Posted by: bgtwindad | January 6, 2012

Help! My Zephyr Isn’t Working!

In a recent thread on my favorite internet train watering hole, one of the users, having just received his new Digitrax Zephyr Xtra and a couple of new DCC locomotives, was having trouble using the Zephyr to program the locomotives.

The jolly crew of course jumped in to help him diagnose the problem, and what resulted was a pretty good list of things to check before hitting the panic button when you DCC conroller doesn’t work.  While these points are specific to the Zephyr and Zephyr Xtra, most if not all of them are also applicable to most DCC systems.

  • Is it wired up correctly?  The main layout should be wired to the “Rail A” and “Rail B” terminals, the programming track to “Prog A” and “Prog B”.  Beware that there is a ground terminal between the two programming track terminals.
  • Where is the locomotive, and which programming mode are you using?  Ops Mode works only on the main track, while Direct and Page Modes work only on the programming track.
  • Is it a non-Digitrax decoder?  Some non-Digitrax decoders don’t respond with a strong enough signal for the programmer to “hear” the response.  Placing a 1-kΩ resistor across the rails can help with this.
  • Are the rails and locomotive wheels clean?  Poor contact can affect the communications.
  • Does the locomotive have  a decoder?  Sometimes it pays to check the obvious.
  • If using a PR3 and JMRI with your Zephyr, did you tell JMRI to use the PR3 in MS100 mode or Stand-alone Programmer mode?  Stand-alone mode should only be used if the programming track is wired directly to the PR3.
  • If you’re in Ops Mode, did you select the correct locomotive address?

Well, that’s a start.  My hat is off to my friends at for their willingness to help those with questions, and to their suggestions of things to check.

If you have ideas to add to the list, be sure to post them here!


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