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!