The DCC Saga

Having settled on the Hornby Elite and Bachmann DCC Chip as my affordable combination it was now time to sort out some of the odd
happenings.
Several chips have been returned due to non response but there has always been misgivings on my part that they were truly faulty.
The crunch came when I acquired a new(ish) Bachmann 37. This unit had been returned to the seller because the lights would not function(on DCC). I found them to be OK on the analogue arrangement and were OK on DCC first time out.
Subsequently they would not function on command. A new replacement chip made no difference. At this point I decided to read the CV values. On both chips up came the dreaded XXX!
I was still convinced that the error lay on my part. Several times I had noticed the Elite getting its knickers knotted when I pressed a wrong button during programming and only the reset by power down got things back into correct sequence.
Until now I had removed the connections from the track when using the set up/programming track and for testing had left the track leads connected to the test line.
This lead to the discovery that I could not program the chip this way! On changing to the program connects I was able to read the CVs again -- XXX.
So I reset the Elite (all detailed in the book) and reset the Chip (CV08 to 08) -- this is not mentioned in the Elite manual and appears on the Bachmann sheet.
Now I could read the CVs and set up those that I needed to. All began to function normally.
It raised the two points: 1.    Why not mention the possibility of corruption and the simple means of correcting it?
2.    Can the Elite be connected to the Main and Programming tracks simultaneously and enable programming without affecting the stock standing on the main?
I shall be grateful for any sane comments!
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Sailor wrote:

Sailor I would suggest a Programing Booster on its own programing track. Wire in a DPDT switch to route from main line to program track. That will cut off all signal to main line. If signal strength is weak, chips will not program properly or reset. Mike M
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Sailor wrote: <Snipped tales of woe)

Not sure about sane, but I thought that DCC converts were always telling us how easy it was. Are these sorts of problems typical? I would consider going to DCC, but frankly I would just want it to work and not have to faff about.
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wrote:

I have never experienced anything like this problem, but I have Lenz and this has a reset command as part of its standard menu on the LH100 handset. I've found it to be really easy to use from the outset.
The only problem I have is occasionally there are locos which need the wheels and pickups cleaning before they will program cleanly. Writing the CVs often involves a brief forward-backward movement during which connection must be maintained. Guy
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Paul Boyd wrote:

I don't have problems like these, but then I use Lenz equipment and TCS decoders.
--
Jane
OO/HO and DCC in the garden
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Jane Sullivan wrote:

Just zis Guy, you know? wrote:
> I have never experienced anything like this problem, but I have Lenz...
There's a theme there! The Hornby system seems attractive (as a starter system) at first glance because it's cheap, but I wonder if it's really up to the job.
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wrote:

Dunno. I bought Lenz because it seemed, on the evidence of comments here and elsewhere, to be capable, reliable and easy to use. It has been all three apart from an early issue with transformers which I never did pin down, I currently use one from The Shop On The Bridge which works just fine (the booster, though, is on a Lenz transformer which is not showing any signs of distress).
I've run nine locos simultaneously and at one point had over 150m of track powered from a single control station, I have now split into two sections. It has easily survived my early ham-fisted decoder fitting and numerous occasions when Clue has been spectacularly absent. I have no hesitation in recommending it. Guy
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<blatant advert mode on>
If anyone is thinking of buying a Lenz set it will be worth your while joining the NMRA British Region [1] as there are *substantial* discounts off the price - more than enough to pay for a couple of years membership.
Go to www.nmrabr.org.uk then follow links to member discounts to see more details
[1]The NMRA British Region is open to all but *mainly* concentrates on North American modelling
<blatant advert mode off>
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Mike Hughes
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Beware the anecdotal evidence. Heres some more, never had any problems with it till it refused to do any programming (put a meter on track nothing evident). Sent it back and got an immediate replacement. Dodgy power unit.
cheers, Simon
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"Paul Boyd" wrote

I couldn't put my hand on my heart & say with conviction that I'd recommend either the Hornby system or Bachmann chips.
John.
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We got our son the Hornby Select and we too have experienced problems with the early issue chips.
As a childs toy the installation of the chips is too complicated. Its a pity they cant have DCC ready locos with an underbody chip slot like a memory card slot in a digital camera. OK some of the problems come from installing into older kit like our HST but also the Select is somewhat too sensitive to faults.
You get what you pay for but with the accuracy with which chips can be made these days it should not be a problem. My thoughts on the Select is that it is too low powered in terms of only 1 amp and the QC on the chips is lacking in China plus they power ratings are too tight.
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The early Hornby chips were made accurately enough. The problem was the design they were following!
MBQ
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We've recently had complaints about wires falling off (poor soldered joints?) on both the plug &/or decoder on the 'latest' R8249 chips. These work ok (not brilliantly) providing the wires stay attached.
John.
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I too suffered from wires falling off and hence my reason for sticking with the bachmann/lenz chips. They need no extra sleeving so can be fitted with the aid of plasti gum!
I asked about the prog/main track because the Elite carries two sets of terminals, one for each application. The prog output does not allow movement or function operation (lights etc) . I therefore do the prog operations then change over the connections to test these things.
As I originally stated the confused state of the Elite is attributed to finger trouble. The runaways have been experienced -- always due to dirt/bad track connections.
If the controller can get confused so readily then evidently it could equally do uninvited things to the chips! This would appear to be a common place problem and easily sorted by a chip reset - if the method is known. I have considered all the options and equally looked in upon several online groups. This resulted in not much factual advice and every known maker being slammed for one thing or another.
So far I have had a good experience but with the failings mentioned from time to time. Each of my forays into the programming world finds me clutching "The Book" and other info sheets ( rather as a life line) which totally belies my 50+ years of engineering control systems based on PLCs, Analogue computers, diigital computers and even hybrid computers! As Simon says "It can be rather difficult for us 6 y.o.s....."
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When something / anything is designed for the DIY'er it must be robust. A lose wire could at the very least short the chip. Poor soldering is, in today's world, unacceptable !
I still thing Hornby may have done a rush job or at least released prior to all the bugs being ironed out.
Was the design of the Hornby system done 'in house' ?
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No, I don't believe so, but I've lost the link to the place that did it.
MBQ
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Sailor wrote:

Because that would mean trainset makers having to admit they supply cut-price inadequate products.
The problem with forgetting/corruption is establishing blame. And in this case its 50-50. Some cheap chips are prone to forget/corrupt when they get a bad bit of signal on the line (they will also "run away" sometimes). The Hornby controller's waveform can cause run-aways which other controllers do not. (I've a friend with an Elite, it does it to certain TCS chips, there are bodges round this, but its repeatable. My other controllers (several makers) do not cause this to happen).

No. Nor can any other DCC command station be connected as you suggest.
What you can do is connect a siding (or similar) to a programming output, and then arrange switches to change it over from "running" to "programming". But I strongly recommend you only do this with a FOUR POLE change over switch. Arrange a section of track LONGER than your longest loco before the programming track. This should be TOTALLY ISOLATED when the switch is changed to the programming setting. WHY THE CAPITALS ? Because, if you accidentally stop a loco with its wheels crossing from programming track to main line, and then try to use the programming features, there is a fair chance you will damage the controller.
Best suggestion for programming with the Elite - get a USB cable and download and install JMRI/DecoderPro. Work through the manual for DecoderPro (its fairly long) and then stop messing about programming locos by pushing the buttons on the Elite to bash numbers into the Elite; instead pick things from drop-lists, save them to computer, etc..
Best long term suggestion, get rid of DCC systems from trainset makers. Instead buy from specialist suppliers whose kit works.
- Nigel
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Nigel Cliffe wrote:

Nigel Digitrax DCS boosters, allows you to program on the main. Their Op's mode will address a specific controller. You can change almost any CV on the fly this way. I've had no problems with TCS and Soundtrax chips. This is great for fine tuning sound and speed. What you can not do is perform a Reset or an Address change on a controller unless it is on a programing track. Since buying DCC Specialties Power Pax, I've had no problems programing a controller.
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mike mueller wrote:

I know, but thanks anyway. The original poster was asking about a Hornby system.
Digitrax are a DCC specialist maker, in common with other specialists, their kit tends to work.
Whether a decoder supports Ops-Mode is down to the decoder maker. Some cheaper/older types do not.
Address changing in Ops-mode is a complex area; some makers command stations will attempt an Ops-Mode (main line) address change, some will not. Some will let you change the "inactive" one (eg. if using a long address you can change the short address, and vice-versa, then change CV29 to swap between the others). And finally, some chip makers do not permit ops-mode changes to CV1, CV17, CV18 (where the addresses are stored).
I've never had need for a programming track booster (The PowerPax) .
- Nigel
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I suggested the Power Pax as a add on to programing issues. Weak signal will cause programing issues. Most NON_SOUND decoders do not need boost assistance to program. Sound enabled chips require more power to program. Usually that is not available in program mode from the booster alone. Ops mode, or on the fly programing is at full track power, so signal strength is not an issue. I've had issues with chips before. I've fried a few TCS M-1's. Their no goof warranty is great. Digitrax now has a no goof warranty. I had my DCS100 fail after 9 months. They replaced the processor at no charge. I've installed 2 Tsunami light logging chips with no issues except for programing. I forgot to plug in the Power Pax. My biggest issue is dirty wheels and track. DCC is so unforgiving when it comes to dirt. I've gone ahead and added additional pickups to 3 Bachmann Shays to end dirt issue. Sound Chips let you know when you loose signal more than non-sound chips. Mike M
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