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I'm still learning about O gauge in general, as I'm an HO scale native that was always DC only, and O gauge control systems are making my brain hurt. Can you run MTH locos with DCS on the same track as a locomotive with Lionel TMCC? Can one system control a locomotive equipped with the other and vice versa, or would I have an MTH locomotive and throttle and a Lionel locomotive and throttle if I was trying to double head?

And what's the deal with Lionel Odyssey? Is it better than TMCC, does it work with TMCC? I'm looking at all these different control systems out there, all these different locomotives that look cool but have different systems, and I'm totally lost.

I'm essentially starting from scratch here, so if it means reworking my layout theme I can still do that. Is there some universal control system that works on everything, or do I have to pick one and stick to it?

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This is not something where you can get a "crash course" of advice and expect to learn it all in a few hours.  Nobody likes to spend money on an engine that will not work well with their electrical system setup.  I highly recommend you look through other older posts on this forum and you will see that many of your questions have been answered before, along with suggestions of what to read for more detailed advice and info.

Chuck

@B23Dash7 posted:

I'm still learning about O gauge in general, as I'm an HO scale native that was always DC only, and O gauge control systems are making my brain hurt. Can you run MTH locos with DCS on the same track as a locomotive with Lionel TMCC?

Yes,  But you need a DCS System to control MTH Locos, and a TMCC or Legacy system to control the others. You can, however, use the DCS to control both types.  But you need a TMCC/Legacy base to do that

Can one system control a locomotive equipped with the other and vice versa, or would I have an MTH locomotive and throttle and a Lionel locomotive and throttle if I was trying to double head?

Double heading locos with two different types of controls systems is challenging, but possible. You will have to synch them through their own control systems. 

And what's the deal with Lionel Odyssey? Is it better than TMCC, does it work with TMCC? I'm looking at all these different control systems out there, all these different locomotives that look cool but have different systems, and I'm totally lost.

Odyssey is just a speed control feature.   It is in some, but not all, TMCC locos.  It is not an independent system.  All TMCC/Legacy locos have some sort of speed control, not necessarily Odyssey

I'm essentially starting from scratch here, so if it means reworking my layout theme I can still do that. Is there some universal control system that works on everything, or do I have to pick one and stick to it?

Alas, no univeral control system, but DCS can run both IF you have the TMCC/Legacy base.   FYI I run both TMCC/Legacy and DCS side by side, each with their own controllers and their own "command base"  on my layout.  No incompatibility there.

B23Dash7 - Further to PRR1950's recommendation above, you can do a Search of previous Posts (about Control Systems) on this Forum just by selecting the drop down menu at the top and clicking on Search, and then typing in 'O Gauge Control Systems' or something to that effect and several previous Posts will undoubtedly appear.  

Good Luck on all your O Gauge aspirations!

Since you mention a lot of experience with HO DC, have you considered O Scale 2 rail?

All  of your electrical experience with HO applies directly to O scale 2 rail.    O Scale 2 Rail defaults to direct DC.   A of guys are converting to DCC now, but I think the majority of 2 rail O Scale may still be straight DC.

And if  you want to go to command control system, DCC is much more universal.   There are some 2 railers that  use other systems, but most use DCC which again is the same system as in HO.

The major difference between HO and O 2 rail are that the locos generally draw a little more amperage when running and the locos and cars generally require a wider radius on the order of twice as wide.    So if  you did 30 inch radius in HO, you could expect to do 60 inch in O.    But realistically a majority of equipment will run out of the box on 40-48 inch radius, or can be easily modified to do so.    I visited a friend over the weekend who had a 2-10-4 and 4-8-2 both running on a layout with 48 inch radius, and one corner had a 40 inch he told me.

@B23Dash7 posted:


...

I'm essentially starting from scratch here, so if it means reworking my layout theme I can still do that. Is there some universal control system that works on everything, or do I have to pick one and stick to it?

It's called "Conventional control" and works like your HO DC layout - adjust throttle on your transformer to change speed and direction.  All O-gauge engines including Lionel TMCC and MTH DCS "command control" engines also operate on Conventional control.  Additionally, while Lionel and MTH together have the lion's share of the market, there are other O-gauge manufacturers who do not have a proprietary "command control" system but operate using the Conventional control system.

Since you did not mention DCC in the HO context, it's not clear if your transition to O-gauge is for its command control...or because of something else - like aging eyesight making it hard to see the tiny trains!

Also, there is a different business-model (if that's the right term) in regards to command control.  In HO, command control (DCC) is an option...you buy an engine and look for "DCC-ready" to add aftermarket electronics to provide more than basic conventional DC control.  In O-gauge Lionel and MTH come pre-equipped with command control capability and is priced accordingly.  In your research you will stumble across guys altering the electronics to go from Lionel to MTH or vice versa, to or from DCC, or even removing the command control electronics to revert to basic Conventional control.

@B23Dash7 posted:

... is there one system that's "better" than another?

I don't consider myself an expert, but based on reading about control systems here, one major consideration with DCS is the way in which the track is recommended to be wired [see DCS Companion], known as star wiring, which may or may not add some further complications to powering your layout (depending on it's size and complexity).

TMCC/ Legacy, Lion Chief, and Conventional control wiring methods are more forgiving of how power is distributed.

Last edited by SteveH

To B23Dash7:

Like you, about 12 years ago, I changed from HO conventional (DC) to O gauge 3 rail. After looking through several articles on the subject of MTH - DCS verses Lionel  - TMCC & Legacy, I bought into the MTH system, and added a Lionel TMCC base. This, I thought was the best of both worlds.

I did buy a couple of MTH engines and some TMCC engines. Everything seamed to be OK and I was able to run MTH, Lionel, Atlas (with Lionel ERR) and even conventional engines.

But after a while, I was not really happy with the MTH system. So I sold off my DCS and upgraded to the Lionel Legacy - it also runs TMCC and engines I converted to ERR Lionel Cruise and sound. As well an conventional engines - new and old.

For me, I personally think that the Lionel Legacy is a better system and easier to operate. I'm not saying that MTH is a bad system, for me, I felt that Lionel's system better suited my layout.

I would suggest that you look up a local club in your area, and see what they have set up for their layout. Even join the club, you'll learn a lot more from other modelers that can help answer you questions and even assist you in setting up your layout. There is nothing like a hands on experience to help determine what might be best for you.

I belong to a local club and we run both DCS and Legacy/TMCC, as well as conventional. But I run and operate only Legacy. I've learned a lot from my fellow club memebers.

RAY

@B23Dash7 posted:

I'm still learning about O gauge in general, as I'm an HO scale native that was always DC only, and O gauge control systems are making my brain hurt. Can you run MTH locos with DCS on the same track as a locomotive with Lionel TMCC? Can one system control a locomotive equipped with the other and vice versa, or would I have an MTH locomotive and throttle and a Lionel locomotive and throttle if I was trying to double head?

And what's the deal with Lionel Odyssey? Is it better than TMCC, does it work with TMCC? I'm looking at all these different control systems out there, all these different locomotives that look cool but have different systems, and I'm totally lost.

I'm essentially starting from scratch here, so if it means reworking my layout theme I can still do that. Is there some universal control system that works on everything, or do I have to pick one and stick to it?

As between the Legacy/TMCC and DCS command systems, you certainly do not have to pick just one and stick to it.

As others have said, both systems are compatible with each other and can be run on the same layout w/o issues. One benefit of running both is that it allows you to also expand your options when it comes to purchasing engines that the other manufacturer may not make.

I wired my layout for star wiring (DCS), but found it slightly easier to start with the Legacy system (base and remote) and, once you learn the ins and outs of that system, you can add DCS, which I did. I found Legacy to be a little more intuitive and easier to learn at the start for me, but others may have had a different result.   

Well, since nobody else has mentioned it yet, there currently exists something called Battery Powered Remote Control (BPRC) which doesn't require any power to run through the track.  However, no engines are currently offered with that system installed.  You would have to purchase the parts and convert your engines to make this work; control is effected through an app on your tablet or cell phone.

Now that I've further muddied the waters, I would again suggest that you just read other, older posts on this subject; but I do like the recommendation of finding others close by that you can visit with and question to help you with the learning process.

Chuck

@PRR1950 posted:

Well, since nobody else has mentioned it yet, there currently exists something called Battery Powered Remote Control (BPRC)

Chuck

I agree with @PRR1950.  Speaking as one who has discovered BPRC from others on this forum, I can tell you it's freaking awesome.  I completely gave up on DCS and Legacy.  Now my family?... I haven't got them 100% convinced yet.  But my trains run better than theirs every time.

And, you can do this on the cheap, mid range or expensive.

Cheap... Buy a LionChief engine, rewire and install a battery in the engine or a tender car.

Mid-Range... Any MTH Premier PS3 engine can be run in DCC mode with the flip of a switch.  Rather than buying a DCC system, I purchased a BlueRail board and installed with a battery.  The PS3 engine is now running BlueRail DCC on battery.

More Money (Maybe)... You could buy a brand new engine and gut it to install any BPRC system you want.  It's hard to justify buying a new $400-$500 diesel, gutting it and investing $200-$300 more.  But I buy old PS1 engines that don't run or run poorly for very cheap and can easily upgrade them.

What is really comes down to is...  How do you want to run your trains?  Dedicated Controller, Cell phone/tablet, maybe both?  Where do you want to run your trains (other than your layout)?  Do you want to spend time running wire and soldering drops to your entire layout and constantly clean track or jump into the future of BPRC?

Have Fun!

Ron

Last edited by Ron045

Let's see, converting 100+ locomotives at $300 or more each, that looks like $30,000 to convert to battery power!  I'd also have to spend hundreds of hours (many hundreds) to do the actual conversions!  Finally, I'm also giving up a lot of the neat features of many of my locomotives in the process.  Thanks, but I'll keep running Legacy and DCS...

Last edited by gunrunnerjohn

To add on to @gunrunnerjohn's sentiment, in my experience with lithium batteries is they simply don't last - usually only 2 to 3 years and then they become e-waste. Then there are the difficulties of storage. You can't store them at 100% charge or at a depleted charge as that damages the battery - usually 50-75% charge is the recommended shelf charge. Not to mention that it may be recommended that each battery should probably be stored connected to a battery maintainer to extend its useful life. Sure, it is all doable, and some people do actually do it, but it does not entice me in the least.

@Ron045 posted:

What is really comes down to is...  How do you want to run your trains?  Dedicated Controller, Cell phone/tablet, maybe both?  Where do you want to run your trains (other than your layout)?  Do you want to spend time running wire and soldering drops to your entire layout and constantly clean track or jump into the future of BPRC?

Have Fun!

Ron

Ron,

I understand where you're coming from, BUT:

  1. What about route management? -- Most of us have switches to throw that can't be thrown manually, some of us have many, many such switches.  How do I easily and cost effectively convert these to BPRC?
  2. What about signals? -- Fewer of us have prototypical signaling systems, but even with just few simple signals on one's layout a significant amount of wiring is still needed.

(Hobbyists who are quite at home with BPRC in R/C cars, aircraft, and boats don't have either of these to deal with.  BPRC makes complete sense for them.)

Until these two are addressed for trains I'm going to be running miles of wire anyway.  And, because of the massive upgrade necessary to change all of my collection to BPRC, as pointed out by @gunrunnerjohn, BPRC is currently off my wish list, at least for the foreseeable future.

I will admit that it's worth tinkering with though -- but just for the sake of tinkering, for now.

Mike

Last edited by Mellow Hudson Mike

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