Jim Providenza is one of the few people in the country who has always used command control. This wasn’t a desire to be first. Despite being a cynic in his profession as a police officer, where people don’t always tell the truth, he really does believe people, especially in the hobby. When he first heard about the General Electric Astrac system, it was from a modeler who had started using it. The brand had already gone out of business but another firm had picked it up and developed the compatible system. As he started building the original Santa Cruz Northern in 1977, he had already made the decision at that point to go ahead and use command control. He started with it then and never went back. Although he calls it “Stone Age stuff,” it really worked for him.
Allen Keller asks Jim how much he works on the layout now. He tries to average a couple hours a week at least. He has a round robin group that meets once a week, going to each other’s layouts and getting in an equivalent of 16 to 20 man hours in a single evening. By himself, he likes to work on something on the railroad every day, even if it is only for 15 minutes or so. Although he might have been able to do all the work on the railroad himself, he wouldn’t want to and he learned a lot more modeling it with other people. The people are what he likes most about the hobby. When he started out modeling he was a bit of a lone wolf. Although he would be perfectly happy to pick up a copy of a modeling magazine and learn things himself, but he wouldn’t have met any great people. For an introduction to Digital Command Control or tips for wiring your layout for Digital Command Control, visit the Model Railroad Academy archives.