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Author Topic: Why Does Power Still Come through the Rails ?  (Read 7546 times)
twofoot

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« on: September 05, 2009, 10:25:46 PM »

I've been out of the hobby for a few years and still can't believe power for the engines still comes through the rails.  With all of the advances in small electronics, why not remote control ?  Is this because hobbyists feel that's too toy like ? It sure is a simple way to operate to me. No messing with problematic switches, dirty track or wheels.  I don't get it.  Please explain, thanks.
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jonathan


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« Reply #1 on: September 05, 2009, 10:39:04 PM »

I am electronically challenged, and I'm sure somebody else will offer a more intelligent answer, however...

Can you imagine the size and weight of all the batteries that would be required to operate a model train by remote control?  Even with today's high tech juice, It would be an expensive challenge.  Tesla had some interesting ideas about transmitting current through the air, but economics got in the they way of that one.   

Model railroading is relatively economical because the mechanics has been kept relatively simple over the years.  Yes, we have to deal with dirty track and wheels, but my simple mind gets the concept.  Just my opinion of course.  If MR ever gets too high tech to understand, I'll go back to golf.

Just my two cents,

Regards,

Jonathan
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JerryB

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« Reply #2 on: September 06, 2009, 12:37:20 AM »

My (mostly Bachmann) F (1:20.3) scale engines are 100% R/C'd using self contained batteries. My Centennial 2-6-0 also has a sound system that automates things like chuff, air compressor, etc,. but also has real time operator controlled access to the whistle, bell and blow down. The lighting is also controlled through the shirt pocket sized R/C transmitter.

The locomotives carry 14.4 volt batteries with 1600 to 2000 mAHr. In the 2-6-0, the batteries and speaker are in the tender with the R/C receiver, Electronic Speed Control and sound system in the boiler. In the 2 truck Shay, the batteries & speaker are in the tank and the R/C components are in the boiler. I get around three hours of continuous running at moderate speeds. Lots more when switching with the Shay.

I have a Climax that is awaiting funds for conversion. It will have R/C, sound, and self-contained batteries. The Climax is close enough quarters that I will have a professional do the installation.

My layout does not have any track nor other electrical power. I do have about 6' of track on my workbench with a D.C. power supply available. This track is used for testing new acquisitions prior to putting in R/C.

I use direct acting pneumatics for turnout control. I will also use pneumatics for any animation or other control functions that I add in the future.

In my opinion, rather than being "toy-like," the R/C + battery system comes the closest to supporting true to life railroad operations in miniature.

I have looked at the possibility of doing smaller (than F) scale remote control. I think the current practical limit using off the shelf components is probably 0 scale standard gauge or, in deference to our host's products, perhaps 0n30. Having written this, I'm certain someone will immediately post a movie of an N (or Z?) scale fully remote controlled model RR using self contained motive power!! Shocked

The size and weight of the batteries, even to supply the higher currents necessary for F scale is really not a problem. Newer battery technologies should fit lots of hours of run time into a steam engine + tender or mid-sized diesel unit at relatively low cost. The necessary electronics are already small and simple from an installer and user stand point. As an example, a 75 MHz receiver with five or more conditioned servo outputs is well less than $20, and the recently released 2.4 GHz receiver / servo controls are even lower in cost. Both of these units would definitely fit into 0 scale equipment.

twofoot wrote:

"It sure is a simple way to operate to me. No messing with problematic switches, dirty track or wheels. I don't get it."

Yep, I do get it, and it rocks!!

Happy RRing,

Jerry
« Last Edit: September 06, 2009, 01:41:40 PM by JerryB » Logged

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Atlantic Central

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« Reply #3 on: September 06, 2009, 09:18:12 AM »

twofoot,

As Jerry explained very well, larger scale trains are now easily powered by onboard batteries and R/C.

And even in scales as small as HO, there are systems available to use R/C control direct to the loco using the track only to provide raw power.

Batteries of adiquite power and small size may well be next. any many in the hobby would like to see that happen.

Sheldon
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Cody J


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« Reply #4 on: September 06, 2009, 05:54:47 PM »

I model HO scale and personally like the ease of having the locomotives powered by the rails. Since I am 13, I like not having to but batteries for the trains. All I have to do is plug it into the wall and mom will pay for the electricity to run it, if it were  battery powered I would have to buy batteries which in turn, would not let me buy new stuff for the layout.


cody
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Robertj668

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« Reply #5 on: September 09, 2009, 09:05:58 AM »

That was a great question!  I will be honest at first I was saying to myself that was an odd question.  But I tell you. I stand corrected and that was a great question and has sparked my curiosity. I do no think I would ever switch but i glad it was asked.

Though I am happy running my trains powered by rails. Though I do not consider it toy like.

Kudos to you twofoot for the question!
Kudos to you JerryB for doing it! And I agree with the newer generation batteries who know how that can adopted in the model train world. Though I want to upgrade my interior lighting to battery power!

Robert
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Hellhound


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« Reply #6 on: September 09, 2009, 08:19:10 PM »

It is still the simplest and most cost effective way to power a model locomotive. No batteries, no charging and no wireless remote control with its own battery. Rechargable batteries with high power density are expensive and have a finite lifespan. A 50 year old track powered train set can be hauled out of the attic, cleaned up, oiled and run. Don't have to replace a battery pack or failed electronics. Many large scale outdoor layouts are battery powered and radio controlled because of the difficulty of reliably feeding power through the rails in an outdoor environment. I have looked at G scale locomotives that can be powered and controlled through the track or by an onboard battery and radio control depending on where they are to be operated.   
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RAM

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« Reply #7 on: September 09, 2009, 09:59:19 PM »

Lighting of car with low voltage lightage on batteries is great, but when it comes to locomotives track power is best, unless it is outdoor layouts.  In that case there is live steam.
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rich1998

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« Reply #8 on: September 09, 2009, 10:31:34 PM »

i see a lot of real railroads run by electricity in the rails where i live
lex
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rogertra


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« Reply #9 on: September 09, 2009, 10:35:39 PM »

One day, probably in the not too distant future, small watch type batteries will be powerful and long lasting enough to power your average HO scale locomotive.

Imagine.  No more wiring issues, no more short circuits, easy complex trackwork as wiring is a non issue.  The engine batteries could recharge on a recharging track or tracks.  Out in the open these could be your engine service tracks and in your staging, a simple section of track long enough to accommodate your longest engine consist.

If you are a modern modeller, track circuits on running lines are a breeze.

The cost of track could possible be cheaper as there'd be no need for electrical isolation.

Yep, battery power is what we should all hope for.

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Johnson Bar Jeff

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« Reply #10 on: September 10, 2009, 11:47:29 AM »

Weren't the early Bachmann large-scale trains battery powered?  Huh?
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ebtnut

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« Reply #11 on: September 10, 2009, 12:07:44 PM »

Tiny, high-power batteries are right there with high-efficiency solar panels - the technology is "just around the corner".  The problem is still getting to that corner.  The large scale guys have NiCad battery packs that are big enough to power a loco for a couple of hours, but then you have to recharge the battery, which means the loco is out of service for however long it takes to recharge, or have another battery pack ready.  There is also the matter of complexity.  Battery power then means some kind of small R/C receiver/current controller gets added to the mix.  And in the medium run, you should be looking at the high-efficiency (and expensive) micro-motors.  And then you'll need R/C controllers programmable to the individual receiver frequencies for each loco. 
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Jim Banner

Enjoying electric model railroading since 1950.


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« Reply #12 on: September 10, 2009, 02:07:20 PM »

Weren't the early Bachmann large-scale trains battery powered?  Huh?

Yes.  They ran on half a dozen D-cells or an optional rechargeable battery pack (probably gelled lead-acid.)  That was Bachmann's first foray into large scale and I suspect that their market research told them that users of large scale wanted something cheaper than imported large scale and something with batteries and radio control.  They were cheaper, a lot cheaper, than the competition and allowed many of us to get started in G-scale.  Unfortunately, minimal price meant the radio control was not up to the standards of say model aircraft radio of the time.  The motors were small (to conserve battery power) and tended to overheat when pulling more than a couple of cars up small grades.  I know I melted the motor mounts in a couple before I started adding fans to cool the motors.  But they sold huge numbers of sets with these locomotives in them, and I, for one, am grateful that they did.
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Robertj668

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« Reply #13 on: September 10, 2009, 03:45:05 PM »

Hi the following statement is meant to entertain not be mean!  But with talk of all of the hybrids out there. I said lets take is to the Model railroading! Yo never know.

Maybe we could have Hybrids.
If your train runs less that 500 Scale miles a day it would be purely Battery.  then at 501 an electrically powered generator (electric from the rails will kick in the charge the batteries. also once the engine reaches it destination it could be connected up and charged for a time of 10 Hours scale hours and it will be good to go.

Robert
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Jim Banner

Enjoying electric model railroading since 1950.


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« Reply #14 on: September 10, 2009, 05:51:16 PM »

With the concept of wind power firmly in the news (at least in my corner of the world) maybe we should eliminate the middle man and generate our own power.  A small propeller at the front of the locomotive to spin a generator and keep the batteries charged.  The faster you go, the more charge into the batteries.  If you go fast enough, you should have some power left over to sell to the local utility.  Grin

Jim
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