Review of MRC Prodigy Advance Wireless Cab
by Don Fiehmann
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Don Fiehmann puts this new Wireless Cab through its paces!
A few years ago it would be hard for us to envision the ability to walk along with our train using a
wireless control in hand. Model railroading has come a long way from the old stationary power packs,
to tethered walk-around and now wireless cabs. MRC’s introduction of a wireless DCC cab adds
another manufacturer to the growing list of radio controlled cabs/throttles that are available.
MRC’s new wireless cab system is called the “Total Control Radio System” or TCRS. This new cab is
compatible with their Prodigy Advance Systems and simply plugs into the same connections as the
tethered cabs. The wireless cab can be used either wireless or tethered.
The new Prodigy Advance Wireless cab has a number
of unique features. It is the same size and appearance
as the other Prodigy cabs and most of the keys are the
same. The wireless cab adds a few new features. There
is a “Prog CV On Main” key that allows you to quickly
change a CV on the main without going through extra
steps. This is handy for changing acceleration and
deceleration rates or sound levels on-the-fly. Another
addition is the “Save” key. If you are using a locomotive
and wish to add it to the recall stack simply press this
key. The other new key is the “Bat Voltage” key that lets
you read the battery voltage on the LCD screen. This
lets you check the voltage to determine if you need to
plug in for a recharge.
This is the new wireless throttle on the left
and the receiver unit on the right.
There is a battery compartment behind the LCD display
that holds four “AAA” size batteries. It comes with four
600 mAh NiMH rechargeable batteries. These batteries
are recharged simply by plugging the cab into the
normal cab connector. The rechargeable batteries can
be replaced with four “AAA” alkaline batteries in a pinch
if the rechargeable batteries are low. The recharge time
is about 5 hours with
the cab powered off. There is a small
switch on the right
side of the cab to turn the radio feature on and off. One interesting
feature is there is no external antenna, it is built into the cab.
The power switch must be on (up)
to work either wireless or
The communications between the “base station” and the cab is
duplex (two-way). This allows the DCC system to update the cab
display. This also allows any function that can be done when
tethered to also be done while wireless. The “Base Station” called a “receiver unit” is a small circuit board covered with shrink tubing on
the end of a short cable that plugs into the Prodigy system or one of
the remote panels. These connections use an 8 wire cab connection.
The Prodigy wireless link operates on 433 MHz. This means that
any MRC system using MRC wireless with a modular layout going
to a train show will not generate or receive problems with other DCC
wireless systems. The breakdown is as follows:
Digitrax, NCE, EASYDCC, TrainCam, LGB (USA) = 900 MHz band
covering 900MHz to 922MHz.
Lionel TMCC: 26.75MHz
(Thanks to Mark Gurries for providing this radio
The battery compartment door is easy to open. There is a reference guide
on the back that has most of the operational commands.
To test out the wireless cab I connected it to a Prodigy
Advance system on my layout. I first checked out the
battery voltage, it was 4.7 volts. If it is below 4 volts it
should be charged before use. I plugged in the receiver
unit to the system. With the wireless cab tethered it took a
couple of seconds before the system recognized the new
cab. Then I started to key in the addresses of a few of my
locomotives that were on the layout. I could not detect any
difference in speed between tethered and wireless. I even
did some program track address changes using the
wireless cab. There was only a few inches between the
cab and receiver when I did this test. This close and the
system did not overload! The next test was how far away
could I go and still communicate with the system. I tested
this by walking out the door of my train room and down
the driveway. As I walked I pressed F2 to blow the horn
on a very loud locomotive. The horn responded correctly
until I got about 40 feet from the receiver unit. This was not
line of sight, but through a wall and part of the layout.
There was a slight decrease of the distance if I held the
cab so my body was in the signal path between the cab
The consisting operation was tested using the old, universal style of consisting. You can do both
universal and advanced consisting with the Prodigy system. The only problem I had was a failure on my
part to read the instructions that come with the system. Once I read the instructions, the consisting
The cab would only work when the power switch is in the on position, even when it was tethered to the
system. There is a recall key that allows recalls of previously used locomotives. The memory for the
recall is in the cab. I was able to turn the cab on and recall locomotives on the cab display even with the
system turned off.
When recharging the batteries you need to leave the system on. An alternative would be to remove the
batteries and put them into a charger for AAA batteries. This could also give you two sets of batteries,
one working and one in the charger. The nickel metal hydride batteries seem to loose charge when not in use
faster then NiCad batteries. On the other hand, the NiMH batteries do not have the memory
problems of NiCad batteries.
If you would like more information or have a question about the MRC Prodigy System there is a Yahoo
group called MRC-DCC. I understand this group is also monitored by Frank at MRC. This is a good way
to get questions answered!