Basic DCC Decoder Question

Xrayvizhen Jan 12, 2021

  1. Xrayvizhen

    Xrayvizhen TrainBoard Member

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    Here’s another basic noob question that I suppose, if I put the correct combination of words into a Google search I could find the answer to, but I figured I’ll just ask here: Are the DCC sound/light functions the same on all locomotives or do I have to keep sheets of instructions for each loco I buy and refer to each one for the different functions? (Or does it change by manufacturer?)

    So I made my first DCC locomotive purchase, a Bachmann EMD-SD45. It was cheap and I just needed something to test out my NCC PowerCab Starter Set and after a few jittery fits and starts and after running it for a few hours now it’s actually working pretty OK.

    For the basics I don’t have to remember anything because the PowerCab has specific buttons for horn, bell and lights but according to the instruction sheet that came with the engine there are a few others; F2-Airhorn, F3-Short Airhorn, F7-Dimmer and F8-Mute. Also, F4-Airbrake is supposedly not available for the SD45 yet when I press F4 there is some sort of change in the motor sound and the loco comes to a fairly quick stop. So are these functions the same for other diesel locomotives, will I have to save the little instruction sheets for each and every one I buy or will they all be the same? Also, is there a way to use the PowerCab screen to see what different functions might be available for any particular loco I eventually get?
     
  2. DMiller-1960

    DMiller-1960 New Member

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    Xrayvizhen

    I can't answer your questions.........but I certainly am looking forward to the others responses! I am just making the change from DC to DCC on
    our little layout, and have lots of questions, too. I have been doing a fair amount of reading, but also look for others experiences. I am just waiting for my Digitrax system to arrive so I can start the hands on learning process! Good luck with your endeavors.

    Darryl
     
  3. RBrodzinsky

    RBrodzinsky Staff Member TrainBoard Supporter

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    There are certain functions which are "standard" (note: can still be remapped in many decoders) while others are decoder manufacturer specific, especially as you get into sound decoders. But, most of today's modern decoders allow the user to remap the functions, so that you can always put same/similar actions onto the same function buttons. Front/Rear Headlights(F0), Bell (F1), Horn (F2) are really the main "always in this position" functions

    But, and this is very important, don't try to do this with simple throttle based programming. You really need to hook up an interface for JMRI DecoderPro to your DCC system, so that you do not have to rely on knowing which registers to change on your own (and with sound decoders, there can be thousands of registers in a decoder). The JMRI community has a number of folks who have written complete interfaces for almost every decoder available, and the functions are presented in plain English (i.e. you don't have to know that CV2 is minimum speed, CV3 is acceleration, etc.).

    Especially with starting off with only one or a couple of locos, but planning to expand, spend some time with DecoderPro now. Figure out where you want the functions (i.e., you may not want the dimmer on F7), and learn how to adjust.
     
  4. crusader27529

    crusader27529 TrainBoard Member

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    Besides what was already said, JMRI can, when used with Engine Driver SW on a smart phone as a throttle, allows you to label each function button, so you don't have to remember what each loco has assigned to each function.
     
  5. RBrodzinsky

    RBrodzinsky Staff Member TrainBoard Supporter

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    Very true, but I didn’t want to overwhelm DCC newbies with too much all at once. ;)
     
  6. Xrayvizhen

    Xrayvizhen TrainBoard Member

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    So....it looks like I will have to buy another gizmo, a USB computer interface, which for the NCE PowerCab, appears to be this? (Another 50 bucks - Crap!). And I really didn't want to be dealing with a computer for this. So what I think I'm gonna do is wait until I get locomotive #2. Sooner or later that will happen but since the PowerCab has dedicated buttons for the basic horn, bell and light functions, I'm OK for now. I was just wondering if there was commonality between locomotives from different companies.
     
    Last edited: Jan 14, 2021
  7. BigJake

    BigJake TrainBoard Member

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    Decoder Pro (the decoder programmer app, in the JMRI suite of applications) was a big reason for me to recently make the jump from DC to DCC. I'm still "jumping," but oh, the places I'm jumping to!

    However, please note that virtually everything that Decoder Pro does can be done manually using the decoder manual/datasheet, your Power Cab, a pencil and paper. The computer and JMRI (and the USB interface) make it much easier, but at it's own "cost" of complexity, equipment and knowledge.

    As for the costs associated with DCC (or any other aspect of any other hobby), we all have to live within our budgets (eventually), so plan accordingly. Plan your purchases so they give you the best bang for the buck in the long run.
     
    bigGG1fan likes this.
  8. S t e f a n

    S t e f a n TrainBoard Member

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    So, I went through the same calculation as Xray (another 50 bucks just to hook up the NCE Power Cab to a computer???), and bought an arduino plus motorshield. It's just a smidgen cheaper than the NCE USB interface, but I'm hoping I can additionally use it for some automation.
    Just my 2 cents.

    If we could find somebody smart, they could reverse-engineer the NCE protocol, and tell us how to hook up an Arduino as the computer interface. Well, if they were really smart, they would figure it out and then sell it to us. So, we need somebody smart, but not too smart.
     
  9. Xrayvizhen

    Xrayvizhen TrainBoard Member

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    Yep - at this point I'd rather spend the 50 bucks on some rolling stock or whatever artsy stuff I'm going to need for the scenery, buildings, etc. I'll use pencil and paper RAM, if needed.
     

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