Why is my Track Voltage low?

Reading track voltage correctly on DCC can prove to be a challenge. The voltage available on the rails is a Digital PWM form of AC at about 14v and 10Khz., It is NOT standard 120v / 60 Hz sine wave AC like a standard wall outlet. Unless you are using a device specifically designed to measure DCC track voltage

For a true DCC meter, go here:

Test your regular multimeter first on a 120v AC wall outlet to verify you have the meter set correctly and that it is functioning correctly. If you can read a wall outlet, you should be able to read a DCC track voltage.

A regular meter will not give 100% accurate readings on the rails or on the two-pin plug out on the back of the Power Cab Panel. But it can tell you some sort of indication yes or no.

The Power Cab wall transformer Power Supply that plugs into the wall is a DC power supply with a 13.8v DC output.  The power supply that was included with your Power Cab may be one of several versions based on what was available to us at the time. The question is the voltage and current ratings of the actual power supply you have. Printed on the power supply, you should see a voltage rating and a current rating.  Something like: 12v dc or 13.8v dc. and 1.35A, 1.44A, or 1.8A current rating. It will not be labeled "NCE"

If you do not own a multimeter, here is a link to an inexpensive one from Home Depot - 


Lighted track bumpers should NOT be used with DCC. These will lower your track voltage AND lower your system capacity below 2amps.

The Power Cab has no voltage adjustment. The standard track voltage for HO scale is 14v. For N scale it is 12v. 13.8v CAN be used for N-scale with no issues. The incoming Power Supply for the Power Cab is 13.8 VDC. The track output, as measured directly on the back of the Power Cab Panel (PCP) should read about 13.8v AC. DCC track voltage is difficult to read correctly with ANY meter. It is a Digital PWM square wave and is closer to a computer signal than anything else.

Getting correct voltage readings on the track relies heavily on using the proper gauge wiring for your DCC track bus and track feeders. Your DCC track bus wire should be either 14 or 12ga. Wire with track feeders every three feet. Track feeders should be either 20 or 18. ga if you are in HO scale. The wire supplied by Kato is not sufficient for reliable long-term operation. Also, you need to consider that the rail joiners are only good for a PHYSICAL connection and rail alignment. They are horrible for track power and should not be relied upon for electrical connections. You can also solder some of the pieces together; that will help.

Go here for more info:

Was this article helpful?
1 out of 1 found this helpful
Have more questions? Submit a request