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Starting in JMRI - Have DCS50 Command Station - what programmer to use?

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  • Member since
    December, 2005
  • From: Maineville, OH
  • 127 posts
Starting in JMRI - Have DCS50 Command Station - what programmer to use?
Posted by rrlcommish on Tuesday, March 14, 2017 4:42 PM

Mark Juett's column in July 2016 NMRA Mag was really good, but just wondering which of LocoBuffer USB, Digitrax PR3 or SPROG3 is best to use with my (now old) DCS50.  Side note: should I upgrade to a new Digitrax system like a Zephyr Xtra, is it even worth it?  I don't plan to run more than about 5 locos at once, although all are sound equipped.  I do not have any Digitrax decoders at the moment but I certainly wouldn't rule that out in the future.  And my laptop is running Windows 7.

  • Member since
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  • From: Reading, PA
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Posted by rrinker on Tuesday, March 14, 2017 5:56 PM

 No need to replace the Zephyr. Add to it if you need more power, but until then - nothing you really can't do with it.

 Locobuffer connects the computer to the Loconet. Controls trains, and programs via the Zephyr's program track terminals. Same as you do now, only automated with JMRI.

 PR3 connects to Loconet like the Locobuffer, OR you can use the PR3 as a completely standalone programmer - not connected to the Zephyr.  In this mode, I have not found a decoder it can't handle - no extra program track booster needed.

 SPROG - completely standalone programmer. Cannot connect to the Zephyr. It does have the advantage of being perhaps the fastest programmer there is. It can also run trains - there is even a higher current version that can run a whole bunch of trains at the same time, but your only throttles are JMRI on screen throttles or Android or iOS cell phones with withrottle/engine driver.

                                --Randy

 


Modeling the Reading Railroad in the 1950's

 

Visit my web site at www.readingeastpenn.com for construction updates, DCC Info, and more.

  • Member since
    November, 2006
  • From: NW Pa Snow-belt.
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Posted by ricktrains4824 on Tuesday, March 14, 2017 11:20 PM

Locobuffer II is shielded, unlike the PR3. Any power surge through your computer stops there with the Locobuffer... It goes straight through the PR3 to your layout....

Don't ask how I know this......

Like the song says.... "Forget your pride, buy the roses. If your sorry, tell her so.  Don't drink the water in Mexico, and don't ask me how I know." 

Here, just don't ask me how I know a surge that gets through the computer can hit the layout through a PR3...

Ricky W.

HO scale Proto-freelancer.

My Railroad rules:

1: It's my railroad, my rules.

2: It's for having fun and enjoyment.

3: Any objections, consult above rules.

  • Member since
    February, 2002
  • From: Reading, PA
  • 22,815 posts
Posted by rrinker on Wednesday, March 15, 2017 6:52 AM

 You are probably the ONLY person who has actually had this happen. The only thing that really makes it possible for a computer surge to get through to the DCC system is if you have each grounded, seperately. The Digitrax system should NEVER be connected to earth ground directly, regardless of what that terminal is labeled. Computers other than laptops all have grounded cords so they are grounded so grounding the DCC system in a different outlet can induce ground loops. A GOOD surge protector is important on any electronics - and by good I mean if it only cost $10 it's NOT going to protect anything. And a close by lightning strike enough to get past that - the little optoisolater in the Locobuffer isn't going to stop that. It's there to prevent the ground loop problem - sya one of your outlets is miswired and the ground is tied to hot instead of neutral. The other outlet is perfectly fine. Grounnding both sides not results in a potential of 120VAC across the two devices. The optoisolator in the Locobuffer will block that easily. A non isulated interface would pass that through and melt the loconet cable, and possibly fry something else. The chances of this are slim to non, the PR3 shouldn't be discounted because of that. The standalone programs anything mode trumps the rare chance that isolation would be necessary. And saves having to buy a $100 program track boooster.

                            --Randy

 


Modeling the Reading Railroad in the 1950's

 

Visit my web site at www.readingeastpenn.com for construction updates, DCC Info, and more.

  • Member since
    December, 2001
  • 1,793 posts
Posted by Stevert on Wednesday, March 15, 2017 7:39 AM

rrinker

 You are probably the ONLY person who has actually had this happen.

                            --Randy

I have to agree with Randy on this.  In the 13+ years I've been using DCC and following DCC-related forums, etc, I've only heard of one other possible ground-loop issue, with an MS100.

  Unfortunately, the person reporting it never offered details of their wiring configuration, so it was impossible to know for sure that it was caused by a potential ground loop situation, or by something else.

  But in my 13+ years of using first an MS100 (I bought it at the same time I bought my SuperChief) and then a PR3, I've never run into this myself.  And my layout computer is even on a different branch circuit than my DCC system.  For all I know, it might even be on a different phase.  I've never needed to check, because it's never caused any issues.

  The important thing to remember is that the unfortunately-labeled "Ground" on Digitrax equipment is actually an "equipment common", which as the correct name implies, is meant to give all connected equipment a common base reference point.  That "equipment common" does not need to be "grounded" to the house current ground, and in fact it should NOT be unless done correctly.  This comes up often enough on the Digitrax Yahoo list that a "Grounding and Commons" best practice document has been placed in the Files section.

  Having said all that (Whew!), if your layout and DCC equipment are wired properly, the ground-loop risk is minimal to none, and as Randy also mentioned, the benefits of the PR3 far outweigh any such risk. 

  • Member since
    December, 2005
  • From: Maineville, OH
  • 127 posts
Posted by rrlcommish on Wednesday, March 15, 2017 9:16 PM
Good information gentlemen, thanks a bunch!
  • Member since
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  • From: Metro East St. Louis
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Posted by simon1966 on Thursday, March 16, 2017 6:16 PM

My old DCS50 Zephyr runs the layout.   Recently changed the trainroom PC to a Windows 10 all-in-one.  No serial interface of course and have found that my old Locobuffer 2 can run fine with a USB serial adapter.   I had to configure JMRI to think it was using a Locobuffer USB, once done, it has worked flawlessly.  

 

Simon Modelling CB&Q and Wabash See my slowly evolving layout on my picturetrail site http://www.picturetrail.com/simontrains and our videos at http://www.youtube.com/user/MrCrispybake?feature=mhum

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