Book Review: Classic Toy Trains magazine's Command Control
for Toy Trains by Neil Besougloff, 2003, Kalmbach Publishing Company,
Waukesha, WI, USA
by Don Woodwell
Neil's book is an excellent description of Lionel's TMCC and
MTH's DCS, today's 3-rail command control systems. It is a primer
targeted at those who have no experience with either system and
therefore no biases. In simple, straightforward language, Neil
describes and compares each system including their strengths and
weaknesses, and offers a five-point guide for selecting the system
that best meets individual hobbyist's needs. This is the first
book of its kind that does not require any technical know-how
to understand 3-rail command control principles or application.
1. Book format:
· The 104 page book's 8-1/2" x 5-1/2" size is
fine for its purpose as a quick reference guide and primer for
· It's glossy soft cover design and bright colors make
it very attractive.
2. Writing for reader Level:
Neil writes at a basic level without presuming any reader technical
knowledge. He does not attempt to explain the underlying technical
principles of either command control system. This is a refreshing
departure from the usual pundit's technical hyperbole so often
found on the various Internet discussion groups. It's clear that
Neil sees command control in a different light than many hobbyists.
After reading his explanations of Lionel and MTH products and
ways to use them for added enjoyment when operating toy trains,
I felt less intimidated and more willing to give command control
3. Aids for Understanding:
· Lightbulbs: Tips for “Layout Builders”,
"Advanced Operators”, "Star Wiring”, and
"Upgrading” are just a few of the twenty subjects called
out for special focus.
· Q/A: Used very effectively in Chapters 2, 10, and 18,
this technique proposes answers to the questions most frequently
asked by inexperienced command control operators.
· Cross-reference arrows: Criss-crossed arrows in the margin
are a sign that readers should refer to another Chapter for relevant
· Diagrams: Track and command control component diagrams
are simple, and easily understood. While acceptable there were
not enough diagrams to illustrate all the connection alternatives.
For example, Neil describes in words how to connect a Lionel Powermaster
or TPC without a diagram. I read what he said, and got it wrong.
I had to ask an experienced TMCC user for help.
· Component Photos:
o The component photos were acceptable except for instances where
the component did not match the caption (page 19, AVC not TPC;
and page 39, TPC, not QS-3000; page 78, Fig. 14-3, DCS handheld
does not show the menu of sound-effect abbreviations, and Fig.
14-4 does not show the signal strength mode).
o Many of the photos were not actual locomotives or tenders but
drawings of such. I would have preferred seeing actual locomotives
including close-up photos of their underside switches, or under-the-shell
o The TMCC CAB-1 buttons are frequently shown in full or part
based on text descriptions, but the DCS controller is shown only
once in full view at the end of the book (pg, 95). Discussions
of this component from page 59 to 94 only showed it from "the
· Glossary & Index:
· Both of these are very helpful to understanding many
· This first of its kind book is a must for every 3-rail
train hobbyist considering command control for the first time
as well as for those experienced in one of the other system.
· The illustration shortcomings in the book do not detract
from the message of encouragement for those of us who still have
not even dipped our toe into the command control pond.
· Neil and Classic Toy Trains has done the hobby a great
service by writing and publishing this book, and I look forward
to a new and expanded edition that builds on the base that he