Try a function (re)mapping workaround

Don’s comment to my post on sound decoders brings up the topic of function (re)mapping. As Don pointed out some throttles cannot access the extended range of functions now available in some DCC decoders. There is another issue here as well, as I all too often hear from many modelers, they get frustrated because manufacturers all too often put the same function on different control buttons. Don’s solution was to upgrade to a throttle which can access all functions, but that doesn’t solve the second problem. There is of course another option—function remapping.

Of course one way around the second problem is to buy all your decoders from the same manufacturer and that way they would all behave the same, which is one solution Don alluded to. However now that locomotive manufacturers are offering their models with decoders already installed and they often change the decoder maker every few years, it makes it difficult to keep a “clean” roster. And of course the manufacturers are always coming up with some new feature or sound package to entice you to buy their products.

But what about Don’s problem of having too few function button? Throttles typically are equipped with only 8-10 buttons limiting how many of the 28 NMRA sanctioned functions you can control. Some of these throttles offer ways to expand the number of functions using the equivalent of a shift key, but I find it awkward to try and hold down two keys to access a function while also trying to operate a locomotive. TCS has added a kink to this by creating dual function buttons that control sound mode and light mode functions. But to toggle between them you have to hit the “8” button twice before hitting the desired function key. So in the end folks usually just use the horn and bell functions and ignore the rest.

The work around is twofold. First, the manufacturers have gone to adding automated functions. These include sounds like brake squeal, brake release sounds, automated crossing logic, and sounds that play when direction is changed. But again some decoders will have this while others do not. So what kind of work around is there? How about function remapping! This capability has been around since the early mobile decoders but really didn’t get much use until sound came along. The idea behind this feature is to change the functions assigned to the various buttons on your throttles so that you have a consistent set that can be accessed on all your throttles.

So how do you do that? First make up a spreadsheet of all the functions offered on your various decoders. Then circle all those that are controlled by the same button. Next go through the rest of the functions and pick out those that you would like to add to your consistent set. Finally use DecoderPro or your throttle to reprogram all your decoders to achieve this. However, this is another place where you will run into roadblocks.

Most decoders are limited as to which functions can be remapped to certain buttons. For example you typically can’t move the lights, bell, and whistle from the 0, 1, and 2 buttons or at least not move them far. The same is true for other groups of functions. You might be able to piece together a set of functions that will work for most of your decoders and throttles, but not all of them. With the increasing number of supported functions in decoders it is becoming increasingly more difficult to find enough buttons to remap them to. This is especially true for folks who depend on utility throttles. Econami decoders are now offering a way around this limitation–using their new function mapping capability you can remap any function to any button. I know you want to know more about this neat feature, so I’ll save that for another post coming soon.


  • Thanks Tom for all the pointers. I really appreciate the help. I will get into it slowly so I don’t make a goof. I only use Decoder Pro when programming the Lok Sound decoders. Thanks again.


  • One more thing about ESU….someone on the ESU yahoo group compiled a list of people who own Lok Programmer hardware and were willing to help people in their area that do not have the hardware. They also added QSI programmer and PR3, etc. So, if you have something you need help with and dont own the hardware and its too much of a stretch to buy it, check out that list in the files area. Maybe someone in your neck of the woods has added themselvez to that list and could help you out.

    • Tom
      I only need to remap a few sounds. Maybe I am looking at this too simply but couldn’t I put the loco on the layout and make a note of which function keys produce which sounds and then go to the function pane and make a few changes? I tried going to the ESU website and download the lok programmer software but I did not know which to download and was unable to find what I needed. Of the 8 LokSound equipped locos I have I have noticed that some of the function map panes are partially filled in while others may be completely blank. Just want to get my feet wet so to speak and not mess anything up.


  • Wow! I guess I really opened up a can of worms on this one. Still, I think the best way to save a bunch of hassle is to stick to one manufacture. Of course this would be too expensive and time consuming for folks that have several dozen locos, with half a dozen different decoders, Larry’s advice is right on as usual.
    Thanks for a great post Larry.

  • Wow this has gone smoother than I originally thought. I have completed the remapping of all of my diesel fleet and I am now going to attempt the steam fleet. The only hangup I have encountered involves the 9 ESU LokSound equipped locos. I do not have a clue how to remap so it is going to take some digging and maybe some advice from the LokSound Yahoo support group.
    Again thanks for the push towards attempting this long overdue task.


    • David, remapping functions on ESU decoders is very simple.
      All my comments relate to V4 or Selects, I have no experience with V3.5 or prior…
      Beware…Sound slots are not standard from sound project to sound project. They strive, but never assume that because xyz is sound slot 12 in this project that it will be the same in another…
      In Decoder Pro, choose the function map pane. The sound slots are assigned to function keys here. Unfortunately, presently, sound slots are not named by the sound they produce. Dave Heap has this on his to do list, but its not there yet. But if you know what your sound slots are from the loco manual, you can correlate them. Also, you can download the free lok programmer software from ESU website and peek into the sound project files again from their website and the sound slots are named there. You can use this software without owning the lok programmer hardware. You just cant use use the software to change your decoder without the harware, but at least you can look at the soundfile for the sound slot names. Its a little cumbersome at first, but once you understand how, it is easy.
      One more thing…in Decoder Pro, dont get hung up on the order of the function key assignments on the function map pane. ESU decoders dont rely on the order being sequential. The row numbering can be changed and makes no difference to the decoder. I never mess with changing the row number. I never move sound slots. I just change what function key is assigned to what sound slot. Remember to turn off the function key you are moving it from. There is also an option to say Not Fx. What this does is make the sound slot on until you turn on the function button and it then turns the sound off. Useful for changing how ESU defaults to sounds off until f8 is turned on. If you want sounds on by default, change the line with f8 to say Not f8. And some oems throw a monkey wrench in and reverse this, so you do the opposite if you want to change that.
      Anyway, once you do one, it makes sense.
      And the ESU yahoo group is very helpful.
      Whatever you do, dont start messing with CVs on ESU decoders. Too much indexing and you can really mess up your decoder. Always use decoder pro or lok programmer if you have one. There are 1500 plus cvs with indexing in an ESU.

      • Tom and David—it is my understanding that in the newer sound projects LokSound is attempting to standardize the slot assignments however in the older ones they were each essentially unique. If you go to the LokSound website there is a list of the functions and slot assignments included with each sound project. Just make sure you are looking at the correct sound project information for the one installed in your locomotive.

  • Thank you Larry for this post. I have been putting this off for way too long. I have mostly LokSound, WOW and Tsunami/Econami sound equipped locos so I am taking your suggestion and putting together a spread sheet. It looks like there is some differences between the function mapping on Econami and Tsunami 2 decoders so this should be a good exercise and I hope I can find a way to standardize most of the functions I use. Again thanks for providing the incentive to try something new.