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With Digital Command Control (DCC) you use a controller (also called cabs or throttles) to send information to a command station telling it what you want train X to do. The decoder-equipped locomotives on the railway constantly listen to the ’packet’ broadcast. Although DCC offers great advances in control it is not a cure-all for old problems and brings one new problem.
For the newcomer it is too easy to look at the technical specifications of DCC systems and be impressed by the numbers that are thrown at you without really understanding them.
The digital switchboard Z21 connects your model train unit and your digital locomotives with your Smartphone or tablet-PC and the installed control-Apps via WLAN.
The digital system Z21 revamps model train control: Locomotives, track switches and digital components of Roco and Fleischmann can be controlled easily and conveniently with your Smartphone or Tablet-PC – with maximum driving pleasure from the very start! Your locomotives are automatically recognized and report their status to the Z21 over RailCom©. Software and sound of our ZIMO-Sound-Decoders can be conveniently updated anytime over your Smartphone with the Z21. Link to the Z21 Driver cabs for Tablet PC - Roco are producing realistic cab views so that you can drive your locomotives using the actual controls that a loco driver would use.
This is the system most familiar to enthusiasts and has been used at every level from the train set oval to the most extensive exhibition layouts. The NMRA Digital Command Control Standard defines a basic communications structure at the track level for digital control signals via the rails. Each information packet has an address component to it which should match the address of one of the decoders.
You can use double heading or banking and match the speeds of locomotives from different manufacturers. It is generally true that the larger the numbers the more powerful and capable the system is likely to be but it is not necessarily a guide to how easy it is to use. This way you can also manage large vehicle fleets with minimum effort – and use current status reports in the control-Apps. The standards specify a communication protocol between transmitter and decoder without specifying transmitter and decoder hardware. Any decoder which is not the intended recipient of the packet simply ignores the data and its locomotive keeps on doing whatever it is doing – running forward, backward, lights on etc.

You can program realistic acceleration and deceleration rates, or limit the top speed of a locomotive. If a locomotive runs badly using DC the cause will still be there after you install your decoder. 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 data needed to operate each decoder is transmitted in packet format on the rails in the form of a balanced square wave. In most modern systems the basic set combines the command and booster functions in a single unit; the NCE Power Pro and Gauge-master systems are typical examples. The decoder, to which the data packet is addressed, will translate the packet into a command for the locomotive such as ‘slow down’, ‘stop’ or ‘reverse direction’, and the locomotive will behave accordingly.
DCC has advantages for everyone from the beginner to the advanced modeller and for every layout from the smallest to the largest.
It is best to test a locomotive on DC before conversion if possible, even for new locomotives, and undertake any maintenance or repair that is needed. The great majority of exhibition layouts in UK are still controlled this way and are a testament to what can be achieved. This baseline packet format allows for interoperability among equipment made by different companies that support the standard. Once you have the basic system you can decide how much of the available functionality you want to use and can expand the system as your layout grows; the equipment you already own moves on with you as you add more features. Full power is running through the tracks at all times while the decoder applies the appropriate amount of voltage and polarity to the motor based on the speed and direction in which you want the locomotive to travel. Your largest investment in time and money is often in the decoders you install in the locos. Wiring for DCC is different because all track is live all the time but there is just as much need for good connectivity. 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 characteristics. Interoperability means that if you have a DCC compatible decoder, you can run it with any DCC compatible command station. Points with dead frogs produce the same problems as before and live frogs are still better; the wiring is easier though.

From this comes the need for numerous isolated sections, block control and complicated control panels.
This is very important since the major part of your investment in any DCC system is in the decoders. By simply adding components you can grow into a more advanced system at your own pace and as your budget allows. The National Model Railroad Association (NMRA) in the USA, in co-operation with the manufacturers, set the standard for a new way to control locomotives. We have all heard the horror stories: “I have a fortune invested in this equipment and now I can’t even get spare parts let alone expand my system!!!” Any system that is available from more than one source is not as likely to disappear and leave its users stranded. With DCC you really can run two trains at different speeds in opposite directions towards each other on the same piece of track with the obvious result. Cookies are files stored in your browser and are used by most websites to help personalise your web experience.
Also, having equipment available from multiple suppliers creates competition in price and features to the benefit of the end user.
They typically have a limited amount of track available for analogue block control; DCC has a real advantage in these situations. With even basic start sets able to run up to ten locos simultaneously you need to pay attention.
For the large home or club layout DCC offers truly prototypical operation and minimum wiring complications. Layouts running with DCC can operate more than 2 or 3 trains at a time; the outside loop running clockwise and the inside loop running anti-clockwise all day is not very exciting.
The ease of wiring makes connection simple and lets you get operating sessions up and running more quickly. The addition of sound or computer control are examples of the increasing range of features that you can take advantage of.

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