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Discussion Starter #1
Morning all.

I have been having a set of ongoing issues with my DCC setup.

Here is the backstory, symptoms and equipment:

I have been out of the hobby for a while, however my son who is about to turn 11 has always loved trains. Since he was about 4 his birthdays have involved HO scale train-sets or locomotives. This year at Christmas he wanted a big boy. They were impossible to come by so I settled on a BLI Challenger.

As the train was DCC equipped I also decided we should jump over to DCC and on the advice of the local hobby store got a NCE powercab.

I set up about 20 feet of Bachmann EZ track with a couple of DCC crossovers and wired up the system to Powercab. The train rain fine for about a quarter hour except once in a while the headlight would shut off and the dyno sound would restart. It appeared that there was an intermittent short. I assumed there was a problem with the connections in the track, until the loco quit working.

I contacted the online retailer of the locomotive and they agreed to swap it out. The second locomotive arrived and operated fine for about an hour and then it would not run. When I tried switching back to DC the headlight flashed but nothing else, which on older BLIs was apparently a sign for a bad decoder, though I do not know if that is accurate for current production models.

In the meantime I had purchased several diesel locomotives, some DCC ready, a couple of MTH DCC/DCS/DC dash 9s two BLI Blue Line Locos with decoders installed a Kato DCC dash 9 without sound. With decoders installed, they all operated fine as lon as no more than 2 locos were used at once. If you tried for more than 2 and speed went above about 15/28 they would run slowly or lurch. Power draw in these error cases would be around 1-1.3 amps.

I contacted NCE and had probably the worst customer service experience ever. The associate was very rude and condescending. He tried to spin me with a bunch of technobabble and when I pointed out that he was misquoting telecommunications standards, he said he used to work for AT&T. I used to repair and service telecommunications equipment and had the standards on hand so was not impressed. He then said that the problem was probably either the track (which is probably the most popular consumer track in the world), or the fact that I was using MTH and BLI locomotives or too narrow gauge feeder wires.

I upgraded all the drops to the track and made sure there was no more than 8 feet between drops. I upgraded the wire (12 or 14 gauge IIRC, don't remember off the top of my head, basically the biggest wire that would fit into the NCE connector), to no avail.

I sent back the second challenger and waited for MTH to release the 2020 edition big boy. It came in and I test ran it. It was running 1.3 amps at speedstep 15 with the smoke unit on, which I thought was extremely high. I contacted customer service and they said anything below 2.0 amps was considered high but normal. If you turned on the auxilliary smoke unit amperage jumped to over 1 with the train sitting still. The loco also would not change speeds above about speed step 14.

Then whilst running at around speedstep 5 the locomotive glitched and stopped. Amps were reading 1.3. Sound and steam kept running but the loco would not move. Doing an emergency stop then setting speed to zero had Amps drop to about .3 which is what I would expect for a sound unit and smoke unit. Moving to speed step 1 resulted to amps climbing back to 1.3 and no movement.

I can only conclude that the loco has burnt out its motor.

I have therefore had three locos fail in a couple of hours running. I had assumed that because the diesels worked fine that the problem was perhaps BLI having a bad batch of challengers, but I have found no evidence of that. The fact that another steam loco, with its higher draw, from a different manufacurer has quit makes me think that it is the Powercab.

Is it possible that the cab, under load, is putting out a bad signal that is frying decoders/motors? Has anyone had similar problems? Is this a known issue? Am I missing something obvious?

Assuming the consensus is that it is the cab, would the MRC Prodigy advance 2 wifi be a good step up? I am not buying anything else from NCE based purely on their customer support, however I do like using my phone or my son's iPad as a cab, so the wifi capability is great. How would one connect JMRI to the Prodigy system (I know you don't need it for that functionality but I would like to use it for controlling other systems once I move to a permanent layout).

Thanks. Sorry for the slightly ranty post
 

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If you can get a load across the rails, what voltage and amperage do you read?

Have you metered the voltage from the outputs of your power supply? Power supplies ain't what they used to be, are cheaply made, and fail much too often and too quickly.
 

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I agree on the power supply, and sorry you had a bad experience with NCE support. That guy sounds like a... well, he shouldn't be doing phone support.

I only use my powercab to program or run a single loco so can't really speak to it beyond that, but I haven't heard of any problems like that.

I'd start over with a test oval and work your way up from there. And, as for ez-track, that's what I use on my holiday layout. The track is fine, but the turnouts are crap. I use it because I had some and just kept using it, but if I had it to do over again I'd use something else (Kato unitrack or I think there is an atlas roadbed type track, too).
 

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I might be way off here, but something tells me it's not a manufacturer's device failure; that it's instead a programming or track polarity issue, since you say the replacement engine(s) also had/has a problem, too. Have you looked for track polarity continuity and/or engine address issues..Are your engines all still factory default address '3' instead of having given them each new and different addresses ?
Yes, TomC is right. Discon your NCE throttle and connect it to a track outside the layout's track. Run the engines here..Are they still messed up ? If not, it's a track polarity/continuity issue on the layout...
 

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I can't say for sure, as I don't have any BLI or MTH locos, but the amp draw on other brands would be less than half an amp each, without smoke .While I do have locos with smoke, I don't run them with the smoke on, personal preference ..
 

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Discussion Starter #6
If you can get a load across the rails, what voltage and amperage do you read?

Have you metered the voltage from the outputs of your power supply? Power supplies ain't what they used to be, are cheaply made, and fail much too often and too quickly.
My understanding is to do this you need a specific dcc meter, which I do not currently have access to. Let me know if I am wrong on that.

I agree on the power supply, and sorry you had a bad experience with NCE support. That guy sounds like a... well, he shouldn't be doing phone support.

I only use my powercab to program or run a single loco so can't really speak to it beyond that, but I haven't heard of any problems like that.

I'd start over with a test oval and work your way up from there. And, as for ez-track, that's what I use on my holiday layout. The track is fine, but the turnouts are crap. I use it because I had some and just kept using it, but if I had it to do over again I'd use something else (Kato unitrack or I think there is an atlas roadbed type track, too).
I tried going down to three sections of straight track... just enough to have room to accelerate and decelerate... no joy.

I might be way off here, but something tells me it's not a manufacturer's device failure; that it's instead a programming or track polarity issue, since you say the replacement engine(s) also had/has a problem, too. Have you looked for track polarity continuity and/or engine address issues..Are your engines all still factory default address '3' instead of having given them each new and different addresses ?
Yes, TomC is right. Discon your NCE throttle and connect it to a track outside the layout's track. Run the engines here..Are they still messed up ? If not, it's a track polarity/continuity issue on the layout...
I am not quite sure what you mean by a track polarity issue... if you mean that it was a short circuit caused by say building a loop into the track then I would say no: my "layout" is just two loops of track, inner and outer with a pair of bachmann #6 crossovers (basically two turnouts in one piece of track) which allows the loco to move from one track to the other. Further this layout works fine with my dc locos (obviously with the DC power pack) and with my DCC diesel locos (with either power pack). I have multiple drops but only one district and they are all wired correctly... again the diesels run just fine.

As to programming errors... I am not sure what would cause that. I have all my locos in JMRI and can access them via the pulldown on engine driver. I tried the factory resets with the challengers and that fixed nothing.

I had the Big Boy programmed as 4014. Lights and sounds work. No movement. I sent setting 55 to cv 55 on engine 55. Then the lights etc worked when I called it up as engine 3

55/55/55 is MTH's last ditch reset code... all MTH decoders listen to their own cab number and cab 55... and setting cv 55 to 55 factory resets them. My understanding is that they did it because their decoders are not the best on a programming track, requiring full track power to properly take programming. This work around allows you to reset a locomotive with an unknown address the same way you would on a programming track, whilst on the main.
 

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Discussion Starter #7
I can't say for sure, as I don't have any BLI or MTH locos, but the amp draw on other brands would be less than half an amp each, without smoke .While I do have locos with smoke, I don't run them with the smoke on, personal preference ..
My understanding from forums/youtube is that BLI have a much higher than normal draw. Anecdotally they may have gone back to 3 pole motors with their latest releases, though I cannot confirm this.

MTH also seem to have higher power draws, but when I saw 1.3 amps I kinda freaked out which is why I called them.
 

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Discussion Starter #8
Welp... the problem with the MTH may be mechanical. After rereading yalls advice I set up a DC test track and slowly cranked the power... sounds then lights.... no movement. Then the loco started to shake... I touched it and it shot forward about 2 feet then slammed to a stop.... is it possible that there is just massive bind somewhere in the drivetrain?

It would explain the really high power draws if something is really out of alignment, and the motor was just overpowering the binding.

Does not explain the other two locomotive though.
 

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Are these all brand new, or new old stock? Sorry, if you said it already. It might just need to be cleaned and re-lubed.

If you can set up a test loop, I would first lube it well (possibly opening up the gear boxes and clean, re-lube) and then see if you can get it running slowly and just let it run for a while.
 

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A digital meter (cheap ones from Harbor Freight do a good job) set to 20 volt range, AC, will give a pretty accurate read on voltage. You'd need a capable ramp-meter or something else to get a proper amp reading, but there would have to be resistance across the rails, like a motor or light.
 

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Discussion Starter #11
Are these all brand new, or new old stock? Sorry, if you said it already. It might just need to be cleaned and re-lubed.

If you can set up a test loop, I would first lube it well (possibly opening up the gear boxes and clean, re-lube) and then see if you can get it running slowly and just let it run for a while.
All brand new. I belive the challengers were a 2019 model, and the big boy was a preorder.

A digital meter (cheap ones from Harbor Freight do a good job) set to 20 volt range, AC, will give a pretty accurate read on voltage. You'd need a capable ramp-meter or something else to get a proper amp reading, but there would have to be resistance across the rails, like a motor or light.
Will check it.
 

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All brand new. I believe the challengers were a 2019 model, and the big boy was a preorder.



Will check it.
BLI & MTH articulated steam are noted for having bad electrical issues .
MY brand new 4014 from bli the smoke unit died so i replaced it now i replaced my motherboard/decoder & the next i need to replace the light-board
MTH big boy the plastic dog bones snapped because of the angle bad design so had a metal ones to replace them & i had to resolder my electrical draw bar connection :thumbsdown: my RIVAROSSI & ATHEARN BIG BOYS RUN GREAT
 
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