Everything on model trains, model railroads, model railways, locomotives, model train layouts, scenery, wiring, DCC and more. Enjoy the world's best hobby... model railroading!

Make a Realistic Residential Street Scene with Realistic Detailing.

DC vs DCC? Shelf Layout with One Operator

Wayne has this question:

“I have an HO shelf layout, equivalent a little bigger than 4×8 sheet of plywood. I am using manual controlled switches. One operator. I plan on adding an engine or two, have some inherited old engines would like to run too on occcasion. DC vs DCC?? Which way to go, space limited, don’t plan on bigger layout.”

Add your answer or comment below.

9 Responses to DC vs DCC? Shelf Layout with One Operator

  • Bill Howesays:

    While you can most certainly run the layout with DC I believe once you experience DCC you will be convinced that is the way to go. The only warning is your older locomotives. Depending on how old they are the conversion to DCC may not be as easy as newer locomotives that are DCC ready. That being said if you are not uncomfortable totally opening a locomotive and you have access to the internet you can probably master conversion of these loco’s. If they are really old you may have issues running them on DC without a total overhaul and thorough cleaning.

  • Don Kaduncsays:

    It sounds like DC is the best. Without a continuous loop it is hard to run two or more engines at once. You can insulate tracks to park one while running another.DC is much cheaper.

  • Ken Bsays:

    I have seen small and large layouts and DCC just gives you more options. One loco can be running and another shunting or run 2 locos in consist. And the other option is you can take your locos to friends or clubs as most decoders can be set up to run DCC or DC. The initial cost is higher but all up the options are greater.

  • Stephansays:

    The question should be as to how much realism you want to have in your layout.

    DC, in a block type system, can be fairly realistic in operation as seen in the pre-DCC era layouts. It comes down to controls and switches in the layout, with power to the locomotive.

    DCC controls the operations of the locomotive directly, as if you are sitting in the cab. As stated before, there is a modification curve involved with pre DCC era equipment and layouts.

    My suggestion is to build a separate layout to “experiment” with DCC control equipment. Thus you can ease into the next generation. With this, try to locate local clubs that can give you guidance and even hands-on assistance.

    There is a caveat though. Do not pass your budget!


  • Joesays:

    I am in a similar boat – I am halfway through constructing a shelf layout – total running length of ~40 feet. 5 older locomotives and 1 new one (I bought a decoder) but am seriously contemplating staying DC. I have run DCC at my old club and certainly it is more flexible but the cost makes me wonder if I need to upgrade. I have a momentum power supply and have built isolated sections along the right of way to accommodate locomotive storage.

  • David Stokessays:

    I operate a Timesaver for Kids at the annual AMRI show in Adelaide each year. It is DC, and works well. I can use 2 locos on the layout as the points are Peco and create the necessary dead sections. If you already have DC locos, and controllers they will do the job for you, but if you are going all “new”, then now is the time to invest in DCC.

  • Jaysays:

    It has been my experience that DC is more forgiving than DCC if the track gets dirty, or for a locomotive going over turnout frogs that breaks contact. I still prefer DCC over DC, but if you are making a switching layout, be sure to use good quality turnouts to avoid stalling issues. Stalling on turnouts is worse for small 4-wheel loco’s than it is for larger locomotives. Most of the newer locomotives are designed with all-wheel electrical pickup, whereas older cheaper locomotives aren’t. Also many older steam loco’s with a tender will have 1/2 of the pickup from only one side of the tender, and the other half from only one side of the Loco, and that will often cause stalling on turnouts. Newer loco’s will use both sides of tender and loco for pickup=much better. If you use a loco that has flywheels, it really helps to get over any “Dead Spots” on the track work.

  • Stephen Duncansays:

    I started about twenty years ago with a modular layout. I installed blocks for twin cab DC use. This allowed me to ease into DCC, just replacing one cab with a DCC Zephyr. Worked great. I recently rebuilt into a shelf layout at a higher point in the room. I put in four loops and only made the closest loop able to run DC. DPDT switch selects DC or DCC on it, the rest are only DCC. Does a great job for me and sdtill allows me to show off some of my expensive old brass engines.

  • Thomsays:

    I started in hobby about 6 years ago and planned a home layout for switching with idea of staying with DC. Then, a couple years later joined a club and had to buy DCC locos to run on club layout. I also run these at home on my DC layout using a MRC sound controller. I will tell you I have bought what I believed to be good quality DCC locos. I regret the day I ever was introduced to DCC. Sure, there are pretty noises and lots of options, but they cause me far more grief than my DC equipment, which I can use on my 8 x 9 switching layout generally trouble free. (AND DC locos are much less expensive than DCC equipment. For anyone starting out with a small layout, and planning to stay small (due to budget or space) I say stick with DC. I know I will take some flak for this, but this opinion comes from experience and lots of $$$ spent.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Add a photo or image related to your comment (JPEG only)

Download Your Free Catalog

Use Tiny Railroad Micro Controllers

A micro controller is basically a small programmable computer device to help the model railroader “make things operate.” It is clever way to realistically replicate the movements, actions and functions you are likely to see on a full size railroad.

Model Train DCC HELP

N Scale Track Plans

Watch Video

Model Train Help Ebook

Watch These Club Videos

Club members access helpful new resources each month: diagrams, video tutorials, articles, track plans and more. Watch the tour videos here.

Scenery Techniques Explained


Model Railroad Building House Plans

rail yard buildings


Submit Your Model Railroading Questions!

Before you submit your model railroading question please add some feedback, answers or comments to other postings on this model train blog. What goes around comes around... so if you can help others in the hobby, someone else may help you.

Important - Please add plenty of supporting details to any question you submit (eg. scale, solutions you have already tried etc.) , as the clearest and best questions usually get the best answers. Also, please check your spelling and punctuation as all questions need to be approved by the blog moderator prior to publication. Approved questions are normally published within a week (if not sooner).

Submit your model train questions here.

Scenery & Layout Ideas


Submit Your Article

Would you like to write an article and have it published?

Preference will be given to articles that help others progress in the hobby, maybe suggesting an idea for their layout, a quick tip or two... or perhaps a little bit of good advice based on your model railroading experiences.

We are all in this hobby together, so the more we can do to share ideas and help each other, the better.

Submit Your Article Here

Model Railroading Blog Archive

Reader Poll

Sorry, there are no polls available at the moment.