No more “Silver Streak” incidents

 photo SectorPlate-2014_zps36eb88d9.jpg
(Runaway locomotives are never a good idea, but especially not when one’s layout includes a sector plate)

As reported last month, I was having a problem with the TCS WOWSound decoders I’m now using for all of my steam locomotives. If I started a locomotive at speed step 1, it would take off at full speed.

I wrote to the manufacturer and was advised to not use the user-loadable speed table feature on the decoders. Okie dokie.

(I like using my own speed tables because the top speed on most locomotives is way too fast for our layouts. The result is, operators end up working with the bottom third, or bottom quarter, of the throttle. It’s kind of like having a speedometer that reads up to 500 kph (310 mph) when the vehicle can’t go more than 50: The rest of the dial is wasted space, and there’s no fine speed control available at the low end. By writing my own speed tables, I’d given operators full use of the throttle.)


This morning I turned off the speed tables, and decided to see if I could achieve acceptable performance using the starting/mid/max settings of CVs 2, 6 and 5. I did – quite quickly, in fact – and the locomotives no longer tear off at full throttle if set to Speed Step 1.

While few others will benefit from knowing the settings, I’m putting them here so that I can refer to them down the road.

CNR Moguls 80, 86, 908: CV2 = 2; CV5 = 60; CV6 = 30.

CNR 10-wheelers 1532, 1560: CV2 = 5; CV5 = 50; CV6 = 25.

Why the differences in settings between the two classes?

Well, I set CV2 – starting voltage – so that the locomotive would just start to move at speed step 1. The 10-wheelers needed a little more power before that happened.

At the same time, the 10-wheelers run much faster than the moguls – so trimming their top speed a little more severely helps keep their speed within reason on my layout.

It was a simple fix and I feel more relaxed about running the layout knowing there will be no Silver Streak incidents…

 photo SilverStreak_zpsf87d30d0.jpg

10 thoughts on “No more “Silver Streak” incidents

  1. One would also hope that TCS indicated that a fix was forth coming? Glad you found a workaround to protect your engines, but lack of user-defined speed table is a serious regression when compared to other manufacturers…

      • Trevor,

        TCS decoders are very “buggy”…another reason I don’t use them, even though I am a dealer. They are prone to erratic behavior, and the “Audio Assist” feature has issues as well. Note that not long after you installed them, your headlight would drop out for no reason. Their motor control algorithms need help too. I have a TCS WOW1516 here that I’ve been trying to get replaced under warranty for months, and still nothing.

        For those of your readers who are not aware of them, might I suggest they consider the QSI Titan? They are the best in the industry, hold more DCC patents than all other decoder manufacturers combined, and provide the very best in sound and motor control.

        As an example, here’s an “S” River Raisin Grand Trunk 0-6-0 that I recently equipped with a Titan…


        Matt Forsyth

        PS, Norm Stenzel, the owner of TCS is a long-time, former QSI employee…

  2. I’ve also been having issues with WOW decoders, particularly the Audio assist programming. Headlights dropped out, so good to know that I don’t have to try and replace the bulb. No help from TCS apart from “use Audio Assist”. How do I swap F7 to F4, for example? Volume control is also stuck on maximum for the chuff. I also get a long whistle when I switch on, and the same whistle when I press F0 tp toggle the lights. Frustrating!
    Bob Harper

    • Bob,

      Welcome to “The Club”…

      I’ve seen all the problems you’ve mentioned (and more). For all the hype, I honestly think that the TCS WOW decoder is not ready for prime time. For me, the Audio Assist has been the most frustrating part. For example, you can start the application and carefully, (and accurately) follow the menus and drill down through the tree to get to where you want, make the appropriate sound selections, and still NOT have them correctly take effect, just like your chuff volume issue.

      The default air compressor (pump) sound is the Westinghouse cross-compound, but I had the decoder in a little switcher that used a small, single phase pump. Went through the drill-down, make the number selection to drop the cross compound pump, and select the single phase pump, and when you exit the Audio Assist, BOTH pumps are now running!

      I’m a professional model builder (Forsyth Rail Services), have installed and set up dozens of decoders (all brands) but was never able to solve this problem. As a TCS dealer, I have Norm Stenzel’s personal cell number so I called him, looking for support. As with Trevor who got, “turn off the user loadable speed table”, the only thing I got from Norm was, “I’ve never heard of such a thing. I’ll send you a replacement.” That was last summer, and still nothing, even after several follow up emails.

      I actually had a spare WOW 1516 steam decoder on the shelf (Version II, first decoder was Version I), and I unplugged the original decoder and plugged in the new. I noted that they had added more sounds and expanded the Audio Assist in Version II, but still didn’t fix any of the bugs…

      Rather than keep banging my head against the wall with Audio Assist, I thought I’d just try and program the CV’s the “old fashioned way”, and see of that made a difference. The problem…TCS does not publish a comprehensive list of their CV’s so I could not proceed.

      I was eventually able to get a hold of J.D. Forsythe, TCS’s programmer, and he did provide me a list, but to no avail…

      The condition(s) persist…

      Matt Forsyth

      PS, TCS is now launching a WOW decoder for EMD diesels. A few Beta’s were sent out to a couple guys that made videos and put them on YouTube. The EMD 567 prime mover sound was not all that impressive, but what I really took note of, was how the locos took off like rabbits, and did not start or stop smoothly.Those videos have since been removed from YouTube…

  3. I’m interested in all the comments about the WOW decoders, especially by Matt Forsythe. I have two WOW 101 units that I’m working with, and have not (yet) had any problems. I just got JMRI DecoderPro set up and looked at the pages for programming the WOW…the choices are apparently all there, laid out in extensive detail, including all the options to remap functions. Perhaps using this route will solve your issues? Obviously, that doesn’t address concerns about the Audio Assist feature. I’ll provide updates as I get more experience.

    • Peter,

      I’m Matt Forsyth, as compared to the TCS Programmer who is J.D. Forsyth(e), no relation.

      I don’t use Decoder Pro, so that might have alleviated some of the discontent as far as writing the TCS CV’s, but that should not be a requirement in order to obtain satisfactory results. Fact is, the manufacturer’s own application, i.e. “Audio Assist” should be the defacto (and best method) for making CV changes and selecting specific sounds in the WOW 101 (part number 1516).

      And the use of Decoder Pro also doesn’t address all the “bugs” like lights dropping out, unwanted sounds firing off at random, even after a CV change, locos taking off pell-mell, or the inability to employ a user-defined speed table.

      Matt Forsyth

      Forsyth Rail Services

  4. Hi everyone:
    Some good points are made here but I think this would be a more constructive discussion to have on the TCS Yahoo Group or TCS Facebook page, where the manufacturer can read and respond. Just a suggestion.
    What I would recommend is that people who are interested in these decoders – or anybody’s decoders, for that matter – should buy one and do their own experiments. I’ve had a few problems with the TCS decoders – but then again I’ve had problems with other manufacturer’s decoders, too, and I’m generally happy with the TCS decoders now that I’ve addressed a couple of problems. Your results may vary, as they say…

  5. Thanks, Matt…I agree completely with your comments; that said, I’m happy with mine so far.

    Trevor, I agree…thanks for all your thoughtful and interesting posts…I look forward to each of them.

    Regards, Peter

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