Sunday, January 25, 2009

Cha Ching

I've just returned from the train show in West Springfield - It was my first time there and I think I'm suffering from major model train overload.  There was so much to see and to spend money on.  Figuring this would be the case, we brought a big wad of cash, opting to leave the cards at home.  Something about handing cash to someone gives me anyway, a bit more self control than just swiping a card.   Also, I went with a purpose - to secure a new DCC system for the layout.  I figured there would be show specials that would offset the cost of driving to Mass. a bit.  Going to the show I would say I was 99% committed to buying the Digitrax Super Chief - In reality, I ended up with the NCE system.

What happened?  Well basically I talked to a lot of people at the show.   Here is a list of what changed my mind:
  • At least 50% of the layouts at the show were using NCE - didn't see one using Digitrax
  • The NCE handheld throttle was much easier to use and it's fit and finish was generally nicer.  I had never actually used either and picking both up for the first time and operating trains I was able to pretty much figure out the NCE right off the bat - I had to ask for a lot of help with the Digitrax - it seemed a bit complicated for no good reason.   To be sure, we would have mastered the Digitrax and since we aren't really going to be handing throttles to people and expecting them to learn them this isn't that big of deal, however, it goes to the overall design in my opinion - why make things overly complicated when there is an easier way?  Also, again it partially boiled down to the controller was just nicer for lack of a better word  - both the display and the housing.  
  • Cost - The NCE was more expensive than the Digitrax system was, however, the NCE has a built in serial port for computer interfacing, which we plan to do using JMRI software.  So when you factor in purchasing the Digitrax computer interface separately the difference in costs was only around $30 or so.  
  • I had recently heard quality control issues surrounding Digitrax related to a move - may or may not have been true
  • The NCE system can be updated - the Digitrax cannot.
The system I purchased was the NCE Power Pro - 5amp.  I also purchased an additional controller - the Cab04p,  DCC Specialities Magna Force power supply, DCC Specialties PSX Intelligent Circuit Breakers for  creating power districts, and four fascia panels.  

In addition to this system I bought some more Rix Tanks for building the stoves for the blast furnace, a bunch of detail parts from Tichy and Crow River and others, a GE 44 tonner, and a few other little items.   I could have spent probably twice as much on other good deals or hard to find items, but I'll wait till next year.  Oh, almost forgot - I bought a Miller Engineering sign - General Electric - I was a little hesitant to purchase one of these until I actually saw one in person.   They aren't perfect in that the none graphics portions of the sign are clear plastic, but in the dark they look awesome - I plan to add lighting to most of the layout as it is built.   I'll probably get a few more of these, but they aren't cheap - $45 for the GE one.    This week, I talked to an old friend of mine, a toy designer and inventor, about using this material inside the cast house to simulate the hot iron - he didn't think it would be workable due to the space available in the runners. 

I did get some work done on the layout -  I laid most of the track for approaches to Blast Furnace B, and for the pig casting machine and possibly an electric melt shop.  I've refined my plans a bit and I believe I can fit the pig caster, electric melt shop, blowing house, and boiler house all in the space behind the furnaces, without looking too crowded.  I've also been working on the Plastruct Steel Mill building kit that I was given for Christmas - it's about 75% done and slightly modified from the plans.  By the way, calling this a "kit" is a bit of a stretch, it's basically a set of plans and directions and a pile of scratchbuilding materials.  

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