KB385: Compatibility of LOK Sound decoders with Digitrax

This article was last updated on Oct. 17, 2010, 11:55 a.m. | Print Article | Leave Feedback

I have a DCS50  Zephyr system.  I'm having a great deal of problems with it when I try to run (2) loco's equipped with LOK SOUND and DCC decoders (by ESU).  What happens is that it cuts in and out 3 to 5 times on each revolution of the train. I see it cutting out on turnouts sometimes, but not on straight track.  And sometimes when the loco's are on a hard pull, like at a sharp uphill curve.  When they cut out it just isn't the loco's, but the entire railroad.

With the addition of the sound electronics, power consumption issues become more pronounced.  At this point, a couple things come to mind.  First, it would appear that the Zephyr is operating at the edge of its power limits, thus the "cutting out" at intervals.  The Zephyr is a 2.5 Amp system, and the two locomotives may be drawing that much by themselves if the mechanisms are new and "tight".

I really don't think that the 2.5 AMP's is enough power.

That is quite possibly right.  Please see the related article about adding boosters to Zephyr (below).  But before we attribute the problem to a lack of power, let's go back and revisit the statement "I see it cutting out on turnouts sometimes, but not on straight track."  In this case, you may simply have a garden variety electrical problem that would be there even if you were operating with conventional direct current.  In more than a few cases, we have heard from customers who were having problems that were due to an electrical problem within the wiring of their railroad.  This is especially true when the layout was originally wired for operation with DC.  

At this point, it is best to take all the locomotives and cars off of the railroad.  If there is an electrical problem within the wiring, the "cutting out" will still be there even though there are no locomotives present.  You then start with one locomotive and gradually build up to the full complement of locomotives and cars.  If it is a power consumption problem, the symptoms will present themselves as you approach the amperage limits of your power supply.  Or, the problem will present itself when a particular locomotive goes over a specific location; the electrical short happens when something brushes up against something that it should not.  In other words, a systematic approach to this problem will get things fixed in short order; identifying the problem is most of the challenge.

If the problem is due to high power consumption, subdivide the layout into smaller power districts, each with its own booster & power supply.  The Zephyr is a good unit, with plenty of capacity for expansion, but with the added power consumption of the sound units, it needs help.  Adding boosters is the solution to this.  The only limitation that Zephyr has is that it only has ten "slots" for active locomotives.

So, what is your suggestion for a system to replace the DCS50 that will have enough power to handle my needs, and still have plenty in reserve for the future.

You do not need to replace the Zephyr; it can still be used as a booster & throttle.  If you need additional command station capabilities, you could add a more powerful command station. If you do not need more command station capabilities, simply add a booster and continue to use the Zephyr as your command station.

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