Roco Z21 system

I am looking to start using DCC. I have a couple of locomotives with Roco decoders in them. Is there a recommended Roco system to start with? I see the various units available. I don't see well. So I downloaded the Z21 app on my IPhone which works very well with my screen reader. However, I am unsure what unit to buy to make everything work.
Also, how do I make DCC switches?


  • RailwriterRailwriter Durham, NC

    There are basically two Roco z21/Z21 systems with most components compatible with both systems. The (lower case z) white z21 is the simpler starter version; the (upper case Z) Z21 black version is the high-end with more features. The white z21 may be adequate for many operations and can -- with the addition of boosters -- still operate a very large layout..

    One of the best ways to get the white z21 is with a start set, if you can find one with components that match your interests. You get the electronics, a decoder-equipped engine, some rolling stock, and some track for about half of what you would pay for the total items bought individually. (If the included tracks do not match your existing track system, you can always use them for hidden storage tracks, as display tracks on a shelf, or as a test track away from your main layout.)

    Some of the z21 sets come with the wireless router; in other cases you have to buy it as an add-on. Experienced computer users can also use an existing wi-fi router, but that requires some technical background. As you plan to use your phone as a control unit, you will need the wi-fi router, which is actually not all that expensive.

    How to make "everything" work? Well, that depends in part on what all you include. The basic way to operate switches digitally is with a switch decoder. The switches will already need to have electric switch motors installed. But, instead of connecting them to analog controllers, you connect them to a switch decoder. The switches get numeric addresses -- or rather the ports on the switch decoder get these addresses -- and you can then operate the switches via your control unit.

    Typical switch decoders have four or eight ports, which normally have to use consecutive numeric addresses. There are switch decoders from other manufacturers that you can use with the Roco system, just as you can run locos from other manufacturers (or locos with non-Roco decoders.) One thing to look for is switch decoders which can have their own power source, rather than using track power. This keeps the decoder from cutting into the amount of power available to power your locomotives.

    Digital operation is not an easy subject to explain in a few paragraphs, so, keep asking questions. But, if you take it one step at a time, you shouldn't have any problems learning how it all goes together.

    -- Ernest

Sign In or Register to comment.