Back when I was a kid and had my first layout, there wasn’t really all this digital stuff. I seem to recall that Trix had something new called Selectrix which let you run more than one loco on one track, but it was proprietary, non-standard and of course all your locos had to be Minitrix brand, which limited choice somewhat.
Aside: I just looked up Selectrix in Wikipedia and it turns out it’s still going! I wasn’t expecting that.
However, when I recently started to look at how best to control the trains on my nacent layout, I quickly came across something called Digital Command Control or DCC, which allows multiple locos to move independently on one track, and also allows the control of accessories like points, signals and sound effects. DCC is an open standard, adopted by numerous manufacturers, and there are plenty of choices available in terms of controllers and interfaces.
So, what to do? Stick to good old fashioned DC power, where there is one train and one controller per loop of track, or plump for digital control along with its inevitable learning curve?
In the end, I came across something called a Sprog which helped me decide. A Sprog is a DCC controller that sits between your computer and the layout, allowing you to control your trains using (free) software on your computer. As a die-hard geek this really appealed to me, and I’ve learned that I should be able to run software called JMRI on my MacBook, hook it to the Sprog via USB, and install an app on my Android smartphone so that I can walk around the layout and control the trains wirelessly with my phone. This made it a no-brainer – DCC it is.
I know that I will have to learn new wiring techniques, and I know that DCC locos are usually a bit more expensive than their DC versions, but come on – controlling multiple trains over wifi with my phone? How could I possibly resist?