26 AM »

Thanks, Sheldon, for your response, particularly your review of what you want to accomplish.  I agree that Bruce Chubb's relay matrix system is obsolete.  In fact, the system I built 20 years ago used low level switching via CMOS analogue switches and boosted the output to track power levels, much like Oak Tree's block throttles.  I based the cost analyses on Chubb's system only because relays were mentioned.

You mentioned signals.  I believe that saving a bit of wire by using a lot of electronic encoding, as is done with DCC, does not make a lot sense.  Besides, trouble shooting is a lot easier when you have one wire for each block occupancy detector, one for each signal aspect, one to set each switch direction and one to report back switch direction.  The Oak Tree system would seem to be a good choice for signals, even if the trains were run by DCC.

Bottom line, it looks like the costs are comparible if you consider decoders for about 100 locomotives.   At that point, it would probably be the cost of the software and the ease of using it that would tip me one way or the other.  With as many locomotives as you have, the Oak Tree system would appear to be cheaper.

As far as Big Sol's question goes, I repeat that when he wants to run more than one train on his track, then he should seriously consider DCC.  But I will add that if he wants the two trains to run themselves, maybe he should look at something else.


Growing older is mandatory but growing up is optional.
Atlantic Central

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« Reply #53 on: August 14, 2007, 07:44:13 AM »


Thank you for sharing your experiance and knowledge. The software is still being tested. I have a copy but have not been able to actually run hard wired tests myself due to some time/personal matters. But a number of the other individuals on the "test team" are actually running their layouts with it.

Chuck at Oak Tree systems plans to make the software free and it is simple to use. No special computer knowledge needed. By simply maping the layout and a filling in charts all perameters are established. This is necessary for me as I am NOT a computer techie.

The only pieces left in the puzzle are the hand held controllers which are almost ready and any last software bugs.

And, Oak Tree does offer signaling and automation solutions for DCC.

Honestly, if I was building a layout that was, for example, a small short line, where signaling was not needed and large numbers of trains where not going to be operated at the same time by one person, I would use DCC. DCC does create the ultimate "engineer" experiance, no question.

But years ago I got the bug for a large, 1950's, Class I, double track, east coast, dizzingly busy railroad. I will keep working on that goal. And, like I said, I want to run at least most of it by myself when my fiends are not around.

I am part of a round robin group and operate a number of different layouts on a regular basis. Only about half are DCC, and some of those just very recently so. I have lots of experiance with a wide variety of DC control systems, and in my opinion, traditional cab control is the worst DC system.

But even without computerized block control, there are a number of very effective DC aproaches that are easy and fun to use. Layouts with well thought out "section" control, or various interpratations of Ed Ravencroft's Zone Control all work very well, depending on the layout size, shape and style.

Thanks again,

Atlantic Central

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« Reply #54 on: August 14, 2007, 08:27:37 AM »


One other note on locomotives.

I model a freelanced, east coast Class one system set in 1954. My layout is designed for 30-40 car trains. As diesels go, all my units are powered, so a typical train is pulled by 3-4 units, F7's or GP7's or FA1's, etc.

Steam powered trains are often double headed, two 4-8-2's, 2-8-2's or 2-8-0's or even two 2-8-8-2's for long coal drags.

Even nine car passenger trains get two E8's or PA1's

Multiply that times the 35 stored trains and you see why the number of powered units that would need decoders is so high.

The goal is to capture that big time railroad feel.

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