Broadway Limited HO New York Central Hudson
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.
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.
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).
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 doesnt? 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 CVs, the decoder has dozens of manufacturer specific
CVs. 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 CVs 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 CVs 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 dont 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!
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.
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 CVs that
can change the Hudsons operation in this mode. We would have
thought for a decoder that has dozens of configurable CVs,
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.
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.
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. Thats 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.
Its worth noting that sound volumes programmed
in DCC mode will carry over to analog operation as well.
Well, there has to be a problem with this engine
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 CVs, 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.
Once again, this is an excellent engine that produces
great sound at a reasonable price.
Tony is not getting his demo loco back!!!!
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.
welcome comments or suggestions from readers; please write