• What Will Replace DCC??

  • Discussion related to everything about model railroading, from layout design and planning, to reviews of related model tools and equipment. Discussion includes O, S, HO, N and Z, as well as narrow gauge topics. Also includes discussion of traditional "toy train" and "collector" topics such as Lionel, American Flyer, Marx, and others. Also includes discussion of outdoor garden railways and live steamers.
Discussion related to everything about model railroading, from layout design and planning, to reviews of related model tools and equipment. Discussion includes O, S, HO, N and Z, as well as narrow gauge topics. Also includes discussion of traditional "toy train" and "collector" topics such as Lionel, American Flyer, Marx, and others. Also includes discussion of outdoor garden railways and live steamers.

Moderators: 3rdrail, stilson4283, Otto Vondrak

  by Milwaukee_F40C
Montrealrail1 wrote:the only thing that will be able to replace DCC is computer self controled trains..
Locomotive will be able to run by itself without anybody holding controler,it will be able to communicate with other self controled trains on a train layout..
I think this is already feasible. Marklin's digital system allowed automatic train movement schedules to be programmed decades ago. Someone could probably come up with a videogame-like "AI" system for autonomous control in regular DCC, where the "communication" between trains would have to be accomplished with a central computer system detecting through the fixed infrastructure the occupation of sections of track by specific trains, then sending commands to the individual trains to stop or go. I could also see some kind of railroad meltdown happening where the trains end up in a stalemate. The system would have to be highly specialized for the layout of the track with a general flow preprogrammed and the initial location of each train known.
  by Desertdweller
I'm having a hard time getting my mind around this.

Why would anyone want to do this? Unless it was for a display?

You build a model railroad that is controlled by a computer. The trains run autonomously with the flick of a switch or the push of a button. You stand back and watch them, like fish swimming in an aquarium.

I have a fairly large model railroad with a double-track main line. I can have a train circulating on one main line while I operate a train on the other. At that point, the first train becomes a moving piece of scenery. This requires neither a computer nor DCC.

I think if this technology were to be used, it should be to allow the model railroader to run his trains in a more realistic way, not to run them for him.

  by Milwaukee_F40C
It is not much different from the capability to design a regular DC layout where the trains operate at a fixed speed, and stop when the next block is occupied. Museum type displays or amusement with watching the trains run would be the main reason. For everyone who does group operating sessions, there are a lot more who "play trains" alone. The autonomous control is a more advanced version of the trains being "scenery".

The ability to preprogram specific train movements is more interactive. Some people like to play the role of "dispatcher" rather than "engineer". This operating style is apparently common in Europe. Then there is the possibility of mixing user controlled trains in with preprogrammed trains, which is not unlike scenarios in Train Simulator. There's potential for traditional operating sessions, which can be crowded with too many operators.
  by scharnhorst
I have 122 N Scale Locomotives in my collection about half of them are DCC ready, 4 of them have DCC Chips already installed, and the rest would take a lot of work to convert with TCS decoders and all that crap. I run DC only my reasons are more cost than anything else. I tend to look at what I paid for the locomotive and then see what it would run to have a DCC Chip installed and I'm finding that people are ridiculous when it comes down to charges for installing the chips it's bad enough you can spend up to close as low as $20.00 on up to $50+ for a decoder then expect to pay about the same amount of cash that you might pay your local auto mechanic to fix your car. When the decoder exceeds the price paid for the locomotive it's not worth converting it to me. If it brakes even with installation fee's lets say I spent $50.00 for a 1993 production run Atlas GP30 then paid $20 for the Chip and another $30.00 to have it hard wired with TCS decoder it's not worth it as I would expect to regain $100.00 back if I were to sell that Loco. But this day in age as detail's on loco's get better and so on who would want the loco that I bought in 1993 10 years from now if the same unit has been rerun with all the factory done super details and QSI sound and available for $85.00?

The other issue that I find is that if a Loco has a DCC Chip in it then why not have it already pre-programed to that cab number so that set up is just as simple as running a DC loco you just set it on the track put in the cab number and off you go. I think it's a big hassle to have to program the cab number and hope to hell it sticks. The other issue with DCC and I have seen it happen before are locos that gain a mind of there own and have to be deprogramed and reprogramed after the loco decided to not to respond to the signals given from the DCC System it's self.
  by Desertdweller

I agree completely with you. I have about half as many locomotives as you, and a good-sized N-scale railroad. DCC was not considered as an option when I built the railroad three years ago.

I would either have had to spend a considerable amount of money converting my locos, or only convert selected ones and retire the rest. Neither option was acceptable. I had spent 30 years amassing the equipment needed for my planned railroad.

There is only so much money to spend on a hobby. A modest-sized passenger train in N-scale can easily cost $250 or more without DCC. A major passenger terminal railroad like mine can take a dozen or more train sets. It becomes a matter of how one wants to allocate resources. How many trains would one want to forgo in order to have DCC on the remainder? In my case, the answer is none.

I model a terminal in a major urban area. This means lots of buildings, vehicles, people, trees, track and switches. All this stuff, to me, is more important than DCC.

Maybe it comes down to whether we are most interested in operating large numbers of trains, or just a few. I chose to stick with proven technology and a control system I can understand and am familiar with. It concerns me that newcomers to the hobby may get the impression that, to be a "serious" model railroader, you have to have DCC. Then they get overwhelmed by the cost.

  by CNJ999
Since this topic has resurfaced once more, let me offer some further insight and opinion on the whole DC vs. DCC and direction of the hobby situation as it relates.

The two previous posters have spoken to the N-scale aspect of the hobby today. The situation with the HO segment is little different. Prices since the introduction of DCC have skyrocketed, although certainly not because of DCC alone. Nevertheless, from the manufacturers' viewpoint ours is less and less of a significant interest among the general public, so it is more profitable to aim the products at those with deeper pockets, rather than the average hobbyist of today. The little 4 axel diesel switcher, or 4 wheel steamer, which in DC sold for perhaps $60-$100 not all that long ago is today priced at $250-$300. Road engines, especially the bigger ones, are largely unaffordable to the average hobbyist with DCC and their upgraded level of detailing. No matter how beautiful they may look, what are they worth when you cannot afford them?

Those of you who may have been with the hobby many decades (as I have) will recall that brass followed this same path of evolution. It was introduced as an every-man's alternative to die cast models of the day. Even when the detail was upgraded and it carried them to double the price of die cast they were still highly popular among average hobbyists. However, once it was realized that there was an even more profitable approach by directing the product toward the wealthy collector, prices rose out of reach and production runs plummeted to create scarcity.

Now take a look around at the HO hobby today. You may have already noticed the growing number of hybrid die cast/brass models priced at $500-$600. Even the all plastic versions exceed MSRP of $350-$400. This, sad to say, is where we are going in my opinion. To be very honest, were I considering entering into our hobby today, as a middle class guy just one look at the prices to get started buying new (and no newcomers really wants to settle for buying secondhand eBay stuff) would be enough for me to simply turn and walk away. I'm sure many do.

Last edited by CNJ999 on Mon Jun 30, 2014 10:22 am, edited 1 time in total.
  by Desertdweller

You make a very good point.

If something very bad were to happen to my model railroad, I could not replace it. The railroad itself would be replaceable if I could afford it, but the trains would be pretty well irreplaceable. Years of collecting specific models, kitbashing what I couldn't buy, and price increases in what used to be reasonably-priced models would make replacement impossible. I don't think I have it in me to start all over again.

Maybe there will be a shift in the basic idea of a model railroad: from large layouts with lots of trains to smaller ones with no more than a handful of locomotives. These would be more practical for DCC, as the number of locos would be smaller.

It would seem now that N-scale models are more affordable than equivalent ones in HO. It wasn't always the case. A good DC N-scale Diesel unit will cost around $80-110. Passenger cars go for about $30 each. Sometimes you can get package deals: Kato wants a little over $200 for an 11-car set, without power. F-units can be had for around $150/pair, DC only. E-units run about $100. Kato will sell you five cars and an E-unit for $200.

Nowadays, those prices don't seem too high. I wonder how they look to newcomers? And remember, these are DC locos, not DCC.

I'm afraid the prices today, coupled with the lack of interest on the part of youngsters, will kill this hobby.

  by cjvrr
I want to thank everyone for their thoughts on this subject. I was left with my father's 50 year+ collection of HO models. Well over 200 engines and a large basement sized DC layout. My kids like running the trains on the layout but it is all DC, they need to learn the blocks to switch power and the like. I definitely see the ease in a DCC layout as it could be easier to operate but to me the cost has always been prohibitive.

I go to a few model train shows per year and noticed about 20 years ago the prices started creeping up. This is when my dad opted to find the used or under table goodies in the cheapie boxes. Other than a handful of engine he never bought new. Me having a young family, new house, etc. 10 years ago stopped buying model trains of any kind.

I went the route of buying a full size railroad speeder instead. Then I get to run the real thing....lol.
  by Desertdweller

Just be sure to have authority to occupy the track you intend to run the speeder on. That scenario doesn't always end well.

Maybe you should do what I did and just hire out. Eventually, when you retire, you can model railroad full time.

  by cjvrr

No worries on that end. I have been a member of the national speeder group for 14 years and an excursion coordinator for 12 years. All on the up and up and all done legally.

  by ex Budd man
There's a similar debate going on in the three rail world between MTH's DSC and Lionel's Legacy and TMCC control system. I have a few MTH engines with Proto Sound and few with just a horn/whistle. While I like 'all the bells and whistles' it can get loud to the point of being annoying with several trains running at the same time. Frankly I'm put off by the cost of these command systems. The good thing about these engines is that they can be operated with a normal transformer and some of the basic features will be operable.
The idea of R/C operation is intriguing too. Whatever the outcome the whole idea (to me) is to have fun and 'don't sweat the small stuff". :-D
  by num1hendrickfan
Personally I don't see any replacement coming soon, what with all the DCC and computer technology available ( they can work in tandem or stand alone ). The PC computer is an alternative to DCC, and can be used to run a model railroad. In fact there are various services that help you set up a system to do just that. The PC computer can be used to automate mainline operations, and even enable schedules for passenger trains. If anything were to replace or supersede DCC it would undoubtedly be a full on computer. With a computer controlled layout you could use both conventional DC and DCC engines, without worry.

Mind you this is coming from someone that recently made the transition to DCC from DC, and I couldn't be any happier. The freedom offered via DCC is unrivaled to that of DC, meets in the opposing direction can be done seamlessly ( no need to fully stop the other train ). Heck I could stage my own golden spike ceremony if I wanted to, you can't do that with DC control. Of course I only really run 1-3 trains at a given time so it's not too complicated, yet.
  by ApproachMedium
Looks like for the general christmas tree and small home layout people this should replace DCC. Bluetooth trains, and from all people its from Bachmann. I doubt it would replace DCC in club and ops session enviroments but you can run the bluetooth trains on any 12-14v powered track so they can be run side by side with trains on a DCC layout or any DC layout with the throttle cranked up in that block.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k6xoL6NY83g" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;

Backround hardware provided by BlueRail Trains.
http://www.bluerailtrains.com/faq.cfm" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;
  by RussNelson
Radio control and battery operation. The battery can recharge from the tracks, but it totally eliminates the problem of dirty rails. Talk about a fun-killer!
  by JamesRR
RussNelson wrote:Radio control and battery operation. The battery can recharge from the tracks, but it totally eliminates the problem of dirty rails. Talk about a fun-killer!
This is already out there - has been for a while. But it tends to be for special situations. For example, many large scale modelers (Like LGB G Scale) have battery powered/remote controlled cleaning locos that can run independently, so they can clean track that is dirty outdoors, when using railpower isn't feasible because of the dirty rails.