There are a variety of tools that are useful
when working with DCC. Among the ones we have found most useful are:
This is one of our favorite tools. It is used to easily test decoders prior to installation to see if they are working, or for general testing later when problems occur. Decoder Testers can be very simple or a bit fancy. Read more about decoder testers...
There are times when you would like to know the voltage
and/or how much
current is being drawn when your DCC controlled layout
is operating. Remember that in addition to locos and
their decoders, many other things such as lights, switches,
etc. draw current on your layout, unless you have specifically
powered them separately. A good tool is the RRampMeter
from Tony's Train Exchange. They are good either
built into your layout or to carry in your toolbag for
checking you layout or others. And they work on DCC,
DC or AC.
NiMH batteries have brought a new level of convenience
and cost relief to the world of high drain, battery
powered devices like digital cameras, etc. But they
also have practical uses on DCC controlled layouts.
Read more about their use...
Without a doubt, DecoderPro and the rest of the JMRI
software suite are among the best FREE software that
you can add to your DCC environment. Coupled with an
appropriate interface between your personal computer
and your DCC system, DecoderPro provides a very easy
programming interface for decoders. After using this
you'll probably avoid using your cab to program with
unless absolutely necessary. And other components of
the suite provide support for other aspects of model
railroads, as well as diagnostic tools for your DCC
system. Be sure to check this one out -- the software
is no charge and available for web download, and the
only cost is the price of a suitable interface between
your computer and the DCC system.
DCC Pocket Tester
While not every user needs one of these, users who spend a fair bit of time living on the edge of DCC and/or helping their friends troubleshoot DCC issues will find the DCC Pocket Tester from Pricom Design, Inc. an invaluable tool. The DCC Pocket Tester is allows the non technical user to check various parameters of a DCC evironment, from monitoring DCC instructions sent to a given decoder address to checking the DCC signal itself. All in a DCC track powered portable device the size of multi-meter, which fits easily in your tool bag.
In addition to the above tools, there are some additional tools
that you may find useful is troubleshooting problems if you install
a Digitrax system. Among the tools you may find useful are:
A key component of the Digitrax system is LocoNet.
LocoNet is the bus that connects command station, boosters,
cabs (aka throttles, computers, auto-reversing units
(PM4), and detection system (BDL16). LocoNet is comprised
of the cabling system used to connect these devices
as well as messages that pass on this cabling system.
It is these messages that a LocoNet Viewer can be used
to examine. There are several LocoNet Viewers available:
- LNMON - a MS-DOS program. To use it connect
the serial port on your PC to LocoNet via a special
adapter cable (e.g., Digitrax MS100 cable assembly),
and start the program. It watches LocoNet and displays
each message as it appears on LocoNet. Message contents
are display with a short opcode mnemonic as the
hexadecimal data of the bytes in the message.
- a LocoNet viewer application from Stevens Designs
based on Palm OS (works on Palm and Visor handhelds).
Requires a Digitrax LPM100+ LocoPalm cable for connection
to certain Palm models, or a LPMV LocoPalm cable
for connection to certain Handspring Visor models.
- a Windows application from DigiToys Systems
for train & layout control, WinLok includes
a LocoNet viewer as a standard part of the tool.
WinLok requires a Digitrax MS100 to connect your
PC to LocoNet.
Config - a Windows application also from
DigiToys systems for the configuration and control
of Digitrax DCS100 and DB150 command stations, Chief
Config also includes a LocoNet Viewer in the tool.
Chief Config requires a MS100 to connect your PC
A tester available from Digitrax. Can be used in
- Decoder tester
- LocoNet cable tester
It's the tool to test for bad LocoNet cables. It
will also function as a decoder tester, but in our opinion,
if you planning to do many installation, you'll be happier
with one of the testers mentioned above.
A tester available from Digitrax (comes with the
BDL16). Used to test for the correct operation of detection
with the BDL16, and transponding with the RX4. This
tool along with a LocoNet viewer is in our opinion a
critical part of setting up and detection and or detection
& transponding environment.