Gwire control

Time to make some notes on the Gwire radio control system I am using.

Officially Gwire is not authorised for New Zealand but it uses exactly the same frequencies as the smaller-scales Digitrax radio controllers so I figure I.m OK using it. There are suppliers who will ship to NZ ;)

I think i have made the right choice for me. the Aristocraft Revolution is popular here but this comparison from Tony's shows the advantages of the Gwire.

With Gwire I have a choice of controllers from different manufacturers:

  1. CVP T5000
  2. NCE ProCab
  3. There is also the CVP T9000 but I suspect it is not very good.

And I have a wide choice of receiver/decoders:

  1. CVP Airwire G2 + any DCC sound decoder from any vendor: Soundtraxx, Loksound, Digitrax.... There are also drop-in versions of the G2 for some common diesels but they didn't have diesels in 1910 :)
  2. QSI Gwire receiver + any DCC high-amp-motor+sound decoder(s) from any vendor

The QSI option is more expensive. Their receiver is about the same price as the G2 receiver-plus-motor-decoder in one package. With the QSI you need to add a high-amperage motor decoder plus sound decoder, whereas with the G2 all you need to add is any old sound decoder because the G2 drives the motor directly (10 Amps).

N.B. the G2 also puts out 3Amps of DCC, which sounds like enough to wire it directly to a small G-scale loco that came preinstalled with a DCC decoder. But the QSI receiver can be used with any pre-installed DCC decoder and is much smaller than the G2, so this would be a better way to go.

I know the G-scale sound decoders supposedly have higher-wattage sound outputs than HO sound decoders, but who needs it? HO sound decoders are plenty loud enough for me so far. If I ever want more beef I'll feed the decoder output into a $20 Dick Smith mono amplifier kit (or maybe I'll use a stereo amp kit and add a bypass filter so one channel feeds bass to the tender and the other channel puts treble up the stack, like the new Titan decoders will do).

Incidentally if you need more function outputs than the four on the G2 and the others on your sound decoder, you can add HO DCC function decoders too!

The only thing I don't like about the G2 is it is pretty big, but no bigger than the alternative QSI+Phoenix. The G2 can be cut in half and used as two smaller boards (you can buy a connecting cable) so I reckon it could be squeezed in most places.

So it is the G2 for me, except if I ever get a loco that comes pre-installed with DCC decoder, in which case I'd use the QSI receiver to control it.
[Update: I have a QSI receiver and a QSI Titan decoder on order, just to try]


If you want a static / accessory decoder to drive turnouts etc, CVP have one of those too. You need one "Linker" to pick up the radio commands and then any number of 4-output "Activators" on a two-wire bus. It is expensive: several times the cost of doing the same thing in HO DCC. $300 to control 4 turnouts, vs $50 for a Digitrax DS64.


Back to controllers: I have both the T5000 and the ProCab. Here are my initial impressions:

CVP:

  • no unscrewing to change batteries. Big plus for me: what the hell is that about with cab manufacturers? Aristocraft, Digitrax, NCE... why should you need a screwdriver to change the batteries, especially when most manufacturers also don't see fit to provide a power switch. nuts.
  • Initially looks like a "cheap" build, but it is light and simple. it clips to a belt or fits in a pocket.
  • Mostly simple operation, with a nice menu system in unabbreviated English. Simple speed knob, push to reverse.
  • Nice clear obvious display panel
  • but still has some counter-intuitive commands - another common issue with model railroad controllers. In this case don't press "loco" to select a loco. press "#".
  • A bit cheaper than the NCE: $150 vs $200

NCE:

  • "Cool" body but big and heavy:clumsy for 1-handed operation and too big to pocket when you need to go hands-on with a train.
  • Cryptic display and menus
  • Complex. on the other hand functionally rich.
  • Too many buttons. Worse than a TV remote.
  • Seems to be more reliable as a CV programmer than the CVP
  • Labelled bell and horn buttons. The CVP just has F1, F2 etc
  • Power off is four key strokes, none of them obvious: Pgm-Pgm-Enter-1. Really? WTF were they thinking? How about an Off switch?

So I use the CVP all the time, and get the NCE out to program locos. If I need more cabs I'll buy the CVP. Since Gwire is an open standard I may have more options in future too.