Overview of NMRA DCC systems


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updated february 2007

To give a better impression of which makes are available and wht they offer you, a table-style overview is given here. Not all manufacturers are listed, but included are most important European and American manufacturers.

Image
Manufacturer # loco adresses # of accessory adresses # of speed steps Cab bus system feedback bus computer interface 
notes
digitrax
Digitrax 9999 2048 14/27 - 28 - 128 LocoNet LocoNet connects to LocoNet, RS-232, USB 2.0, LAN or WLAN by a seperate module.
Leading US manufacturer. Complete range of products, that can even be extended with products made by other manufacturers.
lenzlh101 Lenz 9999 2048 (firmware V 4.0) otherwise 1024
14/27 - 28 - 128 XPressNet / X-Bus RS- feedback bus, RailCom® connects to XPressNet,
your choice of RS232, USB 2.0 or Ethernet (2010), seperate module.
Leading European manufacturer, nearly all products are NMRA certified. Complete range of products.
ncedcc
NCE 9999 256? 14/27 - 28 -128 Cab Bus Cab Bus built-in in command station, RS-232, USB via seperate module

Manufacturer now seems to concentrate on H0 and larger scales. Some N-scale suitable decoders available. Track circuits and other signalling accessories available.
ib bsaic
Uhlenbrock
Intellibox Basic
32 out of
9999
2000 14/27 - 28 -128 LocoNet LocoNet  built-in in central unit., USB 2.0 
Central unit has 2 control knobs, built-in USB 2.0 interface and a built-in 3 Amp booster, can also send the Märklin MM  format.
ib2Uhlenbrock
Intellibox II
9999204814/27 - 28 - 128LocoNetLocoNet, s88, RailCom®USB 2.0Central unit has 2 control knobs, built-in USB 2.0 interface and a built-in 3 Amp booster, can also send the Märklin MM and Selectrix (locos only) formats.
in2 neo
Uhlenbrock
Intellibox II neo
9999 dcc + mfx
2048
14/27 - 28 - 128
LocoNet
LocoNet, s88-N, RailCom® USB , WLAN
Upgraded version of the Intellibox II, WLAN interface added, new booster stage
twin center Fleischmann
Twin Center
9999 2000 14/27 - 28 - 128 LocoNet LocoNet, s88 built-in in central unit, RS-232
Central unit has 2 control knobs, built-in RS-232 interface and a built-in 3 Amps booster, can also send Selectrix and the now obsolete FMZ formats.
* Production ceased in 2010, successed by Roco 'Multi Maus' system, see Roco section *
easydcc CVP Easy DCC
9999
2048
14/27 - 28 - 128
CVP cab bus
None
built-in in command station, RS-232, special cable needed

System is available in both kit and built-up versions. It was described in a series of articles in 'Model Railroader' in 1997. Kits are no longer available (2005)
ztc511
ZTC 511 9999 2047
14/27 - 28 - 128 X-Bus no feedback bus yet. (under development)
seperate interface module, USB
Central unit has steam loco-style controller, built-in 5 Amps booster. Only system made in the UK.
ztc 611
ZTC 6119999204714/27 - 28 -128X-Busno feedback bus yet. (under development)USB built-inSuccessor to ZTC 511, upgraded technology. A long wait...
multimaus Roco
MultiMaus
9999 1024 14 - 28 - 128 Roconet, X-Bus seperate feedback bus seperate interface
RS-232 or USB
Simple system that is easily upgraded to a mid-range system. Best suited for HO-scale, due to the lack of output voltage stabilisation. Also sold under the Fleischmann brand (2010 onwards)
zimo Zimo
MX1
9999 256+ 14/27 - 28 - 128 CAN-bus CAN-bus,  RS-232 built-in in central unit (programming only), CAN-bus dongle with RS-232 or USB 2.0 for layout control.
Central unit consists of command station, 8 Amps booster and has a RS-232 interface. Accessories are controlled by CAN-bus modules or single-device decoders.
mx10
mx32
Zimo
MX10
9999204814/27 - 28 - 128CAN-bus, Zigbee wireless (for use with radio handhelds)CAN-bus, RailCom®USB 2.0 and  EthernetCentral unit consists of command station, 12 Amps booster and has a USB 2.0 interface. Accessories are controlled by CAN-bus modules or single-device decoders.
tran CT-Elektronik 9999 1024 14/27 - 28 - 128 XpressNet Not yet, RS-bus (Lenz) under development
RS-232 in command station / booster unit DCC system, handheld features a large backlit LCD-display and click-encoder. Decoders support Zimo signal-brake method.
trix mobile
mc2
Trix
99 ? (not known yet), 9999 with MC 2.
None with Mobile Control 1 (top image), 320 with Mobile Control 2 (bottom image)
14/27 - 28 - 128
Systems Link / CAN (propiatry)
propiatry (same as cab bus)
Built-in in 'Central Station'  unit (announced) Ethernet
DCC system offered by Trix, replaces Selectrix equipment. Design based on Märklin equipment.
naviigatormassoth Massoth
9999
2048
14/27 - 28 - 128 DiMAX (propiatry)
DiMAX (propiatry) RS-232 in
central unit
System originally intended for use with G-scale layouts, a new central unit (DiMAX 800Z, pictured) has been introduced for use with smaller scales.
esu ESU ECoS
over 16,000
1024
14/27 - 28 -128
 ECosLink (propiatry)
ECoSLink (propiatry), s88, RailCom® prepared Ethernet (RJ 45) in base station
New high-end system from Germany, with great connectivity options. Very modern design with 7-inch colour touchscreen.
esu cab control
ESU CabControl
16384
1024
14/27 - 28 -128  ECosLink (propiatry)  ECosLink (propiatry) Ethernet (RJ45) in base unit, USB for charching and updating.
Announced for Q3 2022, 7 Amp capacity

csMärklin
Central Station
(with upgrade by ESU)
9999204814/27 - 28 -128CAN (propiatry)CAN (propiatry), s88Ethernet (RJ 45) in base stationWith upgrade 3.0.0 from ESU unit sends MM, DCC, mfx and Selectrix loco formats, 4 Amp power capacity. Unit out of production and replaced by CS2.
cs3
ms
Märklin
Central Station 3, Central Station 3 +
9999 (in DCC mode)2048 (DCC, 320 MM)14/27-28-128CAN (propiatry)CAN (propiatry), s88 (CS3+ only)Ethernet (RJ45)Successor to CS1 and CS2 command stations. Supports mfx, mfx+, MM and DCC formats
cs2Märklin
Central Station 2
9999at least 32014-28-128CAN (propiatry)s88,  CAN (propiatry)Ethernet (RJ45)Supports mfx, MM and DCC formats.
mrc prodigy advance MRC Prodigy range 9999 256? 14- 28 -128 propiatry cab bus no feedback bus Wireless link with USB-dongle
or cabled USB with seperate interface module.
Range of simple to medium-level systems. The Prodigy Advance system is distributed in the UK by Gaugemaster
commander Viessmann Commander 9999 254 (MM) or 1024 (DCC) 14 - 28 -128 'High-speed Bus' (HSB) and 'low-speed bus' (LSB, X-press Net, X-Bus, Roco compatible) s88 + propiatry 'HSB' and 'LSB' - XPressNet, Roco compatible), RailCom® USB 2.0 New system fitted with colour screen. System connects with a propiatry control panel for points and signals.
Production ended late 2016.
commander 2Viessmann Commander 29999 dcc + mfx
204814-28-128 LocoNets88USB, LAN, HDMISuccessor of the Commander, uses tablet, smartphone or TV/monitor screen to display track diagram. Supports  mfx decoders.
dynamis Bachmann Dynamis 9999 80
14- 28 - 128 ECosLink none none New midrange system by Bachmann, 2-way infra-red connection to base station.
Tams EasyControl Tams Easy Control 9999 (DCC) or 255 (MM) 1020 (MM) or 2040 (DCC) 14 - 28 - 128 (DCC) EasyNet (propiatry), uses cat-5 network cables s88, s88-N (cat-5 cables), RailCom® RS-232 and USB 2.0 Easy to set up system with more qualities than you might expect at first sight. Regulated output on boosters could be adjusted by fitting differnet zener diodes in the booster units (B-3 type only)
redboxhc2Tams RedBox10239 (DCC) or 255 (MM)2040 (DCC) or 1020 (MM)14 - 28 -128 (DCC)EasyNet, XpressNet, DECT cordless phones and old Märklin controllers via adaptors.s88-N (RJ45 plugs), RailCom®USB-2, RS-232 (V24) optionalSuccessor to Easy Control, with more features. Supports the m3 (Märklin Systems) format for loco decoders.
mc2
Tams mc2
DCC: 10239
MM: 255
m3: 16384
2040 (DCC) or 1020 (MM) 14-28-128 (DCC)
14-27 (MM)
128 (m3)
EasyNet, LocoNet (throttles only), CAN (Märklin only), XpressNet, BiDiB for accessory modules
s88-N, BiDiB, RailCom® LAN network
modern 'base station', has built-in web interface, no special software needed, compatible with all computer and mobile phone operating systems
hornby eliteHornby Elite254 out of 9999255 out of 999914-28-128XPressNetRailCom®, via XPressNet (not working yet)USB 2.0Modern mid-range system, unstabilised output. Not easily available outside the UK
z21Z219999204814-28-1283 X-bus, LocoNet,  CAN (one each)seperate feedback bus (same as Roco MultiMaus), RailCom®WLAN and LANSystem is controllable from smartphone, tablet, Roco MultiMaus or LocoNet handheld
nawiTrainModules NaWi Digital Center9999unknown14-28-128ExpressNet, LocoNet, CANs88 (RJ45), LocoNetUSB, Ethernet, WLAN for mobile devicesModern command station from Hungary, the complete top panel of the unit is a touchscreen.
dr5000Digikeijs DR50009999 (DCC)2048 (DCC)14-28-128ExpressNet, LocoNet, RocoNet, X-Buss88-N,  LocoNet, Roco feedback bus, RailCom®USB 2.0, LAN, WiFiVery affordable, lots of connections. Must be configured with a Windows PC.
cOneKuehn cOne9999unknown14-28-128XPressNet

Announced 2016, also suitable as analogue controller, still not available (2022)
tcs throttle
TCS9999unknown14-28-128WiFi (wireless)unknownWiFi, LCCHandheld wireless controllers (WiFi) already available, will work woth other systems or directly with a PC.
cobalt-aDCC Concepts Cobalt-α9999
14-28-128NCE Cab busnonenoneIntelligent Booster unit that connects to a number of DCC command stations by an adapter cable. Can be used as a command station to control DCC accessories only.
banner
DCC Concepts
9999
?
?
?
?
?
New system under development (2020)
ls digital
LS Digital Infinity Cube
DCC: 10239
MM: 255
m3: 16384
2040 (DCC) or 1020 (MM) 14-28-128 (DCC)
14-27 (MM)
128 (m3)
EasyNet, LocoNet (throttles only), CAN (Märklin only), XpressNet, BiDiB for accessory modules s88-N, BiDiB, RailCom® LAN network
Co-development with Tams Elektronik mc2, now offered as a black version of the mc2

Listed are only those manufacturers who offer complete systems. There are quite a few manufacuters around that offer additional equipment. I would like to refer to the manufacturers' websites for more information, just click on the right name. Please note that some sites are in German only.

N-scale suitable decoders

Any decoder that fits inside an N-scale loco is N-scale suitable. In normal practice you are limited to the smaller-sized loco decoders. The list below gives an overview, but note that it is not complete.

digilogo Digitrax has a wide selection of N-scale suitable decoders. For common use ref. DZ-123, DN-121, DN-143 are very suitable. All these are relatively thick (about 4 mm) but have a power output up to 1 Amp! Digitrax also offers decoders that fit a particular model, these decoders have a reference number that ends with a letter, like DN-163K0, which is a decoder that fits quite a number of Kato locos. More information on the Digitrax website.

Lenzlogo Lenz offers 4 N-scale suitable decoders. All are very small and may fit many locos. The 'Gold Mini' decoder is their top-performance decoder with built-in 'Rail Com' transponder. The new 'Silver Mini' decoder is similar in performance, but without the transponder. It therefore has a lower price

esu logo ESU is the first German manufacturer to offer sound decoders even down to N-scale. Range has now been extended with decoders without sound unit and a few accessories like the radio hand-held controller and now the ECoS DCC system.

nce  NCE mainly offers H0-sized decoders, but new are N-scale suitable decoders. NCE follows the Digitrax way, making replacement circuit boards. Available is one for the Intermountain FT diesel loco. A decoder that fits the Kato 'Genesis', E8, PA and a number of Japanese prototype locos is announced (similar to Digitrax DN-163K0). Other N-scale sized decoders are under development.

ur  Uhlenbrock has indroduced several N-scale suitable decoders, their first was a small sized decoder at only 12.2 x 8.6 x 3.7 mm! It even accepts Märklin's Digital and Trix Selectrix formats. It is also compatible with coreless motors like Faulhaber, Maxon and Escap. Further DCC features are: long addresses, back-EMF motor control. Power output is 500 mAmps. A unique option is the use of F3 and F4. F4 toggles the momentum on or off, whilst F3 halves the speed range. Great for shunting operations!

A Uhlenbrock N-scale suitable DCC decoder. The coin is a 1 Eurocent coin.(photo: Uhlenbrock)

Viessmann now offers loco decoders, to everyone's surprise. An N-scale suitable decoder that is slightly larger than the one offered by Uhlenbrock, at only 9.3 x 14 x 3.4 mm. Two varieties are offered: one with long leads and one with the NEM-651 or NMRA 'S' standard plug. Maximum power output is 500mAmps. The larger size Viessmann decoder may be of interest when you want to convert EMU's or DMU's. It is thinner than the mini-decoder, but has a larger footprint at 13.9 x 21.9 x 2.9 mm. It may be offered at a lower price. Viessmann also offers accessory decoders, 'digital track-circuits' that feed back into Märklin's s88 feedback bus and signals that have a built-in decoder as well as many scenic accessories and a German-style catenary system. A command station was announced at the 2006 Nürnberg Toy Fair and is available from December 2006.

viessmann commander viessmann gbs Viessmann 'Commander' DCC command station and 'GBS' modular control panel. (photo: Viessmann)


zimologo Zimo offers a number of true N-scale suitable decoders. A full-featured high-end decoder that is finally available. Development of this decoder took a long time. That it is available now shows that Zimo is serious on DCC for N-scale. It is only 14 x 9 x 3 mm at there is a variety that fits the NEM 651 socket.

tranlogo CT-Elektronik offers Zimo-style decoders, which are fully compatible with Zimo systems, including Zimo's transponding system! The range includes N-scale suitable loco decoders, but also function-only decoders. Latest decoder is an N-scale suitable sound decoder. A command station/booster unit and handheld controller are also on offer.

kuehn Kuehn offers loco and function decoders that can be built in cab cars of MUs. Some decoders also operate on the MM signal format.

tcs new logo TCS is a US-based DCC decoder manufacturer. TCS offers a wide range of smaller-sized decoders. TCS has 2-board decoders that may be useful to convert Tomix and other split-frame locomotive models.

tams logo  Tams Elektronik offers a range of electronic accessories, from blinker circuit to a complete DCC system.

qdecoder QDecoder from Germany offers new types of signal and accessory decoders. These can be operated by a special electronic module. QDecoder also offers special colour-light signal decoders, with pre-programmed CVs to mimic specific (DB, SBB, NS and ÖBB) prototypes.

dccconceptsDCC Concepts offer a range of DCC accesories, loco decoders, accessory decoders, DCC boosters, control panel components and loads of other bits.

drM logo drM drom Taiwan offer a wide range of DCC decoders, many of them are a made to fit Kato locomotives and MUs without any 'chopping' of the bodywork. Coach lighting units and accessory decoders are also on offer.

snjpn SNJPN (Nagasue) offers decoders matched for Japanese model trains. Available are: loco decoders, motor-decoders, head / tail light decoders, interior light decoders, a programming unit that connects to your computer's USB port and a special decoder for the Tomix track cleaner.

ztc  ZTC now under ownership of Taunton Controls Ltd.offers two small-sized decoders, aimed at the British market. This means that one of the two decoders has no function outputs at all! A variety is available that does not need a complete isolation of the motor brushes, very suitable to convert Graham Farish British N-scale locos. New N-scale suitable decoders are under development.

maxambient MAX ambient from Germany offer special accessory decoders, such as a light effect decoder, a freely configurable signal decoder (up to 48 signal lamps), a sound effect decoder which palys sounds froma microSD memory card will follow soon.

Which DCC-system suits me?

The only one who can answer that question is you. A good salesman can assist you in making the right choice, as could this website. Most important is to make a decision which fits your ideas and your budget. N-scale suitable decoders get more affordable these days, due to a wider choice offered by the manufacuters, which increases competition. One important thing to note is the output voltage of the boosters (or central unit in some cases). It is best that this output is stabilized. Only Lenz, Digitrax, NCE and Zimo offer systems with stabilized outputs. This also means that you are 'caught' to a style of cab bus and matching controllers. The Arnold system may be a good choice when you want a 'mid-end' system. Everyhting is possible, apart from transponding, with the aid of a few components offered by other manufacturers. Hopefully, the supply problems will be solved soon by Lima, the parent company of Arnold. Roco's system has also evolved from a basic system into a 'mid-end' system, with similar features offered as the Arnold system. High-end systems like the Digitrax Chief and Super Chief, Lenz and Zimo systems offer everthing you can dream of, but at a price! A high-end system is costly, but offers all features, like transponding loco adresses into the feedback bus, computer-control etc. Uhlenbrock, Digitrax and Lenz offer cheaper starter kits with fewer features that can be upgraded into a high-end system if you want.

Do-it-yourself

It is possible to build your own DCC equipment. You need to have some skill in building electronic circuits, but it is not very complicated. Most D-I-Y DCC systems use a PC to generate the DCC commands, a booster sends these to the tracks. Most D-I-Y systems only offer locomotive control, but for many applications this is enough. Links to D-I-Y DCC projects can be found on the Fremo website. EasyDCC by CVP is a kit for a complete DCC system. EasyDCC has no feedback bus and has its own cab bus system. EasyDCC is a good 'mid-end' system, very suitable when you only want loco control and limited accesory control. The British Model Electronic Railway Group (MERG) offer their own design as a kit to their members. PCB layouts, schematics, descriptions, parts lists and programming code is available to anyone on the MERG website.

Computer control

For more extended systems and larger layouts, computer control may be a good option to replace the control panel. You will need accessory decoders to control the turnouts and signals and feedback modules that sense the status of track-circuits around your layout. With transponding it is possible to read decoder adresses, but as far as I know there is not yet a standard for transponding, so each manufacturer offering this feature is on his own at the moment. At this moment, only Zimo (first!), Digitrax and Lenz offer transponding.

For computer control, you connect your computer via the RS-232 serial port , USB 2.0 or network to the command station of your DCC system. Sometimes, dependent on the system you use, you will have to purchase a seperate interface, other systems may have the interface built-in in the command station. The second part is control software, in which there is a remarkably wide choice. Below are some links to control software suppliers. Please note that not all software is offered for Apple Mac or Linux systems. JMRI and iTrain are Java-based and will run on a Mac or Linux system.

jmri logo JMRI is an open-source software with modules for decoder programming, control panels, operation sequences etc. etc. It even supports the X10 protocol to control room lighting. It's Java based and available for free and runs on Windows, Mac and Linux systems. JMRI supports many DCC systems, but not all combinations offer full functionality. Best of all, JMRI is offered free of charge. Donations are welcome!

Jürgen Freiwald offers Railroad&Co., which also offers a wide range of control options, and supports a wide range of systems.

Railware is rather new. Supports most systems.

Koploper is a computer control package that is offered free! It is only available in the Dutch language and supports Märklin, Selectrix, Lenz and Uhlenbrock systems. Registration at no extra cost is needed for full functionality.

ModellStw stands for Modell Stellwerk, model signal box in English, software simulates German SpDr and Swiss Integra Domino mimic panels or German ESTW or Swiss Iltis computer signal controls. Looks and works like the prototype!

iTrain by Berros Software runs on Windows, Mac or Linux systems, and supports many DCC control systems.

RocRail is an open-source software that upport many DCC systems, and offers control by mobile devices such as iPhones, iPads and Android devices. RocRail operats under Windows, Linux and Mac OS X. RocRail is offered free of charge, donations are welcome however.

STP and PFüSch are two packages that are made especially for use with Zimo systems. STP is only a computer control panel, with timetable and automation options. PFüSch or 'ADaPt' is a decoder programming tool whcih can also be used to control locomotives and accessories. STP takes full adavntage of the address read-out function of the Zimo decoders and feedback modules.

 

Acknowledgements

Most of the information on these pages comes from the manufacturer's websites and catalogues. Please click on the links for more information. Quite a few model railway magazines have articles on digital command control in their columns. I would like to refer to N-Bahn Magazin 5-2000, Alba Verlag, Düsseldorf Germany, for a detailed article on N-scale decoders. But things develop fast in modern electronics, so you need to update your knowledge regularly.


Pages written by Mark Veneman

Scans by Mark Veneman

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