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StuartM

Battery powered/Radio controlled locos

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A few years ago I tinkered with the idea of a Battery powered/Radio controlled loco and made a rough and ready prototype.

 

The advantages over conventional power through the rails would be absolutely no track wiring at all, no track or wheel cleaning!.

 

You could run any number of locos as they would all operate like an addressed dcc loco and the battery would take the place of the chassis and would like a mobile phone last for days rather than hours, plus you'd have the fun of taking your loco to a refuelling point to recharge just like the real thing.

 

I know that this is done in some of the large out door scales in the states but there is no reason why the technology could not be shrunk to fit into 00 gauge models or even ngauge. You can buy radio controlled planes and helicopters really cheaply so the manufactures have no excuse, It's the next logical step

 

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Agreed with all that. More than thirty years ago I had an RC converted Big-Big Hymek. Twin motor bogies, a taped together pack of ni-cads for power, MacGregor 27MHz radio gear (with a receiver and single servo both the size of small bricks) and a crude, mechanical wiper resistance board speed and direction controller. It worked surprisingly well and created much interest when given an airing on Somerset 0 Gauge Group's test track c1980.

 

These days, with the advent of staggeringly cheap and compact RC gear (~$20 for a 2 channel, 2.4 GHz Tx/Rx combo, ~$5 for a servo, ~$5-10 for a motor speed controller and similar prices for beautifully made and powerful but tiny motors) and the wonders of the LiPo battery, so much more could be achieved for very little money. Ny own interests are currently 7mm indoor but, should I eventually move out into the garden, RC battery electric operation will definitely form part of the plan.

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Stuart,

 

There has been some recent discussion about this subject in the MRJ thread (start around post #29):

 

http://www.rmweb.co.uk/community/index.php?/topic/62895-mrj-218/page__st__25

 

There was also a bit of a discussion that I started back in May after seeing Protocab at Scalefour North:

 

http://www.rmweb.co.uk/community/index.php?/topic/56219-protocab/

 

Despite being a 2FS modeller like yourself I have been interested in this subject since I saw Bernard Weller demonstrating Red Arrow at a show back in the mid 1990s. Andy Farquarson did articles on Red Arrow in Scalefour News and British Railway Modelling in December 1995. The latter article has photos which show that the battery technology can be used in small 4mm tank locos.

 

David

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Guest Max Stafford

I really want to see this happen. How much more logical and user friendly could a control system get. Finally you really are the driver!

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LiPo batteries do seem to have some safety issues in relation to charging; not sure I'd want a carefully built model go up in flames. The NiCads in my digital camera are a right pain running out after a relatively short time. Still, seems a better idea than DCC once batteries are up to the job. For smaller scales indoors why not run power through the track and trickle charge? Then you're not absolutely reliant on pick-ups (big plus) but you may never need to actually charge things up.

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A few years ago I sent this video and one other to Bachman, Hornby and Dapol explaining the virtue of such a system but none of them were at all interested.

And then about two years ago at the Kernow Model rail exibition I spoke to Simon Kohler on the Hornby stand, but again he just didn't get the idea, explaining that the electronics would be to expensive (when in fact they can be produced for penny's) .

It seems to me that either the manufactures just don't understand how track wiring is a barrier to not only existing modellers but also to newcomers, or they just don't want to invest in a new control system so soon after DCC,

The daft thing is that Radio control is DCC it's just that the commands are sent to the loco via a radio signal rather than through the rails.

Sure there might a bit of R&D around making a chassis shaped battery, but get the battery companys to do that for you.

 

This is not ground breaking technology, it is not expensive technology.

If Hornby can build a real live steam engine in 00 scale, taking existing technology and placing it in a model train is surly not beyond the wit and wisdom of such an esteemed company

The only problem I can see, is the manufactures inertia

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Maybe the starting point is for someone to produce a kit that works with a standard radio controller and allows forward, reverse and speed control. Plus a battery. There are lots and lots of old diesel models where that could be installed. If it takes off then maybe its a runner.

 

Ideally something that can charge from the rails, whether DCC or DC. Perhaps only needs one siding to be wired.

 

I don't see it as a runner for factory production. The batteries would need to be "off the shelf". We all know that rechargeables tend to go flat. Model railways don't work on the basis of "I want to do shunting tomorrow, must charge overnight". Also batteries have a limited life, even if it is 5 years that is an irritation.

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Maybe the starting point is for someone to produce a kit that works with a standard radio controller and allows forward, reverse and speed control. Plus a battery. There are lots and lots of old diesel models where that could be installed. If it takes off then maybe its a runner.

 

Ideally something that can charge from the rails, whether DCC or DC. Perhaps only needs one siding to be wired.

 

I don't see it as a runner for factory production. The batteries would need to be "off the shelf". We all know that rechargeables tend to go flat. Model railways don't work on the basis of "I want to do shunting tomorrow, must charge overnight". Also batteries have a limited life, even if it is 5 years that is an irritation.

I disagree.

I don't use my camera, my Kindle, my torch or my sat nav for weeks at a time but they still work when I switch them on.

The battery's would not be 'off the shelf' but would replace the chassis block (weight and space), think of the number of battery blocks for laptops of all shapes and sizes, again not difficult to do.

A dedicated siding by a fuelling point for recharging would add to the realism of operation if you had a fuel gauge for each controller on your hand held controller, just like the real railway when the fuel gets low, the loco goes and gets refulled

Yes battery's have a limited life, so replace the battery once every five years, big deal

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Stuart,

 

I think that the ideal combination is battery power/RC/DCC, hence the fact that I find a system such as that from Tam Valley Depot is the sort that would have the most appeal. We wouldn't have to throw out all the excellent features that come with DCC while getting rid of that tedious and, as you comment, often confusing wiring business.

http://www.tamvalleyrr.com/wirelessdcc.html

I noted from the TVD website that they sell to the USA only and I would speculate that the frequencies that are used are not authorised for use in Europe.

The problem for systems such as Red Arrow and Protocab is that they would involve the re-equipping a loco fleet with different technology whereas systems like TVD allow you to keep all your onboard DCC equipment but access it in a different way.

 

David

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There was a large OO scale analogue layout called Hallgates around 10-15 years ago which used radio control. However, at least one fixed-formation coach was needed behind the engine to accommodate all the batteries.

 

Even with recent advances in technology, particularly miniaturisation, I don't think the push will come from the major manufacturers any time soon, they have too much invested in existing systems.

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There was a large OO scale analogue layout called Hallgates around 10-15 years ago which used radio control. However, at least one fixed-formation coach was needed behind the engine to accommodate all the batteries.

 

Even with recent advances in technology, particularly miniaturisation, I don't think the push will come from the major manufacturers any time soon, they have too much invested in existing systems.

 

The article in BRM from 1995 (yes, 17 years ago) clearly showed batteries in the smokebox and boiler of a 4mm tank locomotive, a Buckjumper I think, so I'm not sure why a coach would be needed to carry the power supply.

 

From the previous discussions of this subject and the generally negative tone of responses I have to conclude that most people are just in love with layout wiring!

 

David

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The article in BRM from 1995 (yes, 17 years ago) clearly showed batteries in the smokebox and boiler of a 4mm tank locomotive, a Buckjumper I think, so I'm not sure why a coach would be needed to carry the power supply.

 

From the previous discussions of this subject and the generally negative tone of responses I have to conclude that most people are just in love with layout wiring!

 

David

Agreed,

You would get to keep all the functionality of your current dcc system as the commands would be sent to the loco via the radio signal instead of the rails.

The big advantage would be NO TRACK WIRING EVER!!!!!!!, none at all, you could have as many double slips and diamond crossings as you like and not a wire insight.

Another advantage would be that you would be able to use a radio controlled loco on a 'wired' layout, so you could slowly replace your loco fleet one by one rather than having to have a big switch over like when you convert from DC to DCC.

I'm not sure why people don't understand the simplicity and ease of a battery powered radio controlled loco, perhaps I'm not explaining it well enough?

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LiPo batteries do seem to have some safety issues in relation to charging; not sure I'd want a carefully built model go up in flames. The NiCads in my digital camera are a right pain running out after a relatively short time. Still, seems a better idea than DCC once batteries are up to the job. For smaller scales indoors why not run power through the track and trickle charge? Then you're not absolutely reliant on pick-ups (big plus) but you may never need to actually charge things up.

 

Yes this works just fine. I use the method to keep the lighting batteries charged in my HO scale coaching stock and have use it outdoors to keep 1:20 scale loco batts topped up. Only your plain simple track needs to have a current supply, no frog switching etc to do. Brian.

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The loco in the video was just a battery and a small receiver mounted on two bogies and I just did it to prove the theory more than anything,

I could make a working version for 00 no problem, trying to shrink it to fit inside an ngauge body proved more challenging,

but given tome and a fair wind it should be possible.

The idea would be to replace the chassis with a chassis shaped battery, the chassis after all is only there to provide traction weight and an electrical path from the pick ups to the motor armature.

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The article in BRM from 1995 (yes, 17 years ago) clearly showed batteries in the smokebox and boiler of a 4mm tank locomotive, a Buckjumper I think, so I'm not sure why a coach would be needed to carry the power supply.

 

From the previous discussions of this subject and the generally negative tone of responses I have to conclude that most people are just in love with layout wiring!

 

David

 

It's probably the loco manufacturers who are in love with wiring. If affordable, reliable RC locos existed commercially with reasonable battery lives then I'm sure people would jump at them. I know I would.

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My Tomy, battery powered, toy trains can work with a Mr Motorman radio control pack. The battery fits inside a green barrel / receiver and goes in the locomotive battery compartment. It's toylike, but great fun and as a bonus, some trains have a basic, prototype sound to accompany the motion.

post-7473-0-10666300-1353696466_thumb.jpg

post-7473-0-10666300-1353696466_thumb.jpg

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http://www.flickr.com/photos/[email protected]/7496556152/ Here is Mr Motorman in action. Everything in this video is currently readily available on the internet, although, supplies have been patchy on occasions.

This might be toy like but it proves the point perfectly, plus you get all the sounds as well!

Thanks for posting.

There is absolutely no reason why this technology can't be fitted to the more refined models that we use.

Track-work as complicated as you like with...... absolutely no wiring and no more track or wheel cleaning.

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Unlike DC and DCC where the two dont mix well....battery powered and radio controlled locos could run on either system, alongside existing DCC or DC powered stock.  So the need to convert everything from day one is not required.

 

This has to be the future....does any manufacturer want to wake up to this.

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Totally agree on this concept.  For the tail-chasers of this world, en-route charging will be needed, but this can be accomplished on the plain track sections - leave all the S&C isolated.  For the shunters and protoypical operators (i.e. train makes one appearance then returns to storage for an extended time), the charging sections can be fewer.

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Unlike DC and DCC where the two dont mix well....battery powered and radio controlled locos could run on either system, alongside existing DCC or DC powered stock.  So the need to convert everything from day one is not required.

 

This has to be the future....does any manufacturer want to wake up to this.

 

It's already here and available and has been for a long time. Still, there's no rush to take it up either here in Europe, or in N. America where most of these systems are available and in use.

That may be one reason why it hasn't been taken out of its niche area and become more widespread or endorsed by the manufacturers?

 

Another couple of reasons may be that it either leads towards proprietary systems (commercial death), or to more open systems, where the user base can mix and match kit from other manufacturers, lessening the "tie-in" effect (bad for business).

 

For those who want it for H0/00 use, it's a pity that the Tam Valley Depot's DRS1 (mentioned earlier by David) isn't going to be put forward for EU approval.

This is the ideal conversion for any DCC system to become a completely (or part) wireless operation.

 

 

.

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It's already here and available and has been for a long time. Still, there's no rush to take it up either here in Europe, or in N. America where most of these systems are available and in use.

That may be one reason why it hasn't been taken out of its niche area and become more widespread or endorsed by the manufacturers?

 

Another couple of reasons may be that it either leads towards proprietary systems (commercial death), or to more open systems, where the user base can mix and match kit from other manufacturers, lessening the "tie-in" effect (bad for business).

 

For those who want it for H0/00 use, it's a pity that the Tam Valley Depot's DRS1 (mentioned earlier by David) isn't going to be put forward for EU approval.

This is the ideal conversion for any DCC system to become a completely (or part) wireless operation.

 

 

.

I have to disagree in part,

There is no rush to take up what is available because its not widely publicised and involves conversion and outlay.

Whereas if all new models from the main manufactures came out of the box with a rechargeable on board battery and radio receiver and the only additional outlay was a radio transmitter controller, then I think the take up would be extensive, especially if manufactures ceased making locos that collected current through the wheels, wipers and chassis.

I think they manufactures just don't get it, or probably don't want to get it, rather like oil companies that want to keep selling us oil until it runs out and 'then' they'll make affordable and practical electric cars available.

 

Personally I think they would sell more units as the hobby would become accessible to those who are put off by the complexity of wiring and the cost of dcc

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I have to disagree in part,

There is no rush to take up what is available because its not widely publicised and involves conversion and outlay.

Whereas if all new models from the main manufactures came out of the box with a rechargeable on board battery and radio receiver and the only additional outlay was a radio transmitter controller, then I think the take up would be extensive, especially if manufactures ceased making locos that collected current through the wheels, wipers and chassis.

I think they manufactures just don't get it, or probably don't want to get it, rather like oil companies that want to keep selling us oil until it runs out and 'then' they'll make affordable and practical electric cars available.

 

Personally I think they would sell more units as the hobby would become accessible to those who are put off by the complexity of wiring and the cost of dcc

 

Say someone was starting from scratch, do we have an estimate of the comparative costs of RC and DCC?

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