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News from the ATL-cuisine, July 2005

Dear ATL-Friends

Perhaps you wondered already, why you did not get any notice from me for such a long time. Well, everything worked so nice that no additional information was needed. There are now users worldwide and also the famous "Gotthard" layout in the Swiss traffic museum works with ATL decoders since nearly two years without troubles. Actually there are several competitors trying to copy the ATLplus brake solution using four diodes. But it is not so easy as some people believe. After all there are 22 years of experience in ATLplus. See the following statement of a railroad club using ATLplus since many years: 

We tested two of the new Gold decoders from Lenz last week. The reason for was first of all to check the SUSI sound interface. This is a short roundup: The comparison of the new Gold decoder to the ATL2064 showed once more the high quality of the ATLplus decoder. On the test layout, in principle the same as our club layout, the Re460 of Roco run quite nice with the fixed brake distance. But a clean brake, depart and full speed behaviour could only be reached after extensive dealing with the motor parameters. But during the following tests on the club layout our faces became longer and longer. The Gold decoder reacts obviously extremely sensitive on current and load changes (up- and downhill grades), soiled tracks, a.s.o. The speed control of the motor was bad (bumpy departure and braking) and stopping in front of the signal was mere chance. On the open track (open signals) the engine with activated ABC and constant brake distance run at a speed between creeping and race, and this apparently without any reason. After another extensive dealing with motor parameters but no better result we stopped our exercises. Conclusion: The Lenz Gold decoders are definitely not qualified for our purposes. Moreover this decoder is nearly the double in size at a comparable prize. Let's celebrate the ATL2064!

W.T. Railroad Friends of Bassersdorf, Switzerland

There is nothing to be added. But stagnancy is stepping backwards. Therefore I was very busy and can present now an even more versatile decoder. Contrary to competitors announcing a lot of things without being able to deliver them the new ATL2066 is on the market since April 05 and has passed the first challenges already. Another quality criterion, isn't it?  

The engine decoder ATL2066

This decoder offers a new, very flexible sound generator. So additional sound effects may be produced. The outputs A to D got a current protection to avoid damages by short circuits or overload. With a complete software revision I could implement still more useful functions in the existing microprocessor. And this without any restriction to the already existing comfort functions! Please have a look yourself:


Bit-wise programming with PoM

PoM is a programming technique to configure engines via their address. For that the engine need not be put on the programming track. Therefore PoM may be used in full operation with every engine offering this feature. The new ATL2066 accepts now also singular bit manipulation without affecting other bits in the same CV. So any function may be easily switched on and off, if the command station supports this function, too. Of course also complete CVs may be changed as before.

Braking with exponential brake curve

Up to now ATLplus decoders reduced the engine speed steadily down to stillstand. But this is sometimes not the real world, where drivers first brake stronger and then loose the brakes more and more at lower speeds, just coasting to the signal. This feature is now implemented in the ATL2066, too. Looks fantastic, but extends the braking distance quite a lot. Accordingly you must fill in lower values into CV54 compared to the values used for linear braking to stop the train after the same distance.

On the other hand I renounced consciously integrating the constant brake distance another manufacturer is propagating. The reason: if any braking engine encounters a short "green" information it recalculates the brake distance and will pass the red signal. This results in accidents or at least complex correction of signal block logic. But an engine that has stopped too early may be easily driven to the signal by manual intervention and is no security problem at all.

Braking by steps using a rail magnet

Up to now ATLplus decoders have already a function that allows slowing down to a lower programmable speed in brake areas, keeping it along the station platform and then braking to stillstand just before the red signal. But this was a little bit circuitous because the brake area under the running train had to be switched to the opposite polarity of the diode ring to stop the train. This needs a bistable relay driven by a reed contact in the rail and a magnet on the engine. Now you can also stop the train with a reed on the engine connected to the decoder and a rail magnet just in front of the signal. The diodes polarity has no meaning any more, so additional track isolations and relays may be omitted.

Extended shunting function

In CV6 you can choose a lower speed to get a more subtile speed control in shunting mode by pressing a button. In the ATL2066 also acceleration and brake momentum are switched off this way. This was a wish from many customers to avoid nervous breakdown! You better believe it. But interesting: If you program CV5 and CV6 to the same value defining the top speed, you can switch on and off momentum without influence on the speed.

Output for the cruising information

Up to now you could use the cruising information only for the beam function on outputs A and B switching automatically to bright lights at departure. With the new ATL2066 you may program one output to switch on as soon as the engine is moving. This allows very interesting things: switch on a smoke generator or separate high beams, blinking light at departure, a.s.o. The other functions of this output are still available: remote control, flashing, dimming or gyrolight and time limiting. So you can program an automatic blinking light for 9 sec. at departure. The output reacts already on the signal transition to green, so a steam engine starts to produce smoke before moving (set CV52, delay of departure, to max.).

Sound optimization

As you probably know I have my own philosophy concerning sounds. It is not my goal to provide a singular engine with all the possible sounds that may be heard. I prefer to integrate typical sound in a lot of engines at a lower price. Real sound playback is quite complex (see size and prices of such sound decoders) and with loudspeakers of 20 mm dia hopeless anyway. Even the SUSI interface is no subject for ATLplus, the whole solution being highly expensive and wasting space.

My approach was and is to get nearest as possible to real sound with the existing microprocessor, being able to offer acceptable sound at much lower prices and little space. I am convinced to answer to real customer needs this way and leave sound freaks willingly to my competitors . By the way, the subject "sound" seems to be higly emotional. From excitement to disdainful criticism everything is heard for the same sound sample. So I will publish sounds of ATLplus decoders on my homepage soon. Then you may build up your own opinion.

Anyway, the ATL2066 got remarkable improvments. Steam sound is now very realistic, as many customers confirm. Moreover some CVs allow selection between short and extended breathing exhausts and the volumes of the different exhausts. The whistle resp. horn is mixed with pure noise resulting in a more throaty sound. And also new: during whistle or horn blowing steam exhaust is heard at a reduced level. The engine may also be programmed to blowing off cylinders at departure for some seconds.

Different program improvements

Apart of these obviously new features there are some internal improvements, especially on the speed regulation, where higher cycle rates lead to a better reference value. The influence of CV5 and CV6 on the speed has been extended considerably. The EMP measurement windows could be shortened, so more power is available for Faulhaber motors.

Digiblock, the most versatile signal block unit

Digiblock stands for an ideal add-on to the ATLplus engine decoders. It allows the plain and comfortable automatisation of a layout. There are always new applications found, which would need a PC otherwise, e.g. a sophisticated shuttle train with only one Digiblock. See more on my homepage. 

Now I wish you a pleasant start into the new model railroad season and would be most happy if you decide (again) for ATLplus and its fantastic features.

Untersiggenthal, July 2005                                                                                                   Yours sincerely,   Urs Meyer