Proto-Sound 1 Software/Battery Issues

The following document was created for owners of older Proto-Sound 1 locomotives and should be used as a reference for battery life expectations and battery troubleshooting.

Troubleshooting Early Proto-Sound Software Battery Related Errors

Owners of some M.T.H. Electric Trains' Proto-Sound 1 equipped engines built prior to mid-2000 may experience one of two software related errors that are initiated from low or discharged batteries. Some confusion in the marketplace regarding these errors has led to the replacement of the Proto-Sound board when correction could have been resolved through a software upgrade. In each case, the software error can be avoided entirely if the owner replaces the battery prior to use. Battery replacement should only be necessary if the locomotive has not been run within a year and the battery is no older than a year.

What follows is a description of each error and the necessary steps that must be taken to correct the problem. In case #2, the problem only occurs in engines produced in 1995 and 1996 as illustrated in the attached list. QSI, the developer of M.T.H.'s original Proto-Sound system corrected that problem in a later software version. In both cases, none of the errors will occur in engines equipped with Proto-Sound 2.0, M.T.H.'s proprietary system developed by M.T.H.'s own research and development team. Proto-Sound 2.0 features a far more advanced design that manages the battery usage much more efficiently than its Proto-Sound 1 predecessor and suffers from no ill effects from a low or discharged battery.

Case #1: Proto-Sound 1 locomotive starts up and reports three clank sounds

This scenario is always precipitated by a low or discharged battery and can usually be avoided by charging or replacing the battery prior to powering up and operating the locomotive. The problem doesn't occur as soon as the engine is powered up, but rather when the operator tries to get the engine to move by using the direction button or turning the throttle off and then on again to enter the forward or reverse direction. If the battery is too low or discharged at this point it will be unable to supply the circuit board with enough current to operate normally causing the board to become "scrambled". This can be confirmed with the sounding of the three clanks. At this point it will be necessary to reprogram the board with a special software chip. Once reprogrammed, the original software chip can be reinstalled and the engine should perform normally. Essentially, the special software chip reinitializes the board. Unfortunately, the problem can reoccur in the future should the battery become dangerously low or completely discharged. The problem stems from the QSI design of the Proto-Sound board and no permanent fix is available.

Case #2 Proto-Sound 1 locomotive starts up but will not move.

This scenario only occurs in some engines produced in 1995 and 1996. The error occurs as a result of a low or discharged battery and causes the software to "deselect" the locomotive. Users of QSI's more full-featured sound systems may recognize the "selection" feature as the QSI system's ability to give engines an ID number. When given an ID number, each engine can be turned on or off (deselected) so as to respond or not to transformer-related actions. An engine that has been deselected will not turn on even if track power is on. The engine will remain quiet and still during all transformer actions until "reselected" through special whistle and bell commands from the transformer. The feature was a precursor to today's command control operations found in the DCS and TMCC systems. However, QSI's approach was deemed to complicated a procedure by M.T.H. for Proto-Sound 1 locomotives. As a result, M.T.H. asked QSI to eliminate the feature from the software used in Proto-Sound 1 engines. Unfortunately, a bug in the QSI software deselects the locomotive when the battery charge becomes too low resulting in an engine that starts up but fails to leave the Reset position. Users may mistakenly assume that the locomotive is locked in neutral. Replacing the battery and performing the unlock procedure or resetting the engine through Feature 18 will not resolve the problem.

Fortunately, the solution for #2 resides in a software update through the installation of a new chip that permanently fixes the "deselect" function from occurring in the future should the battery charge become too low or discharged.

In both of the above cases, any M.T.H. Authorized Service Center or National Authorized Service Center can perform the reprogramming required to resolve the issues as well as replace the discharged battery. User's experiencing these problems should contact M.T.H. Service or their local service center for details. In Case #1, the reprogramming will be treated as a warranty repair for labor only. In Case #2 above, the customer will be charged $30.00 for the replacement chip but no charge for the labor to install the chip. Battery replacement and installation, for both cases, is not covered under warranty.

M.T.H. strongly encourages owners of Proto-Sound 1 engines to avoid these issues from occurring by making sure that the battery is sufficiently charged prior to operation. Keeping the battery charged should prevent the above problems from occurring. A simple test to see if the battery is sufficiently charged is to turn on track power and listen for the engine startup sounds to play. After hearing the sounds play, turn off track power and determine how long the sounds continue to play. If the sounds play for 10 to 12 seconds, your battery is sufficiently charged. If not, turn track power back on (at 12 to 14 volts) and let the engine sit on the track for a minimum of one hour. After an hour or longer, turn off track power and time how long the sounds play. If the sounds still fail to play for ten seconds, replace the battery. Please note that a full charge cycle is 16 hours.