ESU ECoS Command Station
by Don Fiehman
You may not be familiar with ESU or their
new ECoS digital command station. ESU is the
German company that makes LokSound decoders.
ESU has a new model railroad control system called
ECoS. The ECoS system not only operates DCC
decoders, but also Märklin®, Motorola®, and
Selectrix® decoders. This system can be operated as
a two-station standalone system or become the central
part of a much larger system with the extensive
assortment of input and output connections.This
includes an Ethernet connection to a PC or Mac
computer. The system supports a number of
languages, English, German, French, Dutch and
The ECoS system has two cabs and a 4 A transformer.
The most notable feature of this system is the seven
inch touch screen used for setup and control. The
screen is in the middle of the unit with control knobs
on each end for speed and direction control plus a
four-position “joystick.” The ECoS is a very
sophisticated command station with a built-in
4 A booster. It comes with a 4 A / 18 V transformer. I
found that the output measured 16.9 volts with the 18 volt
transformer. If this is too high for your scale, there is an exchange
coupon for a 15 volt transformer in the instruction manual.
The ECoS system has outputs for the main line and for a program
track. Wire plugs are provided for these connections. Either service
mode programming on the program track or POM programming can be
A touch screen key board is used to enter locomotive data.
This information is stored in the roster.
When you power up the ECoS system you realize the system is
very much computer based. The initial screen comes up looking like
booting up Windows. The ECoS system is a “turn-key” program that
runs on a version of Linux. The system uses a 32 bit processor. As
the system is booting a small block marches back and forth along
the lower part of the screen. When the system finishes booting you
get a screen with the two speed knobs, if you have locomotives
selected. The green “GO” button lights up to indicate the power is
on. A “STOP” button on the other side turns track power off.
Function keys have icons to identify their use.
To run a locomotive the address has to be programmed along with
the function key icons. There is a standard keyboard that comes up
on the screen for entering alpha and numeric data. There is
also locomotive image that can be used to help identify the
type of locomotive. There are a lot of different styles and types
of locomotives to choose from, though most were European style. I
was able to select images that were close enough to
approximate some of my locomotive fleet.
The function keys could be programmed to either be push
on/push off or momentary. Like a bell that would be push for on
then push or off, or a whistle that blows only when button was
pressed. There are icons that could be put in place of the
function number to identify the functions for the locomotive. The
function icons even change to show they are active or not
active. Knowing what the functions are is very handy when you
select a locomotive. You can either use one of the eight
function keys, or the touch screen icon. More than eight
functions are available on the touch screen. Once the locomotives are set up, it is easy to pick them out of the roster. When selected the locomotive information and throttle comes up
on the chosen side of the ECoS. You can also set up consists. Shuttle trains that run automatically can also be set using the s88
Märklin rail contacts.
Locomotive control can be done with either the touch
screen or the knob. The screen and knob track each other.
If you move the throttle knob, the hand on the touch
screen moves to match the knob position. If you use the
touch screen for speed control, the motor driven throttle
control knob moves to follow the screen setting. The
throttle knob has a spring loaded stop position. Moving the
knob slightly beyond the stop changes the locomotive’s
direction. I found this makes for very easy one hand operation.
Accessory decoders are also set up with the touch screen.
The touch screen can be operated with either the stylus
that comes with it, your finger or any soft pointed object.
Sharp devices like a ball point pen should not be used as
they can starch the surface of the touch screen. The
stylus is easy to hold positioned like a pencil. My fingers
worked OK most of the time, but I found my fingers are a
bit big for accurate operation.
Bottom view shows ECoS the input and output connections.
The touch screen will not only control locomotives, but will also generate accessory commands for operating switches. The
accessory commands are setup using the touch
screen. When an accessory decoder is setup
you put in the address of the decoder, then link it
to an address in the ECoS. The accessory and
link addresses do not have to be the same
number. Up to 1024 routes can be setup with up
to 256 addresses in each route. There are icons
for the accessory commands. With a switch it
shows a normal position, when you throw the
switch, the icon changes to show the reversed
The ECoS can be the hub for a
large layout. There are 10 connectors on the
back of the ECoS system. They are power in,
program and main line tracks, three for ECoSlink
connectors and one ECoSlink extender. There is
also booster output that will drive other external boosters, and an input
for the s88 Märklin feedback decoders. An ethernet connector is used for
connecting the ECoS system to a personal computer.
The ECoS can be the central part of a layout control system.
Connecting another DCC System!
One of the most interesting parts was the ECoSniffer input. This input can be
connected to output of any standard DCC system. This would be the
connection that normally goes to the rails. This lets the ECoS system
become a bridge between the connected DCC system and the rails. For
a test I connected the output of my NCE system booster to the
ECoSniffer input. To run a locomotive through the ECoS system the
address in the ECoS system had to be linked in the ECoS locomotive’s
roster file. Once setup I could operate a locomotive using the NCE
system and its cabs. Even the wireless cabs worked. There was a very
slightly delay when using the NCE cab. Accessory commands would
also pass through the ECoS from the NCE to the rails. You can not use
the program track through the ECoS system with the attached DCC
system because there is no way to have data go back to the attached
DCC system from the rails.
Getting More Information
The ECoS system is a very flexible and expandable system. This short
article can only scratch the surface of all the features available and their functions. For more information, the 35 page manual for
the ECoS system can be downloaded from the ESU website.
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