Intermittent running, Hornby J15 on Gaugemaster Prodigy EXpress

Discuss your experiences with systems, decoders, installations, wiring, control and any general hints & tips you have found.
essdee
Posts: 338
Joined: Sat Nov 29, 2008 4:47 pm

Intermittent running, Hornby J15 on Gaugemaster Prodigy EXpress

Postby essdee » Thu Aug 02, 2018 4:31 pm

He-eelp, please?

I have this year been involved in helping an old friend build and run a small DCC 00 system, using proprietary models. Tony has a long record in finescale 00 GWR/South Wales valleys modelling, latterly occupying a cellar on multi-levels. Following a Parkinson's diagnosis several years ago, and a house move, his motor abilities are waning, but he still enjoys operating on a small system in the sitting room annexe.

Neither of us is DCC-savvy, and it has been a relatively steep learning curve. However a Class 31, J15 and Bubble Car loco roster may give some indications as to the new location. All has been well generally, but the J15 often displays a hesitant stop-start motion. There seems no pattern to its behaving/misbehaving.

I am sure many of you may recognise this behaviour and advise as to what is happening ?

Additionally, I now notice that Tony is really struggling with the separate throttle and directional controls - is there an alternative that is compatible with the Gaugemaster Prodigy Express, but has a 'centre-off' speed/direction control, please?

Many thanks in anticipation,

Best wishes,

Steve

nigelcliffe
Posts: 451
Joined: Mon Jul 21, 2008 8:31 am

Re: Intermittent running, Hornby J15 on Gaugemaster Prodigy EXpress

Postby nigelcliffe » Thu Aug 02, 2018 6:16 pm

The decoder (make/model) in the loco is a key bit of information which is lacking in your question about the J15. (and also what are used in the other locos, which do work correctly).

Controller compatibility: Nothing I'm aware of will have a centre off and work with Gaugemaster's system. A new system, Roco MultiMaus, might do what you want and is often available quite cheaply. The Uhlenbrock Daisy-2 system can be configured so the speed knob is centre-off, by default it is "tap knob to change direction", and is not the only system offering this option.

However, giving specific guidance for muscle coordination problems, such as Parkinson's is difficult, and it may come down to "try this to see if it is better" if you can find people to loan different systems to try. For example, though its not centre-off, the speed/direction control on a Digitrax Zephyr might work as they are quite chunky, though the number pad on the Zephyr might be more difficult to use.

Building a custom system is possible, but its out in the "do you know a hobby electronics person ?" .

essdee
Posts: 338
Joined: Sat Nov 29, 2008 4:47 pm

Re: Intermittent running, Hornby J15 on Gaugemaster Prodigy EXpress

Postby essdee » Thu Aug 02, 2018 6:47 pm

Many thanks for the tips so far, Nigel,

As to the decoder/chip, as far as I know this was a ready to run Hornby DCC J15, bought in a York model shop, if that is any help; likewise the other two locos. I will email to see if I can get further details from Tony (and his wife who is giving staunch practical support on scenic side though not in any way a modeller).

Sadly, a custom-built option is not now feasible - the clock is running too fast........

Thanks again,,

Steve

nigelcliffe
Posts: 451
Joined: Mon Jul 21, 2008 8:31 am

Re: Intermittent running, Hornby J15 on Gaugemaster Prodigy EXpress

Postby nigelcliffe » Thu Aug 02, 2018 10:24 pm

Unfortunately not able to determine decoder from what you've said. The Hornby website just lists the J15 as "DCC Ready" which means a chip has to be added. That could be any chip, and some chips are frankly rubbish, quite a lot are average and a few are superb(*). If one adds in various other potential factors which could be influencing things from inside the loco (suppression components, type of motor, etc), it makes remote diagnosis very difficult.

One potential issue is the number of speed steps. As supplied, and recommended, the decoder should be in 28/128 steps. The controller should also be issuing either 28 or 128 step instructions. (Doesn't matter which of 28 or 128, they co-exist nicely.) If either decoder or controller is set to 14 steps, and the other is 28/128, then weird control things can happen. So, if you read the Gaugemaster instructions to check the controller is not set to 14 steps for that loco - if it is, change to either 28 or 128.
Checking the decoder is a bit more work, it requires reading CV29 (the steps to read CVs should be in the Gaugemaster manual). I wrote an article years ago on CV29 and how to interpret it. But you really shouldn't need to get into reading CV29 for this problem.
http://www.2mm.org.uk/articles/cv29%20calculator.htm


If its not speed steps, then depending on budgets and travel distances, my best suggestion would be to have the decoder in the J15 replaced with something known to be decent quality. For me that would be a Zimo decoder, costing between £20 and £35 depending on model (or nearer £100 for sound versions).

I've no idea of the knowledge or skill of the model shops in York, but a lot of model shops are clueless when it comes to DCC. Nearest to York I'd be confident about would be Digitrains near Lincoln, though hopefully someone else could suggest somewhere nearer. Or there might be someone in/around York in a model club who'd have a decent knowledge of how to select, install and setup decoders properly.


But, none of the above fixes the ability to operate the controller.


There is always "good old analogue" - that might be easier ? Get a decent analogue (DC) controller which works for your friend's finger/hand control. They'd be easier to modify to fit a suitable lever/knob for his muscle control. Get the chips removed and replaced with blanking plugs, and don't make things over complicated. It might be the best solution.


(* I'd probably be chucked off some of the DCC forums for expressing things that strongly, but its how I see things)

- Nigel

essdee
Posts: 338
Joined: Sat Nov 29, 2008 4:47 pm

Re: Intermittent running, Hornby J15 on Gaugemaster Prodigy EXpress

Postby essdee » Fri Aug 03, 2018 8:16 am

Hi Nigel,

I am extremely grateful for the time you have taken over this response - much appreciated.

The fact that the J15 was not supplied complete with Hornby's preferred chip is news to me! I exactly understand the range of problems that now presents in narrowing down the range of potential problems. I will check the loco's source with them, and then enquire from teh shop what would have been fitted.

The potential mis-match of speed steps is something I can check on my next visit, many thanks for that tip. I see 28 should be the default, but it is possible that inexpert use of the hand set has somehow altered the setting to create a problem.

One option is probably for them/me to return the loco to the shop, and explain the intermittent running, in the hope they may be able to relate that to the chip they fitted (and indeed identify what chip that was, for me). Such trips have now become relatively major 'expeditions' for them, sadly.....

I will enquire how the other locos were chipped, since they behave as expected, as far as I can see.

Ironically, Tony chose to start afresh with DCC mainly for the sound effects etc, as well as the simpler wiring, but now struggles to utilise the function keys. This is such a cruel illness, and his frustration and disappointment are evident. Your suggestion of returning to conventional DC is very sensible, and I fear that I may be heading down that road for him before too long. But we will persevere a while longer.

Many thanks again for the advice, all very useful,

All best,

Steve

User avatar
Simon_S
Posts: 79
Joined: Wed Aug 06, 2008 7:32 am

Re: Intermittent running, Hornby J15 on Gaugemaster Prodigy EXpress

Postby Simon_S » Fri Aug 03, 2018 8:40 am

Intermittent running sounds more like a pick-up problem than a DCC chip issue to me. My first step would be to check for obvious faults, then replace the chip with the blanking plug and make sure it ran properly on DC. It may be as simple as the loco needing a long run to bed in bearings etc.

Where is your friend located? Perhaps a member local to him would be willing to investigate.

Philip Hall
Posts: 1087
Joined: Mon Aug 10, 2009 7:49 pm

Re: Intermittent running, Hornby J15 on Gaugemaster Prodigy EXpress

Postby Philip Hall » Fri Aug 03, 2018 9:40 am

Steve,

I know nothing about DCC, but I have converted a fair few Hornby engines, some of which were fitted with DCC because that was the only way that particular engine was available. I think that ‘DCC Ready’ means the model is ready for a chip to be fitted, and ‘DCC On Board’ means it’s already got a factory fitted chip. If you still have the box, it will say one of those things. If the engine you have was ‘ready’ then a chip has been fitted outside the factory.

I am with Nigel regarding your friend. DC is possibly going to be easier. Most of the controllers have a centre off switch, but some of them like Gaugemaster have a slider switch, but others (I think Modelex is one of these) have a toggle switch. The Modelex might suit your friend’s situation, because the hand held version is essentially a panel mount in a box, and is a bit bigger than other hand helds. I can look out my two if you wish and take a picture if that helps.

Philip

essdee
Posts: 338
Joined: Sat Nov 29, 2008 4:47 pm

Re: Intermittent running, Hornby J15 on Gaugemaster Prodigy EXpress

Postby essdee » Fri Aug 03, 2018 10:13 am

Thanks for the thoughts, both!

Simon, the smooth slow-running capability of the J15 for much of the time suggests that there is no binding issue with the mechanism, the wheels are remarkably clean and pickups all bearing OK - the loco's behaviour is not at all what I am very familiar with, when there are pick-up issues. Hard to describe, but I have the strongest conviction that this is to do with the DCC aspect alone. But I will be taking a DC test rig next visit - I just hope the blanking plate can be found......

I am the local member -it's up to me to investigate! Introducing a third party would not be appropriate to the family circumstances at this stage. Hopefully I can isolate the problem and resolve it without needing to go that far - we will see.

Philip, I will get back shortly on the origin of the chip fitting; but I suspect that the suggestion of reverting to DC would not go down well - and I do fear that even that 'solution' may only have a relatively short shelf-life. As I say, a cruel affliction, Parkinson's.

All best,

Steve

nigelcliffe
Posts: 451
Joined: Mon Jul 21, 2008 8:31 am

Re: Intermittent running, Hornby J15 on Gaugemaster Prodigy EXpress

Postby nigelcliffe » Fri Aug 03, 2018 11:40 am

essdee wrote:Hi Nigel,

I am extremely grateful for the time you have taken over this response - much appreciated.

The fact that the J15 was not supplied complete with Hornby's preferred chip is news to me! I exactly understand the range of problems that now presents in narrowing down the range of potential problems. I will check the loco's source with them, and then enquire from teh shop what would have been fitted.


Even if Hornby have a "preferred" chip, its probably something with a Hornby badge on the packet, and unlikely to be in the "superb" category.
My guess is a model shop fitted something either "poor" or "average" because it was cheaper than the alternatives, or came in a packet labelled "Hornby" or "Gaugemaster" (neither would make my recommended list for decoder badges).
.

If its a sound loco, then the sound could be one of the following:
Hornby TTS - cheap, known to have the odd running problem from some decoders (largely resolved, but old stock with faults still in circulation in shops), but Hornby will replace decoders which are defective in running.
ESU LokSound V4 - expensive (£100 or more), good quality. Sound quality depends on the sound files installed on the decoder (they can be indifferent, can be superb), choice of speaker, quality of speaker installation. Running issues may be decoder settings which an expert could resolve - the "Autotune" of motor settings is the usual place to start.
Zimo - fractionally cheaper than ESU, but only just. Also good quality. Sound quality also dependent on the quality of the installed sounds, and loudspeaker. But like the ESU a lot of settings to faff with if its not running well.

Then there are the less likely, but do exist options:
Soundtraxx - US maker, but has some UK options. Cheap, and sales in UK to UK outline are incredibly low.
Digitrax - ditto.


The potential mis-match of speed steps is something I can check on my next visit, many thanks for that tip. I see 28 should be the default, but it is possible that inexpert use of the hand set has somehow altered the setting to create a problem.

One option is probably for them/me to return the loco to the shop, and explain the intermittent running, in the hope they may be able to relate that to the chip they fitted (and indeed identify what chip that was, for me). Such trips have now become relatively major 'expeditions' for them, sadly.....


Chip identification is possible by reading CV's 8 and 7 (and then depending on the results, there might be others to read which will narrow the search space further). CV8 should reveal the manufacturer's code. CV7 is whatever version numbering the manufacturer uses (some are decent, others don't tell you much), and then the "others" are manufacturer specific.
Trouble with this is it rapidly gets quite technical (I'd do most of this stuff using a computer to read the values from the decoder), and you sound like you're near the limit of your knowledge without making matters harder.


Ironically, Tony chose to start afresh with DCC mainly for the sound effects etc, as well as the simpler wiring, but now struggles to utilise the function keys. This is such a cruel illness, and his frustration and disappointment are evident. Your suggestion of returning to conventional DC is very sensible, and I fear that I may be heading down that road for him before too long. But we will persevere a while longer.


My reason for suggesting DC is twofold:

In the absence of a local expert, the faffing necessary to resolve small running issues can be quite high, and beyond someone like Tony with serious muscle control issues. Sometimes the running issues can be mechanical, sometimes electronic (suppression devices) and sometimes settings inside decoders (CV values on keypads or computers).

Modifying a DC controller for easier control is probably simpler and less risky than modifying a DCC handset. For example, direction control could be a very long arm on a toggle switch, or a lever arm on a rotary switch. Speed control knob could be replaced with a bolt-on lever arm, etc.. The direction switch can be removed from the panel/handset and placed somewhere else, etc.. All wiring and mechanical changes which many modeller's won't struggle with.
Whereas, though its possible to chop up a DCC handset to replace knobs, switches, etc.. with larger ones which are easier to operate, its a much more daunting and technical proposition.


Another DCC system which might be easier on the hand-coordination may be a ZTC system. Bought new they are stupidly expensive for what they are, but Taunton Controls (current ZTC owner) have some s/hand 511 systems available for £210. Upside - large knobs to control things, "hewn from solid metal" feel. Downside of the 511 is that it's a very old design, doesn't do all the higher functions (some sound decoders have sounds on F18 or F27, etc..), but will do the lower functions. Its got various other quirks and faults which mean I'd rarely suggest one. But, in this case, its ability to work the control knobs which counts above all other factors, and it might work. Just maybe Taunton controls would let you have one on approval for the price of return postage ? You could ask them.


Alternative DCC approaches, and these are very "left field". I could expand on them if thought to be possible:
NCE PowerCab system plus a NCE MiniPanel, and use the input buttons (your choice of buttons, you make the control panel yourself) on the MiniPanel to control trains (eg. button 1 = "loco 57 go to speed step 15", etc). Might work if the three locos can be controlled with ten commands each (thirty buttons on a MiniPanel).
Sprog PI (a Sprog was originally a DCC "programming" device, but its now evolved into a small DCC system). This version connects to a £30 Raspberry PI, there is the potential for push button input via the GPIO pins on the PI to control things. Again technical/computer, but has potential to work.
Similar solution with push button panel possible with Digitrax system and a CML Electronics DS1 "shuttle" board.
Touch pad control (iPad or Android tablet) via Roco Z21 system.




- Nigel


Return to “DCC”

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 0 guests