The past week has been busy for me, but I didn't forget that I promised to post an explanation of the DCC system my club uses to operate toy trains.
Now, I'm not really that big of a toy train enthusiast. My main thing is to help out the club every year at the show, and photograph the event. So what I find interesting about the hobby is how it has evolved in conjunction with computers the past decade.
DCC stands for Digital Command Control. It enables you to run a lot of trains on the tracks without a lot of complicated wiring, toggle switches, and power packs. The main user interface is a hand held control that plugs into a Cat5 connector, just like the one in back of your computer. Cat5 lines runs the entire length of the layout, lashed up to main box.
The system runs on simple binary code. Each train is coded, and simple codes tell the trains how to run though the controllers. This gives you the ability to run multiple trains on the same track, and give those trains multiple commands like blow their horns, or flash their lights. Once running the controller doesn't even need to stay connected to the system. The train will continue to move at whatever speed it was last commanded.
You could conceivably have dozens of operators running dozens of trains all at the same time, so long as they don't crash into each other.
One thing we try to do every year is run a train end-to-end around the whole layout. This can be a problem for the driver of the train. The layout is too big see the whole thing from the floor.
Count the cars as they go by.
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