DCC Model Trains: How to Get Started

Today, I was reminded of a childhood pastime that I didn’t realize how much I missed: model train sets.

However, what I hadn’t realized is that there is a depth and complexity to creating model train sets that requires the full power of an adult brain to properly address.

On one end of the spectrum, you can view this beautiful, record-setting monstrosity :

Uh, wow…

That makes me want to take my Toy-Story themed single-train loop and hide in a corner.

For the average person looking to get into this hobby, something like this seems more within reach:

There is still a lot of effort that goes into producing a high quality, small scale train set like that. At the end of the day, your effort is rewarded with a satisfying creative pursuit and produces an artifact that you can visibly admire every day, not to mention bond over with your friends and family.

But how does one even begin to get into this? Even a basic, 2–3 train system requires a basic understanding of how to interconnect power supplies, command stations, boosters, and decoders. If you’re like me, a challenge like this sounds like more than a little bit of fun; this could provide hours of borderline addictive entertainment.

While this may be within DIY territory for the more ambitious among us, I can safely say I would prefer some form of guidance for a system of this complexity when mistakes can be costly.

There is a wealth of information available online , but at this level of investment it is seems crazy not to get a proper guide. One fantastic and thorough guide by seasoned railroader Alastair Lee comes complete with guidance on how to design your layouts, set up DCC systems, wire your components, and even build landscape features. Further, he offers endless advice on how to get the most bang for your buck on the many components you’ll end up needing to build your dream model set. A long list of testimonials vouch for the fact that this guide gives enormous value for the beginner and intermediate hobbyist alike.

If you are looking to take things to the next level, there is even a model railroad club membership that gives you access to what is essentially an online library of high-quality reference materials useful for designing layouts, wiring, troubleshooting, idea generating, and more! All of the content is downloadable and printable, so it can serve as a handy reference even while you are in the middle of your project.

When it comes to DCC model train systems, we are clearly standing on the shoulders of giants. Although it is unlikely that any of us are going to dethrone the Miniatur Wunderland from the Book of World Records alone in our basements, we can all be thankful for the incredible resources available to us thanks to the hard work of people like Alastair Lee and Tony Richardson.