I was recently contacted by someone who had purchased a second hand layout which they decided to convert to DCC operation.
Whilst the ‘chipping’ of a number of locomotives went without a hitch they failed to operate reliably on the layout where there had been no issues with conventional DC power. The problem was undoubtedly the poor conductivity of the layout track and wiring.
Whilst most books on the subject will tell you that good electrical practise is the same whether for DC or DCC control the reality is that on a small to medium sized layout a conventional DC controller has enough ‘Umph’ to handle some dubious connections and is normally quite happy to use the rail itself as a conductor, DCC systems are not so tolerant. The data signal used by the DCC system can be effected by high resistant connections causing intermittent operation.
Whilst with a relatively small layout it is not essential to run a ‘power bus’, as would be the norm on a larger DCC layout, it is important that all wiring connections to the track are clean and well made. This ‘secure connection’ approach particularly applies to rail joiners, whilst soldered links are the most effective, rail joiners are fine as long as they grip the rail ends tightly; even better solder them once you are happy with the track layout.
It is also worth investing in more than one pair of connections to the track, whether these are soldered wire droppers or track connection devices. Finally don’t forget to keep the track clean and if you use a ‘track rubber’ have a final wipe around to remove any rubber dust.
So the message is observe the ‘good electrics’ rules and locos (both DC and DCC) should run without issues.