Saturday, May 9, 2015

Decoder Blues

Well, Jérôme’s patience was pushed to the limit yesterday when he found out tweaking an ESU LokSound decoder with JMRI was probably as weary as being a copist monk in medieval times. Definitely, this is not user friendly at all. Supposedly you need their native application to be able to use a more streamlined interface. He compared the process as playing Minesweeper video game with a 100 x 100 grid! I know almost nothing in that field of model railroading but from what I saw, it wasn’t something you want to tackle late at night on Tuesday.

I can understand his frustration since our ability to program decoders was down for a few months. And now, when everything is back in order, he faces a new wall. But there’s hope!

On the other hand, I was able to program my own P1K RS18 without losing a string of hair (I think it was a Tsunami). Very nice interface… I’ll have to adjust the speed since the factory settings are on par with a toy train. At least, the sound level, bell and horn are now adjusted to my satisfaction. The sound was initially very low, but it now acceptable yet not overhelming. Good to hear Alco motive power at its best. Engine notching will have to be adjusted, but it should be a child’s game. Our locomotive top speed will be 20 mph, so that leaves a lot of room for smooth operation in the future.

Now it’s time to seriously think about completing my pair of kitbashed Atlas RS18. When? I don’t know, with summer lurking and many home improvement projects on the slate, modelling output’s going to be a little bit on the slow side.

That said, I think I'm ready to delve a little bit more into DCC programming that I used to do. I've always taken a casual approach to this matter, but it's time really try to understand how it works to bring operation to a new level. Having not too much locos to program is a gift!


  1. Matthieu,

    I know the frustration on the DecoderPro ad ESU Lokselect sound decoders... Last night I was working to tweak the volumes of one of my good friends two beautiful NS Athearn EMDs to the "5 ft rule" and I was met with tons of frustration and disappointment...

    I have become a solid user of Sountraxx Sound Decoders and their currentkeepers so after reading the ESU manual which is pretty intense but well laid out, I felt ready to make minor tweaks.. Safe to say Soundtraxx has my business for the continued future.

    Greg M.

    1. Thanks Greg. Good to see we aren't alone having a hard time with ESU. For relatively new sound DCC users like us, the learning curve is quite steep. That's quite a shame because the ESU sound files for ALCO engines are superb.

    2. I just took a look at your blog, you are doing a fantastic job on your layout. I love when a layout capture so well a sense of vastness as yours in such a small place. I'm loving your abandonned trackage, this is too often overlooked.

  2. DecoderPro from me really helped on the learning curve learning MRC, Soundtraxx, and QSI sound decoders... ESU will have to approach from another way.

    Appreciate the comments on the layout regarding capturing vastness in a small space, the design really has come together nicely.

    What post did you see the abandoned trackage on? I am definitely going for the worn down industry sidings with tie spacing and ballast/ground cover mixes.


    1. Sorry, I mixed up some picture from your tour of Joe Atkinson layout and yours. At some point, you can see a few abandonned track. He really did a great job.

      That said, I like the work your did on your stretch of mainline near the overpass scene. It's not overdone, just good old track in the middle of nowhere and it works wonder. I'm really looking forward the bridge scene to take shape. Going the worn down way isn't easy at first, but it pays a lot. Other club members thought I was completely insane when I started to cut down the number of ties on every lenght of track, but now they are totally sold to the idea.

      I was curious, your yard is located on what seems to be a sharp curve (well, I guess the camera obvious makes it sharper than it is). It looks good from a visual perspective, but do you have issues switching and coupling cars?

      I didn't find a track plan, but guessing from your panoramic views, I guess your layout can be operated as a continous run or point-to-point depending your mood. Am I right?

  3. Thank you for comments on the overpass scene. I used the wet/wet technique that Pelle Soeberg outlined in his scenery book. Results turned out great and take less time to complete.

    The yard ladder on the east end is compound curve. It helps fit the space and with tangent track adjacent to the ladder coupling is no issue.

    The layout is point to point with hidden staging on each end. In addition each level has a continuous run to break in engines, visitors view, or for my son to enjoy watching.