G Scale Model Train Forum banner

What is DCC in Large Scale?

8193 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 you get an answer that is outdated, and really applies to smaller indoor scales.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?

See less See more
1 - 5 of 29 Posts
Hi Bob,

Perhaps there is a side of MTS/DCC that is missed by many people.

That side is the potential benefit for analog track power guys like me who are perfectly happy with analog track power but who have developed a desire for occasional MTS/DCC operations for two reasons:

1. Later production LGB locomotives, Streetcars etc. came from the factory with decoders installed in them - so why not take advantage of those features by having MTS/DCC equipment and switching the layout to MTS/DCC for those times we want to use the extra features DCC offers us?

2. While we may be perfectly happy with analog track power for ourselves, MTS/DCC offers the ability to make decoder equipped locomotives etc. available to Multiple USERS when we have visitors.

This way if we have friends over or an open house we can hand out several remotes and the visitors can each run a single train on the layout while other operators are also running single trains.

Perhaps too often we think of MTS/DCC as multiple train operations by a single operator.

For a long time I thought that perhaps I was unique in this attitude but now I am in the process of installing some cheap MRC AD322 decoders along with some LGB and Massoth and QSI decoders into a friend's trains who is also primarily an analog track power guy.

As in his case where I installed a Massoth L decoder into his LGB ATSF Mikado he does not mind spending $100 for full MTS/DCC features and then buying a couple of $150 QSI sound decoders which I will install into his Aristo-Craft Dash-9 (or 8 or whatever) and Aristo SD-45.

What made it possible for both of us was the discovery of cheap Digitrax and MRC decoders for the locos (along with the ability to very cheaply convert some old LGB analog powered sound systems to MTS/DCC) we do not want to spend a lot of money on but that will make multiple locomotives available at very low cost for visitors (and for us when we are in the mood for it).

Perhaps it is time that we give some thought to people who are unwilling or unable (or just do not want) to have to face a decision to convert everything to MTS/DCC.

In many cases I am not referring to complete decoder installations but nothing more than forward, reverse and chuff only sound systems. I just wire an inexpensive decoder such as the MRC AD322 decoder to the track leads and feed the motor output to everything.

Circuits like the one on the left make it easy to flip between analog power and MTS/DCC:

After all, isn't it better for the DCC family to gain some new part time members where we can all be part of the same large scale family rather than having to choose sides?


See less See more
I might add that just this past few weeks I have installed decoders into:

1. Thomas the Tank - Digitrax DG583S
2. Lionel 0-4-0's (2 each) - MRC AD322's
3. LGB 2-4-0's (2 each so far) - MRC AD322's
4. LGB 2-4-0 Tenders (2 each) with LGB 4367s sound systems - MRC AD322's plus filter circuit
5. LGB Mikado - Massoth L
6. LGB White Pass Diesel - MRC AD322
7. Home Made Sound Cars (4 each so far) with LGB 4367s sound systems - Digitrax DH123D's plus filter circuit
8. LGB 41352 Sound Cars (2 each) with LGB 41352 sound systems - MRC AD322's plus filter circuit
9. Aristo-Craft FB-1 - MRC AD322

As soon as I can get to them the following will also be done:

1. LGB Forneys (3 each) - LGB 55027
2. Forney sound (3 each) LGB 41352 sound units - Digitrax DH123D decoders plus filter circuit
3. Aristo-Craft FA-1's (4 each) - MRC AD322's
4. Aristo-Craft FB-1's (3 each) - MRC AD322's
5. Aristo-Craft FA-1's (4 each) with LGB 4235s sound units - MRC AD322's plus filter circuit
6. Aristo-Craft FB-1's (4 each) with LGB 4235s sound units - MRC AD322's plus filter circuit
7. Aristo-Craft Dash-9 - QSI-D
8. Aristo-Craft SD-45 - QSI-D
9. LGB F7A (2 each) - Massoth L (4 each)

This amounts to 16 decoders already installed with 27 to go for a total of 44 decoders that are being installed in two "analog guys" layouts - for part time operations under MTS/DCC.

While some might point out that there are only 8 decoders being purchased that would qualify as "normal" or current production G Scale decoders, the important thing (to us anyway) is that the 36 low cost, limited capacity and out of production decoders (along with the filter circuit) are what made it financially practical for the two of us to add significant MTS/DCC capability to our otherwise analog track powered layouts.

I am installing these MRC AD322 decoders about as fast as I get them out of the box. For me it is what has really opened the doors for me to expand into MTS/DCC. Rather than lose sales the major decoder brands like LGB and Massoth are actually selling us more decoders than they would ever have sold us if I had not heard about the MRC AD322 closeout sale.


They are discontinued, they do not have fancy features and they are not comparable to $100+ decoders but for the bare basics (which is what I had been looking for) they fit the bill perfectly (for me anyway).

See less See more
Hi Bob,

The hundred dollars for sound was the choice of my friend. I told him I could put a Digitrax DG383AR in his Aristo locos for about $50 but then with a search I found the QSI decoders with sound (and no adapter harness required) for about $150.

It was his choice to spend the extra $100 for each of his Aristo locos to have the sound.

I don't know enough about the various brands of sound decoders to make any recommendations to him or to anyone else so the QSI just happened to be a plug and play decoder that appealed to him.

To qualify my concern about price I will add that my rule of thumb is what something costs me vs what effect it may have on the eventual resale price when my toys must be eventually sold.

On top of my other physical limitations my doctor just told me I have Diabetes so it would be foolish for me to disregard the fact that some day someone (me or my family) will have to sell everything.

Lionel 0-4-0's (in my opinion) will not be worth anything extra if they have a decoder in them so I am going to buy the cheapest decoder for them. The same is true of LGB 4135 series sound cars. If a decoder will not add appreciably to the resale value of something the price will decide if I will buy a decoder for it.

On the other hand I believe a loco with a Sierra Soundtraxx or Phoenix sound system will be worth more than the same loco with no sound so (depending on the loco) I may buy a Sierra or Phoenix sound system for them.

Personally I love sound. I don't have any locos without some sort of sound system. Some locos have a $10 sound system and some have a $300+ sound system. It just depends on the loco and how I feel about it and its value.

I really don't know hardly anything about decoders so my choices are based more on LGB compatibility or on price.

Your response on the Digitrax forum was very helpful.



Posted By bobgrosh on 08/29/2008 2:41 PM
For the life of me, I don't know why, when you are so concerned about price, you choose to spend over a hundred dollars for sound.

Did my response to your question on the Digitrax forum help?
See less See more
Hi Mike,

You might say that I am result driven rather than motivated to learn about DCC.

I run into a problem and the cost of the solution determines whether I go further or abandon a project (temporarily at least).

Someone recently told me that LGB's MTS is a handicapped version of DCC. Eventually I realized that LGB was smarter than I am because I gradually came to the conclusion that the LGB concept of what I would call "painless DCC" suits me perfectly.

By "painless DCC" I mean that I really don't have a desire to understand DCC. I just want to be able to somehow fit a decoder into a variety of locos with the minimum of effort (and expense) on my part.

You might say that "my DCC" is even more handicapped than LGB's MTS because when I am done fitting a decoder into a loco there is often no ability (with the cheap decoders) to turn sounds, smoke units and lights off. As such I am still using my analog track wiring blocks to turn off locos/trains that I have fitted decoders to.

So far my knowledge of DCC is pretty much limited to CV1 and CV29 plus the filter circuit to enable use of my LGB analog sound cars under MTS/DCC.

I may gradually become a bit of an expert on MRC AD322 decoders as I now have a quantity of them to experiment with but I would be misleading anyone to suggest that I know the best about anything when it comes to MTS/DCC.



Posted By Treeman on 08/29/2008 9:36 PM
Jerry you are well on the way to being a DCC expert.
See less See more
Hi Bob,

To be honest I really don't know just what a function decoder is. I certainly do not know how different brands of decoders compare in functions or cost (I know about Tony's web site but it did not answer the type of questions I had or the models of decoders I was interested in). I would guess that they are on/off rather than motor decoders and as such would probably not be something I can see a personal need for (but I could be wrong).

So far all I have looked for with decoders was how to either vary the chuff rate of analog sound systems or how to make a loco go forward and reverse - for the lowest cost.

In the past every time I asked about cheap decoders about all I got was a dead silence or to be told there was no such thing.

Because of the prohibitive (to me) cost of $100 range decoders the concept of expanding my analog trains to dual analog/DCC capability has not been an option for me.

I think it would be great if a dialog could be opened about what can be accomplished in dual analog/DCC operations with low cost decoders.

It is interesting that now that I have discovered $11 decoders (MRC AD322's) I and my friend are now buying $100+ decoders that we never would have purchased without the cheap decoders being available first.

The quantity of AD322's I am installing may well lead to the purchase of a Massoth Navigator. Cheap and expensive don't have to be either/or choices when multiple purchases of DCC products are involved.

I may outgrow the MTS 5 amp limit but only because of cheap decoder availability.



Posted By bobgrosh on 08/29/2008 2:41 PM

And, as long as you like to cut cost, how about function decoders? Digitrax TF4's run about $17.00 USD but, Digitrax also makes functionally the same decoder for Kato. I've seen it as low as $5.99.
See less See more
1 - 5 of 29 Posts
This is an older thread, you may not receive a response, and could be reviving an old thread. Please consider creating a new thread.