DCC or DC to power trains

Discussion in 'Getting Started' started by Edavillenut, Mar 11, 2003.

  1. jwmurrayjr

    jwmurrayjr Member

    I voted DCC and here's why. :)

    Twenty-two years ago when my son was 10 we build a 4 X 8 layout "together". It was a lot fun and gave us something else to do together. 17 years ago when we moved we had to "dismantle" (wreck) the layout to get it out of the house.

    Last year my wife encouraged me to start MR again for stress relief. I started reading about DCC and that clinched it for me. So DCC is really what drew me back in to MR.

    It's been great fun ever since I received my Atlas Commander and a Hand-Command throttle ($190 plus shipping). Now I have 3 throttles and my friends (mostly the granddaughters) and I can run 3 trains (we can't handle more than that very well) without thinking about anything but the turnouts and what we want the trains to do.

    DCC wiring is a bit easier and less tedious and less expensive than DC. I use ground throws for walk-around operation and 8 switch machines for turnouts that are hard to reach or hidden. I have 3 small panels for turnout control and will have a couple more to turn off some sidings and service tracks (someday).

    I'm not bashing DC. It's just that DCC has opened up operation for me so that I can run trains the way I always wanted to run them.

    DCC is great fun. I highly recommend it to anyone, especially newcomers (like me, really). For less than $200 you can get a good "entry level" system and some decoders. That's not really much compared to the cost of a completed layout, even a modest one.

    My Atlas system is pretty basic (and simple to use) and I don't think that it will be "obsolete" any time soon (No more than my 10-yr-old TV or my 15-yr-old digital VOM or the 8-yr-old PC that my daughter uses for e-mail and word processing.)

    DCC is about running trains like trains are run and I love it. :)
  2. JeffGerow

    JeffGerow Member

    ...another "vote" for DCC

    I, too, have found model railroading with DCC to be lots more fun than with DC. I have a small layout divided into 7 blocks (some as short as 3'). Running a train with DC was OK, but running a second train involved much more attention to be paid to the switches than to the running trains --not my idea of fun -- And at parties, where I really wanted to show off the railroad, I couldn't pay enough attention to the switches and invariably both trains would end up in the same block, (hopefully with the faster engine in front...)

    What I also wanted was good synchronized sound; and with DC I tried several options, including a Sounder Station, IHC "chuff"car, MRC sound box(es), etc. None of these really did it for me. I heard Soundtraxx and I was hooked (just after I had almost ordered an analog Throttle UP system (earlier Soundtraxx system, not DCC).

    Then I saw the Roco Crane car - what a wonderful toy - now I could deal appropriately with a train wreck, and/or load my gondolas.

    I paid a little extra at start to get an NCE system, but I really appreciated having labelled buttons for light, horn, bell, etc. as well as direct function control (single button controls function output -- Soundtraxx uses almost all of the functions available). I also like not having to look at the manual for most stuff - the display leads me through the steps.

    I have never regretted my purchase. Locos seem to work better under DCC, especially at slow speeds [with DCC, track power never varies, so a higher voltage is always available to the engine (to do with as it sees fit), as opposed to DC where at low speeds, the voltage is also low, sometimes not making it to the motor, getting lost in the dirty track/wheels/contacts...] Constant power on the track means lighting my passenger cars is a breeze, and the lights don't change brightness as the train speeds up.

    My kids (8 and 13, now) really appreciate DCC, too. They like that I can give them a control and that's all they need to run their own train. I think, too, that they like that if they go fast enough (DCC allows setting "fast enough" , too), that they can crash into the rear of another train (or the front if I don't watch close enough).
  3. Russ Bellinis

    Russ Bellinis Active Member

    I posted this on a thread that started discussing Model Railroader and drifted into a discussion of DCC, but it is probably more appropriate for this thread. I'm building a 7' x 9' "L" shaped swicthing layout on top of a bookcase in a spare bedroom. I'm building it to run one train at a time only, and the room will probably be too cramped to allow more than one operator to run trains comfortably. I wanted a cordless throttle so because my main interest in operating is switching, and I wanted to be able to move from one end of the layout to the other while staying in control of the throttle and not get caught in a tether. I really couldn't justify the cost of DCC for my use at this time. I bought the Aristo Craft radio control throttle to use with my 20 year old MRC TechII 2400. I haven't got my layout far enough along to run trains, yet; but I used it on a switching module on our modular club at a recent GATS show. I think it is a good low budget alternative to DCC for a small one man/one train only layout. If I was going to build something bigger with multiple train operation, I would consider DCC. Our modular club is considering going over to DCC. I think we are going to build a smaller portable layout to take to shows where we can't get enough members to go to do a full set up, and we will use that layout to learn the "ins and outs" of Dcc before trying to convert all of the club corners and member modules over. From my experience with operating the modular layouts we have set up with DC control, I think the biggest advantage of DCC in our modular operation is the ability to adjust locomotive receivers individually to make a stock Athearn run in mu with a Kato or Atlas. Also the ability to set up receivers so that if one member has a train on the ouside main with say Kato power on it and another has a train on the same mainline with Athearn power, we can adjust them to run together so we don't need to constantly "fiddle" with throttles to keep separation.
  4. Matthyro

    Matthyro Will always be re-membered

    In my years of smaller layouts my choice of DC power was MRCs TechII railmaster 2400. Then as layouts got bigger, I moved to MRCs Control Master 20 with walk around abilties. I wanted to get rid of those boards full of switches that cab control required and seeing DCC in action at a couple of shows, I was sold. The system I chose was influenced by comments I read on this and other boards. I know have a Digitrax Empire Builder and with infra red units I have wireless control that is amazing. My old Control Master 20 serves as a power supply so that saved a few bucks. Decoders are still quite expensive in N gauge but when you see a loco with working ditch lights, it is a treat.
  5. K.V.Div

    K.V.Div Member

    Maybe, rather than going black and white on this, I think that a "Grey" area such as "Both DC and DCC" should have been added to the poll.
    I chose DCC because that is what will be on my new layout and also, because I am a member of the local oNeTrak group which, due to the fact that our modules are all single track with several sidings means that we have to run DCC.
    That being said, I am also with the local NTrak group and, while our Red Route (outer mainline) is now wired for DCC in order to connect up with the oNeTrak, the Inner main, Branchline and Mountain Division are all DC, and will remain that way for the forseeable furture in order to acomodate those members who do not wish to go DCC and, as I have a large number of units that have not been converted over to DCC, I do like to run them on the DC tracks.
    I also have a small switching layout which requires only one locomotive and it makes no sense to set up DCC on something that small with such limited operation.

  6. Gary Pfeil

    Gary Pfeil Active Member

    So Shawn, it's been two whole days, and you've received a wealth of commentary, and all so much more civilized than all those other forums! (The Gauge really does seem to attract or [at least influence] the most open minded, fair people of any forum I've visited) Has any of it helped you decide? Seems to me bottom line is...$$$! Like so many other things in life, what is important to you? There are so many things competing for those "disposable"$$$! I'd be interested in knowing your opinion on what you've seen.

  7. Edavillenut

    Edavillenut Member

    yes i have made my mind up. I am going to go with a Digitrax system and SoundTraxx decoders. when i posted this i was thinking about DCC and thought that was the way i wanted to go but was unsure. my layout is in the building stage all track on stage one is done and running right now on DC track power using a MRC Tech 4 Rail Power 350 which i like but i want more options like sound and dicth lights. my layout is a free lanced based on New England Toruist lines like Conway and Edaville. so i will be running 5+ trains at a time. so thats why i am going with DCC. thanks for all the help
  8. spitfire

    spitfire Active Member

    Great Shawn -- sounds like it's going to be an awesome layout! It also sounds like you sifted thru all the useful information and made the choice that fits what you want. So congratulations! When all is said and done, I guess that's what we all do.

    Happy railroadin' !!!!

    :D Val
  9. jon-monon

    jon-monon Active Member

    Good deal Shawn, and you generated some healthy discussion and thought in the process of deciding.
  10. Clerk

    Clerk Active Member

    Val. I am like you. I have a Mac G3 with 8.1 operating system. Atlas software is not compatable with Macs. Every time I try to download a program, It tells me that I have to have 8.5 system or higher. I have never seen a 8.5 system. I can buy a 9.1 for over $100.00 but that still does not allow me to get software that is for IBM only. Also the newer systems do not allow me to run a lot of my present programs which I can not replace as they would be outdated. Is this what you would call between the frying pan and the fire?:confused: :confused: :eek:
  11. brakie

    brakie Active Member

    Well,I use both DCC and DC.I use DCC at home and DC at the club...I am just as comfortable using DC as I am DCC.

    Now if I had a industrial switching layout with one engine I would see no reason for DCC same would apply to a small layout where I would only be running 1 train at a time the start up cost of DCC would not jusify the use of DCC..Where DCC really shines is mutil train operation and wiring. All one needs is 2 wires to the track and you're good to go_On a larger layout then you will need to run a bus wire and drop feeders so often to ensure a good DCC signal. Blocks is not really needed but could be used if one wishes to use them...I do all my programing on my test track..

    As for the DCC controlled couplers I have one thing to say.NO THANKS!
  12. spitfire

    spitfire Active Member


    No it's not. I actually emailed them to ask if they might be porting it over to the Mac OS and was told no, as it was freeware, it was not worth it to them.

    So, once again, we Mac users get left out in the cold. Brrrrrrr.

    But that's okay. I'm going with Peco turnouts, no-name flex track and the Digitrax Zephyr. Atlas, eat your heart out!!!!

    :p Val
  13. rsn48

    rsn48 Member


    - run trains


    - run trains
    - removes reliance on blocks
    - light control
    - sound control
    - eventually coupler control
    - eventually less reliance on track to wheel contact (decoders with USP)
    - consisting
    - latching
    - speed steps to match up engines
    - all the emphasis on R&D (no R&D for dc)
    - learn a second language, become an electronic geek
    - power routing
  14. Mike R

    Mike R Member

    Rick; I for one, appreciate you speaking up for the simplicity of DC the way you have.:D :D

    A lot of the DCC folks were getting all 'Atlas Forum' on us, but you've kept it in perspective.

    Thanks again & regards ;) ;)
  15. spitfire

    spitfire Active Member

    :D :D :D :D :D :D :D :D :D :D

    ROFLMAO Mike!!!!!

    ;) Val
  16. rsn48

    rsn48 Member


    I agree - simpler is - well - simple! I can remember in the good old days when flying my model air craft. Things were much easier then, you had two strings and you flew your air craft in a circle, over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over...well you get the picture. And the flight path was easy... take off, fly in circle... and if you were lucky, landing without crashing.

    Then electonics geeks came along and ruined it for us simple folks, they invented radio controlled flying. And worse, they even bragged about it. Simple folk like me just wanted to fly my air craft, and how much simpler could you get than two strings I ask. You didn't have to understand anything, hook anything more up than tying the strings to the aircraft.

    Now you have to buy radio receivers for your air craft, more than one if you want your buddy to fly one, while you fly your aircraft. And the manual for one of those radio controlled systems - ever see it. Enough to want me to keep reading the funnies - radio controlled air craft.

    Now those electronic geeks who have wrecked it for the rest of us have "fly ins" and aerobatic contests, battles... I tell you the place is goint to h..... in a hand basket.

    As they say: "The Devil is in the details."
  17. Mike R

    Mike R Member

    Rick; Latest count on the survey: Tech Wizards 50% , Simpletons 50%.

    A Canadian Question...do you consider 50%+1 a clear majority, and a mandate to separate ???:eek: :eek: :eek:

    regards / Mike
    I have one string on my sarcasm, and one on my sense of irony. at times, I have inadvertently tripped someone.
    Just an accident.;) ;) ;)
  18. rsn48

    rsn48 Member


    The percentage of respondents who say they have dcc in this forum is much higher than the estimates of North Americans who have it. I believe the estimate is around 20%

    But because people who are responding on this quiz also are able to use, and want to use a computer, skews the results towards those who are favourable to computers, which is what dcc is. So we don't have a random sample of the population responding to this poll. Consequently one would predict that a higher than normal percentage of forum user's will use dcc.

    One thing is sure, the percentage of those using dcc is growing very quickly. Three years ago, you could almost count the dcc forums on the North American net on one hand; even that has grown.

    In North America, there is used to be two entry level systems and that has grown.

    In the Atlas forum, in the N scale area, I asked how many folks had stores - LHS's - that were dcc literate. I asked this same question about a year and a half ago, and the figure was appalling low. I believe based on what people are telling me in the most recent thread is that stores actually caring and understanding dcc is growing; its certainly more than the first time I submitted the question.

    However, in Vancouver, there are 4 major stores and one minor store that I know about (there might be one or two minor stores I don't know about). One store carries and is dcc literate, another store carries it, but none of the staff use it so the quality of advise on dcc from that store is sometimes downright bad. The other two stores don't carry it at all. The one minor store does carry dcc systems and is dcc literate.

    According to a guy from Seattle, only one major store is dcc literate and carries dcc and one minor store, the rest are out to lunch.

    Why will dcc grow? Because computers are every where in our lives and so they have invaded the modelling community, especially model railroading. And just as computer use in so many different products have mushroomed over the past couple of years, so it will be in the model RR community.

    My room which I have use of (our study - now the train room) is only 9 by 13. Realistically I only have room for three operators. My dream sometime is to be able to accept lets say a paraplegic somewhere in North America, who can run a train on my layout using their computer at home, my dcc and my computer and video cameras. Therefore I could have 4 or 5 operators doing that.

    I have just edited this in: what I find fascinating is that people are thinking about dcc and its implications all the time and coming up with new ideas. Here is one idea from the Atlas dcc forum which I thought was intriguing.

    "The turnout would have decoder and turnout as one. This should not add much to the price since the decoder has one function, to throw the rails.
    A seperate controller for turnout specific. It could be something that can be palce on a controll panel, wireless or tethered."

    The hobby is changing at a gallop and I find it kind of fun.
  19. msh

    msh Member

    not even going to touch this one - way too flammable.
  20. spitfire

    spitfire Active Member

    There's a major "train" of thought on the Gauge that I think applies here: whatever works for you. I have used this principal time and time again when weighing prototypical accuracy vs. my "givens and druthers".

    DC/DCC is the same thing. Whatever works for you. For me, just entering the hobby, it has involved so much learning - modelling, operations, couplers, materials, construction, photography, history. It has been great fun but for some reason I find myself balking at having to wrap my poor old brain around block wiring. Enter dcc and bingo! For me, it works.

    Then you have the former electrical engineers and other skilled modellers who find block wiring to be the fun part of the hobby. Anyone who can figure this out -- I applaud you!

    No matter which system you prefer, I do think that as the prices come down, DCC will ultimately have the effect of making the hobby more accessible to more people and that's a good thing. I also think that it really doesn't matter how you run your trains - as long as they're running!!!!!

    Let's hear it for a great hobby, that gives us so many choices, and for a great bunch of people who can have a civilized discussion.

    :D Val

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