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NCE Powercab
Tim Davies & Harry
NCE PowerCab, complete starter set, upgradable. Made in USA. $228 AUD from my supplier, £132 from Bromsgrove Models. Can be as low as $150 in the US.
The UK version is complete with plugpack, 'cab' and all connections, except wire to the track or bus. The power supply works on 110 to 240 volts and has plug adapters for Europe and even Australia. The 'Australian' version I bought was a US versionwith pins twisted for Australia, probably by the retailer! The pins were not partially insulated so they did not comply with Australian regulations. The unit has the usual range of features with buttons for momentum, lights etc. and several forms of programming. It would be one of the best value DCC controllers available and is probably the best ergonomically. Even Harry can use it!
Ease of Use
Setting up a new loco/decoder is straightforward and could take you as few as 10-20 minutes after opening the box. A second loco can be running shortly thereafter. There is enough power for several OO gauge locos provided they have efficient motors, but only 2 can be stored in the Recall stack so its a bit fiddly to run more than this. It can be done if you can allow one or 2 trains to run continuously at constant speeds while you control the other 2 directly. The unit was touted by my Australian supplier as having the best instructions. Basic startup was easy, that is numbering a new decoder and running, but the rest of the instructions were like a maze. It took a long time to find how to set Cab Momentum. I had to reduce it to 25% of default to get a suitable range of control. Once you find the instruction you want, basic programming of addresses short or long, motor voltages etc can be done easily via on-screen cues. Driving couldn't be simpler as long as you have a hand with a thumb on it! For shunting, set a low speed and just use the direction button. Momentum does the rest. Normal speed control is by thumbwheel and optionally two fast and two slow up/down buttons. Changing Momentum for each loco is a 2 button operation, even while in motion. CVs can be set directly if you wish, but if your decoder is already programmed it will probably respond to the buttons on the controller. The display is easy to use.
The unit can be damaged by prolonged shorts. No problems in the 2 units in this test, but they are only a few months old! To protect the unit from prolonged shorts we soldered a 12V 21W flasher lamp in series with one of the track leads. This is adequate as the maximum current is only 2 Amps.
I much prefer this unit to rotary DC controllers from an ergonomic point of view, apart from the advantages of DCC. The Gaugemaster unit appears to have been not too successfully inspired by NCE. After sales service is available in the US at fixed reasonable prices, but with postage and delays, it might be almost as cheap to replace the faulty component. Don't worry about the 'secret DCC men's business'. If you have a simple layout just plug it in and go. You can add a bus as your system gets more complicated. This system does not have full emergency stop. Wire a suitable switch in one track lead for this purpose. If you get into trouble, press the program/escape button, or switching off for a few seconds  will usually do the trick. It might be unwise to buy any DCC system unless you know someone who can get you out of trouble.
Overall ranking
I would rank this unit at 9/10, because it only has 2 locos in the stack. My next purchase would be an upgrade for effective control of more locos. If stolen I would buy PowerCab again, so 10/10.
Review Hornby Bachmann 
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