DCC Digital

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DCC DIGITAL

Professional Layout Services have been involved in multi-train control for many years. We gained much experience of the early 'digital' systems form Hornby (Zero 1), H&M and Airfix MTC. We also attended the early Marklin Digital seminars held in the late 1980's. As the NMRA DCC code emerged we allied with the British manufacturer ZTC Controls. However as the DCC scene developed we expanded our DCC horizons working with most systems over the years including MRC, Lenz, Digitrax, EasyDCC, NCE, ECOS, Fleischmann, Bachmann, Hornby and Gaugemaster to name but a few. We have been constructing DCC model railways since 1996 with most of our manufacturing time dedicated to DCC.

Why buy out of date technology - would you buy a Betamax VCR?

Model railways have been controlled using conventional DC (Analogue) control for over fifty years. Conventional DC or analogue control relies upon the locomotives responding to the power applied to the track by the controller - You are driving the track not the locomotive! Analogue operation becomes restrictive as on one section of track we can only independently control one locomotive. Prototypical locomotive movements become almost impossible without many section breaks and the accompanying switches and cable. DCC Digital changes all this by locating the controller in the locomotive - the decoder  or 'chip' as it may be known.

Control the locomotives not the track!

Digital Command Control (DCC) is the method of running a model railway by controlling the locomotives rather than the track. It is possible to run more than one locomotive on the same length of track in a different direction and at a differing speed without any other locomotive responding to the control signal. This is achieved by locating a decoder in the locomotive that listens to information in the track. If the information relates to that particular decoder, it obeys the instructions contained within. Certain locomotive decoders allow functions on the locomotives to be controlled if available e.g. lights, un-couplers etc. The development of sound decoders has added a new dimension to model railways with actual digital locomotive sound recordings playing through a micro speaker housed in the locomotive. 

With DCC control the track is permanently live as the locomotives are not controlled by the track. It is therefore possible to control the layout using two wires normally forming a ring main above or below the layout into which connections are made to the track as required. Accessory decoders are also available to control turnout motors, signals etc from the master controller. Since the introduction of the NMRA code of practice, the problems experienced by the early multi-train control systems have vanished. All manufactures producing to the NMRA standards have to conform to a standard that allows the required degree of interaction between systems.

So if your not yet convinced - what are the advantages over conventional DC control!

bulletThe main advantage of DCC control is that you control the locomotives not the track therefore allowing prototypical train movements. 
bulletOnce a master controller has been purchased, most systems allow for the simple addition of controllers as required. No complicated switching is needed to use the new controller. Once installed it works as the master controller but usually without the facility to program.
bulletRadio control of your model railway is possible with the operator no longer restricted by a desk top or corded controller. Access to all locomotive decoder functions is possible together with controlling accessories e.g. turnout motors also from the radio control handset. Operation can be remote from the layout or the user can follow train movements around the layout without the worry of cables.
bulletOn large layouts in standard DC control a power loss may take place due to the size of the layout. Using booster units a DCC digital layout cannot run out of power as 'power districts' can be created using a booster unit with its own power supply. The booster unit takes the digital signal data from the master unit and adds the new power supply ensuring stability across the layout. Accessories e.g. turnout motors can be supplied from a booster unit making their operation independent to the track.
bulletAccessories such as turnout motors and signals can be controlled from accessory decoders. These decoders are programmed similar to locomotive decoders giving the turnout or signal an individual address that can be called from the master control unit. Both solenoid and slow action motors can be controlled in this way. Signals and other accessories can also be controlled using accessory decoders.
bulletRoutes, Presets or Macros can be set up to allow simple route selection through turnouts. Depending on the system the pressing of one button can result in up to eight or more turnout motors changing. On larger system up to 256 routes can be programmed each with up to 256 accessory operations! This is one of the huge advantages of DCC turnout motor control that is often overlooked.
bulletMore advanced DCC systems have a screen display allowing the selection of locomotives and accessories from this screen rather than a keypad. Some systems e.g. ECos ESU has a track compiler allowing layout plans to be schematically represented and turnouts opeated from the touch screen
bulletIntegrated control panels can be constructed to offer multiple options for the control turnouts. An analogue style schematic control panel or lever switches can be integrated into your DCC system to operate turnouts without loosing the facility to control individual turnouts via your DCC handset or multiple turnouts via routes presets or macros.
bulletReverse loops on analogue layouts need special attention with some form of double pole changeover switch to reverse polarity. Most DCC systems offer modules to automatically switch the polarity once a locomotive enters the block. Some turntables need to have the polarity switched once they have passed through 180o, again this module offers automatic switching.
bulletComputer control has been a goal for many enthusiasts. Under analogue control this is highly complex with few commercial products available. Most DCC systems offer a USB connection to an interface allowing the use of either Open Source software or the purchase of commercial software to control your layout. 
bulletSound decoders add that extra dimension to a layout.
bulletDCC is evolving continually. More will be added to DCC model railways. We never stop learning!

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