New to digital - advice required please!


Hello, I have recently dismantled my non-digital OO Gauge model railway in order to build a new OO Gauge layout and converting Digital. I am not a novice to model railways but I am a novice to the world of digital model railways! My layout will be quite sizeable, a loop of 27ft x 13ft x 27ft x 13ft (using the loft area and operating the layout from the middle).

Would you please be able to offer any advice on which controller I would need to operate several trains at once, the required ampage (I have read 3 or 5 amp), size of wiring and does the wiring need to be a continuous loop? Because of the size of the layout , do I need any boosters etc? Does the controller also operate the points or would that need to be a standalone system? 

Many thanks in advance for any information that you can provide to get me going in the world of digital model railways! 

Best wishes, 



Hi Andy,

Have you seen my website?

Be sure to read the section for beginners:

And the section on track wiring:

How many trains is several?  If you are operating the layout yourself, you probably will only be operating 2 to 3 at a time.  A 5 amp booster will be more than enough.

No, the wiring does not need to be a continuous loop.  Again, read the section on track wiring.

Size doesn't necessitate more boosters.  When reading the track section, look at ways to branch out from your booster:

You can use DCC to control your turnouts switch machines if you want to, but you don't have to.  Your choice.  If you choose to use DCC, you won't need control panels.  Also, if you use DCC, you should either use a separate booster or use an electronic circuit breaker for your track when using just one booster so that if your track shorts out, because you approached a turnout with the points the wrong way.  For ideas on controlling turnouts see my website at:

Allan Gartner
Wiring for DCC


Count on each Lok you run at the same time having 1 amp. 3 loks 3 amps, 5 Loks, 5 amps. Real usage is less, so you might get up to 5 loks on 3 amps, and more on 5 amps.
I strongly suggest you visit the page, and select a system that works well with JMRI. Makes it so much easier to set up decoders in Loks! (No fiddling around with CV numbers, JMRI is human readable)

For a new user, best to contact your mates running digital in your area, and see what they are using and it they can help.

Not sure what decoder brands Hornby uses (you did say OO guage) but on your side of the pond, popular brands might be Lenz, Loksound, or Zimo. 
Loksound and Zimo have sound decoders, quite complicates (germans!) but lots of features to learn.

The wiring could be the same as you used for DC, but you need less blocks, and no kill switches for sidings. You still need to be aware of polarity, but except for reversing loops, everything has the same polarity.
Plan for blocks if you are going to use signals, otherwise 2-3 blocks with boosters should do for that size layout.
Lots of folks use at least one booster, and do not connect their DCC system directly to the tracks. Better for the lesser price booster get zapped by a short than the high priced DCC system.

A good starting system would be the SPROG. Made in UK, controlled with a PC and JMRI. And reasonably priced. And you can use your smart phones as throttles (We do that at our club layout).

Good luck, and remember to have fun!
DeSoto, TX