Is there a forum, article or user report of some kind that generally compares the various R/C controllers availble on the market? Comparisons in function, range, simplicity of installaion, easy of programing and use, and so on.
The best idea is to work out what you want to do based on your priorities and then start asking questions here.
You could start along the lines of;
Lots of locos or just a few.
Track power or battery power?
Trail car or onboard?
Complicated or simple controllers?
Do you like programming or is it to be very basic.
Will you be fitting sound?
Must the installation be Plug'n'Play or are you adept at working on locos.
Will you be MU'ing?
The list can go on.
You will get a lot of answers that will then need sifting through.
Again I will state that if there is a club close to you that uses R/C, even if you do not join try to go to one of the meetings to hook up with some members that use the R/C units...most clubs welcome "guests".
People are more then willing to talk and explain what and why they use what they use...most times more then you want or need!
They might even let you try them out.
But as stated by Torby, decide what you want it to do, ease of use, that is a real important one if you want to do the installs yourself, last figure how much you want to spend..THAT is the utmost important decision.
Decide on these prerequisite points, before you go and start asking questions, or looking for units...home work 1st.
They are ALL super and each is best suited for different things.
I always stress joining a club because in a club you see not just 1 idea but many ideas and different spins on most every idea.
What buba said--go to a club if you can and see what works. Think about what you want to do. I started out just wanting the train to go forward and backward, faster and slower. Then I got interested in more sophisticated control systems. Now i have a remote control system that's way more sophisticated than I am. I like having the extra functions to play with. But there's a lot ot be said for simplictiy
I've been intending to do one of these charts for my web site, and invite every manufacturer to review the pro's and con's.
A big problem is how to compare vastly different systems, who go after different markets.
I think you have to break the "world" into some basic groups.
Now you have the problem of how you do this, because some people would want groups by price:
1. inexpensive ~200
2. moderate ~ 500
3. the sky's the limit...
Other people (realizing that the control system is part of a larger decision and cost analysis) might break it down by ease of installation:
1. completely plug and play
2. moderate difficulty (takes some work, but the average person can succeed, maybe with some help).
3. who cares, I'm an engineer..
Still, others would break the system down by what type of power:
1. no track power
2. constant DC track power (can still be compatible with "stock" locos)
3. specialize track power
Again another reasonable categorization would be by "level of sophistication" and number of simultaneous users
1. One "cab" to one loco
2. one "cab" to several locos, but these locos tied to just this "cab"
3. any number of "cabs" can control any number of locos and any loco of choice
I can think of several more groupings, but this becomes a multidimensional problem.... because you can take the above groupings and then start putting the pro's and con's of every system in each "group"
My best advice is to start by understanding what you WANT from a system, one loco, low price, many locos, many simultaneous users, etc.
Be SURE to put your WANTs into priority order, otherwise you will never get to an answer, since there are always tradeoffs!
If something is totally new to you, it is impossible to specify your "musts" and "wants" in order to make a choice. You must first do some research on the subject. In the case of radio control, as suggested by others, get first hand info from users, if possible. But, the best place to start in my opinion is to first identify all of the systems available (there aren't that many), and then learn about the features and perhaps more importantly, the support available for each one of them. I would also suggest you just pick something and try it. That doesn't mean you are committed to converting your whole fleet of locomotives ( if you even have a fleet) to that system. It gives you something to gain experience with and find out what your "musts" and "wants" really are.
great input so far. I am in the Northwest, west of Seattle and for those who might be familiar with puget sound, the town of Bremerton. I am very new at this and have been reading everything for three months now. I will be putting together my wants and needs list but will say that I would probably want some form of sophistication as watching a train circling a track over and over would bore me in about 3 minute. I'm going to need to switch, and load and unload and sort, and side track and all that railroad stuff you do at rail yards and loading and unloading ramps etc. Thus far I know I want battery power (in the loco) and R/C control. I will need to be able to move around the yard watching and working the RR but want to be able to control the operations via R/C as much as possible. I can do most the work of install and have a friend who is quite knowable with DC if needed. I have been a boater (large boats) for over 25 years, and most the time can't afford to have someone else work on them. Again, thanks for the information and input.
Del, I part agree with your statement and part disagree.
Yes, from a certain perspective, you sort of have to know what's out there to decide what features you want. In this area I completely agree.
But, and again, I guess I did a poor job of communicating, you have to have a bit of a vision about where you are going with your layout.
If you have a huge piece of land and unlimited funds and the perfect climate, you can do about anything.
But most of us have restrictions, and most of us can shut our eyes and imagine how we would be running our dream layout.
This is where the ideas about how many trains at one time you will run.
This is where you have an idea, or WANT for how many people will be running at the same time.
This is where you can decide how many locos you will eventually NEED to fulfill your dream. (yeah, I know I say NEED, but it's a WANT ha ha!)
This is the pre-planning I am encouraging people to do. If your goal is a simple loop for a single train to go around, or a large layout with several trains and several people, you at least have to have an IDEA about this.
Otherwise, how will you know you need to consist locos or not? That feature is very different among different systems, for example.
I surely do not recommend something as complex as DCC to someone before I get to hear a lot of what they want to do with their setup.
(that was another example, of spending money and time learning when it might not be appropriate).
That was the part of the "thinking" process I was trying to get across, no need to evaluate a system that is not even in the ballpark for what you want.
Even though you said "(there aren't that many)" systems out there, (and I don't 100% agree), the COMPLEXITY of trying to compare them without any fore-thought of basic suitability and your personal requirements is a HUGE task for a newcomer, my opinion.
I see too many people anxious to make a decision, and have not spent the 15 minutes listing what they are looking for, if even just a few points/priorities/needs/wants.
I agree and disagree as well. As a newbie, it's pretty hard to figure out what questions to even ask. And, as you get into the hobby, your tastes can change. Maybe we need a basic set of questions to start with?
Dave Goodson (aka The Old Curmudgeon) lives in Kirkland.
One of his regular operators lives near you.
If you call Dave at 425 823 3507 he will possibly be able to arrange for you to be picked up for the next operating session.
Dave usually has 14 operators running and often up to 20. All at the same time.
BTW, Just so you know, Dave is my West coast RCS agent.
What the heck. I'm just south in Gig Harbor. E-mail me and maybe we can set something up. I run Airwire and onboard battery and would be happy to give you a tour. I also have a friend just across the narrows bridge in Tacoma that runs the Aristo system with track power.