In with Mulitmaus, out with the Mobile Station

A nice package arrived - in fact a somewhat delayed Christmas gift - in the form of this Roco multiZENTRALEPRO system!  My new DCC system is here! The main attraction for me to this system is the wireless hand-held (not infrared, with which I had an unfortunate experience years ago).   It was also a consistently highly regard from other users of the original Multimaus (which is important) as well as including a lot of other features that would allow me to grow beyond my original Trix Mobile Station set up.

These sort of decisions are not easy....the cost of the system is a huge factor, in addition to the 'opportunity cost' of not choosing another systems that - in many ways - have other advantages (for example, I looked at Digitrax, which would be a lot easier in terms of support here in the US given its wide adoption, and also considered the command stations from EsU and Viessmann, as well as the new Mobile Station from Trix, among others).  Well, I've made my choice!
The Multimuas Pro (seemingly identical to the traditional Multimaus except its wireless...and blue) is packed with the multiZentrale (the actual command box), a disc with the Rocomotion software (which seems to be a port of the Railroad & Co. software, which I didn't know) a couple of cables, and a manual.
The multiZentrale (err...command box) seems small based on all the functions we've come to expect from these little boxes, but I suppose that's the way things work in the digital world.  This Roco system is also compatible (as far as I know, I'm still learning so I'll find out) with Lenz's X-Bus system, which seems to offer a lot of interesting expansion opportunities.  I also like the fact that it has a dedicated 'output' for a separate programming track which will come in handy.  Programming with the Mobile Station was an exercise in futility (I've been using a Sprog II for programming duties to avoid the MS)
Unfortunately both the main and the programming output jacks require some sort of proprietary jack, and only one cable is provided for output to track, so I'll need to go and buy another cable that will work if I'm take advantage of the convenience of the programming track output.  Strangely, the cable Roco provided is very specifically designed for the HO gauge track, which seems sort of narrow-minded on their part.  Easy to fix with a snip and a little soldering.  It also comes with a USB cable.  If your like me, you probably have a billion of these already from all the other computer junk we've all been buying the past several years!
Of course, the real star of the show for me is the controller.  This is a huge shift from my Mobile Station, and is a radical departure from almost every other DCC controller/throttle out there.  Yes, you could say its toy-like, but I actually like the color.  So far, it seems to be the most ergonomic controller I've ever seen...can you say one-handed operation?
A new controller also means getting used to the menu structure and navigating my way through the various options.  So far, it has felt quite comfortable.  There was a moment of tension as I finally got to the point with everything connected and my first locomotive entered to see if it all works...and I let out a huge sigh of relief when it did work!  So far, no signal issues and really exciting, almost liberating, feeling as I can now walk completely around my entire layout without having to leave my controller on the other side of the room (or plug my controller in once I get to the other side of the layout).   One of my debates about this investment was some question about how much I really needed a wireless controller for such a small layout....well, I have to say, I'm glad I made the jump because this wireless operation is pretty awesome!

This system also features turnout control and route control options (and with the Rocomotion/Railroad & Co software, PC operation!), which were interesting to me for potential in the future, but I just couldn't 'get' the idea of having to switch back and forth between 'engine' and 'turnout' modes.  That opinion has changed given my brief experience with this unit and I can totally imaging converting my turnouts so that they can be controlled with this unit.

While I wish that the display offered a bit room for more than 5 characters for loco identification, I suppose that will be something I can live with.  I do like the fact that they are very large and visible characters!  The dial, with its 'center stop' and forward / reverse controlled by turning the dial either left or right is something I'll have to get used to.  The other strange thing is the power requirements (18-24VDC; 16-18VAC)...seems a bit high for N Scale, but since I'm also able to use my Trix transformer to power this system (it does not come with a power transformer), I'm not as concerned as I should be since this is the amount of voltage that I've been using for several years (still seems high....glad I put in a bunch of extra circuit breakers!).

So, despite a somewhat hefty price, I have to say I feel pretty happy with my investment.  I've only spent about 90 minutes or so running trains (mostly discovering that all my ballasting and rail-painting has still left a lot of residual gunk on my rails, so more cleaning is clearly needed) but it was a very fun 90 minutes.  More on this in the future!


  1. That is quite an attractive cab unit, I have to say. Dare I ask what "hefty" means, price-wise?

  2. Keep us updated. I'm relying on blogs like yours for when I finally build a real layout and wire it up for DCC.

  3. This eletronic stuff scares me!!! ARGHH!


  4. @Don - Yes...its around $550 for the full kit I've got. You can get just the wireless controller for around $250...but I'm not at all clear if you absolutely need the 'multizentral' command box for this or if there is some other wireless reciever that will also work.

    I have seen traditional wired versions of this controller (mostly the older 'red' version, but also some identical newer (?) versions in Fleischmann grey and red colors) on eBay for about $100. So, yeah, the wireless option costs quite a premium!

    @Paul D ... you bet! The way I learn and grow is by reading others experiences myself, so if I can offer any help, I'm glad to do it! :-)

    @Bob, well, there is a learning curve to this, but it really only gets as complicated as you make it for the most part!

  5. 550 doesn't sound that bad for a full featured system really. For a little more you could've gone for an ECoS, but that would be without wireless throttle or computer software.

    The voltage is really only the input, required to run the internal components. Output is probably different. It should be possible to set the output voltage yourself. Most systems allow voltage to be set anywhere from 12 to 22 volt. Many systems are set to around 18 volt as a standard value (they seem to think everyone runs H0 ;))

    Paul & Bob, DCC wiring isn't all that difficult once you get the main idea. The problem is usually that there are no really good guides. People either explain just some very basic stuff (as in, connect 2 wires to the track and you can run multiple trains in DCC), or they skip a lot of necessary steps that not many people new to DCC might know :)

  6. Marijn, great input as always. Yes, the new Ecos looks really amazing...part of my 'future' thinking here is that with the Rocomoton software, and new touchscreen PC software, I can have something along those lines at some point in the future as well.

    And great answer for Bob (and Paul), for a small layout, DCC isn't really all that different from traditional DC...a bit more expensive to get started. But what you get in terms of operational ability is really worth it. I could not imagine it any other way. The more complicated your layout (re: the larger it gets) the more you need to think about adding in more 'boosters', but that becomes another easy step in the evolution. I agree with Martijn, we do tend to either over-complicate it ("what the heck is a CV?"..its really just a fancy name for one of the many settings you can adjust!) or over-simplify it. I also find we tend to over-analyze it...the ongoing discussion (urban myth) about Kato switches needing to be modified for DCC is one of those topics that drove me crazy (the answer is, they don't need any modification...I've operated around 20 for several years and this has never been an area of trouble for me)

  7. Here's the wired version...I believe this also offers the ability for turnout control.

    Its an ebay link so it will expire in the future, but representative of a lot of these available on the old eBay these days:

  8. Jerry, sooner or later, you're probably want to try computer control, especially considering the Rocomotion software is included in your new kit :) What I would recommend though, is to never automate the entire layout, or you'll end up watching several trains go round and round. There needs to be a certain amount of manual play as well.

    Maybe, if you have a (rough) trackplan of your layout, we could sketch out how to divide it into blocks which would allow for automated running. Turn it into a new-user-friendly study ;)

    As for turnouts/switches needing to be modified for DCC is only half true. Any layout that runs on DC can be run on DCC as well, the only difference is that on DC a quick short doesn't matter, whereas on DCC it can trip the system and shut down, and certain turnouts do cause quick shorts. The main reason to modify turnouts though, is to make them more reliable. Especially the moving point rails tend to loose power at some point. Some brands have this a lot worse than others though. Especially painting the track a rust color will add to the power problems.

  9. @Martijn
    I've switched to the ECOS II (color touch screen) 580eur (including taxes): wireless control is totally feasible providing you have a smartphone and/or a tablet.
    It works perfectly with the free Rocrail control software, along with the (low priced) iPhone/Android and iPad apps (so it's basically 580€+0€+9€)
    I would not recommend Rocrail to anyone for layout control it's too complex. But if one just wants fancy throttles to use, or to hand out to guests or kids, it's a perfect combination.

    So basically for roughly $60 more than the roco kit you get a fancy color touch screen system, with user friendly CV programming, and an unlimited number of wifi throttles.

  10. Hey Pierre! Great comment! I don't think many people in the US are that familar with ESU's Ecos system. I really liked this system and was probably my number one choice (as you mention, it has a lot of options for which throttle you want to use, which is awesome, and a beautiful design!). I also like the Ecos wireless controllers (mostly the same as Dynamis). Unfortunately, the cost of these in the US seems to be a lot higher...I found it for around $850 USD (and it wasn't even until recently that the new Ecos 2 was even available for the US!). Its too bad becuase I think a lot of DCC users would really like this system compared to our traditional choices.

  11. Hey Jerry, sad to know US prices are not comparable. I guess it's a two way thing then. I got tempted by Digitrax and Loconet, but sadly in Europe only Uhlenbrock really supports Loconet, and...Digitrax imports are expensive.

    It's always interesting to see the differences between US/EU hobbyists and brands.

    As always, important is to have fun...how dare you mention the notion of "wireless need" ? :-)
    I got the same feeling when first controlling a train remotely. Sadly, with wireless being mainstream in everyday electronics, it's less impressive for non-train fans as for us: my guests are still amazed by seeing small trains moving, but my iPad remote barely gets any attention :-(

  12. Pierre: I have an ECoS II myself as well, and it's definitely got tons of features. The downside is that those features make the device slow at times (especially adding and editing locomotives could be faster, but at least you don't have to do that too often ;))

    I'm also (very slowly) working on my own app for iPhone/iPad, because the existing ones are just too ugly. 1 of the decision when I buy digital systems is how it looks, and to be honest, not many look good. This extends to the iOS software I want to use, it has to look good ;)

    And yeah, it's a shame that importing has to be so expensive. Excessive shipping cost on large packages doesn't help either. I don't see that changing anytime soon though...

  13. @Martijn: I solidly agree with your comment on looks (and its associate...ergonomics). Its shocking to me how out of date and ugly this technologoy is! One of my first posts on this blog was my dismay at the somewhat antiquated design of so much DCC equipment!

  14. So how are you liking the controller at this point. Do you have any quibles with it? what are some of the features you didn't expect to like.

  15. @Kaysg:

    So far, it has worked precisely as advertised! I haven't had as much 'running' time as I would have liked as I'm still doing so much work on the layout still, but the radio control has been flawless, and its very easy to add locomotives and control them with one hand! I'll provide an update soon!