The new Central Station from Märklin offers new and exciting ways to operate and automate your model railway layout.
Previously there was the Central Station 2 (60215), but this time Märklin introduces Central Station 3 (Märklin 60226) (hereafter CS3) and Central Station 3 Plus (Märklin 60216) (hereafter CS3Plus).
The Central Station 3 Plus (Märklin 60216)
Why Are There Two Central Stations?
One might think that we are talking about a big brother and little brother solution, but in reality we are not. This is not the idea. The idea is that all model railway operators have different needs and requirements. Some times a CS3 will do the trick, other times your requirements will demand a CS3Plus.
At the end of the day, it all comes to this: Do you want to be able to connect your Central Station with other people's Central Station? If the answer is yes, then the CS3Plus is for you.
Which Central Station Is The Right Choice For Me?
Before you can make your choice and order your new Central Station, you need to know a few things about the two candidates.
With regards to software features they are identical, the difference is in the plugs on the back side of the box. The different plugs support two different usage scenarios and you will quickly be able to identify to which scenario you belong.
In this post, I will describe the different scenarios thus making it easier for you to make your choice.
The back side of the Central Station 3 Plus.
You will encounter a new term "Märklin-Bus". This is the name of the network that is created when you connect the different units like CS3, CS3Plus, CS2 (old Central Station), Mobile Station 2 (MS2), S88 LINK, boosters etc.
You connect the units using the Terminal unit (Märklin 60125), which is a distribution socket for expanding the Märklin-Bus.
Note: The Märklin-Bus is also known as the CAN-Bus. This is just another name, there is no difference what so ever.
The Common Features
The CS3 and CS3 Plus are fundamentally the same.
- Both Central Stations have the same software and thus the same features for operating and automating your model railway.
- Both Central Stations have a network interface so you can connect your Central Station to your home network and make use of the great apps and third party software that is available.
- Both Central Stations have an output of 3A (ampere) or 5A depending on the power source you use. For gauges OO, H0, TT and N, Märklin recommends using 3A power supply (Märklin 60061). For gauges 1, G and 0, Märklin recommends 5A power supply (Märklin 60101).
- Both Central Stations have the same internal processor, 4 GB of internal storage and thus the same performance. The performance is around 7 times better than the previous Central Station 2.
- Both Central Stations have a large 7" touch screen similar to the one you know from your smartphone or tablet.
- Both Central Stations support up to 32 decoder functions with the new Märklin decoder generations.
Want to know more? You can read more about the features in the Märklin 2016 New Items brochure and in the upcoming editions of Märklin Magazin, which usually discusses all that is worth knowing about Märklin Digital. Märklin Magazin is available in English, French, Dutch and German.
A CS3 will give you the same features as a CS3Plus, but it will not allow you to connect to other CS3's and you will not get a direct input plug for S88 feedback modules.
The above does not mean that you cannot expand your layout, it just means that there can be only one CS3 in your entire Märklin-Bus. You can still expand your setup with additional CS3Plus's.
The CS3 has two outputs for the Märklin-Bus at which you can connect the Terminal unit. The Terminal unit will allow you to connect Märklin-Bus accessories like boosters, S88 LINK modules and as many CS3Plus as you like.
The CS3 does not have a direct input plug for S88 feedback modules, this does not mean that you cannot use it for feedback. You can always connect an S88 LINK module (Märklin 60883) and receive your feedback that way.
These usage scenarios will help you decide if a CS3 is for you.
Example 1: If you just need a controller, and have no plans on connecting it to your friend's - or club's Märklin-Bus. You can go for a CS3. You can always expand your setup later with additional CS3Plus's.
Example 2: If you have no plans on connecting your CS3 with other Central Stations, but would like to use feedback modules to automate your layout. Your solution can be a CS3 with a Terminal unit and an S88 LINK module.
- The CS3 gives you a good starting point for your digital model railway, being all gauges from 1 to OO, H0, TT or N.
- The CS3 can be expanded with all the Märklin-Bus components such as boosters, S88 LINK etc.
- You can connect additional CS3Plus for more operational fun.
Limitations To Consider
- You cannot connect a CS3 to another CS3. If you want to have more Central Stations, you will have expand with a CS3Plus.
The overall advantage of the CS3Plus is that you can connect it to other CS3Plus's (or one CS3) and expand your options for operating your model railway. This will come in handy if you run trains with your friends, or if you run Märklin Digital at your model railway club.
When you connect your CS3Plus to other Central Stations, one Central Station will take the role of the master and the others will be the slaves. The master will be able to share its track plans and trains for all the slaves to control.
The output of the CS3Plus can be used as a booster. This is a huge advantage over the previous versions. Instead of expanding the capacity of your layout using an old fashioned booster unit, you can now expand it using a CS3Plus. This way you expand your capacity and also enjoy the freedom of an additional controller for your friends to use when you run trains together.
CS3Plus has a direct connection for the feedback modules S88 AC (Märklin 60881) and S88 DC (Märklin 60883). The connection is through the plug type known as S88-N (just a standard RJ45 network cable, N is for network cable).
The advantage is that the network cables are shielded, giving you the option to have long stretches of feedback cables without loosing the quality of the signal.
Example 1: You and some friends meet from time to time to run your trains. You build the layout as you go, and enjoy seeing your models run. The CS3Plus is for you, since it will allow you to connect all your Central Stations together, share the trains and enjoy running the trains from your personal controller.
Example 2: A model railway club is investing in Märklin Digital and relying on members bringing their own Central Station to operate the club layout. Each member should choose a CS3Plus. The club could choose to invest in a CS3 as the master and store all the track plans, trains and automation in that. Members connecting their CS3Plus will be able to use the track plans and trains from the master.
Example 3: A group of people build modules and some times connect them to run trains on a huge layout. Each member should choose a CS3Plus. You will get the benefit of being able to connect the controllers, but you will also get the benefit of the booster output of each CS3Plus. Some members might bring a station and some mainline modules. This member's CS3Plus can supply the member's own modules with power. If an overload occurs, only that section will shut down. All other sections will still be able to run. This gives all members more operational freedom and it adds to the stability of the digital system.
- The best solution if you want to run your trains together with others.
- S88 input plug using the S88-N plug type.
- You can use the CS3Plus as a booster.
- You can connect as many CS3Plus as you like, plus one CS3.
Limitations To Consider
Conclusion: You can consider the CS3Plus a controller/booster/S88 LINK bundle (the S88 LINK module do provide 16 feedback ports, whereas the CS3Plus does not. You will need to get a S88 AC or S88 DC feedback module and connect it to the CS3Plus to begin using feedback).
Questions And Answers
Here is a collection of questions and answers that I often encounter when talking about Märklin Digital.
Question: Can I use Märklin Digital with a 2-rail (DC) layout?
Yes! Of course you can! Märklin Digital is NMRA DCC compatible. The Central Station is a multiprotocol controller, it supports DCC, mfx, mfx+ and MM (Märklin Motorola).
Question: Can I use my Central Station 2 with the CS3 and CS3Plus?
Yes! The Central Station 2 (Märklin 60214 and 60215) can be connected with a CS3 and CS3Plus the same way that you connect other CS3Plus's.
Question: Can I use my Mobile Station 2 with the CS3 and CS3Plus?
Yes! The CS3 and CS3Plus have direct connections for the Mobile Station on the front. You can also connect Terminal units to your Märklin-Bus and connect the Mobile Station 2 to them using an adapter cable.
Question: Is the CS3 a must before adding CS3Plus?
No. You can base your entire setup on using only CS3Plus if you like.
Question: Since the CS3 does not have an S88 input plug for feedback sensors, will I loose the ability to have feedback on my layout?
No. You can install an S88 LINK module in your layout and connect the feedback sensors to that. If you use the Terminal unit, you do not even have to place the S88 LINK module near your CS3, you can place it where it makes sense to you. Using the Terminal unit and the S88 LINK module gives you more freedom and less cable work. The combination is always worth considering, even if you go for the CS3Plus.
Question: If I use the CS3Plus as a booster, will it give me the same features as a standard Märklin booster?
Yes! A CS3Plus used as a booster is equivalent to installing a standard Märklin booster. The CS3Plus, however, will give you even more advantages as you now have an extra controller for your friends to use. You will also have a new entry point for feedback modules.
Question: I'm in doubt! Which Central Station should I choose, so I do not limit myself if I decide to want to take it with me and run trains at my friend's layout?
In this situation, you should choose a CS3Plus. That way you will not limit yourself.
Question: I'm in doubt! What if I go for a CS3 and decide to expand my setup? Will I limit myself when not choosing a CS3Plus?
No. You can always start out with a CS3 and later expand using a CS3Plus.
Question: I have heard that I can use a 5A power supply to go with H0, but you and Märklin recommend using a 3A power supply? Why is this?
While it is true that you can use a 5A power supply with H0, you have to keep in mind that this calls for attention to detail when doing your cable work. Your cables may not bee too thin, so you have to consider the thickness of your cables.
If you do not take this serious, and this is really important, you will risk that an overload will go undetected. This will potentially destroy your models.
If you follow Märklin's recommendation and use a 3A power supply, you minimize the risk of an undetected overload considerably!
If you do not understand any of the above, you should definitely always use a 3A power supply. If you ever want to expand the capacity of your layout, you are better off buying a booster or perhaps even a CS3Plus and stay safe.
Products Mentioned In This Post
Here is a list of the products that I have mentioned in the post. Since this is a long post, I will save you the trouble looking for product numbers and provide this convenient table.
| Product Name
|Central Station 3, CS3
|Central Station 3 Plus, CS3Plus
||You will typically install many of these. They are the sockets to which you connect other Märklin-bus components. You can also have them strategically placed around your layout to provide connection points for the Mobile Station. I highly recommend checking them out.
||Containing an optocoupler to receive feedback based on power consumption. Mostly used for 2-rail (DC).
|Power Supply, 3A
||For gauges OO, H0, TT and N
|Power Supply, 5A
||For gauges 1, G and 0
|Mobile Station 2
Märklin 60653, 60657
Trix 66950, 66955
|There are no differences on the different products mentioned, except for the colour of the casing and the buttons.
Which Central Station should you choose? To sum things up, it all comes down to you asking yourself one question:
"Am I going to bring my Central Station to a friend or club and connect with them?".
If you can answer yes to this question, the CS3Plus is for you.
If you are in the market for a digital system, give Märklin Digital products a try, I think you will be happy with the result!
Update: According to Märklin Magazin 01/2016, Märklin is considering on an option to allow you to upgrade your CS3 into a CS3Plus!
I have written a Danish translation of this article. You can download it here: vaerd_at_vide_om_cs3_og_cs3plus.pdf (1.42 mb)
Modellbahntechnik Aktuell has a translation of my article available for the German speaking part of the World. You can check it out here: https://www.modellbahntechnik-aktuell.de/tipp/wissenswertes-zur-neuen-maerklin-central-station-3-und-der-central-station-3-plus/
Product photos by Märklin.