Sunday, April 24, 2011

DCC - A new religion ?

Well, it's Easter so let's talk about religion. Not in the sort of way you might if you wish to rid yourselves of Jehovah's Witnesses on the doorstep (Yes you can come in and tell me about God but I will insist on an equal time spent with me talking about modelling the GWR in P4. We'll see who cracks first.) but to highlight a new religion that seems to be sweeping the world.

I am of course talking about the church of DCC.

Digital Command Control, for uninitiated, is a new(ish) way of controlling toy trains. Each loco has a little electronic chip inside it which listens to the commands sent from the computermebob controller. This device can also run points, signals and sound should you wish to do so. All the major manufacturers have a system you can buy along with lots of specialist DCC makers. Thanks to some nice common standards all the controllers can run all of the chips allowing the modeller to chop and change between makes.

Now I don't mind a gizmo or two. I was an early adopter for DAB radio with an expensive walkman size device. This taught me a lesson and I became an early abandoner 'cos there's b****r all signal around here even outside the offices of the company who provided the transmitters. Not to worry, I have a small craving for an iPad and if I the money was freely available would happily stump up for all sorts of junk as long as it has an LED on the front.

Despite this, I don't do DCC. Partly because I can't be bothered, partly because I don't want to spend the money putting chips in my locos, partly because I don't see any benefit for the sort of layouts I build, but mostly because many of the people who do use it won't shut up about it.

It seems there is a type of "modeller" who on purchasing his DCC controller, decides what he really needs to do is build a demonstration layout to show people the benefits of DCC. Not build a layout that just happens to use DCC but a plank with track specifically to show off the new toy. There are at least 6 different examples touring the exhibition circuit and that's just the ones that have done more than one show. I know at least one club building another. All come with laminated diagrams explaining how to use the new magic power.

Worse, model railway magazines are full of it and there isn't an online forum that doesn't have a DCC Zone,  you can't escape. People say with confidence that it is the future in the same way that today I would say that Tuesday is the future. I'm sure that there are plenty of newer modellers who don't realise that there is a cheaper and judging by the questions that seems to be asked, simpler, method of making model railway work.

Maybe I should join in. I could stand behind my demonstration plank showing how I can achieve movement with only 2 wires and a controller that costs less than a couple of chips. Will I ? No chance, much better things to do.

And another religious parallel. All the major faiths seem to have a way of making a lot of noise. Church Bells, calls to prayer, brass bands and now train noises played at full volume. Turn it down I say. Or at least I would except you probably wouldn't hear me over the roar from a OO gauge Class 47 who's owner doesn't understand that you have a loud control 'cos he can't be bothered to read the manual or just wants to show off his latest toy.

At least real religion has given us chocolate eggs. Don't get that with DCC do you ?


Matt Dawson said...

DCC is good, but I won't use it with points or signals. Too complex assigning the addresses to it.

That's why 'analogue' (DC) is much easier - you can just plonk your newly purchased item on the track and it'll work without any modifications.

Chris Ford said...

Hear, hear. It seems to me that the guys who use it are more interested in the controls and the model is almost secondary. There are exceptions, but for the average small ehibition layout it seems rather overkill.
The reason it's being pushed so much is that the companies have found a way of charging us more than £40 for a few plasic mouldings - a couple of quids worth of chip now means we will spand £140 with no questions asked. Pure marketing.

Michael Campbell said...

Very true!

I doubt that even the smallest chips could be added to most of my locos anyway, let alone sound, thank goodness.

And as for the myth of less wiring, not a chance. Less switches true, but maybe 10-20% less wires if you are lucky, and more buttons on your controller ...!

Anonymous said...

Well said Phil. I looked at DCC when I came back to modelling and decided that it wasn't worth it for me: I tend to follow the principle that anything which I can't fix myself ends up causing stress and expense, and DCC looked like a great way to add that stress where I wanted it least.

DCC also looked expensive. If I ever make an exhibition layout, I'm wondering about having a small label pointing out that I made it for less than the cost of a DCC controller and a set of chips.

To be fair I'm picking up cheap chassis as other people change to DCC...

Chris Nevard Model Railways said...

I've thought of DCC but there's little point for me...

1/ Much of my stock would be a nightmare to convert along with the cost and I have other things to be getting on with and splashing out on.

2/ With handlaid track there will be little reduction in wiring.

3/ Prototypically there would only be one or two engines on the layout at any given time.

4/ There would in fact be more button pressing, all I have to do now to get a train out of the fiddle yard or siding is to align the road (which also completes the circuit), with DCC I would have to select the loco as well and knowing my luck the wrong one - ccrraasshh!

5/ With clean well laid track, properly serviced engines and a good feedback controller DC runs as well as DCC.

I get to see a huge number of layouts with my Model Rail commissions, and the ones that have the most operational problems are DCC ones with incorrect selected locos, momentary shorts mainly caused by Peco points, with the wheel backs shorting on the switch blade which often does not effect running with DC but will turn everything off with DCC.