DC or DCC ?

Yes, any dual-purpose decoder will sense what power is applied to it, as long as the decoder is programmed for DC.

Tom, I think John's price quote for installs is too high, unless he includes the price of the decoder. I've seen average install rates for labor $50-$75 per. Heck, I've done it gratis for club members.

I am John Galt !


Soundtraxx 4400 sound decoder - $145.00

Speaker/Lighting / Other               - $30.00

Labor                                              -  $60.00


Total  Cost                                           $235.00

Yankee Dabbler also guarantees their work for one year.



I think a snubber is also a resistor-capacitor (RC) filter that "cleans" up the digital signal and reduces any interference that can degrade the digital signal. I have 2, one at each end of 45' runs and so far I have experienced no issues with signal loss.

Never argue with a fool, onlookers may not be able to tell the difference.

I have been using the NCE system since 1995.  At that time, my layout was relatively small, but I wanted sound and DCC provided for that feature.  When the Soundtraxx 1 amp Tsumani decoders came out, I replaced all my locomotive motors with high efficiency motors (either Canon or surplus Beuler tape drive motors.)  As a result, I was able to use the Tsunami decoders to drive both the motors and provide sound.  I believe that the guys who operate the railroad find that sound adds a great deal to the realism of the operating experience.

I'm currently in the process of installing the new 4 amp Tsunami2 decoders in several engines that I recently acquired.  The variety of features provided by  those decoders are mind boggling.

If I had to go back to straight DC, I think I'd switch to tiddly winks.

What is the Soundtraxx Surround Sound System in O Scale require?. That,in HO,requires the purchase of a Digitrax DCC System,plus an expensive Soundtraxx operating component that hooks up to Digitrax only. Then I'm told that any decoder can be used in the locomotive. The sound speakers are placed in "blocks" depending on the size of the layout,not inside the loco to make the sound appear to move with the locomotive by switching to different block speakers. In HO that'd be a plus do to the small loco size,but is it that important in O Scale?

I'm running DCS,and wish I had more sound,but for the cost as well as the amount of locomotives available from MTH,made the compromise seem practical at the time. That's again,just my 2 cents worth and due to my limited experience in DCS,doesn't count for 2 cents in my opinion. But the sounds are pretty good compared to DC which has nothing almost,kind of like comparing apples and oranges.

As Always,

Al Hummel

Late to the conversation - my take on Tom's DC-VS. DCC initial post and some of the followup ones

For me the two major drivers for choosing DCC (or any digital control system) were:

 Flexible Layout operation in a multi train environment: I ran a large DC layout (1400' of track, 6 cabs) for 20+ years.  Attentive skilled operators could run the railroad, but invariably several times during an session someone would run into another operator's block.   Digital control eliminated that issue - simplifying operation  especially for visiting operators.  An added benefit of digital control on a railroad with a helper district like mine is that adding and cutting off locomotives (even on the fly) is a piece of cake with independent control of locomotives on the same track.  Radio linked cabs greatly facilitate operation by enhancing the association of the engineer with the locomotive.  I should add that being able to use a radio cab anywhere on the railroad is a big help when working track or rolling stock performance issues out on the line.

Digital sound:  I've found that even the most highly detailed and smooth running locomotive is lifeless compared to one equipped with digital sound (not blasted please).  In my experience most operators run trains in a more prototypical manor (generally slower and smoother) with sound providing feedback to throttle changes.  The best of the new digital sound decoders provide a wide selection diesel prime mover, horns, whistles, of whistles, etc that can be matched closely to the prototype the model is representing.  For me a must have feature for steam locomotives is dynamic load sensing chuff.  A drifting locomotive shouldn't sound like one accelerating a heavy freight from a stop.

Secondary reasons for choose DCC over DC include:

Simplified wiring -

   Eliminats the need for block -cab selector switches (but does not eliminate or reduce the need for track feeders).  (don't trust rail joiners for reliable electrical feeds in either DC or DCC) - over a span of years rail joiner electrical paths typically fail at embarrassing times or at inconvenient locations.

 Provides for automated 2 rail reverse loop polarity matching (Y's and turntable too) using easy to wire devices.

 Electronic devices available for digital control of turnouts and route selection (great for one touch  routing in and out of multi-track staging yards) 

DCC Decoder costs have declined while new features continue to be added.   While DCS has evolved into a competent command control system for 2 rail model railroads, it has not kept up with the new features and does not offer a cost favorable option for aftermarket installation of DCS electronics in non-MTH locomotives.  That said, if one has an existing investment in DCS  and you plan on running a roster heavy with MTH locomotives it may make sense to stick with DCS.  But for most folks starting out in O scale 2 rail or moving from DC I recommend going with an open market standards based DCC system so you'll not be captive to any one company for product availability, features , or pricing.  

Surround Sound - Maybe desirable for Z or N scales where installing decoders is an issue - but for O scale where space isn't an issue to me it doesn't make sense as the sound isn't coming out of the locomotive.  I've  installed the speakers in my steam locomotives in the smoke box (pointing up the stack).   As a matter of personal preference I've gone with smoke box mounted speakers, vice larger ones in the tender body.    With O scale sized locomotives running in close proximity to the operators (walk around radio control) it is very apparent where the sound is emanating from -  and tender sourced sound just doesn't seem right to me.      Obviously a matter of personal taste with no right or wrong.

Snubbers: Filters installed at the far end of track bus to "clean up DCC wave forms.  I have 3 power districts (3 boosters) with AWG 12 track bus runs over 120' long.  In 8 years of trouble free DCC ops I haven't experienced control loss.  If and when it does occur it is a simple matter to add a snubber to the end of the runs.  For more on snubbers and other DCC info/tips check out Mark Gurries DCC web site.   

Fast acting DCC power management (breakers) and Power Districts.  Each of my 3 power districts are controlled by a DCC Specialties fast acting Power Shield.  With 10 amps on the rails you need a very fast acting breaker to protect your equipment in the event of a short (like running into an open turnout).  The Power Shield instantly responds to derailments/shorts and prevents meltdowns.  It also self resets when the problem is cleared - no need to reboot the system.  DCC Specialties also offers excellent auto reversers for reverse loop protection/operation.  See this month's MR for a good write-up on DCC power management approaches and devices.  Remember - you don't need an expensive 10 amp booster for each power district.  Multiple power districts can be hung like the branches of a tree off a single booster, with each branch protected from shorts and over current by a device like a Power Shield.  Early on I invested a digital ammeter (DCC Specialties RRampmeter) to monitor the varying current demands on the railroad.  My observation is that I probably could scale back from three 10 amp boosters to two.  What I wouldn't scale back is the number of power districts.  You don't want a derailment in one part of the railroad suddenly shutting down power in other parts of the railroad.  One of my 2017 projects is to split off my main yard and engine terminal into its own power district.   It should be Something relatively easy to do as when I wired that part of the railroad I made provision for separating the yard track power bus from the main line track bus passing through the yard area. 


Decoder current ratings - Not all O scale locomotives require 4 amp "O scale decoders".  Most of my brass diesel fleet is powered by less expensive 1.8 amp QSI decoders.  As Wes pointed out, with high efficiency motors/drive trains some locomotives can run nicely with 2 or even 1 amp decoders - a money saver.  With modern decoder designs the decoder's software protects the hardware from burnout due to loading.  SoundTraxx recommends using stall current vice continuous current draw when selecting their 1, 2 or 4 amp Tsunami2 decoders.  To measure stall current I hold the drivers from turning when powering the locomotive up on the workbench test stand.  


Ed Rappe           PRRT&HS 421

My Railroad is an industrial Railroad. I never had enough room for any other kind. Bruce Temperley who is not only a good friend of many years but also a partner in the Railroad that is he invests his own money in it. Bruce does all the electrical he served in the RAF for a number of years wiring British Vulcan bombers he has perfected the electrical so any investement in DCC would be just a waste of money he likes wiring but is also a skilled draughtsman and has drawn all the electrical diagrams out so the if there was ever a problem and he is not around I can trouble shoot the layout wiring myself we discuss everything together as I like wiring as well but I'm not as skilled as Bruce. The layout is broken up into four main districts all self contained with their own controls and track panels every turnout is controlled from panels. Every control panel has a switch on it to enable that controller to operate any part of the layout. We are even going further, look at Republic Steel now look at the other side where the transfer controls are Bruce is going to duplicate the controls for Republic Steel to operate the sidings on that side of the baseboard so with the flick of a switch the operator can walk around and control Republic Steel from that side as well.

We already have a controller for operating a train on the opposite side but no panel for the turnouts soon both sides will have controls and panels just like the Rolling Mill.

I have seen lots of layouts and operated them using all kinds of controllers, phones, I-pads all kinds of weird and wonderful things but have never seen a layout wired how we have ours, unless you operate it you can never understand it but it works well without DCC. Just as an aside we use industrial wiring and connecters from Germany the type that are usually used for factories we have never considered the railroad a toy we say if it's wired correct in the first place using good quality equipment it's there for life with no problems and that's how it is no problems ever. Every Friday anyone is welcome including you Max drop over and see how efficient an old fashioned DC controlled layout can work you might be surprised.

Sound ? Never needed it, as we are to busy switching cars and reading switch lists, passing train orders to each other, it's not work we consider it fun we really have a good time and enjoy ourselves. We use 14 locomotives to make all the moves and even run a passenger service which is not on that plan below.  The railroad is getting close to not having to remove cars off the layout only loads out of open cars. we have lots of plans for the future it's never boring and I do agree it's not for train watchers if you don't like switching don't come, we have had blokes almost run out of the house after a couple of hours screaming  to much pressure! True story. They are train watchers and that's fine we have our railroad and they have theirs I never rubbish anyone's ideas of building a railroad as long as we all have fun to me it's "no worries mate, she'll be right" attitude. OMG! I typed Aussie language!  Roo. 



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A member of my forum only runs DC, Roo.  His wife has just achieved her Doctorate in Botany and has been moved to Kew Gardens, so Rick has had to up stakes and move to England, taking his railway with him.

I have visited him in Melbourne and watched his layout running on DC.  It's not hard to engineer it if you take the trouble and think about it.  DC still has its place in the hobby.

It's all about what you are trying to do with your railway.

Here's a test to see if you need DCC.  . . .  Place two locos facing each other on a piece of track.  At the same time, drive the locos toward each other and stop them before they couple.  Then at the same time, reverse them apart - and then stop them - before they fall off the ends of the piece of track. 

Now, leave one standing and drive the other one up and down.

You obviously can't do that with DC - but if you don't need to be able to do that - or something similar; you're fine with DC.


My main reason for DCC was to get absolutely the best slow speed control and  better sound than what I had with DC.  I got both.

In addition:

     -The layout got bigger.  With the slow speeds, every engine just smoothy crawls around the layout.  What use to be a 6 minute run now took 8.  Also, with my DC block system, my storage areas and engine tracks were as long as the longest train or engine.  If something shorter was on that section, the extra space had to stay vacant since you couldn't have two locos in the same block.  With DCC, you can pack in as much as the track will hold.  i.e. My longest storage track can now hold one 18 car thru freight or two wayfreights. The leads to the turntable can hold 2 of my largest engines or three smaller ones. 

     -I don't need as much wire and toggles.  

     -With the DCC wireless handheld, I can be anywhere in the room and run things , as opposed to having to be at the control board with the block selectors.  I had wireless remotes with DC but still had to deal with the toggles.

     -I can double or even triple head steam locos.  It can be tricky, but even alot harder with DC.

Like I said in my first post, there were {are} alot of exaggered facts floating around about DCC.  Maybe some left over when DCC was new and decoders were not as safe as the ones today.  I found that:

     -You can use HO decoders in O scale if you have the right can motors.  Most of mine are Pittmans or Canons.  All of my Atlas, Overland, Westside and Sunset are running on factory motors.  Had to remotor an older US Hobbies.   Plus the HO ones are smaller and will fit almost anywhere.

     -You don't need heavy gauge wire everywhere.  I am not suggesting cutting corners, but my old layout was built for DC and I had a mixture of stuff under there, and some near 50' runs to blocks,  some places maybe even 18 gauge.  I installed the NCE unit figuring I'd have to pull alot of wire but everything worked fine.  I have never  lost a signal.  New layout is wired better. 

     -A short circuit doesn't ruin anything.  I use the same quick acting circuit protectors mentioned above.  If I have a short on a steam engine or passenegr trcuk,  I just let the power stay on and prod around the equipment til I find what is rubbing.  The breaker will keep tripping and resetting.

     -A stalled engine doesn't burn out a decoder.  I have had connecting rod issues a couple times that stopped an engine dead while the motor was still trying to turn and my 1.8 amp decoders didn't fry.

I think trains are great with 2 rails or 3, DCC or DC but just wanted to share my observations.

Hi Max.

Most of my friends run DCC (not O scale) and we have fun with it, then when they come around and have a run on my railroad  they agree because of the way it's wired they say you don't need DCC of course they always come up with, and again I agree, the story of endless wiring if I had to pay for it, the wiring would cost more than changing to DCC of course I then say if I had to pay for the wiring and do it all myself I would have switched to DCC years ago! and so the circle revolves.

What would the cost of putting chips into all the turnout motors to eliminate the wiring or doesn't anyone do that, most of the layouts I've seen with DCC the turnouts are either operated by hand or they have the same amount of wiring I have and don't use chips.

I'm out of touch with that side of the story anyone here use chips in their turnout motors and does it eliminate the wiring? Or is there some other computerised method nowadays.

I have over 70 turnouts on the layout.

Sorry Tom for hijacking your thread don't mean to. Roo

Here is my take.

I prefer to control my trains not my track.  My first need for command control was with a tiny switching layout.

To accommodate more than one player, I had two choices, either install lots of sections or remove control of at least one loco from the track power. This was pre DCC era and I chose to battery/radio one of my locos.

This enabled me to then have one visitor just operate his/her train without any learning session on my keys up/down switch panel. I could throw all the keys one way and do the same. If there was another experienced operator who wanted to play as well only then did the keys up/down (who's got my train?) process come into play.

As the points were all switched by hand there was also no learning curve for any visitor. This made it a much more pleasant time for all.

When DCC came along I followed the same path. All it takes for anyone to run my trains is to select a loco, input the number on the side of the cab on the throttle and change the points in front of them as they go. The learning curve is minimal.

Full control of sound, lights etc is nice but I can take it or leave it.

Unless a point is hard to access it is manually switched, only three points at the far side of my outdoor loops  that are a pain to get to are operated by a CDU and buttons on my outdoor layout. I have had a DCC operated point on a recent indoor layout to save me making another CDU just for one point. All the extra units I once made have ended up on friends layouts. :>

Most of my locos use HO decoders. The track wiring would be the same if the layout was in a smaller scale.

However that said , there are times when asked for advice I have suggested that DCC is overkill for their needs. Typical is the layout owner who simply has trains circulating on several loops and has no desire for sound. The improved slow speed running, the easy speed matching for MU operation and the chance to have radio throttles are not issues for them.  Those who only operate one engine in steam and are not interested in sound are also good candidates for just using dc.

I have operated on large layouts with lots of switches for track and points and sometimes signals and I enjoy the challenge, but I realise it is not for everybody.







Running NSWGR O scale in the Australian sun ( and wind ,and rain and snow.......)

Roo posted:

Hi Max.

I'm out of touch with that side of the story anyone here use chips in their turnout motors and does it eliminate the wiring? Or is there some other computerised method nowadays.

I have over 70 turnouts on the layout.

Sorry Tom for hijacking your thread don't mean to. Roo

Your railroad is doing what you want it to do, Roo.

Far be it from me to criticize.  It obviously works well for you.

Yes.  My turnouts are DCC, but they have to be for software control. 

Keep doing what you are doing.  Remember the MFR Rule? 

I should mention that when considering whether or not to digitally control turnouts one need not go 100%.  Based on operational need/utility some turnouts on my railroad are digitized, some are controlled by traditional panel mounted selectors, and a few are hand throws.  All turnouts in the maze of crossovers approaching the staging yards are digital so that the tower operator (no CTC on PRR's 1950's main lines) can select the rout in and out of staging with one touch of a button. 

I also use digitally controlled turnouts in areas where the turnout can be thrown from multiple panels.  Bi-color (red-green) LEDS wired in series with the switch motors indicate the status of the turnouts.  Though the digitized turnouts can be thrown using the walk around cabs, we generally don't use that capability as it is too easy for operators to select the wrong turnout number.

Ed Rappe           PRRT&HS 421

  Earlier this year, I finally bit the bullet, and had NCE D408SR decoders put into my brass engines, along with LED lighting and  TCS keep alives.  I had been stocking up on the decoders, and had picked up the keep alives from DCC Specialties, but the installation cost was a hit to the old wallet.   I did a few engines at a time, which kind of spread out the cost.   Overall, I am glad I did it.    Steve Fields is my DCC guy, recommended by Ted from Rails Unlimited.   He may not be the cheapest, but his work is first rate!   Everybody from the Fox Valley O Scalers uses him for their work.

Hi Tom;    Sure......The per unit price, labor only for the decoder, keep alive, and LED lighting was around $300 to $400.   Yes, a hefty price tag, but Steve is a genius at what he does.   Every one  that I talk to that he has done work for, speaks very highly of his work.   When he gets models shipped to him from in all places, India......you know he is good!     And for what he had to do as far as lighting goes, it is not too bad of a cost.    Putting LED lighting in Overland diesels, especially the ditch lights, is like having a prostate exam done by the Dr. putting his finger up through your nose.....

Nasal prostate exam? Don't like the smell that. 

$300 - $400 plus the parts?  Humm.  Got a few more batt/RC locos being done for about the same number.  Granted not apples to apples but they will be wireless control w/o track concerns. 

Neat bumper sticker:  "Nobody owes you anything, neither respect nor income.  All must be earned."

Ed Kelly posted:

When I considered all the blocks that I would have to wire, I chose DCC.  It makes wiring much simpler and you run far less wire.


I have one block on my layout so the wiring cannot get more simple. I think sound is ridiculous, so I use DC. 21st century equipment means DCC is a money and time waster.


My friend and fellow operator Bruce, just finished the new control panel for Valley Forge. It's a DC panel it's kept simple no lights just buttons and switches we have always worked on keeping things as easy as possible for ourselves and visitors!

It's 2mm aluminium with a A4 certificate frame around the outside.

We installed it yesterday Bruce will be connecting it up to the layout in the next couple of days. He describes what he does as a hobby he doesn't have space or time for a layout, he has the YVRR to operate on anyway virtually anytime he likes, it's a good arrangement. We are a two member club. Nev. (Roo)




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I would like to further explain that the LED lights put in my diesels are not the typical hobby shop variety, but commercial / industrial grade LEDs that were installed.  Plus several of my units needed some new wiring as Overland uses solid wire that is very brittle.  This was replaced with 38ga magnet wire, that remains more flexible with age......

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