Decoder programming blues : LUSENET : Wiring for DCC : One Thread

As long time hobbyists in HO, my bud and I built a large (4scale miles) double decker in his new home. We thought DCC was the answer. As an introduction, we got the MRC. The limitations quickly became obvious and the homers here at Caboose sold us on the Lenz LH100,LZ100 and the LV101. We are not elect. engr's, don't care to become ones, not that there's anything wrong with that, so now we can't get stuff to run properly. Digitrax decoders that are supposedly CV programmable won't. It's even tough to go from loco. mode operation to function on the LH100! The headlights work sometimes, usually not, and the mars lights worked once. At least with the MRC things ran (as on dual cab). We've reviewed the CV functions by the NMRA, bought THE DCC Book which really only explains concepts, the Lenz manual runs a guy around from refer to decoder specs and they tell you to see operating manual. I've talked with Debbie Ames and she's great, but feel like I'm becoming a pest. Is there any information out there that tells you step by step what inputs will work and how to keep the lights on etc.? We'd sure appreciate any help as we're considering arson, but my bud's wife won't allow that! In exchange, I'm a BNSF (former C&S) engineer working on our Moffat trackage rights here in Denver and I could get you a cab ride!! Thanks to anyone !!!!!

-- Terry Van Schwartz (, March 08, 1999



First - I don't have a Lenz unit to be real specific about. But it does sound to me that you need to separate the programming from the operations as a first distinction. While the so called ops mode programming does work and has some useful features for tuning engines on the fly - especially in consists - I'd start out ALWAYS placing the engines on the separate programming track and doing all the programming for an engine there only. After getting hte hang of things soem you can move along into more powerful combinations a little at a time. Reserve the running of trains on the rest of the layout in the operational mode. You may be actually reprogramming all your engines as you make changes to a specific one. The MRC is simpler - but as you found out somewhat limited inthe functions and features it can handle. Teh more sophisticaated units - such as your Lenz are also more complex and all systems take some getting used to and learning as you go. I hope a Lenz user can respond to you on some more specific steps to get started with - but take the complexity a little at a time and separate what you are doing and learning into distinct actions. -ed mccamey-

-- Ed McCamey (, March 10, 1999.


One other issue htat occured to me today is that the Lenz systms programs the CVs with a 0-255 range notation. Many decoders use 1-256 value range method. The CV number is correct by NMRA specification - but programing set ups have different ways of putting values into the CV selected. Bit wise values (CV 29 in particular) have varied methods as well (0-7 vis 1-8). You may not be actually putting the value you think into the decoder when you program. You have to check the decoder manual and adjust for the programmer method for your system. This can all be daunting to non-programming folks - but the pattern is easy to learn and adjust to. Hope this helps some more. -ed mccamey-

-- Ed McCamey (, March 11, 1999.

Another issue is that Digitrax uses Hex notation in their decoder manual and a number of Manufactures use decial notation i.e. 10 Hex = 16 dec. I went tru a certain amount of hair pulling (I use System One) when I programmed my first Digitrax decoder from the manual (hey they have spiffy lighting FX!) One you remember this alot of the programming problems go away.

-- Nelson Allison (, October 20, 1999.


I can not answer all your questions here, as it would take a lot more info from you. But my pages Model Railroading with DCC might help you, the address is in my tag line at the bottom.

But here is a hint when programming Digitrax decoders with a Lenz LZ100, To do this, simply press the + key to manually toggle between the various modes until P appears on your display. In other words, when in programming mode, manually tell the programmer to go to Paged mode programming.

Also if you are having problems programming CV's for lights and/or FX effects, let me know what you want, and I will give you the CV and value to program it to.


Remember Always Have Fun and Enjoy!, Don Crano Akron, Oh NMRA #096211 Visit Model Railroading with DCC at:

-- Don Crano (, October 21, 1999.

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