Beginners How to choose a power pack for your model railroad

How to choose a power pack for your model railroad

By Bryson Sleppy | October 3, 2023

| Last updated on December 14, 2023

With many to choose from, which fits your railroad the best?

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Though multiple manufacturers offer power packs meant for model railroads, three main companies currently offer the packs as separate-purchase items: Model Rectifier Corp., Kato USA, and Bachmann Trains. If you choose to use direct-current control instead of Digital Command Control (DCC) on your layout, buying a DC power pack (or power supply) that fits your needs is pertinent for the reliable operation of your model railroad.

For the purpose of this article, the main number to focus on when looking at a power pack is the VA or volt-ampere. This is the amount of power going from the power pack to the track. A higher number indicates a higher voltage output. While you may not be able to control every function of a DCC locomotive equipped with a dual-mode decoder on a DC power pack, a higher VA provides a greater reliability when operating sound-equipped locomotives.

Model Rectifier Corp.

Model Rectifier Corp., 360 Main Street, Suite 2., Matawan, N.J., 07747; 732-225-2100;

Model Rectifier Corp. Railpower 1300 DC Power Pack
MRC Railpower 1300 DC Power Pack
  • Voltage output: 7 VA
  • Automatic circuit protector
  • Railpower 1370 features 18VA
  • Price: $69.89
MRC Tech7 Ampac 760 power pack on a white background
MRC Tech 7 Ampac 670
  • Voltage output: 20 VA
  • Fixed AC accessory terminals
  • DC momentum control
  • Pressure-sensitive braking
  • Also available with two throttles (Tech 7 Ampac 780)
  • Price: $134.98
Model Rectifier Corp. Tech 6 Sound Controller
MRC Tech 6 Sound Controller 2.0
  • Voltage output: 30 VA
  • Able to operate standard DC locomotives as well as DCC decoder-equipped locomotives
  • Sound control when in dual mode
  • Add MRC Tech 6 DC/DCC Handheld for walkaround control
  • Price: $144.98


Kato USA

Blue Kato DC Power Pack
Kato Power Pack Standard Six
  • Voltage output: 12 VA
  • Comes with Kato starter sets
  • Forward, off, and reverse directional control
  • Upgrade to Kato Power Supply 16V for 16 VA
  • Price: $80

Bachmann Trains

Gray Bachmann DC Speed Controller
Bachmann Power Pack and Speed Controller
  • Voltage output: 16 VA
  • Comes with Bachmann DC starter sets
  • Directional control
  • Price: $102

One thought on “How to choose a power pack for your model railroad

  1. Your statement that a higher VA means a higher voltage output is very misleading. The VA value is a measure of the maximum amperage, or current, output at, typically, 15 volts. The voltage does not vary with VA, only the maximum current available. With sound-equipped locomotives, more current is required than for an identical locomotive without sound. The more current, the more locomotives that can be run simultaneously.

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