What system is best for me?
For the next couple months I am going to be preoccupied with wrapping up the final chapters of my new book on wiring projects for model railroads. As of today I have submitted 5 of the 16 chapters and my final deadline is December 31, 2017. The good news is I already have written the text and just need to shoot another 150 or so photographs and do some final text edits. On the downside there are two chapters that I haven’t actually done any physical construction on and they need some real work. Consequently you probably will only see one post a week from me until this thing is done. In the meantime here’s something for anyone new to DCC or considering a system purchase.
I am constantly being asked what’s the best DCC system for me? However that is a question I really can’t answer–I can only make some suggestions. First let’s talk about which brand to get. Most of the DCC systems available today offer pretty similar, basic capabilities so that really isn’t an issue. My suggestion is to go with the brand most of your friends or local club use. Why, well if you are going to operate on their layouts then you’ll need a compatible throttle. Also, if you need help with something you’ll have a better chance of finding a local DCC expert to answer your questions and help debug problems. In my area 99% use the same system, primarily because the local club uses it. Of course if you are a lone wolf out by yourself somewhere then go with the system that offers the best support capabilities in your area, which probably means a knowledgable local dealer.
Another consideration is the size of your layout and scale. Bigger layouts usually mean more trains. Bigger scales usually mean locomotives that need more power. So if you are building a basement empire make sure you can get all the power and accessories you will need for it. At the very least make sure additional boosters and throttle plug-in panels are available. The more accessories a company offers, the easier it will be to expand in the future.
Choose a system with a throttle that is comfortable to use and instructions that are easy to understand. Throttles vary in size, shape, and capability so it is important to find one you will be comfortable with. This may mean visiting some layouts and asking some questions but do it, you don’t want to choose the wrong system and have to start over. You might think that inline forums are a good suorce of information but that may not be true. Often the folks on these sites are either proponents of a specific system or are there with a questin or complaint. So take any glowing recommendations or overly negative comments with a grain a salt.
Finally, go to the website of the manufacturers you are considering and download their manuals. Also be aware of whether or not they address questions like whether a system ground should be used, or how to deal with special wiring situations. If you understand one system’s manual a lot better than another then maybe that is telling you something. Keep in mind that a lot of this stuff may seem very technical at first, but a lot of that comes from a lack of familiarity with the terminology involved.