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I'm new to model railroad scene and running DC right now. I understand the concept of DCC, but can someone explain a programming track vs programming on the main? I hear these terms frequently, but not sure I understand the concept in practice or the training behind it.

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A programming track is a separate length of track, often on a workbench or on a train layout, used to programme a decoder. The idea is to isolate that track electrically so that if you address a decoder using Paged Mode (preferred often), you won't inadvertently also change all other locomotive's decoders to the same address. That will happen because Paged Mode is a 'broadcast' mode that goes to all decoders, regardless of their status (except if they are locked).

I don't have a workbench DCC unit, so I do all my programming on the layout. To isolate the one decoder, I place the locomotive on my turntable lead track, which is gapped at the accessing turnout, and which ends naturally at the lip of the round turntable pit. I throw a toggle that makes the layout go dead, but power keeps going to the turntable lead. I then fiddle with CVs and addresses and volumes, assign values to the motive control CVs, and then throw the toggle and run the newly addressed locomotive out into the yard.
 
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