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BLI's Blueline Programming Reports

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Don Fiehmann, Jon Miller and others report on their experiences.

Even as the authors were developing this information BlueLine has been working on the reported problems. Subsequent release may have some fixes to issues stated herein. The reader/user is advised to contact Blue Line for specifics relating to their locomotive.

From what I’ve been reading on the Internet, I’m not the only one that has had problems setting up DCC decoders in the new BLI BlueLine locomotives. The following is my experience and hopefully will be a help to you if you’ve had programming problems. I’ve also added some programming information to help program the BlueLine locomotives. Jon Miller did some testing with the Lock feature that is included in this report.

BLI’s new line BlueLine locomotives include a decoder that is usable on both DC and DCC. For DC it is a motor, light and sound decoder. When you switch to DCC you still have DCC sound and lights control, but loose the motor control. Motor control is done by adding a generic decoder to the “DCC Ready” 8-pin NMRA style connector. Remove a plug in the 8-pin and plug in a generic DCC decoder and you are ready to go, or that is more or less what the instructions indicate. The whole idea of this is to reduce the overall cost of the locomotive.

The locomotives that have been released by BLI/BlueLine have a removable piece of the body shell that exposes the 8-pin connector and some require the shell to be removed. There is enough room to install a small decoder. There is a list of suggested decoders in the manual that can be used plus a list that Tony has added on the website.

My first experience with the BlueLine was with the AC6000. I had a used Digitrax DH163 decoder with an 8 pin connector and programmed it for the new four digit address of 602 (0602) using an NCE decoder tester. The DH163 worked OK on the tester. I had tested the sound out on DC and it was OK. Then I tired it with DCC sound, it was OK using address 3, but I needed to change the BlueLine address to match the motor decoder. This is where things became difficult. The motor would work on address 602, but no sound! Neither address 3 nor address 602 would work!

I then resorted to using a system-reset instruction. OPS mode programming had been suggested for use with the BlueLine decoder, but that only works when you have the correct address for the decoder. (On the program track a broadcast address is used that all decoders respond to.) After a number of attempts on the program track, I had a revelation! My system was using Page mode programming, what if I used Direct mode? Much to my surprise, it worked.

When the BlueLine decoder accepts a command, it beeps to let you know it accepted the command. Duh! If you read the manual it does say to use the Direct mode. We get so complacent with all decoders using Page mode that we forget that other modes even exist. My NCE system should have detected that the decoder was using Direct mode. When you power up it defaults to Direct mode, then tests to see if the decoder responds with a read-back. If there is no read-back the DCC system then switches to Page mode. Since there is no motor connected to the BlueLine decoder when in DCC, there was no read-back acknowledgment (can't read CV) so the system assumed Page mode. Once I selected the Direct mode, I could program the decoder.

Once the BlueLine decoder was factory reset, I could then program in the correct four-digit address. I did it by unplugging the Digitrax decoder first, then programming the BlueLine decoder. The Digitrax decoder was reinstalled and everything worked with the four-digit address.

I tried doing some consisting and lost the sound again. I went back and did the factory reset (8 to CV8). It took a couple of times to get the factory reset to work and then re-programmed the address. More on consisting later.

Decoder Lock Feature

The Decoder Lock feature was designed to work with locomotives that have more than one decoder installed. This feature was requested by Digitrax and is now in the NMRA DCC specifications 9.2.2. The Decoder Lock is an optional feature that uses CV15 and CV16.

This feature is used to change CV values in only one of several decoders with the same addresses that are installed in the same locomotive. Assign a number to CV16 in each decoder, like 1 for the motor decoder, 2 for the sound decoder, 3 or higher to other decoders, before the decoders are installed in the locomotive. To change a value in another CV for one of the installed decoders, first write the number 1 (motor), 2 (sound) 3 or higher (other) into CV15, then send the new value to the CV to be changed. The decoders will compare CV15 to CV16 and, if the values are equal, the CV to be changed will be changed. If the values in CV15 and CV16 do not match, the update will be ignored. CV1 and CV15 remains unlocked so the value can be changed when switching to another decoder.

The sample below shows the matching values in CV 15 and 16 for the motor, but not the sound decoder.

  Motor Sound Decoder
CV15 001 001
CV16 001 002
Status Unlocked Locked

The factory default is both of these CVs. Decoder is “000" and leaves them unlocked.

Jon Miller made the following report on his testing of the BlueLine decoders and the Lock feature:

This is the procedure I used on the Zephyr. First a PowerPax is required. You should first program the BlueLine and set CV16=2. This will identify it as a sound decoder. Then plug in the motor decoder and set CV16=1. Now program CV15=1 and you should have access to the motor decoder and the BlueLine will be locked out. What I ended up doing is to programming CV1, 3 or more times to make sure it took. I then did a read back of CV7 and CV8 to make sure I had the correct decoder. (These two identify which decoder is responding.)

Herein lies the problem of the BlueLine. If you can't read you can't be sure which decoder you are programming. I believe this problem is in the BlueLine and not the motor decoders. One way around all this is to program each decoder separately. This means the motor decoder must be out of the engine. Then install the motor decoder. The problem here is that if anything happens while you are programming, you then need to take everything apart and do the separate programming thing again.

Then I did some testing using Decoder Pro:

The testing was very exhaustive and there still are issues to be resolved for BlueLine decoders. The motor decoder I used was a TCS T1 with bemf. I proceeded as follows using Decoder Pro, however, a handheld would be the same just take longer.

Also a phone conversation with John at TCS revealed the following: TCS locks everything except CV15. According to the NMRA CV1 also should not be locked. Also all programming/reading was done using a PowerPax programming booster.

1) I programmed the BlueLine and saved it to a file (Decoder-Pro information). Wrote a 1 into CV15 thereby locking the sound decoder.
2) I added the TCS T1 and as the default is 0 for both CV15 & CV16 the T1 would program. Programmed a 1 into CV16 for its lock ID and saved it to a file.
3) I tested to see which would read under what conditions. I used the single CV programmer to put a 2 into CV15 thereby locking the T1 (motor decoder) and unlocking the BlueLine. I read CVs 7 and 8 to determine which decoder I was looking at. I then repeated this test by putting a 1 unto CV15.
4) Results: The TCS T1 would take the first attempt at programming a 1 into CV15 (unlocking it) however it took many attempts to program a 2 into CV15 on the BlueLine decoder (or maybe the T1) as I am writing to both decoders at this time.
5) Bottom line: The BlueLine is difficult to both program and read from. I did not attempt to use the Ops Mode as I feel that it's necessary for any decoder to work on the programming track.
6) What Works: Users are reporting that some command stations work and others do not. BlueLine has acknowledged this and is working on the issue.

Jon Miller
Digitrax, Chief/Zephyr systems, JMRI user

Another user has added his comments:

I did a similar test and found the results were much the same. I did get the lock feature to work and verified that it was working by locking the BlueLine decoder and unlocking the Digitrax decoder. Then reading CV8, the manufacturer's ID, you could determine which of the two decoders was responding. It worked OK.

I did not use the lock feature when I did my programming. Its main use is when you have CVs that are the same in both decoders. Most of the motor control CVs are in CV1 to 128 and the sound CVs are above this. The main conflicts would be with CV3 and 4 and these two should be changed together. I found that it is easier to unplug the motor control decoder and program it on a decoder tester. For the BlueLine decoder, once the motor decoder is unplugged, you can test out and program it with OPS (POM) mode. What makes this handy for testing is that the locomotive’s sounds and lights work while the locomotive does not move. I feel that decoder lock is only an added layer of complexity that can add more confusion to program decoders than it worth.


Setting up a consist may be controlled by the command station or the decoder. The older (universal) consisting is controlled by the command station, not the decoder. The other is advanced consisting and uses the decoder(s) to control the consist address. In advance consisting CV19 uses the same two digit address for all of the locomotives in the consist. The value can be from 01 to 127. I did not get the advance consisting to work correctly with the BlueLine decoder. But once I did get it to work I lost the sound. The old type of consisting, universal, using the command station for control worked OK. With this type of consisting there is no change in the decoder and the command station does all control.

System Variations:

As long as you know the address of the BlueLine decoder you can use OPS (POM) mode programming. The problem is trying to do a factory reset when nothing else works. When programming the BlueLine decoder it gives you a beep for an acknowledgment. But the DCC system may still give you a “can't read CV” if it did not get the read-back indicator. I tried programming with the following systems with results from good to bad. The tests were done with the motor decoder removed and I used just the BlueLine decoder.

Digitrax can be switched to direct mode (Pd) with the PROG key. Then you can proceed with programming.

NCE would startup with direct mode, with no read-back it switched to page mode. You can go to direct mode by selecting option 5 when in program track operation. You need to step through some “can't read CV” until you get to the CV mode. To reset the BlueLine decoder select CV8 and put in a value of 8.

Lenz was more difficult. When you try to program in DIR mode and the system does not get a read-back acknowledgment you get an ERR 02 and the system will not let you go any further. The system even prevents you from programming CV1, CV17 and CV18. I think this was to protect you from accidentally changing the address, but it even stops you from programming when you need to change the address, a dead end? If you have a friend with one of the other above systems, be nice and ask for some help! Once programmed, you can run it with the Lenz system. BLI is aware of this problem and stated that this will be corrected in future releases.

Four Digit Address Values for CV17, 18 and 29
If your system does not setup CV17 and 18, here is a way to compute the values.

A. Start with the locomotive addresses and divide it by 256. Sample 4449 ÷ 256 = 17.3789....
B. Take the whole number (17) and add 192. Sample 17 + 192 = 209
C. Program the value (209) in step B is into CV17.
D. Multiply the whole number (17) from step A by 256. Sample 17 X 256 = 4352
E. Subtract the locomotive address from the computed value in step D. Sample 4449 − 4352= 97
F. Program the value (97) in step E is into CV18. (Some systems may require a 0 to be placed in front of numbers less than 100. That would make the 97 a 097.)
G. To activate 4 digit addressing a value of 32 (bit 5) needs to be added to CV-29.

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