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I'd like one of these!  ProtoThrottle

 

Sadly, won't be available in the UK...

 

attachicon.gifPT-faceplate.png

 

What a shame, as with Mr Soundguy RealDrive sound chips fitted, the whole DCC driving experience would finally come together.

 

Very nice, but what a price!! Good job it won't be on sale over this side of the Pond, or it could bankrupt me. I will have to stick with my ZTC, and its cables......

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Dear Dr G-F,

 

Out of interest, what's a "Real Drive" decoder on civvy-street? I'm guessing a Loksound?

 

Being in Aust, my "expression of interest" for ProtoThrottles went in early, can't hardly wait...

(The modelling budget is being carefully managed in prep... ;-) )

 

Happy Modelling,
Aim to Improve,
Prof Klyzlr

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Dear Prof,

 

RealDrive uses Zimo chips, according to the website.

 

Using the proper controls to drive a loco that acts like the real thing would be amazing.  I can't believe that 'Due to regulatory reasons, the ProtoThrottle will only be available

for sale to customers in the United States, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand'.

 

It's not fair, I tell you!  

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Presumably the radio frequency? If they’d just made it use Bluetooth or standard WiFi protocols they could have sold it anywhere

Remember, when using it to drive a hi nose loco or long hood forward, stand behind a pillar for the full experience!

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Dear Tim,

 

Per the available documentation and postings from ISE on MRH-forum,
the ProtoThrottle talks to it's base-station using a stock XBee proccessor. The XBee is available in 2 flavours, "normal" and "International" variant.
The key difference is the power (milliWatts) of the radio-frequency transmitter section.
(IE it's not strictly the frequency or the protocol that's the problem, it's the sheer transmission-strength available from the XBee).

 

UK (Euro) and Japan limits to 10mW as per the "International" version.
The "normal" version is cleared in the US and other countries to operate at a full 63mW. 

 

http://model-railroad-hobbyist.com/node/32215?page=9 

 

ISE have stated that they are (by "default") designing and certifying the production-version against US specs (63mW, with "normal" commonly-available XBee),
and therefore are happy to sell into any country which happens to match the US-specs.
(cross-country certification in such cases is basically a copy/paste + rubber-stamp exercise with the respective authorities).

 

Presumably if a significant # of UK modellers committed to purchase, the ISE prime movers might find it makes financial sense to undergo the complete "re-certification to EU specs" exercise using the "International" XBee (they are very open to current and prospective end-user feedback),

 

and as the complete software code and design is being released under "Creative Commons",
the really-driven UK modeller could well engineer their own variant using the "International xBee" variant or equivalents...

 

Happy Modelling,
Aim to Improve,
Prof Klyzlr

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Presumably the radio frequency? If they’d just made it use Bluetooth or standard WiFi protocols they could have sold it anywhere!

Sadly, no.

I thought so too, and engaged the developers in discussion over this. It turns out that this is one of those areas where common international standards have yet to be achieved - this is what trade agreements are all about, and why they can take so long to sort out.

 

There is a thread on the Model Railroad Hobbyist forum: you don’t have to sign up to read, just as here.

http://model-railroad-hobbyist.com/node/25866

http://model-railroad-hobbyist.com/node/30265

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Nothing stoping you buying it through the USA

Other than the fact that you are circumventing regulations! ;)

 

If they sold it in kit form, it could be available sans xbee for the European market, and we could source our own...

or if they simply sold the casing, plus an specific circuit boards, people could make their own using CE certifified wireless components.

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Other than the fact that you are circumventing regulations! ;)

If they sold it in kit form, it could be available sans xbee for the European market, and we could source our own...

or if they simply sold the casing, plus an specific circuit boards, people could make their own using CE certifified wireless components.

Sure sure , I'm sure the authorities are on the prowl for that extra 53 mW of radio , also you can claim its for experimental purposes !!

 

Seriously .......

 

The reality is they should just put in the 10mW radio , it will then work in the US and internationally

 

Personally , given the horse and cart the Chinese have driven through CE , I wouldn't toss around too much at night worrying about it.

 

Anyway it was the Uk that insisted the n 10 mW in EU legislation as they had existing domestic legislation covering that frequency

Edited by Junctionmad
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Anyway creating a " notched " DCC throttle isn't complex , one of MERGs cancab ( see MERG.co.uk ) could be easily modded to support notched speed and detent based pots are available from Alps and others

The rest is mechanical engineering

Edited by Junctionmad
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Anyway creating a " notched " DCC throttle isn't complex , one of MERGs cancab ( see MERG.co.uk ) could be easily modded to support notched speed and detent based pots are available from Alps and others

The rest is mechanical engineering

A fact which they have freely acknowledged, hence the open source route to development.
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I was interested upto the point where I noticed the price $400plus, add on import duties RM's two peneth and shipping and you'll be the wrong side of $500. Hit the exchange rate at a bad moment and ouch. Forgot add on the interface. If I had a solid roster of sound locos then just maybe but at the moment I'll stick with MERG. Regardless licensing issues.

Edited by w124bob
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I was interested upto the point where I noticed the price $400plus, add on import duties RM's two peneth and shipping and you'll be the wrong side of $500. Hit the exchange rate at a bad moment and ouch. Forgot add on the interface. If I had a solid roster of sound locos then just maybe but at the moment I'll stick with MERG. Regardless licensing issues.

The creation of a DCC notched throttle isn't complex or difficult , the cost is in the mechanics to " emulate " a control stand. The next issue is how much complexity you embed in the throttle against complexity in the decoder. For example many DCC decoders don't even have a brake function , even fewer have a graduated brake feature. So you are then faced with deciding where the emulation should reside , throttle or decoder.

 

This is even before you factor in matching the throttle to DCC sound , either generically , or using a specific decoder

 

The issue of course relates back to the lack of functionality in the basic DCC protocol , a big issue was the failure to incorporate variable braking , alongside variable speed control , in essence DCC emulates the most basic of DC controllers

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As far as I can see, there is no trainline brake. The independent brake valve looks to be represented, but I don't see a trainline valve. That won't work for me...I model the pre-dynamic brake days of the old Central of Georgia, and I need a 26L or 6BLbrake valve. Regards, Tom Holley

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Dear Tom,

 

Interesting, is your layout/Ops focussed on "braking against power" train handling techniques? "Dynamic era" or not, the example videos available show an impressive capability to emulate "whole train dynamic behaviour" (there is a "tonnage" or "train weight" feature included, which effects both throttle and braking behaviour).

 

If only in-person "test drives" were available... ;-)

 

Happy Modelling,

Aim to Improve,

Prof Klyzlr

 

Ps a quick check on MRH shows that the modellers actually pushing the project to fruition are IAIS modellers, who also don't have "dynamic brakes" on their prototype locos (despite modelling a "more modern era" of railroading)

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At the risk of being controversial it's a model moved and stopped by electricary altered in various ways, yes I can see the controller has a throttle and an independent brake but no train brake but there just ultimatley fiddling with voltages. What I would really like is a throttle with two vertical independent sliders side by side one for revs(or chuffs) and volts. I would personally find that more intuitive for the movement of a train than holding F? for this, with the rest of the F buttons for brake noise etc. It's all illusory anyway so why make it more complicated than it need be just "drive" the engine/train accordingly, thinking about it what we really want is a variable tonnage dial!

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Dear Tom,

 

Interesting, is your layout/Ops focussed on "braking against power" train handling techniques? "Dynamic era" or not, the example videos available show an impressive capability to emulate "whole train dynamic behaviour" (there is a "tonnage" or "train weight" feature included, which effects both throttle and braking behaviour).

 

If only in-person "test drives" were available... ;-)

 

Happy Modelling,

Aim to Improve,

Prof Klyzlr

 

Ps a quick check on MRH shows that the modellers actually pushing the project to fruition are IAIS modellers, who also don't have "dynamic brakes" on their prototype locos (despite modelling a "more modern era" of railroading)

Hello, Prof. Yes, my layout is based on stretch braking. Also, when switching some engineers (myself included) use the trainline to work with. When I am spotting a cut of cushion underframe boxcars or a cut of sloshing loaded tankcars, I use trainline air, usually about 10 pounds. When the foreman tells me to stop, I shut off the throttle and stop. There is very little or no roll out of slack when using trainline air while switching. Granted, some jobs don't use it, and get by with the independent. Depends on what job you're working and where you are.

 

It's a neat throttle, but without a trainline brake valve it just doesn't work for me. Of course, I don't have sound on my locomotives either. No speaker in HO scale can capture what I hear on a daily basis.Great if you like it, but not for me.

 

That is the beauty of this hobby. There are no finite rules; go with what works for you.

 

Regards,

 

Tom Holley

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Dear Bob,

 

"... thinking about it what we really want is a variable tonnage dial! ..."

 

Um, as mentioned above, "tonnage" is a feature which was envisaged from the outset, and is being designed in as we speak... (check the MRH forum postings for the full story and status)

 

Happy modelling,

Aim to Improve,

Prof Klyzlr

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Dear Tom,

Serious question, given that DCC-controlled train-consist wagon-braking is not yet a (common*) thing, how do you model stretch-braking operations at the moment?

Happy Modelling,
Aim to Improve,
Prof Klyzlr

* I've previously built On30 logging disconnects with working manual brakes, and literally had guest operators slide-the-wheels as they tried to drag the cars out of the yard (the call from knowing onlookers to "unwind the brakes" was met with comical responses, until the train crew actual did release the brakes), but they weren't DCC... ;-)

 

PS Tom, we need to get you hooked up with Rick Mugele over on MRH, he's another modeller actively seeking a "braking against power" solution for DCC, with a layout design dependent on nailing the problem...

Edited by Prof Klyzlr
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It is, in theory at least, possible to use something like SMA wire to operate freight car brakes, controlled via a small, cheap DCC decoder using a specific function or just the drive output (for variable applications, maybe). These could be put into a consist with the engine for applying via a function, or consisted with each other for gradual applications.

 

Just an idea.

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My own interest stems from modelling Irish EMD locos , which never had dynamic braking , the control stand ( or desk version) had reverser, throttle , independent ( loco ) , and train brake , and a physical arrangement different to US models , even where a vertical control stand type of operation was used. Both train and independent were self lapping with slaved vacumn operation

 

BUT , while you can fill a DCC throttle with all forms of levers and dials, you constantly are faced with the same issues , I've played with DCC throttle design for a while now

 

(A) there is no consistent brake function across decoders , and certainly where variable ( often called progressive ) braking functions are provided they all operate in a different manner , hence emulating self lapping brakes is almost impossible to do correctly in DCC, and typically DCC brake levers are just forms of push button , this is also true for the Protothrottle

 

(b) Typically DCC implements " pseudo momentum " in the decoder , these days arguably that's the wrong place , and since , without useing railcom, you can't verify CVs values on the " main " it's hard to ensure the controller/throttles perspective of CVs values is the same as the decoder. hence throttles that rely on significant " on the fly " CV modification , run the risk of getting out of sync with the decoder

 

© many sound decoders in essence have fairly fixed momentum settings in order to make the sound control logic work properly , changing these CVs often screws up the basic sound logic in the decoder

 

 

So you could boil this down to this type of base system suitable for high revving diesels

 

1. The DCC throttle just controls sound notch up and down

 

2. Momentum effects are used to control speed , i.e. A variable momentum can be selected and it's this that determines how fast the " loco " catches up with its throttle setting ( in effect ) , this requires CV on the fly reprogramming and can be problematic for sone decoders

 

3. Variable progressive braking simply can't be emulated on a DCC throttle , there is no way to feed the decoder a variable brake factor . So it can only be emulated by " binary " braking of some degree or other . Technically , like " drive hold" you could have a function where the decoder interprets the speed byte as a braking factor , but you are now bending DCC into something it was never designed for

 

4. The thorny issue of where the momentum is implemented, it could be argued today , that all momentum should be in the controller , the loco responding directly to speed commands only ( rather like DC operation ) , this allows progressive braking , allowing both train and independent brake simulation and avoids the decoder having to " interpret " throttle position into sound output. This would also greatly ease DCC layout automation. ( because today you can't easily tell what actual speed the loco is doing in DCC systems)

 

This would mean sound would be exclusively in the form of "drive hold " types i.e. the decoder doesn't try and interpret sound output ,merely generates it according to commands from the controller

 

Of course this type of control doesn't suit steam locos , where the big issue is synchronising steam to wheel movement an issue that isnt really an issue for diesels

 

 

All this points to a massive failing system of the NMRA to update the basic DCC protocols to make it possible to implement these features easily ,

 

There is no easy solution nor one that works consistently with the present arrangement

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