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I am involved with an informal group of O Gaugers that meet sporadically, visit each other's layouts, and discuss topics of interest.

Probably over half of the group are fully committed to the DCS (MTH) system, and MTH equipment.  A couple more, myself included, are set up in either Legacy or TMCC running "modern model" locomotives with one or both of the Lionel Trainmaster systems.  And many of the rest have postwar equipment, and have no real interest in updating to command control.

What is a reasonable transition plan for the MTH/DCC guys to add Legacy, using as much of what they already own as possible??  They (most, I think) want to continue running the DCC engines they have, but recognize that (maybe) DCC is over in terms of buying anything new.  That might be true, or not.

Question:

Those who have MTH transformers, what can be added to run Legacy?   ZW-L is integrated into the Trainmaster systems, and using an MTH transformer you would not get that integration.  I like my ZW-L, and have (just) figured out how to use it, controlled by my CAB-1.   And would they gain if they went ahead now, and sold off the MTH transformer to buy a ZW-L?  Or is the ZW-L "just a transformer", and the MTH version would serve just as well once a Legacy or TMCC system is added??   



 

 

Last edited by OGR CEO-PUBLISHER
Original Post

Good questions, Mike!!  I fall into the category you speak of.  I am part of the informal group you speak of, have a modest investment in DCS and Proto 2 and Proto 3 engines, and am concerned about the future.  About 3 years ago, I bought a TMCC base and controller from gunrunnerjohn that he had repaired, and have two Legacy engines I have run with it.  I bought the MTH cable to connect the two systems, but have never gotten a Lionel engine to run in TMCC mode on the DCS.  That scenario may be impractical in the future depending on what parts of the business Mike sells to who.  I have run each manufacturer's engine from their own controller with some quirky reactions of the Proto 2 engine when the Legacy engine was on the same track.  That was a scenario I hadn't planned on and don't plan on doing on my little layout.  I was just testing out a new to me, used Proto 2 engine and forgot the Legacy had power too.  I am thinking if any of my MTH engines go South, I'll have to put in ERR boards to run them on TMCC.  Yes, I will probably be buying a Legacy system sometime.

No answers, just a commentary on why I appreciate your post.

I would think one would simply replace things as possible if and when they die/break.  If  one is not completely committed to command control, one could operate PS2 and PS3 locos in conventional mode if the command equipment (TIU, WIU, remote) died. 

If command is key, and the price of new or secondary market TIU/WIU equipment became out of reach or the items unavailable at some point, start converting favorite locos to TMCC, or, in the future, perhaps LC +2.0 if retrofits become available. 

New locos, if desired, could be LC, LC+ or Legacy, which operate with inexpensive remotes or tablets, no TIU/WIU or Legacy base needed.  Just spend $40 on a universal remote or use a smart device (phone or tablet) you already have to control new Lionel locos if you don't want to spring for the Legacy system.

Will almost certainly happen gradually, so cost doesn't become the main obstacle.  Just a matter of preference as to the path to take if MTH (and DCS in new locos) actually are no more.

Would echo the other comments in another respect.  No need to panic or get depressed one would hope.  If your PS2 or PS3 loco dies and cannot be repaired with available DCS compatible parts, you replace the innards with either an electronic E unit,  or an ERR TMCC command receiver ± sound, or anything else that may become available in the future. 

If you fancy DCC, that's another route to go.   

One way or the other, you obviously lose some PS2/PS3 capabilities and need another system to control those locos if you don't already have a TMCC/Legacy/DCC system. 

As noted, any failures or availability problems will occur quite gradually,  giving you time to make such decisions and fund them.  Does not require your making a decision now or even for a year or more, perhaps many years if DCS/PS3 parts and components remain available, as promised by Mike Wolf.

Guys...we weeded out the general MTH comments that should be posted over on the threads that are in the featured topics.  Keep your comments to the question the OP had....otherwise post your DCS "opinions" and MTH closing/support comments in the threads that we already have running.

Thank you Moderator!  I was just going to try to reiterate Mike's initial questions to try to get us back on track!  Pun not intended, but I'll take it. 

@Mike Wyatt posted:
...ZW-L is integrated into the Trainmaster systems, and using an MTH transformer you would not get that integration.  I like my ZW-L, and have (just) figured out how to use it, controlled by my CAB-1.   And would they gain if they went ahead now, and sold off the MTH transformer to buy a ZW-L?  Or is the ZW-L "just a transformer", and the MTH version would serve just as well once a Legacy or TMCC system is added??
If you are running DCS/TMCC/Legacy all in command mode, why are you concerned about controlling the transformers themselves? When running in command mode, they become just a source of power and could be any  18-volt, 10-amp AC transformer, like this one, for $64.

DCC will work with anything that is designed to receive and process a DCC signal. The number of rails has nothing to do with it.

Last edited by Rich Melvin
@Rich Melvin posted:

DCS is just a fancy front end on what is really a DCC system. The type of current (AC or DC) makes no difference.

Technically, yes, but DCS does what DCC does without changing the electrical signal.

From what I understand, DCC, or Digital Command Control, takes an input voltage of between 13-24 volts AC or DC and converts or "distorts" the electrical wave into a square wave. (google a picture if you need a visual)

The DCC controller then regulates the timing and positioning of the positive and negative square waves making a code that the electronics, or decoders, can understand.

This can be a problem since conventional engines will see this square wave as an AC power supply. In an engine with a DC motor, this will cause a high pitched humming sound and eventually burn out the motor.

It is because of the need to run conventional and command engines on the same track at the same time that Lionel, Mth, and others have not fully embraced DCC. Ask yourself, would you want to install electronics in your 100 year old tinplate trains and ruin any value that they have, or would you want to run them on your DCC track and possibly have the motor burn out? 

Therefore, Lionel and Mth developed systems that allow both command and conventional locomotives to run at the same time on the same track. It is not that it will not work on 3 rails or that it is just a DC power supply issue, it is that an inexperienced modeler may cause irreparable damage to a potentially valuable locomotive that is the main reason that DCC is not the standard for three rail O gauge.

That being said, it is most certainly possible to operate DCC on three rails. In fact, it is even easier! Instead of worrying about the polarity of the positive and negative rails when going through a reversing loop, simply connect one output of the DCC system to your center rail, and the other to the outside rails. My layout is wired to operate both DCC at one time, and DCS, TMCC, Legacy, at another, BUT NOT AT THE SAME TIME!!! It is important to not try to interoperate both of these categories of command systems at once since the DCC signal will damage any engine that does not have DCC electronics for the above reasons. I am currently running two MTH engines in DCC mode on my layout behind my computer. Most of the control environment is the same and you overcome many "quirks" of DCS mode operation. Any future upgrades will be either to MTH protosound 3 w/ dcc, or Soundtraxx Tsunami 2. This way, I can move away from a proprietary command system which most likely will perish along with the parent company, and to an accepted operating standard that 99% of model railroad manufacturers accept and produce.

Why do you (at least in my own experience in both scales) not see folks in, say, HO scale for example, absolutely fretting that XXX brand decoder blew up or brand YYY is going out of business? Because they can get a new decoder "cheap" (even one with sound significantly better than is available in O gauge) and almost any compatible decoder will work in any engine with enough room. I am cringing at the cost of a PS3 steam upgrade kit in my adjacent window on my computer. I could get a wonderful and easy to install sound decoder with great sound for about $100, whereas the protosound 3 kit is more than double. But, when one wants a specific sound file, one will pay I guess.

All in all, yes, DCS does do what DCC does in a better way. However, DCC is a standard, and DCS may or may not be produced in the coming years. I do encourage anyone interested in DCC to do a simple google search, watch an introductory video on Youtube, or even search on the forum for other people running DCC on three rail layouts (there are others besides me.) 

"OK, so now what??" At least for me, it is not bluetooth, it is not battery power, it is not some experimental and, again, proprietary control system. It is DCC; something that will continue to evolve and progress due to the significant amount of people that have devoted a collective hundreds of millions of dollars to it. It isn't going away anytime soon, and neither am I. It seems like a match made in train heaven.

"It seems like a match made in train heaven."

Excellent points and experience that is news to me, so very useful.

But perhaps not an ideal answer for folks that have a lot of resources invested in TMCC/Legacy/LC/LC+ or PS2 locos.  These locos won't operate on DCC without major expense and effort.  Restricted to PS3 locos in O gauge three rail as far as I know.

Not a negative for people starting out and having only PS3 locos, but another challenge for those already committed to some version of TMCC/Legacy/LC/LC+/DCS control and locos.

First I will wait and see what happens with the DCS spin-off company.  If things don't look good I'll convert my 5 PS2 engines and one TMCC engine to DCC. The other 5 engines I have are PS3/DCC.  I probably won't invest in Legacy because I got a TMCC base for next to nothing on eBay and it does everything I need using DCS with the adapter cable.  

@Landsteiner posted:

"It seems like a match made in train heaven."

Excellent points and experience that is news to me, so very useful.

But perhaps not an ideal answer for folks that have a lot of resources invested in TMCC/Legacy/LC/LC+ or PS2 locos.  These locos won't operate on DCC without major expense and effort.  

You are absolutely correct! I also have many tmcc and legacy Locomotives that I will either sell soon, or keep and upgrade.

As for the expense and time in converting Locomotives, the individual with mainly conventional is in the same position as the HO operator was (and maybe still is) in the mid 90s. Some had hundreds of Locomotives that they had to convert, but they only had to convert them once (until the decoder lost its will to work.) 

There is no "perfect" solution in our imperfect world. You can convert to DCC and not worry about that command protocol vanishing with the company, or stick with Lionel or Mth and live with the proprietary protocol. There is no "right" answer, but in terms with the OP's question, DCC seems to be the most logical.

Wow, all this panic over something that isn't likely to seriously affect anyone here for a very long time, certainly a few years at least!  All the DCS stuff isn't going to magically stop working when MTH closes the doors guys, get a grip! 

As to the logic behind why you'd gut everything that's TMCC/Legacy because of the potential demise of DCS totally escapes me, must be something in the air.  

DCC is not a panacea guys, I'd just hold the tiller into the wind until there's a clear direction to sail!  Truthfully, I'm more worried about mechanical parts breaking on my MTH locomotives than electronics.  If I have a significant' mechanical problem, that could put the locomotive out of action.  If it's an electronic failure that can't be repaired, there's TMCC electronics from ERR to replace it.  That would allow me to use my existing infrastructure and not start over with DCC, something that ain't happening here for sure!

@Mike Wyatt posted:

I am involved with an informal group of O Gaugers that meet sporadically, visit each other's layouts, and discuss topics of interest.

What is a reasonable transition plan for the MTH/DCC guys to add Legacy, using as much of what they already own as possible??  They (most, I think) want to continue running the DCC engines they have, but recognize that (maybe) DCC is over in terms of buying anything new.  That might be true, or not. 



 

 

Mike, did you mean to to say MTH DCC or DCS? It appears your thread got sidetracked with the reference to DCC. Assuming the new startup that is said to take over production and support of DCS, MTH engines should not require any sort of conversion for the foreseeable future. 

Pete

Wow, all this panic over something that isn't likely to seriously affect anyone here for a very long time, certainly a few years at least!  All the DCS stuff isn't going to magically stop working when MTH closes the doors guys, get a grip! 

As I said it's wait and see RE: DCS.  I had been wanting to buy some PS3 upgrade boards for my older 5V locos, and just to have some spares since they seem to peter out at some point.

But they seem to be in short supply.  With the MTH announcement it has got me thinking about reverse engineering the the command signals and electronics and implement it all in software on an Arduino board. 

As to the logic behind why you'd gut everything that's TMCC/Legacy because of the potential demise of DCS totally escapes me, must be something in the air. 

For me it comes down to the TIU.  I use that with remote and WiFi to control TMCC locos.  If that TIU breaks, I'm sure as heck not investing in another proprietary system.  I'm also not about to buy spares at current prices.

DCC is not a panacea guys, I'd just hold the tiller into the wind until there's a clear direction to sail!  Truthfully, I'm more worried about mechanical parts breaking on my MTH locomotives than electronics.  If I have a significant' mechanical problem, that could put the locomotive out of action.  If it's an electronic failure that can't be repaired, there's TMCC electronics from ERR to replace it.  That would allow me to use my existing infrastructure and not start over with DCC, something that ain't happening here for sure!

I agree about not making any rash decisions now.  But in regards to mechanical parts, I feel like some of that is much more doable by the average Joe at home.

Between classical casting methods and 3d printing, mechanical stuff seems solved.

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