Folks frequently say that the collection of new terms for DCC confuses them. They read a manual and may not follow what it says, as it speaks DCC-English, not English.

eMail me with suggestions for terms that I may have left out.

Well, here are some simplified definitions for common terms. Click on the term to see the explaination.

Slang for printed circuit board (PC or PCB). This can be the raw board or the finished product stuffed with chips and other components, ready to make up boosters, command stations, decoders, etc.

NCE ProCab radio board

NCE Cab Radio Board (external antenna) shown.

Feb 27, 2013

That portion of a DCC system that takes the NMRA standard data packets from the command station and, using power from a power supply, brings them up to the NMRA standards for data & power on the track. Unlike "C. B." boosters, they have nothing to do with the distance a signal can travel.

NCE PB110A Booster

NCE PB-110a 10 amp booster shown

Feb 27, 2013

“Bus” is a term used in the computer world to refer to things that carry data, like the bus wiring from the DCC booster to the track, or the cab bus wiring that connects the cabs to the DCC system.

Here is an example of DCC booster bus wiring

DCC track bus wiring

It is a spelling issue: “Buss” is a kiss.

A BUSS is a kiss

Jun 23, 2015

A buzzer is a tool that I use when wiring track.

It has lots of uses in checking out wiring and testing LEDs.


To build a buzzer, you will need a 9 volt battery and a buzzer designed for 9 VDC (All Electronics has them). Wire them per the schematic below and the photo above.

buzzer schematic

To use it, disconnect all DCC (and DC) components from the track bus, like boosters, circuit breakers, etc. Then connected between the two bus wires. It will buzz the instant you start to wire a short into the layout. The most frequent sources of shorts are “Electro-Frog” switches where the points aren’t insulated and getting confused wiring the track and crossing your wires.Remove the buzzer when you reconnect the DCC.

Aug 22, 2019 

This is my preferred term for the item used to control trains on a DCC system. Throttle is a common term that I don't prefer. Here's why: In the cab of a locomotive there are controls for lights, horn, bell, direction, and speed. The throttle is just one of these controls. A DCC cab encompasses the larger group of items.

NCE ProCab

NCE ProCab shown

Feb 27, 2013

Slang for an electronic device formally called an integrated circuit (IC). Chips contain lots of transistors and other components. Chips are some of the components that go on boards to make up boosters, command stations, decoders, etc.

In my jargon, “Chipping a loco” means breaking something off it, not installing a decoder into it.

NCE PowerCab upgrade chip

NCE PowerCab upgrade chip shown

Feb 27, 2013


That portion of the DCC system that takes input from the cab and converts it to NMRA standard data packets ready to be sent to the track. May be a separate box, or a function built into another box, such as a booster / command station (system box) or a cab (as the NCE PowerCab).

NCE CS02 Command Station

NCE CS-02 shown

Feb 27, 2013

Abbreviation for the DCC term: Configuration Variable. CVs are the locations (identified by numbers) where the personality of your decoder is stored. For more information, CLICK the CVs link in the MENU OF DCC INFO.

Feb 27, 2013

The board that is mounted in a locomotive or other rolling stock (mobile decoder) on on the layout (stationary decoder). Decoders take the data from the track and turn it into electrical current to operate motors, lights, etc. They may or may not create matching sounds.

SoundTraxx TSU1000 decoder

SoundTraxx Tsunami TSU1000

Feb 27, 2013

A generic term for that element of the DCC system that takes power from the (alternating current - AC) mains and translates it into power that can be utilized by the DCC System. These may fall into two categories based on the type of power delivered: AC or Direct Current - DC.

Power Supplies that deliver AC are correctly called transformers. Inside the case, they may have a switch and indicator light plus the transformer and some protective devices, such as thermal switches and circuit breakers.

DCC Specialties MF615 transformer

DCC Specialties MF615 shown

Power Supplies that deliver DC are correctly called power supplies. They will probably have a higher voltage rating for the same system than the equivalent AC transformer. Digitrax PS-2012 shown in the photo is a traditional DC power supply - large, heavy, expensive and only designed for a single AC input voltage.

Digitrax PS2012 Power Supply

In recent years, small DC switching power supplies are suplanting the AC transformers. They are light to ship and can work off almost any power main power anywhere in the world, with the proper line cord. They also present a more constant load to the power lines, as mandated by today's laws. Computer DC switching power supply shown.

Notebook computer switching power supply

Feb 27, 2013

A System Box is a single enclosure that contains both a command station and a booster.

Digitrax DCS240 System Box

Digitrax DCS-240 shown.

Feb 27, 2013

Information on this site represents Bruce’s experiences and opinions.

They are presented without warranty as an example of ways to utilize DCC products.

The user is solely responsible for any use made of this data.