Author Topic: Lots of DCC vs RailPro Questions from Mustdecide  (Read 7931 times)

MustDecide

  • Fireman
  • **
  • Posts: 9
Lots of DCC vs RailPro Questions from Mustdecide
« on: July 06, 2016, 10:01:19 PM »
Hi, My name is Mike (alias 'MustDecide'). I live in the Minneapolis Minnesota area and am new to railroading. Other than a small (4 x 8) DC system I had at my previous house, I have never had a system setup. Everything in this area is Digitrax, and for the size of Minneapolis I am disappointed that there are not more clubs around to visit and learn more. I have tried to research things on the internet but it is hard to get a good unbiased opinion before the forum becomes a shouting match and we get all wrapped up in computer comparisons and Ford vs Chevy vs Dodge apples and oranges. Enough of that. I have a claim on some real estate in the basement (about 10 feet by 13 feet with one corner being extended out because of a hexagonal shape) and am trying to design a layout to take best advantage of the space. I need to first do the 120V wiring for outlets and lights then do the sheet rocking before I can begin benchwork.I will have benchwork questions later. I joined to find out more about RailPro because I am extremely interested but feel I am going to miss out on some feature if I do go ahead and buy it. So most of my questions will be about 'what can DCC do that RailPro cannot'. I just read a post somewhere else that talked about TCS sound systems and how great the sound was. It appeared that braking noises, coupler clanking was all happening automatically along with the steam chuffing volume all adjusting automatically as the engine pulled harder on an incline. I went to their website at  http://tcsdcc.com/   and did some reading and watched a video. OK so my question is - can I use this TCS with RailPro or is this only available with a DCC system? Is their sound that much better or is it just marketing hype. Who has the best sound or am I tied to whatever Ring Engineering provides with their system? I hear a lot about Loconet and expandability. Is that just Digitrax? What can it really do for me? Another Digitrax post talked about 'Signaling', what is that? What is 'Block / tract occupancy detection:', 'route control' and JRMI? Or is this stuff that RailPro can already do or maybe does not need to do.  Because of my lack of knowledge and experience I'm afraid I will miss out on things by going with RailPro. Although I know I will gain a lot also by buying RailPro and that is the way I am leaning very strongly towards RailPro but just afraid to make a decision. I have been at many train shows and was asking about RailPro and most said they have never heard of it or did not now much about it. They said to go Digitrax because then there are local clubs that can help you out when you have a problem. My attitude is that I do not want to buy a system that I will have problems with and will need to constantly ask for help. Much prefer to buy something that just works good and has all the bells and whistles (OK a pun). I probably will never have more than 6 to 8 engines and I figure that about 80 - 90% of the time I will be the only one running it (until I have grandchildren old enough to 'help me run the trains'). I do not anticipate anybody bringing their DCC engines over to my place, but at least I have the option to join a DCC club and run my RailPro engines there. My only other wish for RailPro is to be able to use the controller will it is charging or at least pop in a freshly recharged battery like my cordless drill and then recharge the first battery on a standalone charger. Other than my concerns I really like what I am reading about RailPro and would sure love for it to be as good as it sounds so I can start converting DCC users over to what appears to be a much better system. Enough questions for my first post.     

G8B4Life

  • Signalman (Global Mod)
  • Conductor
  • *****
  • Posts: 878
  • I'll think of a catchy tag line one day
Re: Lots of DCC vs RailPro Questions from Mustdecide
« Reply #1 on: July 07, 2016, 12:18:12 AM »
Hi Mike,

Welcome. That's a lot of questions.

Firstly lets lay some ground work. DCC is DCC, RailPro is RailPro. They are different and not compatible. You cannot control DCC with RailPro and you cannot control RailPro with DCC.

There is no easy way to compare what you might "miss out on", you'll miss out on certain aspects from the other no matter which way you decide to go; it pretty much boils down to which gives you the feature set that you most desire. Probably the features that most come to RailPro for come under ease of use (no CV programming, no speed matching, simple MU'ing of locomotives, no remembering locomotive addresses). The only feature that I can think of that can be given any serious consideration for going with DCC is your locomotives can be controlled by another DCC system.

As to the best sound, well that's objective of course. I've never heard TCS's sound but I have heard SoundTraxx, QSI and Loksound and from my experience Loksound can't be beat. TCS (and Soundtraxx, QSI, Loksound) make equipment for DCC so it can't be controlled by RailPro so sorry, no TCS WOW sound if you go with RailPro. That means yes, at this point in time you are "tied" to the sounds from Ring Engineering. Some sounds you can create and load yourself, horn's and such but prime movers not yet. Hopefully one day.

LocoNet is a Digitrax thing, and it's the way commands get communicated between the throttle, command station and other DCC devices on the layout via a cable on a DigiTrax system. Other DCC systems have the same type of thing with different names. You don't need to worry about it with RailPro as RailPro is direct radio control vis no cable.

JMRI is an open source software project with a few different components. I'd say the most used component is DecoderPro, which gives DCC a bit of a more user friendly user interface for working with and programming decoders. You don't need to worry about this with RailPro either.

Signalling, Your guess is as good as mine without reading what those people were saying. I do know that DigiTrax sells detectors that detect where a train is by sensing the current draw (I think) but how it all ties into their system I do not know. You can do train detection with RailPro too.

Route control, that's simply using DCC decoders to control turnouts. You can write a program (probably similar to a macro) that changes a whole bunch of them at once setting a whole route in one go. RailPro could probably do so just the same but it doesn't yet. I wonder if anyones even asked Ring for this feature?

To wrap up, for the size of your proposed layout, RailPro would suite you quite well and I believe that you'd get a lot from it. If you were to choose DCC, then for that size layout with just one operator I'd actually recommend an NCE powercab. DigiTrax has a of hype simply because it was the first US made system on the scene. There are a lot of users and clubs that use NCE too.

- Tim

Dean

  • Conductor
  • ****
  • Posts: 192
Re: Lots of DCC vs RailPro Questions from Mustdecide
« Reply #2 on: July 07, 2016, 10:11:38 AM »
I had Digitrax DCC on my layout for a number of years. I finally got tired of all the problems and replaced it with an NCE system. Then I found out about RailPro. I would love to convert totally to RailPro but the economics of that move are prohibitive. I have over 50 engines that are DCC and replacing all those decoders would not be practical. But now I have the best of both system. I have an NCE DCC system and I am slowly converting my consisted engines to RailPro. ( 12 down, 15 to go ) I run a lot of ABA, ABBA, and some ABBBA consist that are permanent. 'B' units look really funny when running alone pulling 5-6 cars.  :)
RailPro is the easiest system to install, setup and run. Digitrax is the worst. NCE falls into the middle of those other two. I've done them all. Programming DCC decoders can be confusing and tedious. You can use JMRI to make it somewhat easier, but then you need a computer and an interface to your  layout.
If I was just starting, I would go with RailPro.
Sound is subjective. I have three engines with sound. Two have it disabled and the third has the speaker removed. To me it is annoying, too loud, and sounds really tinny. And after about 15 minutes of it, it gets tedious.
Take your time. Read up on all of the options. But take everything you read with a grain of salt that's about the size of a dump truck.
 
 
Dean

Alan

  • Conductor
  • ****
  • Posts: 1004
    • LK&O Railroad
Re: Lots of DCC vs RailPro Questions from Mustdecide
« Reply #3 on: July 07, 2016, 10:14:49 AM »
DCC vs RP really is a Ford vs Chevy question. There is no definitive answer as to which system is better. Both work, both have unique features/benefits, both have limitations, and by and large parts are not interchangeable between the two. The system choice is a personal matter. Which system best fits your needs and what features do you consider most important should help you make the decision.

DCC is the better choice for you if:
  • Model railroading is a highly social activity - clubs, train show layouts, round robin participation, hosting operating sessions, network of friends with layouts, etc.
  • Onboard sound is very important - availability, accuracy, fidelity.
  • You value having multiple manufacturers from which to source component parts.
  • You rely heavily on online forums for assistance, troubleshooting, and general knowledge gathering.
  • Want to purchase locomotives with pre-installed modules/decoders.
  • You are comfortable with using a computer and associated interfaces (JMRI, programming track, etc.).

RP is the better choice for you if:
  • You value ease of use.
  • Plug-n-play is important.
  • Simplified wiring of layout, track, and related components is desired.
  • Want to run multiple locomotives in a single train (MU, push, distributed)
  • Do not want the technicalities associated with control values/speed tables/slot management.
  • Children will be frequent operators.

The lists are solely my opinion and could be expanded greatly. Point is, don't attempt to make detailed technical comparisons. Instead, identify what you value from a system and buy the one that best suits those needs.

Disregard battery life. Of no real consequence in actual use. DCC un-tethered throttles no different than RP throttle.

Signaling (functional) is an expensive and complicated undertaking in both DCC and RP unless you happen to also be an electronics hobbyist (like me).
Alan

LK&O Railroad website

When I was a kid... no wait, I still do that. HO, 28x32, double deck, 1969, RailPro

Dean

  • Conductor
  • ****
  • Posts: 192
Re: Lots of DCC vs RailPro Questions from Mustdecide
« Reply #4 on: July 07, 2016, 01:07:03 PM »
I would add one more thing to Alan's reply.
You can run your RailPro engines on DCC layouts but not run DCC on a RailPro only layout.
I have both a DCC system and RailPro on the same layout.
Dean

William Brillinger

  • Dispatcher (Admin)
  • Conductor
  • *****
  • Posts: 1115
    • Precision Design Co.
Re: Lots of DCC vs RailPro Questions from Mustdecide
« Reply #5 on: July 07, 2016, 01:26:02 PM »
I would also note that RailPro has the potential to be every bit as good with sound as Loksound. It will just take some time to get there.

As far as ease of use, I think there is nothing that comes close to RailPro and the future is bright!
- Bill Brillinger, RPUG Admin

Modeling the BNML in HO Scale, owner of Precision Design Co., and RailPro Dealer.


William Brillinger

  • Dispatcher (Admin)
  • Conductor
  • *****
  • Posts: 1115
    • Precision Design Co.
Re: Lots of DCC vs RailPro Questions from Mustdecide
« Reply #6 on: July 07, 2016, 01:31:02 PM »
Quote
Disregard battery life. Of no real consequence in actual use. DCC un-tethered throttles no different than RP throttle.

I'm not sure I would agree.  I was operating on a friends digitrax layout and we ran for about 6 hours. He said the batteries were fresh when we started but he replaced batteries in most of the wireless units at least once during the session. I have had sessions that have gone past 8 hours without needing to recharge with RailPro, even when the HC was not fully charged at the beginning.

**I should also note, I have my screen brightness turned down a lot.
- Bill Brillinger, RPUG Admin

Modeling the BNML in HO Scale, owner of Precision Design Co., and RailPro Dealer.


Alan

  • Conductor
  • ****
  • Posts: 1004
    • LK&O Railroad
Re: Lots of DCC vs RailPro Questions from Mustdecide
« Reply #7 on: July 07, 2016, 02:17:33 PM »
I have no experience with DCC battery powered throttles. My comment was to make the point both systems' controllers run with battery power so it is a shared potential limitation. I am sure there are enough variables involved so as to make a definitive comparison challenging at best.

Interestingly, the battery design of RP HC is not ideal. This has been discussed at length before. Technically, HC batteries are a "no user serviceable parts inside" situation. You can't pop in a fresh set. At least not easily or while under warranty. Design flaw in my eyes but I wasn't there during the designing so don't know the why of the decision. There may very well be a good solid reason. Still, would have been nice to have a conventional slide open battery compartment just for those times when you need it.
Alan

LK&O Railroad website

When I was a kid... no wait, I still do that. HO, 28x32, double deck, 1969, RailPro

William Brillinger

  • Dispatcher (Admin)
  • Conductor
  • *****
  • Posts: 1115
    • Precision Design Co.
Re: Lots of DCC vs RailPro Questions from Mustdecide
« Reply #8 on: July 07, 2016, 02:23:47 PM »
Quote
There may very well be a good solid reason. Still, would have been nice to have a conventional slide open battery compartment just for those times when you need it.

That would have made a lot of sense to me!
- Bill Brillinger, RPUG Admin

Modeling the BNML in HO Scale, owner of Precision Design Co., and RailPro Dealer.


MustDecide

  • Fireman
  • **
  • Posts: 9
Re: Lots of DCC vs RailPro Questions from Mustdecide
« Reply #9 on: July 07, 2016, 09:50:38 PM »
Wow, impressive user group. First response in only about 12 hours and everybody had very good answers and advice. Thank you everybody for quick responses and honest answers.

I also think I have come to a conclusion that I am over analyzing my decision, just like I did when I purchased my first 35mm 'film' camera. I read specs upon specs. Then finally realized I just needed a good quality camera that is easy to operate. Dose that tell you which direction I am definitely leaning now.

My only 2 concerns are the quality of the sound, but that may not be as important as I am making it out to be. Besides, RE is making improvements and I am looking forward to that Loksound quality. Second concern is battery life. I am assuming if I run into real battery life issues I can always purchase a second HC, as I will most likely need another one in the future anyway. Then I can always have one fully charged and ready to go. Is it OK to recharge the HC after using it let's say for 4 hours knowing that the next day you are going to need a full charge for a long day? Or do I need to run it down to the bottom of the charge before recharging? Being able to use the HC while it is recharging would be the best, even it it wasn't actually recharging during the time it is plugged in and just running off wall power. 

Based on my size layout (generally 10 x 13) do you think I would need more than just the basic power supply? I have some old very heavy duty computer power supplies that I will be using for lights and anything else that is not critical like the track power.

Thanks again everybody.


KPack

  • Conductor
  • ****
  • Posts: 664
Re: Lots of DCC vs RailPro Questions from Mustdecide
« Reply #10 on: July 07, 2016, 10:12:47 PM »
The quality of sound is improving but will take quite a while to reach where Loksound is at.  Ring Engineering is a small outfit and lately have been spending much of their time on hardware tweaks and R&D for future products.  That doesn't leave a lot of time to record new sounds and edit them for use (which is extremely time-consuming).  But yes, eventually it will reach the point of the best that DCC has to offer.  Is the sound bad now?  No.  Some sounds are better than others, but most are passable for the time being.

Battery life is a non-issue.  As Bill said you can run your HC for somewhere around 8 hours before it shuts off.  That is a VERY long time.  Charging it without fully discharging will probably be fine for what you need...that's what I do.  The battery meter will be more correct if the HC is fully discharged first, but again how often will you operate 8+ hours without stopping?

Based on your layout size you'll probably be fine with a single PWR-56 power supply placed in the middle with a bus going in both directions.  You won't have enough locos running at the same time to overwhelm that power supply.  I think the estimated limit was something like 25 locos with sound depending on their current draw. 

You asked earlier about signaling.  That involves setting up a network of signals to control train traffic.  It can be simple or complicated....getting to the point where everything is signaled automatically based on where a train is and controlled from a central computer.  With the layout size you are looking at signaling is probably not going to be an option.  I know Alan is doing it on his layout with Railpro but he is also designing a lot of his own electronics to make it work the way he wants.  And his layout is relatively large, making signaling possible.

As other people said what you go with really depends on what you are looking for.  Railpro is easy to use and takes a lot of the tedious misery out of setting up and running trains.  If you plan on running multiple units in a consist then RP is really the only way to go.  There are a lot of really good things about DCC, and a lot of people really enjoy using it or at least tolerate it.  I've used DCC but once I switched to RP I will never go back. 

-Kevin 

Alan

  • Conductor
  • ****
  • Posts: 1004
    • LK&O Railroad
Re: Lots of DCC vs RailPro Questions from Mustdecide
« Reply #11 on: July 07, 2016, 10:30:22 PM »
I have charged my HC from various levels of discharge without noticing any detrimental effects.

Power supply choice should be based on total number of operating trains at any given time. Power bus wire gauge would be determined by layout size (wire run length). A 5 amp power supply with 12 - 14 gauge track bus should be more than adequate for a railroad of your size. As a safe rule of thumb consider 1/2 amp for each loco. That will allow ample headroom as seldom will any recently manufactured locomotive draw that much current. Also, never run a power supply at 100% rated load. 70-80% max continuous is better for power supply longevity. For reference my Atlas locos under moderate load draw about 100 mA. A 5 amp supply running at 80% would in theory operate 40 of these.

Try to place your power supply near the midpoint of the track bus wire run. By doing so you will minimize voltage drop from the wiring and somewhat improve voltage regulation as the load varies.

Ring sells a 5A power supply that also acts as a signal repeater not that your layout is so large as to need signal boosting. Just FYI.
Alan

LK&O Railroad website

When I was a kid... no wait, I still do that. HO, 28x32, double deck, 1969, RailPro

Alan

  • Conductor
  • ****
  • Posts: 1004
    • LK&O Railroad
Re: Lots of DCC vs RailPro Questions from Mustdecide
« Reply #12 on: July 07, 2016, 10:34:31 PM »
I must have been typing at the same time Kevin was. Nice to see we agree!
Alan

LK&O Railroad website

When I was a kid... no wait, I still do that. HO, 28x32, double deck, 1969, RailPro

G8B4Life

  • Signalman (Global Mod)
  • Conductor
  • *****
  • Posts: 878
  • I'll think of a catchy tag line one day
Re: Lots of DCC vs RailPro Questions from Mustdecide
« Reply #13 on: July 07, 2016, 10:39:20 PM »
I can't really add anything over what Kevin said but maybe I can expand it a little.

On the batteries, you'll get longer service life (years of life) if you keep them as fully charged as possible. This goes for all rechargeable batteries really, though in reality we know that doesn't happen with many of our battery powered consumer electronics (who puts their mobile phone on charge each night? no one I know of). In fact the best way to destroy rechargeable batteries is to leave them discharged, so no, it's no problem to charge them after each decent session. I probably wouldn't charge it after using it for something like only 20 minutes of running trains from fully charged though.

As Kevin said, the PWR-56 should power your layout just fine. The pc power supplies could be used but by only putting out ~12v you'd be forever getting a low track voltage warning, plus you'd need to ensure you had breakers in line; pc power supplies can put out nearly 20A on the 12v rails which is a lot of welding power in a short circuit.

- Tim
« Last Edit: July 07, 2016, 10:43:18 PM by G8B4Life »

yvesmary

  • Fireman
  • **
  • Posts: 41
Re: Lots of DCC vs RailPro Questions from Mustdecide
« Reply #14 on: July 07, 2016, 10:42:30 PM »
Hi MustDecide,

Speed Matching.

That's what sold me on RailPro, the utter simplicity of consisting any locomotives. No more of those confounded CV's. I can live with the available sounds.

If sound is your primary interest and you're willing to spend hours trying to speed match each and every loco to each other then you need DCC.

Yves in Alberta