• 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 Death Star
I have been pondering for some time now what will replace DCC? You really can't go to any hobby shop and not see on the locomotive box "dcc quick plug equipped, DCC ready or w/DCC/sound". Since its introduction in 1989 do you all think DCC will eventually be replaced? If so, what would replace it? What new innovations could come to our hobby in terms of running trains?
  by CNJ999
I think that the key to answering this question is presented within it.

After 25 years DCC has failed to take over from DC, about half of all hobbyists still sticking with the old system. Thus, most of today's new locomotives still either come "DCC ready" or are "dual mode", not DCC only. The fact is that many established hobbyists are unwilling, or just plain uninterested, in switching over to a totally different operating system and, after early attempts by the manufactures to force otherwise found their customers responding by closing their wallets, simply gave in.

The hobby has shrunken too far today for anyone to seriously attempt to institute yet another alien operating system with any real hopes of it becoming a standard. Yes, there certainly will be those that in the near, or more distant, future who will transition to on-board battery power, radio control, perhaps something even more exotic, but I absolutely believe that such will be incapable of making a sufficient impact to ever overcome, or even seriously compete with, the two current mainstays.

  by Desertdweller
It is with no small amount of relief to read that DC is holding its own. I have been a model railroader since 1968, and an N-scaler since 1978. DC only.
In my opinion, DC is the clear winner in any cost/benefit comparison. For a while, it looked like the manufacturers were dead set on forcing this technology onto us. I'm glad enough consumers insisted on staying with DC to force its continued production.

DCC looks to me like an expensive, complex way of achieving a result that could otherwise be achieved by a cheap and simple solution. If it were to be the universal technology in the hobby, I think it would have the effect of driving more people away from the hobby.

DC is a proven technology that has been with us for a century. Any model railroad locomotive, with only a few proprietary exceptions like Marklin, can operate on DC without modification. Troubleshooting DC circuitry is mostly a matter of eyeballing connections, or the use of a test light or multimeter in extreme cases.

The Atlas line of DC electrical components, introduced in the 1950's, still work as well today as when they were introduced. I would much rather spend my hobby dollars on something like trains, track, and scenery than on DCC components that allow my locomotives to do tricks.

It should be an individual's choice how money is spent in this hobby. If they are interested in the kinds of things DCC allows, and consider the money spent to achieve this a good deal, more power to them. But don't run the cost up and lower the availability of the things I enjoy in the process.

I built a new model railroad three years ago. DCC was not considered. I had too many good locos already to even think about converting them to DCC, for the amount of enjoyment I could possibly gain. I understand DC wiring, and have no desire to do otherwise.

Something will replace DCC, but I expect DC will always be here as long as there is a market for model trains. I would expect "the next new thing" to be a system that allows some of the functions now available with DCC to be usable with DC..maybe some onboard sound or speed matching between units. This latter could be done by emf feedback, the former by overlaying signals on the DC controlled track.

  by JamesRR
I don't think it's fair to compare DC to DCC. It's not an apples-to-apples comparison.

DC is merely the means of propelling a locomotive using the same type of electrical technology that an ordinary desk fan uses. You put power to a motor and it moves - reverse the polarity, it moves the other way. You want to control that power, you utilize switches and electrical isolation.

DCC is essentially a computer system where a microprocessor communicates with remote processors (Decoders) to manage equipment. It's a whole different approach to managing and operating a model railroad - one that builds on earlier principles. Power still has to be sent to a motor, polarity still has to be considered - it's just that a microchip in a locomotive is doing it, via a computer, instead of a transformer directly through the rails.

The reason why DCC hasn't taken over is because it's an extension of the raw principles of model railroading. Everyone's needs are different, and it has to be approached in this way.

I have a fairly large HO layout, with 15 active locomotives and a 21 track terminal. DCC is a Godsend because I don't need 2 dozen isolated sections of track - I can independently move locos throughout the terminal without worrying about where track is isolated. I can easily MU equipment and double park locos on the same track.

I also have a G scale setup that only goes up from Thanksgiving thru New Year's each year. It's purely DC, because the setup isn't complicated enough to warrant digital control (a 3 track terminal and single track shuttle). Blocks operated with DPDT switches work fine.

Different approaches for different needs. I don't think DCC really needs a replacement, as the system is quite complex and universal enough that equipment can be intermixed on different systems.
  by Desertdweller

I think you made some very good points, but DC and DCC can and must be compared, because they are the two most common means of controlling model railroads. A newcomer to the hobby is pretty much forced to choose between them. It is possible to build a model railroad that has the capability of doing both, but that requires building both control systems and switching between them, at twice the cost of a single system. Such a railroad would be basically a DC system, with the ability to assign individual tracks to DCC control. Not very practical in my opinion.

Maybe things are best the way they are now. Both options are available. You make the decision based on what aspects of the hobby are most important to you, both in terms of what you want and how you want to spend your hobby money.

I can appreciate why people would want their locomotives to make realistic sounds. The sound most DC locos make is simply gear train sounds. Presumably, those sounds are still going to be there and need to be overcome by generated sounds by the speakers. A lot of these sounds are low-frequency ones and present a problem to be duplicated through a tiny speaker.

The sounds made by a loco moving past an observer are going to be far fewer than the sounds one hears from inside a locomotive cab. Do you want to hear what an outside observer would hear, or what the engine crew would hear? Even the basic sound, the prime mover, will vary according to throttle position, not train speed. Each type of prime mover will have its own sound. Also, air compressors, turbos (Roots blowers make their own distinctive sound), traction motor blowers, air reservoir blow-down valves, brake release sounds from the independent brake system, lots and lots of sounds. Then there are special cases: E-units have two non-turbo two-cycle V-12s, not operating in perfect synch. "Screamer" F40s go around in run eight all the time. Would you really like to hear all that going on all the time? From each loco? Don't forget the horns, bell, and inside the cab, the alerter going off periodically. Did your train come uncoupled? Whoosh! Another alarm as your PC system dumps.

My favorite sound in all of railroading is the sound a GE unit makes on a cold start. A slow crank as the engine purges: ca-chung, ca-chung, ca-chung, then boink, boink, boink, ROAR! I digress.

My model railroad is built around passenger operations in a first-generation Diesel world. A variety of first-generation units pulling both streamlined and heavyweight passenger trains in the early to mid 1960's. I want smooth-running, dependable power. All track is controlled by two MRC DC throttles fed through Atlas components. I use other powerpacks to power switches and a pair of turntables. A time traveler from 1955 would be able to understand my control scheme and feel right at home with it, only the trains would be smaller (N scale). My best units are Kato E, F, and PA locos.
Electrical modifications to the rest consist of directional headlights controlled by Radio Shack diodes. All 50 track switches are powered.

For the money I spent on this thing, I could have built a DCC railroad. But it would not have given me what I wanted. I rather spent the money on the trains and layout itself.

  by Montrealrail1
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..
But it's not for tommorow..

Personnally,I running both type on my layout DC and DCC..I got some very old model that I can't convert in DCC on a great way to run them at full potential..
I have two mainlines,and the inner track are in DC and the outer track in DCC...the way I did,I can do a train switching on a new way,freight train in DCC can stop and pickup cars from a DC switcher,and delivering cars by the same way..
I made a short track section..separatly insulated from both main lines,locomotives can't run on that section,but freight can be trasnsfered
  by JamesRR
Desertdweller wrote: I can appreciate why people would want their locomotives to make realistic sounds. The sound most DC locos make is simply gear train sounds. Presumably, those sounds are still going to be there and need to be overcome by generated sounds by the speakers. A lot of these sounds are low-frequency ones and present a problem to be duplicated through a tiny speaker.
I don't like the practice of selling locomotives with DCC/sound chips at a huge price increase from DCC-ready locomotives. When DCC was unfolding, manufacturers made it easy to plug-in chips to make locos DCC equipped. Out of the box they were DC. Now the practice is to sell complex sound decoders for huge mark-ups. Or in some cases, like with KATO, they offer a non-DCC version, but not easily upgraded to DCC.

I haven't adopted sound decoders in my locos, mostly for cost, but also, I have a sound system built into my layout that is controlled from a master controller at the panel. Hidden speakers create the illusion of sound throughout the layout.

But the general trend in the hobby has been to go for more realism - more accurate models, more accurate operation. I'm all for it - but you have to be ready to open your wallet a bit wider.
  by jwhite07
What will replace DCC? How about battery/radio control? It's certainly not a new idea - do an internet search and it's clear this concept has been talked about quite a bit (and reading more carefully, CNJ999 mentioned it briefly in an earlier post in this thread). The biggest drawback would be short battery life, but there are ways to combat that such as powering sections of track to recharge the battery. Not all of the track needs to be powered, so you don't worry about special wiring of reverse loops, wyes, and turnouts to avoid short circuits. Battery/RC has been around for a while in large scale applications, where the size of the RC receiver and batteries isn't as much of a concern. In smaller scales, the NWSL S-CAB system is available, which proves it is within technological limits to apply the concept at least down to HO scale. Less than that still seems one is out of luck. Granted, such a system is not cheap, but neither is all that wiring and a DCC system. Yet it just hasn't really caught hold in the market. Why? Cost? Reliability? Has anyone seen or tried such a system?
  by Desertdweller

Probably for all three reasons.

I think the basic reason goes back to what people want to do with their model railroads. Are they mostly interested in running trains? Or are they more interested in special effects?

It appears that the groups are about evenly split in numbers. This is good: you get what you pay for. And you don't have to pay for something you don't want.

One approach (probably favored by those with small railroads and small locomotive rosters) would be to make the locomotives "the stars of the show" and have them capable of doing as many functions as possible. The focus is on the locomotive, so a few highly capable locos satisfy the builder's need.

The other approach is to focus on the trains and their activities in a setting where they interact with other trains. The trains as whole entities take the spotlight. While dependable, smooth-running locos are still needed, multiple functions are not, because the emphasis is on the trains rather than on the locos.

To an observer watching a model railroad, the control system is not obvious (unless the loco starts making noises). The trains and track are going to look the same, and the basic operation (moving trains from point A to point B) should look the same. Since that is the basic goal of most model railroads, the questions becomes how complicated do you want to make a simple operation? DCC is a quantum leap in complexity over DC control. Radio control with on-board power source would be another leap of about the same magnitude over DCC. The market is apt to get smaller with each change. Look at how long it has taken DCC to reach the acceptance it now has. The smaller the market, the higher the price has to be.

I don't begrudge DCC, as long as it doesn't drive up the cost of DC equipment. I do remember when the system was in its infancy.

The first system I recall was made by GE and called "Astrac". This was a little ahead of its time and expensive. It did not gain a large following, and was withdrawn.

When DCC as we know it reappeared, it suffered credibility problems from being overstated in its capabilities. I remember an early claim being "you can operate your entire model railroad with only two wires connected to the track." Well, you could, if you had a small enough track. Sounded a lot like DC: it could run "on two wires" too.

We soon discovered that DCC needed good electrical continuity as least as much as DC did. So buss wires with multiple track feeders were necessary again. I doubt that, looking up from below, a properly wired DCC railroad is going to look much different from a properly wired DC one.

Cost of electrical components I think favor DC. The basic unit is the DPDT switch. The most complex unit is a simple reversing switch. On-board electronic components? Maybe a couple diodes for headlight control.

The "complex DC wiring" that DCC avoids consists of reverse loops and turntable wiring. No rocket science there. Even DCC needs tracks that can be electrically isolated for programming locos and for storing locos without current running beneath them.

If there is a future for radio-control trains, it probably is in the Garden-Size trains that have the space and power to drag their power supplies around with them. Cost of the locos and space required for the railroad will keep roster size down. A self-contained power supply might make sense in an outdoor setting. I would not expect to see this in HO, the gain verses the cost is just not there.

  by Montrealrail1
the difference beteween DCC and DC at my point of view..

Older models was DC and it was only in DC,most of railroad club was running in DC,wirering was simple,but,to run more than one train,it was required to separate track section on a certain lengh,add insulated rail joiner and add button to power or unpower a section,that was the way I working,all Atlas track and swtch,even,electric components for th "Y" and the yard..
Later,I discovered the PECO switches,that was much more easy and it was saving many wirering works,the switch blades was the contact point,price of locomotive was starting at 20$ in cheapest and was going to 60-70$ for a good one,I still go my very first locomotive I own,after 27 years,it still running very good,Athearn blue box F7 and it coast me only 21,99$ at this time,around 1989,my sceond unit was Athearn SD40-2,and I still have it and it's working great too,even if I reconverted my SD40-2 into DCC,it still good...

Then,sound appear on DC,with a main speaker under the layout and sometime,a bit more expensive and it was having a transformer that can have bell and horn button on it.

Then the DCC appear on the market,with sound system into the locomotive,instead to be in a main speaker under the layout..
Price was more higher,and the DCC only was also an intermediate option,for a bit less money.
Followed by DCC ready or DCC quick plug,to let the possibility to add decoder..

But again,an different controller was needed to run them separatly,no more need to insulate main track in many sections,each locomotive are now getting decoder with programmed address..Many of railroad club turned in DCC and now,single users are now using DCC for more fun and realist environment..

Just by looking on youtube,almost each model train video have been made with DCC materials..DC only model trains are not so much common by watching videos..I have my own layout that have two mainlines,one in DCC and the other are in DC and I got a pretty hudge collection of locomotives.That allowing me to run old model that I have not reconverted and run my brand new models,some very old material ae not easy to convert and I can run them only in DC.
And with somee friends,we made a micro railroad club and we do some show off,for the pleasure to share our passion with other peoples and the layout are in DCC..
When I make some videos of my model trains,it can have DC models ans DCC models doing meet on my layout..
Just by looking at the price of a decoder,around 25$ and I buying my new rolling stock,I have now the DCC ready option in almost every models I can buy..
By this way,I have choice to buy decoder now or wait a little bit before get a decoder,but I still can enjoy my new aquisitions right after purschase..
  by jwhite07
Follow up to my discussion on battery power and RC, there's a good article on the subject in this month's MRH:

http://mrhpub.com/2014-04-apr/land/#122" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;
  by MattW
Probably the next big advance will be wireless power transmission. Instead of running wires to each track, you simply put a transmitter in a central location, or multiple transmitters for large layouts. The first generation might be induction coils mounted at various points under the layout with a small battery on board the rolling stock rather than the larger battery needed for current "wireless" schemes. Eventually if wireless power really does take off and things like lamps, and clocks and other household gadgets are powered by it, the trains might not even need a special transmitter, all they'll need is a compatible receiver, and a radio receiver. From a signaling standpoint, this would be exciting as we could begin emulating the track-circuit part of signals instead of playing with occupancy detectors with current transformers and other things that sense power flow or relying on optical or magnetic detection.
  by Milwaukee_F40C
If you are building a small layout and want to have a few trains run at the same time anywhere on the layout, you might as well go with DCC. If you are building a large walk around layout from scratch with a new fleet, you might as well go with DCC to take advantage of constant track power and benefits like speed matching.

I don't have a layout but I have been building a collection for about a decade for my grand plans/pipe dreams. I plan to use DCC, but almost all my engine acquisitions so far have been only analog or "DCC ready". I have concerns about static electricity or damage in storage and moving. Also, everything now comes in either analog DC (DCC ready) or DCC with sound at double the price. I really don't care for model train sounds and I would also like to wire up the engines with semi consistent features where possible so I will be picking the decoders I think will be best. I did some soldering on office phone processors at a job I had so soldering a bunch of wires won't be a problem.

If I do have the chance to build a layout, I am thinking about a "hybrid" setup with DCC track broken up in to blocks and isolated sidings, but just using old analog AC for power switches and accessories. I don't see the need for "accessory decoders" for things that only require simple on-off functionality. And as far as I know, it is not really possible to have a model signal system for either DC or DCC that operates quite like a real signal system so I will have to research the best solution when the time comes.
  by jackintosh11
I think that what will happen won't replace dcc, but will offer new features such as control from a smartphone, tablet, or computer. But DCC works great, so I don't see it being replaced.
  by Backshophoss
Most of the major DCC Systems are working on a Smartphone based throttle interface,there's already a computer interface
with the Java based JMRI that seems to work better each new version.