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Solving DCC Programming Problems

Barry poses this question for readers:

“I am having an issue with trying to program HO locos on my DCC system. I am using a Hornby ‘Select’ controller. I understand that cleaning of track and locomotive wheels is very important to ensure a signal can get through to control unit. I have cleaned the track with a cleaning rubber block and wiped the wheels using a cotton bud with a medical alcohol base. What else should I be checking, cleaning or other actions to the message through?”

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3 Responses to Solving DCC Programming Problems

  • Newman Atkinson says:

    Hi Barry, Are you really getting power If so then you should be getting changes into your control chip. As always do not make changes in programming when other engines are on your layout. Preferably do it on a program track or in OPS mode make sure all your other engines are off the board. I am guessing you are trying to give it it’s own address first. I don’t know your hornby system but all systems when changing the address you don’t want to have any other engines on the track. You should be going to program how ever your system tells you how to do that. enter the number you are giving your engine and press enter. when the engine is accepting the new address your engine should roll forward a couple of clicks. Exit your programing and see if it will run on the new address. If not check the original address. If you have lost control and don’t know where you are at then go back your your factory default settings (on Digitrax you go to CV 8 and adjust that CV to oo8 and enter. You should be back yo your original address of 03 from the factory. Which ever system you have the programming should be the same only your system should tell you how to get to that. Always press enter when you make the change and before you quit programming make sure you exit. The computer is the best way to make changes though. JMRI will do a better job getting it where you want to go with it everything from speed adjustments to sound and acceleration / momentum which I don’t recommend till you are used to the system and your engines All DCC systems will work similar and your CV’s will be the same. How you get to where your system gets you to the proper CV you will need to follow your system. Just remember that if all else fails reset to factory settings and youe engine will go back to a 03 address and just start over.
    If you use the JMRI on your computer and the link unit to your track once you get your engine set you can save all the settings to that engine. So if you loose control again all you do is recopy all the changes for that engine back on the engine and you are ready to go again
    I hope this is a good start for you as not really knowing where your problem is. One other thing find someone like at a club or something and let them program your engine and and watch them do it. It does not have to be your system. Once the settings are set you can take the engine to any DCC layout with other systems and it will work there as set. One word od advice though. If you are going to another system with your engine and you consist it to another engine while there, Make sure you unconsist the engines and dispatch your engine and exit his system before going home and trying to run it. I found that even though the systems work alike they also wright the systems in their own writing so Like you consist the engine there when you get it home it will most likely not move. You either take it back to your friends layout and properly unconsist and exit or you will be resetting back to factory settings to reprogram your engine. Yes that happened to me and my friends layout was over an hour from me so I elected to go through the resets and start over. Once you get programming down it works pretty well either from the trottle or from the computer with the JMRI program Actually easier on the JMRI. Good Luck from Newman

  • Bill says:

    Barry,
    Norman’s advice is good. One thing that is unclear from your question is what type of decoders you are trying to program. If they are mobile sound decoders they may require more current than your programing system can supply. If that is the case then you will require a booster. There are a couple of manufacturers of these. Do your programming on a dedicated track and you can leave the booster hooked up continually.

  • Don Norris says:

    Throw the Hornby controller away, I personally think they are rubbish and believe they are not NMRA compliant. Try a NCE powercab, they are excellent.

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Use Tiny Railroad Micro Controllers

A micro controller is basically a small programmable computer device to help hobbyists “make things operate.” It is clever way to realistically replicate the movements, actions and functions you are likely to see on a full size railroad.



Micro control technology can be used for:

Rolling stock and scenic lighting effects, street lamp lighting, lighting up of structures, emergency vehicle flashing lights, replicating a campfire or arc welding, tall structure tower lighting, block occupancy detection, turnout operation, motors/servos, solenoid, infrared, right-of-way signal lighting, current sense, crossing gate & signal operation, semaphores, flashers, turntable control, gate arms, draw/lift bridge control, fast time clock, DCC testing, scenery sound control, wireless controls, and lighting fixture day to night control. Read more...

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A simple DC (Direct Current) transformer will give you a nice chugging locomotive going one way on your model train track, however, with a DCC unit you can have the flexibility of having an entire train-switching yard happening right in front of your eyes! That is the adaptability that is available with this coming-of-age technology in the hobby!



By using the Digital Command Control, you are opening up a whole new range of possibilities. A continuous electrical current is sent to all of the many things you have installed on your train layout, however, now you have a digital receiver installed in each various items. You can therefore control each and every one of them with the selectable controller and enhance the operation and, more importantly, the look and feel of your system.

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