Hornby Digital / DCC
For many people DCC, or Digital model railways are confusing and daunting when your only experience of model railways is with conventional DCC. Our FAQ aims to shed light on the most commonly asked questions, and lay to rest fears that people may have about this exciting development.
- How does DCC work?
- What is DCC?
- Can I use my standard track?
- Will I have to make any changes to my layout?
- How many locomotives can I run?
- How many accessories can I control?
- How do I wire and control my accessories?
- Can I convert my locos to DCC or do I have to buy new ones?
- What is the difference between DCC Ready and DCC Fitted?
- What about non-DCC Ready locomotives? Can I convert them?
- I have lots of older locomotives. Can these also be converted?
- How big is the standard R8249 decoder?
- What else can the decoder do?
- I've made lots of changes to the settings on my decoder, how can I reset it?
- I've heard about "inertia" in DCC Systems. What is it, and does the Hornby DCC system support it?
- I already own the Select, but now I want to upgrade to the Elite. Is the Select now useless?
- I was told that DCC is too technical and complicated for most people. Is this true?
How does DCC work?
The Digital controller is connected to the track in order to supply power and the digital control signals. These signals are sent from the controller, through the track, and into the locomotive where it is then interpreted by a small digital chip, also known as a Decoder. The decoder then powers the motor accordingly, turn on the locomotives lights, or even sound the horn.
What is DCC?
Digital Command Control. The ability to run and control multiple locomotives on the same circuit independently. Points, lights, signals and sounds can also be controlled in the same way.
Can I use my standard track?
Yes. Your existing track is compatible with DCC, and does not need to be replaced. However, you will need to ensure it is clean every time you use it to ensure the digital signals reach the locomotives.
Will I have to make any changes to my layout?
To get the most from DCC is is recommended your layout is one entirely live circuit. No isolated sections, loops, or sidings. This will allow you to run a locomotive to any part of your layout without interruption. This is easily achievable with the use of the R8232 Electro point clips. By inserting these clips into your points power will spread throughout your entire layout.
How many locomotives can I run?
The number of locomotives you can run depends on the power being delivered to the track. The Select controller is supplied with a 1amp power supply. This is enough to run 3 locomotives simultaneously (and even have more sitting in sidings waiting to move!). If you desire to have more locomotives running, you can easily upgrade to the 4amp power supply and run up to 10! The Elite controller comes with the 4amp power supply, meaning it can run 10 locomotives straight out of the box.
How many accessories can I control?
The Select can power and control up to 40 accessories, usually points. The Elite can power and control a much larger number of accessories, 255!
How do I wire and control my accessories?
For point and accessory control, a special type of decoder is required. The R8247 Accessory Decoder. One of these decoders can control up to four accessories. Each accessory is wired to an output of the accessory decoder (no soldering! Just plug them straight in!), and then the accessory decoder is connected to the nearest piece of track. The points (for example) can then be "called up" on the controller and thrown either way.
Can I convert my locos to DCC or do I have to buy new ones?
Yes you can easily convert your locomotives to DCC. For the last few years the majority of Hornby locomotives have been "DCC Ready", meaning they feature a special socket ready to receive a DCC Decoder. Once this decoder is fitted it is ready to use on DCC.
What is the difference between DCC Ready and DCC Fitted?
DCC Ready - This blue logo indicates that the locomotive or train pack is fitted with a socket ready to accept a DCC decoder. This locomotive or train pack requires a DCC decoder to be fitted to the socket in order to work on a DCC controlled layout. It can still be used on a conventional DC/Analogue layout.
DCC Fitted - This red logo indicates that the locomotive or train pack is fitted with a socket AND already has a DCC decoder fitted to it. This means the locomotive is ready to be used on a DCC controlled layout. It also means it is not suitable to be used on a conventional DC/Analogue layout.
What about non-DCC Ready locomotives? Can I convert them?
Yes. Converting a non DCC Ready locomotive is slightly more difficult and requires some soldering, but is still relatively easy, even for a novice. Installing the decoder requires only 4 joints to be soldered. We have even produced a number of guides to assist in converting non-DCC Ready locomotives.
I have lots of older locomotives. Can these also be converted?
Some older locomotives can be converted, depending on the condition of the locomotive and it's motor. Older locomotives put a heavier load on the DCC Decoder, so the standard R8249 decoder may not be able to handle the extra load from these locomotives. For these locomotives it may be worth considering the R8245 Sapphire Decoder, which provides 1 amp continuous current.
How big is the standard R8249 decoder?
The approximate size is 17mm x 10mm x 3.5mm, fitted with an NMRA standard plug, which can be directly attached to the socket found in most modern locomotives.
What else can the decoder do?
As well as controlling the speed and direction of your locomotives, the decoder also controls any lights and sounds fitted to the locomotive. If the locomotive is fitted with directional lighting, the lights will change automatically depending on direction, even while the locomotive is stationary.
I've made lots of changes to the settings on my decoder, how can I reset it?
To reset the chip to its original "factory" settings, the value "8" needs to be written to CV 8. An Elite controller is required to perform this action. Instructions on how to do this are on page 35 of the Elite instruction manual.
I've heard about "inertia" in DCC Systems. What is it, and does the Hornby DCC system support it?
Inertia actually refers to the acceleration and deceleration characteristics of a locomotive. The Hornby DCC controllers and decoders fully support inertia. Up to 255 levels of acceleration and deceleration can be programmed in for each locomotive, making it accelerate slowly up to the desired speed, and come to a halt gradually, in a realistic fashion. Imagine the challenge of stopping a 96 ton Flying Scotsman at a station platform.
I already own the Select, but now I want to upgrade to the Elite. Is the Select now useless?
Not at all. Using the R8236 RJ12 Connecting Leads you can connect your Select to your new Elite, giving you three controls instead of just two. For even more controls, you can even use the R8237 RJ12 Connecting Socket to connect up to nine Select (or Select Walkabouts) to your Elite.
I was told that DCC is too technical and complicated for most people. Is this true?
Absolutely not. Wiring your layout is simpler with DCC than a traditional DC layout. There are no isolated sections, or switches to throw, or worrying about having two locomotives on the same line. Locomotives, points and accessories all controlled by the press of a button. Minimal wiring, maximum effect. If you can use a television remote control, than you can use the Hornby DCC System!