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Main Track vs. Program Track

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Main Track vs. Program Track
Posted by Swampcrawler on Friday, August 8, 2008 7:01 PM
I'm new to all of this. I'm hooking up an MRC Prodigy Advance 2 for DCC. Is a "Program Track" just a small piece of track that is completely unattached to the main track and used solely to program the loco? Thanks in advance for any help.
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Posted by locoi1sa on Friday, August 8, 2008 7:23 PM

  Yes it can be. Some people put the program track in a yard. Mine is on the work bench.

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Posted by loathar on Friday, August 8, 2008 7:41 PM
Yes. My Bachmann instructions say to add resistors to the programming track to limit the possibility of decoder damage when programming a new decoder for the first time. (in case it's wired wrong) I don't know if MRC recommends that or not. You'd have to refer to your manual.
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Posted by tomikawaTT on Friday, August 8, 2008 7:54 PM

Pardon a question from a DCC ignoramus.

Is there any reason that a piece of layout trackage, say the track leading from the yard lead to the diesel shop or turntable, can't be completely isolated, then wired through a DPDT switch.  Toggle down, program the locomotive.  Toggle up, connect to the regular DCC bus and be off to the departure track to pick up an outbound train.

Comments, please.

Chuck (modeling Central Japan in September, 1964)

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Posted by selector on Friday, August 8, 2008 7:56 PM

The idea of a programming track is that it is meant to make any booboos you may inadvertently make constrained to the one decoder getting the signal.  All other decoders in locos around the layout will be spared the miscue and won't be affected.  Saves time, and in the odd case, some money.  Certainly a fair bit of aggravation.

What I did, because it was the closest track to me when operating my layout, is to make my turntable approach track gapped at each end and make it isolatable via an SPDT switch.  When I get a new loco, I place it on the rails between the gaps (they're about 24" apart), throw the toggle, and then power up my DCC system.  The layout remains silent while I deal with the various CV's in the new decoder.

As loathar has suggested, you will need a resistor or a booster with some systems because  some decoders won't accept the weak signal when using the programming circuit.

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Posted by jbinkley60 on Friday, August 8, 2008 9:38 PM
 tomikawaTT wrote:

Pardon a question from a DCC ignoramus.

Is there any reason that a piece of layout trackage, say the track leading from the yard lead to the diesel shop or turntable, can't be completely isolated, then wired through a DPDT switch.  Toggle down, program the locomotive.  Toggle up, connect to the regular DCC bus and be off to the departure track to pick up an outbound train.

Comments, please.

Chuck (modeling Central Japan in September, 1964)

I have a dead end spur siding setup this way for a programming track.  

 

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Posted by froggy on Friday, August 8, 2008 9:42 PM
My program track is a siding.But why when I try to program a new loco using the four digit numbers of the loco,it will not move but I try 0003 it runs?
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Posted by cacole on Friday, August 8, 2008 9:53 PM
 tomikawaTT wrote:

Is there any reason that a piece of layout trackage, say the track leading from the yard lead to the diesel shop or turntable, can't be completely isolated, then wired through a DPDT switch.  Toggle down, program the locomotive.  Toggle up, connect to the regular DCC bus and be off to the departure track to pick up an outbound train.

 No reason at all.  On our club layout, the programming track is a run-through siding with an isolated section wired through a toggle switch just as you describe, and on my home layout it is a dead-end siding wired through a toggle.

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Posted by mfm37 on Saturday, August 9, 2008 12:35 AM

 loathar wrote:
Yes. My Bachmann instructions say to add resistors to the programming track to limit the possibility of decoder damage when programming a new decoder for the first time. (in case it's wired wrong) I don't know if MRC recommends that or not. You'd have to refer to your manual.

 

Some systems use full power to program and current limiting resistors will prevent damage to decoders that may have installation problems. These are installed in series in the track leads.

If MRC uses a current limited program output, the extra resistors aren't needed.

Adding a 1k ohm resistor is a trick to increase programming current for some sound decoders. It's usually needed on some current limited programming tracks. This resistor is connected across the rails.

 

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Posted by selector on Saturday, August 9, 2008 2:26 AM

 froggy wrote:
My program track is a siding.But why when I try to program a new loco using the four digit numbers of the loco,it will not move but I try 0003 it runs?

Your decoder has understood your request for it to respond to a new address, but it needs you to say, "Yes, you may," to its question, "Froggy, may I?"  What you must do, after you input the 4 digit address, is go into Ops Mode and change the value in CV29 to either 34 (if you don't want the decoder to recognize DC signal if it gets it sometimes), or 38 if you want it to recognize when it is on a DC layout in addition to DCC.  Most of us use 34.

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Posted by dadret on Tuesday, August 12, 2008 7:17 AM
I've just got an isolated piece of track next to my TT.  I have found that on some locos with sound, particularly BLI, you might need to add a Program Track Booster - I use PowerPax Programming Track Booster from DCC Specialities.  It costs about $50 but sure solves a lot of programming problems.
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Posted by AlreadyInUse on Tuesday, August 12, 2008 10:00 AM
 tomikawaTT wrote:

Is there any reason that a piece of layout trackage, say the track leading from the yard lead to the diesel shop or turntable, can't be completely isolated, then wired through a DPDT switch.  Toggle down, program the locomotive. 

Make it a center off DPDT switch. If you hook up a programming track booster you don't want to short the booster to the operating track.

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Posted by wjstix on Tuesday, August 12, 2008 6:41 PM
 tomikawaTT wrote:

Pardon a question from a DCC ignoramus.

Is there any reason that a piece of layout trackage, say the track leading from the yard lead to the diesel shop or turntable, can't be completely isolated, then wired through a DPDT switch.  Toggle down, program the locomotive.  Toggle up, connect to the regular DCC bus and be off to the departure track to pick up an outbound train.

Comments, please.

Chuck (modeling Central Japan in September, 1964)

 

That's basically what I do. I actually prefer having it on the mainline so I don't have to keep lifting the engine back and forth to make programming changes.

As far as the resistors, you shouldn't really need that IF you remember to put the engine onto the programming track first, not subject it to 'mainline' power right away. Try to call up a CV like the two-digit address. If it comes up "03" then you don't have any shorts and you can program and run the engine. If it doesn't read, there's a problem and you need to go back to the workbench. The programming track power is less than the regular track, so a short won't burn out the decoder on the programming track.

Stix
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Posted by GMTRacing on Tuesday, August 12, 2008 10:10 PM
I also use the MRC Prodigy Advanced. I do keep a seperate programming track just because I know that I'll forget to throw the toggle switch someday. Some of the BLI's seem to want programming on the main and I've done that too but removed every other piece of decodered equipment to do it. That would be a good excuse for an isolated by toggle piece of track. Programming on the main without the headache.   J.R.
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Posted by froggy on Thursday, August 14, 2008 9:28 AM
Selector,can you explain that to me about CV's and froggy may I? I qm also new and it does run on 0003 and I get the head lights but casn't get the speed steps any faster.
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Posted by jeffrey-wimberly on Thursday, August 14, 2008 9:37 AM
I have a blocked layout (it was originally wired for DC) with blocks all wired to their own DPDT switches. With this setup I can turn the track in any block into a programming track with the flip of a switch.

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Posted by dadret on Thursday, August 14, 2008 9:49 AM

froggy - if your loco does not respond to a new address and you're using a PA and a programming track its likely you need a Program Track booster - the condition you describe is exactly what happens when a new loco does not accept a new address. (All  DCC locos have a default address of 03 when you first get them.)  PA's are bad for this especially if you have a sound equipped loco.  You can either buy a program track booster (which is what I did) or program on the main track.  If you program on the main track make sure you remove any other locos first.  Also, on a PA you need to select the speed step then hit enter on your handheld before you run the loco.

At the end of the PA instruction manual it says you will probably need a program track booster!!

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Posted by selector on Thursday, August 14, 2008 11:57 AM

 froggy wrote:
Selector,can you explain that to me about CV's and froggy may I? I qm also new and it does run on 0003 and I get the head lights but casn't get the speed steps any faster.

In addition to the comments made by all responders, particularly the comment above this one, decoders will take your input to change to an extended address, but they won't act on it until you actually say to them, "Okay, now enable this new address."  (I was using the analogy of the childhood game "Mother May I", which you may not know...sorry if that is the case.)  So, you would change the address, dial it in, and nothing would happen to the loco as if it didn't accept the new address.  Well, it has accepted it, but you have to then tell the decoder it's okay to actually respond to the new address.  So that is where changing CV29 comes into play..and then only for the long or extended addresses.  For addresses less than the number 128, those don't need this procedure because they are considered "short" addresses.

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Posted by betamax on Thursday, August 14, 2008 4:52 PM
 tomikawaTT wrote:

Pardon a question from a DCC ignoramus.

Is there any reason that a piece of layout trackage, say the track leading from the yard lead to the diesel shop or turntable, can't be completely isolated, then wired through a DPDT switch.  Toggle down, program the locomotive.  Toggle up, connect to the regular DCC bus and be off to the departure track to pick up an outbound train.

Comments, please.

Chuck (modeling Central Japan in September, 1964)



Yes, you can do that, but you need a section of track between the programming track and the rest of the layout that can be disconnected from the system. Otherwise, if your engine goes across the boundary and connects to the live trackage, it will not be good. It should also be longer than your longest locomotive.

To do this, you need a 4PDT (four pole double throw) switch. One pair of poles controls the programming track's connections, the other pair will energize or de-energize the lead-in track(s). Cheaper and safer than using two switches.

See http://www.dccwiki.com/Programming_track for more info.
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Posted by selector on Thursday, August 14, 2008 5:57 PM

Or, you could use a simple SPDT as I did.  Just have two sets of wires coming together at the input terminals.  The other end of one pair comes from the DCC base unit, and the other end terminate at the rails of the programming section of track.  So, power leaves the base unit and travels to the one pair of terminals that also have one end of the feeders to the programming track section wrapped around them.  The layout-proper gets power only from the other two terminals when the toggle is thrown for that to happen.  When you want to programme an engine, run it onto/place it on the programming section, throw the toggle, and you layout goes silent.  Power is still going to the programming section because it is straight through from the input terminals on the switch.  That's how I do it.

-Crandell

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Posted by CSX Robert on Friday, August 15, 2008 12:33 AM
When discussing the wiring of a "program track", it is important to rememeber that there are two types of program track, depending on whether are not the command station has a seperate program track output. I suspect some of these reponses can be confusing to someone who doesn't realise that there are these two types.

If the command station does not have a seperate program track output, then the program track is connected to the same outputs as the rest of the layout. You want a switch to turn off the rest of the layout so that you can do service mode programming without repogramming all of your locos. These systems often suggest putting a resistor in series with the program track to protect the decoder if it is wired wrong because they use the full track power when porgramming; however, with the resistor you may have problems programming some engines so you may want to include a bypass switch.

If the command station has seperate program track outputs, then you do not need a switch to turn off the rest of the layout because service mode programming only goes out the program track outputs. If you want the program track to be part of the layout, then you need a switch to switch from program track outputs to main outputs, and you really should have a section of track between the program track and the rest of the layout that is dead when you switch to program track so that you can not short the two outputs together by bridging the gap with the locos wheels. These systems do not need the resistor to protect the decoder becauses they already use a reduced power for the program track; however, that reduced power can sometimes cause problems programming some decoders and a resistor put in parallel with the program track can help.
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Posted by CNE Runner on Friday, August 15, 2008 8:56 AM
To add another bit of information to what was given before: newer Bachmann engines (specifically the DCC/sound-equipped American 4-4-0s with Soundtraxx decoders) require a programming track booster - if one is using the MRC Prodigy Advanced system. Other manufacturers (such as Atlas and non-sound equipped Bachmann) do not need a booster. In my case, I purchased an inexpensive wall shelf, glued a piece of Peco flexible track to it and put a Soundtraxx PTB-100 programming booster on the underside of the shelf. The shelf is mounted on the wall at eyelevel...making engine placement easier. To be perfectly honest, I never considered adding an isolated spur from my turntable for programming use...good idea.

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Posted by tpwman on Friday, August 15, 2008 5:31 PM
CSX Robert, your last sentence confuses me.  How does shunting the programming track with the load resistor improve the programming function?  The program track already receives reduced power.  I would think this would make matters worse, not better.
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Posted by CSX Robert on Friday, August 15, 2008 6:03 PM
 tpwman wrote:
CSX Robert, your last sentence confuses me. How does shunting the programming track with the load resistor improve the programming function? The program track already receives reduced power. I would think this would make matters worse, not better.


To be honest, I have not had any problems programming any decoders with my Zephyr, so I have not had to resort to this trick. I have read from several other people that it does work. The theory is that it tricks the command staion into supplying more current to the programming track.
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Posted by bnobob on Friday, August 15, 2008 9:08 PM

On the question of why you did not get the engine to

program to the long address, a verbal response sound

decoder needs to have CV 62 turned off ( 0 ) then after

being programmed turn it back on ( 1 ) and you should

have no problem with the long address working. 

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Posted by cmurray on Wednesday, August 20, 2008 3:09 PM

 froggy wrote:
My program track is a siding.But why when I try to program a new loco using the four digit numbers of the loco,it will not move but I try 0003 it runs?

Decoders are generally factory-set to a short address of 3. If you want to use the engine number (4 digit) as the address, you have to set your decoder to use the "long address". In my system (NCE-DCC) the programming throttle asks "Activate long address?" when I am programming a decoder. I assume your system must do something similar.

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