Author Topic: Digitrax Zephyr Express... Right for me?  (Read 528 times)

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learmoia

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Re: Digitrax Zephyr Express... Right for me?
« Reply #15 on: August 28, 2019, 01:53:27 PM »
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Ohh Digitrax...  :)  Only you can create a solution to a problem with your system but omit it from your user guides so no one knows about it..

I've never known about that... and do they include that feature in the Chief/Builder as well?

 :D
~Ian
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reinhardtjh

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Re: Digitrax Zephyr Express... Right for me?
« Reply #16 on: August 28, 2019, 04:26:46 PM »
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I've never known about that... and do they include that feature in the Chief/Builder as well?

 :D
~Ian

No...  I believe the first two Zephyr's had under powered programming tracks (even for Digitrax) and this was added to make up for it with sound decoders.  It was designed for KATO so maybe it was a special request.

From what I remember in the good old days of the NMRA committee, the programming track was designed to be low power - just enough to program a decoder.  That way if you had a wiring problem the odds of it blowing something was lower.  They didn't count on the sound decoders and their capacitors, etc for sound which increased the current draw needed.

John H. Reinhardt
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learmoia

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Re: Digitrax Zephyr Express... Right for me?
« Reply #17 on: August 28, 2019, 04:37:02 PM »
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Yes.. that's how it was explained to me when I got into DCC 15ish years ago.. (which happened to be the same time Sound was growing beyond SoundTraxx and BLI/Quantum got into the game.)

~Ian

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samusi01

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Re: Digitrax Zephyr Express... Right for me?
« Reply #18 on: August 29, 2019, 08:11:07 AM »
+1
I am using a zephyr on a roughly similar sized N scale layout, and it works well enough with four locomotives running around. I don’t have any HO so I can’t comment on power requirements there. I have encountered the problem that others have noted regarding short recovery with sound locomotives.

What my recommendation would be is consider purchasing something like a SPROG for programming only. JMRI can handle communication with both the Digitrax command station and SPROG at the same time. A brief history of my DCC programming would be as follows:

Purchase the Zephyr Xtra
Learn that trying to program CVs that way is for the birds
Purchase PR3, add JMRI to the mix
Learn that it doesn’t work well with sound decoders
Purchase SPROG
Learn that ESU sound decoders can take 30 minutes to read everything
Purchase LokProgrammer

So for me, the command station is purely that and programming/speed matching/etc. takes place off layout. I do have power blocks, with management provided by a Digitrax PM42. It works well enough but I plan on eventually replacing it with DCC Specialties equipment.

Sam

Lemosteam

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Re: Digitrax Zephyr Express... Right for me?
« Reply #19 on: August 29, 2019, 08:20:30 AM »
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@samusi01 Nice summary.  After the LokProgrammer, do you still need the SPROG and PR3?

I assume you have a remote programming track for this and what is that powered by, the LokProgrammer?

Sorry got my ignorance, but I want to do this once, myself.

samusi01

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Re: Digitrax Zephyr Express... Right for me?
« Reply #20 on: August 29, 2019, 09:32:46 AM »
+1
@Lemosteam

Everything is still in use.

Zephyr Xtra / PR3 are semi-permanently mounted in the layout directly above the layout laptop. The PR3's only function in life is to connect the layout to JMRI, so I can run everything through WiThrottle or Engine Driver. Perhaps once or twice a year I might use my UT4 throttles.

I had the SPROG II sitting next to the layout laptop and simultaneously connected to JMRI, but I've ended up leaving it separate and mostly just connect it to my main computer for programming. The SPROG handles pretty much all of my decoders, although I've not yet tried it on ESU decoders with the most current version of JMRI. Latest version of JMRI was supposed to be quite improved on handling ESU decoders.

The LokProgrammer is used only for ESU decoders. It can read other decoders, but does so in a most basic fashion, one CV at a time and reporting only the value it finds. The LokProgrammer does not directly talk to JMRI so I will completely set up a decoder and then export the file to JMRI.

For both the SPROG and LokProgrammer, I have purchased Kato Unitrack 20-041 feeder tracks. A deft modification of the wire with a pair of wire cutters, quick soldering and insertion into 5.08mm connectors purchased from Amazon allow me to connect the Unitrack feeder track to the SPROG or LokProgrammer. Note that different 5.08mm connectors are used; the LokProgrammer uses a 2 pole connector and the SPROG a 4 pole connector. I usually pair the feeder tracks with either Kato 20-000 or 20-010 straight track sets for a portable programming setup. For speed matching, I use a Unitrack loop and speed tunnel.

Sam

lyled1117

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Re: Digitrax Zephyr Express... Right for me?
« Reply #21 on: August 29, 2019, 09:43:36 AM »
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The two previous versions of the Zephyr (DCS50 & DCS51) have included a undocumented "Blast Mode" for programming which outputs with an increased current capacity and can usually handle sound decoders.  I haven't seen where the new version (DCS52) includes this, but I don't expect that Digitrax would remove it as it is very handy.

The New Zephyr (the DCS 52) appears to have it on by default if they haven't made that mode the only mode. I programmed an original Tsunami (not a Tsu2) with it just to see what would happen, read and programmed fine

Lyle D

Rich_S

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Re: Digitrax Zephyr Express... Right for me?
« Reply #22 on: August 30, 2019, 07:22:56 PM »
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Hi Dave, I have the same CV read back problem with my Empire Builder System which is now 20 years old. My solution was to purchase a Digitrax PR4 a couple of years ago and up until last week the PR4 was working perfectly. I use the PR4 along with JMRI installed on my computer and a separate programming track as a stand alone programmer. One click of the "Read All Sheets" button in JMRI and I can see what value is loaded in every CV in the decoder. If your DB150 is still working without any issues, A PR4 is a lot cheaper than a new Digitrax Zephyr Express.

Rich S.

Dave V

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Re: Digitrax Zephyr Express... Right for me?
« Reply #23 on: August 30, 2019, 08:39:29 PM »
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Hi Dave, I have the same CV read back problem with my Empire Builder System which is now 20 years old. My solution was to purchase a Digitrax PR4 a couple of years ago and up until last week the PR4 was working perfectly. I use the PR4 along with JMRI installed on my computer and a separate programming track as a stand alone programmer. One click of the "Read All Sheets" button in JMRI and I can see what value is loaded in every CV in the decoder. If your DB150 is still working without any issues, A PR4 is a lot cheaper than a new Digitrax Zephyr Express.

That's actually exactly what I'm doing now...  I have a PR4 and JMRI.  It's not ideal, but it works.

Stuff's working for now so I'm feeling less enthused about buying a new system...though I'm seeing it on the streets for under $200, which is tempting.
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Cajonpassfan

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Re: Digitrax Zephyr Express... Right for me?
« Reply #24 on: August 31, 2019, 10:02:27 PM »
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Hi Dave, I hope I don’t muddy up your clear Rocky Mountain waters, but I am a HUGE fan of ops mode programming, for both motor control and sound. In fact, the only thing I do on an isolated program track is set the unique loco address, period. (And I use a dedicated BLI “Address Changer” for that). Everything else is done on the main.

I really like the instantaneous response in sound and/or performance while running the locomotive and messing with its CV’s, and I take simple notes in pencil as I change CV settings till I get it right. The decoder doesn’t just “chirp” acknowledging the CV change, it changes its behavior while running. Too slow, dial it up a few notches; too loud, tone it down. Read-back is just not that important to me, other than the address. Just watch and listen to the thing and tweak it as appropriate...kind of like tuning a piano😎

Given your consistent track profile, slow speeds, limited number of locos (and no MU sets) and a continuous lap to work with, ops mode programming seems to me like a no brainer; who needs read-back. But yea, YMMV, and I admit, I use NCE, so maybe I’m missing something uniquely Digitraxx here. Good luck!

Fun stuff,
Otto
« Last Edit: August 31, 2019, 10:04:54 PM by Cajonpassfan »

wazzou

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Re: Digitrax Zephyr Express... Right for me?
« Reply #25 on: August 31, 2019, 11:55:21 PM »
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Hi Dave, I hope I don’t muddy up your clear Rocky Mountain waters, but I am a HUGE fan of ops mode programming, for both motor control and sound. In fact, the only thing I do on an isolated program track is set the unique loco address, period. (And I use a dedicated BLI “Address Changer” for that). Everything else is done on the main.

I really like the instantaneous response in sound and/or performance while running the locomotive and messing with its CV’s, and I take simple notes in pencil as I change CV settings till I get it right. The decoder doesn’t just “chirp” acknowledging the CV change, it changes its behavior while running. Too slow, dial it up a few notches; too loud, tone it down. Read-back is just not that important to me, other than the address. Just watch and listen to the thing and tweak it as appropriate...kind of like tuning a piano😎

Given your consistent track profile, slow speeds, limited number of locos (and no MU sets) and a continuous lap to work with, ops mode programming seems to me like a no brainer; who needs read-back. But yea, YMMV, and I admit, I use NCE, so maybe I’m missing something uniquely Digitraxx here. Good luck!

Fun stuff,
Otto


That "sounds" like the ideal scenario.  I'd definitely be in favor of realtime feedback.
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