Digitrax Zephyr DCC System Review

digitrax zephyr
Digitrax, Inc. 

A good Digital Command Control System can make your model layout run like a well-oiled machine. The Digitrax Zephyr DCC System is a good choice for anyone running a relatively small layout. It can also be used effectively as part of a larger system.

Product Specs

The Digitrax Zephyr comes with everything you need to set up and run your model railroad. Once it's set up and running, you and your admiring friends can just sit back and admire your achievement.

Here's what you get in the package:

  • All-in-one DCS50 throttle/command station/booster unit
  • 2.5 amps of power to run trains
  • Controls up to 10 locomotives simultaneously
  • Will support up to 10 throttles connected
  • Two patented "jump ports" allow DC power packs to be used as throttles
  • Two digit and four digit addressing for over 9000 locomotive addresses available
  • Supports up to 999 stationary decoders for turnouts and accessories
  • Digitrax LocoNet component networking
  • Scale: HO, TT, N, and Z

Product Review

Unless you are building a huge layout this may well be all the DCC system that you will need. The 2.5 amp power output will probably limit you to less than the unit's maximum of ten locomotives running simultaneously, but unless you are actually running more than five or six locomotives at the same time the Zephyr should be sufficient. While at the time of this writing the Zephyr was the most powerful all-in-one unit in its price range, and it really is a solid product, this system may not be for you.

The Zephyr won three awards for its innovative features, but that was back in 2002. Time hasn't stood still but, unfortunately, the Zephyr has.

The weakness of the Zephyr lies in its lack of a user-friendly interface. Computer savvy users will have no problem with using the Zephyr. But it has only a numeric display and a few status LEDs.

This makes operations very reference-manual intensive. While newer all-in-one units in the same price range may not be as powerful, they feature LCD panels and menu-driven interfaces instead of seven-segment displays and completely numeric operations. In addition, the little round buttons on the keypad are less user-friendly than they might be, especially for younger or older users. The fact that the Zephyr's user interface hasn't been improved in six years makes it difficult to recommend it to non-computer people.

Expansion Options

The Digitrax Zephyr is extremely expandable, due to the power of LocoNet, the Digitrax proprietary network for connecting their DCC components. With LocoNet you can add throttles to your Zephyr. If at a later time you need a more powerful command station and booster, the Zephyr can become an auto-reversing booster for your reverse loop sections. So your investment retains its value.

Bottom Line

If you're a computer savvy person with a smaller layout, this product could be right for you. It's also a great choice for someone who's ready to get serious about model trains -- but isn't ready to spend a lot of money on a DCC system.