Decoder issues? When all else fails do the magic reset.

I am a big fan of Econami decoders. The ECO-100 and ECO-PNP are relatively inexpensive, easy to install and program, offer a wide variety of popular locomotive sounds, and are backed up by great tech support. However, when trying out various features on a new Econami decoder I ran into some perplexing issues. Interestingly the locomotive lights were flickering a bit and when I picked the loco up off the track it would shut down. Now I had installed a Current Keeper in the locomotive along with the ECO-100 decoder–so what was going on? Other than the power issues the decoder was performing flawlessly so I immediately suspected the Current Keeper. Since I had a couple extras I swapped them out–still no keep alive power.

After messing with the decoder a while I finally gave up and performed a complete reset. I programmed CV8 to a value of “8” and sure enough the default 567 sprang to life in place of my ALCO 244. Then I downloaded all the CVs from DecoderPro to the decoder and everything was back to normal. Surprisingly even the Current Keeper came back to life.

I followed up with discussions with the technical folks at Soundtraxx and have been able to replicate the problem. Basically if you have analog conversion turned on in CV29 and also have alternative power turned on by setting CV12 to a value of “1”, the Current Keeper won’t work, but that was only half the problem.

While running the loco on the upper deck I noticed that the mu hoses on the front pilot of the brass loco hit the rails a couple times making sparks fly, and I suspect that these micro-shorts were enough to corrupt CVs and turn the Current Keeper off. I bent the mu hoses a little bit to prevent them from hitting the rails so hopefully this will be the end of that problem. However this is a good example of how even minute shorts on a DCC layout can corrupt CV settings and do other mischief. For a more in-depth discussion go back and read the discussion in my post on “Inductance and Killer Spikes”.

So this little experience has reinforced my belief in keeping all my DecoderPro files up to date just in case I need to do another reset. That’s the real hidden value of using DecodePro and also shows that hitting the reset button can work miracles with decoder problems!


  • I have an Atlas GP-7 that I put a Econami in but no keep alive. The other day I tried to call it up and the lights flickered and no action. I did a reset and it worked fine so I reprogrammed it using Decoder Pro and it is back to normal. I have noticed that sometimes little shorts corrupt a loco and it has to be reset regardless of whose decoder is loaded.

  • I have several Economi decoders and Soundtraxx Current Keepers. The biggest problem I’m having with the Current Keepers, is their size! I have found that they can keep my loco’s running for thirty seconds or better, which is way more than most of us need. If your track and wheels are so dirty that you need up to thirty seconds, man, you have really got a problem!
    Five or ten seconds should be enough time to get past any interruption. I would like to see Soundtraxx make a “Mini” current keeper, that we can use where there isn’t enough space for the full size one, such as a small switcher. The Mini, could have maybe a five second value, and of course cost a little less.

  • Very informative post Larry. I noticed recently after placing a new paved crossing that a few of the coupler hoses have been jamming on the paved portion. I was going to sand it down a bit, but your post makes me wonder if I shouldn’t check and bend the offending hoses….I’m thinking they may have caused previous random shorts on turnouts that I had attributed to the trucks and insol frogs?

  • Greetings Larry (from the UK),
    Flickering lights…that reminds me. I don’t know why but the lights in my coaches – I run a mix of New York Central and DB stock on my layout – have started flickering both when travelling & stationary. The German ones aren’t quite as bad as the NYC stock. Some are bulbs (Roco, the German stuff). And the NYC coaches (MTH steam and diesel and Walthers diesel locos) are LEDs. I’d appreciate any thoughts as I can’t put my finger on a why. I use the Roco Z21 DCC wi-fi system and have done for quite a few years, but this has never happened before. It doesn’t seem to affect the locos’ performance as they run quite normally.
    Alf atkinson

    • I would check the treads on the metal pickup wheels for dirt accumulation. Also give the track a good cleaning and see if that helps. There really shouldn’t be anything else I can think of that would cause flickering lights as long as there are no additional electronic control or power circuits involved.