Note: this page is NOT finished. Right now I am filling in the part on NCE "advanced" consisting. The "old style" consisting part is NOT done, and may contain errors.


NCE Consisting

NCE has special support for consisting, this page attempts to explain some of the nuances of this support.

First, I'm going to use MY terms of consisting. There is virtually no agreement between manufacturers and even "experts" on the terms. I will use the following terms;

  1. Address consisting - all locos have the same address - the decoder and the system is unaware of any consisting, all functions go to all locos, called all kind of names by various manufacturers
  2. Command Station consisting - the command station is told which locos are where in the consist and the command station manages how they are controlled, functions, etc. For speed and direction, it sends commands to EVERY loco in the consist. It's clear this uses more bandwidth and can be a problem on large layouts. - NCE calls it "old style" consisting, not helpful.
  3. Decoder-based consisting - all the consist "knowledge" can be in the decoder, the the important part is that the decoder is given a "consist address" via CV19, and the decoders react to that address. There are features to change whether decoders accept specific function commands, i.e. a decoder can be told to ignore a horn command, or a lighting command. NCE calls this "advanced" consisting.
  4. Throttle-based consisting - really pretty much the same as #2, but now the "data base" resides in the throttle, not the command stations. Some versions allow sharing/exporting this information between throttles.

I'm trying to use consistent terms, see: (scroll down to section on consisting) Consisting (if you don't like the terms, which come from the DCC Wiki and are used by most people, tough. This is the best and most accepted terminology) Foolishly NCE used "Old Style" to mean "Universal" to put a negative spin on it.


This page has been created and detailed from several discussions on at least two forums, the TCS forum and the NCE forum. Each has particular "enhancements" to the basic creation and use of consists, and each "group" is vehemently sure their way is the best.

Note well: I'm not a "fanboy" of anything, if I find a problem or weakness, I don't sweep it under the rug, I just present the facts. If I have an opinion, I will label it as an opinion, not a fact. So this page does it's best to distill out the "truth", warts and all of NCE consisting.

What does NCE support:

  • (clearly NCE supports Basic consisting, all systems do, and it is "invisible" to the system and command station)
  • NCE supports Command Station consisting, and adds some features on how you can "indicate" the lead loco, control which locos get functions, etc.
  • NCE supports Decoder-based consisting, and adds a number of features, and uses a special command to do so, which can help or hurt depending on circumstances
  • NCE does not support throttle-based consisting with it's throttles, the command station retains all information
  • also NCE allows "nesting" where you can combine Command station and decoder based consisting

What is NEEDED for Command station based consisting?

Clearly with Universal Consisting, the system (command station) needs to "know" about a consist, at the minimum the list of locos in the consist.

What is NEEDED for Decoder based consisting?

With advanced consists, you don't NEED to have the Command Station "know" about an Advanced Consist, you can operate it with a short address. Basically all that needs to be done is set CV19 to the consist address in all locos in the consist.

What does NCE do differently or add:

The basic enhancement is that decoder-based consisting uses the NMRA "consist control" command on the rails. This allows you to set CV19 for the consist address sort of "safely" as opposed to simple POM of CV19. There are other implications, and this is what I am still studying

NCE enhancements/benefits, the obvious ones

  • By logging all consists, you clearly avoid conflicts in consist addresses
  • Having a loco in more than one consist is likewise avoided. There might be a few people that want to do this, but in general a bad idea to have a loco in more than one consist.
  • Treating all consists in the same manner may be a benefit, but it could be a detriment. (taking locos to a different system, you really need to break up advanced consists first, I'd say this is neither a benefit or detriment. For example, how you break down a consist varies according to the type of consist.
  • When entering an advanced consist, the NCE system will program CV19 (and more, later) for you. This saves some steps, but I do not subscribe to the typical "scare tactic" that programming CVs is difficult. If this is too difficult for you, hire someone to do it for you. You will never be able to customize your DCC locos or devices by yourself. In my opinion this is nice, but not a big benefit.
  • A big enhancement: NCE allows you to use the loco number of ANY loco in the consist. This saves you from needing to remember the consist number. This can be a big deal on a large layout, or where consists change a lot. Personally, I use a consist number that relates to the lead loco number, and I also run another DCC system that shows this information all the time, so it's not a big deal for me, but I would say very helpful to the vast majority of NCE users.

A nice enhancement: The additional setting in an advanced consist to suppress bell and horn/whistle in the "middle" locos is done for you. That does save a significant number of manual programming steps, and who can remember all the right bits?

NCE enhancements/benefits, the not so obvious ones

The NCE system uses the special "consist command" to facilitate the setting up of a consist.

See line 160 of the NMRA 9.2.1 standards:


link to dccwiki about consist control command:

The bad news: conflicts/not working/"gotchas"



Well, the often referenced "bible" on NCE consisting by acclaimed experts Mark Gurries and David Heap is very informative: definitely the best reference on the unique enhancements by NCE.

But "fanboy" statements turn me off, I am very picky, I believe the facts are enough.

"NCE remains 100% NMRA Advanced Consisting Compatible in adding these features"

One of these guys is a lawyer. Yes NCE is 100% compatible, but all of this won't always work, because many features are OPTIONAL in NMRA compliant decoders. Some of the features DEPEND on Advanced Consisting Commands, which are NOT supported in all decoders, and the average Joe has no idea about these commands, or if his decoder supports them. It's not a great statement. It would be better to state that "for all these features to work, your decoders musts support (a), (b), (c), etc.

"You should never acquire, pick, change or even remember a short consist address."

Well, as long as your world consists solely of your layout and NCE equipment and decoders that have all the functionality, that is true. So what to do when a "visiting advance consist" appears?

Is there any issue taking an advanced consist built "the NCE way" to another layout? Clearly you MUST remember the consist address.


Gotchas (command station consisting):

Sleeping decoders -

So the nice easy "setup" on the main has some weaknesses. There are cases where the loco is there on the rails, but it is not really "awake", and is waiting for the first command addressed to it to "wake" it. Unfortunately this can result in the command to set CV19 being missed (it just wakes the decoder). Now the system believes that this loco is in the consist, but the loco consist address has not been set. This can likewise occur when breaking up or clearing a consist. I want to investigate further, but several people have mentioned this issue. Often they are told to do the commands again. Well that means that some people who want to be sure will be forced to do it all twice. I'll report back here.

Clearly not knowing if your decoders respond to the POM commands being used before stuff does not work.

Use of the consist control command (to the decoder)

There are comments that you need to use this special consisting command (NMRA spec 9.2.1 "consist control") as opposed to having the system simply do POM on CV19. I will investigate since when I asked I got a example that the special command can bypass locking on some decoders. I need a better reason. Using an obscure command that not all decoders support seems more risky/problematic than just telling people to not lock their decoders (a much more understood term and few people lock their decoders and they KNOW if they lock them)

update: here's a good reason to issue the consist control command (if the decoder supports it): "“”When Consist Control is in effect, the decoder will ignore any speed or direction instructions addressed to its normal locomotive address (unless this address is the same as its consist address). Speed and direction instructions now apply to the consist address only.

This also gives you a good hint on testing you decoders to see if they support the command, set up the consist, then take the loco to a different system and try to control the loco from it's original address. If it responds,

Some thoughts on functions in the consist:

There is a hidden "gem" in the "consisting bible", where entering a "new" locomotive will cause the command station to send a "reset function" to the new loco. So while the advice is to completely never use the consist address, if you don't do the "recommended dance" with pulling up locos first to get them in the recall memory then you could get all your functions turned of when reversing. I need to look at this further to be sure this is what happens.

Bringing in a foreign consist;

clearly a Universal consist removed from the system where it was defined is no longer a consist on the new layout.

An advanced consist will of course react



A complete answer to this would then let me state a procedure to bring in a foreign consist without disrupting or changing any decoder programming:

  1. Ensure the foreign consist advanced consist address is available on the NCE system
  2. Without placing the consist on the track, “build” the consist in the normal way, being sure to select the consist address.
  3. Place on track
  4. Operate the consist as “normal” from NCE
  5. Remove the consist from the track when making any changes to the consist
  6. Be sure to delete the consist when finished, again with the consist not on the track.








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