MTH Motive Power

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MTH, comes from "Mikes Train House", Mike Wolf owner.

MTH makes various scale locos and the #1 scale 1:32 is the most recent. They have a control system called DCS, which is a somewhat antique carrier based control system that uses DC or AC constant voltage on the rails. The decoders in the locos are called ProtoSound, and there have been 3 versions. The most recent version is SOMEWHAT DCC compatible.

These pages will mostly focus on the PS3 technology, in order to help DCC people understand the capabilities and limitations.

I'm not into 1:32, but the scale, detail, and operating features of these locos is very nice EXCEPT where gross alterations have been made to allow locos to traverse toy-like curves.

I completely understand the philosophy, just like LGB, they feel (and probably rightly) that a lot of their market has very tight curves so the locos can traverse these curves, even their big boy.

Unfortunately, quite often the appearance of the loco is greatly affected, and MTH is not cheap, it is priced similarly to LGB, so I believe this has somewhat stymied their large scale sales.

All that said, if ALL the locomotives were available for sale, one could make a nice stable of 1:32 locomotives. I say it this way beacause production is limited and usually only one or 2 different models are available at any one time, and not all road names.

That all said, the advent of DCC compatibility, albiet somewhat flawed and limited, is a smart move by MTH.


Typically, MTH is of rugged, if dated, construction. Certainly their electronics are pretty old school, with a lot of connectors, wires, modules etc. There's even wire nuts used to connect wires, shades of the 1950's!

Some random observations, drivetrain usually pretty robust, still use traction tires, they use pickup skates which are often problematic on turnout frogs (shorting). They use carbon brushes on backsides of drive wheels, proven over time, but require maintenance. Locos are modified to allow tremendous swing on curves to allow toy train curves.

The axle bushings in diesels look very much like USA trains, the square brass/bronze bushing. The gears on the axles are nice and large and look metal, although there is a plastic center with the half axles pushed into the gear assembly, again similar to USA Trains.

DCC CV control / setting documentation

I have a link here by Ulrich Models from 2008, but I'm not sure all the timeline information is accurate. There was no DCC compatibility in PS2 as far as I know, but this article basically says that there was when MTH entered the HO market. According to all official MTH documentation I can find, DCC capability (limited) was introduced in PS3, recently released, but MTH HO was introduced with PS2, again as far as I can tell.

I'll try to further validate this stuff as I find it. Here is the Ulrich Models document:

Here is a document from MTH itself. This shows troubleshooting, and DCC is only mentioned on PS3 In the MTH page, there is a link to a pdf of functions which is markedly different:

NCE has pages that imply that there is DCC capability in PS2:

And their page on PS3 being different seems to imply this was not a mistake:

My listings of CV's and notes:

The big issue here is that MTH does not support the DCC programming track, also known as service mode. This actually means that MTH CANNOT say they are DCC. To set the loco address, or any CV for that matter, you need to do programming on the main. This is problematic, and if something gets screwed up, you have no way of resetting it because you cannot program the loco. You need to do a full reset from the "DCS" side.

Programming on the main means you must have a functioning locomotive address to get the loco to listen to you. (Also you cannot read back any value to validate the setting).

The procedure to set addresses are then the same as doing it for any loco by programming on the main. The important thing is that there is a default long address: 3333. This allows you to change CV 29 to switch to long addressing, and then change the address via CV17 and CV18 as usual.

 Feature reset: resets smoke, volume and lights


My listing of Function key assignments:

 PFA is "Passenger / Freight Announcements"


F Key North American Diesel w/o Smoke North American Diesel with Smoke North American Steam Steam Version 3 (2009 - 2013 Steam Version 2 (2008 GS-4/6 Steam Version 1 (2006 K4)
0 Head/Tail light Head/Tail light Head/Tail light Head/Tail light Head/Tail light Head/Tail light
1 Bell Bell Bell Bell Bell Bell
2 Horn Horn Horn Horn Horn Horn
3 Start-up/Shut-down Start-up/Shut-down Start-up/Shut-down Start-up/Shut-down Start-up/Shut-down Start-up/Shut-down
5 Lights (except head/tail) Lights (except head/tail) Lights (except head/tail) Lights (except head/tail) Lights (except head/tail) Lights (except head/tail)
6 Master Volume Master Volume Master Volume Engine Sounds On/Off Engine Sounds On/Off Engine Sounds On/Off
7 Front Coupler Front Coupler Front Coupler Master Volume Master Volume Master Volume
8 Rear Coupler Rear Coupler Rear Coupler Smoke On/Off Smoke On/Off Smoke On/Off
9 Forward Signal Forward Signal Forward Signal Forward Signal Forward Signal Forward Signal
10 Reverse Signal Reverse Signal Reverse Signal Reverse Signal Reverse Signal Reverse Signal
11 Grade Crossing Grade Crossing Grade Crossing Coupler Slack Coupler Slack Coupler Slack
12 Clickety Clack (On/Off) Smoke On/Off Smoke On/Off Grade Crossing Grade crossing One Shot Doppler
13 Idle Sequence 4 Smoke Volume Smoke Volume One Shot Doppler Extended Start-up Extended Start-up
14 Idle Sequence 3 Idle Sequence 3 Idle Sequence 3 Extended Start-up Extended Shut-down Extended Shut-down
15 Idle Sequence 2 Idle Sequence 2 Idle Sequence 2 Extended Shut-down Labor Chuff Labor Chuff
16 Idle Sequence 1 Idle Sequence 1 Idle Sequence 1 Labor Chuff Drift Chuff Drift Chuff
17 Extended Start-up Extended Start-up Extended Start-up Drift Chuff Smoke Volume Smoke Volume
18 Extended Shut-down Extended Shut-down Extended Shut-down Smoke Volume Single Whistle Toot Single Whistle Toot
19 Rev Up Rev Up Labor Chuff Single Whistle Toot Coupler Close Coupler Close
20 Rev Down Rev Down Drift Chuff Coupler Close Feature Reset Feature Reset
21 One Shot Doppler One Shot Doppler One Shot Doppler Feature Reset Idle Sequence 1 Idle Sequence 1
22 Coupler Slack Coupler Slack Coupler Slack Idle Sequence 1 Idle Sequence 2 Idle Sequence 2
23 Coupler Close Coupler Close Coupler Close Idle Sequence 2 Idle Sequence 3 Idle Sequence 3
24 Single Horn Blast Single Horn Blast Single Horn Blast Idle Sequence 3 Idle Sequence 4 Idle Sequence 4
25 Engine Sounds Engine Sounds Engine Sounds Idle Sequence 4 Brake Sounds On/Off Brake Sounds On/Off
26 Brake Sounds Brake Sounds Brake Sounds Brake Sounds On/Off Cab Chatter On/Off Cab Chatter On/Off
27 Cab Chatter Cab Chatter Cab Chatter Cab Chatter On/Off Clickety Clack auto/off Clickety Clack auto/off
28 Feature Reset Feature Reset Feature Reset Clickety Clack auto/off Train Wreck Train Wreck


From actual testing, we believe that this sound file is the North American Steam but seems related to the Dash 8 diesel

PFA = Passenger / Freight Announcements, basically a sequence of sounds and chatter that create "scenarious), and you normally go through scenarios in sequence. There are ways to move ahead, and to skip the upcoming sequence. The PFA can also start and stop the loco.


F Key North American Steam with Smoke
0 Head/Tail light on/off (front headlight seems to go dim in reverse rear headlight goes out in forward.)
1 Bell (toggle)
2 Horn (toggle)
3 Start-up/Shut-down (press once to startup... from then on you need double presses to change state)
5 Lights cab and firebox. In addition in forward, marker lights and number boards and in reverse marker lights.
6 Master Volume, should be 10 volume levels, and double presses should advance from lower to higher and then go "around" again to lower, in practice does not seem to work consistently
7 Front Coupler - sound only
8 Rear Coupler - sound only, same as front coupler
9 Forward Signal - two toots when on, remember to turn off to use again
10 Reverse Signal - three toots, remember only responds to function on command.
11 Grade Crossing - cab chatter - need to check if this is a sequence
12 Smoke On/Off - works
13 Smoke Volume - works, but be sure to wait to stabilize temperature to see what the output is, and the fan does not change with different smoke volumes there are 3 levels
14 Idle Sequence 3 - only if not moving, several different sounds and chatter such as check coal load, water, etc
15 Idle Sequence 2 - as above
16 Idle Sequence 1 - as above
17 Extended Start-up - slightly longer sequence than F3 startup, but with chatter
18 Extended Shut-down - as above
19 Labored Chuff - kicks up chuff and smoke
20 Drift chuff - drifting chuff and less smoke (or none?)
21 One Shot Doppler - toggle - works with engine sounds too, need to check more, DCS does a one shot, but this is a toggle
22 Coupler Slack - press twice (enables and clears function), if you are stopped and enable it, it will sound as train starts moving. If the loco is moving it will play immediately.
23 Coupler Close - works as you would think
24 Single Horn Blast - nothing
25 Engine Sounds - turns prime mover and pumps, etc. on and off, bell and whistle still function
26 Brake Sounds - need to be above a certain speed to work, and decelerate quickly. press twice. You have to be going pretty fast to enable this.
27 Cab Chatter - press f27 to stifle them. Default is chatter on.
28 Feature Reset - resets smoke, volume, and lights



Click the links below to go "deeper" into details on individual MTH motive power.