The ESU Loksound Decoder Tester and why you want it

Perhaps you are familiar with this scenario: there is a digital decoder sitting on your workbench and you want to test it prior to a perhaps complex installation. But how to do this?

The Profi Decoder tester makes it easy for you: simply connect the tester to your command station or the LokProgrammer. It enables you to test any decoder without exposing it to any external factors caused by the locomotive that may influence its performance.


In order to make things as easy as possible for you, the Profi Decoder Tester is equipped with some useful features. It has all commonly used interface sockets for connecting a decoder for the smaller scale models:

Besides a 6-pole NEM 651 socket and the 8-pole NEM 652 socket, it also has an 21MTC interface as per NEM 660, a PluX22 socket as well as a Next18 interface: No matter which type of decoder you have: Simply plug it in – it will fit! And that’s all there is to it!

Decoders without any interface can be contacted with individual terminals. 

A quality coreless motor with flywheel serves in conjunction with LEDs indicating the direction for checking the motor output: Thus it is quite easy to check on the low speed performance and the even speed of the decoder. An LED monitor informs you about the functioning of the headlights and back-up lights as well as the function outputs AUX1 through AUX6.

For testing LokSound decoders we have integrated a 20 mm speaker. You may choose if the integral speaker should be switched off or if it should have 100 Ohm respectively 16 Ohm – thus the Decoder Tester is perfectly suitable for any ESU decoder generation!

Two SUSI plugs facilitate the direct test of optional SUSI modules as well as the connection to another circuit board.

The electrical connection to either the command station or the LokProgrammer is facilitated by a removable, 2-pole terminal block (same system as used on the LokProgrammer and the ECoS) or via two solder points.

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Reading Signals – A Visit to the CSX Riverline

One our favorite places to watch trains is on Iona Island, where the CSX NY Riverlive cuts through the small island.

Located at milepost 41, there are these rather odd two headed automatic signals.   They are situated about half way between two interlockings.   In other words, they are the approach signals that tell the engineer the condition of the interlockings ahead.

These signals are approach lit (normally dark).  We just happen to catch this on a day when there was a northbound train approaching this signal.   This northbound signal is displaying yellow over green or Approach Medium (approach the next signal at medium speed).   The next northbound signal at CP43 (Fort Montgomery – Mind Dock Rd) is probably set for either Medium Clear or Medium Approach.  It doesn’t matter.    We do know for certain that the dispatcher has set up a meet, and this northbound train must slow down and take the siding at CP43.   The engineer has two miles to slow down to 25 mph.

Sure enough, here is our northbound.

The signal will display yellow over green until the train actually enters the track circuit beyond the signal.

Signal has changed to red over red will remain lit as long as there is any part of the train in the circuit preceding the signal.

Well, it didn’t take long.   The southbound train has just cleared CP43 and has entered the track circuit causing the southbound signal to light up and display Approach.   The next interlocking is at CP38 and must be set to Stop.   By the way, CP38 was created about 4 years ago when the existing siding that ended near Stony Point Battlefield was extended north.   The track was already in place to service the Tomkins Cove generating station, but was no longer needed.   I remember seeing strings of coal hoppers parked there.   Also note the insulated rail joints adjacent to the signal, which separate the track circuits. 

Well, the dispatcher must have cleared the southbound signal at CP38 for the main track, and this signal now shows clear.

The bottom line here is if a signal is lit and displaying anything other than Red over Red, stick around.

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Designing A layout – Reviewing One User’s Layout

One of the key elements to model railroading is the layout itself. Designing a layout takes a bit of personal preference while assessing what will ultimately provide continue use and entertainment. For some people running a layout that is purely a loop is perfectly fine, but many people find that without some additional elements, switching, industry etc. enhances the usability and longevity of any layout.

A reddit user ( u/ancap_attack ) submitted the orginal track plan

This layout presents some great operation elements, industry, switching the ability to swap mainlines, and continuous running. This layout might be a great start for many modelers but there are some enhancements that can be made to overall improve the track plan.

Revision 1

  • A reversing loop
    This is a great add for any layout. As it implies it allows you to reverse the operation of the direction of your train. In the previous design a train aligned to run east to west can only run east to west but in this design a train can run through the reversing loop and now operate in a different direction on the layout.
  • Straight away after turns:
    After the main loops you see that there are not some straight segments ( with the exception of the reversing loop) there are straight away right after the main loops turns. This helps ensure that after the train comes around the turns its not forced another turn. It’s generally considered a good design practice to allow a short straight segment as it prevents derailments as a train is pulled from one direction to the next.
  • The station becomes its own siding,
    • This could be more realistic depending on the area and era being modeled. You might find in a rural town or area that the train simply stops on the main for small station, where as a busier corridor the train would pull off to a station siding to allow traffic to continue to flow through as a train makes a stop.

Revision 2

Operationally we see some design changes that while seem minor provide an increase in operations and may help keep the modeler interested in their layout longer:

  • The round house moves closer to the rail yard. This provide some more realistic operations around the rail yard
    • Many roundhouse based facilities keep the round house near the rail yard
    • You often see a track for engines going to the round house and a separate tracking leading TO the roundhouse. Often you will find that one these has some service elements such as a water tower, fuel tanks, etc.
  • The industries have become more spread out
    • While this might not be a deal breaker, or perhaps scenery could be used to fill the void but, by spreading the industries to different areas of the layout it prevents the entire layout from being cramped into one area
    • Spreading out the industries might also allow for the layout to run by more than one operator. A local could leave the yard could service the industries on the left side of the layout, while a different local could service the industries in the bottom right. In addition, a third train could be operating a passenger service at the same time.
  • A longer lead track allows for better yard operations
    • Not only is the lead track longer, but it has straight section. Anytime you need to fix something or couple a train being on a straight section will be prefered to a curve
    • At the very least with the longer lead to the yard one engineer could be switching out and blocking trains in the yard while a second works the mainline / industries
  • The addition of the wye in the top left allows for train to turn 180 degrees without being picked up
  • By splitting up the mainlines up in the bottom left it allows for some scenery diversity,
    • In this case a mountain, hill or other scenery pieces could be placed in between the tracks allow change in scenery from the rest of the layout.

To see the full discussion

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ESU Loksound and LokPilot Guide

With the release of the V5 ESU Loksound decoders there a few changes to the product line.
Here is a brief overview of the new products and what ESU has to offer with their decoder line.

You can split their decoders into several categories

  • Loksound V5 decoders divided into the Micro, Standard, L  & XL models
  • LokPilot Standard & V4.0 line of motor decoders

ESU Loksound

The first thing to note is most of the hardware is identical.  In fact, most of their decoder are variations of the Loksound Micro Next 18 decoder with different adapters attached to this decoder.

ESU makes two variations of most of their Decoders: First is the MM – or multiple protocol version, and the DCC version. The MM is more common in Europe where there are multiple systems with similar functionality to DCC, while in the USA / North America Region most modelers use DCC and only need the DCC variant.  You will find that typically the DCC version is more cost effect then getting the MM version.  For the sake of this article we will primarly reference the DCC Version of Decoders: 

Loksound Micro family:

Most of the Loksound Micro Decoders are based off the Next18 connector with adapters to meet the different requirements of the different use cases:

Full Sized Loksound Decoders

The Loksound Director is a fully functioning decoder intended to replace the board found in most locomotives. The decoder itself is a Loksound Next18 ecoder on the ESU Director board

Large Loksound Decoder

This decoder is inteded for the large Scales such as “O” or “G”

ESU LokPilot

The LokPilot line of the decoders is ESU nonsound decoders.  Like the Loksound decoders they come in a variation of form factors and connectors

Another main difference between the LokPilot is the ability to get versions that have less functions

Full Function LokPilot

In addition, there are several “standard” and nano LokPilot Decoders that may have reduced function outputs or come in smaller form factors

ESU Accessories

ESU LokProgrammer

ESU 53452 – LokPgrammer
The primary tool for working with all ESU products is called the LokProgrammer. You do not have to own one of these, although it does make working with ESU decoders so much easier. The LokProgrammer can receive regular software updates from ESU making sure you always have the most current software available.

ESU Decoder Tester

ESU 563900 – Decoder Tester
The ESU Decoder tester is a great compain tool with the ESU LokPogrammer. While it is not required to have both, working in tangem they allow to you to program or test a decoder without the need of installing the decoder inside of a locomotive.
The decoder tester includes essentials such as a motor, a speaker and LEDs indicating the activation of various function output tools. It allows you to achive confidence in your decoder before the proccess of installing it.

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