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Hardware Support: Digitrax DCS52

Hardware Support: Connecting to a Digitrax DCS52

JMRI may be connected to the Digitrax DCS52 in any of a wide variety of ways. Since the DCS52 has a built-in USB interface, it is possible to simply plug a USB cable into the computer and the DCS52, and configure JMRI to suit this connection. It is also possible to use another LocoNet interface device, such as a LocoBuffer-USB, Digitrax PR3, or Digitrax PR4, to interface a computer to LocoNet, and connect that LocoNet to the DCS52. JMRI does not prefer any one connection method over any other method. Choose one which is suitable for your needs.

If a USB cable is used to connect the JMRI computer to the DCS52's USB connection, JMRI may be configured in one of two modes. If the computer will only be used for decoder programming, and JMRI will not need access to LocoNet features other than the DCS52 "programming track", then JMRI may be configured to use a "connection" where the DCS52 USB interface is placed into a mode where it acts as a standalone decoder programmer. In this mode, JMRI will access the DCS52 dedicated programming track connections. This mimics the "standalone programmer" configuration which the PR2 provides, and which the PR3 and PR4 can support.

Alternately, when JMRI will be used to access LocoNet resources which go beyond simply the DCS52 programming track, then JMRI should be configured to act as a general-purpose LocoNet interface. The JMRI "connection" should be configured so that the "command station" type specifies the type of command station which is being used.

If, instead of using the DCS52's integrated USB port, you plan to connect your computer to the DCS52 using a LocoNet adapter device, follow the instructions found here.

The table below summarizes these possibilities.

Connection Type Usage Settings in JMRI Connection Profile Instructions Available JMRI Capabilities
System Connection JMRI Command Station Type
USB cable from computer to DCS52 USB connector Decoder Programming "DCS52 USB Interface" "DCS52 Standalone Programmer" Configuration help Program decoder CVs on the dedicated programming track
Operate one loco on the dedicated programming track
LocoNet Interface, Decoder Programming "DCS52 USB Interface" "DCS52 (Zephyr Express Command Station)" Configuration help Program decoder CVs on the dedicated programming track and/or the main track
Control one or more locos on the main track
Control and monitor LocoNet-connected Switches, Sensors, and Transponding
Configure some LocoNet devices
Control or monitor the LocoNet Fast Clock
Update firmware on some LocoNet devices
etc.
LocoNet Interface, Decoder Programming Computer Connection to something other than the DCS52 USB connector Something other than "DCS52 USB Interface" "DCS52 (Zephyr Express Command Station)" Configuration help Program decoder CVs on the dedicated programming track
Control one or more locos on the main track
Control and monitor LocoNet-connected Switches, Sensors, and Transponding
Configure some LocoNet devices
Control or monitor the LocoNet Fast Clock
Update firmware on some LocoNet devices
etc.

Note that it is possible to use the DCS52 in a "booster" mode, and rely upon some other command station. If this configuration is used, the "command station" specified for the JMRI connection should match the device which is actually acting as the command station.

Choosing a configuration method

When setting up a JMRI "connection profile", which "command station" should you use when configuring JMRI? That depends on what you intend to do with JMRI.

DCS52 USB interface as a stand-alone decoder programmer

Typical connections for DCS52 for use as standalone programmer

When the DCS52 USB interface is configured to act as a programmer, it acts upon the dedicated programming track via the "programming track" connections on the DCS52. When JMRI is properly configured, JMRI can use the DCS52 programming track to access decoder CVs when the decoder is connected to the programming track.

This JMRI configuration may also be used to download sound information into Digitrax sound decoders and, within its limited current capability, run one locomotive to test it. When used with Digitrax SFX decoders, "neutral mode" allows you to vary the speed without the motor moving the decoder, so you can hear how the locomotive sound reacts to varying speeds.

In this mode of operations, JMRI will not have access to LocoNet-based devices.

Setup for the DCS52 acting as a standalone programmer

To use the DCS52 programming track, connect the DCS52 to its power supply and connect a dedicated piece of track which you'll use as the programming track to the DCS52 "programming track" terminals. Finally, connect a USB cable between the DCS52 and your computer.

To set up JMRI to use the DCS52 via the dedicated decoder programming track mode:

The "connection" preferences should look similar to this image:

Sample configuration profile with DCS52 USB interface as a standalone programmer

DCS52 USB Interface in Standalone Programming Mode Usage Hints

DCS52 USB interface as a LocoNet Interface

Typical connections for DCS52 acting as a LocoNet interface

When acting as an interface, the DCS52 USB connection allows JMRI to interact with devices connected to LocoNet. This includes programming decoders on a programming track attached to a LocoNet command station. Where the LocoNet command station supports "programming on the main", JMRI is able to make use of that feature.

Setup for the DCS52 acting as a LocoNet interface

To use the DCS52 USB connection as a LocoNet interface, connect a LocoNet cable to a LocoNet connector on the DCS52. Connect an appropriate power supply to the DCS52, per the Digitrax instructions for the DCS52. The DCS52 USB interface will not be able to communicate with LocoNet unless the DCS52 is properly powered. Finally, connect an appropriate USB cable between the DCS52 USB connector and your computer.

To set up a JMRI application to use the DCS52 as an interface to a LocoNet which includes a LocoNet command station:

The "Connection" preferences should look similar to this image:

Sample configuration profile with DCS52 USB interface as a LocoNet interface

DCS52 connected via some other LocoNet Interface

Typical connections for DCS52 when connected to computer via a LocoNet Interface Adapter

JMRI may connect to the LocoNet via a LocoNet interface other than the DCS52 USB connector. When connected in this fashion, these general instructions, or, where available, the JMRI documentation associated with the LocoNet interface which is being used.

DCS52 Drivers

The DCS52 USB interface needs to have a driver installed when used with any Microsoft Windows Operating System. See the Digitrax "Downloads" page for drivers. At the time this help page was written, Digitrax provides Windows drivers for the PR3 device. Those drivers are suitable for use with the DCS52 USB interface. Make sure to follow any instructions, particularly any instructions about the order of installing the drivers and plugging in the device.

You don't need to install a separate driver when using current versions of MacOS or Linux.

See Also

LocoNet® is a registered trademark of Digitrax, Inc.