Digital Command Control

Simply put, Digital Command Control is a way to control your layout that simulates real life train operation. With DCC you can operate multiple locomotives independently at the same time (at varying speeds and direction) on the same section of track, without a computer and without complex wiring required. Digital Command Control Systems communicate with decoders that control locomotives and turnouts on your railroad like an actual Dispatcher!


First, since a DCC system allows you to control your trains, not your track, layout wiring is much simpler. Second, DCC systems provide extremely reliable operation. Third, DCC systems can be expanded easily, without requiring you to rewire your layout. You can add additional devices (like a hand-held throttle for example), simply and easily.

A Glossary of NMRA DCC terms

Getting Started in DCC with the Atlas Master DCC System

What you need to get started in DCC is:
1. One or more locomotives that are equipped with DCC decoders.
2. A DCC system to run your DCC-equipped locomotives (such as the Atlas Master DCC System, Duo-Pack, Item #332).

There are three ways for you to obtain DCC-equipped locomotives:
1. Buy Atlas or other locomotives that are factory-equipped with DCC decoders. Atlas sells DCC-decoder-equipped locomotives in both HO and N scales.
2. Install DCC decoders yourself in one or more of your existing (non-DCC-equipped) locomotives.
3. Have someone who has a lot of experience in installing DCC decoders install the DCC decoders in your existing non-DCC locomotives. There are a number of firms that specialize in DCC and can install DCC decoders in your existing non-DCC locomotives. These firms advertise in the major model railroading magazines. (Atlas can neither recommend, nor not recommend, that you use any of these firms' DCC services.)

To obtain a DCC system, you may purchase a basic DCC system from a number of companies, including Atlas. Our Atlas Master DCC system will work well with either HO or N scale trains. The basic components of an Atlas Master DCC system (required in all applications) are:

1. One #330 Atlas Commander (list price $169.95), which includes in one relatively small case:
a. A fixed (part of the Commander) throttle to control the speed and direction of your trains,
b. A DCC command station to generate the DCC commands needed to control your locomotives. A command station is also necessary to program new DCC addresses into your locomotives so that you can operate more than one locomotive on the same track simultaneously.
c. A DCC power station to amplify the signals from the command station portion of the Commander in order to provide enough current to operate (at the same time) several locomotives that are equipped with DCC decoders.

2. One #335 Atlas Generator (list price $42.95). An Atlas Generator provides an output of approximately 16 volts AC and is used to operate the circuitry contained in the Commander and also to run any of your locomotives that are equipped with DCC decoders. Moreover, in addition to operating the Commander and powering your locomotives, the Atlas Generator is an excellent power supply for operating your (Atlas or other) twin-coil switch machines. The reason for this statement is that the Atlas Generator will supply much more current than can be obtained from the accessory AC outputs of most power packs that are commonly used to run HO or N scale locomotives. As a result of having all this extra current available, your switch machines will operate much more reliably. The Generator can be used simultaneously both for powering the Commander and for powering your switch machines. To operate both your switch machines and your Commander from a Generator, simply connect the wires from your switch control boxes (the wires that you would normally have connected to the "accessory AC" outputs of a normal power pack) to the same two terminals on the Generator as you have already connected your Commander.

The #330 Atlas Commander and the #335 Atlas Generator are also available in the money-saving #332 DCC Duo-Pack (list price $189.95).

All of your existing track and freight or (non-illuminated) passenger cars can be used with no modifications for DCC. In some cases, it might be necessary to replace the existing light bulbs in illuminated passenger cars. The relatively high (approximately 14 volt) constant track voltage used in DCC can burn out light bulbs that do not have a sufficiently high voltage rating. However, a side-benefit of applying this constant voltage to the track at all times is that by doing so one automatically gets constant-voltage passenger car lighting.

If you wish to operate more than one DCC-equipped locomotive at the same time or want to be able to move about your layout to be near the DCC-equipped locomotive that you are currently running, a useful addition to the basic DCC components listed above is the #331 Atlas Master HandCommand (list price $144.95). The HandCommand is a wired walk-around throttle (meaning that it must be plugged into special sockets that are located at various points around the edges of your layout). Each HandCommand comes with a 6 foot long coiled cord equipped with a plug that can be connected to the edge-mounted sockets just described and also with one #322 Universal Panel Connector (UPC). Each UPC has two sockets for the coiled cords that come with HandCommands; hence one UPC can accommodate two HandCommands simultaneously. The UPC also comes with a modular telephone-type cord that is used to connect one UPC to the next UPC. If your layout is large enough that the 6' long coiled cord that comes with each HandCommand is not long enough for you to operate the entire layout from one UPC, you will probably want to purchase one or more additional UPCs. The advantage of installing multiple UPCs on a large layout is that you can move around the layout (unplugging the HandCommand from one UPC and then plugging it into the next UPC) as the train that you are operating progresses around the layout. The locomotive that you are presently operating will continue to move at the same speed during the period of time in which the HandCommand is not plugged into any UPC.

If you have two DCC-equipped locomotives and two operators, one operator can run one of these two locomotives from the fixed (non-walk-around) throttle in the Atlas Commander and the other operator can run the second locomotive using a HandCommand. You might choose to (but are not required to) purchase a second Atlas HandCommand so that both operators can run their locomotives using Hand Command walk-around throttles. However note that one Atlas Commander is needed in all cases, even when every operator uses a HandCommand to run his/her locomotive.

Finally, Atlas will soon be introducing the new # 344 Atlas Master Turnout Control Unit (TCU, list price $49.95). The TCU can be used to operate the switch machines on your turnouts from your Commander or from a HandCommand walk-around throttle. One TCU has six outputs, and each of these outputs can be used to control either multiple twin-coil or multiple slow-motion switch machines.

Although it IS possible for you to operate one locomotive that is not equipped with a DCC decoder from the Commander (or from a HandCommand), Atlas does NOT recommend doing so since serious motor overheating can result.

Finally, it is strongly recommended that you purchase the recent Kalmbach book "DCC Made Easy," by Lionel Strang (list price $12.95) and read this book carefully before jumping into DCC. This book can be obtained either at your local hobby shop or directly from Atlas.

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