In the latest edition of Model Railway Journal, Jerry Clifford’s editorial has some helpful thoughts on model railway electrics. Edited highlights below….
The old and the new….
A good friend and very fine modeller recently said to me that, in his opinion, DCC was the ‘spawn of Satan. He went on to argue that operators seemed to spend more time staring at a screen or handset that looked capable of powering the Starship Enterprise than they did driving a train…
…. Buried in this deliberately provocative statement, I think he may have a point.
I was sold on DCC while operating John Greenwood’s Wadebridge layout. I pulled into the platform with my T9 and pair of Maunsell coaches bound for Padstow. No sooner had I come to a halt when out of the yard popped a Beattie to deal with the tail traffic… It was, and remains, this simple point – the idea that you drive the loco and not the track – that is the biggest selling point of DCC for me.
…. I would argue that there’s a lot to be said for combining the old and the new. Iain Rice, in his recent book on Cameo Layouts advocates grouping point and signal controls according to how they were operated on the prototype. A lever frame for those operated from a signal box, with a more dispersed, geographical, arrangement for hand-operated points. If you throw DCC into the mix and use it exclusively for driving the trains, you are starting to get close to replicating some of the key roles on the traditional railway – signalman, driver and shunter…..
I would suggest that just because it’s possible to run an entire railway from a single handset or tablet, it doesn’t necessarily make it desirable. It may well be time to chuck out the bathwater, but it’s probably worth hanging on to the baby!
Perhaps the message is ‘horses for courses’? There are some layouts totally suited to DCC, whilst others are better off without?? I recall that American layouts often have their yards with no point controls except ‘finger operation.’ OK, the great hand appears from the sky makes an appearance, but only to go what the man walking the track would do whilst shunting the prototype. It also occurs to me, that if you accept that point operation is localised, but electrically operated, it would be possible to use both the benefits of a simple DCC power bus, and localised point controls. Food for thought?