NCE Consisting

The NMRA DCC standard's decoder based "Advanced Consisting" sets the foundation of achieving a very prototypical consisting system. NCE builds upon that NMRA foundation by adding some key missing command station features that put together with NMRA Advanced Consisting creates the easiest to use and operate. To be clear, NCE remains 100% NMRA Advanced Consisting Compatible in adding these features. The end result is NCE DCC system offer the most flexible and prototypical form of locomotive consisting available in DCC world period. When it is setup the "NCE Way", there is no comparison to any other DCC system.

From time to time the subject comes up when people attempt to compare a given DCC system's form of consisting with NCE's. The comments show the person doing the comparison is is not fully aware of all the additional powerful and prototypical features NCE brings to the table. Many key members of the NCE list have help fill in the informational gaps allowing others to understand how easy it is to use. Dave Heap, a NCE-DCC group moderator, has addressed this topic many times. To help make this information more publicly available, I have reposted one of his discussion as a reference for all to read and refer too.


1) NCE DCC system use special NMRA DCC Advanced Consisting commands for "on the fly" programming of CV19 during operations. The special DCC commands allow the decoder to properly process the CV19 information without requiring any traditional programming. The special commands permits the decoder to resolve any other internal decoder setting conflicts as required to make everything transparent and work as expected. Let the decoder do its job.

2) The NCE DCC systems will ONLY activate it special additional command station level features and functions discussed below when you setup the consist when using a NCE throttle's consisting buttons. Programming CV19 directly bypasses the activation of these command station level features. The NCE consist will NOT operate like all the other NCE consist that have been setup correctly. Let the command station do its job.

Dave Heap wrote:

Some of the big advantages of NCE consists are:

1) You never acquire anything other than the four digit cab address, irrespective of whether it is in a consist or not.

2) You should never acquire, pick, change or even remember a short consist address. The NCE system picks an unused consist address for you and you should just let it have its choice and never remember it.

3) It is ideal for situations where consists change at the drop of a hat (as they do on the Railways of New South Wales where I live).

4) if you make a complete mess, there is one simple command to wipe the slate clean of all consists and build them again. There is also a simple command to browse all advanced consists.

5) You only need to set up CVs 21 & 22 once for each loco and then the NCE consist manager ensures the correct settings apply depending on consist position at the time. Many other systems require you to reprogram these CVs depending on the loco's position in the consist.

Setting up an Advanced Consist the NCE way

- Assume we have three locos, numbered 1234, 567 & 890 we wish to consist.

- On the NCE throttle press CONSIST SETUP.

- Press ENTER to select an advanced consist.

- The system will suggest a short consist address X (in a range starting at 127 or lower). You should NEVER change this and you should NEVER remember it. For a technical justification of these assertions see my addendum. Simply press ENTER and proceed to the next step.

- Follow the prompts to set up the three locos in consist with loco 1234 as the lead, Loco 890 as the rear and loco 567 as mid-consist.

- Let us assume the loco decoders only support three functions; headlight, bell and horn. These three functions are all only relevant to whichever loco in the consist currently is driving the consist, i.e. contains the crew to manipulate the lights, bell or horn. In this case you should have already programmed CVs 21 & 22 in all three locos to a value of 0. If not, never too late, you can do it with POM (Programming On the Main) now. (For the slightly more complicated situation of how to handle decoders with other functions applicable to all locos in the consist, such as dynamic brakes or sound mute, see my addendum.)

Setting up control of the Consist the NCE way

After your consist is setup as above, your lead locomotive should be on the display ready to control the train. However controlling the rear engine of the consist flawlessly still has one more setup task.

For Throttles with Recall buttons:

1) Press Recall

2) Enter the Rear Locomotive number and press ENTER

2) Press Recall until the lead locomotive number shows up again.

For Throttles with Toggle Switch on top:

1) Flip the toggle switch to the alternate position.

2) Enter the Rear locomotive number and press ENTER.

3) Flip the toggle switch back to the original position

Why? NCE Command stations will always send reset functions commands when a new locomotive is selected for the current operating session. The purpose is to guarantee the command station can know and properly track all of the function states of an unknown locomotive (Synchronize). Unfortunately for sound decoder engines, this may cause your locomotives to shutdown because the reset function commands are sent to all the locomotive in the consist too*. However buy doing these steps during the consist setup process, then when you run you consist train and switch to the rear engine using the recall button of the toggle switch, you will NOT cause a function reset. The train will run as expected with no surprises.

For throttles without Recall or toggle switch, there is no way to avoid this function reset unless the rear locomotive was an active locomotive on the layout for the current operating session PRIOR to joining the consist.

* This assumes the option of sending function command to the consist feature is enabled in the command station setup. It is on by default to support CV21 and CV22 which is what you want. IF it is off, the function reset commands are only sent to the locomotive selected and your consist engines will not respond to any function commands.

Driving an Advanced Consist the NCE way

- Assume the consist will be hauling a train with loco 1234 leading and loco 890 coupled to the train. Climb aboard loco 1234 with your scale crew. To do this you press SELECT LOCO 1234 ENTER. The throttle should display CON: 1234. Select DIRECTION FWD, turn on the bell, blow the horn, turn on the headlights and head off down the track. Loco 1234 is the only loco that will respond to the function commands you just gave. Locos B and C will remain dark and no horn will sound. Engines sounds will still work on all of the engines.

- Assume you have reached your destination and you wish to run around your train preparatory to returning with the train (maybe after some loading, unloading or shunting). Do exactly what a real loco crew would do. Pick up your kit (not forgetting to turn the headlight off first), disembark loco 1234 with your scale crew, walk to the other end of the consist and climb aboard loco 890. To do this you press SELECT LOCO 890 ENTER. The throttle should display CON: 890. Select DIRECTION REV, uncouple, back off from your train, run around and couple up to your train. When ready to depart, select DIRECTION FWD, turn on the bell, blow the horn, turn on the headlights and head back off up the track. Loco 890 is the only loco that will respond to the function commands you just gave. Locos 1234 and 567 will remain silent and dark. Again engine sounds will still work on all the engines as before.

That is all there is to it. You have driven the consist in a prototypical fashion, simulating climbing aboard each end of the consist in turn by selecting the appropriate loco address displayed on the loco cab side. Note that the FWD direction is defined by which loco your crew is aboard, and the headlights, bell and horn function only on the loco the crew is currently aboard.

It never ceases to amaze me why so many modellers insist on making consisting so complex with NCE systems, when the correct solution is so simple and prototype-intuitive.


- You can create as many consists as you particular NCE system allows (127 for Power Pro, less for Power Cab or SB3(a)/5).

- When you have finished with that consist you simply press CONSIST CLEAR followed by 1234 or 890 (it doesn't matter which) ENTER. Your consist no longer exists and you can drive locos individually or create a new consist using one or more of them.

- There is a CONSIST ADD button to add more locos to a existing consist, but it is usually easier to just CONSIST CLEAR and CONSIST SETUP again with the new consist.

- There is a CONSIST DEL button to remove individual locos from a consist , but again it may be easier to just CONSIST CLEAR and CONSIST SETUP again with the new consist. The main use of the CONSIST DEL button is to fix a non-responding loco that may be stuck in an unknown consist.

- Under PROG there is a BROWSE CONSISTS option to see what you have (not often needed).

- Under SETUP CMD STA there is a CLEAR ALL ADV CONSISTS option (PowerPro only). Do that twice (to be sure) and you wipe the whole slate clean (providing your locos are on powered track). There are a few brands/models of decoders that will not be cleared by this command. These include some MRH decoders and ESU decoders with firmware prior to V4.15.9246 (A LokProgrammer and LokProgrammer software V4.5.3 or later is needed to update your decoder firmware).


- Always select your locos by lead or rear address and never by the short consist address I told you never to remember.

- Work out which F keys you need to apply to all locos in a consist. The usual ones are Brake, Dynamics, Mute, Sound on/off, Manual Notch Up and Down, etc. Definitely not Lights or Horn. You need to set the bits for these F keys in CVs 21 & 22 once only irrespective of whether a loco is in consist or not, or what its consist position is.

Note I have not even mentioned CV19. It is none of your business. Let your NCE Command Station take care of it.


How to set CV21/22 correctly for consist-wide function commands


- Configure the bits in CV21/22 in every loco so that only those functions applicable to whole-of-consist are on. Leave the rest off.

- For example, with my LokSound diesels, the only functions applicable to whole-of-consist are F5 dynamic brakes, F6 prime mover startup/shutdown, F7 air brakes and F8 volume/mute. So I configure CV21 to have a value of 240 and CV22 to have a value of 0 on all my LokSound diesels. (I didn't calculate that value the hard way with pen and paper, I just told JMRI Decoder Pro which functions I wanted to respond to the consist address and it did the hard work for me. I never program using the throttle, that is too difficult when there is a much easier way.)

Why you should never remember or need to use the short consist address X

- You should never change the consist address suggested by the NCE throttle when setting up a consist. The command station knows better than you. It keeps track of which consists you have set up and makes sure you do not accidentally try to set up two consists with the same short address.

- When you wish to break up a consist, you simply press CONSIST CLEAR followed by either the lead or rear loco address. The command station looks up its internal consist table, determines the short consist address and sends an NMRA standard Consist Clear instruction to that address.

- If you wish to remove an individual loco from a consist, you simply press CONSIST DEL <loco number> ENTER. The command station simply sends an NMRA standard Consist Clear instruction to <loco number>, even if it does not think the loco is in a consist.

- If you wish to take your consist to another layout, you should always re-create the consist on that layout so that layout's command station knows about it and you are not using an address conflicting with a consist already on that layout. Even if that layout does not have a consist aware command station, the host should have a list of in-use consists and can advise you accordingly.

- If you bring a consist onto your layout from another layout, either your own consist returning or a guest's consist, you should firstly attempt a CONSIST CLEAR <lead loco> instruction (in case it is yours returning) and then recreate the consist.

- If you have decoders which to not honor the NMRA standard Consist Clear instructions (such as some MRC decoders), you can still use POM CV19 commands addressed to the loco address. Locos always respond to both normal and consist addresses with POM.

- If you really want to know the short consist address, you can always do a BROWSE CONSISTS (shortcut is PROG 9) and it will tell you all you need to know.

- If you try to drive the loco by selecting the short consist address (and you have correctly set up CV21/22 as NMRA DCC standard RP9.2.2 intended) you will not be able to control functions such as lights or bell or horn.

- Why waste time and effort keeping paper records when the NCE command station is already keeping records for you?

- You can recover from any situation by using solely the loco address already displayed on the loco itself (unless you have somehow changed the normal loco address and in that case is back to the program track.