How to use model railroad electronic circuits for control and effects.

Model railroad electronic circuits are commercially available for any number of control functions from simple plug-in power supplies to more complex DCC and sound systems. The purpose of this section is to give you a sample of some of those circuits and how they are used on our layouts. DCC and sound will not be covered here but will be addressed in a separate unit because of the special nature of the subject. Also included are a few of the most common electronic symbols and terms. A complete list can be easily obtained from the internet by entering the search query “electronic symbols”.

An electronic circuit is defined as a composition of electronic components such as resistors, capacitors, etc… which are connected together by wires or printed circuit traces to allow electric current to flow. For the model railroader the most common use of an electronic circuit is a train control device which allows the operator to adjust the speed and special effects of a model locomotive. When the actual construction of a model train layout begins however many other needs for specific electrical sources to control lights and other accessories are discovered. Switch machines sometimes need bi-polar D.C. voltages to operate and the ability to use fiber optics or LEDs for indicator lights or special effects devices are all special applications of model railroad electronic circuits.

Sometimes the units of measure for electronic circuits and components are so large or small that multiples or sub-multiples of measurement must be used.


1 KV=1KILOVOLT=1000 volts

5 milliamps=5ma=5/1,000 amps

18 MEGOHMS=18MΩ=18,000,000 ohms

10 microfarads=10mf=10/1,000,000 farads

New devices for model railroad electronics are constantly being introduced. When new or up-dated products are available this section will review their operation and provide additional information. Check out the following:

Power Supplies

Wiring miniature incandescent lamps

Block wiring for DC layouts


Binary Numbers

Digital Logic Gates

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