Digitrax Command Stations

In the last half of 2016, Digitrax shook things up a bit in its product line by discontinuing two of their longest-lived command stations (the DCS100 and DCS200) and introducing the DCS210 and the DCS240.

The DCS100/200 models had a nearly twenty year run, and while still perfectly serviceable command stations, were due for an updating. Twenty years is a very long time for any component to be manufactured in the electronics industry.

Further, Digitrax has been gradually moving to designs which can have their firmware updated by downloading software from their web site. The Zephyr Xtra was the first Digitrax command station to have this capability.

To clarify the differences between the various recently-produced command stations at a fairly high level, I have put together the following table that summarizes their features. It is based on a combination of personal experience and published specifications, and is not intended to be exhaustive, so there may be some differences that I have missed.

 
DB150
DCS50
Zephyr
DCS51
Zephyr
Xtra
DCS100
DCS200
DCS210
DCS240
Manufactured 1999- 2006-2010 2010- 1996-2016 2000-2016 2016- 2016-
Amperage 5 2.5 3 5 8 5, 81 5, 81
Maximum Simultaneous Locomotives/Throttles (Slots) 22 10/122 20/222 120 120 100 4003/120
Number of LocoNet Sockets 2 2 2 2 2 3 3
Jump Ports - 2 2 - - - -
Built-In Throttle - - - - -
Built-In Computer Interface - - - - - -
Front Panel Slot Purge Button - - - - -
Program Decoder CV values
Read Decoder CV Values -
Separate Programming Track -
Use Programming Track While Running Trains - - -
Increased Power to Programming Track4 - - -
Adjustable Voltage Trim5 - - - - -
Downloadable Firmware Updates - - 6 - - 6
Batteryless Non-Volatile Memory - -
Auto-Shutdown of Track Power on Loss of Command Signal - - - - -
Command Station Contention Detection7 - - - - -
Command Station-Stored Routes - - -
Command Station-Stored "Easy Routes"8 - - - - -
Built-In Fast Clock - - -
"Advanced LocoNet Device" Command Station9 - - - - -
Supports DT100/DT200 2-digit Address Aliasing10 - - - - -
 
DB150
DCS50
DCS51
DCS100
DCS200
DCS210
DCS240

 

Notes

1 Whether the command station sets its circuit breaker trip point at 5 Amps or 8 Amps is determined by the power supply and input connector that is used.  
2 The DCS50 supports 10 standard slots and the DCS51 supports 20, but each has additional slots for up to 2 user-supplied "jump throttles" (external power packs that provide non-pulsed DC power to give speed and direction control over locomotives or consists).  
3 To use more than 120 throttles requires using DT402 and DT500 throttles running in Expanded Slots Mode. DT402 throttles require firmware version R21 or later to support this mode. This functionality is supported in tethered and duplex wireless operation modes, only.  
4 Increased power output to the programming track makes it easier to program sound decoders and decoders with "keep alive" circuitry. On the DCS50 and DCS51 this is accompished using "Blast Mode". On the DCS210 and DCS240, this is standard behavior on the programming track.  
5 Voltage trim allows for reducing or increasing the preset voltage output by the various "scale" switch settings on the front panel of the command station.  
6 In order to apply firmware updates to a DCS51 or DCS210, it is necessary to have a Loconet computer interface, such as the PR3. The DCS240 has its own built-in computer interface.  
7 Command Station Contention Detection is a feature in which the command station periodically checks for indications that there is more than one device acting as a command station on the LocoNet. If it detects another, it shuts down track power then beeps ten times. Track power remains shut down until either one of the command stations is removed, or one is switched over to acting as only a booster. This is especially useful for troubleshooting large modular layouts.  
8 Easy Routes offer a simple way to program command station-stored routes or macros for accessory decoders using a front-panel button on the command station and a DT40x- or DT500-series throttle.  
9 An "Advanced LocoNet Device" supports the Query Mode feature of the DT500-series throttles. Query Mode displays operating statistics for Advanced LocoNet Devices.  
10 Some early decoders supported only 2-digit addresses. With a DT100 or DT200 throttle and a DCS100 or DCS200 command station, it was possible to define a 4-digit number (matching the number on the locomotive's cab) as an alias for a 2-digit address. Once this was done, the user would not need to remember the 2-digit address of the decoder, but could simply call up the locomotive by the number on the locomotive's cab.  

 

--Fritz Milhaupt, Feb. 2017

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