Sunday, May 15, 2011

Tipping Points in Model Railroading, or Time Marches On

Change, we know, comes in stages. Things move slowly towards new technologies. Then, one day, we reach the tipping point, the time when there's no turning back.

In the world of model railroading, there have been many tipping points: Kadee couplers, nickel silver track, plastic ties and more realistic scenery materials, to name a few. You can't buy anything new with horn hook couplers, you won't find new brass track or fibre ties, and you can't find dyed sawdust for grass.

DCC is another area of change. At first, if you wanted DCC, you had to install their own decoders. Then many new locomotives started coming out DCC-ready. Now you can get them DCC equipped.

And now we are beginning to cross the Rubicon in model railroading, now that Intermountain has released its new ES44AC. It comes in two versions: DCC, and DCC with sound.

There's no DC version.

This is the new tipping point; the folks who do marketing at Intermountain have concluded that we're in a new era. It's not a matter of DC or  DCC, anymore. Now it's a matter of whether or not people want just DCC, or DCC with sound.

For those of us who use DC, it means that we will soon appear to many of today's modellers the way we view modellers from the 1950s and 60s with their brass track, fibre ties, cardboard and paper buildings, horn hook couplers and sawdust scenery.

Looking at the Intermountain models at my local hobby shop, I heard a new sound: Not the sound of a locomotive in notch 8 pulling a heavy train up a grade, but the sound of time marching on.


  1. I'm just like you John - 100% Dinosaur Control, and happy to be there. I have (or will have) a few DC/DCC with Sound units in the fleet, but the majority of the power is good old Athearn Blue Box SD40-2s.



  2. I didn't think the Intermountain ES44AC was DCC only. I was under the impression that it had a decoder that would sense standard DC track power and put the locomotive into DC mode so it could operate on any model railroad. Still, it does introduce a lot of extra electronics that were not present or necessary previously.