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How Many Trains Can I Operate?

Posted by on Dec 18, 2014 in Miscellaneous, Tony's Tips |

The actual number of trains you can run is determined by several factors. Seriously, how much room do you really have to run trains? For most people the answer is – “Not Enough!”

To figure out how many trains you can run with DCC you’ll need to know the address range supported by your system and your decoders, how much power you will need to run a given number of locomotives and how many throttles your system will support.

Address Range

DCC systems can access anywhere from 6 to over 9,000 addresses. This is the number of addresses you can assign to your decoders, not necessarily the number of locomotives you can run at a time. Some decoders can only use “2-digit addressing” others can use both “2 digit” and “4 digit addressing”. The advantage to 2 digit addressing is that it is much simpler to use. The advantage of 4 digit addressing is that you can assign the number painted on the side of the locomotive as its address. Most DCC systems can run both types of decoders on the same layout.

Power Requirements

The maximum number of trains you can actually run will ultimately be determined by the amount of power you supply to your layout. Each DCC booster is rated for between 3 and 8 Amps. This means that you can run as many locomotives as your booster can power. To run more locomotives, you’ll need to add more boosters.

How Many Throttles Can Your System Support?

Another factor that determines how many trains you can run is the number of throttles your system will support. DCC systems support from 4 to over 200 throttles. Check with your manufacturer if you are planning to have a lot of operators.

ALWAYS check the Voltage on the track to avoid destroying decoders. Check the amps you use to avoid overloading the booster.

Adapted from “Digital Command Control: The Wave of the Future”, by Zana and A.J. Ireland, and “DCC for Novices” by Stefano Curtarolo.