DC and AC

Discussion in 'G / O / S Scale Model Trains' started by GKRR, May 21, 2003.

  1. GKRR

    GKRR New Member

    Hi - can somebody please explain to me the difference between running DC (as in an outdoor G) or AC (like for typical O? Is it possible or feasible to run AC outside? like with MTH's Z4000 & DCS? or is there a danger of some sort?

    any help is greatly appreciated

  2. Clerk

    Clerk Active Member


    DC (Direct Current) current runs in one direction. AC (Alternating Current) runs back and forth. The two do not mix except with great results. (Bang). Example. A train is running in one direction on the track without stopping. This is like Direct Current (DC). Or a train is runniing back and forth at great speed on a length of track, Alternating current (AC)

    I am not very good at explaining things so hope this helps a little.
  3. 60103

    60103 Pooh Bah

    I don't think that AC or DC would affect whether you run outdoors. What would concern me is that "tinplate" track (Lionel type) will rust easily while the Brass or Nickel Silver in G won't.
    There are newer O gauge 3-rail tracks that look as if they won't rust.

    You will want to be careful with the household electrical wiring going out to your transformer or power pack.

    Running DC trains on AC is a no-no; it makes the electric motor shake back and forth 60 times a second until it burns out. Supposedly, you can run AC trains on DC but there are other problem there.
  4. pcentral

    pcentral Member

    Hi Kathy,
    As David said, AC or DC does not make much difference as far as use outdoors. There is stainless steel track available that could be used outdoors. I would recommend if you are trying to decide on which gauge for outdoors, go with G gauge. Although you can make O gauge work for outdoors, it is designed for indoors. G gauge was designed for outdoor use and would be alot simpler to set up. There was a thread awhile back about O gauge in the garden or something titled like that, I don't recall the exact name. You might search the old threads to get more info. I can say that Aristocraft makes a handheld remote control that does some of the same things as DCS. The electronics in the Z-4000 and DCS are very sensitive and I would think that use outdoors would be inviting problems. Hope this helps you, just ask if you need more help. Steve
  5. GKRR

    GKRR New Member

    thanks - with the Atlas 3-rail nickel-silver track, we've decided to go for it. Also talked to an MTH expert who is actually running a 3-rail O outdoors. Of course we won't leave our electronics outside when we're not there using it. We do appreciate all the help.
  6. pcentral

    pcentral Member

    Hi Kathy,
    I didn't mean to insult your intelligence in any way. I just wanted to give you all the downsides of O gauge for outdoor use that I know. I have G gauge out in the yard and O gauge inside and I know how much work it is to keep up the maintenance on them in their respective places. I wish you all the best with it and please keep us posted. Post lots of pictures, too!
  7. GKRR

    GKRR New Member

    we never felt you were insulting us Steve.

    It's just that my husband is meticulous about maintenance (and actually enjoys it) ... he doesn't like the selection of G trains as much as the O and he likes the options we have in our yard area for turning radius, etc. Most of all he's always done things a bit differently than most people (for the 35 yrs I've known him). He enjoys taking risks and having something end up unique.

    we do appreciate every bit of advice we've been given here.

    certainly photos will be posted here, likely ongoing ones as the project develops.

  8. TR-Flyer

    TR-Flyer Member

    Hi GKRR:
    I run "S" gauge indoors. I'd like to highly recommend you look at the stainless steel track that is available for "O" gauge. I use it for my show modules and oxidation is not much of an issue. If the tin plate gets scratched, it will rust.

    Why do maintenance you don't have to? Gargraves is one mfr. that makes the SS track.

    Have fun! Post pics! Check out the "O" gauge forum too! ogaugerr.com i think.

  9. fzdancew

    fzdancew New Member

    Most tinplate equipment(Lionel and American Flyer) were designed to run on AC. Of the two, American flyer used a universal type motor that could run on either type of current. In fact, Flyer marketed sets for D.C. operation along with the A.C. sets. The difference, without getting too technnical, is that the A.C. locomotives require a sequence reverser(sometime referred to as an e-unit) to allow them to go in both directions while a D.C. powered locomotive can be reveresed by changing the polarity of the D.C. supplied to the track. It is possible to run A.C. outside but most of the older transformers were not grounded and could prove hazardous in a wet or damp enviornment. Also, the typical outdoor rated equipment uses brass rail which does not rust. My advice would be to stick to equipment rated for outdoor use since most of the accessories like track etc will deteriorate quickly outdoors.


    Frank Z.
  10. Greg Elems

    Greg Elems Member

    Atlas makes a UV resistant outdoor rated 3-Rail track. You can run AC with DC; the down side is it will only go in one direction. As far as I know, the new engines put out by MTH, K-Line, Atlas have DC motors with an electronic board that allows you to use AC and have the sequence reverser. I remember reading about a fellow in up state New York who had an O scale layout outside in his yard. He used light oil on the tracks to minimize the corrosion and help keep his electric continuity up. There is a fellow here in Reno Nevada that has 3-Rail O gauge layout outside with a 500' mainline. His main problem was a power drop off when he ran his long passenger car train that has a fully lighted interior.


Share This Page