A Guide TO Dcc Page 4 A Guide to DCC

4 Power capacity - Are you looking to power a small branch line with one or two horses in the stable, or are you modeling a heavy use mainline with dozens of engines on the main and in the roundhouse? Expandability - Does the system provide flexibility to grow with your plans allowing you to expand your layout in the future or invite more friends to participate? System Setup - Some DCC systems are complex. They may have many features that are desirable. But before diving into such a system, consider how complex it is for you to set up. Do you have an interest in learning programming? Decide how much you really want to learn about these kinds of systems. Alternately, you may have a good friend who has gone through the learning curve and is willing to get you set up. That could influence your decision as well. Keep in mind that at some point it is likely you will have to learn all the ins and outs of your system. Programming on the Main - Most modern systems offer this. It allows you to program a mobile decoder while the locomotive (or any rolling stock) is actually on the main operating tracks with other DCC equipped rolling stock. Historically decoders had to be programmed on a programming track. Programming on the programming track is done in service mode or broadcast mode, meaning the controller will broadcast the programming message to all decoders on the track. If this were on the main, it would reprogram all your decoders. Programming on the Main (or POM) is address specific and allows you to set up decoder configuration variables without needing to move or remove the loco from the layout. Some systems have a fairly easy method of POM while others are much more involved. Test them out and see what works best for you. Access to Functions - Most modern decoders have up to 10 functions, and many have 28. Lighting effects, sounds, brakes are all features on the decoder. Can the DCC system access them all? Some systems can only access 10 or 12. NMRA standards allow up 28 functions. How difficult is it to get to those higher functions? Consisting - Particularly if you like multiple unit diesel powered trains, some systems have the ability to consist easily and reliably. This makes the system so much more fun to use. Boosters - Does the manufacturer of your system provide additional boosters if needed to help you increase the power available to your system? Accessories - Accessories like circuit breakers and stationary decoders are often generic. But there is an advantage to staying within one manufacturers line of products. Youll know that all the components, including boosters, breakers, and decoders are compatible. Handheld Ergonomics - Each manufacturer has their own controllers. These are not interchangeable, so the ergonomics, the way the controller operates and feels in your hands, will be limited to what the manufacturer offers. Does the throttle feel good in the hands? How heavy is it? Is the display easy to read? Are the controls intuitive? Are the buttons easy to operate and their functions easily understandable? Wireless Controllers - This is a great feature. Once you have become untethered from the layout, model railroading becomes a lot more fun. No more hassling with reaching something with a cable that is just a little too short. You can follow your trains around the layout and pass people without having to reach around other users and their controllers. Model Railroad Community - Possibly one of the biggest drivers in selecting a system is simply knowing what your friends or fellow operators use. Sharing the knowledge base, help trouble shooting and even sharing of throttles or controllers is often a driver to use a system that is popular in your area. That said, be careful of just going with a system that everyone else is using if it does not meet your needs. Features - While often overlooked, dont underestimate the value of features. Many times a new buyer will look only for the basics, only later to learn of a feature they really like but missed. The good news is some makers sell units that are upgradeable. Here are some that bear consideration: Handheld control of accessories and routes: This allows direct connection to stationary decoders from the handheld. Some systems will allow you to set up routes where multiple accessory decoders can be operated with a single command. Fast clock: Real railroads run on a schedule. Maybe you will want to do the same. A fast clock can be included in a DCC system. A fast clock compresses time for model railroad timetables making your railroad run more realistically, more like a prototype. Price - Most times this is the irst consideration. But consider the aforementioned elements before just looking at the price. The cost of a DCC system is significant. However if you consider the cost of locomotives and decoders, the difference in cost between 2 systems may only represent the price of a few pieces of rolling stock one way or the other. The DCC system is a fairly hefty one-time investment, so consider spending a little more on getting what you need, allowing for potential future growth while not breaking the bank. Keep in mind, some systems are designed to be upgradeable when you are ready. Operating many trains in congested areas like stations is very easy with DCC. No complex array of electrical switches is needed. You can even control decoder-equipped turnouts with your DCC throttle. Models and photo by CliffPowers

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