DCC Starter System


The most often asked question for someone interested in DCC is; “What system is the best?” That’s almost an impossible question to answer. No one system is “best”. The systems put out by manufacturers today are all good. They each have their pros and cons. I did a lot of research before jumping in. I have a technical side to me but when running trains, I want to concentrate on the trains, not the technology in my hand. I was planning a small switching layout and didn’t need a lot of power and couldn’t afford to spend $500+ for a full blown system.

My choices were either the Digitrax Zephyr or the NCE Power Cab. All things being equal both these systems are good. What won me over to NCE was the hand held throttle compared to the Zephyr’s base station throttle. I am sure I would have been pleased either way, but I have been very happy with the NCE Power Cab and recommend it highly.

The Power Cab can handle around 4 locomotives at once given its 2Amp rating. It has a unique programming track output in that it uses the same connections but changes internally what signals are being sent out to the track. Speaking of programming, the Power Cab seems to be more successful at programming sound decoders than other systems. Sound equipped decoders need more power to the programming track and the Power Cab seems to have that power available when in programming track mode. Other systems benefit from a separately purchased programming track booster.

To expand the system, there is a logical path set out by NCE. More details on upgrading and expanding the system are available here: https://ncedcc.zendesk.com/hc/en-us/sections/200354825-Powercab-Starter-Set There is an outline of the steps can be taken to upgrade.

Not listed is an option to buy a booster from another manufacturer (or a DIY option) that connects to the Power Cab track outputs. More information on boosters here.

One expansion option I did take advantage of is the NCE USB Adapter. This allows me to connect my computer to the NCE system and run Java Model Railroad Interface (JMRI)


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