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Battery powered/Radio controlled locos


StuartM
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Hello Robin

I'm sorry that the Acc+Ess name has caused a search problem. I think that the name is now too well established but we'll certainly consider what you have said for the future and continue to review how much of a problem for us it might be.

We're keen to release products as soon as possible, Robin, but we won't release anything until they have undertaken full testing to our satisfaction. The Protocab system is very detailed and each part of the system has to be tested by itself and in use with other components. Whenever we introduce a design enhancement or fix, we undergo detailed regression testing which is where we are currently. However, the light is getting bigger at the end of the tunnel, but, as they say, I hope it isn't another train going the other way!

Meanwhile we're very interested in your experiences reported on here.

Best regards

Tony

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"Although we've managed to take around 30% out of the footprint during development this would still be too large for 2mm, hence my apologies for posting here in error."

 

Please don't apologise,

BPRC should be encouraged in any gauge, as it is the future of the hobby

Also as the technology becomes more widespread it will eventually be able to be shrunk down to ngauge/2mm.

 

Personally I welcome any individual or company that can make BPRC available to the mass market

keep up the good work and please keep us informed of your progress as not everyone who will read this thread will be an ngauge/2mm modeller

Rgds,

Stuart

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This may be old hat but there's a feature about BPRC in the May Model Railroader, though more directed at HO. They briefly review two commercial systems available for HO in the US, S-Cab and Tam Valley 'Dead Rail'. It sounds as if BPRC is about at the stage DCC was at say 10 years ago. But that's not to say it will take another 10 years to become mainstream, I don't think it will.

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I was speaking briefly to David Jones of Dapol (I hope I have his name right) at the NGauge Society AGM - he has no plans to introduce radio control because he doesn't believe the batteries give a long enough run time (I hope I am correctly reflecting what he said).

 

Many of the discussions of BPR/C link it with DCC - basically sending the DCC signals by wireless rather than through the track.

 

Personally I think all of these views miss the point of BPR/C - which is that IT JUST WORKS, and you need to know nothing more about electricity or wiring than you do to operate an R/C car. Ok, its very easy to "wire up" the oval of track in a trainset. But as soon as you introduce points you have to understand something about wiring and polarity. And a reversing loop becomes a nightmare of short circuits. And all this before your track gets dirty!

 

People only expect R/C cars, boats and planes to operate for minutes rather than hours and they usually have fast chargers that replenish the batteries in 10 or 15 minutes. I know that at exhibitions some layouts have intercity express trains running continuously round an oval - but I strongly suspect those are unusual cases.

 

The reason for DCC was to allow individual trains to operate simultaneously on the same track, and to improve power pick-up by the use of a higher voltage. You don't need DCC to do that with BPR/C - the Deltang receivers already provide this and have scope for lights and such like. I think the people who insist on linking DCC with BPR/C will be left behind.

 

It should be pretty easy to make an onboard sound system for BPR/C which adjusts the sound according to the output of the PWM power for the motor, though personally I don't think even O Gauge trains have room for big enough speakers for realistic sound so onboard sound is not something I will be experimenting with.

 

...R

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I fully agree with Robin2's sentiments above.

 

The revelation for me when I switched on my first radio control loco for the first time was that it just works! No nudging, no prodding, no thumping the baseboard, it just goes when you say go. This is particularly useful to me in modelling small locos in 009 which are well known to be difficult to get running smoothly and slowly as their contact with the track is limited.

 

The second thing, that takes a bit longer to sink in, is that you really are driving the loco. Your controller, in your hand, controls what the loco does. No fancy control panel to fiddle with. No isolated sections to park it, no dead sections in front of points if you have forgotten to change them, it's all down to you.

 

The third thing, that I am only now coming to think about, is that it removes all the constraints on layout design. If you want a reversing loop, put one in. The same with double slips and crossovers. You don't need to worry about the electrical issues that stopped you putting them in before.

 

And the fourth thing is that you can think about going out into the garden with small scale locos without worrying about electrics or keeping the track clean.

 

I don't think battery life is an issue since most locos are not running flat out all the time. If they are really just chasing round an oval, then probably DC is all that you need, and you can have this and radio control at the same time of course. In time of course batteries will continue to improve so this will be less of an issue in the future.

 

Frank

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I agree with both of the above,

There is a real inertia within the industry i.e. Dapol, Bachman & Hornby to engage with this technology, every reason they can think of not to embrace BPRC can be rationally counter argued.

Battery technology is improving all the time and unless you want to run a high speed train at full volume continuously round an large oval then battery life should not be too much of a problem and, if you want to run locos at a realistic speed or operate a shunting layout or a small terminus then so much the better.

 

The whole point is to free people from track wiring and track cleaning.

Point work as complicated as you like and not one single wire.....ever!

Why they can't see this as a selling point is beyond me?

It will come in time.

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I would guess the major manufacturers have a fairly good idea of where they make there money. I expect currently there is little interest in their customers to pay for radio control/battery powered locos. I think for most purchasers of electrical items, they only tolerate batteries where they have no choice.

 

At the moment, it is relatively easy to add in dcc as an afterthought, there is a sort of standard. As yet, afaik, there is no such standard for the radio gear, and then you have to add in a battery. Folk are complaining about the price of rtr locos, and adding batteries and rc is unlikely to reduce that price.

 

Personally, I think if any manufacturer of rtr was to dabble in rc  they could immediately lose money, so it would pay them to be cautious.

 

It is one thing for a small company or a few individuals to make something (a kit, if you like) and make a small profit, and it is quite another to ramp it up to completely fitted/tested rtr units for a more mass market.

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I would guess the major manufacturers have a fairly good idea of where they make there money. I expect currently there is little interest in their customers to pay for radio control/battery powered locos. I think for most purchasers of electrical items, they only tolerate batteries where they have no choice.

 

At the moment, it is relatively easy to add in dcc as an afterthought, there is a sort of standard. As yet, afaik, there is no such standard for the radio gear, and then you have to add in a battery. Folk are complaining about the price of rtr locos, and adding batteries and rc is unlikely to reduce that price.

 

Personally, I think if any manufacturer of rtr was to dabble in rc  they could immediately lose money, so it would pay them to be cautious.

 

It is one thing for a small company or a few individuals to make something (a kit, if you like) and make a small profit, and it is quite another to ramp it up to completely fitted/tested rtr units for a more mass market.

Having read all seven pages of this thread from start to finish.... Don't ask how long that took, lol. I think this last post sums up the situation as far as the manufacturers are concerned perfectly. Also the suggestion that individuals making the moves forward is the way this is going is the same way I seem to remember DCC started 15 or so years ago after manufacturers, like Hornby got beaten severely by their Zero1 system. Therefore I think it is down to small concerns, making kits to be fitted by individuals to progress this technology and I for one will be supporting the small concerns in making this technology to move it forward.

 

Cheers

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I don't agree with some of the assumptions on which RAYMW bases his conclusions.

 

DCC is not easy to add as an afterthought - it's not even physically easy to connect the DCC chips never mind understanding how to code them correctly. And the DCC controllers are far from cheap. I have spent less converting my locos to BPR/C than I spent on a Hornby Elite and decoder chips. Indeed I am hoping I can sell the Elite and recover some of my cost (before everyone turns to BPR/C). My batteries cost 76p each.

 

While a battery-free world might be wonderful I think the more appropriate comparison is whether people would prefer unlimited "intermittent" mains powered running or time limited uninterrupted battery powered running. For me the latter wins hands-down.

 

I do agree that the standards issue is an obstacle and, unfortunately, the many different approaches to BPR/C don't help. Also some people (perhaps those who are already using DCC in a very advanced way) expect BPR/C to offer even more technological advances (such as feedback from the train to the controller) and are scathing of simpler systems.

 

...R

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I stand as someone who does believe in a future for R/C.

 

However - it does no favours to distort the picture....... DCC IS surprisingly simple to install at a basic level - I've done it, and I'm sure many others have. Installing it it locos is arguably simpler than an RX (assuming no sound), and I found that wiring my layout was extremely simple.

 

One also must remember points. They still need switching, either by power or manually - and many people are still going to choose power..... I know I would, for aesthetic reasons alone!

 

It is also possible to get really good, reliable running through conventional means - so it does no good constantly decrying their achievements in that area.

 

I had all sorts of problems with RC when working with 27MHz, trying to get these tiny RX's to work (only 18 months ago) it was only with the advent of Deltangs 2.4GHz teeny stuff that the job has really become easy, realiable and affordable - so any manufacturer who deals with 12v motors, moulded plastic and diecasting is well out of his comfort zone in this area. (the trials and tribulations of supplying and warranteeing compliant transmitters and receivers, and what happens over the years to the 2.4GHz frequency? - and they thought they were simply selling a model loco...)

 

Sadly, I have at least one loco which would be inpossible to radio control without ruining it's appearance - but at some stage I shall still do at least one for the fun of it.

 

 

Lastly, I suspect that loco manufacturers will never touch batteries themselves, and would only ever source off-the-shelf items - so specially shaped batteries may be a very long way off, unless someone develops a mouldable polymer battery.

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I think maybe I wasn't clear enough about "easy to install" in my previous post. What I meant was that DCC is not easier to install than installing nothing. There would be nothing to install if the loco comes from the factory ready-to-run with BPR/C as standard. And I think that was/is the thrust of Stuart's original post that started this topic.

 

I have installed DCC on three locos (which are now converted to BPR/C). For the first two I had to get the digihat conversion parts from DCC Supplies and it was very fiddly to fit. Last year I got a class 101 dmu which had a 6 pin DCC socket, but it was very difficult to get the body from the chassis - I was sure I was going to break something. Even now, knowing how to do it I have left the body off until I have completely finished with my BPR/C conversion. And by the way I consider myself fairly competent at tinkering with mechanical and computerised things.  It seems that even in the context of DCC the manufacturers are blinkered - knowing that the body has to be removed why didn't they attach it with a simple-to-remove screw.

 

The other thing that may not have been clear in my earlier post is that DCC is only easy if you "get" the overall concept. 

 

As far as I can see there are a great many people who have to "get a man in" to change a light bulb or a tap washer - and it seems more and more are growing up without learning any mechanical skills. Some people may be happy to reserve railway modeling for the "elite" that are confident to take things apart and do basic soldering. But I would much rather see it made available to the widest possible selection of the population, including those that are barely competent to insert a mains plug, but who appreciate the aesthetics and history of railways.

 

...R

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Members wishing that BPRC will be (somehow) DCC compatible stems from the natural modellers instinct of not wanting to waste anything! (Commercially the “cheap-skate skin-flint modellers”, especially in the UK, must (MUST) be factored into the business plan.)


There is also the 'depth of knowledge' and familiarity (confidence!) of DCC that must also not be underestimated.


 


It maybe the wish that the DCC decoders could be used. Or even, more sensibly, that the Controllers be still used. Both with the extra electronics in-between.


This is possible BUT it WOULD be more expensive than having totally new standard that was not backwards compatible, and thus, less 'buggy' and much quicker/cheaper to development!


 


 


On a different recent note, I like the phrase “it just works”.


 


But lets be careful.


Look what the phrase “Just 2 wires” did for DCC...


 


 


Kev.


(PS. BPRC does need to be retrofit-able – it just does!)

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It is the dcc communications protocol that is useful. it doesn't matter whether it is communicated through the track, radio, infra red, ultra sound, or whatever. It is a standard that is the most popular, and has been fairly widely  adopted. At the moment, as far as I know, the radio systems do not implement this, they use their own proprietary methods, which appear to be limited in functionality.

 

If we want to talk diy, then rough retail pricing of rf receiver £5.00, transmitter £20.00, ir receiver 25pence, transmitter (but you need a few  - 10pence) - these piggy backed onto existing dcc control gear. It would not be difficult to then run rf/ir and track all on the same layouts while the changeover was commenced. Now, afaik, the Deltang, and the like does not have such a rich protocol as dcc, and it may mean an all or nothing change. It depends also, on the scale of the model - 2, 4, 7mm or larger, as to the ease of fitting batteries, etc. For an individual, whether any of it is worthwhile depends on their personal wishes, capabilities, and disposable income. 

 

My previous post was about the model manufacturer's perspective - Hornby, Bachman and the like. Their manufacturing requirements are nothing like the DIY approach, they have to keep it simple since they have no control over the capabilities of the purchaser.

 

I'm not saying which system is better dc or dcc protocol, since it will depend on personal choices. When I was young clockwork was fine - and it still has advantages today :good:

 

Best wises,

 

Ray

 

(btw I wish there were more 'sensible?' emoticons here)

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The generation of radio control which is under development at the moment has the ability, unlike all earlier systems, to utilise two way communication. Meaning that a controller can have real time feedback from a loco, which will open up a whole lot of possibilities that were just not available with DCC. Since most of the control criteria are likely to be written in software it will be possible to simulate DCC control, but I confident that most people will soon seen DCC as a limitation rather than an asset.

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Members wishing that BPRC will be (somehow) DCC compatible stems from the natural modellers instinct of not wanting to waste anything! (Commercially the “cheap-skate skin-flint modellers”, especially in the UK, must (MUST) be factored into the business plan.)

There is also the 'depth of knowledge' and familiarity (confidence!) of DCC that must also not be underestimated.

 

It maybe the wish that the DCC decoders could be used. Or even, more sensibly, that the Controllers be still used. Both with the extra electronics in-between.

This is possible BUT it WOULD be more expensive than having totally new standard that was not backwards compatible, and thus, less 'buggy' and much quicker/cheaper to development!

 

 

On a different recent note, I like the phrase “it just works”.

 

But lets be careful.

Look what the phrase “Just 2 wires” did for DCC...

 

 

Kev.

(PS. BPRC does need to be retrofit-able – it just does!)

I disagree, perhaps in the UK where modellers are notoriously tight fisted, but the largest market is the States, where the tendency is to buy new.

From a purely business point of view the manufactures can shift 10 units in the States for every 1 sold in the UK.

 

If people really wanted to retro fit, then they could retro fit their old bodyshell onto a new BPRC chassis, but I say start from new.

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I'm curious to know what you have in mind for 2-way communication?

I can't see it being necessary to make trains go and stop, or to control sound.

 

Also I am curious to know who has this stuff "under development".

 

I'm sorry to be negative but I see this as a case of the best being the enemy of the good. And maybe I am just old and crotchety enough to want to keep things simple and not waste development manpower of fancy trifles.

 

...R

 

The generation of radio control which is under development at the moment has the ability, unlike all earlier systems, to utilise two way communication. Meaning that a controller can have real time feedback from a loco, which will open up a whole lot of possibilities that were just not available with DCC. Since most of the control criteria are likely to be written in software it will be possible to simulate DCC control, but I confident that most people will soon seen DCC as a limitation rather than an asset.

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I'm curious to know what you have in mind for 2-way communication?

 The radio protocol used allows for full 2-way communication between the transmitter/controller and the receiver/model. So with model aircraft, for instance, depending on exactly which sensors the model carries, to is possible to have a full cockpit display on the transmitter/controller with real time information from the model.

 

Whether people would be interested in that with model railways I don't know, but it is certainly possible the simulate both the regulator and valve gear positions and therefore have the choice of driving on one or the other. And it will be possible to have things like a fuel gauge (reading battery charge) or a sensor which allows you to position your loco over the uncoupling magnets. 

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 The radio protocol used allows for full 2-way communication between the transmitter/controller and the receiver/model. So with model aircraft, for instance, depending on exactly which sensors the model carries, to is possible to have a full cockpit display on the transmitter/controller with real time information from the model.

 

Whether people would be interested in that with model railways I don't know, but it is certainly possible the simulate both the regulator and valve gear positions and therefore have the choice of driving on one or the other. And it will be possible to have things like a fuel gauge (reading battery charge) or a sensor which allows you to position your loco over the uncoupling magnets. 

 

Precisely.

 

The benefits of two way communications can not be overestimated, or indeed, quantified.

The use of two way comms allows many varied, interesting and unimaginable new ideas to be implemented – some of which you have already alluded to already. (This is the main area that interests me.)

 

Another useful readback would be current consumption as this would be a direct indication of “how hard” the engine is currently working. This would be useful for battery consumption, loco condition or even track condition. All useful for diagnostics, trouble shooting or just plain old curiosity! Temperature (battery, ambient, motor, etcetera), could also be useful. Then with the aid of a simple strain gauge, you can start to measure draw bar force which, combined with speed and instantaneous current consumption, could be the beginnings of a tractive effort calcs. (The strain gauge(s) and speed sensors would probably be better in a specially designated coach – lets call it a “Dynamometor”!

 

Video would be even more useful/fun but its implementation would be severely limited by the bandwidth available.

AWS (magnets), indicating signal states, would be easy to send back to the controller/operator.

 

In short, many more aspects of real railways could be brought to life in model form – if only you so chose to use/buy/implement/beg/borrow/steal the required equipment...

 

 

Kev.

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I have been dabbling with an Arduino microcontroller for a month or so and it just occurred to me that you can get them (or clones) in very small sizes. For example this Moteino device http://lowpowerlab.com/shop/index.php?route=product/product&product_id=50 is only 1.3in x 0,9in and includes a radio transceiver. It only costs about £12.

 

You would need some extra hardware to handle the motor power but for less than about £30 it should be possible to have a user programmable microcontroller in a OO/HO or bigger loco with full two-way radio communication. This would be much more versatile than a DCC chip.

 

It wouldn't fit in small NGauge locos but it seems so interesting I think I might buy a few for experimenting.

 

...R

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Hi Stuart,

 

Try this:

 

 

This is the 009 loco in the videos I posted in post 102 above. It's a Peco tram loco body kit on a standard Kato n gauge tram chassis.   It's running on a sheet of glass standing on a couple of plasic boxes on my table.  The controller is there too.  That's all there is - no big electronic box of tricks off stage or anything.   And it's all built with off-the-shelf DelTang electronics and a standard battery.

 

The future has arrived.

 

Believe it!

 

Frank

Hi Frank,

What battery did you use to power this loco.

And in hindsight would you do anything different?

 

Same question to Robin

 

I'm thinking about converting a GraFar 04, perhaps using a shunters wagon to house the battery and receiver

Rgds,

Stuart

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Hi Stuart,

 

The battery is a Hyperion 180mAh 1S ie single cell. The loco takes about 60 - 80 mA when running, 10mA on standby, so in theory this will run it for 2 - 3 hours continuously. In practice of course it is very much stop - start and I have not had it run down in use. I also now have a Narrow Planet RNAD diesel that I have made up, this also runs on the Kato chassis and has the Hyperion 130 mAh cell which also seems fine - its a bit smaller so the 180 mAh cell would not have fitted. I got my batteries from Micron but they have stopped selling components now; you can get them from Robotbirds though I think.

 

The Peco kit was put together very quickly just to see if it would work, doing it again I would have taken more time on the kit bodywork and also tried the radio hidden in the body instead of having it in the cab. This would have needed some way of seeing the status LED, and also possibly routing the antenna into the cab. For the RNAD loco I do have the radio in the body, I have put a transparent beacon made out of styrene sprue in the top of the bonnet just where the LED is to show the status, this looks OK on the bonnet of a diesel but would look a bit odd in the boiler of a steam loco.

 

Also the RNAD has a charging plug fitted whereas the Peco requires the battery to be taken out to charge - not a problem as the top of the body lifts off so it is easy to get to, but with other models this may not be so convenient.

 

I would be interested in seeing how you get on with the 04, this is probably about the same size as my RNAD which is 009 of course, but I have the advantage with that of using the Kato chassis which is very low profile and so still leaves room in the body for the battery.

 

I have looked at some quite small 009 locos using an Arnold chassis which has the motor mounted well back, projecting into the cab, and this leaves some room in the loco body, but the GraFar chassis may not work like this although it has been suggested you can remove at least some of the metalwork on the 08 chassis to make some space. I have not looked at this myself.

 

Frank

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