Potted History

The story of DCC must start with analogue control, or direct DC, whereby an electric model locomotive is controlled by applying a variable direct current through the track;  direction is changed by changing current polarity and speed by varying the voltage.  This is the system most familiar to modellers and has been used at every level from the train set oval to the most extensive exhibition layouts.  It is tried and tested and it works.

Through the application of electronics the level of control has been enhanced and analogue systems can provide acceleration and braking delay, load compensation, automatic operation and other sophistications that many people erroneously believe are only possible with DCC.  The majority of exhibition layouts in UK are still controlled this way and are a testament to what can be achieved.  This is not achieved without cost however and needs considerable electronics knowledge.

The great drawback of analogue DC is that the complications of control grow almost exponentially as a layout grows and all because of one inescapable fact; all locomotives on the same track will go in the same direction at the same speed varying only because of their physical charecteristics.  From this comes the need for numerous isolated sections, block control and complicated control panels.

The search for a method of controlling locomotives individually began as soon as soon as the model electric locomotive arrived but the origins of DCC can be traced back to the 1940s with a two channel system by Lionel Trains using frequency control.  There was not great progress until the late 1970s when a number of sytems began to be developed of which Hornby's Zero 1 was an example along with others such as the Dynatrol system in the US and the Marklin/Motorola format in Europe.  All of these systems are forms of Digital Control but had the drawback that they were competeing manufacturers systems incompatable with each other.

The lack of compatability between manufacturers was a major factor prompting the National Model Railroad Association (NMRA) in the USA, in co-operation with the manufacturers, to negotiate a common standard available to all.  References to DCC have generally become accepted as referring to this standard but other, incompatable, systems can justify this description; the Marklin/Motorola System is an example.  On this website all use of the term DCC assumes the NMRA standard.

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