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If you have decided that you want to get into model railway trains and have already started looking into this great hobby, you may be confused by the vast number of model railroad sets available today. In this article I will try and answer some of the questions you may be asking and provide you with a better understanding of some of the different terms used.
The first point I want to bring your attention to is that of the difference between DC and DCC. So what do these letters you see all over the place actually stand for and more importantly, what does this mean for you. Well, DC stands for Direct Current and this is the way trains were traditionally powered and controlled. A DC control unit works by feeding the electricity to the track and driving the trains motor. The polarity of the electricity that is passed to the tracks will determine the direction that the train travels in and the amount of power controls the speed.
DCC stands for Digital Command Control and this method involves digital signals being sent from the control unit to the trains themselves and this signal will then tell the train what to do. DCC has revolutionized model railroading and made it far simpler to perform multiple functions at the same time, including additional things like controlling light, sound and even steam!
Therefore is you are just beginning to look into model railroad sets, I would advise that you go for DCC over DC. It may be more expensive in the short term, but with the increased functionality and ease of use, this will more than pay itself off, especially if you have views to add extra parts to your model railroad set and build it into a bigger layout in the future.
Other factors you will want to pay particular attention to when looking into model railroad sets is that of scale and gauge. These have long been thought of as the same thing, but although similar, do differ in some ways. Model train scale refers to the number of times that a model train has been shrunk down from the original train (or prototype as model railroaders refer to them). Therefore an N scale model train, which is 1:160 is 160 times smaller than the original.
Model train gauge refers to the distance between the rails of the train. This is normally to scale, but can be different and it is also possible to have trains that are the same gauge but different scales. (if this seems confusing, I have written a separate article on this and for more information you can also check my website).
One thing to note with regard to model railroad sets is that they can become quite limiting after a while and many people will find themselves wanting to go on to expand these later on. Therefore a word of advice here is to check what accessories are available for the set you want to buy and whether this will satisfy your needs further down the line. There is nothing worse, than having to start all over again because you made the wrong choice the first time round.
Hopefully this article has given you some important information and provided you with useful advice to make a more informed decision about which of the model railroad sets you want to buy. As with any area of model railway trains, the more research and planning you do and the more information you have the easier your life is going to be. For further information, visit my website by clicking the link below.
Tim McCarthy is a model railway enthusiast with many years experience in the field of model trains. For further information on model railroads, including more on model railroad sets, please feel free to head over to http://www.modelrailwaytrainstips.com/model-train-sets.