Decoding DCC Decoded

20 May 2014


One of the biggest challenges in producing TrainMasters TV - and one that I never expected - has been getting people to understand exactly what it is we do. If you think that getting friends and family to understand your hobby can be difficult, imagine trying to explain a TV-show-about-model-trains-made-specifically-for-seasoned-model-railroaders-that-isn't-on-TV-but-is-actually-on-the-internet-that-people-can-subscribe-to.

Recently I sent out an email with a request to attend a rail-oriented event to produce a documentary segment for TrainMasters. The organizers sent back a response that they already know an individual who comes out to record their events and makes DVDs, so my services wouldn't be required, but thanks anyway.

I had to send a long-winded email back comparing the segment to something they might see on Discovery TV or CBS Sunday morning just so they might understand. They just didn't have a reference point for a TV-show-about-model-trains-that-isn't-on-TV-but-is-actually-on-the-internet.

Even model train manufacturers are having difficulty with the concept. Our clinic segments offer them a chance to create awareness about their products and show our viewers different ways to use those products. It's a great relationship: The manufacturer gets to reach thousands of hobbyists and the modelers get to learn some new techniques. But it takes a while for folks to understand just how that works.

John and JD Forsythe from Train Control Systems visit the DCC Decoded studio in the May show.

For example, for the May show, we had the pleasure of hosting John and JD Forsythe from Train Control Systems in the studio for our digital command control segment, DCC Decoded. I had been corresponding with one of their staff about their visit and asked that they bring some projects with them that would give viewers some tips and demonstrate how their products can be used. They made the one-day drive from the office in Pennsylvania and brought their test bench, an NCE controller and a couple of fantastic-sounding locomotives.

When I asked what kind of projects they would be working on they looked a bit confused. They had come prepared to talk about their WOWSound decoders but didn't realize that they would be called upon to do installation demos. We ended up shooting a comprehensive demonstration of their sound decoders that will be presented as bonus material in July 2014. I found it informative, especially since I haven't been keeping up to date on technology in the hobby, but I know that we can do so much more for TMTV viewers.

We also talked a bit about their Keep-Alive devices in a DCC Decoded segment that airs this month. TCS describes Keep-Alive as a device "used to supply power to decoders during times of power interruption due to dirty track or problematic track work." It's a simple idea that is already changing the the expectations for reliability in model train operation.

As a teenager who played around with resistors and diodes in the 1980s, I had wondered if it was possible to put a big capacitor in a box car to provide a power "buffer" to overcome my filthy track and loose switch points. It's concept that has been out there for decades, and now we have the technology to do it - without the boxcar. To me, it's time that every locomotive came from the factory with such a system built in.

It was during lunch after shooting these segments that John and JD had their "Aha Moment". Suddenly they understood what DCC Decoded is all about, and began rattling off an impressive list of projects that they could present for our audience. I immediately invited them back to record some more segments, the sooner the better. So the plan is to schedule them to come back this summer and have those segments air right away.

In other DCC Decoded news, Roger Chrysler will be coming back to re-record his demonstration on installing a sound decoder in an HO Bachmann 45-tonner. The original recording of this clinic was one of the first that we shot in the studio and the quality did not meet my standards. However, I did post part of it as preview material and the response to it has been greater than I expected.

So I am going to purchase a locomotive and decoder and get Roger back in the next few weeks. Look for the segment to air as bonus material on TrainMasters TV before the fall.

- Barry Silverthorn


I will be looking forward to all segments about DCC.  Including sound.


I do have some locos with sound.  Many others do not have sound, so in the past I have used under the table sound, and it was amazing as far as bass response.  Now I have found Lance Mindheim's blog post regarding use of wireless headphones.  Certainly for a small model RR, I think that Lance has found an amazing solution.