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What is DCC in Large Scale?

8189 Views 28 Replies 12 Participants Last post by  Mike O
Sometimes when you ask "What is DCC?" you get an answer that is outdated, and really applies to smaller indoor scales.

  1. Gives you control over lights and sounds.
  2. Controls several locos at one time on one track.
  3. Provides constant lighting.

So, What does DCC mean to garden Railroaders?

1. Do we really control of all those lights and sounds? 

Our locos are much bigger, so, for quite a while, we've had more features includeing: smoke, cab lights, marker lights, flickering firelights in the ash pan, mars lights, ditch lights, track lights, fuel tank lights.

 Just how many buttons do we need? How many can we remember?

Fortunately, DCC decoders are really tiny computers, already programed to do all sorts of stuff for us. We just need to select the features we want. That is done by setting up the decoder configuration using CV's (Configuration Variables).

Here are a couple examples:

Our sound decoder plays a crossing signal when we press button "F4" on our hand held remote. If running a modern diesel, we need to turn on the mars lights, and or alternately flash the ditch lights. we can program the motor decoder to do that for us automatically.

We turn on the bell in our sound decoder with F2. That is required when running in a yard doing switching operations. We can also configure the motor decoder to dim the headlight and backup light, which is also required for operation in yard limits, At the same time, we could configure the motor decoder to change the speed range for slower operation with much finer control and reduce the momentum effects so we can stop and start a little quicker. All that with just one button.

The simple truth is, DCC is not so much about instant control as it is about preprgramed control.  Control that is smarter and eaiser, with fewer buttons, yet more realistic.
2. Controls several locos at one time on one track.
Block wiring does that, and so does radio control. So What does DCC do for us.
First, DCC eliminates all wiring except for two wires going to the track. Anyone who has had to deal with buried wires in the garden can appreciate that. We can operate all our turnout, signals, turntables, locos, and the lights and sounds in our  passenger cars and cabooses from the data on those two wires.
Second, It eliminates the glitching and range problems of radio control. A DCC wireless throttle communicates with one or more fixed receivers. Located permanently the receivers provide full coverage. You are never out of range of any loco even one in a steel lined tunnel. You can control any loco, the lights and sounds in any car, or any turnout, signal or stationary device from your remote. You can use any remote to control any train, You can even have two different remotes controlling the same train for buddy operation with a new visitor. Bet of all, there are no frequencies to worry about or batteries to charge.
3. Provides constant lighting.
With the DCC signal on the rails all the time, lighted cars are never a problem. With inexpensive function decoders, you can even control them or configure them to behave automatically or simulate lantern flames or EOT markers. Once again, having an on board computer opens up many opportunities for special effects, Sounds can by automatically activated based on the speed of the train, no matter where the car is. The marker lights on the caboose can change colors based on direction. You can even have the pewee whistle on the caboose blow a warning when backing up or acknowledge the engineers whistle.
Beyond small scale thinking.
LGB makes a working DCC controlled side dump gondola. With so many different manufacturers and decoders to choose from, you can now find decoders that operate servos and do just about anything. Add a decoder to a cattle car with a cattle sound card, any you can let operators know when it is time to pick up the car. If it is full of MOO at the stockyard, or is silent at the packing plant, the cattle car needs to be picked up.
With much heavier locos and more pickup point than the small scales, having 20 or more volts on the rails all but eliminates the oxide problems and stalls at low voltage that analog DC and small scale users experience, In fact, Most DCC LS users are amazed to discover their track is usually so dirty that should they try switching back to DC, their locos just won't run without a lot of cleaning.
DCC with it's industry wide standards for the track signal, wets us do things never attempted or even thought of in the smaller scales.
If you are a Large Scale DCC user, what have you found to be different from your small scale DCC friends?

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I cannot comment on the large scale vs. small scale aspect, but there's another advantage of DCC that I've seen. The ability to program every locomotive in the roundhouse to run at the same speed for a given throttle position makes double heading (or a multi-unit lashup of diesels) a LOT easier to get right.

I cannot count the hours I've spent trying to figure out which unit should lead, based on how fast it runs. Try doing this for every consist, of 2-3 units per train, on a large club layout. We actually had to grade the engines on their speed, and do all sorts of unprototypical switching to keep everything right at the end of the line.
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