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UPDATE! Bachmann EZ Command DCC System decoder programming – Quest for the truth

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UPDATE! Bachmann EZ Command DCC System decoder programming – Quest for the truth
Posted by tstage on Saturday, February 12, 2005 12:50 AM
WARNING! Long-winded explanations and findings ahead!

Well, we may be getting a step closer to understanding the issues with the Bachmann EZ Command DCC System. I received the below cc:’d e-mail from “the dealer” late this afternoon, that was originally addressed to Joe Freeman, VP of Sales, at Bachmann Industries.

The e-mail content is not edited in any way and is exactly what was sent to me – typos and all. My only modifications were to the format (i.e. paragraph breaks), to help make the e-mail a little easier to read:

-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Joe,
Thank you for your comments.

There is a problem using the Bachmann DCC System to program "other manufacutres decoders", Digitrax, NCE& TCS. Not quite as I had indicated, sorry for the oversight.

Yes, you can program other manufactures decoders... only in ISOLATION..... be carefull,
if you have any more of the"other manufactures decoders" on the track at the same time, and follow your instructions, unlike the Bachmann decoders, they will all be programmed to the same address.

Essentially the customers layout becomes a programming track for "other manufactures decoders" unless removed. This will surely confuse people and may be impractical.

We tested an EZ Command here and confirmed this.

Thanks,
[Dealer]

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

So, at least according to the dealer, there still are some programming issues with the Bachmann, but not to the same extent, as he originally believed.

The locomotives can be programmed, but…the programming track and/or locomotive has to be “isolated” from the rest of the main track, in order NOT to inadvertently reprogram the “other manufacturer’s decoders” – i.e. Digitrax, NCE, and TCS. (I’m assuming since Lenz is not mentioned, there are not programming issues with their decoders because Lenz helped to develop the EZ Command System for Bachmann.) A word of explanation is at hand. From the dealers e-mail, the phrase, “follow your instructions”, refers to how the procedure is described in both the manual and the accompanying DVD.

After reading the e-mail carefully several times, I decided to double-check the Bachmann EZ Command manual and DVD to see what they had to say on the issues of operation and programming. Here are the references (which I have pulled from each) that may both substantiate the dealers current findings, as well as some of his earlier thoughts:

(Note: Any underlining has been added by me and is only used for emphasis.)

Manual

REPROGRAMMING DECODERS WITH PREVIOUSLY ASSIGNED DIGITAL ADDRESSES (p.3)

“You can use the E-Z Command system to control locomotives that have a previously assigned digital address other than number 3. If the previously assigned address is a number less than 10, follow the directions we’ve just described…However, if the locomotive’s digital address is a number higher than 10, you can reprogram it by following this procedure: First, remove the locomotive’s from the layout. Next, follow the standard E-Z Command programming procedures as described in the ‘Programming a Locomotive to a Specific Address’ section (but without any locomotive on the track)…”

PROGRAMMING USER-INSTALLED DCC DECODERS (p.5)

“A separate low-current programming track is needed only for first time programming of locomotives with user-installed decoders.” (The section continues on to describe the procedure in detail.)


DVD

Intro


“E-Z Command will operate NMRA DCC-equipped locomotives from any manufacturer.”

“Best of all, E-Z Command is compatible with all NMRA DCC systems.”

Chapter Two: BASIC PROGRAMMING OF YOUR LOCOMOTIVES

“Place the locomotive equipped with Bachmann DCC onboard, on the mainline. The Bachmann E-Z Command System is engineered so that you can program any of our DCC onboard locomotives, on any electrically active track on your layout. You can do this without interfering with other Bachmann DCC onboard-equipped locomotives. Locomotives that have other manufacturer’s DCC decoders, that are specified for programming on the main, are also safe.”

“If your DCC equipped locomotives have older styles of decoders, they must be removed from the layout, or parked on an electrically isolated track when you are programming the Bachmann DCC onboard decoder. Failure to do so may result in a change of the digital address on you older decoders.” (Bachmann does not give a definition for what an “older style of decoder” is.)

So, the manual and DVD supplied by Bachmann seems to collaborate that Bachmann’s EZ Command system does work best with THEIR “DCC onboard-equipped locomotives”. And – yes! – you CAN program (with limitations) “other manufacturer’s decoders” with the EZ Command System. But, you should attempt it ONLY on:

1) a separate “programming track”,
2) an “electrically isolated” piece of track, or
3) the main, after removing all other locomotives so that they are not
programmed to the same address.

My apologies for making this so long. (I did, however, warn you up front.) I’m hoping that I’ll be able to get Joe Freeman’s input to all this to verify all these findings.

Tom

My web site: http://www.newyorkcentralmodeling.com

Time...It marches on...without ever turning around to see if anyone is even keeping in step.

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Posted by rrinker on Saturday, February 12, 2005 8:33 AM
See, this is why I don't like this system, or a lot of these other so-called 'starter' systems. Yes, they are east to use, in most cases - such as if you stick with, in this case, the Bachmann/Lenz decoders. But to make it so easy to use, that makes other procedures that much more complicated.
I'm still trying to figure this out, after reading all that - it seems somehow with their own decoders they bypass the normal operation of broadcast programming, which would program EVERY loco left on the track to the same address. How Lenz gets away with that and still gets an NMRA conformance warrant I'll never know. Or are there different steps that are referenced by that note to consult 'Programming a Locomotive to a Specific Address'? Then it would make sense, if for one case they have you press a certain button ad for the other case, a different button.
It definitely uses broadcast programming, because that's the only way of taking a decoder of unknown address and changing it, on the main. On a dedicated programming track you can do this without affecting any other locos. On the main, it has to be broadcast programming. So, as above, I am guessing there must be two different buttons to press, once programs onthe main using directed "ops mode" programming which only changes the selected loco, and one uses broadcast programmng which changes ALL locos.
I don't want to reopen yet another DCC war, I am just trying to point out that the so-called 'expert' features that you rightly can not expect such a low cost system to include aren't always such that only an 'expert' would need. As an aside, I have twice as many DCC locos that have decoders from a different manufacturer than my DCC system than I do ones made by the came company, and there are absolutely zero issues programming them.

--Randy

Modeling the Reading Railroad in the 1950's

 

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

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Posted by tstage on Saturday, February 12, 2005 11:04 AM
QUOTE: Originally posted by rrinker
... are there different steps that are referenced by that note to consult 'Programming a Locomotive to a Specific Address'? Then it would make sense, if for one case they have you press a certain button ad for the other case, a different button.
It definitely uses broadcast programming, because that's the only way of taking a decoder of unknown address and changing it, on the main. On a dedicated programming track you can do this without affecting any other locos. On the main, it has to be broadcast programming. So, as above, I am guessing there must be two different buttons to press, once programs onthe main using directed "ops mode" programming which only changes the selected loco, and one uses broadcast programmng which changes ALL locos.
--Randy

Randy,

To answer your question, the directions under "Programming a Locomotive to a Specific Address" are as such:

"To program your locomotive to another address, first activate the locomotive by running it a short distance. Next, press button 3 (figure 8; the locomotive's default address) AND the "Stop" button (figure 9) at the same time, then release them together. The power LED will flash quickly to indicate you're in programming mode.

Choose a new address for your locomotive and press the corresponding button. The locomotive will move slightly (figure 10) and the power LED will flash slowly to indicate that you have successfully programmed your locomotive to its new address. Finally, press the "Stop" button to exit programming mode."

That's it. So, this would be using "broadcast programming"? Then that would preclude the ability to change a locomotive's address "on the fly"; rather the need for using an isolated or separate track to accompli***his.

Like any inexpensive system, you have your tradeoffs. If you can learn to live with those tradeoffs or work around them, I still think that this is a useful system for the average, novice MRR, who's interested in getting their feet wet in DCC, without spending a lot of money. The tradeoffs, a least for me, are small in comparison to the tradeoffs (and expense) of putting together a DC system with all those switches, and having to settle for running/operating trains in a "less than prototypical manner".

I still view the EZ Command System as a starter system, with the idea of moving towards something more sophisticate down the road.

Tom

My web site: http://www.newyorkcentralmodeling.com

Time...It marches on...without ever turning around to see if anyone is even keeping in step.

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Posted by bcammack on Saturday, February 12, 2005 1:30 PM
Everyone should only buy the Super Mega Ultra Empire system or they're fools!! [:)]

Anybody who gives up DC for DCC is a fool! [:)]

Okay, I think that covers the whole scope of possible posts on this thread. Let's stop now. [:)]
Regards, Brett C. Cammack Holly Hill, FL
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Posted by rrinker on Saturday, February 12, 2005 1:38 PM
Well, if that's how the instructions read - that would seem to be that it is NOT using Broadcast Programming, notice you must first select the loco to be programmed and then enter programming mode. But if that's the case, then I see no reason why it wouldn't work exactly the same with any other brand of decoder, all of which come default set to Address 3 out of the package. The only exception would be for a loco programmed on a different system for an address higher than 10. The EZ-DCC cannot select an address higher than 10 and would need to broadcast program OR program on a seperate programming track. If the loco previously was programmed with a 4-digit address, there may be an issue where the EZ-DCC can't properly reset CV29 to use a 2-digit address.
If you have a bunch of locos on the track, and only one of them has Address 3, then the steps from the manual should alter ONLY that decoder, NOT any of the others. The mentioning of "older" decoders is for those that do not support Ops Mode directed programming - anything you'd buy new today supports this feature (at least from the major manufacturers) and so should not present a problem. The "older" decoders mentioned would respond and be programmed even though they were not addressed.

--Randy

Modeling the Reading Railroad in the 1950's

 

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

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Posted by Don Gibson on Sunday, February 13, 2005 3:40 PM
TOM

Kudo'.s and 100 'Atta-boy's.
Don Gibson .............. ________ _______ I I__()____||__| ||||| I / I ((|__|----------| | |||||||||| I ______ I // o--O O O O-----o o OO-------OO ###########################
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Posted by tstage on Sunday, February 13, 2005 8:02 PM
Thanks, Don. I'll keep you post if I get any other info..

Tom

My web site: http://www.newyorkcentralmodeling.com

Time...It marches on...without ever turning around to see if anyone is even keeping in step.

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Posted by tstage on Friday, February 25, 2005 2:02 AM
UPDATE:

I finally installed and programmed a Lenz decoder in my Proto 2000 S1. (Wow! The new replacement, golden-white LED looks absolutely terrific!)

Anyway, I tried to program the S1 on the main using the Bachmann EZ Command System, with another locomotive also sitting on the main. I verified that the Lenz decoders fall into the same catagory as all the other "non-Bachmann" decoders (e.g. Digitrax, NCE, TCS, etc.): They MUST BE ISOLATED from ALL other decoder-installed locomotives during programming with the EZ Command System. Otherwise, every locomotive will be "reprogrammed" to the SAME address.

Just in case you were still curious...

Tom

My web site: http://www.newyorkcentralmodeling.com

Time...It marches on...without ever turning around to see if anyone is even keeping in step.

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Posted by chateauricher on Friday, February 25, 2005 2:06 AM
Tom,

Thanks for that update. I am torn between the Bachmann EZ Command or the Atlas Commander systems (but leaning towards the EZ).

I'll have to keep your experience in mind as I have to convert my locos to DCC and will need to get decoders.
Timothy The gods must love stupid people; they sure made a lot. The only insanity I suffer from is yours. Some people are so stupid, only surgery can get an idea in their heads.
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Posted by tstage on Friday, February 25, 2005 2:19 AM
Tim,

I don't regret getting the Bachmann EZ Command System. For $53, it's not such a "wallet-crunching" initiation into DCC. I will look forward to a more sophisticated system down the road. But for now, I'm content.

Tim, whenever you do get around to deciding on a DCC system, I'd like to put in a good word about Litchfield Station. Great place for ordering your decoders. Bruce is a VERY knowledgable guy and helpful with recommendations or any questions you might have. His prices are pretty much comparable to Tony's Train Exchange.

Tom

My web site: http://www.newyorkcentralmodeling.com

Time...It marches on...without ever turning around to see if anyone is even keeping in step.

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Posted by chateauricher on Friday, February 25, 2005 2:33 AM
Tom,

Since I am in Canada, and I am fortunate to have a very helpful LHS, I'll probably go through her. She has been very patient and informative. Last week, I spent over 3hours in her shop talking about my layout plans. She was more than happy to help with suggestions, comments and answers to my questions. I kind of feel I should support her by buying what I can through her.

But, thanks for the suggestions. I'll keep them in mind if ever I can't find what I need at my LHS.

Tim
Timothy The gods must love stupid people; they sure made a lot. The only insanity I suffer from is yours. Some people are so stupid, only surgery can get an idea in their heads.
IslandView Railroads On our trains, the service is surpassed only by the view !
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Posted by tstage on Friday, February 25, 2005 2:49 AM
Tim,

Hey, I don't have a problem with that. I give my two LHS's as much business as I can. They are a life-blood to the hobby.

Neither of my LHS's has decoders so I try to buy them online. Litchfield Station IS an LHS in the Phoenix area so I still feel like I'm supporting one. But, when it comes to buying rolling stock? I enjoy being able to open up a kit and reading the built date BEFORE buying it.

Tom

My web site: http://www.newyorkcentralmodeling.com

Time...It marches on...without ever turning around to see if anyone is even keeping in step.

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Posted by Anonymous on Friday, February 25, 2005 7:14 AM
Tom,

The Decoder that you put in your P2K S-1 is what make and model decoder?

The reason I ask, is that you talk about the LED, was that part of the Decoder install or an extra that you added?

I have seen a Decoder on another site for the SW9 and SW1200 P2K Switchers and was wondering if this was a simular decoder.

Thank you for voicing your oppinion of the BAchmann EZ System. At least for MY Layout it is still in the running!

Chris
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Posted by rrinker on Friday, February 25, 2005 7:55 AM
The SW9 is different because it doesn't have a DCC socket. The best decoder for those is the NCE SW9-SR, all you need to add is a golden white LED for a new front light, the decoder is set up to use the existing bulb for the rear light because it is VERY hard to get to. That decoder wouldn't be very easy to install in the S-1. Tom, on Bruce's recommendation, had a reason for using the Lenz decoder but it's not silent running and is a bit noisy. If I had another S-1 I would use a TCS M1. You will need to replace he bulbs because they are 1.5v. Or install resistors, but my thought is that if you have to go through the trouble, then you might as well use LEDs since they'll never burn out. And Golden White LEDs look right for older diesels like that.

--Randy


Modeling the Reading Railroad in the 1950's

 

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

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Posted by rrinker on Friday, February 25, 2005 8:00 AM
QUOTE: Originally posted by tstage

UPDATE:

I finally installed and programmed a Lenz decoder in my Proto 2000 S1. (Wow! The new replacement, golden-white LED looks absolutely terrific!)

Anyway, I tried to program the S1 on the main using the Bachmann EZ Command System, with another locomotive also sitting on the main. I verified that the Lenz decoders fall into the same catagory as all the other "non-Bachmann" decoders (e.g. Digitrax, NCE, TCS, etc.): They MUST BE ISOLATED from ALL other decoder-installed locomotives during programming with the EZ Command System. Otherwise, every locomotive will be "reprogrammed" to the SAME address.

Just in case you were still curious...

Tom


This plus your earlier post with the quote from the Bachmann manual REALLY has be puzzled. It seems that if you use any OTHER decoder, you have to make sure nothing else is on the track, but if you use a Bachmann decoder you don't. I would LOVE to see how they managed to broadcast program a decoder but not have other already programmed decoders respond. Something just doesn't sound right. Yet, you've experimented and shown this to be true.

--Randy

Modeling the Reading Railroad in the 1950's

 

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

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Posted by Anonymous on Friday, February 25, 2005 8:56 AM
excuse me, Just buring some dirt[:-^]
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Posted by Anonymous on Friday, February 25, 2005 9:00 AM
Randy,

Thank you for that information. I will look into the LED.

Chris
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Posted by tstage on Friday, February 25, 2005 12:29 PM
Chris,

You'll need a resistor in series in order to use an LED with a decoder. It's a little more fuss but far worth the extra effort. Let me know if I can be of assistance. Randy's help to me was immeasurable so I'd be more than glad to return the favor.

To answer your question: The decoder was the Lenz. LE0521W. It was a bit pricier than I would have cared for. It was a recommendaton from Bruce at Litchfield Station as an experiment for addressing the above EZ Command system issues. As Randy already said, the LE0521W is not a silent running decoder but it's not that noisy. (I hardly even notice it when pulling rolling stock around the layout.) On the plus side, it actually gives the S1 a very pleasant and diesel sounding "growl". I kinda like it. [:)]

Tom

My web site: http://www.newyorkcentralmodeling.com

Time...It marches on...without ever turning around to see if anyone is even keeping in step.

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Posted by tstage on Friday, February 25, 2005 2:16 PM
QUOTE: “Place the locomotive equipped with Bachmann DCC onboard, on the mainline. The Bachmann E-Z Command System is engineered so that you can program any of our DCC onboard locomotives, on any electrically active track on your layout. You can do this without interfering with other Bachmann DCC onboard-equipped locomotives. Locomotives that have other manufacturer’s DCC decoders, that are specified for programming on the main, are also safe.”

Randy,

You're right. It is mystifying. Maybe, when Bachmann claims in their manual that the "other manufacturer's DCC decoders...are also safe", it means that they won't go up in smoke. It would be nice if manufacturers were just up front about what their product will and will not do.

At any rate, I plan on getting my monies worth out of the Bachmann.

Tom

My web site: http://www.newyorkcentralmodeling.com

Time...It marches on...without ever turning around to see if anyone is even keeping in step.

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Posted by Anonymous on Friday, February 25, 2005 2:49 PM
Tom,

How many DCC ready engine have you set up so far?

I have some Birthday Money from last weekend burning a hole in my pocket. The last time
I was at this one local LHS they did have some of the Kit style Bachmann's with the Engine and the controller. With the Gift card, my 10% discount from this LHS and a couple of bucks, I could be DCC this weekend.

Of course if they still have that Roundhouse kit, I may have to flip a coin! LOL!

Chris
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Posted by tstage on Friday, February 25, 2005 3:27 PM
Just two of them: an Athearn 2-8-2 Mike and my Proto 2000 Alco S1.

The 2-8-2 was easy. Just remove the JST plug, push on the decoder, program, and away you go. The S1 had to have the motor isolated from the frame first before installing the decoder. The 2-8-2 is DCC-ready. Despite what the Lifelike folks say, the Alco S1 is NOT DCC-ready.

I'm not that knowledgable.on DCC but I'm learning. (I only picked up the EZ Command System two weeks ago.) It took me awhile to get everything figured out and wired up on the S1 and Randy was a HUGE help with that.

Chris, if you have newer locomotives, then most of them will probably be DCC-ready. Don't be afraid to get people's recommendations. Tony's Train Exchange and Litchfield Station are also good places to get both information and DCC-related recommandations from.

Tom

My web site: http://www.newyorkcentralmodeling.com

Time...It marches on...without ever turning around to see if anyone is even keeping in step.

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