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Brakeman Hal

Well-Known Member
Hello, I recently ordered a Digitrax Zephyr DCS52 DCC Controller for my O-Scale 2-Rail Short Freight Line.

My 3 engines are all MTH, and each has a switch for DCS or DCC operation.

I just wonder if an 84-year-old modeler from the Steam Era will be able to understand the programming steps on the Digitrax.

(Dad was a Fireman on 2-8-2 Mikados and 2-8-0 Consolidations for the Pennsy during WW2.)

Shown is my G-Scale train, which used to run on my 150 foot indoor track.

Brakeman Hal


Gomez Addams
Staff member
There are several youtube videos showing the process in-depth. I've watched a couple of them, as Digitrax thinks everybody is as smart as they are, and writes their manuals accordingly. I just got a DCS52 last Sunday, and have been studying.


Well-Known Member
General steps for all systems:

1.Enter Programming Mode [ the right mode for the job. There are at least two modes on each system, one for appointing an 'address' to the decoder, the other for telling each decoder what characteristics you want it to 'play' for you so your locomotives behave as you'd like them to.]

2. Once the decoder accepts the address you assign it (you're calling it a name, and most of us use the cab number because they're all likely different...unique to each locomotive model you own. Makes it easy.), you switch 'naming mode' and tell the decoder what volume you want it in Master Volume, what momentum and inertia rates you want (slow for drag engines, maybe faster for passenger commuters that are short, and about the same for powerful tractive locos like the GG1).

3. You exit programming mode, and you play and note what you still want to improve. Re-enter programming (the right mode....remember)...ALWAYS verify you're in the correct mode before you press another button!!! You acquire the CV you think needs fiddling, change values, press 'enter', Exit programming, and then see if that improved the behaviour.

That's all programming is. Digitrax, although it has a comprehensive manual that seems daunting, is relatively straightforward. Heck, it worked for me, and I'm no engineer or physicist. Just deal with it. Open manual, look at diagrammes, read instructions, pick up the real item, and start pressing buttons. You learn visually, auditorially, and do all three ways and you'll eventually get it.

Make sure you redo programming several times. Reset one or two decoders, and try it all again....BEFORE the sun sets. You want this to be familiar before you try it again next day. By the end of the first week, you'll know precisely how to manipulate your decoders. NOTE- not all decoders follow conventions on what they assign to Function buttons. LokSound, for example, does NOT MAP its bells and horns to the same buttons as you'll find on the TCS and Tsunamis, as an example. Hey, they have to keep your brain young and you on your toes!

READ THE X$#& manual.

Be very certain that you're in the RIGHT PROGRAMMING MODE....BEFORE you press another button. Why? Read the manual. Says right in there.

Iron Horseman

Well-Known Member
I recently ordered a Digitrax Zephyr DCS52 DCC Controller ...
My 3 engines are all MTH, and each has a switch for DCS or DCC operation.
First have you already run a locomotive using the Zephyr controller? Doesn't matter if it is the layout or a test track. It should come from the factory ready to run a locomotive on channel 3, as the locomotives should already be programmed to channel 3 from the factory. Don't try to do any programming until you have one running on channel 3 first. That lets you know the "standard normal" thing is working.

Are you wiring a programming track or going to program on the main track?

Do you have the instruction manuals for the MTH locos? Those will have the programming instructions in them. Hopefully they will follow standard DCC procedure, but it is MTH so one never knows.

Brakeman Hal

Well-Known Member

Hey...this controller is the best one I've ever used, from my 50-year-old MRC analog to my MTH DCS circus!

This one has more than enough power to accellerate my 5-pound O-Scale 2-Rail engine and the consists that follows it! The throttle is very precise, from the starting crawl to the super highball which I'm afraid to try.

At 50% throttle, it whips that freight around my 45" radius curves almost to the point of derailing. I don't ever feel the need to go beyond that speed, even though there is so much more throttle left!

It came pre-programmed with Whistle/Horn, Bell, Directional Lights, Engine Startup Sequence, Brake Squeal, and Engine Shutdown to idle and off.

I won't have to do any playing with the decoder!


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