The NCE PowerCab Digital Command Control (DCC) system is popular for its ease of use, menu-driven prompts, and reliable programming capabilities. However, it does have a few limitations: It only has about 1.8 amps output; it doesn’t have separate programming and main track power connections; and the PowerCab throttle must remain plugged in at all times while in use, limiting walkaround operations if only one throttle is available. DCCconcepts has just introduced the Aegis system, scheduled for release in January 2024, to address these limitations and further enhance PowerCab performance.
A closer look
The Aegis system maintains all the functions of the PowerCab while providing increased track power, wireless throttle capability, and a range of other features. The basic Aegis system includes a base station; 24VDC, 5-amp power supply; and wireless transmitter, handset cap, and lanyard for the PowerCab throttle.
The base station contains a DCC booster which can provide track power of 14, 15, 17, or 18 volts at 5 amps continuously. And that 5-amp continuous rating means just that, not 3 amps under normal running and 5 amps for short peaks. This impressive power rating is made possible in part by the 24VDC, 5-amp regulated power supply. It also has output terminals for both main track DCC power and a service mode programming track.
The front of the base station has a brushed aluminum flat panel with countersunk screw holes for fascia mounting. For those wanting a full enclosure, plastic ones are available.
On the panel’s face are lighted push buttons to turn the system on and off, reset it when a short occurs, switch between programming and operations, issue an emergency stop command, and pair a wireless transmitter.
Three sockets are provided on the face for connecting the PowerCab for main track operations and programming, and to connect DCCconcepts Alpha products. There are five additional sockets on the rear of the base station.
Another important feature is the built-in circuit breaker designed to protect against overloads and shorts on the layout. A manual reset switch located on the front of the base unit blinks red when a short or overload occurs, and power stays off until the problem is eliminated. The light-emitting diode glows amber when you reach 80% of maximum load.
How the DCCconcepts Aegis upgrade works
A wireless receiver unit built into the base station allows the PowerCab to communicate with it via the included portable transmitter. Once the transmitter is paired to the base, and the PowerCab is plugged into it, the tethered throttle becomes a walkaround throttle. And while wirelessly paired to the base station, it still provides the DCC command station functions. ProCab and utility wired throttles can be used with Aegis by connecting them to the RJ-12 command bus, but they aren’t compatible with the Aegis wireless transmitter due to design differences between them and the PowerCab. A PowerCab must be plugged into the base station for wired throttles to operate.
The portable transmitter has a built-in rechargeable lithium-ion battery that will last about 6 hours even under heavy use, and a convenient belt clip. Charging requires connecting the transmitter to a standard USB-C cellphone charger.
To make it easy to hold onto your PowerCab, DCC Concepts includes a silicone rubber cap that fits over the top of the throttle with a loop for connecting it to the lanyard supplied with the set.
Though the PowerCab wasn’t designed to program and operate trains at the same time, the Aegis system compensates by automatically switching between the main and programming output terminals when programming is switched on and off.
When programming is turned on, power to the main track is automatically shut off, preventing all your engines from being programmed simultaneously. When the main track is turned back on, the programming track is shut off and it receives main power. Consequently, an isolated programming track can be located anywhere on a layout. Engines can be driven onto it, programmed, and then driven off again. Because the wireless system is unidirectional, the PowerCab throttle must be plugged directly into the programming socket in the base station when used for service mode programming. However, it can be used wirelessly for programming on the main.
Setup was fast and easy, and I was running a locomotive in just the the time it took me to attach the DCC power bus, connect the PowerCab, plug in the power supply, and push the power on button. I checked track voltage with my RRampmeter and it was exactly 14 volts as set. Locomotive response was the same as with the original PowerCab and the shift between main track and programming track operation was seamless. I had no problems using either programming on the main or service mode programming. Pairing the wireless transmitter was equally fast and about as simple as pairing any electronic device. The transmitter weighs very little, and the convenient belt clip keeps it out of the way. I also successfully used my Cab06 auxiliary throttle as well as a 25-year-old Ramtraxx throttle, which is NCE compatible.
The Aegis system seems an ideal solution for PowerCab owners looking for a way to get more power for their growing locomotive fleet or to operate an expanding layout. The ability to easily convert the PowerCab into a wireless walkaround throttle and the enhanced programming track operation both add to the appeal of Aegis. And the growing family of compatible DCCconcepts Alpha products provide even greater expansion opportunities.
Stay tuned to my YouTube channel (“Model Railroading with the DCC Guy”) and the Model Railroader website for video of the DCCconcepts Aegis upgrade for NCE PowerCab in action.
Facts & features
Price: £416.63 ($505.33) for U.S. customers ordering direct from manufacturer. Price may vary based on exchange rate.
Unit E, The Sidings
Settle BD24 9RP, United Kingdom
North American sales
Iron Planet Hobbies, ironplanethobbies.com
Kingston Locomotive Works, locomotiveworks.ca
- 24VDC, 5-amp power supply
- User-selectable 14, 15, 17, or 18 volt track supply