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Hi!  I am a brand new member to OGRForum.  I have and love my O gauge trains going back to the 1960's (but also had bought trains in the 90's that have unused  "Loco-sound" and "Proto-sound 2.0", and "DCC freight yards proto effects").     I am retired, 68, and have some computer knowledge, but am no whiz.   I haven't used the trains in over 25 years.  Took out all my trains from the 3 basement closets and now have two 4x8 layouts. I think I understand DC (my old trains) vs. DCS (all the new stuff)...   MY problems--

1)  Not sure I fully understand the terms Conventional (the old stuff?) vs Legacy?

2)  I am trying to understand how to run DCS trains on my lionel 3 track...

3) Can DCS stuff run on the Lionel Legacy system?  (I'm not interested in MTH systems, as Trainworld told me that MTH is folding up in the near future).   

4) Should I have one train layout for my old trains, and a separate layout to acquire a DCC system for using the Proto-sound 2.0 and Loco-sound trains, and for buying new DCS trains?  (Interested in Digitrax and ESU or NCE).

GREATLY APPRECIATE SOME ADVICE.  THANK YOU.

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I think Lionel's Engineering team is trying to make their newer LEGACY electronics DCC compliant. MTH's DCS is considered dead right now with MTH going out of business. DCS is a clunky proprietary DCC system anyways. If I was you stick with DCC and the newer Lionel Legacy items. Convert older items to DCC and such.

Conventional items are non command control items, they run off track power voltage with a transformer.

This is my opinion. I'm slowly converting my older items to DCC. My future layout will be set up to run in DCC and standard O gauge AC command environment.

Last edited by Bruk

JMP,

You have two basic options for controlling 3 Rail O Gauge:

1.) Conventional -- Everything back in the day (1900-1994 roughly) used this method for control.  There's a throttle lever or knob on your transformer that controls speed (and usually direction as well) by varying the voltage (0-18v AC or so) applied to the track.  In the late 90's some very sophisticated ways of controlling more advanced features in conventional mode were developed (like MTH's original Protosound, or QSI), but all of those use the standard whistle and/or bell buttons, and/or movement of the throttle handle, found on the standard transformer to activate them.  They are not command systems.

2.) Command -- Optional since about 1994.  Full voltage (18v AC or so normally) is applied to the track but the locomotive doesn't immediately fly around the track as long as everything is connected correctly.  Instead a separate command signal is sent to the loco to tell it to move, and whistle, and chatter radio calls, and turn lights on and off, and about 10,000 other fancy things too.  You use a wireless (usually) handheld controller to send the commands.

TMCC and Legacy are Lionel's form of command control.   The command signal is sent by radio from the control base (CAB-1 for TMCC, CAB-2 or CAB-1L for Legacy and TMCC) to the locomotive.

DCS (Protosound 2 or 3) is MTH's form of command control.   The command signal is sent by from the control base (TIU, DCS Explorer, etc.) by impressing it upon (modulating) the AC voltage used to power the track.

DCC is the 2-Rail (largely) form of command control, is used largely with DC power as a result, and is thus commonly also used in HO, N, and G scales.  The command signal also modulates the power to the track.  It is quite rare in 3 Rail O Gauge.

For the most part the first two, TMCC/Legacy and DCS, do not interfere with each other.  This means that you can usually use them at the same time on the same track, but to do so each normally needs its own separate controller.  You may also need a special filter (a 22 uH choke in series with one of the the power leads on offending equipment) for DCS to work if some Lionel products are on, or connected to, the same track.

Lionel products need only one CAB-1/CAB-1L/CAB-2 per layout to operate, and MTH need at least one TIU/DCS Explorer, etc.  There is one exception: DCS controllers will control Lionel products in TMCC if you also add a Lionel command base connected to your TIU command base setup.  Same for Legacy with a slightly different, but similar, set of connections.

For Lionel CAB-2 equipment supercedes CAB-1, that is, it does everything that CAB-1 does, i.e. TMCC, and more.  The 'more' is Legacy.  CAB-1L is a lower cost CAB-2, having reduced Legacy features but all TMCC ones.

Important (finally): All command locos are backwards compatible, that is they will also operate in 'conventional' mode, usually with reduced features as a concession, as long as they do not receive the "carrier" for their command signal.  All command bases, if present, or even if nearby for Lionel stuff, must be powered off to ensure that the carrier is not sent, allowing you to run the command locos in conventional mode.

Hope this helps.

Mike

Last edited by Mellow Hudson Mike

The death of DCS has been greatly exaggerated. There are many, including myself who will continue to use this system. The responses by members here are their opinions, including myself. Since you indicated you have MTH Proto-2 engines, I recommend you stick with DCS. Remember all Lionel engines can be run with DCS but DCS can’t be run on any of the Lionel systems other than a straight transformer. Even if DCS does disappear I am confident my 5 yr old system will outlive me.

One thing I see failed to clearly stated is that DCC and DCS and TMCC/Legacy are not the same.  DCS and TMCC/Legacy can be run on the same track at the same time, DCC must be run independently.  MTH PS-3 locomotives are DCC/DCS selectable, no other versions are.  Currently in O the only Lionel locomotive with DCC is the recent hybrid 4-4-0s.  Other companies have made DCC locomotives, but they were 2 rail only.  You can run DCC in 3Rail (I do) but it'll only be MTH PS-3 locomotives in DCC mode, or locomotives you have installed DCC decoders in.  But again DCC is not the same as DCS!

@Trainmstr posted:

The death of DCS has been greatly exaggerated. There are many, including myself who will continue to use this system. The responses by members here are their opinions, including myself. Since you indicated you have MTH Proto-2 engines, I recommend you stick with DCS. Remember all Lionel engines can be run with DCS but DCS can’t be run on any of the Lionel systems other than a straight transformer. Even if DCS does disappear I am confident my 5 yr old system will outlive me.

Why would anyone starting a new layout without any current command system, want to acquire a DCS system now without knowing what the future of the system will be?

Considering that parts may no longer be available to repair these systems and the current online prices that are in the $500.00 range.

Certainly if you already have the system, continue to use it till its dead, but I wouldn't invest in something that may soon be obsolete.

... and we left out Bluetooth control of Lionchief and Legacy locos from the above descriptions.

I would recommend the O.P. search for MTH DCS and Lionel Legacy introduction videos on the web, and browse the references found in the control system sections of this forum.

The locos he mentions will work on conventional control that's the best configuration to start.  With the exception of DCC which uses DC current, all of the systems mentioned operate on AC current and can be used on the same layout.  Legacy and DCS can be added to support whatever locos the O.P. acquires.

I use Legacy, and with the correct equipment (I use a Legacy Powermaster), I can run any Conventional loco. Plus, Legacy is really easy to use and set up. I recommend that you read through the manual of course (or watch a few videos on You-Tube). I don't use DCS, but I have done a bit of research in case I ever add it to a future layout (and it continues to be made). I like Command-Control much better than Conventional. You get more features and you don't have to be stuck sitting or standing in front of your transformer(s) to run trains. You can walk around and enjoy your trains from multiple angles.

@Bruk posted:

I think Lionel's Engineering team is trying to make their newer LEGACY electronics DCC compliant. MTH's DCS is considered dead right now with MTH going out of business. DCS is a clunky proprietary DCC system anyways. If I was you stick with DCC and the newer Lionel Legacy items. Convert older items to DCC and such.

If this happens, is it possible that we might be able to control legacy locos with DCC and vice-versa?

@Oman posted:

I don't understand why DCC continues to be mentioned as a command control system in the 3 rail world. Neither MTH PS2 or Lionel TMCC or Legacy can run on track powered by DCC. I do like BlueRail which is a quasi DCC option that can run on AC power.

Glad you qualified that DCC comment.  Starting at 2:45 through 3:17 in this video is a BlueRail DCC, Legacy and DCS all running on AC track power.  I could have added my LionChief to this track also and had 4 different systems.  But holding 4 different controllers can be cumbersome and confusing.

But my Son and I routinely run our trains together.  His Legacy and DCS engines and my BlueRail engines.

Let's not leave out deadrail as an option too.  I mean, if we are going to overwhelm the OP with choices, we might as well give him everything to consider.

Have Fun!

Ron

I realize this is the 3-rail traditional toy trains section but I must modify a statement above about Legacy and DCC. First, DCC track power is not DC. Second, almost all the S Gauge Legacy engines will run on DCC powered track in DCC mode, but not with a full set of features. The tradeoff Lionel made for DCC functionality is the S Gauge Legacy engines do not have Bluetooth capability.

@Oman posted:

I don't understand why DCC continues to be mentioned as a command control system in the 3 rail world. Neither MTH PS2 or Lionel TMCC or Legacy can run on track powered by DCC. I do like BlueRail which is a quasi DCC option that can run on AC power.

Here's one reason:

IMG_0738

20+ engines (not all in this pic) from every manufacturer you can name running on the same layout. Yes, I have installed DCC decoders in many of them. But that is no harder than say a Cruise Commander upgrade, which still leaves you stuck with a proprietary command system.

Incompatible command protocols have done a vast disservice to the O-gauge hobby, IMO. MTH at least saw the light with their PS3 implementation, and added out of the box DCC, which works extremely well. I am very sad that they are closing up shop, but I don't have to worry about support for my command system...

In addition, for an idea of what can be done with open, documented protocols, check out my turnout and turntable projects:

An Arduino-based DCC Turnout Controller

A Tale of Two Turntables

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  • IMG_0738
@thor73 posted:
I have installed DCC decoders in many of them. But that is no harder than say a Cruise Commander upgrade, which still leaves you stuck with a proprietary command system.

Incompatible command protocols have done a vast disservice to the O-gauge hobby, IMO. MTH at least saw the light with their PS3 implementation, and added out of the box DCC, which works extremely well. I am very sad that they are closing up shop, but I don't have to worry about support for my command system...

Amen! I couldn’t have said it better.

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