NCE Hints

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Summary: A list of hints relating to the NCE and Wangrow System One DCC Systems


NCE Hints and Tips

NCE / Wangrow Serial Communications

The serial port works at 9600 bps. Setting it to a faster speed will not work, as the system lacks the handshaking capability to manage communications. JMRI does not allow speeds greater than 9600 for this reason.

This mostly impacts the Power House Pro and the Wangrow System One command station. (NCE supplied the software to Wangrow.)

NCE Serial and USB Interfaces

A number of commands present when using a serial cable are not available when using the NCE USB interface. Of the commands that are available, the computer interface can send any command it wants.

Drivers

The NCE USB uses the SiLabs CP2102 chipset. Use the SiLabs CP210x drivers from SiLabs available here. There is a universal driver for Windows10. You also need to know if your OS version is 32 or 64 bit, and install the appropriate driver.

Limitations of the USB Interface

All Systems

Clock unavailable. Turnout monitoring unavailable.

SB3

No programming track support, operations mode only.

Power Pro

No mobile decoder programming.

Auxiliary Input Unit (AUI) Support
  • USB versions 7.x and above, Smartbooster with firmware version 1.65 and above support the AUI
  • USB versions less than 7.x, no AIU support

Throttles

Cab Address

This refers to the address of a device on the Cab Bus, not a locomotive's address. Up to 63 addresses are available on the Cab Bus, some of which are reserved.

Consists

Your locomotive worked fine yesterday but will not respond today:

This can occur if the locomotive was part of a consist, and the consist was cleared. If the lights, bell and other functions can be controlled, but nothing else, it is possible that the decoder didn't clear the consist information. Press Del Loco to delete the information again. Another method is to reset CV19 to zero using Ops Mode programming.

Headlight Issues

If the headlight turns on and off as the throttle is changed, the reason is a multifunction decoder with only 14 speed steps operating on a DCC system using 28 speed steps.

The speed command in the 14 step mode uses one bit to control the headlight. This bit changes with the throttle changes, and toggles the headlight on when the speed step is a even number.

Programming Related

Will Not Respond on an Analog Layout

If Power Conversion Mode is set to NMRA DCC Only, the decoder will not respond to a DC Voltage.

Function Keys Greater Than F9

To access functions above F9, follow this process:

  1. F0 − F9: Press the 0 to 9 keys
  2. F10 − F12: Press the F10-F12 key while pressing the SHIFT key
  3. F10 − F19: SHIFT 0. The display indicates F10-F19. Release the Shift 0 then press any numeric key to use a function from 10 to 19
  4. F20 − 29: Press and hold the SHIFT key, then press 0 twice. The display will indicate F20-29, numeric keys function as 20 to 29.
  5. To display the current state of a function, press the EXPN key. This does not work in Radio mode

It is possible to program the OPTION key to function as SHIFT 0 keypresses. This has the effect of adding 10 or 20 to the indicated value of the numeric keys.

Power Cab: Functions Not Working

This issue may appear after using the Programming Track Mode.

While operating a locomotive some functions do not work. If this occurs, unplug or turn the Power Cab off and wait a few seconds. Once it has completely shut down, power it up and allow it to reboot/restart. Everything should work normally after this.

Software Versions

Pro Cab Firmware

When the Pro Cab is connected to the Cab Bus, it will display the software revisions.

For a Radio person (Pro Cab R), install the battery and press E-Stop to display the Radio version. If is has an external antenna, the version will be less than V1.5. Cabs with V1.5 or better have an internal antenna. Those versions appeared in 2008.

Power Cab Firmware

There are several versions of firmware used:

  • V1.28C
  • V1.65
  • V1.65B

If the system has 1.65 installed, it should be upgraded to 1.65B, as 1.65 has serious bugs which will reduce the functionality of the system should a System Reset be performed. If the Power Cab reports this version of ROMs installed, you should contact NCE regarding an upgrade.

The revision can be seen on the second screen as the Power Cab boots up.

Power Cab Address Ranges

The software revision determines the available range of valid addresses for additional throttles

  • V1.28C: The only valid additional throttle address is 3. Unofficially address 4 might be available
  • V1.65: Valid addresses for extra throttles are 3, 4 and 5
    • The NCE USB, Mini Panel or AIU also have access to addresses such as 8, 9 & 10. Following a System Reset, all extra addresses will be lost and the version 1.28C limitations will be applied
  • V1.65B: Same as 1.65, with the elimination of the system reset issues

These issues are also present with the Smart Booster having an address range of 2-5 for V1.28 and 2 through 7 for V1.65B.

Electrical Issues

Some Power Cab Panels (PCP) have an issue with their design and manufacture. They may require an upgrade for reliable operation with extra devices on the Cab Bus.

Consisting

This is important if you take your motive power to run on another layout which uses NCE equipment when you do not use an NCE system on your own layout.

NCE uses a hybrid version of Advanced Consisting which they call Intelligent Consisting.

  • Always break up any consist you created with an NCE command station before removing your locomotives from the layout. Failure to do so will render the units immobile when placed on a layout which does not use an NCE DCC system.

If you forget to do that and find you can not get the locomotives to move, write a value of "0" (zero) to CV19.

For compatibility and to avoid conflicts, it is preferable to use Extended Addressing (4-digit) mode for multifunction decoders.

Power Pro

Clear All Consists

The "Clear All Advanced Consists" command available in the NCE Power Pro sends a Clear Consist Address command, which causes CV19 to be reset, This is done using the Broadcast Address. All decoders on the track must obey Broadcast Address commands.

Operations

NCE Decoders and RailCom

With an update to the NMRA DCC Specifications, older NCE decoders which were compliant are no longer. The issue arises when RailCom is active on the command station.

When RailCom is enabled, older NCE decoders may operate erratically or with unexpected results. Disable RailCom to prevent these issues should they arise.

Command stations made with RailCom on board cause the issue. Not all manufacturers1 support RailCom. Most older systems lack RailCom capability. See your manuals to learn if your system has RailCom, and how to disable it.

Mini Panel

The Mini Panel is a throttle class device. It can instruct the command station to create commands to one or more preprogrammed loco addresses.

Cab Reset

To reset any NCE throttle including the Power Cab: Press SELECT LOCO button when plugging the Cab in, then release button. Reading or changing the cab address is now possible.

With the cursor blinking, select a new address, or enter 00 to reset the cab to its factory defaults. Press ENTER when finished.

Power Cab Reset Warning
If you have a Power Cab with a firmware version less than the current V1.65B, approach the reset with caution. Doing so may create a new problem whose only resolution is to upgrade the firmware. If you have not upgraded the firmware to the current version, it is advisable to do so. Read the section regarding Power Cab Addresses for more details.

If no changes are desired, just press ENTER to exit.

Reset Cab ID Number: Power Pro

  1. Press the PROG/ESC key five times, to go to Set CMD Station
  2. Press the ENTER key 33 times, scrolling through the menu options. The last option is Clear All Cab Memory
  3. Reboot the command station
  4. Each Cab must be plugged in, one at a time, to register its existing Cab ID, which is stored in the cab.

Cab Addresses

Every cab must have its own unique address. Consult your documentation to determine which addresses are permitted by your system and software.

Programming Issues

Blind Writes

Many systems, including NCE, perform a blind write when programming in OPS Mode. The throttle may indicate success, when the write was not successful.

Power Cab

If you do not have a dedicated programming track, the load presented to the Power Cab may be too great, which will result in a failure to program and CV read back will not work. It is also likely that every decoder on the rails will also be reprogrammed.

Solution: Create a dedicated programming track.

Note: A program track booster should not be used with an NCE Power Cab

Power Pro

A firmware issue in the Power Pro affects programming track operation. Attempting to write to a CV greater than 256 will result in the decoder's possible corruption. The firmware will write to a CV which is less than 257, which could have unpredictable results.

There is no way around this issue. An alternate strategy is to use a Power Cab system to perform programming,

A program track booster may be required with an NCE Power Pro. The Soundtraxx PTB-100 is the best choice. Other devices may have issues when used with the Power Pro.

JMRI

This problem will also occur using JMRI on the program track. The advantage to DecoderPro is that it understands the issue, and instead of corrupting the decoder's memory, will just return an error response.

ESU Decoders

This issue does not impact the programming of an ESU decoder, as they have an intelligent method of handling CV >256 in their firmware. DecoderPro uses that method to avoid the problem.

Ops Mode Programming

In Operations Mode commands can be sent to a specified decoder, which requires pre-selection via a throttle.

Computer Interface

The serial interface (USB or serial) can send any command.

Notes and References

(1) RailCom is often found on European DCC brands, such as Lenz and ESU.