Retail therapy

“I should have done this years ago! In the four decades of being in this hobby this feels like one of the smartest purchased I’ve made!”–I was at the hobby shop last Saturday. Jim had asked me how I liked the new NCE PowerCab I’d bought the week previous.

I’m heading into my second week now of feeling just as good as I have before. In addition to the PowerCab I also bought a Kato SD40 that already had DCC installed–to really evaluate the value of this decision I wanted that kind of foolproof baseline. The manual from NCE proclaims a setup of about ten minutes. They weren’t wrong. By the time the tea had steeped I was running my little SD40 back and forth along several lengths of track. I expected it to bust through dirt on the rails (Lazy me I didn’t clean the track) which it did and the quality of slow speed control in that stock, unmodified, decoder is spectacular. Any reservations I still felt about the amount of money spent that afternoon just feel silly now.

This isn’t the same kind of layout building progress like posting a photo of track laid or scenery built. “Retail therapy” sometimes sounds a little too flippant when we use it and too often describes something that doesn’t really resolve a problem but I think, this time, it is the right term. I’m not at a place in my life where I have a lot of spare time or mental horsepower for the hobby in all its forms and being able to spend a little money feels like a very productive way forward so I can focus my time on the parts I can be active in.

I should have done this ten years ago

Categories: model railway inspiration

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8 replies

  1. Was this your first DCC, or did you replace something else with NCE?

  2. This is my first DCC system. I have the “stuff” here to build DCC++ based on Arduino and think I really like that option but that’s also just not getting done so NCE is a way forward. It feels like I’ve moved in time about two decades.


  3. That’s awesome. When I think of a home brew DCC system, it just doesn’t seem to be something I’d ever get around to building. And even if you do, you now have a fully functioning system to use until you complete you DCC++ system.

    On a couple of occasions I’ve purchased a train set in the box, just nice to have something you can plop down and run.

    • “it just doesn’t seem to be something I’d ever get around to building” and that’s EXACTLY the loop I’m stuck in now. Arduino-based DCC++ would be everything I was interested in but I’m just not getting around to that and the cost of that is way more than the cost, in dollars, to just buy this NCE set and get back to moving forward.

      In addition to marking a place like this does it’s also a baseline that just works and works very, very well. When I build up the DCC++ (whenever that eventually happens) I’ll have something to compare it to for an evaluation of how well it fits my needs.


  4. I, too, shrugged off DCC for too long but it was a revelation when I finally did. I dabbled in home-brew DCC, found the endless tinkering tiresome, but have since found high satisfaction with a well-made, reliable commercial DCC system.

    • “It’s so much about how it modulates our experience” I thought when I read your comment and also thinking about your own writings on your hobby work. In this case it was a decision to do something to evolve how I was feeling about other parts of the ecosystem of model railroading in my life. Refining this aspect clarifies my vision of others and that feels neat.


  5. I’m no fan of the techy side of DCC, I too went NCE due to advertised user friendly aspects. It does what it says on the tin! I’d prefer the handset to be a bit smaller, but as my starter for ten, really pleased with it. So good in fact I ended up with a second handset and ‘base station’

    • What I liked about it, like you, was that it didn’t create a hobby from within the hobby I was trying to practice. The next bit from their catalogue I want to order is that USB interface so I can link into my computer to play with CV settings in decoders because that’s fun stuff I think I like that links back into the quality of experience on the layout. Different from having to participate in one hobby to practice another–I will likely want to do that later but for now the NCE balance feels right.


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