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I'm a beginner, M채rklin question

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    Posted: 25 Feb 2016 at 10:48am
Hey all,

I am looking into starting the hobby and I have a few questions, especially regarding M채rklin. But first I gotta give a bit of background: I am from Germany, but am now living in the US. When I was young, my dad ran a M채rklin H0 scale model railroad at home. I always thought that M채rklin had really good quality and made things very easy to use. It basically felt like plug and play for the most part. I also need to admit that I have no idea (yet) about electrics in general, but I feel that will change when I start this.

Now the questions, and I'm sorry if these have obvious answers:

The US and Germany have different power outlets and every time I travel back I have to use an adapter for my electronic devices. Would I need an adapter of sorts or are there sets already manufactured specifically for the US area?

I eventually would like to run everything from a laptop or even a tablet. So should I start out with digital right away or is going the old-fashioned road better to start out?

Because of the 3-rail system that M채rklin uses, it sounds like there is no need to pay attention to loops and whatnot? Is a 2-rail system hard to understand and implement?

Again, sorry for all these questions for now and thanks in Advance!
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote RRVRR Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 25 Feb 2016 at 2:15pm
Hi oder auch Hallo,
(viele hier verstehen zwar deutsch aber da wir in einem amerikanischen Forum sind bleiben die meisten beim Englisch).
With the different power outlets it is sometimes a hassle. Most devices today with a power supply like laptops etc. are using multi range power supplies means those have a range from 85V up to 240V 50/60 Hz so it is only the plug what have to match to the outlet. A whole different story is if the power supply you brought from Germany has 220-240V/50Hz and you like to plug it in to an US outlet. Just an adapter that fit the wall outlet will not work.
The regular residential power at a single phase wall outlet is 110-120V/60Hz means you got half of the voltage you need and depending on the device it will not work or if you have a light it barely lights up.

Some items over here like dryer, stove etc. are using 2 phases with a special outlet, on this you will find your 220V but if you are not an electrician I would advice against it to mess around with it. The easiest way is to buy you a step up transformer from 110V to 220V and depending on the power consummation the device needs you have to chose the right one. They start on Ebay at $9.

If you start new with model trains I would recommend to start with digital because it is the future and you have a lot of advantages. Running multiple trains on one line individual with smart phone, tablet ot computer etc. In general the differences between 3-rail like Maerklin and 2-rail systems from the digital side are not so different at all.

This is much more track related and you are right with the loop in two rail systems because of the polarity change but this is only important if you have loops and even if you have them it will I think you might do not have so much of them. There are simple solutions on the market to easily overcome this problem, so don't worry.

I'm not a 3-rail fan for the reason I do not like the pimples (pickel) in the middle of the track and the fact that I rely on just one manufacturer even that they have a large variety. Some other manufacturer started to make the products universal so you can use it on both system but in the end it will come back to personal preferences. Another thing for me was the mostly higher price of Maerklin compare to others.

The best way to figure out with what system you like to go is get you some more education on the real differences like pros/cons so you can decide what might suites you best. I'm sure some other here will tell you also even more differences. The best way for me was to read magazines like Miba, Eisenbahn Journal, Modelleisenbahner etc. (Reynaulds can get that for you in the US). Also I can recommend the Stummi Modellbahnforum as a good source for information on all aspects of this hobby.

If you have further question - just let us know Smile and welcome to the Reynaulds model train forum.  


Edited by RRVRR - 25 Feb 2016 at 2:24pm
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el Gato Gordo View Drop Down
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote el Gato Gordo Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 25 Feb 2016 at 2:23pm
Welcome, amigo!

Generally speaking you do not need an adapter for modern M채rklin equipment.  Products sold in the US by retailers are ready for US power outlets.  As for the trains themselves, the power at the track (to the trains) should be the same whether you are in the US or Germany.  It might not be a good idea to buy control equipment in Germany.....someone with direct experience should speak up here.

Whether you start out with analog (old fashioned control of trains through controlling the voltage to the track) or digital (decoders in each train, voltage at track is constant) depends more on the depth of your wallet than on system complexity.  Analog is cheaper, but more complex when it comes to controlling multiple trains simultaneously.  My wife still has not figured out our analog HO layout.  Digital can be much simpler in that you are driving the train, not the power to the track.  Kathy recently ran our N scale layout at a train show in Denver with few difficulties.

For a control system (digital) I like the Roco Z21 (capital Z) system because I can run it off my tablet or off my phone.  At the aforementioned train show my tablet was stolen from the hotel minutes before the show was to start on Sunday - I ran the trains all day from my Samsung phone (the tablet was recovered after the show!).

There are other systems that have their fans, and I hope those fans will speak up to describe the attributes of those systems.  My way is not the only way.

If you start with analog, you can buy locomotives that already have decoders installed - they will still run on an analog system.  Then when you decide to change over to digital, your trains are all ready to go.

But if you think you will be converting to digital, you might as well jump in with both feet and go digital from the start.

The M채rklin 3-rail system is easier if you want to do a loop and it is good and reliable.  Some other manufacturers have engines that will run on the 3-rail system, too.  With 2-rail power you need an electronic device to switch power at the tracks in the loop.  As for myself, I run 2-rail both on my HO American set and my N scale German layout - but I have not tried to make a loop.  I don't find 2-rail to be complex - I have 4 Bahnh철fe, one with 6 tracks, two with 3 tracks, and one on a passing siding.  No big deal.

The other question is, HO or N scale?

Hope this helps,
Cheers!
Gordon


Edited by el Gato Gordo - 25 Feb 2016 at 2:28pm
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote RRVRR Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 25 Feb 2016 at 2:41pm
Originally posted by el Gato Gordo el Gato Gordo wrote:

It might not be a good idea to buy control equipment in Germany.....someone with direct experience should speak up here.


El gato gordo refers only to things that needs to be plugged in to a wall power outlet, everything else will work like locomotives, rolling stock, accessories etc. I have both on my layout German and US engines and rolling stock (just have to watch the height of the flanges but this is a different story) and all working great together (2-rail DCC). It doesn't matter if you use MM (Maerklin Motorola) or DCC (digital current control) because it is a worldwide norm. I would not recommend buying a digital starter set in Germany and have it sent over. For example the Z21 from Roco will ship in a 220V version and not in the 110V you will need here. Don't get me wrong you still can make it work here as I described it above but you will need additional components (new power supply or step up transformer). For me not really understandable why Roco is not using multi range power supplies, but they don't.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Railwriter Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 25 Feb 2016 at 7:00pm
If you are beginning without any existing equipment, you should consider bot M채rklin and two-rail DC.

In digital, two rail is no more complicated than three-rail, and in many cases it is less expensive.  Also, you have a much larger range of models available, without being locked into a single manufacturer (particularly with M채rklin track).

I would strongly suggest that you go ahead and take the plunge into digital, by starting with a digital start set.  These are an extremely good value and will help you figure out what other digital items you might want.  Yes, find a start set that focuses on the railroad and era you want to model.

Starting with digital is not really much more expensive -- and you are less likely to end up with items that you will no longer need when you do switch to digital.  And, by beginning with a digital start set, you will not have to install your first decoder -- the locomotive will already be ready to run in digital mode.  You can immediately begin using such digital features as remotely switching locomotive lights on and off.


By the way, Roco does offer a power supply that can take both 120 and 240 volts as input -- Roco 10853.  On the input side, it has an EIA cable, so you could also plug in an EIA cable with a European plug if you use it there with 240 volt input.  The power supply is sold as a 120 volt item, but the case clearly shows that it can handle up to 240 volts.

-- Ernest

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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote RRVRR Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 26 Feb 2016 at 3:08pm
Ernest,
*smart ass modus on*
those power supplies are what I call "multi-range" and getting slowly standard in the electronic industry. This applies for both, external or internal. It would be a smart choice for manufacturer to only use those.
*smart ass modus off*

Wink
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote ibtd Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 29 Feb 2016 at 10:27am
Thanks for all the input so far. I'll give it some more thought, but I think I'll go for 2-rail and DCC.

Gotta find myself a good starter set too I think.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote el Gato Gordo Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 29 Feb 2016 at 11:10am
You should do a bit of research on the control systems that come with the various DCC starter sets. For instance, the z21 system that comes with starter sets is not as versatile as the Z21.

Cheers,
Gordon
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