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Author Topic: Digitrax Zephyr, Decoder Pro, and sound decoders  (Read 8558 times)
WGL
Great Northern


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« Reply #15 on: May 15, 2009, 02:05:15 AM »

Thanks Rusty, Jim & Robert, for your help.  I am left wondering what Digitrax means by a "smooth power pack," & whether or not the power pack that came with my Walthers LifeLike DC train set qualifies.  I will check the Digitrax website.
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r0bert


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« Reply #16 on: May 15, 2009, 02:22:23 AM »

they mean "not a Brick" those little square packs that come in starter sets, but something like the mid priced mrc tech 2's.
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WGL
Great Northern


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« Reply #17 on: May 15, 2009, 02:32:34 AM »

 Then buying throttles would become expensive.   Roll Eyes
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rustyrails
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« Reply #18 on: May 15, 2009, 08:12:14 AM »

They mean a power pack that does NOT use PULSE POWER to improve slow speed performance.  My guess is that most, if not all, trainset packs would be okay.  They usually are bottom of the line packs.  Check your documentation.  Most packs that use pulse power have a switch on them that says "Pulse Power," but some MRC units, I believe, work automatically.  Hope this helps. 
Rusty
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Jim Banner

Enjoying electric model railroading since 1950.


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« Reply #19 on: May 15, 2009, 09:48:35 AM »

A neater solution for jump throttles is to use a potentiometer for a speed control, a battery (or 12 volt battery eliminator), a DPDT toggle switch for direction control, and a SPST toggle switch for on/off.  Put these four items in a small case, add a knob and a length of wire, and you have a hand held, tethered throttle.  These are ideal for a small to medium layout or a yard control, even on a very large yard.  Circuit diagram available on request.

Note that jump throttles, including the one above, have no function buttons.  But you can turn headlights on at the Zephyr when you assign a particular locomotive to a jump throttle and they will reverse automatically when you reverse direction.  This is really handy when you are switching as the lights are a quick reminder of which direction the locomotive will move.

Jim
« Last Edit: May 15, 2009, 09:52:58 AM by Jim Banner » Logged

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r0bert


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« Reply #20 on: May 15, 2009, 01:09:33 PM »

for about the same price of a power pack, $60, you can buy a digitrax UT4 throttle that plugs right in, has 12 functions, and with the use of UP5 panels, is a walk-around throttle add-on to your Zephyr system.
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WGL
Great Northern


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« Reply #21 on: May 16, 2009, 03:23:17 AM »

Thanks, Rusty.  My LifeLike power pack has no pulse power switch.  I'd prefer to be able to use it rather than pay $60 for a throttle in addition to buying a Zephyr.  Some have bemoaned that Digitrax has not improved Zephyr since it won awards in 2002.
  One reviewer said,  "It definitely needs an LCD panel with a menu driven interface. Personally I'd like a recall switch that let's you toggle the last two locomotives without having to enter an address." http://modeltrains.about.com/b/2008/07/28/does-digitrax-need-a-new-zephyr.htm
« Last Edit: May 16, 2009, 03:40:03 AM by WGL » Logged
rustyrails
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« Reply #22 on: May 16, 2009, 09:58:08 AM »

It's true that the Zephyr has its shortcomings...but it has one great asset and that is Digitrax's commitment to LocoNet.  I can still use a booster I bought back in the mid-90's to run a second power district and my original throttle still works fine.  Although it's limited to 2-digit addresses, it does give me a walk-around capability.  For 4-digit addresses, I use my new UT-4 throttle or the throttle on the Zephyr itself.   So I have pieces dating from 1995 to literally last month, and they all work just fine together.
Rusty
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Jim Banner

Enjoying electric model railroading since 1950.


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« Reply #23 on: May 16, 2009, 06:36:36 PM »

Rusty, almost all my locomotives have 4 digit addresses.  To run one with a Digitrax UT-1 two digit throttle, I just set the locomotive's advanced consisting address to a two digit number.  By the next time I run this locomotive, I may have forgotten what address I set it to, or even that I did set an advance consist address.  But when I find it will not run on its 4 digit address, I am already half way there to clearing CV19 in OPs mode.  This process saves two trips to the programming track and is quick and easy.

Jim
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rustyrails
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« Reply #24 on: May 16, 2009, 07:25:27 PM »

Hey, Jim,
Thanks for the CV-19 tip.  I appreciate it.
Rusty
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WGL
Great Northern


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« Reply #25 on: May 19, 2009, 02:30:06 AM »

Rusty, apparently, if I wanted to use my Bachmann 5 amp booster with a Digitrax Zephyr, I'd have to create a second power district insulated from the first (which I'd have to learn how to do).  So I see another thing I like about EZ Command:  connecting it to the booster.  It's too bad any booster can't be connected to any DCC control.
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rustyrails
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« Reply #26 on: May 19, 2009, 06:54:10 AM »

When NMRA created the DCC standard, it was decided that the dividing line between manufacturers and users was going to be the tracks.  Everything on the system side of the tracks--the booster, command station and throttle, etc., could be proprietary.  In other words, the system components can all communicate as they see best.  Everything on the user side of the tracks--basically, the decoders--has to adhere to the DCC communications standard. 

The result of this scheme is the very high degree of interoperability between  systems and decoders, while allowing manufacturers to optimize their networks.  For alll boosters to work with all command stations and throttles, NMRA would have had to write a standard that described every single component, and might well have proven to be unworkable.  He who governs least governs best.

Rusty
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Rangerover

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« Reply #27 on: May 19, 2009, 10:03:40 AM »

Hi All,
Here's what I want to do:
Program Micro-Tsunami's and QSI's with a Zephyr and Decoder Pro.

Which interface do you recommend? I was looking at the Digitrax PR3.
If I purchase that do I need a booster as well (PTB-100 or Powerpax)?

Thanks for the help
Birdog

I'm going to start some controversy concerning some sound decoders and boosters.

I've been using my Bachmann EZ Command for over 4 years. I also added the Bachmann 5 amp booster, glad I did. Cost is more than some, but in my opinion Bachmann is high end in their booster, meaning, the circuit breaker and the cooling fan.

But proper buss and feeder wiring is utmost important when using boosters with DCC.

I have a friend on one of the other forums who also uses Bachmann EZ Command. Instead of purchasing the Bachmann booster he saved some money and bought one for like $69.00, not sure of the manufacturer, but if I find out, I'll post it.  Worked good for a year or 2. But something happened along the way. On derailments, he was frying decoders, expensive ones I might add. It seems he ignored the quarter test, until he finally decided it might be the booster, like other posters were telling him, after all how could it be that, it's fairly new, he thought. Well it failed the quarter test in that the booster would not break the current during shorts. He needlessly spent a lot of money on decoders, burning them up. All he had to do was turn on the booster, put a quarter across the track and see what happens, the booster should have kicked off until the short was corrected. You get what you pay for...Thank you Bachmann for a great product in your booster.

Another guy had problems with his booster failing the quarter test also. He apparently used too light of buss wire and drop feeders, something like #18 buss with #24 drop feeders. The booster failed because in simple terms, the correct current wasn't being delivered to the rails due to the wire size. I would imagine a 4X8 layout would have no effect but if your running 300 ft of wire, different story.

My experience with the Digitrax PR3 programmer. You still need a power supply with it, it tells you that even in the advertisements. I purchased the Digitrax PS14 Power Supply when I bought it. Now all worked well until I installed a Tsunami sound decoder, just not enough power from the PS 14. I had a spare power pack from an extra EZ Command and plugged it in the PR 3 and I was then able to program the Tsunami. I did the same for the BLI Blueline Loco's. There is a problem trying to program those, being you have to program 2 decoders in one loco. I found that by using the EZ Command power pack it worked fine. Now that may be too that the first BLI I did, I used a Digitrax motor decoder DZ143PS and had problems programming. Had to turn the motor decoder off and program the sound. Turn the sound off an then program the motor. However on my second attempt  I purchased a TCS motor decoder for another BLI Blueline and low and behold, I could program both the same time, I didn't have to turn nothing off. I don't know why that could be but it worked.

Now The Quantum Revolution sound decoders (QSI) I'm sure you have to purchase their programmer, correct me if I'm wrong, unless they are already loaded in the loco you purchase such as BLI, Atlas. I know that I am very happy with my PR3 and the JMRI program. You don't have to know all the CV's, some are very important and it's a learning curve .Just slide the bars for the sound or move the speed steps on the table in the program, try it on the layout, if you're not satisfied just keep tweaking until you are satisfied. Just a nice simple way to program, and I highly recommend it.

It's also great for those consists you would like to build, but those loco's that run way too fast or too slow, are now under my control and I can build any consist I choose to, simple and easy!

Hey if you mess up, simple, you won't and can't hurt anything, just reset the decoder back to factory reset and start over, it's all in the learning.
« Last Edit: May 19, 2009, 10:59:37 AM by Rangerover » Logged
Jim Banner

Enjoying electric model railroading since 1950.


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« Reply #28 on: May 19, 2009, 12:08:33 PM »

... if I wanted to use my Bachmann 5 amp booster with a Digitrax Zephyr, I'd have to create a second power district insulated from the first ...

That would be true only if you wanted to use the output of your booster and the output of the Zephyr at the same time.  Then you would have a total of 7.5 amps available to your layout, 5 amps in one power district and 2.5 amps in the other. **

But if you want to connect your booster and a Zephyr the same way as you do with the E-Z Command (output of the command station to the input of the booster, output of the booster to all the trackage) then you would have the same 5 amps available as you would with your E-Z Command setup.

** Note: For technical reasons, you may not be able to use both outputs at the same time, even if you set up two power districts.  Some boosters are designed in such a way that you cannot use more than one of them on a layout.  The MRC Power Station 8 is such a booster.  The jury is still out on the E-Z Command booster.

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

... He apparently used too light of buss wire and drop feeders, something like #18 buss with #24 drop feeders. The booster failed because in simple terms, the correct current wasn't being delivered to the rails due to the wire size. I would imagine a 4X8 layout would have no effect but if your running 300 ft of wire, different story ...

I suspect it was his under sized bus wires that got him in trouble.  I use #24 feeds on all my trackage as long as they are less than 3 feet long and have no problems with quarter tests, even though I use an 8 amp booster.  What size booster was your friend using?

... I had a spare power pack from an extra EZ Command and plugged it in the PR 3 and I was then able to program the Tsunami. I did the same for the BLI Blueline Loco's. There is a problem trying to program those, being you have to program 2 decoders in one loco. I found that by using the EZ Command power pack it worked fine. Now that may be too that the first BLI I did, I used a Digitrax motor decoder DZ143PS and had problems programming ...

I am glad this worked for you without damaging your PR-3 or any decoders.  Did you happen to measure the actual output of the E-Z Command power pack with just the light load of the PR-3 connected?  I am betting it was a lot more than the 15 volts the PR-3 is rated for.  A measurement of the track voltage would be interesting too.  It could easily be more than the 18 volts maximum that the early DZ125's were rated for.

Bottom line, boosting the voltage for programming is not the same as boosting the available current.  It may program some of the decoders all of the time and all of the decoders some of the time.  The rest of the time, don't inhale the smoke.

Jim
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Rangerover

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« Reply #29 on: May 19, 2009, 12:58:38 PM »

I am glad this worked for you without damaging your PR-3 or any decoders.  Did you happen to measure the actual output of the E-Z Command power pack with just the light load of the PR-3 connected?  I am betting it was a lot more than the 15 volts the PR-3 is rated for.  A measurement of the track voltage would be interesting too.  It could easily be more than the 18 volts maximum that the early DZ125's were rated for.

Bottom line, boosting the voltage for programming is not the same as boosting the available current.  It may program some of the decoders all of the time and all of the decoders some of the time.  The rest of the time, don't inhale the smoke.

Jim


NO NO NO NO...I'm a little smarter than that. I checked the voltage with a meter for the EZ Command power pack before I plugged her in. Output is 14 volts ( though it says 16 volts output on the power pack) and the PR is 12-15 volts. I am however ordering the Power Pax programmer from Tony's.  I use a quality electricians volt ohm meter, not a cheap $25 meter. I don't particularly like taking chances.

It's cheaper $50.00 for the Power Pax  than smoking a $100.00 decoder, what worked for a shortcut once, may not work again, so I won't take that chance either.  And that programmer will program the Tsumani and QSI and other power eating decoders.  Mama didn't raise no fools!

As far as the digitrax decoder it wasn't an early DZ125. It was a DZ 143PS in fact and it was on the list of recommended decoders from BLI for that particular loco which I already had on hand. The digitrax PS decoders are for Z scale loco's but work in HO scale also. There is a "room for question" so I used what BLI recommended.

note...I have a separate program  track I use to program off the layout. I don't have the computer in the train room. But I am considering buying a cheap laptop for the train room and then can program on the main and run the layout using the JMRI Panel Pro. But I also have a separate program track that is completely isolated from the layout in my yard area. That's where I program Bachmann diesels to the command station. You can't program anything with them with any system that I know of, not even speed steps, if you know of how to program them,  please enlighten me.
« Last Edit: May 19, 2009, 01:31:43 PM by Rangerover » Logged
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