Monthly Archives: September 2014

A Question of DCC

No, no, not the choice of DC or DCC.  That’s not a question around here.  There’s no way I could possibly hope to operate the CRNW on DC.  The real question is “what kind of DCC?”

I’ve been a Lenz guy for the last decade, and overall I like the fact it’s reliable, well-built, and works well.  Plus the throttles have a very solid, professionally-built feel to them.  That said, Lenz doesn’t offer a wireless throttle, and their products haven’t changed since I bought my system 10 years ago.   (CVP Products does offer wireless Lenz throttles that do work quite well, however.)  Wireless throttles are a must – there’s nothing I hate more than tripping over other operators trying to get to the next throttle jack.  On the up side, the system does everything I really need and – best of all – the throttle bus (XpressNet) is an open standard and fully documented.  This is a huge deal to me, as I tend to build a lot of my own hardware and I’m a rather big open source software and hardware proponent.  I don’t like being boxed in to any given vendor’s products, on the off chance they go out of business.  Because Lenz has an open, well-specified bus, I can pretty easily build my own wireless throttles.   if I wanted.

On the down side of sticking with Lenz is the facct they haven’t really done anything in the last ten years in the base station or throttle market.  Plus, their US market share has seemed – in my experience – to be slipping since Debbie Ames retired as their North American rep.   While, as I pointed out above, I could build my own throttles, I don’t really want to right now.  I have a layout that needs lots of work to get to operational, and I don’t want to get bogged down playing with electronics.

Having played with an NCE system at a layout open house several weeks ago and heard nothing but good things about them for years, I finally broke down today and ordered an NCE Power Pro radio starter set. My plan is to run the NCE system for at least the first phase of the CRNW’s life.  If it works well, it’ll probably stay for a good number of years, or possibly for the life of the layout. Expect a “first impressions” look at it in a few weeks.

(BTW, if anybody’s looking, Brooklyn Locomotive Works has an incredible deal on both the wired and wireless versions right now.)  I also ordered a Cab06pr from MB Klein, since BLW doesn’t seem to have them.

I don’t plan to get rid of my Lenz system.  I still like it, and some day may get around to building compatible bits for it.  For that matter, part of me really wants to design/build my own DCC system based on MRBus, and I have no doubt I could do it.  But now, in the formative years of a new layout, doesn’t seem to be the right time to pursue such interests.

The Helix In Action

In between other projects tonight, I added another half-turn to the helix.  Figured I might as well enjoy it a bit as well, so ran a quick test train – just one of the SD60Ms (future CRNW 600), a half-dozen ore jennies, and a boxcar that was sitting on my bench anyway.  Figured out that an Atlas SD60M is good for about 20 cars on the 2.5% grade, based on a test I didn’t video.