I’ve gone on record before as saying that I prefer analog / DC trains over digital but there are six reasons I get envious.
The number 1 standout reason why people fall in love with digital
One of the biggest advantages for most people: lights, smoke and sound. Just watch the video and dream of digital.
How can anyone not want this?
But this also raises a smile
If you’re one of the many readers who are moved by moving your engines DCC will delight.
On analogue tracks, all the trains move at once and at the same speed.
But on digital, every train can be independently controlled. Frank Hornby would have revelled in the ability to bring two couple locos to a halt, uncouple them and then drive one off while leaving the other behind.
Extra: Converting An Analog Train to Digital
If you’ve got analogue trains and are tempted by what you read here, don’t worry.
Most existing DC trains can be upgraded. You’ll need the central computer and throttle (controller) of course but this will save you replacing your trains. The video below gives a quick guide to the process.
Not to mention this analogue frustration fracker
Closely allied to my second point in this list of DCC advantages is precision control. If the stop-go control of analogue rattles you, you’ll delight in the precision control possible with digital.
Want to dim the lights on a loco while as it approaches a station, no problem. Need to slow a shunter right down for coupling, easy. Just as you can control multiple trains independently you can also control the different features of individual trains and with precision.
But my favourite advantage is…
For me, with my computer geek hat on, one feature that could tempt me away from analogue is programmatic control.
Admittedly, this can be done with DC trains, there’s a good guide to doing this at PC-Control, but it only really automates the trains and doesn’t introduce new capabilities to the trains.
Hooking up a DCC train set to a computer enables a multitude of new capabilities, including the control of train functions via computer software and automated layout operation.
You don’t even need to use a standard computer. If you fancy a challenge, you can use the low-cost Raspberry Pie or Adrindo open source computers for a DIY thrill.
Admittedly, I’m slightly different for most people. I enjoy programming and it’s this aspect that appeals but for most, it will be the ability to set up the automatic running of the trains to timetables with precise timing.
Finally, to see your kid’s eyes light up
For kids fun, it’s also possible to hook up DCC trains to wireless and game console controllers. Wireless options also help for large layouts where you might want to control the trains while walking around the layout.
Depending on the system used, it’s also possible to use an iPhone or Android phone to control them.
Another idea that’s just crossed my mind, hooking up an xBox Kinect controller to control trains via hand actions. This could add a whole lot of fun for kids. I’d love to hear if anyone has done this! Sounds like one for Sheldon and the Big Bang Theory crew.
How much do you like these popular digital benefits? Share with other model railway enthusiasts here on Model Railway Engineer in a comment below.
> A final, personal, note: I spend a huge amount of time testing, photographing, writing and researching techniques for these articles and pay for all the running costs of MRE out of my own pocket. If you found this article useful you can support me by making a donation on my fund-raising page. Thanks and happy modelling, Andy.