Train Modules DCC Accessory decoder
This is a quick overview of the fixed DCC decoder by TrainModules, a Hungarian manufacturer that has been distributed by Conrad in Germany for more than a year. This decoder is what I call a hybrid decoder. It can send either impulses (e.g. for electromagnetic switch motors) or permanent power (e.g. for signals or motorized switches).
(part of a series where I will review similar decoders from other brands)
The main feature of “TrainModules” modules is that they are very small (using SMD components) and fit well under “electronically crouded” layouts. This module is no exception, with a size of 62 x 58 mm (2.4″ x 2.3″). Also a common point for TM modules: the board is not protected by a casing, and none is available (to my knowledge).
The decoder can control 4 devices with 2 outputs, or 8 individual outputs (standard on this type of decoder). It has a 2 separates power inputs, one for the DCC signal, and another for actually providing power to the devices. This is a standard features on many accessory decoders now, it allows draining as little “precious” DCC power as possible, by actually powering the attached devices with a separate circuit (e.g. a cheap 16V power supply).
The module address can be programmed either by CV editor or by the usual “press program button then send order on the desired address” method.
The module allows more precise programming via CVs. Above all, this allows using each independent output as either a permanent or an impulse output. Impulse outputs can even be modified for a certain amount of time in milliseconds.
The absence of Railcom, however, means CV editing has to be done on the programming track (no easy reprogramming the module – except the addresses – once it has been installed).
I wouldn’t call the module unreliable – I am not a professional tester, but I noticed two annoying issues after using those modules for months:
Until I can find why I have had issues, I will be using those decoders only for non-critical accessories (i.e. everything but switches).
All in all, this is a good versatile decoder to place under a layout. The fact that it can be used for impulse and permanent outputs is a plus: it is practical to be able to use the same decoder for – say – 2 switches and 2 red/green signals at the same time.
I am not sure why I am noticing some reliability issues, and would welcome feedback from other users.
Update 2014-02-08 on reliability: It seems this decoder has problems with switching high load devices (e.g. coil turnouts) in fast sequence. When switching all 4 turnouts through my PC software (Train Controller Gold), through my ECOS II, I noticed the 3rd and 4th turnouts fail to change position in about 50% of the case. It seems the decoder tries to switch all turnouts simultaneously and cannot handle the load. Based on this experienced, I would not personaly recommend this decoder, especially to people using automation (whereby high speed sequences of changing a lot of turnout positions are usual).
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