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Broadway Limited HO New York Central Hudson J1e.
by Steve Zeff & Phil Chiavetta

Good news for Model Railroaders! The Broadway Limited, 4-6-4 has good sound, smooth operation, at a reasonable price and works with DC and DCC! Our thanks to Steve Zeff and Phil Chiavetta for this timely, comprehensive analysis of the 4-6-4.

· BUY IT HERE
· Broadway Ltd

We were delighted to have the opportunity to review the much publicized NYC Hudson steam locomotive with sound produced by Broadway Limited, the newest entrant into the DCC manufacturing arena. The "Dealer Demo Loco" was provided for our evaluation courtesy of Tony's Train Exchange. After testing the Hudson for several days, we came away extremely impressed with both the design and performance of the new locomotive.

Appearance:

The Hudson and tender are prototypical in appearance and are nicely detailed, including the cab interior. The headlight on the loco and the backup light on the tender are both white LEDs. We were disappointed that the unit had a dummy front coupler. Also, the front markers could have been done a bit better.

The pickup appears to be very good. The drivers on both sides of the loco conduct. In addition, two of the three wheelsets in each tender truck also conduct (one tender truck picks up from the right rail, the other from the left).

Architecture:

The Hudson is designed to run on both DCC and conventional analog railroads. The major difference between the Hudson and other sound equipped locomotives is that all of the major sound effects that can be employed in DCC operation work just as well on non-DCC layouts. Your club has DCC? Your home layout doesn’t? Well, you can blow the whistle or ring the bell on either railroad and hear the same sound!

The decoder has other interesting design aspects that we expect other DCC manufacturers will study closely. In DCC mode, in addition to supporting the usual potpourri of NMRA required and optional CV’s, the decoder has dozens of manufacturer specific CV’s. For example, the volume level of each of twelve different sound effects can be individually adjusted (we made the bell and whistle louder – they sounded better). Since the NMRA standards do not provide for enough CV numbers to accommodate so many manufacturer specific variables, the designers took a novel approach to the problem. Instead of one CV containing a single value, they designed the decoder so that some CV’s actually contain a table of values. In these cases, you simple put the row number of the table you want to change in CV49 and the column number into CV50 (if the table has more than one column) BEFORE you program the CV itself. The decoder will then update the appropriate entry in the table.

This has enabled the designers to logically group together the dozens of manufacturer specific CV’s into a small group of tables that are well organized and easy to navigate after a few minutes of practice. In the example cited above, the bell sound is in the eighth row of CV52. The default setting is 8. To make the bell louder we simply programmed CV49 with an 8 and then set CV52 to 12. To be sure, in some cases the designers got carried away with their new freedom. CV53 is a table that allows you to have the function keys perform different things depending on whether the Hudson is moving or stopped. Cute yes, but probably not very practical. We can barely remember which function key is the whistle and which is the bell!

An extremely useful feature is the audio CV readout. Ever get into a situation where you want to change a CV value on the main but don’t remember the current value? With the Hudson, simply put the CV number in question into CV64 (using CV49/CV50 in the case of a table CV) and the decoder announces the current value in English using the onboard speakers!

General Operation:

The unit performed extremely well right out of the box. Nevertheless, we broke-in the engine for several hours. Acceleration was smooth and predictable and low speed operation was excellent. The Hudson easily pulled seven "heavyweight" passenger cars up a 4% grade with little effort and fourteen freight cars up a 3% grade with a sharp curve without a problem. When we started coupling more cars onto this train, the Hudson began to slip around the curve. Since the NYC used the Hudson almost exclusively in passenger and mail service, we judged the overall pulling power of our unit as quite good. The Hudson supports directional lighting in both analog and DCC operation.

DCC Operation:

The decoder can operate in two modes – Speed Control (default) and Throttle Control. Under Speed Control, the decoder functions as a back EMF decoder, maintaining constant speed under varying load and grade conditions. The low speed operating characteristics were excellent. At speed step 2/128 it took the drivers a full 7 seconds to make one full revolution. When operated using 128 speed steps, each speed step represents 1 scale mph. Clearly, speed control uses a linear speed curve. There is also built in momentum that can be affected by the settings of CV3 and CV4. Curiously, those are the only two CV’s that can change the Hudson’s operation in this mode. We would have thought for a decoder that has dozens of configurable CV’s, the designers could have provided a CV table that would enable the operator to modify other engine parameters in speed control such as the amount of back EMF compensation (available with conventional back EMF decoders). Optional NMRA CV assignments including consist function and function mapping are also supported.

The other mode of operation is Throttle Control. In this mode the decoder functions as a traditional, advanced DCC decoder supporting most of the optional NMRA CV assignments including consist function behavior, function mapping, speed tables, speed trim, and the like. There are eleven built in speed tables so the pain of programming a custom table can likely be avoided.

Analog Operation:

The engine appears dead as you turn up the throttle on the power pack until there are about 4 volts on the rails. The engine then comes to life, air pump sounds coming from the loco and the headlight on. This is considered ‘neutral’. Turn up the throttle and the loco goes forward. To change directions, slow down to ‘neutral’ and flip the direction switch. The backup light comes on and the unit will now move in reverse. Flipping the direction switch while the Hudson is moving will not change direction but will instead operate the bell and/or whistle.

Sounds:

The sound quality of the Hudson is excellent.

We have installed many Soundtraxx decoders of various flavors over the years, all with appropriate speaker enclosures, and we can tell you that the overall sound quality of Hudson is, in our opinion, comparable to the Soundtraxx DSD150 steam decoder, and the Hudson has a wider variety of sounds.

As mentioned earlier, the Hudson has 12 sound effects. Some are available all the time (the bell and whistle, for example). Some are available when the engine is moving (the chuff). Some are available when the engine is stopped (boiler water injector and boiler blow down, for example). Some come on automatically. Some have to initiated with the press of a function key. The volume of each sound is programmable. What sound comes on is programmable. The function key mappings are programmable. While the sounds are great, the flexibility is endless, and frankly, too much for most folks including us. We kept everything at the factory default setting except for the bell and whistle volumes. We also remapped the bell function key assignment to match the NCE command station default.

We went to our videotape library and confirmed that the Hudson sound effects that we could find on tape were surprisingly prototypical. Further, the engine chuff was properly synchronized to the driver movements.

There are two sound effects that deserve special note. The first is the Doppler effect. That’s right, the Hudson has a built in Doppler sound effect. As the Hudson is approaching you, start the whistle and wait at least one second. As the locomotive passes you and starts moving away, press the F6 key. The volume will drop off and the pitch of the sound will also be lowered exactly as it is in real life. The effect is more pronounced the faster the train is moving.

The sound that we like the best is the break squeal/flange effect. Press the appropriate function key as you round a curve and you will hear the squeal of the wheel flanges as they scrape against the track. The same effect can be initiated as you slow down and sounds just like the breaks squealing! In fact, the decoder will automatically initiate this effect when you slow down from a high speed to 10 scale mph.

The chuff, bell, whistle, and Doppler effects are also available during analog operation. The latter three are initiated by judicious flipping of the power pack direction toggle according to the supplied directions. The chuff, of course, is automatic as well as some of the other sound effects.

It’s worth noting that sound volumes programmed in DCC mode will carry over to analog operation as well.

Programming:

Well, there has to be a problem with this engine somewhere, right?

Well, we simply could not program the decoder on the programming track of our NCE test system. In fact, the engine would not even recognize that we were, in fact, in programming mode. This becomes a real issue only if you forget the current address of your decoder, since every CV we tried, including the short and long address CV’s, could be programmed on the main. If the reason you need the programming track is because you have forgotten the decoder address, then you must manually reset the decoder by removing and reinserting a reset jumper on the decoder itself. The problem with this is that the entire decoder is reset to factory defaults and any programming you may have done is lost.

By the way, when a CV is successfully programmed on the main, the decoder reports this fact by reading back the CV to you in English. Nice touch.

Summary:

Once again, this is an excellent engine that produces great sound at a reasonable price.
Tony is not getting his demo loco back!!!!

Editor’s Note:

We have developed a simple, inexpensive solution that will enable you to program "The Broadway Ltd" on the programming track as well as improve your programming track function for all DCC decoders. Details on the Tony's POWER PAX will be posted soon.

We welcome comments or suggestions from readers; please write or call.

  Phone: 800-978-3472 or 802-878-5005.
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