Can You Run Two Model Trains on the Same Track?
I remember getting hooked on train modeling and wanting to have more locomotives in my layout. However, since I was new, I didn’t know how to do it and wondered how to do it efficiently and cheaply. In doing so, I learned about the DCC and decided to upgrade from a simple DC control system. This post summarizes my experience of running two or more model trains on the same track either by using DC or DCC control systems.
You can run two model trains on the same track using either the DC or the DCC control system. DC is recommended on running two or more model trains in a simple oval layout. DCC is the digital command control that can run multiple trains on complicated tracks using a chip inside the train engine.
This post will discuss running two or more HO train engines on a single track. This will talk about using both the DC and DCC control systems to do the same thing. The mechanisms of each, and what I recommend for people who are starting to expand their train collection.
Can you run two HO engines together?
You can run two HO engines together, and they will help each other pull the cargo load. This is done to increase the pulling strength of the locomotives, especially if it is carrying a lot of cars. You can also run two separate model trains on the same track using decoders or rail joiners.
So, there are two reasons why a person would want to run two HO engines together on the same track. It is either to increase the pulling strength to have fit more cars or to have two different trains on the same track.
Both of these reasons are possible and can be done.
If we are talking about running two engines together to increase the pulling strength of the train, it is as easy as putting the locomotives together then running it on a simple DC control system.
However, if you are using a DCC control system, you have to group the locomotives together to run both of them simultaneously.
If we are talking about running two separate trains on the same track, then it is also possible.
Can you run 2 HO trains on the same track? You can run 2 HO trains on the same track using either a decoder for the DCC system or insulated rail joiners using the DC system. Both the DC and the DCC can control two or more trains; however, their mechanism of running two trains is different.
To help you understand, I will explain what the DC and DCC are.
DC command is also known as the Direct Current Command. This is also called the traditional way of controlling model trains since it was the one used by the majority about 2 decades ago.
Currently, DC is still used but only on simple or beginner layouts.
Thus, about 2 decades ago, modelers used the DC control system to run multiple trains on the same track. I will explain the principle of the DC control system later when I talk about how DC can control two trains on the same track.
For now, you need to know that DC works by increasing the model train speed by either increasing or decreasing the voltage of the current or electricity.
Basically, DC runs on 0 to 12 volts. The more voltage, the faster the train goes. Thus, it is the simplest way of running train models.
However, what changed the game is the DCC or the Digital Command Control.
So what is the DCC? Digital Command Control is a way of controlling model trains using decoders. Decoders are tiny chips installed inside the train engine to control the train digitally.
Thus, while DC uses the voltage to increase the locomotive’s speed, DCC controls the locomotive digitally.
In the next section, we will discuss the principle of the DCC as it is one of the greatest advancements to train modeling.
How do you control multiple HO trains?
You control multiple HO trains using a DC or a DCC system. Using a DC system, you manage multiple trains using insulated rail joiners and selector switches. DCC controls multiple trains by using decoders that electronically control the trains.
The DCC is one of the greatest addition to train modeling, especially for people who want to control more than one train on a single layout.
This system helps modelers easily control the locomotives and the accessories such as sounds, lights, and rail switches.
DCC is using decoders to do this task. The decoder is a tiny chip that is put on the locomotive to control it using DCC.
These decoders are then put into DCC controllers to control them.
The advantage of the DCC over the DC is instead of controlling the tracks by increasing the electricity; You control the locomotive itself with the help of the decoders.
Using DCC removes a lot of steps, such as adding insulated tracks and different power switches on rails.
While you need a lot of materials to make DC work on multiple trains, DCC works by using a decoder.
Furthermore, DCC allows your trains to be controlled with your phone or computer via the JMRI or the Java Model Railroading Interface.
In summary, DCC simplified a lot of work for train modelers, especially if they control multiple trains on a simple track.
Furthermore, DCC allowed modelers to control the locomotive themselves rather than control the tracks.
Thus, using DCC is recommended for running multiple trains on a track. However, DC can also control multiple trains but will require more work.
If you don’t want to buy a DCC controller or have an old model train that isn’t DCC ready, you have no choice but to go DC. So how can you run two or more trains on a DC track? That’s our topic for the next section.
How do you run two trains on a DC track?
Use an insulated rail joiner selector switch, you also need multiple power packs or lines.
The easiest to run two trains on a DC track is to have a simple layout such as oval or round layouts. However, if the structure is more complicated, DCC is preferred.
However, running 2 DC-powered trains on the same track can be done. In fact, it is what old train modelers were doing about 20 years ago.
However, this process is labor-intensive and requires us to watch the layout since we power the rail by blocks.
So, how can you run two trains on a DC track?
To run two trains on a DC track, you need more equipment such as insulated rail joiners, selector switches, and multiple power packs or lines. This makes sure that a specific part or block of the rail layout runs separate trains.
This means you can switch a specific block, and the train in that block won’t move. However, the other train that runs on a separate block can move.
So, how is this done? This is where the insulated rail joiners, selector switches, and multiple power lines do their job.
You have to separate them using insulated rail joiners to make rail blocks. Insulated rail joiners keep the electricity on a specific block. This means that a particular block’s power is controlled by a separate selector switch and multiple power packs.
Here is an illustration of how to run two trains on a DC track.
With the advancement of technology, we finally have DCC decoders which made train modeling easier. The DCC or the Digital Command Control is where instead of the rail block, you control the locomotive itself by installing a small chip, what they call decoders, inside their engine.
The decoder is controlled by a DCC controller in which you can instruct one train to move and the other to stay still.
When the DCC system came out decades ago, it was expensive and considered a luxury for train modelers. However, right now, most new train models are DCC ready, and getting a DCC controller and decoders is cheaper than the materials needed to form a DC track for multiple trains.
Furthermore, DCC controllers such as E-Z Command, Digitrax, and NCE can generally run up to 5 locomotives simultaneously. Plus, you can add more by adding boosters.
Thus, while running many trains on a DC system can be done, DCC is a more viable alternative since it is not only easier but cheaper.
What’s next? Many modelers started with Bachmann trains and would like if it is good. Furthermore, there is the E-Z command which is Bachmann’s DCC controls. Are Bachmann models good? You can find that in my other post here: Are Bachmann trains good?