Objections - Complexity of DCC

BarstowRick Apr 2, 2010

  1. inobu

    inobu Permanently dispatched


    I try to stick with one brand to simplify things. This enables me to keep in line with what the vendor has to offer and eliminates a lot of compatibility heartaches.

    I pretty much went with Kato and only run their locos and freight. As for the decoders I chose Digitrax. Although their system is complex their offering supports my overall needs. It is complex but offer a lot more.

    Based on previous entries you are running MRC and I do see that their information is some what convoluted. I also noticed that the Prodigy Advance 2 has an easy address feature which does not work on all decoders. (This is why Rick wants a flowchart)

    It appears that some manuals have more information than others. #0001828 has more data than #0001644 so it looks like one has to piece data together.

    The key is to use instructions from the Cab manual and decoder manual to get things going. It will be somewhat drawn out.

    The best approach is to create a punch list of functions and features that you want and then locate the CV associated. Go through the CV list and highlight the descriptions that matched your punch list.

    For example you need to use the long address because you want to use the road numbers for loco ID. That is on your punch list so locate the associated CV and highlight CV1, CV17 CV18. If you want to tweak your speed table to get the slow roll then flag CV2 CV3 CV4 and CV6.

    Create your punch list so we can see it.


    I think I'll pick up one of these decoders just to see what is going on to compared it with Digitrax.
  2. DCESharkman

    DCESharkman TrainBoard Member

    Hey Rick,

    Can you give me a list of things you want to do and what features you are interested in working with? No need to even talk about CV's just what is it you want to do. I will do my best to get you turned around and on your way to happier times.
  3. Shannon

    Shannon TrainBoard Member


    I have been a member of a local club in the Northwest and I found many people do not understand DCC even if your try to teach it to them.

    I am very lucky because I spent 30 years in the electronics industry. Don't misunderstand me I do not know it all, far from it. I understand the basics and I am still learning. I can understand someone with no electrical training might have real problems with DCC.

    The best thing I can tell you to do is read as much as you can and ask as many questions as you can. Remember DCC is 14.5 volts AC. So things are much different as far as track wiring and locomotives go.

    There is NEVER a stupid question.............only stupid mistakes.
  4. BarstowRick

    BarstowRick TrainBoard Supporter

    John Paulson aka Spidge, We had the opportunity to get together today at the train show, Ontario, Ca.

    He was able to demonstrate for me how the NCE programming soft ware works. Correct me if this information is wrong. This simplifies the complexities of programming a decoder equipped locomotive. The computer software, laptop, some hardware, a DCC equipped locomotive or two and a program track is all you need. Leave the calculator at home. The computer program will read the decoder and give you some data or idea as to what decoder is installed. You can set the kick speed and the rate of acceleration or deceleration. John, took two locomotives with different decoders and proceeded to match them to the same approximate speed. Continuing the demo and showing me how to consist them.

    I'm a show me type of person. I can read all day long, talk on the phone, and follow directions. I do well at learning and discerning. And, I can play with various settings until the cat's come home. There's nothing like seeing it done and with such ease. This program that John showed me just takes all the guess work out and reduces the learning curve to a gentle 10 degree turn. It eliminates the need for a flow chart....although I still wish I had one. Grin!

    I'm one tired model rail but just had to share this with you before I hit the sack.

    I would encourage all of you to give it a look see and check it out. The NCE DCC comand conrol center...I think!

    Edited correction: Powercab with NCE interface and Decoderpro, as stated by John in the next posting.

    A shout out to John Paulson aka Spidge for taking time out his busy day to show a fellow model rail how to put the fun back into DCC. Awesome!

    I highly recommend you look into this and check it out. DCC simplified.

    Thanks again John.
    Last edited by a moderator: Jun 6, 2010
  5. jhn_plsn

    jhn_plsn TrainBoard Supporter

    You are very welcome Rick.

    For everyones information I use the Powercab with NCE interface and Decoderpro on my laptop all connected to an oval of track. Quick and dirty but gets the job done. In my opinion using decoderpro to fine tune the locos and speed match is like moving from DC to DCC, it really helps enhance the DCC experience. Now I am far from a guru on this stuff but a guy brought a couple Tsunami equipped locos to me and now they are speed matched and smooth with the prime movers ramping up together in volume before the units start moving. Sweeeeet! Man I love this stuff.

    Now Rick has a Prodigy system and it requires the use of the MRC program that I have not looked into. I don't think the MRC systems are supported by Decoderpro. If anyone knows anything about the MRC equivalent to Decoderpro please chime in with your experiences for Rick's sake, and anyone else for that matter. I will do a little research and add what I learn here to.

    Make Sunday a great day and come on over to the Ontario Big Train Show.
  6. CSX Robert

    CSX Robert TrainBoard Member

    Just to be clear, it is not NCE software. The software is JMRI's DecoderPro, which will work with NCE, Digitrax, Lenz, EasyDCC and several others.

    Unfortunately correct, through no fault of the JMRI developers. MRC has not been willing to release the information required for JMRI to support MRC. DecoderPro can still be helpful to MRC users, however. You can run it with "Loconet Simulator" selected as the interface, then use it to configure the decoder and the "CVs" tab will give you a list of CVs with the ones that you need to change highlighted. You can then use that list to program the CVs using the handheld or MRC's software.
  7. BarstowRick

    BarstowRick TrainBoard Supporter

    MRC Follow-Up

    I can only hope, that many of you are still following this thread as we are about to highball down the tracks with DCC. Well, I might be... and I'd like to make the trip easier for the rest of you.


    Good News for MRC users: (I think)

    To follow up here with John and Robert's comments I found this: MRC, Train Controls, DCC Decoders, DCC Accessories

    Now that I know what I'm looking for....look out.

    Edited add on: Well, I got it downloaded and then it hit me...this looks like my hand held unit. What exactly was I trying to accomplish here? Make it simple? Yep, that has't to be it.

    Flow Chart Revisited:

    I will be going back through everything each of you have provided with information regarding the CV's and how you set them. Just to see if something clicks in the gray matter, of my brain.

    David aka DCE Sharkman, and others have shared a willingness to help me sort this out. What I need from you, is how you set up your CV's, to and for the various decoders. Ie. Digitrax decoder, to a Kato locomotive. CV #, and a brief description of the function. Explanation: I start at 2 I go up to slow it down and down to speed it up. Momentum features I use________ and etc.

    I will attempt to put together a flow chart and post it here when and if it's completed. If you would please, e-mail me at: hpwrick@yahoo.com. Unless, you don't want to.

    Don't stop now there is more to be shared....I'm sure.:pcute:
    Thanks again for everyone's participation.

    Edited add on: I just found examples of CV's and their purpose in the MRC information. I don't think putting together a complex flow chart is within my reach. However, I'd still appreciate examples of how you set up your CV's. This would be greatly appreciated.

    One last shout of thanks to Bob/PSG1790 and Terry for helping me get started on setting the CV's and understanding the basics. It's because of their help I begin to see the need for a flow chart.
    Last edited by a moderator: Jun 7, 2010
  8. JNXT 7707

    JNXT 7707 TrainBoard Member

    This has ben an interesting thread. As a beginner to the hobby a year ago, my goal was a simple 2 loop layout: one for fast freight/passenger (outside) and one for local freight (inside). DCC was never considered, both because of its cost and percieved complexity. An artist I am...an electrical engineer I am not. OF course I would love the freedom of operating each loco indepently, but the railroad budget is severely limited.
    So...call me a DCC procrastinator. Procrastinators always have reasons for their procrastination, and here are mine:
    1. Cost
    2. Complexity
    3. Wiring the locos with decoders
    4. What to do with all my old locos - can they still be run on DCC?
    5. Is the next generation of DCC just around the bend? maybe I should wait.
    6. Cost
  9. BarstowRick

    BarstowRick TrainBoard Supporter

    Procrastinator's Anyoymous

    Hi, I'm Rick and I'm a procrastinator and your not. :pcool: Not quite.

    L&N, you are just getting started with the hobby. Give yourself time to arrive at a layout that is complex enough to introduce DCC, to it. You need more the a simple roundy round. That should stir the pot. I'm going to catch it for that remark.

    DCC has it's benefits as it is the easiest to wire and gives you the most bang for the buck. If I were you I'd start with DCC.

    I've spent more years in the hobby then I really care to admit to. Of course they had to wait until I retired to introduce DCC and make it so readily available. Grrrrrrrr!
    All those years throwing toggles and running trains on Cab A and Cab B. Hurrrumph!
    What am I saying....those years were good years with loads of fun. I got pretty good at anticipating and making sure the next block ahead of me was clear and ready for me to switch cabs.

    Take your time...you'll get there.
  10. CSX Robert

    CSX Robert TrainBoard Member

    Let me address a few of these real quick.

    "Cost" - DCC does cost more than DC, true. Some DCC fanatics try to make the case that it really doesn't, but the fact of the matter is, it does; however, I feel that in most cases it is not significant. DCC adds to the cost of the control system and your engines, but it does not add a single penny to the cost of track, scenery, structures, benchwork, and rolling stock. Although I don't have any statistics to back it up, I suspect that for most people the engines and control system are actually a relatively small percentage of the overall cost of the hobby(although I freely admit I could be way off on this).

    "What to do with all my old locos - can they still be run on DCC?" - Yes, some DCC systems(though certainly not all) will run DC locos as well, though the consensus seems to be that most people do not recommend it. The DC locos will admit a buzz(that some people find very annoying) and there is the potential for overheating the motor; although some people do run DC locos on DCC on a regular basis and are satisfied with it.

    "Is the next generation of DCC just around the bend? maybe I should wait." - I've been hearing this sort of comment for over 15 years now and it hasn't happened yet(and a lot of people have missed out on the joys of DCC while waiting).
  11. davidmbedard

    davidmbedard TrainBoard Member

    If you can figure out how to post on these forums, then you can use JMRI. Common guys, it makes programming very simple.

    It sounds like to me that the OP needs a different hobby.

    David B
  12. TwinDad

    TwinDad TrainBoard Member

    This is almost never a good reason to avoid getting in on an electronic system. Especially one with a decent level of maturity or a slow development curve. No matter when you get in, the next generation is always just around the corner (Apple has an uncanny way of unleashing the next version just a few months after I finally buy one!).

    Besides, most "next generation" systems are intentionally backward-compatible. Especially where a significant portion of the customer base is expected to upgrade.
  13. SD75MAC

    SD75MAC TrainBoard Supporter

    Be advised if you use Decoderpro, it will render your decoder inoperable if you don't use the correct Decoderpro spec with the installed decoder.
  14. dstuard

    dstuard TrainBoard Member


    Not inoperable, just misprogrammed. You could make the same errors (and likely more) using manual programming. There is nothing mystical (or maniacal) about DP, as it only directs the command station to do the actual programming, just as a throttle would.

    A simple decoder reset will take you back to the starting gate so you can do it right.
  15. inobu

    inobu Permanently dispatched

    Here is a suggestion concerning DCC and how to start off.

    DCC capabilities are vast and far reaching but your implementation plan will be the discerning factor in how difficult your transition will be.

    Create an plan that will guide you to your transition goals. This is the best way to keep yourself focused. Input, feed back and opinions are so readily available you can find yourself questioning things that you thought you answered weeks ago. This can be frustrating and lead you in circles.

    I chose one vendor and stuck with them based on features, product availability and support documentation. This is based on person to person so I suggest you look for yourself and then decide. When you make decisions based on sound personal reasoning you are able to rebut the "what if's" questions that manifest itself down the line.

    There are a lot of vendors and all have their strength and weakness, only you know what works for you. Look at yourself in the mirror and acknowledge what you can and cannot do, what you will and will not do.

    If your goals are to convert to DCC and you want to run now, then look for the vendor that supplies most of the drop in decoders that you need. If you know or think you want more out of DCC(sound, PC interface, Proto speed, tweaking) look for the vendor that supplies products for the bulk of your needs.

    For those of you that are in the middle you can still formulate a plan with what you have. The idea is you document your plan and follow it.

    I myself choose Digitrax, Kato, JMRI and Ipods as the throttle. That is all I have, nothing else. This simplifies things so I can focus on one product with fewer variables for now. I know over time I will be able to recognize and appreciate certain features that are available from various manufactures. It is like having your first car, you really don't know how the cars drives until you own it and drive it.

    With that said,


    I can see that you are starting off good but there is a loop ahead. I saw that you have MRC Prodigy as your DCC system. Although MRC has their own computer interface like JMRI, it looks like you are headed for a loop.

    This is what I am referring to. MRC has two programming systems. Easy Programmer and CV blaster. Easy Program programs their decoders automatically or with auto calculations (you select certain check boxes). Other decoders may not be programed with this feature which gets you back to your original situation. The CV blaster will program other decoders but to have to consult the particular vendors decoder manual to know what the advance variables should be.

    Depending of the number of decoders you already have and which manufacture they are you could be in the same situation (searching for flowchart).

    This is why I recommend to first timers to select one vendor one decoder and learn the ropes. After your knowledge base is established you can make better choices in what you need or want and expound from there.

    Based on the fact that you have MRC (with a proprietary interface) it is not compatible with JMRI which marries you to them in terms of computer interface. This also pushes you toward their decoders for now.

    Remember the cab talks to the command booster which communicates to the decoder. This is a complete system so keeping one keeps all so to speak.

    So, you may be better off getting their PC interface and one of their decoders and start from their.

    Run the Auto program to configure the decoder first.

    Make subtle changes and read back the CV and identify what CV changed for what action. This will give you a feel for the CV and a means to develop a flowchart that you can use to configure other decoder. Afterward you can use CB blaster to do all your decoders.

    Hope this helps.

  16. SD75MAC

    SD75MAC TrainBoard Supporter

    Resets do not work if you use a spec for, let's say a DN163K1A and the installed decoder is a DN163K2
  17. BarstowRick

    BarstowRick TrainBoard Supporter

    OP Needs A What?

    Now there you guys go making it all dammed complicated again.
    Cautions and warning noted.

    David B., Hahaha What?

    Your first thought shared here comes as good news. The second one perplexes me.

    What is "OP", a secret code for Barstow Rick is an idiot and needs a different hobby? Hey, don't be talking about me in code or third person...I'm standing right here.

    Feel free to think what you will and say what you want.

    I reserve the right to choose my friends and those who I wish to influence me.

    Now do me a favor and translate OP for me. Operations Purveyor, Onery Participant, Obsessive Personality, Overconfident Preppy, Obstinate and Pathetic, Ostracized Pip, Outlaw Paleface....what?:mwacko: Old Pullman?
  18. SteamDonkey74

    SteamDonkey74 TrainBoard Supporter

    It sounds like the original poster is looking for some help. I agree that JMRI makes programming most decoders much easier than trying to program them with a throttle. Rick has now seen JMRI in action thanks to a helpful member.

    Let's help him.
  19. inobu

    inobu Permanently dispatched

    But he is locked to MRC. JMRI does not have access to the command controller because MRC has proprietary protocol.

    This means he has to use their (MRC) components from the platform perspective. It is the original scenario in that the CV data needs to be supplied. (unless he already has it) He can use MRC CV blaster to program the decoder.

    In any case it appears his next step is to get the PC interface and program installed.
    Getting a MRC decoder would be the easiest starting point. That way he can use their Easy programmer first using their instruction set and step his way to programming via CV Blaster.

  20. inobu

    inobu Permanently dispatched

    I pulled down the program and you should have no problem getting on your feet. Here is the key to you getting everything together. Focus on the CV here and locate their Range and default values.

    Enter the current loco address -----> this is CV1

    CV1 will be 1-127 and the default is 3. This is the default sent by all vendors unless you change it.


    Look around before you start, you can start putting the pieces together.


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