I'm so confuuuuused!

Hi, I just finished that portion of my 4 x 8, HO layout where I have to sand the cork roadbed, vacuum, and begin laying track. I doubt I'll be using dual-cab control with a control panel, but I plan to wire it so, anyway, in case I change my mind later.. But before I begin wiring, I'm holding off, deciding whether to go DCC. I will be the ONLY engineer on this layout....I live alone and don't know anybody else that is interested in model railroading.

However, I'm behind the times when it comes to model railroading. I've been seeing so much of DCC. I should like a simple, non-technical, in simple english, using small words, explanation of just what it does , and the advantages,(for my 77 year old brain that is slowly turning to gorgonzola cheese).

Many thanks for this and all past help in getting me this far in my G&D layout, stretched from 4 x 7 to 4 x 8. Mike Picture Rocks, AZ

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First, briefly, DC (Direct Current) is the 'good-old-way' for many people today. Simple in that you put electricity through the track, the motor in the train picks it up to run, and it is varied through the power pack of the engineer.

DCC, Digital Control, changes things around. In this case, a computer chip is put in each engine. Each engine then has an 'address' on your layout. The track is always electrified, even when engines are stopped. The controller, instead of sending electricity down the line, sends a command. "Engine 1 - go to half speed". The computer chip in the engine then starts to draw power from the track to send to the same DC motor in the engine to move along.

Because you are no longer controlling the engines using the electicity on the track, but the engines themselves, you can have two of them running on the 'same' track at the same time, because they have different 'addresses' or names. "Engine 2 - slow to quarter speed" is sent out and only Engine 2 responds, Engine 1 will keep doing what it was doing.

I hope this was helpful. Good Luck sdg

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If what you say is true, that you will be the only operator, DCC might be overkill. But, If you plan to have more than one engine on the rr, DCC might be good.

Benefits: You can run trains closer and without having to worry about flipping block toggles or worrying about having a siding go 'dead' to have one train pass another. You can take full advantage of the new sound equipped engines. (They will work on DC, but are a little more limited in what they can do. The ability to control peripherals from the throttle. The ability to have wireless control. (This is also available in DC), but I think that it is better implemented in DCC. The ability to run two trains simultaneously at different speeds and direction from the same throttle.

Note, I did not use the less wire ploy Because the nature of the wiring is different.

Disadvantages: Cost. The need to equip existing motive power to DCC (though one analog engine can be run) The learning curve. Cornfield Meets

There are many more of both, and proponents of each method. You will get other information from others. I happen to like what DCC can do on a small rr, as well as a big one.

Reply to
Frank A. Rosenbaum

You don't mention if you have any existing equipment. Before deciding on DCC you might want ot investigate how easy/difficult decoder installation (the computer chip that needs to go in each loco) is for your existing equipment.

DCC has a larger upfront investment cost than DC (if that's a concern).


Reply to
Paul Newhouse

There's a good on-line primer at:

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-- Bill McC.

Reply to
Bill McCutcheon


By now you will have received good explanations of DCC vs DC. I'd just like to add that, if you wire for block control, you don't need to wait. Block control wiring can be used for either DC or DCC without changes; just select one of the cabs for DCC (when you're ready) and connect the DCC booster to that cab. Set all the block switches for the cab with DCC and you are ready to go. The block controls may/will be useful for isolating troubles/shorts if they happen.

One caution - DCC and common rail wiring are not the best combination; there may be some risk of blown decoders. I suggest that you keep both sides of all track sections isolated and run back to the block controls. Alan Gartner has a lot of great information on wiring; I recommend you peruse it at:

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And just remember, cheese gets better with age!

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... my $0.02 worth - I have a small layout (1220mm x 600mm) but with DCC I can run two or three trains at a time without having to flip switches, etc.

My experience would suggest that DCC is entirely appropriate to a small layout.

Jeff Law New Zealand

Reply to
Jeff Law

Thanks everybody. The explanation was beautiful and I fully understand the concept. Now I have decided to stay with DC. Should I later decide to godcc, I'm sure the conversion will not be major, as I see it.

You guys a great...now if we can only get rid of the mental midgets who dump OT garbage on us!

Mike Picture Rocks, AZ

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Unfortunately, every newsgroup has that type of person aggravating the normal flow of things.

Reply to
Brian Smith

I have what you basically have and I decided to go DCC for several reasons. You really don't need block control, so the wiring is much simpler. Many of the people in my area have Digitrax so I went with that so we can enjoy each others layouts. Third, look for an outdated system on a Hobby Shop shelf and see if they will deal. That's what I did and got a very reasonable cost for a basic simple system, which is plenty for my layout. Have fun.

Chuck Callaghan snipped-for-privacy@virginia.edu

Reply to
Charles Callaghan

OTOH, there is the initial investment in switches and wire that will not be necessary when the switch to DCC is permanent...

(Though that is kind of overkill...terminal strips work as well.)

The thing to do ~if possible~ is try a DCC-equipped layout, and see if the advantages are for you.

Ask around, and see if there are any layout owners, clubs or shops in your area that can show you.

Reply to
Cheery Littlebottom

There shouldn't be a whole lot of difference in the amount of wire required - every rail and block still needs to be wired. You can buy a whole huge bag of switches for the price of a middle order DCC controller and a bunch of hand-helds.

DCC is great for a small, intensively worked layout or a large and very complex layout - the middle ground is analogue territory.

Reply to
Gregory Procter

Hi Mike. Well it is inspiring that I am not the only old fart ( just one year younger) that starts model railroading. I bought a Digitrax Super Chief during the show in Atlanta. Most likely overkill, but who knows how long we'll live. So far it was nothing but trouble but I will not let that discourage me. I put my Bachmann 3 truck Shay on the tracks without decoder, which you are supposed to be able to do, and it fried something. Had to send it to Backmann for repairs, don't have it back yet. Then I installed a decoder in my 3 truck Heisler and the engine stopped. I noticed the white wire was disconnected and I sent it back to Digitrax for repairs since as a newby I didn't know to what pin on the plug it belonged. They say now that they can't find it. Well, Maybe I will start all over and have better luck. What a learning experience. By the way, if you are thinking going DCC I can recommend Loy's Toys, they treat you right and lead you by the hand.

Good luck, Werner

Reply to
Werner Anschutz

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