Poor running with TCS decoder

Discuss your experiences with systems, decoders, installations, wiring, control and any general hints & tips you have found.
Sapper
Posts: 54
Joined: Sat Dec 20, 2008 6:22 pm

Poor running with TCS decoder

Postby Sapper » Tue May 12, 2020 9:49 am

Hello
I have an NLR 0-6-0T Mallard model fitted with a TCS Z2 1296 decoder and I have done the basic programming for a loco address as per the instructions. I am using the Gaugemaster Prodigy Advance system. When attempting to run the loco it is very intermittent, stops and starts and jerky - not quite what I would have expected. When previously running on analogue the engine ran smoothly and slowly and I have just now disconnected the decoder, connected the leads to the motor and run on a test track under analogue and it runs well with a slow speed. All pickups have been checked and appear OK, the wheels have been cleaned, the chassis runs freely and the total weight is around 200 grams.

Has anyone had similar experiences using these decoders, I was advised by DCC Supplies to use these, basically because they are small and will fit in. This is my first attempt at DCC and I am very much a beginner.

Any ideas would be much appreciated.

Regards

Sapper

davebradwell
Posts: 278
Joined: Fri Jan 18, 2019 3:48 pm

Re: Poor running with TCS decoder

Postby davebradwell » Tue May 12, 2020 10:46 am

What do DCC Supplies suggest? Having recommended it, they must be familiar with its working.

DaveB

Winander
Posts: 182
Joined: Thu Mar 20, 2014 12:19 pm

Re: Poor running with TCS decoder

Postby Winander » Tue May 12, 2020 11:01 am

Sapper,

Do you know the controller works?
Richard Hodgson

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Tim V
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Re: Poor running with TCS decoder

Postby Tim V » Tue May 12, 2020 12:29 pm

What motor is it fitted with?

Do you have any other DCC fitted locos?
Tim V
Scalefour News Editor

Sapper
Posts: 54
Joined: Sat Dec 20, 2008 6:22 pm

Re: Poor running with TCS decoder

Postby Sapper » Tue May 12, 2020 2:35 pm

Gentlemen
Thank you for your replies, in answer to your questions:

• The motor is a Mashima 1220 fitted to a High Level gearbox, the controller (GaugeMaster) appears to be working correctly e.g. points operate well.

• The analogue controller is a Morley Vector 2 which works well.

• DCC recommended these decoders, unfortunately they are in lockdown with their technicians on furlough and I have 2 locos with them; one for fitting a very small decoder owing to limited space and the other is to have the decoder tested as the loco stopped very shortly after I carried out the initial programming. I am not expecting to receive any news on these for some time.

Regards

Sapper

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Tim V
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Re: Poor running with TCS decoder

Postby Tim V » Tue May 12, 2020 3:08 pm

So you have one loco with you, that you can't seem to programme correctly. A decent chip should work 'out of the box'. All you should normally need to do is change its address.

Suggest you reset the chip to default settings. Instructions are with the chip.

As the second loco has also been returned with a faulty chip - I'm thinking it's a faulty controller. Just because the points change, doesn't indicate it's working correctly. Sounds more like it isn't programming correctly.
Tim V
Scalefour News Editor

Sapper
Posts: 54
Joined: Sat Dec 20, 2008 6:22 pm

Re: Poor running with TCS decoder

Postby Sapper » Tue May 12, 2020 3:17 pm

Thanks Tim
I will try and re-programme the chip to default and see what happens.

Regards

Sapper

Winander
Posts: 182
Joined: Thu Mar 20, 2014 12:19 pm

Re: Poor running with TCS decoder

Postby Winander » Tue May 12, 2020 3:24 pm

Who installed the chips, if DCC did it then it would be likely they tested it, indicating something wrong with your controller

Where did you get it and has it ever worked for you with a loco, and if it did, how long ago?

There is this thread on RMWeb (2015) that documents problems with the throttle control https://www.rmweb.co.uk/community/index.php?/topic/103648-gaugemaster-prodigy-advance-handset-problem/

HTH
Richard Hodgson

wakefield
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Joined: Sat Aug 14, 2010 3:11 pm

Re: Poor running with TCS decoder

Postby wakefield » Tue May 12, 2020 3:41 pm

Worth resetting to defaults. The main thing is did you try it initially on defaults. This is always a good idea before making any changes.
If it failed then I think your system is at fault. Difficult to diagnose without a working loco for comparison.
I have used TCS in the past with no problems but that is not to say they do not happen.
Pretty much wedded to Zimo now and NCE kit.
Mike W.

nigelcliffe
Posts: 559
Joined: Mon Jul 21, 2008 8:31 am

Re: Poor running with TCS decoder

Postby nigelcliffe » Tue May 12, 2020 3:53 pm

Why the TCS Z2 ? Because they had them in stock ? And, if the price on DCC Supplies website is anything to go by, an opportunity to charge twice what you needed to spend and shift the stock ? Its an mid-range decoder, indifferent performance and expensive. Getting the best out it means adjusting a number of parameters related to motor feedback/control (which are, frankly, more than a bit horrible in TCS's documentation). I'd hope a competent installer would make those changes for you.

From where you are, try a decoder reset.
If you're destroying decoders, or can't program them, there is something else seriously wrong. Either a fault in wiring meaning the motor wires are touching the pickups (goodbye TCS decoder, no output protection on them), or something else.


My suggestion: Only use top performance decoders. They're £20, made by Zimo. The MX617 is quite capable of handling the sorts of current that a small Mashima with a decent gearbox will draw. Comes with a wires option (often with a plug on the end of the wires which can be cut-off). If the MX617 won't fit, there are smaller options at more money, but still cheaper than a TCS Z2.
Out of the box, a Zimo ought to control your motor/gearbox extremely well. Further tweaking could achieve more. I'd be expecting slowest speed to be "imperceptible" and changes in speed which can smoothly mimic the tens of tons of prototype.
Adding carefully selected stay-alive components will improve the control further.


No 4mm scale standard gauge locos are that short of space for decoders in my experience, though retro-fitting to locos built without space being allowed during construction can create some work. I have decoders with stay-alive units in 2mm scale 0-4-0's that I carry around in 35mm film canisters.


Sorry to be a bit ranty, but I am somewhat disappointed with what some firms sell to newcomers.



- Nigel

davebradwell
Posts: 278
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Re: Poor running with TCS decoder

Postby davebradwell » Tue May 12, 2020 8:09 pm

Must apologise for not appearing helpful earlier but it seemed to me that a thorough check was required and the supplier would normally be best placed to run you through some basics. Fortunately help piled in after you pointed out dcc Supplies weren't available for comment.

I had missed the shocking price you paid for a very ordinary decoder and I heard they had a reputation for cvs mysteriously changing but can't say I've definitely experienced it. I'll also add my support for the Zimo range as I'm a 100% user. Never bothered with stay-alive but I'm sure it can be beneficial. Never bothered with the accessory side either as a lever frame seems less hassle and gives instant indication of main route set safely.

Have heard of DCC Concepts offering to be very helpful and Kevin at Coastal supports the society by turning up at Scaleforum North regularly.

DaveB

tmcsean
Posts: 51
Joined: Fri Jul 25, 2008 3:34 pm

Re: Poor running with TCS decoder

Postby tmcsean » Tue May 12, 2020 9:25 pm

This maybe an obvious suggestion, but do you know anyone with a functioning DCC layout, or someone from your local Area Group who might know someone? Posting the loco to them would at least eliminate or confirm the duff controller possibility.

I would offer, but I'm still at the novice stage myself with the DCC. People are usually keen enough to help, even if they are only one chapter ahead in the textbook.

Tony

Sapper
Posts: 54
Joined: Sat Dec 20, 2008 6:22 pm

Re: Poor running with TCS decoder

Postby Sapper » Sat May 16, 2020 11:47 am

Gentlemen
Thank you for your comments and suggestions received regarding the above.

I re-programmed the loco and there was a big improvement in performance with only a few slowings and stops, which would suggest intermittent electrical supply down to dirt on track and wheels although these have been cleaned to the best of my ability. I have ordered some Track Magic to see if that helps.

Regarding the controller, I have spoken to Kevin at Gaugemaster and he is of the opinion it is OK and I assume I could not have re-programmed the decoder correctly if it wasn't.

Unfortunately, having got the loco running reasonably well when testing it out on the remainder of the layout it stopped on a three way point and started to smoke, the chip had obviously burnt out and will have to be replaced. I have had some electrical and other problems on the trackwork and hopefully this will be sorted out by the supplier before I can do anything else.

I do not think there is any more that can be done until things sort themselves out, but I have made a note of your suggestions and will bear these in mind for the future. The one reason I used TCS decoders was that they do a no questions asked replacement service which I thought would be beneficial, I hope they live up to their words!!

Regards

Sapper

davebradwell
Posts: 278
Joined: Fri Jan 18, 2019 3:48 pm

Re: Poor running with TCS decoder

Postby davebradwell » Sat May 16, 2020 12:34 pm

I think you've just shown that your problem is almost certainly in the installation. A dead short across the motor output should just cause the decoder to shut down. However, if you have a wheel, pick-up or bare joint intermittently touching the chassis/body and a motor terminal or other bare joint in a motor lead can touch same then eventually it will go bang. Same would apply to those accessory leads you cut off.

If you have a test meter, use low resistance range and short both rails together. One lead on track, the other on loco and push it around layout even with dud chip and look for signs of contact.

DaveB

nigelcliffe
Posts: 559
Joined: Mon Jul 21, 2008 8:31 am

Re: Poor running with TCS decoder

Postby nigelcliffe » Sat May 16, 2020 1:27 pm

davebradwell wrote:I think you've just shown that your problem is almost certainly in the installation. A dead short across the motor output should just cause the decoder to shut down. However, if you have a wheel, pick-up or bare joint intermittently touching the chassis/body and a motor terminal or other bare joint in a motor lead can touch same then eventually it will go bang. Same would apply to those accessory leads you cut off.


I agree that the problem is within the loco, something connecting the decoder outputs (motor or function) to something they should not. That can happen with movement inside the loco, and is a problem in some kit-builds due to conducting metal everywhere, but fundamentally, the decoder wasn't properly insulated from the risks of short circuiting.
Shorting the motor terminals together will see off some decoders (pretty sure it destroys a TCS) because they have no output protection. Other, better, decoders (eg. Zimo, Lenz, possibly others) have output protection and will give an error report which can be read back on the programming track as to what has shorted!

The key thing is that a problem on trackwork cannot destroy a properly installed decoder. It can lead to a short circuit at the track, which will cause the command station to shut down, but that's all. Clear the short, command station restarts, decoder runs again.




- Nigel

davebradwell
Posts: 278
Joined: Fri Jan 18, 2019 3:48 pm

Re: Poor running with TCS decoder

Postby davebradwell » Sat May 16, 2020 3:43 pm

The failure I described, Nigel, actually happened in an 8 wheel tender where wheel was touching frame on curves and lack of insulation around motor. Disappointed a TCS won't shut down but I don't have one any more - gave it away. Anyway, it's yet another possibility. A further reason for keeping model insulated from wheels and pick-ups is because I've seen an A/J coupling reduced to a little blob and that, if I remember right, with a low current mini-system.

I didn't know I could read back an error report from my Zimos - a pointer to the instruction paragraph, please.

DaveB

nigelcliffe
Posts: 559
Joined: Mon Jul 21, 2008 8:31 am

Re: Poor running with TCS decoder

Postby nigelcliffe » Sat May 16, 2020 4:39 pm

davebradwell wrote:The failure I described, Nigel, actually happened in an 8 wheel tender where wheel was touching frame on curves and lack of insulation around motor. Disappointed a TCS won't shut down but I don't have one any more - gave it away. Anyway, it's yet another possibility. A further reason for keeping model insulated from wheels and pick-ups is because I've seen an A/J coupling reduced to a little blob and that, if I remember right, with a low current mini-system.

I didn't know I could read back an error report from my Zimos - a pointer to the instruction paragraph, please.

DaveB


Sorry. Faulty memory on my part, Lenz will give indication of what has faulted. Zimo doesn't. Both have output protection. I know the Zimo works because I've shorted a few on poorly constructed test-rigs before, and they've always recovered.
I can't guarantee the death of a TCS on a motor short, but my experience with their decoders is they go "pffff" at the slightest mistake. I blew up a couple when experimenting with DCC controlled AJ's with the mechanism in the loco or within a wagon. That was some years ago when TCS were cheap decoders compared to the alternatives; typically under £20, when a Lenz or Zimo was £30 or more.

Yes, the melting AJ. I've met it with the "American Pickup" where the entire tender is deliberately live to one rail, and the loco body live to the other rail. Via the nominally insulated AJ rubbing on a buffer beam, and you have lots of current down a little bit of wire.
I agree, keep the areas which are "live" to a minimum. Either just wheels and pickups, or wheels and frames for "split frame" systems. And nothing else if possible).


- Nigel


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