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Author Topic: The Ames' "Super Socket": A BAD decision for Bachmann!!  (Read 14720 times)
Steve Stockham


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« Reply #15 on: October 28, 2007, 06:05:23 PM »

Uh....Jim? What does a 48 Chevy have to do with whether one uses screw terminals or a "super socket"? The comparison that you make is so non sequitor as to be completely incomprehensible! Yes, technology advances. Yes, older products become "dinosaurs" but this isn't about 8 Track vs. cassette or VHS vs DVD (at least I didn't think it was...)
  Hmmm......I think I see where you are going with this! If this Hybrid DCC "Super Socket" works then it will revolutionize the Large Scale model railroad industry. Hmmm.....then I suppose that "dinosaur technology" like radio control (whether battery or track power) and digital sound cards like Sierra and Phoenix will end up on the scrap heap of history. Well, maybe. If it is to happen then it should be the market that determines that and not some secret "Star Chamber" WG that is trying to ram it down our throats!!
  For now, we have a significant percentage of Large Scale using r/c and this decision would disenfranchise them! It's possible to rip out all of this "new" technology but why when there is a reasonable compromise solution that allows for everybody's technology? The only reason that makes ANY sense is that this is a clandestine attempt to push this design over r/c systems!  Just look inside the new K-27 and see what's there. I understand that an earlier version of this "super socket" is already incorporated with more to follow!
  My concern is not with technological progress! On the contrary, I welcome it but I don't want my chosen method of powering and controlling my engines to be rendered unuseable by decree!
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Jim Banner

Enjoying electric model railroading since 1950.


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« Reply #16 on: October 28, 2007, 06:33:04 PM »

Bruce, I think you have raised some very valid points that have to be considered.  And Steve, I have never disagreed that a DCC only socket would be a terrible choice.  That is why I keep talking about "a suitable socket" and not just an NMRA sanctioned one.  I guess I have walked into (or talked my way into?) a hornets' nest here when all I really wanted to say was "Sockets could be good for us."  The  NMRA socket?  Who knows.  But having got involved, perhaps I should go the next step and say what I think a standard socket for large scale should include and how it could be implemented to keep us all happy.  Just so you know where I am coming from with this, I worked in the electronics industry for many years and have been a model railroader for even more years.  I install radio, batteries, sound and DCC in locomotives, and was designing and building my own multi train controls even before the days of CTC-16 and Keller Engineering.  Model railroading has brought me a lot of joy over my lifetime, and I try to help others share that same enjoyment.  In this case, by making it easier/cheaper to make their trains do whatever it is they want them to do.  If I put myself out of the business of installing electronics because it becomes easy enough for everyone to do it themselves, then I have done something worthwhile.

As far as a socket suitable for large scale goes, I envision a single socket with many contacts, but not necessarily a single plug.  Those familiar with the insides of computers know about the strips with many pins on 1/10 inch centers along two rows which are 1/10 inch apart.  These strips do not mate with a single plug.  Rather, a variety of single and dual in line plugs with whatever number of pins is required, and even jumper plugs to connect adjacent pins together are all used where necessary.  If a particular function is not used in that particular computer, nothing is plugged in at that function's position on the socket.  Best of all, these plugs and sockets are produced by the millions and require nothing special for a manufacturer to use.

A 60 pin socket is only 3 inches long by 1/4 inch wide.  Such a socket would easily fit in all our large scale equipment, but to also allow its use in 0-scale, we could just as easily have it 1-1/2 inches long by 1/2 inch wide.  The one major difference between what is used in computers and what we need in our locomotives is that computers use male pins sticking up from the circuit board.  We need the female socket pins on the board so that any unused connections cannot be accidentally shorted by loose screws or other metal parts.  The exception would be power connection pins which should be male, sticking up from the board to avoid having batteries with live male pins sticking out of their plugs.  Fortunately, the way these plugs and sockets are made, intermixing male and female pins is easy to do.

How would we figure out where the various plugs had to go on the socket?  Computers come with diagrams, but I think colour coding would be preferable.  Then it becomes a simple matter of matching colours.  Colour blind?  Then we can letter or number them as well.  Can't match colours or numbers?  Maybe collecting bottle caps would be a better hobby for you.

As pointed out by others, many small plugs cannot carry the currents we have to deal with in large scale.  But there is nothing stopping us from using more than one pin for high current applications.  Let's see how that would work.  Let's start out with 4 red pins.  the locomotive comes with two red plugs, each with two pins.  One is power pickup from the right front wheels, the other is power pickup from the right rear wheels.  Next is four black pins for the two plugs from the left front and back wheels.  Want battery power?  Remove the four wheel pickup plugs and plug in the battery.  It has a four pin plug with two coloured red and two coloured black.  The black end plugs into the black socket pins, the red end into the red socket pins.  Want to add a battery charger?  Plug its four pin output plug into the remaining red and black power socket.  Want the battery to charge from the tracks?  Plug the battery input plugs into the wheel pickup plugs.  Want an external charging jack?  Plug the jack into the charger input and mount it where you want it.  Want to add a second battery in parallel with the first?  Just plug it in ... oh, there are no more power input socket pins left.  But as anyone who has every installed an extra hard drive in a computer knows, Y-cables are available and cheap.  Once there is a demand, such ancillary hardware would also be available and cheap for large scale too.  Want to use Bruce's battery with just wires?  Use a screw terminal adapter that will accept wires from one, two or maybe even three batteries.

Next the motor control.  We can allot as many socket pins as we think necessary, doubling up on the higher powered ones.   Add a few extras for expansion if you want.  No need to coerce any manufacturers into using the mating plug but they might want to decrease their manufacturing costs by replacing their screw terminal strips with wiring harnesses and matching plugs.  Of course, they would want to keep on selling their older, larger, more expensive design with the screw terminals.  And they, or someone else looking for a niche market, would soon be supplying harnesses with plugs and one end and stripped wires at the other, already for us to attach to older, screw terminals units stripped out of old locomotives.

And what if those few extra socket pins turn out to not be enough?  Then we can add more to that section of the socket in future locomotives.  Say we alloted only 24 to start with.  But later found we really needed 36.  We just make the socket .3 inches longer to accommodate those extra 12 pins for the new motor controllers that need them and plug our old motor controllers into the first 24 pins if we want to reuse our existing hardware.  Of course we are going to lose something that a newer motor controller could operate, but we will not lose anything that our old controller could do.
Please note that the motor controller is unspecified, but would likely be a radio receiver or a DCC decoder, but could also be some other system that no one has thought of yet.  If the NMRA insists on some socket that interfaces DCC to all scales, that socket could be stuck in beside our large scale socket so that the locomotive could be sold as "Meets NMRA Specifications" although supplying each locomotive with an adapter cable from out large scale socket to this NMRA socket might also meet the requirements.

The same concept goes for sound cards.  Ones that plug into a proprietary interface of the motor controller board would still do so.  Ones like Sierra or Phoenix could either redesign their boards for plug in or just add harnesses.  The larger problem here is the incompatibility of inputs of Sierra and Phoenix - one requires pull up, the other pull down.  If this cannot be resolved, then adapter boards will be needed, as they are now, but would come with harnesses with hermaphroditic plugs that could plug into our large scale socket and have the sound card plug into them.  And that, in turn, would encourage which ever manufacturer wanted the lion's share of the market to adjust the circuitry to work both ways.  The advertising advantage of being able to say "works with radio and DCC" would pay for the rework.

There are other units that will, in time, have to be accommodated by such a socket.  Most of them have not been invented yet.  But such a socket accommodating many plugs with varying number of pins, allows for expansion as needed.  And ultimately, the space saved by using plugs and socket will help make room for these new units.

I think that should answer most of Bruce's questions except what to do when things go wrong.  The most likely thing to go wrong is a broken wire at a plug and troubleshooting that is exactly the same as finding a broken wire at a screw terminal.  Trouble shooting below the socket is the same at trouble shooting the wiring in any locomotive.  You figure out what is not working, then follow the wiring until you find out why it is not working.  Socket pins are very reliable and except for a cold soldered joint, not likely to ever give trouble.  The male pins that you plug into the socket can get bent and broken with careless handling but are replaceable on a board or by replacing a wiring harness.  But now we are getting into the area that we were trying to avoid by using plugs and screw terminals in the first place - that horrible job known as soldering.  Fortunately, there are manufacturers and skilled technicians available who will gladly puts things right if we botch them up.

I see that Steve has posted again since I started writing this.  I am sorry that he does not understand what I am trying to say about the difference between screw terminals and plugs in terms of space, and missed the point of my ramblings about standards and technologies continually advancing, but I hope that TOC and other readers can figure it out.  For Steve, let me say that I think we are more in agreement than you first though, but if you have read this far, I am sure you realize that.
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Curmudgeon
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« Reply #17 on: October 28, 2007, 06:53:32 PM »

It is not just the socket, but the space required for said socket, plus the space required above it, and the obvious disregard for battery users.
The lack of any specified nmra color coding stinks of "enfore\cement", as most non-technical users will not be able to wring out the wiring and remove the stupid thing.
For basics, 8 wires is all you need.
Track, motor, head and backup lights.
The Cu.In. requirements precludes it's use with speaker in the tender shell of a LS Bachmann Climax (we measured).


On cars, 35 years professional experience here, plugs are problems.
Continuously.

Often, we would cut them out (most were for ease of assembly in the body areas) and hard-wire them.

As far as the nmra not listening, based on previous experience, you are probably correct.

However, I have been appointed the head of the "comments" committee, and am here to receive comments, with name and phone number at the bottom, which I am categorizing in manufacturer, installer, and user, and passing along.

« Last Edit: October 28, 2007, 07:05:30 PM by Curmudgeon » Logged
Nathan

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« Reply #18 on: October 28, 2007, 07:54:29 PM »

>"But I am not at all confident that the NMRA is capable of coming up with a great design.  A couple of past fiascos leap immediately to mind - the X2f coupler"

The X2F coupler was never a never an NMRA standard.  It was an attempt at the time, BEFORE THE KADEE COUPLER WE KNOW TODAY was brought to market, to allow interchange of cars from various manufactures.  In the time frame there were a number of coupler designs, some hook and loop type(Mantua and others), some 'dummy'. some 'working', and vary few of them would work together.

The group that worked on it, including model railroad manufactures, was trying to come up with a reliable, low cost way to allow 'interchange'.  Several manufactures started putting the coupler on the equipment they sold PRIOR to the RECOMMENDED PRACTICE being finalized and voted on by the NMRA.  Once the Kadee coupler came to market, even members of the X2F design group could see it was a better design.  But remember, it was patented, and that the only way one could use the design was to buy the couplers from Kadee.

This is where trying to get ALL the manufactures to work together helps. It helps them in lower parts cost.  It helps the Model Railroader in allowing a person to pick and choose Locomotive from manufacture A and a control item (R/C, DCC, other) from manufacturer B and the two of them plug together and work without a lot of work on the part of the Model Railroader.  There are TWO different plugs being offered for the possible standard.  Once more, each has its backers.  There are even several ideas with in each group of the the use of the pins.

No manufactures has to use the plug.

>The lack of any specified nmra color coding

There are PUBLISHED color standards for the DCC area.  They can be looked at on the NMRA web site by any one at any time.  RP-9.1.1 Electrical Interface & Wire Color Code

More colors are needed, and that does require some on to step up to the plate and come up with the ideas.  Rather then spend time bad mouthing, why not be a help to all model railroaders world wide and tackle the job.

Have I done something in the area, yes, I have been working as part of the NMRA DCC working group.  Do I agree with every thing it has done, NO.

But the with out EVEY ONE working together we are going to loose more long term model railroaders because they can't get two large scale cars to even couple together.

Ever try and get a USA Trains car to couple to an Aristo-Craft locomotive with out changing the couplers?  How about coupler center lines?

And by the way, Bachmann is part of the NMRA DCC working group.
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Steve Stockham


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« Reply #19 on: October 28, 2007, 08:10:38 PM »

Jim,
  A well reasoned response. Yes, we probably are more than not in agreement! Space is indeed a major consideration. The design of this plug as currently designed precludes my being able to have all of the electronics that I personally want inside my locomotive unless it's a particularly large one. That to me is unacceptable. Be that as it may, I do thank you for your well reasoned answers to Bruce's questions. I may be guilty of a "knee jerk reaction" but this entire thing is leaving me cold! Sad
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Tony Walsham

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« Reply #20 on: October 28, 2007, 08:36:34 PM »

Jim, With respect.

If you had been following this "discussion" right from the start you would have seen that all of the above had been gone through already.

I repeat this is not rocket science.

Essentially the proposal is simply a modified AristoCraft socket which may or may not be adequate for the task at hand.
That socket already caters for the plug in (to the socket) type controllers and with which I have no argument.
Whilst I agree with Dave Goodson that for simplicity purposes only screw terminals would be ideal I am realistic enough to know that is never going to happen.
So, by simply adding a few low cost screw terminals to the socket pcb you would not need two different sockets to carry the higher current demanded by locos such as those made by USA Trains.
As far as I can determine all the high current R/C speed controllers & DCC decoders available, only have screw terminals for the power circuits.  There is a very good reason for this.  Only screw terminals can RELIABLY carry high currents.
Believe me I know.  I make the stuff.  I have been the plug and socket route and will never go back to it.
For technical and production cost reasons the screw terminals MUST be part of the socket.
Can you envisage any loco manufacturer who having agreed to a DCC socket without screw terminals and put them into production, then agreeing to another modified design?  I think not.

A suitable design that kept the basic AC socket (with screw terminals and a few modifications to cater for extra accessory functions with pins and plugs that would only be required to carry the low currents required) was proposed to Stan Ames.  He agreed with the design and promised that it would be incorporated.
Stan also understood that the basic method of wiring the AC Track - Battery switch would need to be modified to prevent accidentally coonecting the batteries to the track.  A problem which it currently has.  That fault can be easily overcome too.

The problem is, Stan reneged on the agreement and shunted the screw terminals off to the "internal wiring" part of the proposal, which they had never been a part of, before he rammed through the socket proposal for voting on WITHOUT screw terminals.
The "internal wiring" for battery R/C was only to include wiring of the battery power ON - OFF switch and the access port for actually charging the batteries in situ.  Again, not rocket science and which should be left free for the LS'er to select his/her method of choice.  After all the DCC user would not need that part, so why should they have to pay for it?

I am not knocking the socket per se.  I just want this done correctly from the start, and cater for all the various types of controllers.  I do not want this to be another balls up that would need later revision.
« Last Edit: October 28, 2007, 08:47:13 PM by Tony Walsham » Logged

Tony Walsham
Founding member of the battery Mafia.


(Remote Control Systems).
CCSII

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« Reply #21 on: October 28, 2007, 08:53:23 PM »

Those 3 inch long 60 pin headers are wonderful unless I have a new device that needs pins 2, 21, and 50, what do I do then (remember the computer manufactrer knows what to expect.) and what if someone else has already claimed pin 21 for their own use?
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japasha

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« Reply #22 on: October 28, 2007, 09:35:35 PM »

Being a veteran of the computer industry I see that the allegories about the computer standards  is mis interpeted. The actual bus was designed by IBM for their own expansion as well as the slot backplane. This allowed users to reconfigure to their own needs.

As I see this, all that is needed is a plug for power from track, power to motor and perhaps another for lights. The R/C would plug into the two power connectors and the lights would be directly from battery or track power. That's all that's needed . The rest is a real waster of time. Think about it: the motor needs power from sopmeplace, leads to the wheels for track power are needed. Wires from a plug to the lights are needed. the power from a battery and controller, R/C in this case, is all that's needed there. If you want to run track ower, then you plug the track power leads into the motor power lines. This is the system many of us have used for 25 years on our garden railways and it works very well.

DCC was a bad concept from the start. I really don't want it and could care less.  R/C has been reliable and can handle a lot of current, up to five amps thanks to the boys running cars and off-road vehicles. 

I use automotive type pins and connectors which can be expanded if I like.

Let me figure out what I want to use. Let other people do what they want but don't add cost where it isn't needed. 
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Curmudgeon
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« Reply #23 on: October 28, 2007, 09:43:00 PM »

Nathan:
"And by the way, Bachmann is part of the NMRA DCC working group."

So, you want a fight on your hands?
That is part of the problem.
Ames is part of the problem.
The nmra is part of the problem.

They are trying to fix a leaky faucet by replacing ALL the plumbing.

Color codes?
We ALL use nmra colro codes, yet the nmra rep in charge of the WG does not want it in the proposal.
If you would like, I can get the actual e-mail stating that posted here.

More colors?
The 24 pins needed for the "proposal" has all the colors it needs.

Imagine the next loco with all black wires to the board.
Or, on Tuesdays, it's pink.
Wednesdays it's light blue.

You make no sense in this.

How long have you been running radio battery out of doors in all weather again?
What part of California?

I know how long it takes to prepare one railroad in Chelmsford to run.
I just open the hatch, turn on the power, push the button, and run.
First trip I flick off twigs and leaves.

I do NOT want more plugs or more space-robbing circuit boards, and I certainly am NOT interested in an enema-ray that ignore this for 39 years to suddenly want to "fix" it.

If you are speaking for the enema-ray, then I will, in fact, tell you where to place the socket.
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Nathan

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« Reply #24 on: October 28, 2007, 10:22:27 PM »

Curmudgeon, once more, no one, no manufacture has to use any plug they do not want to use.  There is no law requiring it.

Yes, Stan has an Idea he likes, others do not like it, He does not control the Working Group.  You buy what you want. I buy what I want.

I like Shay's, and other small steam.  I do not need fancy sound or flashing lights.  Others in our club like Dash-9's, sound, and flashing lights.

And I am not in CA, I am in TX.  Some of our club members run R/C battery, some MTS, some DC, some DCC, some Live Steam, and we all enjoy our hobby of Model Railroading in Large Scale together.  Even though I am the club President, I do not force the NMRA, LSOL, or anything else on any club member.

When we find a problem with anyones equipment we try and find the 'true' problem, and if it is in the layout, we try and fix it.  If it is in the equipment, we try and fix that.  Do we disagree  on items, yes.  Do we:
 
"If you are speaking for the enema-ray, then I will, in fact, tell you where to place the socket.",

I hope not, but then we are human, and we all get a little upset once in a while.  In the end we enjoy our hobby together and try and make it a place for others to enjoy at the same time.
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Matthew (OV)


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« Reply #25 on: October 28, 2007, 10:55:02 PM »

Quote
Curmudgeon, once more, no one, no manufacture has to use any plug they do not want to use.  There is no law requiring it.

Weren't you paying attention? He didn't say, or even suggest the law required it.  He said that manufacturers would do modelers a great disservice if they did use it.  The WG does seem to have trouble listening carefully.

Quote
Yes, Stan has an Idea he likes, others do not like it, He does not control the Working Group.  You buy what you want. I buy what I want.

And if Stan has his way, we buy what he wants.  Sounds like control to me.  That's been explained in detail several times already.  Again, the WG is apparently not paying attention.

Quote
I like Shay's, and other small steam.  I do not need fancy sound or flashing lights.  Others in our club like Dash-9's, sound, and flashing lights.

So do we.  And we'd prefer not to have to have a 23 pin monolith to do so.
That's also been explained in detail, in fact, it's why everyone's angry about it.  The WG believes all locomotives are the same, apparently, and that one size fits all. We do not.  Is anyone paying attention?

Quote
Even though I am the club President, I do not force the NMRA, LSOL, or anything else on any club member.

So... why join a Work Group designed  expressly to do that to the large scale community at large? Don't the rest of us merit the same "Live and Let Live" philosophy?  Or did you think we weren't paying attention either?

The second string has obviously taken the field.  Let's give them a big hand, folks.....

Matthew (OV)
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zubi


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« Reply #26 on: October 28, 2007, 11:39:22 PM »

This discussion somehow reminds me of what was taking place back in 1994 with the discussion of the 'new' scale standards. Stan and a WG came up with a proposal, which everyone knew was against common sense and would disintegrate the 1:22.5 scale market. And, surprise surprise, it did... Those manufacturers (Bachmann, Accucraft) who quickly adopted the new idea, sending their 'absolete' product line to the museum, survive quite well, others, well not necessarily. Of course I understand that most of the participants here (unlike me) are the advocates of the 1:20.3 philosophy, so the comparison above may not be what you want to hear, but this should remind you of the autocratic ways of the WG and the longlasting influence the new standards will likely have on the future of the Large Scale. Advice from me, switch to live steam;-), no sockets necessary and you can run anything that runs, as long as you manage to make it run;-) in a scale mix of your choice;-))), Best wishes from Tokyo, Zubi
« Last Edit: October 28, 2007, 11:48:05 PM by zubi » Logged
Curmudgeon
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« Reply #27 on: October 28, 2007, 11:53:48 PM »

Curmudgeon, once more, no one, no manufacture has to use any plug they do not want to use.  There is no law requiring it.

Okay, I'll bite.
If it is mandated by the enema-ray in all LS locomotives, and you do not have the technical ability to wring out the wiring and remove it, who is requiring you to use it again?


Yes, Stan has an Idea he likes, others do not like it, He does not control the Working Group.  You buy what you want. I buy what I want.

Wanna bet? Who "volunteered" to head it up? I just recently was told there IS no list of requirements. We have one person who is the "filter" in a secret WG, we have NO IDEA if data is being passed either way. I do know several manufacturers he claims to have "on board" are NOT.

I like Shay's, and other small steam.  I do not need fancy sound or flashing lights.  Others in our club like Dash-9's, sound, and flashing lights.

What does that have to do with the price of tea in India?

And I am not in CA, I am in TX.  Some of our club members run R/C battery, some MTS, some DC, some DCC, some Live Steam, and we all enjoy our hobby of Model Railroading in Large Scale together.  Even though I am the club President, I do not force the NMRA, LSOL, or anything else on any club member.

Hey! Good attitude! You tried to force me, we would have a problem. You mandate a socket that ONLY specific control units will drop into, now I have a problem.

When we find a problem with anyones equipment we try and find the 'true' problem, and if it is in the layout, we try and fix it.  If it is in the equipment, we try and fix that.  Do we disagree  on items, yes.  Do we:
 
"If you are speaking for the enema-ray, then I will, in fact, tell you where to place the socket.",

I hope not, but then we are human, and we all get a little upset once in a while.  In the end we enjoy our hobby together and try and make it a place for others to enjoy at the same time.


I "fix" stuff all the time. What none of us needs is a 24 pin socket assembly, minimum space requirements 2.4" X 1.5", with 5.0 to 7.1 Cubic Inches of "air space" above it, subjected to the wet weather we often run in, corroding and having another gremlin to chase.
The rejection of the mandate of nmra color coding to the socket assembly from the loco is blatant in it's intent to remove any non-technical user from removing said socket board.
We remove them all anyway. I have bag, boxes, and drawers full of unnecessary boards, and this one will go the same place.
Personally, I don't have any problem with it, as I WILL remove it, and tell others how.It is the daily calls from folks without a clue as to how to "wring out" the wiring that has me concerned.
If you don't care, hey, good for you.
At least we all now know where you stand.
I will tell you, after a recent long conversation with one of the higher-ups at the enema-ray, they haven't got a clue about large scale.
No idea about BIG speakers.
No idea about current draw, throttles that handle 10 amps, 5 amp fuses that blow, batteries, or even weather issues.
Most are small-scalers, indoors, happy in their cozy cocoons, and when you explain real life to them, they still don't comprehend.
Nobody forcing us, huh?

If it comes in the locomotives, I shall make certain to have those in Texas contact YOU to remove it for them.
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Curmudgeon
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« Reply #28 on: October 28, 2007, 11:55:51 PM »

This discussion somehow reminds me of what was taking place back in 1994 with the discussion of the 'new' scale standards. Stan and a WG came up with a proposal, which everyone knew was against common sense and would disintegrate the 1:22.5 scale market. And, surprise surprise, it did... Those manufacturers (Bachmann, Accucraft) who quickly adopted the new idea, sending their 'absolete' product line to the museum, survive quite well, others, well not necessarily. Of course I understand that most of the participants here (unlike me) are the advocates of the 1:20.3 philosophy, so the comparison above may not be what you want to hear, but this should remind you of the autocratic ways of the WG and the longlasting influence the new standards will likely have on the future of the Large Scale. Advice from me, switch to live steam;-), no sockets necessary and you can run anything that runs, as long as you manage to make it run;-) in a scale mix of your choice;-))), Best wishes from Tokyo, Zubi


Do you know who fought that original proposal to a standstill?
Do you know who was in charge of that WG?
That was NOT fun, and I should have known that name would pop up again with something we had to fight.
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traindude109

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« Reply #29 on: October 29, 2007, 12:53:02 AM »

Whatever happened to the "fun" part of this hobby?

Now we have some guy trying to screw the rest of us over with some socket thing or whatever 99% of us won't ever use.  Angry Angry Angry Angry

This is very disappointing.

  Tongue Tongue Tongue Angry Angry Angry
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Matt

Boulder Creek and Western Railroad (G scale 1:20.3)
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