Do I HAVE to have a programming track?

kingpeta Dec 9, 2016

  1. kingpeta

    kingpeta TrainBoard Member

    I recently got into DCC and I rewired my layout. I'm beginning to program about 6 locos and wondering if a program track is absolutely required. I have the NCC Powercab system and it seems to me I can program on the main which involves selecting the loco address first. Wouldn't this eliminate the problem of inadvertently reprogramming every locomotive on the layout? I should mention the first programming I did was to set each loco's address on a separate piece of track.
    If I am careful to remove all but the loco I want to program, wouldn't this prevent any problems?

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  2. bremner

    bremner Staff Member

    I also have a Powercab...I just leave one loco on the layout
  3. wvgca

    wvgca TrainBoard Member

    It' easier with a seperate program track, but not absolutely necessary ..
    my program track is a piece of track glued to a strip pf plywood with long wires, and sits under the layout until I need it ..
  4. J911

    J911 TrainBoard Member

    Not necessary. What you can do is have a piece of track that's isolated and used only for programming if you wish.

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  5. mfm_37

    mfm_37 TrainBoard Member

    Programming on the main is fine for just about every programming step. Changing address can get a bit hairy. First you need to clear all other engines from the track. You need to dial up the existing address. e.g. default of 03. Then you program the new address but you also need to tell the decoder to run that address if it is an extended (4 digit ) address. When done, you now have to select the new address to see if it actually worked.
    I've always felt that changing address is best done on an isolated program track. A piece of track wired in with a DPDT toggle switch is plenty. I use a piece of KATO track and one of their terminal tracks mounted on a piece of wood. Doubles as a cleaning track too.

    Martin Myers
    subwayaz likes this.
  6. DCESharkman

    DCESharkman TrainBoard Member

    I do about the same as Martin. I use 4 sections of Kato Track with w terminal track in the middle.

    I am a devoted fan of the programming track, though I admit it is not necessary. I use JMRI to program all my locomotives. That way I know they are getting the proper programming for all the options I use. For me the programming is very portable because I do not need a command station. I use Digitrax PR3 because it can power the programming track and program decoders without needing a DCC controller.

    I run with a NTrak group and this makes it easy to program anywhere with my laptop. I use the extra Kato pieces mostly to program consists, and I use the multiple pieces so I can adapt to whatever size I need to. It has come in handy to program locomotives in batches too. I can set out 5 GP-9 units on the track and program all the speed tables etc in one operation, then I change the addresses. The speed matching after programming is another discussion.

    So depending on what you are doing, with a group or solo, a programming track is a handy thing to have around.
    subwayaz likes this.
  7. CSX Robert

    CSX Robert TrainBoard Member

    When using Ops mode programming ("Programming on the main"), you do not need to remove the other locos unless they are also using the default primary address of 3.
  8. kingpeta

    kingpeta TrainBoard Member

    Thank you for all your replies. I may set up a separate track on a little storage table I have under the layout. I guess I'd have to get an additional jack plate (whatever NCC calls them) to be able to plug in the power & cab at that track.

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  9. MarkInLA

    MarkInLA Permanently dispatched

    Listen, here's what you must beware of: There are certain program changes you can perform on the main even while still rolling. But in 'Use program track' mode programing, if done while other locos are sitting the line, all will be affected and get their programs botched up at the same time. "Program track" mode does allot of deeper Ops than "program on the main". if, IF you have only one solitary loco on the layout you can treat whole layout as a program track. Otherwise, to avoid having to remove all the other locos, you can dedicate a short track (say, at an engine terminal) which is isolated from main by its rails being gapped from the rest. Tad involved here to explain its wiring. But using this isolated 'program track' you will never mess up other locos. Gabeesh ? I too use an NCE PowerCab.. BTW: Avoid pressing down on the speed-wheel on the throttle. After a while the shaft/axle gets destroyed inside somehow, and you wind up only able to use the speed 'buttons' until you get 'Cab' repaired.... M
    subwayaz likes this.
  10. DougL

    DougL TrainBoard Member

    I simply use a DPDT switch between the main and programming tracks. No extra plate

    I connected the single output from the NCE to a DPDT switch, one pair of output wires to the prog track, one pair to the main. I flip the switch to "programming" and we are ready to go.

    I camouflaged the programming track as an abandoned siding, right on the layout, near the NCE-DCC panel. The track is NOT connected in any way to the main. An LED in series with a 2K resistor connected across the programming rails indicates it is hot. The LED is not noticeable until it is on. I could have used incandescent bulbs, two 12v bulbs in series.

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