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Will Athearn have its MRC decoder problems fixed by summer?

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Posted by CSX Robert on Thursday, March 27, 2008 4:08 PM
Straight from page 39 of the Power Cab System reference Manual Rev.1.28(http://ncedcc.com/power_cab_manual_v1.28.pdf):

Programming on the Main is also called Operations (OPS) Mode programming. OPS
programming allows you to change parameters while the loco is on the main track
(even while it’s running). This does not affect other locomotives on the track. You
can even change the locomotive address.


Again, if you use any other porgramming mode, it will affect all of the engines, but OPS mode will not.
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Posted by maxman on Thursday, March 27, 2008 3:28 PM

Driline:

I asked the PowerCab ops programming question to the expert at my local hobby shop today.  According to him, the PowerCab will program all the locos on the layout at one time. This is because it does not have the separate output for the programming track.  If this is true, then you are right to have the separate track for programming purposes.  I presume that the way you have it set up now is you have some way of switching back and forth between the layout and the program track.

With the larger PowerPro system, however, this is unnecessary.  You can program on the main and only the selected locomotive will be affected.

I don't remember reading in the thread where the original poster mentioned that he was using the PowerCab, or if it was mentioned I missed it.  Had I known it was the PowerCab, I would have not stuck my two pennies in!

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Posted by jeffrey-wimberly on Thursday, March 27, 2008 9:33 AM
 Driline wrote:

My last RTR athearn's motor went bad and I had to replace it with a mashima. I assume the Genesis series has better motors than the RTR units do.

I certainly hope they do. I also have a rtr Athearn unit that had a bum motor. I replaced it with a motor from an old BB F unit. Hey, it works. Now if I can work out the problems in the trucks. I've never seen such a bad example of workmanship since the Tyco's of the late seventies.

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Posted by Driline on Thursday, March 27, 2008 9:27 AM
 jeffrey-wimberly wrote:

Will Athearn have its MRC decoder problems fixed by summer?

I seriously doubt it. I'm not a Genesis fan anyhow. I like to buy the BB locos, tweak them to run good and most of all to run quietly. If I'm happy with one that I've reworked I'll put a decoder in it. If not, it'll look good in the display rack. As far as sound, I have no use for it at this time. 

Well, you'll note in my previous post Athearn did reply and said they are using the same decoder they always used, so no joy. I'll let my LHS know in advance they may need to return it several times to get one to work Smile [:)] If they're not into that, then I'll just order the non sound unit. My last RTR athearn's motor went bad and I had to replace it with a mashima. I assume the Genesis series has better motors than the RTR units do.

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Posted by jeffrey-wimberly on Thursday, March 27, 2008 8:29 AM

Will Athearn have its MRC decoder problems fixed by summer?

I seriously doubt it. I'm not a Genesis fan anyhow. I like to buy the BB locos, tweak them to run good and most of all to run quietly. If I'm happy with one that I've reworked I'll put a decoder in it. If not, it'll look good in the display rack. As far as sound, I have no use for it at this time. 

Running Bear, Sundown, Louisiana
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Posted by Driline on Wednesday, March 26, 2008 10:15 PM

 CSX Robert wrote:
 Driline wrote:

...
If you have 10 engines on your layout all with the short address of 3.... EVEN IF you activate the long address, it still doesn't matter. When you program address 3 on the main, then ALL 10 LOCO's will get the new programming sent to them...


This is not how OPS mode(Programming on the Main) programming is supposed to work. If a decoder has it's long address active, it is not supposed to act on any OPS mode instruction unless it matches it's long address(or the short address 0, which is the broadcast address). If it does, then that decoder does not comform to NMRA specs. The opposite is also true, if a decoder has it's short address activated, then it should only respond to OPS mode commands that match it's short address. I have never had any engine other than the one I am addressing respond to an OPS mode programming command. One thing that is important to remember is that the PowerCab(as well as the Empire Builder) does not have a seperate programming track output, so all programming commands are sent out the main track outputs. What this means is that if you use any programming mode other than OPS mode, then you do have to remove all engines that you do not want programmed from the layout, unless you setup a programming track so that you can switch off the layout.

I have a separate programming track for my NCE powercab. Its an option that I added. But I'm talking about programming on the main. Now you have me re-thinking...Confused [%-)] I may need to do some more testing....

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Posted by maxman on Wednesday, March 26, 2008 9:32 PM

Driline:

Sorry, not exactly clear as mudd.  I agree with CSXRobert on this.  I have never had a problem programming on the main with the system accessing any engine other than the one specified, either.  However, I have the NCE PowerHouse Pro system, not the PowerCab.  Possibly the PowerCab does something differently, but I'd have to see it happen to believe it.

I can see that if the PowerCab allows you to treat the entire railroad as a programming track it could possibly try to program all the engines to the same address, but if you use the "on the main" or Ops programming feature there should not be a problem.

Since the PowerCab can be used with big system, I know that it should allow one to use a programming track if there is one.  But since it doesn't have a programming track output when used as a stand-alone system, will it even allow the "use program track" option in that mode?  (I know this is a little off topic, but inquiring minds want to know!)

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Posted by CSX Robert on Wednesday, March 26, 2008 8:52 PM
 Driline wrote:

...
If you have 10 engines on your layout all with the short address of 3.... EVEN IF you activate the long address, it still doesn't matter. When you program address 3 on the main, then ALL 10 LOCO's will get the new programming sent to them...


This is not how OPS mode(Programming on the Main) programming is supposed to work. If a decoder has it's long address active, it is not supposed to act on any OPS mode instruction unless it matches it's long address(or the short address 0, which is the broadcast address). If it does, then that decoder does not comform to NMRA specs. The opposite is also true, if a decoder has it's short address activated, then it should only respond to OPS mode commands that match it's short address. I have never had any engine other than the one I am addressing respond to an OPS mode programming command. One thing that is important to remember is that the PowerCab(as well as the Empire Builder) does not have a seperate programming track output, so all programming commands are sent out the main track outputs. What this means is that if you use any programming mode other than OPS mode, then you do have to remove all engines that you do not want programmed from the layout, unless you setup a programming track so that you can switch off the layout.
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Posted by Driline on Wednesday, March 26, 2008 6:49 PM
 maxman wrote:

If you feel that it is more prudent to remove all the other engines from the layout before programming a new one on the main, then that is what you should do.  However, while I leave the short address of all my engines at 3, I do access all of them for operation using the long address.  The system I have (NCE) asks which address I want to be the active address.  As long as I specify the long address as active for the engines on the railroad, I don't have any problem programming a new engine with the number 3 short address.

I think if getting multiple engines re-programmed with the same number is a concern, all you have to do is run the new one with its number 3 address and see if anything else on the railroad is moving.  If there isn't, then there should not be a problem.

But again, your railroad, your choice.

 

I have an NCE powercab too.

If you have 10 engines on your layout all with the short address of 3.... EVEN IF you activate the long address, it still doesn't matter. When you program address 3 on the main, then ALL 10 LOCO's will get the new programming sent to them. So it makes sense to remove all engines from the main. Yes, you could have some engines with a different short address and they woudn't get programmed, but why chance it. Besides the manual says to leave your engines at short address three so that if you forget the long address and can't program it you can always revert to the short address.

Clear as mudd?

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Posted by maxman on Wednesday, March 26, 2008 6:41 PM

If you feel that it is more prudent to remove all the other engines from the layout before programming a new one on the main, then that is what you should do.  However, while I leave the short address of all my engines at 3, I do access all of them for operation using the long address.  The system I have (NCE) asks which address I want to be the active address.  As long as I specify the long address as active for the engines on the railroad, I don't have any problem programming a new engine with the number 3 short address.

I think if getting multiple engines re-programmed with the same number is a concern, all you have to do is run the new one with its number 3 address and see if anything else on the railroad is moving.  If there isn't, then there should not be a problem.

But again, your railroad, your choice.

 

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Posted by betamax on Wednesday, March 26, 2008 6:39 PM

Why is it magnified by a factor of 10 or more? I can see a factor of 2, but 10 seems rather high.



Because you are not buying a lump of metal and a small pile of plastic pellets. It's not a saleable product at the point. Every step in the chain adds cost to the process. And you are dealing with several steps in the chain. Some, such as manufacturing, add more costs due to the complexity and labour needed to complete the task.

In between each step is transportation, and that is factored into the mark up at each stage between factory and your hobby shop's display case.
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Posted by jrbernier on Wednesday, March 26, 2008 5:42 PM

Maxman,

  We did try try to program the decoder with a Power Pax program track booster!  I know of one hobby shop that asks the buyer what address he wants in the engine - Then they program/test the engine in front of him.  Good Sales/Service Tool.  I also bought a P2K USRA 0-6-0 with sound at a Train Show a few years ago.  The guy had a DCC setup right there and programmed the engine number for me at the show!  IIRC, it was Engine House Services out of Green Bay.  I am not sure if they do this in the store as well, but I do like Great service!

Jim

Modeling BNSF  and Milwaukee Road in SW Wisconsin

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Posted by Driline on Wednesday, March 26, 2008 5:27 PM

Well I just got my answer straight from the horses mouth. Heres an email reply from Athearn from my "nice" question noted below.

Frank,

Thank-you for your inquiry. Please note that the decoder will be the same ones that we used in the first release.

Sincerely,

Athearn Trains


-----Original Message-----
From: driline@msn.com [mailto:driline@msn.com]
Sent: Tuesday, March 25, 2008 12:05 PM
To: Athearn Help
Subject: MP15AC "Bandit"

Comments: Have the MRC sound decoders been upgraded recently? Or are they the same decoders as used in the past?
Thank you,

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Posted by Driline on Wednesday, March 26, 2008 5:23 PM
 maxman wrote:

However, what is unclear to me is why someone must remove all the other engines from the layout to program an engine on the main.  If you have other engines on the layout you must be running them with an address other than the default address (3).  That being the case, you should have been able to program the new engine (address 3) to a new long address without affecting anything else.

Because most engines keep the short  or default address of 3 while the long address is usually your engine number. When I select my loco's I select the long number so it doesn't matter. It does matter when you are programming. So in effect you would be programming ALL of your engines on the main, plus its prudent to remove them just in case.

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Posted by maxman on Wednesday, March 26, 2008 4:43 PM

I believe that many sound-equipped engines cannot be programmed on the "programming" track because there is a lower voltage (or is it current?) on the programming track to avoid frying newly installed decoders.  I also believe that there are programming track boosters that will increase the voltage (current?) but still provide protection in case a decoder is mis-wired.

However, what is unclear to me is why someone must remove all the other engines from the layout to program an engine on the main.  If you have other engines on the layout you must be running them with an address other than the default address (3).  That being the case, you should have been able to program the new engine (address 3) to a new long address without affecting anything else.

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Posted by Driline on Wednesday, March 26, 2008 12:38 PM

Well I'm wondering if Athearn eventually tells the LHS to forget it after so many returns of their MRC sound decoder engines.

 I'm good with the LHS, so thats not a problem.

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Posted by Driline on Wednesday, March 26, 2008 8:17 AM
 betamax wrote:
 Driline wrote:

I'm going to buy the new Athearn MP15AC Soo Ex-Milwaukee bandit due out in July of this year. Problem is they have both a sound and non sound unit, but I'd like to buy the sound unit IF THEY EVER FIX THEIR ROTTEN NO GOOD MRC DECODERS! Anyone have a crystal ball?

http://www.athearn.com/Products/Default.aspx?ProdID=ATHG66180 

 

 

 



Ultimately, it comes down to cost, plain and simple. Athearn is trying to build to a price, and the MRC decoder gives them what they want, at a cost that fits their budget for parts.

A better decoder may cost them $5 more, but it'll be reflected in the retail price by a magnitude of maybe 10 times more. People are already whining about how expensive everything is in this hobby (maybe they should take up golf... ;) ) a sudden increase in price of ten or fifteen percent in Athearn DCC sound locomotives would just pour gasoline on that argument.

Why is it magnified by a factor of 10 or more? I can see a factor of 2, but 10 seems rather high.

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Posted by betamax on Wednesday, March 26, 2008 6:56 AM
 Driline wrote:

I'm going to buy the new Athearn MP15AC Soo Ex-Milwaukee bandit due out in July of this year. Problem is they have both a sound and non sound unit, but I'd like to buy the sound unit IF THEY EVER FIX THEIR ROTTEN NO GOOD MRC DECODERS! Anyone have a crystal ball?

http://www.athearn.com/Products/Default.aspx?ProdID=ATHG66180 

 

 

 



Ultimately, it comes down to cost, plain and simple. Athearn is trying to build to a price, and the MRC decoder gives them what they want, at a cost that fits their budget for parts.

A better decoder may cost them $5 more, but it'll be reflected in the retail price by a magnitude of maybe 10 times more. People are already whining about how expensive everything is in this hobby (maybe they should take up golf... ;) ) a sudden increase in price of ten or fifteen percent in Athearn DCC sound locomotives would just pour gasoline on that argument.

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Posted by Driline on Tuesday, March 25, 2008 6:31 PM
David, will my LHS have a problem returning the loco if it doesn't work or is Athearn being buttheads about returns? Because I'd like to spin the wheel Cool [8D]
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Posted by jamnest on Tuesday, March 25, 2008 5:20 PM
I like Athearn products and own a lot of their locomotives....but not sound.  I wish they would take a page from KATO's book and sell non sound locos with the frames milled for speakers.  Then the buyer could install their own sound decoder.

Jim, Modeling the Kansas City Southern Lines in HO scale.

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Posted by Driline on Tuesday, March 25, 2008 4:43 PM
 davidmbedard wrote:

You can get them preloaded with the proper sound files.  Anyways, thats the way I would do it.

David B

What if I got the Athearn with DCC & sound and then if I didn't like it I could just replace the decoder with a lok sound? That way I've already got the speakers in place and the strobe light working on the cab.

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Posted by Driline on Tuesday, March 25, 2008 3:06 PM
 davidmbedard wrote:

...or buy a DC one and install a LokSound Micro decoder.

David B

Yea but don't you have to spend $130 for the decoder plus another 100 bucks for their computer adapter to load sound files?

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Posted by Driline on Tuesday, March 25, 2008 2:22 PM
 jrbernier wrote:

  They have been using MRC decoders for a number of years now.  I do not think they really care about the user problems.  My take is that Horizon got an OEM 'price' on them and that is their 'standard'.  My MP15AC looks great, runs fine, and the sound is good.  The big problem was trying to change the address from the default '03' to '453'.   Programming tracks on 3 DCC systems(one with the 'Power Pax' program booster failed to program the engine.  'On the Main' programming finally got it done.  Of course we had to remove all of the engines from the layout to do it.  So, in answer to your question - I suspect that it will have an MRC Sound Decoder in the engine, and the issues will not be resolved.  I thought about buying a 'non-sound' version and doing the decoder/sound myself.  The problem is that there is not a lot of space in a switcher, and I was not looking forward to the 'challenge'.  The 'challenge' was getting the address changed!

Jim

I'll gladly keep the address at 03 if it runs OK and sounds good. I just don't want any problems with it running or having the sound go out for good like I've heard in other threads. How long have you had your engine?

Like you I don't want to install sound because of the size and space available in the switcher. Besides QSI and tsunami still haven't come out with an aftermarket sound decoder.

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Posted by jrbernier on Tuesday, March 25, 2008 2:12 PM

  They have been using MRC decoders for a number of years now.  I do not think they really care about the user problems.  My take is that Horizon got an OEM 'price' on them and that is their 'standard'.  My MP15AC looks great, runs fine, and the sound is good.  The big problem was trying to change the address from the default '03' to '453'.   Programming tracks on 3 DCC systems(one with the 'Power Pax' program booster failed to program the engine.  'On the Main' programming finally got it done.  Of course we had to remove all of the engines from the layout to do it.  So, in answer to your question - I suspect that it will have an MRC Sound Decoder in the engine, and the issues will not be resolved.  I thought about buying a 'non-sound' version and doing the decoder/sound myself.  The problem is that there is not a lot of space in a switcher, and I was not looking forward to the 'challenge'.  The 'challenge' was getting the address changed!

Jim

Modeling BNSF  and Milwaukee Road in SW Wisconsin

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Will Athearn have its MRC decoder problems fixed by summer?
Posted by Driline on Tuesday, March 25, 2008 2:02 PM

I'm going to buy the new Athearn MP15AC Soo Ex-Milwaukee bandit due out in July of this year. Problem is they have both a sound and non sound unit, but I'd like to buy the sound unit IF THEY EVER FIX THEIR ROTTEN NO GOOD MRC DECODERS! Anyone have a crystal ball?

http://www.athearn.com/Products/Default.aspx?ProdID=ATHG66180 

 

 

 

Modeling the Davenport Rock Island & Northwestern 1995 in HO

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