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MRC Prodigy Express DCC starter system

Reviewed in the October 2006 issue
MRC <i>Prodigy Express</i> DCC starter system
MRC Prodigy Express DCC starter system
Prodigy Express is Model Rectifier Corp.'s newest Digital Command Control (DCC) starter-system. Part of MRC's Prodigy family of DCC components, the Express system is fully compatible with MRC's full-feature Prodigy Advance system.

Prodigy Express is a solid entry-to-intermediate-level DCC system. It provides the most commonly used features including 16 functions, 128 speed steps, advanced consisting, and easy-to-use component-style installation and expansion. The difference between the Express and Advance systems is that Prodigy Express offers fewer advanced features and lower power output (1.6 amps vs. 3.5 amps).

As shown above, the Prodigy Express system is a tidy package. It includes the handheld throttle, a small base station, and a 15V, 1.6A power supply. It also includes a 20-page instruction booklet. Setting up the system took less than 5 minutes. The throttle plugs into the base station with 8-conductor data cable and RJ-style connectors. The base station then connects to the layout's track bus using two screw terminals on the back of the unit. There are also two terminals for a separate programming track.
The Prodigy Express and Advance cabs are very similar and fully compatible with either system.
Bill Zuback photos
The Prodigy family of DCC compo¬nents remains one of the most user-friendly DCC systems I've worked with. I reviewed the Prodigy Advance system in the March 2005 issue of Model Railroader, and Prodigy Express operates much in the same way as its bigger brother.

Like the Advance model, the Express cab features a large liquid- crystal-display (LCD) screen, a proportional control knob (the faster you turn it, the bigger the jumps in speed steps), and clearly marked buttons.

Unlike the Advance, the Express has no route-control feature or built-in adjustable fast clock, but perhaps the most noticeable missing feature is being able to read back decoder information when the locomotive is placed on the programming track.

The Prodigy Advance buttons not used with the Express system have been reassigned as additional function buttons. By doing this, MRC has provided single key-stroke activation for all of the system's 16 available functions (F0-F15), eliminating the need for a shift key command. Printed on the back of the Express cab is a handy list of instructions.

You can upgrade your Express system to include all the extra features found with the Advance system by simply adding a Prodigy Advance cab to the Express base station. Since you'd need to have more than one cab to add a second operator anyway, this is a very easy upgrade; however, for the throttles to work properly, be sure to assign each cab its own address, as explained in the owner's manual.

Speaking of upgrades, Prodigy Express is fully expandable with options for extra boosters, up to 20 additional cabs, and a throttle bus and plug ports for walkaround control. The last page of the instruction manual offers some suggestions for adding components to the Prodigy Express.

I put the system through its paces over several weeks in Model Railroader's workshop and was pleased with its performance and how easy it is to use.
Prodigy Express DCC

Price: $179.98

Model Rectifier Corp.
80 Newfield Ave.
Edison, NJ 08837

Advanced locomotive consisting
Compatible with all Prodigy
Advance components
Expandable to 20 throttles
15V, 1.6-amp power supply
Knob and push-button speed controls
Large LCD screen
Meets NMRA DCC standards
Plug-and-play installation and expansion
16 DCC functions
Uses 14, 28, or 128 speed steps
Walkaround throttle

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