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RC Smoothness and Sound
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 Posted: Sun Mar 24th, 2013 04:07 am
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J.Brown
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In starting a new layout from scratch I've narrowed the choice to Wireless (Deadrail?) DCC or RC. Two questions are critical to my decision:
1. Is DCC inherently smoother than RC on locomotive operation? Especially in starting up and low speed.
2. Is there some way that DCC sound cards can be operated with RC?
Does anyone have any experience/opinion on these questions?

-Jim

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 Posted: Sun Mar 24th, 2013 12:56 pm
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NathanO
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For the question on RC DCC and sound: Anything you can do with regular DCC you can do with RC DCC.

The 'Data' that the RC version of DCC sends is the same 'Data' that would be sent on regular DCC. The RC DCC Receiver takes the 'Data' and passes it on to the DCC Decoder.

There are RC DCC Receivers that will work with any DCC Decoder and there are RC DCC Receivers that have built in DCC Decoders.

The question on which is will run smoother will very with the Locomotive, the RC Receiver / RC DCC Receiver Decoder driving it and the individual doing the comparison and their slant on what they think is the 'Best'.

Nathan

Last edited on Sun Mar 24th, 2013 12:56 pm by NathanO

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 Posted: Sun Mar 24th, 2013 03:38 pm
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W C Greene
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Just remember this about any r/c "conversion". You CAN'T make a lousy runner into a smooth runner with radio control...it will just be a lousy runner with onboard batteries and r/c. I know these things because while others were talking and waiting for something to happen, I spent my money and figured out what worked and what didn't. This is all so very easy but you MUST begin with a quality piece of equipment or you will end up chasing butterflies or howling at the moon. Experience is the best teacher.

Woodie



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 Posted: Mon Mar 25th, 2013 05:56 am
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Craig W
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Hi Jim, I would agree with Woodie and Nathan. Certainly the locomotive + R/C equipment you choose to convert with, will play a big role in how the system as a whole operates, but so will battery choice, as far as free run times go. LiFePo4 batteries are emerging as one of the better choices these days, for their safety, reliability and C-ratings. Unfortunately, there isn't much to choose from, in terms of packaging (read sizes) in these cells. The vast majority of them are cylindrical in shape, so depending on the locomotive you are going to outfit, you may have to compromise in capacity if you decide to use these cells. I’m currently running both LiFePo4 and LiPo cells.

To answer you original post question on smoothness; through numerous and continuous tweaks, I have been able to achieve average run times of over 2 hours and “unparalleled” low speed performance and smoothness from my R/C conversion efforts. For me, the R/C conversion is no longer a myth. I have been able to reach a higher level of performance through much trial and error testing and by engaging numerous aspects which affect system performance, trying to solve them one at a time. I hope R/C train systems continue to progress as there is a tremendous operational freedom offered by battery powered R/C that just can’t be matched through pure track powered systems. I have been quick to exploit this freedom with my own trains, which has really deepened my interest in this great hobby.

A working R/C example is pictured below. Please ignore the awful looking black trucks and fuel tank; it's still a work in progress. This is a Kitbashed GP-38 using an Atlas shell, Bachman trucks, and a custom brass chassis. It is currently equipped with a brushless motor with add-on hall effect sensors (don’t ask) and a one-off Atmel microcontroller based ESC, also a work in progress. It receives signals through a 2.4Ghz Hobby King Orange Rx. Overall gearing is 28:1.

Jim, what scale are you working with?



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 Posted: Mon Mar 25th, 2013 09:45 pm
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J.Brown
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Thanks, Nathan
With all the great information on this forum the spectrum and advantages and disadvantages of each type (Tam Valley Wireless DCC; Stanton S-CAB DCC or full-on Radio Control) is getting clearer to me.
Your advice about the subjective nature of evaluating “smoothness” is reassuring in that it appears that none of the types is objectively inherently superior to the others for smoothness but the result depends on fine tuning the variables and following Woodie’s wise advice to start with a quality, well broken in runner to begin with
-Jim

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 Posted: Mon Mar 25th, 2013 09:50 pm
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J.Brown
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Thanks, Woodie
The one thing I do know for smoothness is that I don’t want to get my power from the rails but get it on board!
-Jim

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 Posted: Mon Mar 25th, 2013 10:47 pm
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J.Brown
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Thanks, Craig
What a beautiful, inspiring locomotive! And your run times confirm my suspicion that the efficiencies of incorporating brushless motors, battery technology and other advances that radio controlled aircraft and cars have achieved through their big head start eventually will be of great advantage to model railroading.
I’m no electrical engineer and researching the components for a full-on RC conversion is pretty intimidating. But one of the most attractive aspects of deadrail is that each locomotive is a more or less stand-alone proposition. You don’t have a huge investment of time and money in wiring the layout. If you think you might want to have sound it looks like a layout of the size I’m contemplating could get up and running pretty quickly with something like an S-CAB installation without having so much tied up in it that it would deter you from researching and building your dream R/C conversion (and waiting for more miniature components, batteries and sound boards to come to market).
I hope to work in HO with a period steam operation set sometime in the 1930-1950 period. I’m worried about space and metal. I’m afraid space might be awfully tight in HO, although I might find a tender big enough to do the job. I’m worried about die-cast metal and radio reception and would love to start with a plastic locomotive body if I could find one.
I’m down in Goleta and would love to wander up and see your work someday.
-Jim

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 Posted: Tue Mar 26th, 2013 03:54 am
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W C Greene
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Jim-as for HO, my buddy DaveC (here on FR) has HO r/c locos. One is a nice Bachmann HO 2-8-0, it has an older KYOSHO r/c car board and rechargable 9 volt battery all in the tender. Dave also has an Athearn F7 A+A lashup with the same equipment in a dummy A, wired to the powered unit.
Another buddy Mopman (here also) has an Athearn GP9 lashup with another older KYOSHO board but Jim has a 3 cell 1600 MAH Li Poly battery in the dummy unit.
Yes, it is possible to run HO r/c. It is easier to install r/c in a loco than to install DCC...and there is no programming to be concerned with..or track & wheel cleaning, or layout wiring, or worries.

Woodie



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 Posted: Tue Mar 26th, 2013 02:14 pm
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Herb Kephart
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Jim-

One of your concerns--metal bodies-- is valid. Are you aware that the antenna that Neil uses on the S-Cab RX is just a little piece about 1/16" X 1/8" X 5/8"long, and he can supply it with a piece of co-ax so that it can be mounted remotely outside a metal body, while the board is inside? I have a brass tender body with the battery and RX inside--and the antenna is hidden in the coal load.I suppose that the tender body acts as a ground plane, although I have perfect control from nearly 40 ft away (as far as I can get in the trailer my RR is in) without a GP.

Herb



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 Posted: Tue Mar 26th, 2013 05:03 pm
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dan3192
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Hi Jim,

I've been at this now for 4 years and built one of my first battery r/c HO models about 1-1/2 years ago. All other factors aside, smoothness and low end speed are readily achievable, but you will have to give it some thought when selecting the drive components. A chain is only as good as the weakest link.

The motor I used was a surplus Escap 6Vdc 23mm dia. 9-pole high efficiency Swiss motor with ball bearings. It was purchased from allelectronics.com ($8.50). RPM is around 8,500 with a no load draw of 40mA, and it uses approx. 200mA when my locomotive (an Athearn AMD-103) is running on the track at medium speed. An A-line 3mm bore brass flywheel is mounted on the motor shaft to provide smoothness. The motor drives a universal shaft and gear tower mounted on the front power truck (by Hobbytown). The front truck drives the rear truck. This gives me more space for the batteries above the frame.

The electronics consist of a 12mm x 13mm Del Tang 3-6V combination Rx/ESC ($47.00). It is a 2.4 GHz (frequency) chip with DSM2 (modulation), and has an 800mA reversing ESC output for the drive motor. It is a perfect match for my Spektrum DX5e transmitter ($59.95). This chip has outputs for servos and LED lighting and a second 1-way ESC motor output that I plan to use for sound. The throttle stick (Ch1) is arranged for full speed with stick full forward, and zero speed with the stick full back. Smoothness and low speed operation could not be better. I found a way to use the throttle trim control to start the motor only 1 notch up from full off position. 

Batteries on this model consist of 8-1.2V NiMH AAA's ($16.00) arranged to give 4.8V and 1,600mAh. I'm using these types because I'm still in the testing stage and will soon switch to Li-ion batteries (w/DC-DC converter to stay below 6V), which have about twice the capacity. Ultimately, a custom frame will be used to accomodate AA Li-ion batteries, which will double the capacity once again.

I'm close to getting basic engine sounds, but don't yet have a method for triggering whistle, horn or bell. There are several methods, and the chip should be capable of providing the input required.

I think metal shells are a problem with r/c. Unless you can get the antenna on the outside, good reception is not likely. Take a look at the comments relative to this via this link: 

http://www.spektrumrc.com/Technology/Multilink.aspx 

Here's a video that convinced me to go with Spread Spectrum Technology.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QaoXipp_288&feature=player_embedded

I hope some of my comments will be helpful. There are many ways to approach r/c. I chose an open source approach rather than some manufacturer's proprietary method and accompanying products. I'm glad to see you exploring r/c for cab control. The more you look, the more you'll like.

Dan

 

    

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