Although there had been other model railroad command control systems (such as Hornby’s Zero 1), it was Märklin that made the world safe for advanced digital model railroad control. Their general concept was first shown by Märklin at the Nürnberg Toy Fair in the late 1970’s. By the mid-1980’s, Märklin Digital was introduced into the European model train market for their three-rail, AC powered H0-Scale trains. The following year, Märklin Digital was introduced in the North American train market.
Märklin went about things as would be expected from this large company. The Digital systems had a clean appearance. The components were modular; the central unit was literally at the center of the control devices such as throttles and solenoid device controllers. This approach had precedent. Märklin required that their dealers take training courses prior to being able to sell the units. In short, Märklin wanted to make sure that Digital would succeed and that their customers would be satisfied with the purchase.
The limiting factor was that Digital only worked for Märklin’s H0 trains. While these were very common in Europe, they were not so common in the rest of the world, which prefers DC powered trains. Likewise, other model railroad scales were left out because of their DC design. So, sometime after the introduction of Märklin Digital in 1985, Märklin contracted with Bernd Lenz to design a DC Digital system. It was this system which would be the antecedent for today’s Digital Command Control (DCC).
In addition to the Märklin Digital DC product line, Arnold Digital was also manufactured using Lenz’s early standards. Arnold also used the same circuit board cases as the Märklin products, but with Arnold Digital lettering: