ESU Loksound released new sound files and decoder firmware for their Select and V4 decoders called “Full Throttle.” The main new feature is called “Drive Hold”, perhaps more accurately described as speed lock. Pressing F9 disconnects motor speed from the throttle knob so that the operator can work the throttle notches without changing speed. This makes it easy to simulate coasting, running up a grade in run 8, and occasional throttle changes to maintain a constant speed. It won’t, however, let you gradually slow down while running upgrade.
I loaded file 74401, an Alco 251 12 cylinder, into an RS-36 for evaluation during yesterday’s work session. A few things required tweaking, mostly motor control parameters, and substituting a Leslie S3L horn which I preferred. Of course the engine was set up with quite a bit of momentum.
Everyone got a chance to run the new firmware. All present agreed that they really liked what Drive Hold does for more realistic operation. Mark observed that it made you think more like an engineer who needed to work the throttle. I liked it a lot better than “slot car mode.”
One issue did come up. During preliminary testing, an out-of-the-box Atlas tank car twice picked the points of a switch, perhaps caused by an out of gage wheel set. The engine was running in Drive Hold. That’s when the NCE ProCab’s E-stop button saved my butt. The train stopped instantly, without needing to turn off Drive Hold then waiting for momentum to ramp down.
While the other 3 guys tried out the new feature, one individual did have to use the E-stop button after fumble-fingering another button on the throttle. I was glad I demonstrated E-stop before handing off the throttle.
It seems clear that it would be beneficial to re-program the option button on Cab04R throttles to E-stop. The factory default is a direction toggle, but that is redundant since the cab already has dedicated forward and reverse buttons. This would also assist a new operator who wasn’t used to running an engine with momentum, or unintentionally turned on drive lock while exploring what the various function buttons do.
So… what if you don’t have an NCE system? Not all vendors’s throttles have an E-stop button. Frankly I would think twice about running a locomotive with Drive Lock using such a throttle.
The new firmware has 3 more features—independent brake, run8, and coast. The latter two by default don’t map to any functions, and I personally don’t see a need for them. Testing showed that the independent brake just changed the amount of momentum and would prevent an engine at stop from moving. It had no effect when in drive lock so there is still no way to slow down when running upgrade with drive lock on.
This brings me to a wish that ESU would add a “sound lock” button, a missing twin to drive lock. When turned on the throttle notch would be locked. Then, by turning off drive lock, speed could be increased or reduced without changing the sound.
One of the very helpful folks who frequently post to the Loksound group on Yahoo developed a variation of drive hold called momentum multiplier. By pressing a function button, you can instantly change between two values of momentum. This might be interesting in a switch engine to toggle between light engine moves and shoving a long cut of cars.
Drive lock alone adds a lot to operation, and it works just as well when running a consist of all-Loksound decoders. Certain other sound decoder brands sense back-EMF and automatically notch the throttle up and down. That’s fine for a single diesel locomotive, but multiple sound-equipped engines running in consist won’t all notch up and down in unison. That said, features like DDE do work well when running steam in consist. Well, maybe.
Some years ago I had the pleasure of sharing breakfast with one of the Cumbres & Toltec engineers. He said that when they double-head, the second engine usually pulls as hard as it can. The lead engineer works his throttle to regulate speed. So in this case DDE won’t do “the right thing.”