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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

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

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

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?

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

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

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

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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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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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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Woodie
Thanks for the good leads and encouragement that I can make this work in HO.
-Jim

J.Brown
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Herb
Thanks for the details on the S-CAB antenna installation.
Do you have any leads on where I might start looking for a plastic bodied HO steam loco?
-Jim

J.Brown
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Dan
Thanks for all the fabulous detail regarding components and tips on how to use them. It will be tremendously helpful to me as I plan my project. Are these the components that you used in your first battery r/c HO 1 ½ years ago?
The Spread Spectrum Technology video was very impressive. I had heard about this technology and it definitely is the way I would want to go. There certainly is no problem with multiple locos in r/c!
Do you use one transmitter for each locomotive or is there any way to run two locos with one Tx? I suppose by the time you run sound and all the possible other functions you’d want one Tx per loco anyway.
Besides, I am rethinking how badly I want sound in light of Woodie’s comment that sound uses a lot of battery.
-Jim

W C Greene
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Jim-I suppose that if you ran power on the rails to keep the battery charged then you could have sound...but then you woud have wires to track, needing clean wheels & track to recharge batteries, polarity issues (unless the board takes care of that)...in short, you would have a "traditional" layout with wiring and that is what I wouldn't want. A few years back, I hooked up an expensive Tsunami DCC/sound board in one of my Shays with r/c. The chug worked but I coudn't figure how to make the bell & whistle work. I ran it for about 5 minutes, just to prove it would work and then took it out. I still have the Tsunami somewhere but I prefer silent running.

Woodie

J.Brown
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Woodie
I won't be wiring the track! Might have to pull a few boxcars full of batteries if I want sound that badly.
-Jim

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Before you get too much into sound, spend some time watching and listening to sound equipped equipment. Not just a couple minutes--but a half hour, or more.

Then, if you still want sound go ahead.

Woodie and I find it annoying, and you may too--so before you spend a lot of $$----

Sorry, but I can't help with your question about plastic steamers. I'm in O scale, and bearly can remember what is available there.

Herb

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I agree that sound is highly over rated. Friday evening I attended an operating session on a large HOW layout. Owner is not a fan of sound. It was so nice not hearing noise in the layout room. The operators spoke softly and you could communicate with the dispatcher. When it was over There was no headache and felt like it was ok not to like sound. With rc not all engines are quiet but I have problem taking out tsunamis of new converts. I wonder how much I could get for my dcc system and the copper wire hooked up.
Steve Sherrill

J.Brown
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Herb
I’m not in a rush to have sound. That’s one reason that I am leaning toward R/C rather than Wireless DCC. If R/C catches on—and I think it will because of some pretty important inherent advantages—I’m sure that sound cards will catch up and be available on R/C. Apparently some manufacturers are almost there already. If not, I can just put on a little J.S.Bach in the background and listen to my trains.
-Jim

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Jim,

You do not have to have sound with wireless DCC. Most DCC sound decoders have the ability to turn off the sound built in if you wish to. There are lots of DCC decoders that do not have sound.

The ability to choose one of many different locomotives with any throttle is one good part of wireless DCC. If you want to double head DCC has the ability to 'consist' so that one throttle can handle both locomotives.

As for playing music from you locomotive, have you looked at the Pricom Design Dream Player? It will take SD cards and you can have what ever 'sound' you want. It goes for under $70.

Nathan

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Bernd
Thanks for the leads on steamers. There are some beauties there and some great candidates. Do you know if the loco bodies are plastic or metal? It’s hard to tell from the flyer. I wish I lived closer to a good swap meet or hobby shop for that matter!
-Jim

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Nathan
Oh, if I went with Wireless DCC a decoder with sound would be one of the main reasons! There’s no doubt that DCC has some great features. As for listening to Bach from the loco, I’ll have to admit that didn’t occur to me—I’d be listening to music from the stereo and the train through my hearing aids!
-Jim
;)

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Jim,

Not having seen them in person I can't tell. Being that they are produced in this age, I'd say thay are all plastic.

Bernd

Last edited on Thu Mar 28th, 2013 11:47 am by Bernd

dan3192
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Jim, this is the model I was talking about in Post #10:


The first battery powered r/c unit looked like this:




Pretty scary looking, but it demonstrated (to me) r/c for HO could be done. The receiver was a Spektrum AR500 that came with the transmitter. The reversing ESC was for a race car, but will no longer be used because of the braking feature, which causes the engine to stop after running in reverse after approx. 10 seconds.

My personal choice is to run with one transmitter and one loco. Any number of receivers/locos can be bound to one transmitter. This means when I run loco A, loco B is turned off, BUT, if you have say two identical engines, each with their own receiver, like an A-B arrangement, they will take the same transmitter commands and run together in unison.

Sound can be very annoying, especially if the volume is set too high, or the bell is always on, or if there is too much woo-wooing. I do like the basic chuff sounds of a steamer and the varying pitch sound from a diesel engine, but I keep the sound volumes very low when running my BLI Hudson or Atlas Trainmaster. Both have QSI sound systems. I run on DC and use a Quantum Engineer for cab/sound control. 

BTW, my next project is converting an Athearn Genesis 2-8-2 Mikado to battery power and r/c. Engine and tender have plastic shells, so reception should be OK. After that, I'll be putting together batteries and a receiver for a Hustler switcher.

Last year I gave a clinic on battery power and r/c for members of the Nutmeg Div./NMRA here in CT. In January I ran my engines on a couple of layouts at the Big E train show in W. Springfield. As a result, I got an invite to talk about my cab control system with the membership of the Mohegan Pequot Model Railroad Club, which I did this past Sunday. There seemed to be a lot of interest.

I also have invitations to do a clinic at the Northeast/New England Railroad Prototype Modelers Meet in Collinsville, CT on June 1 and the 400-member Hub Div./NMRA outside of Boston in October or November. I'd be pleased to exchange ideas with any fellow r/c enthusiasts planning to attend any of these events.

Dan      

J.Brown
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Dan
Quite a progression in projects!
I wish we could get you out to the West Coast. I'd love to see that Athern Genesis 2-8-2 Mikado.
-Jim

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Dan

Great that you are spreading the word around!

Herb

J.Brown
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Dan
You mention that 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).
My question is this: If you wanted to use the existing (brushed) motor in a typical HO locomotive would this control system work or would it only work with a brushless motor? Initially I would like simply to drop a Rx and battery into the loco and not mess with the electric motor.
Eventually, I imagine that there are advantages of a geared down brushless motor in terms of battery life and smoothness that I would want to explore but as a novice I’d like to get into R/C without getting into those complications yet. Is that possible?
-Jim

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Jim,

The DelTang esc's are for brushed motors.

You don't need to use a geared coreless motor. It improves running qualities but conventional drives are also possible without problems.

Only that with some drives -also with the PWM control- the minimum voltage of the motor does not allow a creeping start.

But there are also conventional drives, that can be run in absolute creeping mode.

Juergen

Last edited on Fri Mar 29th, 2013 09:39 pm by Toeffelholm

J.Brown
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Juergen
Thanks for the good news!
What is a “PWM control”? Also, what minimum voltage must a motor have to allow a creeping start and how can one determine the minimum voltage of the motor? Thanks for your patience!
-Jim

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PWM (pulse width modulation) is a method of controlling the average voltage by varying the amount of time the power is on versus the time it is off.  Zero percent = zero volts, 100% = full voltage, anything in between is roughly equal to the percent X the system voltage.  Although the pulses are full voltage they are delivered rapidly enough, and the motor smooths them out enough, that the result appears as a smoothly varying voltage.

A benefit is that the rapid full voltage pulses help to overcome any friction in the drivetrain, giving smoother starts and improved low speed operation.

Different motors have different starting voltages, we can determine the starting voltage by using a variable power supply (or a PWM receiver) and a meter, reading the voltage at which the motor starts to run.

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Bob
Many thanks.
-Jim

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Jim,

Is does not only depend on the minimum voltage of a motor.

For example:

The Bachmann 0n30 streetcar drive. Has as starting voltage of about 5V. With one Lipo cell you cant make it move. But with two cells and one of Davids Rx/esc (I use them with 60Hz PWM) it is an excellent and powerful runner.

A Fleischmann Magic Train Loco has a similar Voltage but I can't start it with near zero speed. There I will change the motor.

At the time I prefer drives from an Austrian producer called Halling. Low starting voltage and runs slow and nice with one Lipo cell.

Juergen

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There seems to be one thing that hasn't been disscused here. Amperage. There is a max amperage that the DelTang receivers can handle. With PMW you will be drawing max current at each "on" pulse. Make sure the motors do not over draw what the receiver will handle or you'll let the magic smoke out.

Bernd

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Very true--

And for our members that never took Electric 101, the lower the voltage, the higher the amperage FOR THE SAME AMOUNT OF POWER OUTPUT.

Watts (power) = volts X amps.

It's attractive, with all the little low voltage motors around to think of using 1 LiPo cell--but the motor--or the electronics -  might not like the increased power required.

Herb

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Jim,

Sorry for the late response, it's been very hectic around here.

The other guys have essentially answered the question you asked about running smoothly. My r/c AMD-103 engine runs smooth and strong. In fact, and just for fun, we set up a "tug-of-war" with my engine and a Bachmann K-4 steam engine at a recent club meeting. The guys went bonkers when my engine dragged the K-4 down the track, it's wheels spinning furiously (my engine weighs 1 lb, 1.6 oz.)

Since I also have long runs as a goal, I'll mention how I select locomotives to meet these two objectives, i.e., why did I choose the Athearn Genesis Mikado to convert to r/c. The method is simple. I use an older MRC Tech II powerpack to run my trains. Zero speed is at the 7 O'Clock position. Max. speed is the 5 O'Clock position. Most of my engines don't start running until the 10 O'Clock spot is reached. The Mikado ran smoothly at all speeds and started running at the 8 O'Clock position. To me this means I have an efficient running engine that will not drain my batteries quickly. That's it! You might want to try this approach.

I'm an active buyer and seller on eBay. I think this is the best place to find the plastic bodied locomotive you are looking for. There are many models available at any one time and in many price ranges. 

Dan 

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I posted a video of my test run on the Silk City Model Railroad under the section...DelTang 2.4 GHz Receivers, Post #332, for those who are interested.

Dan

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Dan,

I can see that you have been busy! Very cool video of your test run on the Silk City Model Railroad. Is that HO?!   If I understand your locomotive selection process: you test a candidate locomotive by running it on a DC track with an older powerpack that you use for the purpose of testing the setting at which various locomotives will start running. If they start at a low setting like the Mikado did, they are a good candidate for R/C conversion.

I bought an inexpensive Bachman HO Union Pacific FT-A diesel to chop up as necessary in experimenting with R/C conversion. I did something similar to what you do by testing it with an old powerpack that I had laying around to get a baseline of how it performed. I’ll compare that with how it runs after conversion to R/C. The way that the Bachman FT-A is built it looks like I will be able to get the LOSI receiver into the locomotive but I don’t think I can get the battery in there. I think I’ll try to find an unpowered FT-B unit or another FT-A (dummy) to carry the battery, so thanks for the tip about eBay.  I’ll go hunting there. In the meantime, a box car may have to do.

When I actually do the conversion, I think that I will be able to do it in half an hour, like Woody did back in the day, but I find the project takes quite a few hours of staring at it before I make my first cut!

-Jim

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Jim,

It is HO, and yes, this crude method is the first step I take in deciding what to convert to RC, or RCC as I'm now calling it (Radio Command Control).

Good luck with the FT project. Try not to use grease or heavy weight oil when lubing parts. It affects run time. I use Labelle #107 plastic compatible oil, and sparingly!

You mentioned staring before doing. That's a keen observation. I think I've spent 1/4 the time staring (and plannng), 1/2 the time studying RC related technologies, and 1/4 the time running and "doing". Keep staring, and keep "the big picture" in mind.

Let us know how you're doing.

Dan

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Jim

I posted these pics of my athern super geared F7's with older Bachmann FT bodies.

they run very smooth.  These use a kiosha board with an eflite 11.1 vbat.  Woodie did the conversion.

 

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Dan

I like the term RCC ("Radio Command Control") to refer to this new phase of the hobby. It has a nice continuity with DC, DCC, RCC—don’t feel like such an orphan out there! Yet it recognizes that this is a game changer ushering in the next phase of the hobby as revolutionary as DCC was to DC. I think that even when things like sound, lights, smoke, etc. are added (like gear, flaps, elevator, rudder and aileron in model planes) it will end up being a more elegant solution than DCC.

-Jim

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Dave

What a beautiful pair of F7s. It shows how important it is to investigate the drive design before buying a locomotive. Mine is so high that it uses up too much space in the loco and is going to force me to put the battery in a box car. Yours shows that with an Athern super geared setup there is plenty of room in an HO diesel for both the receiver and battery.  

Your layout is handsome—some nice building and car models in addition to the beautiful locos.

Thanks for the pictures showing the installation so clearly.  How do you charge the battery and what kind of battery life do you get between charges?

-Jim

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Jim-Dave is out of town for a week so if I may, I will answer the questions. The Li Po is taken out and recharged, it and the board fit nicely inside the dummy unit. The powered unit is connected with a Miniatronics 2 pin micro plug to the dummy. I believe Dave gets about 6 hours/charge on that 3 cell, 11.1 volt 800MAH battery. Dave had to use a KYOSHO board in this because 7.4 volts (2 cell) wouldn't provive enough voltage for the loco and the LOSI board which he uses in other locos would fry with that much voltage. I trust you have the answers now. If you need more, just ask and I will respond.

Woodie

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Jim-

Don't forget AC (Marklin) and DCS (MTH).  And isn't it nice to know we can take our locos to any of these layouts and not give a hoot how the track is wired?

For lighting, I decided long ago to go with LED's and fiber optics. It sure saves a lot of ma's (sorry, that's milliamps).

After lighting, I'll be looking at adding basic diesel or steam engine sounds. After that, receiver-based track switching, wireless charging, and ultimately FPV for trains (google that on YouTube!).  Yes, I agree, RCC is the elegant game changer for model railroading... 

Dan

  

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Since this thread is partially about smoothness, I found there may be some benefit to playing around with PWM frequencies. My DT Rx43 has five settings for PWM frequency and I guessed that the highest would give the smoothest operation but that was not the case. One of the slower settings actually worked better with my motor to deliver very smooth starting and low speed operation.

There may be no way to tell in advance which setting will be the best so some "guess and try" is involved. It is not too difficult once we get the routine down for programming the receivers, it takes me less than a minute to adjust and test the settings now.

boB

Last edited on Sat Apr 13th, 2013 02:15 am by bobquincy

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Bob,

That's very interesting. Is there some comparison to be made with how some power pack manufacturers get crawl speed at low voltage? I have an MRC Tech II for DC which provides low speed operation. Some of my engines hum quite a bit. I thing they do it by using half-wave rectification at low throttle settings, then gradually go full-wave rectification as you increase engine speed. So maybe the lower PWM frequency acts in a similar way. Anyone have any ideas on this?

What variation of Rx43 do you have? My DT is an Rx43d-2-v5. I didn't know you could adjust the PWM frequency. Assuming I'm also able to do this, could you elaborate a bit on the procedure for making this adjustment, or is it online somewhere in the instructions, which I apparently missed?

Dan 

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Dan,

I have the same receiver that you do.  The programming instructions on the DT website show the large number of options this receiver has.  PWM selection is in "level 1 - 4 flash", I programmed mine for "42223" which gives 130 Hz PWM.

Following David's advice I bought the least expensive ($18) DSM2 transmitter I could find on eBay and use that just for programming.  It is a bit confusing at first (at least for me) but after a few rounds it gets pretty quick and easy.

Half-wave rectification is probably better for starting than full wave but full voltage pulses should be even better.

boB

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Here's a short video of my Great Northern E7A on the Silk City Model Railroad taken in January.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Eao_BMSspFI

This was the final run of my original power chassis from last year with 6-wheel trucks replacing the 4-wheel trucks. The Rx is the original Spectrum AR500 and the ESC is an Associated Electrics XPS surface type with brake, both now "retired". Lighting is via an E-flite light kit and LED plugged into the gear channel.

It demonstrated the feasibility of radio control for HO, and the smoothness I was looking for, helped by a large A-Line flywheel and an Escap 9-pole motor with ball bearings. It is powered by 4-AA LSD NiMH batteries. A 2nd A unit will be used in the future to carry 12-AA batteries with new and smaller electronics for the A unit. Batteries will be arranged in a 4.8v/3200mah or 9.6v/1600mah configuration.

Hope this is helpful to someone.

Dan  

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Thanks, Dan!

Interesting!!

Herb

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Thanks, Woodie

I think I misunderstood what I was looking at in Dave’s pictures. As I understand it now, Dave’s picture is of the dummy F7 with the receiver and battery in it and it is attached to the F7 with the motor in it by a Miniatronics 2 pin micro plug. So, he is using a dummy F7 as I intend to do for the battery if not both the battery and receiver. .

While I’ve got you on the line, I have a few questions about my LOSI conversion:

1.                  The black and red wires come out of the LOSI receiver into a connector and the orange and blue wires come out into another connector.  Rather than trying to find a connector that fits these connectors, I intend to snip off the connectors and solder the black and red wires attached to the LOSI receiver to the black and red wires from my battery harness and the orange and blue wires of the LOSI receiver to the black and red wires attached to the electric motor. Correct?

2.                  You have mentioned, “I do use Lithium-polymer rechargeable batteries in my stuff,” and my questions are: 1) What kind of harness do you use to connect them to the LOSI receiver and 2) How do you recharge them?

3.                  You mentioned that you are not using LOSI receiver boards now but KYOSHO boards and my questions are: 1) where do you get KYOSHO boards and where do you get the crystals to put in them?

Thanks for all your help.

-Jim

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Dan

I don’t know much about AC (Marklin) or DCS (MTH) but sort of considered them a variant of DCC like the Neil Stanton NorthWest Short Line’s (NWSL) (S-CAB)  and Duncan McCrae’s “Tam Valley RR” are sort of Radio DCC. (and I have seen a DCS controller converted to battery power and stuffed into a box car which is a wireless set up in the sense that there is no electricity or signal in the rails)

I guess I would then see 4 categories of model railroad control: DC, DCC, RDCC (Radio Digital Command Control) and RCC (Radio Command Control) with RCC eventually being the most elegant.

-Jim

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Jim-I started out with the KYOSHO boards, the MINI-Z RACER cars were available then. Now, the LOSI boards are available. The Losi boards-red & black...to battery, red is positive. Orange & blue to motor. Black is antenna wire. Then there's the on/off switch harness. Yes, I use Miniatronics 2 pin micro plugs on everything including the charger. The wires are smaller as is the plug but they work just fine. The batteries are mostly in the locos and I just pull out the battery wires, disconnect to the board and connect to charger. I have run this way for over 10 years now so I see no reason to change anything. Does that answer your questions? Let me know.

Woodie

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Here's the video I mentioned earlier of my Amtrak AMD-103 with the DT chip powered by 8-AAA NiMH batteries. I should have posted here first, since the subject is smoothness, I think nicely shown in the video. Several club members took turns operating the engine. They especially enjoyed it since the entire layout was down for re-wiring for DCC!  

This was a significant run in that the Walthers cars are steel weighted and the wheelsets ride in plastic grooves (no real bearings). So running with this load for 1-1/2 hours was significant for me. Using AAA Li-ion batteries will double the run time. Using AA Li-ion's, with a new frame, will double the run time once again. There's a LiPo in my future, if I can find the right shape.

So enjoy the video. Any questions, please ask. I really think RCC is here to stay. I'll definitely stay with it...

Dan

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rUwTYucn6u8

 

 

   

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Hi Woody

I am fairly new to DCC operations right now, but thrilled at the thought of a radio controlled locomotive. A couple of questions however: 1. Did you kitbash, so to speak, your own RC locomotive or are there any commercial firms selling such conversions out there in retail land that I might look at or purchase? 2. If one has a DCC system already as I do [Power Cab] can that throttle be made to give the commands to the locomotive? I ask this because until finding "FreeRail" I thought they were completely separate systems, but apparently there is some mix between the two. Thanks for any help...

William

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William,

Take a look at CVP's Airwire and NCE / QSI's GWire. Both can be used with existing decoders using the CVP receiver and a battery.

You will need the NCE GWire Pro Cab R which can be used as an extra cab with the Power Cab and then as the RC Cab as you switch over to RC.

You can also add a switch in the locomotive to allow it to run on both Track DCC and Radio DCC.

Not that DCC is the only answer, but if you like the way the Power Cab give you control over the locomotives, the GWire would be no learning curve.

Nathan

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Thank you for such a quick reply. As I said, I am very limited in understanding this subject. If I buy NCE's GWire Pro Cab R for control or transmitter functions where do I buy the receiver and battery that will be placed in the locomotive? I am not stuck on DCC by any means. If I just wanted to start from scratch, where would I purchase a transmitter and receiver/battery combination. And, would I put it together myself or are there other means of getting it accomplished? Again, excuse the ignorance, but I am trying...
William

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William, I have a pretty simplistic approach and it is less expensive than others. I know how to program and set up DCC in locos but don't have DCC myself, prefering to run completely wireless, except for the wiring inside a loco. No, there are NO RTR r/c locos now, you would have to convert one to radio. And on that subject, I have written umpeen thousand times to use a great running locomotive for your first. Many have thought that they could make a lousy loco into a winner with r/c...nope, you will have a lousy wireless loco! If you check out all the info and systems presented in this forum, you will have all the information that is available...anywhere on the net. You need to decide what you want, sophisticated controls and perhaps sound or do you just want to run trains without problems or wiring? Your choice. I am sure that there will be other opinions about what to do but I will give mine. For 80 bucks or so, you can buy a LOSI MICRO T r/c car and get everything you need in one package and it all works right. You just need to take out the car's board and install it in the locomotive. Batteries are another choice, everyone has their favorites. The LOSI car comes with a nice little NIMH (Nickel Metal Hydrate) battery which will work until you get some experience. There are plenty of threads here about this, just search around. We were/are all ignorant, you are on the right track so you are no longer ignorant. Write with your questions, we're here to help.

Woodie

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Bill,

Welcome to the site!

I don’t know how adept you are at soldering, circuit design, etc. You might look at Ring, Tam Valley, NWSL, and deltang:

http://www.ringengineering.com/
http://www.tamvalleyrr.com/home.html
http://nwsl.com/S-CAB_Radio_DCC_Control.html
http://www.deltang.co.uk/index.htm

I am not familiar with Air?? that has been mentioned. Check them out, too.

This is the site to monitor to keep up with RC developments, as best I can tell.

Tom

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William,

CVP has a receiver and some batteries:
http://cvpusa.com/airwire_system.php

Both CVP and QSI have receiver/decoder combinations.
http://qsisolutions.com/products/q-gwire.html

Nathan

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Thanks for all that info Woodie. How do you rate Atlas locomotives as to their quality? On my N gauge layout I use Kato engines and have had no problems, but have been told Atlas in pretty good also. Any others you think would fill the bill?

Thans Again
Bill

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Thank you for those leads to look into. That's the kind of help I need.

Bill

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Bill-Atlas makes nice N scale locos although I don't model in N or get into diesels. At the moment, there are some tiny r/c receivers available which might fit, batteries are another problem. There is the option of tiny batteries onboard but they need to be recharged through the rails, totally blowing the idea of no wiring. It might as well be DCC or DC operation. Soon (I hope), battery technology will allow tiny, high power batteries to be available but that is later. If I were into N, I think that I would be running with DC, DCC is not what I like...too much info needs to be learned before you can run a train! Just my opinion.

Woodie

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William

I was where you are on this subject a short while ago when I decided to get back into a hobby I had enjoyed as a boy. Now with the help of Woodie and many others on this forum I have a clearer idea of the direction that I am going. I’m not sure, but I don’t think your existing throttle can be made to give the commands to the locomotive without additional components and maybe not even then.

There are four basic categories of model railroad control: DC, DCC, RDCC (Radio Digital Command Control) and RCC (Radio Command Control). I ruled out DC and DCC for the disadvantages than many on this forum have commented on.

My next decision point was whether to go with RDCC or RCC. They are significantly different technologies. I had 2 main concerns: whether one was superior to the other when it came to 1) SMOOTHNESS and 2) SOUND. Hence I named the thread: “RC Smoothness and Sound”.

I am satisfied that there is no advantage to RDCC or RCC when it comes to smoothness. Depending on the quality of the locomotive and some individual tweaking, either can be wonderfully smooth, even at low speed (far smoother than a wired track with its inevitable dead spots).

If sound is essential to you then RDCC is more developed than RCC (where sound is still at the vapor ware stage, as far as I can tell). Probably the closest thing to off the shelf radio controlled DCC with sound is S-CAB (link provided by Tom, above) although it is limited to operating about 6 locomotives simultaneously (more than enough for anything that I am planning). Tam Valley is developing a full blown RDCC system (complete with DCC Command Station) but it looks like it is still in the prototype stage. I am working in HO scale which imposes some limiting space constraints which may rule out some of the other options that have been mentioned.

If improved performance through new technologies in battery life, motors and transmitters is more important to you, however, RCC is more elegant and may offer more in the long run. The simplest path to immediate RC gratification is that taken by Woodie a decade or so ago (that he still uses) with a model car/boat transmitter and a set of crystals in the receiver all powered by a 9v battery. (I think Woodie uses more sophisticated batteries now). I am in the final stages of reproducing that experiment and if it all works out will publish a set of instructions with pictures on this forum.

-Jim

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Thanks Jim, I do use Lithium Polymer batteries now. A couple have been in service for at least 10 years, they last quite a long time. Whatever happens, I am very proud that this forum has grown like it has. The more...the merrier!

Woodie

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Thanks for all that info Jim. I will be waiting to see your publication here and pics on your latest project. Again, thanks for all the information..........

Bill

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Woodie

You mentioned that you use Lithium Polymer batteries. What is the brand and specs?  Are they cylindrical or block shaped like a typical 9v battery?  To recharge, you mentioned that you unplug the Miniatronics 2 pin micro plug and plug it into the charger to charge the battery. What kind, brand or model of battery charger is that?

Thanks for the help.

-Jim

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Jim-I will try to get some pix & info here (the forum is full of my photos already) but I need to do some "work" right now so I will respond later. Take care.

Woodie

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Hey Jim, if I might chime in here; there are an unbelievable amount of lithium battery options out there. Finding the right cell to fit your space requirements, would be my first suggestion. Steam locomotives with tenders have a distinct advantage in this area, as do wide body locomotives. Most Lipo cells are flat, with a few cylindrical exceptions. If you have empty space within your locomotive, it makes sense to fill the void with batteries, unless you can be satisfied with short operating sessions, or if you are going to supply track power to charge the cells in your loco.

Battery capacity can be a confusing topic when you’re shopping for cells. Despite their ratings, different cells with identical capacities do not always yield the same run times. If you have a lot of room in your locomotive, then this won’t be much of an issue.

When choosing batteries, I think it is wise to also consider what motor system will be used. Consider weather or not it is worth your effort to re-power your locomotive, or use the motor it came with. In some instances you may be better off using the stock motor, unless you have access to machine tools or the necessary materials for a motor swap.

I stand in opposition to many, I believe that running a smaller capacity battery and a higher cell count is more favorable for most applications. My opinion regarding cell count; more cells = : ) comes from a lot of experience building and flying R/C electric aircraft. More cell s= more power, better motor efficiency, better starting torque, stability etc. There’s a delicate balance to this and in many cases, a single cell may be the only way to go, depending on how much space is available in a given application.

I have bought and built dozens of voltage boosters and they work for boosting single cell voltage, but they also suck up a lot of precious power and space; space which could be used to place another cell. Can’t get something for nothing here.

Can you give us the brand and type of locomotive that you are converting? It would really help. Some photos? I’m sure we can help you nail down the right set-up.

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Jim, it's important to determine the amount of voltage needed to operate your loco at a desired speed. If you have a layout or just a couple sections of track( 6feet ) you can ascertain the voltage by hooking up the track to a powerpack and when you get the engine to operate the way you want take the engine off the track but leave the power on to the track at the setting you used to get the operating speed you want. Now take a volt meter, digital is best and hook it to the track the reading you get will indicate the minimum voltage that will work for your engine. Many of the Bachman engines will work nicely on 3.7 volts and they are the smallest size made for our use. The larger the number of mah( miliamps ) the longer they operate.
Steve Sherrill

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Bill

I'm coming down the home stretch on assembling and documenting the "half-hour R/C conversion" but it looks to me like one of the larger DCC manufacturers is coming out with a wireless system that will obviate the need to convert model car/aircraft  R/C transmitters, receivers and motors for use in HO locomotives. It is described at

http://cvpusa.com/mini_airwire_convrtr.php

and I think it is what I have been looking for.

Jim

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Jim, that would be nice if it will work for you. Unfortunately, for those of us doing narrow bodied diesel conversions or smaller locomotives, packaging a large circuit board ( I mean large in this scale) like the Airwire, plus a decoder, plus a battery, is probably not feasible for a single unit. The current Airwire system looks a bit like a like a copy of what Mr. Stanton is making.

Just out of curiosity, what kind of locomotives are you planning to convert?

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Hi Jim,

I noticed your post about the miniAirWire system. You might recall I've been working in the 2.4 GHz/DSM2 open architecture arena, so I'm curious about some of the features of this system.   

* Isn't this similar to the Tam Valley system which uses batteries, relies on the DCC decoder for all functions and also sends commands wirelessly? Don't you still have to deal with CV's and programming issues? 

* Are you aware of the Rail-Lynx infra-red system (no sound) that has been out for years and can be used with 12V on-board batteries? If you need sound, this won't apply.

* Besides the additional space needed for a 2nd PCB, do you have a feel for the mah required by both a DCC sound decoder plus AirWire receiver? I always try to save mah whenever I can.         

* Wouldn't the latest hobby radio frequencies and protocols be more reliable than the frequencies used by this system? Isn't interference more of an issue than the higher frequencies?

* Although not fully tested, it appears the new radio receivers, with their higher operating voltages, will run my DCC equipped engines and provide basic steam and diesel sounds. Have you done any work in this area? 

Please don't misunderstand the reasons for asking these questions. I can put the brakes on what I'm doing at any time and re-evaluate. I'm just curious to know if I've missed something along the way.

Dan

 

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Craig, even though I knew that some of the Garden manufacturers had some R/C offerings I never gave them a second thought for exactly the reason you mention--I didn't think they made anything that would be close to useful for HO. But this Airwire receiver circuit board is only 0.8"x 2"--smaller in some ways than the LOSI board that I am trying to stuff into my FT-A (I'll have to use a box car). Of course you have to get a DCC decoder in there, too, but locos already are shipping RTR with Tsunami sound decoders installed in HO and I'm thinking a little receiver board might fit in there too.
There is no doubt that Stanton was first in this concept with his S-CAB. In fact I had pretty much decided that if I had to have sound I would go with an S-CAB system. But I wasn't wild about bundling the decoder and receiver into one unit. And I think the S-CAB/Airwire transmitter/throttles must be significantly different. S-CAB suppposedly encounters conflicts if you try to run more than 4-6 locos while Airwire claims the miniAirwire900 throttle can run 9999 decoders on 17 freuencies. The S-CAB system looks like it is a little less expensive unless you can find a good deal on the Tsunami decoder but Airwire has been around for a while and looks well positioned to take advantage of fully wireless operation when the large market of new HO users discovers it and they could emerge as the dominant player.
My planned locomotives? Plastic steamers with big tenders and smooth motors!
Jim

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Hi Dan

I think the S-CAB and AirWire systems are very different than the Tam Valley RR prototype. “Tam Valley RR” has developed a prototype that adds radio receivers to each  locomotive; adds a transmitter to the back of all existing DCC command stations and broadcasts the DCC pulses over the airwaves on the 916 MH “Instrument Band” Radio Band  and not the 27 MHz R/C Band. This is not a very elegant system and remains a partially developed prototype that is not near being brought to market so far as I can tell.

The S-CAB and AirWire systems manage to do away with the DCC command station or at least incorporate it into a well designed hand-held throttle. The components that you need to get up and running are well described on coherent product lists. You don't have to worry about motors or drive trains. About the only thing that you do have to worry about is battery selection and charging.  You do have to deal with some DCC programming issues in exchange for the advantage of a wide selection of mature products developed for the DCC market--especially products for sound and lighting. So S-CAB and AirWire are real systems and product lines.

It does seem to me that the transmitters, frequency control, brushless motors and batteries developed for model aircraft and cars are far advanced and have much more potential for model railroading with long battery life than the components now readily available to model railroaders, although I do have concerns about heat and low speed efficiency of  brushless motors in model train applications.

I greatly admire those of you who are experimenting with things that will materially advance the hobby but I lack the engineering background to do much more than follow your train of thought and appreciate your discoveries.  In my former life as a judge I followed, understood and evaluated the testimony of many expert witnesses on subjects as esoteric as these and I would love the chance to apply your knowledge to a project of my own. How great it would be to have a separate thread dedicated to successful R/C locomotives and projects that gave a bill of materials listing each component, source of the component and price that went into the project. Then I'd take a crack at building it! I think you're on the right track and would love to see you offer your own product line some day.

Jim

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OK Jim, I see. You have a lot of room in the FT, so I think this will work for you. I am eager to see what you put together.



"I didn't think they made anything that would be close to useful for HO"



There are quite a few options out there, but they require some legwork. There are also cheaper ways of getting things done, for those who are on a budget, but those methods require at least some dexterity and a modicum of know-how. Personally, I've been banging away at some cost effective solutions for the past couple of years and I to plan on posting some of my conversions in time. I wish that I didn't have to work so much, so I could enjoy this hobby a little more and share more of my projects.


"I do have concerns about heat and low speed efficiency of brush-less motors in model train applications".

Brush-less motors are so under-taxed in model train applications, that heat is almost non-existent in my conversions. The thing that scares some about the use of brush-less motors in this type of application, has to do with starting, which I have not had an issue with. I use lower gear ratios in my locomotives primarily for smoothing of low speed operation, where it works very well.





Last edited on Mon Jun 3rd, 2013 06:12 am by Craig W

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Craig

I did suspect that with high speed brushless motors you could gear them down and get awfully smooth low-speed performance. Glad to hear that confirmed as well as no heat issues.

Jim

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I've been using on board batteries and R/C for quite a while now, and I'm very happy with S-Cab.

It is frequently mentioned that S-Cab only provides for the control of a limited number of locos, while other systems can have 999 addresses--but--how many locos can you run at once? Two, if you are super agile (I'm not!).

So- with S-Cab, don't think loco numbers, think OPERATOR numbers. You use address #1, your buddy #2 etc. ANY loco (with a RX) can be instantly be re-programed to respond to a different throttle, with a couple button strokes. NO programing track or complicated protocol is needed.

One of the very necessary things that all R/C locos must have is a switch of some sort to disconnect the battery--so that there is no discharging while the loco is sitting unused.

So--hypothetically--You bring a train into its destination, uncouple it and park the loco at the refueling point, then turning it's switch off. Go to the switcher that is going to break up the train, and switch it on. IF NECESSARY, change it's address to correspond with the address that you have decided to use on your TX. YOU CAN control 999 locos (if you think that you can run that many at one time, please share the video with us) with your TX!

Think about this

It is only practical to control one loco at a time!


Herb

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Jim,

Don't forget the flywheel for smooth operation at all speeds. I use the heaviest that will fit. It will also improve traction.

And given two flywheels with the same weight, pick the one with the larger diameter and shorter length. You'll get more of a flywheel effect this way.

Dan       

J.Brown
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Herb

I totally agree that S-CAB will operate as many locos as I ever would want to on my layout. The only reason I mention it is that I do not understand what is going on inside these "throttles" of S-CAB and AirWire but I suspect that it is different technology because of the different claims about how many decoders they will run. Also at this weekend's Ontario, California show I heard tales of significant interference between a big 1/32 loco and a nearby N-Scale layout using this kind of "throttle". I wish I could find out more about the technology inside these handheld DCC wireless throttles. I'm pretty sure it is far less sophisticated than the frequency search/lock technology of the latest R/C aircraft/car transmitters and receivers that makes such interference virtually impossible no matter how many aircrraft are in the air. That's one of the things that draws me toward true R/C even though the nifty feature set of matured DCC is a powerful draw toward an S-CAB/AirWire solution. Not to mention that S-CAB and AirWire actually have an off-the-shelf product that you can buy.

Jim

Stanton
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I see some discussion of what I would call DCC compatible radio control (or radio-DCC) with or without battery power. S-CAB, Tam and CVP are mentioned.

It's a coincidence that today I opened a website for S-CAB.
If you're interested, the link is:

http://www.s-cab.com

Neil.

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Neil

Congratulations on a fabulous web site. This is exactly what is needed! I don't see a way to post comments on your web page yet, but I am eagerly awaiting the strings and comments  that are sure to come quickly.

With miniAirWire jumping into the HO game I was inclined to go with them because they are well established and have what seems like a pretty neat dead-track throttle.

But your web page shows a much more developed and coherent overall solution for someone like me who wants to get up and running quickly. I still have some questions about the wisdom of bundling the receiver and decoder and the long-term viability of S-CAB in the market,  but I expect that those issues will soon be addressed by comments and discussions on your blog.

Thanks for your great service to the hobby

Jim

J.Brown
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Neil

I notice that comments are "closed" on "Neil's Blog" on your web page.

Will this feature or some other page on your web site eventually be opened for those interested in S-CAB to exchange information?

Jim

Stanton
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Jim,

Thanks for your comments.

You wrote,
"I notice that comments are "closed" on "Neil's Blog" "
S-CAB.com has only been live for a few days and I'm considering how ambitious I should be with the site.

An S-CAB group already exists
http://groups.yahoo.com/group/S-CAB/
and I don't want to duplicate that open discussion.

FreeRails is also providing an excellent forum with several radio-oriented threads.

The subject of radio communication is technically and bureaucratically difficult and I want to focus on facts rather than opinions.

Neil.

James Brown
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Herb and Woodie

I am disappointed to report that my effort to duplicate and document with lots of photos the "30-Minute Conversion" of a locomotive to R/C using a Futaba Attack transmitter with 27MHz crystal and a LOSI receiver/ESC ended up as a well-documented failure.

In fairness I did introduce points of potential failure by substituting LOSI connectors to connect the LOSI board both to the battery and the motor and the wiring of the two-truck locomotive was different than the prototype.

I would do more trouble shooting but I already had decided to switch over to an S-CAB system instead and I had other uses for everything except the receiver board. So I rewired the Bachmann FT-A Diesel Locomotive back to a simple DC pickup that I will use in a train set for the grandchildren. It runs as well as it did before the attempted conversion.

It is nice to see more manufacturers showing an interest in HO R/C. Hopefully a good standard will emerge and ready to run R/C locomotives will be as common as ready to run DCC equipped locomotives are now.

Jim

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James-sorry about the problem. May I ask if you disabled the track pickups to the motor before you operated the loco with r/c? There could have been a direct short which would fry the Losi board. I hope this doesn't discourage you from other r/c adventures, we all have had mishaps along the way. Keep the faith.

Woodie

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Thanks, Woodie

I never had power in the rails when I had the LOSI board hooked up, so I'm pretty sure that I didn't fry the LOSI board that way. I did run the FT-A on DC from the front truck after I had clipped the rear truck, but the LOSI board and battery were still in the box when I did that. I suspect that I may have wired the locomotive incorrectly when I hooked up the battery and LOSI board but I don't see how.

In any event I am very excited about S-CAB right now and think that is the solution for me at this point in time. I have learned a great deal on FreeRails that has helped me make an intelligent choice and am more committed to R/C than ever. A friend here just ordered a pure DCC startup set and we have a friendly competition on the merits of battery power vs soldered rails. We'll see how that goes!

Thanks for all the help

Jim

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For now, R/C conversions can take a bit of work, but are absolutely feasible for most modelers who are willing to learn a bit about the systems and aren't afraid of a little hand work and some soldering.

Lately, my experiments have focused on track powered R/C control and I recently had the chance to test DCC against Track powered R/C back to back, on my local club layout. I found the results to be surprising.

The locomotives I used for the test were an NCE DCC equipped, Atlas Dash 8-40B and an Athearn GP-50, using an Orange R/C receiver with a home made ESC (electronic speed control) using a home spun H-bridge for reverse with some el-cheapo Radio shack power filtering, via some caps and a rectifier bridge. Total cost for the R/C package was a little over $30 in parts. I managed to stuff all of this junk into the stock GP, by cutting out an internal wall which is hidden directly below the dynamic brake fan. I added a brass platform for some of the extra components over the rear truck and made a similar weight for the front.



When I showed up at the club layout; neither locomotive had been tested and the DCC equipped loco required programming, which was gracefully handled by a fellow club member in about 10 minutes. The track at the club is cleaned at regular intervals, but as I found out, still had some problem areas which affected both R/C and DCC systems. Track power on my home layout and test rack is well filtered and I have never had issues using it with R/C, but the club layout was a different environment and I wondered if the rectifier and caps I used were up to the task.

I put the GP-50 on the rails first, only to find out that the singe 400uF cap and 2A rectifier made for a bad combo on the DCC layout. It left the loco stalled and buzzing, although it had worked flawlessly on my home set-up.

After replacing the rectifier and exchanging the 400uF cap for 2 smaller 100uF caps, I was ready for another try. This time I was off and running. I had expected a higher top speed for the GP, but it only managed a scale 70 MPH pulling 3 cars at max throttle, which was fine by me, since I don’t run my trains like slot cars, but still puzzling.

Performance was very smooth overall, but starting was noticeably affected as was speed stability on the monster club layout. The club layout is packed full of boosters for the DCC system, but my impression of the system, is that it may actually need more. After 10 minutes of constant travel, I hit my first section of dead rail and the GP-50 came to a halt. With a gentle push it was up and running for another 5 until hitting a second dead spot, which reminded me of why I decided to go with R/C in the first place. After 20 minutes of run time I felt that the R/C system had proven itself to be viable. I range tested the system from every place in the building and had perfect communication. The system is still missing the one item that would make it just about perfect; Batteries!


I honestly expected the DCC equipped Atlas engine to out pull and outrun the R/C loco by leaps and bounds, but much to my surprise, I found it to be way more sensitive to dirty track and had to push it through quite a few areas. You could see it slowing down noticeably at certain points between DCC boosters as well. At slow speeds control was good but at the lowest speed setting, the R/C loco had a much more impressive range and overall had better speed stability. All of this went against my own intuition. Having run both locomotives on straight DC, you could easily tell that the Atlas loco was far superior to the Athearn.

By no means was this a scientific test, but I think my observations are note worthy. What did I learn here?

Not much that I didn’t all ready know, but good voltage filtering is essential with DCC track power. I’m now running (3) 100uF caps.

Out of the box Athearn locomotives work fairly well with cheap R/C gear.

Batteries are a very good thing for R/C locomotives. Yes Woodie, you did say so!

Below is a picture of the GP-50 chassis with the front weight and shell removed. Another board sits next to it, waiting to go into the Dash 8-40b for the next test. At the bottom of the picture you can see one of David T's micro sized marvels, the DT/RC RX61-1, which is still undergoing some tests, but looks very promising!

Last edited on Sun Aug 25th, 2013 06:50 am by Craig W

James Brown
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Craig
Thanks for the interesting information.
With the S-CAB layout that I am in the process of getting going the only thing that I will use rail power for is a small section of DC powered rail to keep the batteries charged. I wouldn't want to rely on rails for anything else.
Jim

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I hear you Jim and I have to agree that there are a few drawbacks for pure rail power.

When used in conjunction with batteries, I think providing track power to run locomotive lights and to keep batteries charged makes a lot of sense.

After doing a careful post test inspection on my GP 50, I noticed that the rear truck had a broken power wire, which would have explained at least some of the dead spot stalls it experienced. I ordered some micro sized SMD caps to replace the larger bank in the locomotive. The micro sized caps are a bit pricey at 5 bucks a pop, but will help to free some space for batteries later on. I feel that this locomotive will prove to be a worthwhile performer on track power and proves to me that an R/C conversion doesn't necessarily have to be expensive to provide good performance.

Last edited on Sun Aug 25th, 2013 11:31 pm by Craig W

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@Craig to be fair to DCC, your R/C loco had some ( unfair? ) advantage over the DCC loco in form of buffering ( not filtering ) capacitors. But let's start from square one. The initial problems with the retifier/capacitor combo cannot be blamed on the caps, but on the rectifier. The ready -to-use bridge types generally are tailored for operation on sinusoidal AC. DCC has  a rectangular waveform @4.5/9.0 kHz, that cannot be handled too well by normal silicon rectifier diodes. They will heat up and draw excessive reverse current, that in turn, together with the surge current of the capacitors, leads to the effects you reported. It is much wiser to employ Schottky or fast recovery silicon diode bridges, which may have to be built up. What you really have to filter away are the unavoidable spikes on the bridge's output, but that can be handled by an 1µF( low ESR ) cap easily. Every capacity value above that will only add to the buffering capability. Your R/C loco had a 200µF buffer, which the DCC loco didn't have. This buffer gives a small advantage on dead spots. Of course, the higher the capacity, the better. Remember the 'electronic flywheel', a bipolar capacitor bank offered some 40+ yrs ago? Any receiver, be it R/C or contemporary DCC, benefits from such a buffering. Some DCC receivers, e.g. LENZ 'GOLD' or ZIMO series, have a chapter in their manuals on how that is done. There is a caveat when operating high-capacity buffered locos on a DCC layout, however. The initial current surge of the empty caps may cause the booster's overload protection to cut the supply out. So there must always be a current-limiting resistor in series to the cap, bridged by a reverse diode for quick discharge when needed. So for fairness, jack up a DCC-loco in the same way by connecting a cap to the blue wire of the decoder ( Yes, I admit there a few that don't have that. Attaching a cap to those is a wee bit more complicated ). The higher the capacity, the better. What you'll find is also an improved speed regulation behaviour and a smoother operation. Of course, and someone has done that already, you can even connect a backup battery there and enjoy the same stall-free driving as with R/C. To sum it up, R/C operation has other advantages compared to DCC, but not on the supply side.

Last edited on Fri Aug 30th, 2013 09:07 am by Helmut


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