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So in the look before you leap category I last week won an auction of a Lionel EM-1.  THEN started to figure out what that really meant.  The engine box has it as an Odyssey with tmcc  which best I can tell was produced around 2001ish.

So I have conventional lionels and MTH's that would be great to run with this engine.  It looks like Lionel offers some option to do this.  As I dont have any DCC O gauge equipment (including transformers above 75 watts) or controllers or decoders installed I wanted to see if you all could recommend the best approach to have all the engines on the same layout at the same time.  I want to try to buy set up systems that are not proprietary but rather NMRA standard systems if at all possible.  Is it possible to do this by replacing whatever decoder the EM-1 has (as one option)?

I am starting the build my first O scale layout and so have just been working on getting wood, switches and track.  Not considered the running trains part as that is month(s) off.

Is the lionel system that allows running conventional engines (the video I watched said up to nine but these would be in power blocks right?) and tmcc/legacy the best approach?  I would be fine converting the conventional engines to dcc quite frankly as I just have a bunch of engines like the 1950's steam turbine that are not collectible or valuable.  And converted some HO engines with simple and cheap decoders (course they were not 5 amp decoders, eh?).

Your experience would be welcome as I do not know the options or costs at all.  Thanks!

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For Lionel engines, the CAB1-L/BASE1-L would be required, at a cost in the low $200 range (I am not an expert shopper, so there may be better deals available). CAB1-L will access all TMCC functions, and run Legacy engines - but not all Legacy functions. So if you expect to expand your fleet of Lionel engines into Legacy engines, and want full Legacy functionality, you need the Lionel #990 Legacy Command Set, around the $300 price range.

I am not familiar with MTH/DCC, but I know that if your MTH engines could be controlled by DCC, then there is a way to buy DCC equipment to run DCC engines, and then add on equipment to run Lionel TMCC/Legacy Engines -- a MTH knowledgeable forum member would have to fill you in on this.

It sounds like your just getting started in 3 rail. You seem to have a mixed bag of equipment as far as eras. Lionel system may be exclusive but as of now they are going to be the only game in town as far as command systems for 3 rail. MTH is closing their doors and nobody knows the future of DCS. Atlas and 3rd rail produce a few engines a year all based on using TMCC right out of the box. Your MTH stuff if it’s early Proto 1 can be upgraded easily to TMCC. Check out the ERR line of products for conversions. Anything you buy of recent vintage or new will have Legacy already in place. I can’t see gutting  it to add DCC.

What you want will work as far as adding DCC. Not sure on the postwar though. You will have a non proprietary system. You can buy products from more than one vendor. What you will have is a layout that doesn’t conform to pretty much most of the 3 rail world. But it’s your RR and if you feel more comfortable using DCC because that’s what your used. Anything is doable.

I have both DCS and TMCC/Legacy. I just can’t imagine a more user friendly setup as far as getting it to work. One wire. That’s it. No worry’s about getting signals through the rails or fancy wiring. If you go withthe ERR upgrades. Plenty of help on how to’s. Right here on the Forum.

Okay thanks Dave.  That is very helpful.  And yes just getting started.  Boy this O gauge takes a bit of room and money eh?  Yes on mixed bag of equipment as well spanning like 60-70 years.

I did not realize TMCC was so prevalent.  I definitely know MTH is going out of business.   Too bad as I used to be a few blocks from his store in Columbia before he started producing his own trains.  But when I refer to DCC I really meant anything that uses a digital decoder.  Which it looks to me like Lionel does as well as MTH.  The difference from my HO is that they seem to have been proprietary.  Sorry for the confusion.  Do not know the language too well yet.

If Lionel TMCC/Legacy is going to continue to be supported I have no problem using that.  I have nothing invested yet other than the one tmcc loco.  I think I read that the latest version of Legacy is NMRA compatible so that would open it up to other vendors.  Kind of like IBM PC's were once the only desk tops then...

Thanks for the recommendation on ERR.  I am looking forward to getting familiar with the vendors and such.  Hope they put this O Gauge magazine out soon, I still am waiting for my first copy.  I read Model Railroader but now recognize the MR does not cover O in an extensive way like they do HO and N.  Who knew?

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