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Hornby Elite

Digital Command Control Console

- First Impressions

By Gary Leigh

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The Hornby Elite
Digital Command Console is now on general release arriving around 6 months
after its smaller brother the Hornby Select. The packaging was opened to
find a Hornby Elite console, a large 4 amp power supply, a 51 page
instruction manual and a power connection lead. I was surprised that no
power track was included and for those who are first time digital users it
is a little unclear how you hook the leads up to the track. I happened to
have a pack of Peco track power clips handy and it has to said that these
are ideal for plugging the bare ends of the Elite track power lead wires
into and they offer a very firm grip and no capacitor interference which you
don't want with digital. There are several spring clips on the back of the
Elite console and these firmly grip the wires at the console end.

Vehicle Gas Tool Audio equipment Measuring instrument

I had been made
aware of a firmware download update and this gave me the chance to plug a
USB lead into the back of the Elite console and upgrade the software. When I
first turned on the machine it had software version 1.0 onboard. After
following the instructions presented by Hornby on their website (which are
very clear) and installing the new software and rebooting the console
software version 1.1 appeared onboard. This is a great bonus to have and if
there are any subsequent bugs reported Hornby can create new software builds
for users to download. The USB connection also permits the use of PC
software to be used with the Hornby Elite and this gets a mention in the

1.1 Firmware Update Info
(opens in new window)

Having installed the
latest version of the software it was time to start reading the manual and
try things out. A variety of locos were used including a Bachmann sound
loco, Bachmann and Hornby set locos, and a ViTrains Class 37 fitted with a
Hornby decoder. All performed faultlessly. I could read, write and change CV
settings on the Bachmann sound loco, give it a 4 digit address, name some of
the other locos, change the inertia settings for acceleration and braking,
set the maximum speed, and do a whole host of other things. In fact I did
feel that I was in total control of my decoders and was able to set them up
exactly as I wanted to! As a first time user of a system that enabled me to
do this it felt like a miracle! One small glitch was that when reading back
a CV, 1 appeared to be added to its value on readback. So a CV set at 20 was
read back at 21. This has been reported to Hornby as a bug and a new
software patch download will sort this.

Click on pictures
below to see full size image

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Measuring instrument Gadget Gas Machine Auto part

Gas Electronic device Machine Measuring instrument Audio equipment

Programming modes featured
include Direct, Registered and Paged and there is a seperate programming
track connection to the rear of the Elite console. Hornby recommend
programming on this seperate track

"Greg" under the control of knob
1 on the left.

"Stuart" under the control of
knob 2 on the right.

"Stuart" now going in the reverse
direction. You push the knob to change direction having bought the loco to a
halt first.

When pressing the big
red emergency stop button there was absolutely no sign of life from any of
the locos on the track with no buzzing whatsoever. Pressing the big red
button again and all the locos returned to life however they would only move
when the control knob was turned when they would accelerate up to their
original set speed. When I deliberately shorted the track again all locos
stopped running, an error message appeared, and power seemed to be cut. When
I pressed escape to turn the power back on all decoder information was
retained as well as the last speed settings and the locos did automatically
start returning to their original speed before the short.

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Train Gas Communication Device Rolling Engineering

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Setting a decoder address for
Greg (1) simply following a clear sequence as set out in the manual

Setting a decoder address for
Greg (2)

Setting a decoder address for
Greg (3)

Setting a decoder address for
Greg (4)

It was possible to
control 2 locomotives at the same time with each knob much as you can with a
dual knob controller. As you turned one knob the settings for that knob and
loco appeared in the display. As you moved to the other knob and turned that
the settings for that knob and loco appeared in the display. It felt very
much like a traditional controller however the big difference being you were
running 2 trains on the same track! You set which knob controls which loco
in advance. For those who like a traditional Hammant & Morgan Duette type of
controller then this is just perfect! However of course you can do so much
more with the Hornby Elite!

Train Bag Communication Device Scale Measuring instrument

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Setting a decoder address for
Greg (5)

Why not set the address the same
as the number on the side of the loco?


Done and also showing several
active functions below the direction arrow.

Product Gadget Trigger Electronic instrument Musical instrument accessory

Product Air gun Gadget Trigger Communication Device

Product Gadget Trigger Font Air gun

Gadget Air gun Trigger Communication Device Musical instrument accessory

Lets write a CV and change the
sound level....

...or read a CV to check what the
settings are.

The Elite is now reading the
decoder in the Bachmann sound loco....

...and the CV control value
appears for CV63 which is the sound level setting on the Bachmann sound loco

In terms of
controlling functions you can control up to 13 and these are selected and
turned on one at a time. The on/off button enables you to turn the last
function selected off and back on again so if the last function you have
turned on is a blast of a horn then in quick time you can turn that function
off and on again for another quick blast of the horn. There did not appear
to be the function lag that you do get with the Select console and any
function turned on worked very quickly. Functions that are on are shown in
the display for each loco selected.

Product Gadget Air gun Gun barrel Trigger

Measuring instrument Gas Gadget Machine Electronic device

Measuring instrument Gadget Gas Machine Electronic device

However I have decided I want to
increase the sound volume so the CV setting is now been written into the
decoder as 36.

Bach to "Stuart"...

...and "Greg"

Train Font Poster Advertising Rolling stock

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Hornby Elite manual contents

Hornby Elite facts and set up
instructions at the start of the manual

Hornby Elite Crib Sheet included
with manual. Note it has changed since it was first shown a few months ago.

Adjusting Speed Curves and
Reading and Writing CV decoder control values

Font Material property Parallel Rectangle Number

Passive circuit component Circuit component Hardware programmer Computer hardware Electronic instrument

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Circuit component Passive circuit component Hardware programmer Electronic engineering Electronic component
Changing and reading CV decoder
control values. The point is made by Hornby that not all decoders permit you
to read control values.
Installing Hornby decoder into
ViTrains Class 37 loco in 5 minutes! (1) Remove body in under 15 seconds!

Installing Hornby decoder into
ViTrains Class 37 loco in 5 minutes! (2) Clips removed from decoder socket..
Installing Hornby decoder into
ViTrains Class 37 loco in 5 minutes! (3) Decoder plugged into socket.

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Some new Hornby
decoders that arrived at the same time as the Elite gave me the chance to
try out the ViTrains Class 37 Loco with a Hornby decoder fitted and being
operated by the Elite. As you can see it was a 5 minute job fitting the
decoder and all locos should be as simple as this. Not one screw to remove
and refit! The loco performed very smoothly with the decoder fitted under
Elite control with no audible decoder buzz when stationary with good steady
acceleration and deceleration.

Installing Hornby decoder into
ViTrains Class 37 loco in 5 minutes! (4) Ready to replace body after test
run. Note the Peco power track clips.

There is a lot that
I have not touched on such as the RailCom feature, double and triple
heading, being able to run 10 locos at the same time, the various language
settings (French, German, etc), the locomotive favourite settings,
speed curve profiling, accessory programming and control, the use of
ExpressNet to hook up up to 8 Select consoles to use as walkabout
controllers, and more!

The Hornby Elite is
an entirely different animal to it smaller brother the Hornby Select and
could be considered to be a full feature system with a 4amp power supply as
standard on offer at a very competitive and attractive price. Hornby have
produced a very solid piece of fully specified DCC kit in the Hornby Elite
that definitely does not have the shortcomings of a starter console such as
the Select. If you have a traditional twin knob DC control system at home to
control your model railway then you will definitely feel at home with the
Hornby Elite!

April 2007 Update -
Since the Hornby Elite review was prepared Hornby
have released a firmware update (ver 1.1). Following the download of new
software, CV values are now read back accurately. For visitors who wishes to
update their Elite drivers there is a link to the Hornby firmware update in
the review.

1.1 Firmware Update Info
(opens in new window)

Thanks to OnTracks for giving us a great deal on this unit.

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