Trainmaster Command Control

Trainmaster Command Control

Trainmaster Command (TMCC) is Lionel's electronic control system for O scale 3-rail model trains and toy trains. Conceptually it is similar to Digital Command Control (DCC), the industry's open standard used by HO scale and other 2-rail DC trains. It has one advantage over DCC, in that TMCC-equipped locomotives can run simultaneously with non-TMCC locomotives.

TMCC permits operation of multiple trains on the same track without complex wiring, and also gives locomotives realistic digitized sounds.

Its development was backed financially by rock and roller Neil Young as part of a partnership between Young and one-time Lionel owner Richard Kughn known as Liontech. Liontech, roughly headquartered on Young's northern California ranch, consisted of a loose confederation of technology developers whom Young had assembled to help develop individual components of the TrainMaster Command system.

Chief among these contributors was Applied Design Laboratories of Grass Valley, California, headed by Atari 2600 co-patent holder Ron Milner. Young had been referred to Milner by his neighbor and friend, Nolan Bushnell, co-founder of Atari. Milner's team (consisting of numerous members, including Robert Johnson and Bryan Scott) developed the main elements of the Command system, including the innovation of using the Lionel steel tubular track system as a broadcast antenna for digital signals overlaying the electrical power being delivered through the track to locomotives, rolling stock and connected accessories.

Also included in the TrainMaster Command system is RailSounds, which provides digital sound effects to complement the digital control features of the system. RailSounds was developed by a separate team of technologists in the Bay Area. An early, distinguishing feature of RailSounds was the fact that each individual locomotive system (e.g. a "Hudson" 4-6-4 steam locomotive) was based on a real-life counterpart, not a generic "steam" sound. The Lionel RailSounds Hudson sound system, interestingly, was captured by the Liontech team on location in West Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, using the former Canadian Pacific "Royal Hudson" as the sound model.

Lionel has since licensed TMCC to some of its competitors, including K-Line, and aftermarket circuit boards are available to add TMCC to O scale and S scale trains that lack the capability.

Neil Young's involvement in Liontech was the direct reason for his becoming aware of Kughn's putting Lionel Trains, Inc. up for sale in early 1995. Young saw an opportunity to become at least part owner in the company he revered, and working with Liontech team member Jim Bunte, assembled a marketing plan to attract investors to help underwrite the purchase price. After several meetings with potential lead equity partners, a deal was struck with Martin Davis, former chairman of Paramount / Gulf+Western, who had recently divested his ownership in that company to Sumner Redstone of Viacom. With his proceeds, Davis founded Wellspring Associates, a New York-based investment firm. The acquisition of Lionel Trains, Inc. and its September 1995 transformation into Lionel LLC was Wellspring's first investment.

Competitor MTH uses a similar system, called DCS.


In their 2006 Volume 2 calalog, Lionel officially unveiled the new TMCCII "Legacy" system. TMCCII promises to revolutionize the way people control and play with their model trains, by adding more features that mimic prototypical operations of a real railroad, and subsequently, a real locomotive. TMCCII is backwards-compatible with existing TMCC modules, and can work simultaneously with Cab-1 controller.

Like TMCCI, the core of the "Legacy" system is the handheld remote. The Cab-2 remote features, among other new functions, a back-lit LCD screen, back-lit LCD touchscreen keypad (which can toggle between numbers and control icons), a Feedback mode (the controller rumbles reflecting the struggling engine), and rechargeable batteries.

The first locomotive to feature TMCCII is the Union Pacific Big Boy. At the moment, only the Cab-2 remote and command base are available, with additional modules being released in due course. The second locomotive to be released is the American Flyer New York Central which will arrive in April 2007.

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