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Author Topic: Running two trains  (Read 4671 times)

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« on: October 20, 2014, 11:35:26 AM »

I need someone to hold my hand here.  I've got two large scale trains with plenty of track.  I'd like to run them simultaneously.  Which is easier and less expensive... convert them both to RC, or use DCC? 

Which would you recommend?

Please detail for me extactly what I need to buy to accomplish what you recommend.  Didn't see much for sale on the bachman web site for this type of conversion. 

Thanks for all your help.


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« Reply #1 on: October 20, 2014, 01:15:40 PM »

In order to help we need more information.

Which locomotives do you have?  Do you plan to have an indoor or outdoor layout?  Will both trains be running on the same loop with passing tracks or most of the time on separate loops?  How much experience do you have making changes to model locomotives?

What is a reasonable amount of money for you to spend?  Do you have other Large Scale modelers in you area that might come over to run their trains?  What do they use?

Kevin Strong

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« Reply #2 on: October 20, 2014, 01:24:57 PM »

A DCC system suitable for large scale will run you anywhere from $600 - $1000 depending on the brand, bells, and whistles. That gets you the command station which will control the decoders in the locomotives. The decoders for each loco will then run you somewhere in the $100 - $200 range--again depending on brand, bells, and whistles. (Literally, if they're sound decoders.) So DCC is a fairly heafty investment up front, but then the cost to outfit each loco is "fairly" low. "Suitable for large scale" is typically around 10 amps, and 20 to 24 volts.

With battery R/C, you'll need a transmitter ($100 - $170 depending on brand), and then a receiver/throttle for each loco. Those run anywhere from $90 - $150. If you add good-quality sound, you could find yourself looking at $300 - $350 per locomotive including batteries. Your cost per loco is greater, but your initial cost is much lower. If you want multiple operators, you'll need additional transmitters.

That's what it costs to jump into the pool. Lots of folks talk about the cost as being the primary consideration in choosing a system, but I don't weigh that aspect nearly as heavily as some. There are many other advantages and disadvantages which--to my thinking--play much more heavily into which direction you choose.

The primary advantage of DCC is that it's an open standard, so once you buy your command station, it will run any manufacturer's DCC-compatible decoder. If manufacturer "A" goes out of business or doesn't have product on the shelves, you just go to manufacturer "B" for their decoder instead. That mitigates a lot of uncertainty in terms of supply, and you can really pick your decoder based on the specific needs of your specific locomotive.

DCC decoders tend to be very "feature heavy." You can do some very cool things with them to make your trains behave just like the prototype. The downside is that programming the decoders to behave the way you want them can be tricky, and most of the high-end decoders are programmed most easily with a PC-based programming interface. High-end functionality, but you've got to be willing to do a little work to get those results.

Track-powered DCC works particularly well for those who run long trains that draw lots of current. If you're running passenger trains with lighted coaches, then track power is decidedly beneficial in that instance. Some folks have trains that by themselves can draw upwards of 10 amps with multiple locomotives, smoke units, and lighted passenger cars. Also, if you're looking to do automation with the trains, then track-powered DCC is going to give you the best advantage.

The battery R/C stuff tends to be more proprietary, so the level of complexity varies from system to system. Some are very basic, giving you just speed, direction, and lights, while others control DCC decoders, so they've got DCC-level sound and function control (with the programming that comes with it). You can pick your system to meet your needs, so you're either not buying functionality that you'll never use, or getting as much functionality with battery power as you would have with track-powered DCC. The downside of these proprietary systems is that they're largely not compatible with each other. If you choose one manufacturer's system, you're banking on them continuing to make and support it. Historically that hasn't been much of an issue, but--as always--past performance does not predict future results. Some folks use multiple systems to hedge their bets. Also, as technology changes, folks tend to migrate to the new system that has more bells and whistles. If you're going to buy multiple transmitters anyway, make one of them a second brand just to give yourself the added flexibility.

Regardless of which way you go, make sure you're comfortable with the user interface. No matter how the electrons are delivered to the locomotive, if you're not comfortable with how you deliver the commands to the locomotive, you're not going to have an enjoyable experience. If you've got a club nearby where you can "test drive" some of these different systems, by all means do so.

If you've already got your track down and the wiring in place, then DCC is certainly something to consider. You've (presumably) already engineered everything you need to combat voltage loss and other foibles related to track power, so it's "just" a matter of swapping out the analog power supply for the DCC command station. You don't mention what kind of rails you're using or anything like that, but there's a growing number of modelers who are using DCC outdoors without trouble. The advent of stainless steel rail has really helped them in that regard, but brass--kept properly cleaned--works just as well.

I'm an unabashed fan of battery power. I haven't run track power now for 30 years. No cleaning, no worries about voltage drop from one section of rail to the next, no feeder wires, you can design your railroad with as many reverse loops and wyes as you could ever want and not worry one iota about extra electronics to control them. The advent of Lithium-Ion batteries has given rise to run times of anywhere from 3 - 12 hours per charge with batteries that are lightweight and don't take up much space. I'm also a fan of DCC-level functionality, and the systems I use (Airwire and QSI) give me the same experience with battery power as others have with "traditional" DCC using the same decoders, so operationally there's not a whole lot different.




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« Reply #3 on: October 20, 2014, 06:11:24 PM »

...and THAT's about the best reply you are going to get from anybody, bar none.

I'm just about to lay out some hard-earned $$$/ to convert an AccuCraft K27 to r/c, not before time since I have twelve freight cars, three passenger cars and five cabeese to haul around, many of them Phil's Narrow Gauge products, or Mr Sheridan's or my own totally scratch-built.  Not much in the scheme of things, but a plentiful train here in UK where big layouts that permit the running of Fn3 without destroying half the landscape are passing rare.

Ottawa Valley GRS
« Last Edit: October 21, 2014, 10:45:24 AM by tac » Logged
Loco Bill Canelos

Model railroading since 1947

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« Reply #4 on: October 21, 2014, 09:15:58 AM »

Like Kevin I am totally into Battery RC for all the reasons he mentioned, I was one of the early users as well and Battery and RC have really become main stream.  The only thing I can add to Keven's excellent comments are that The Crest Revolution system of RC does offer receivers with built in sound.  The sound is generic and is available for steam and diesel.  The receivers with sound built in are around $90.  I use this system and like the fact that I can buy the receiver and have sound immediately with no additional cost.  On locomotives I really like and run often enough to make it worth the effort I add a Phoienix P8 system which is designed specifically for battery power.

Right now RLD hobbies has the revolution for $269

The Crest Revolution is a proprietary system and is dependent on the Company staying in business.
As a minimum I recommend two transmitters.  More fun  when two people are playing with trains together Grin Cool.  Also nice to have during an open house or show if one were to crap out.

There are some articles in recent issues of Garden Railways about installing RC, Battery and sound in the Bachmann 4-6-0 Annie if that is what you bought.

Most importantly have fun and enjoy playing with your trains.


Loco Bill,  Roundhouse Foreman
Colorado & Kansas Railway-Missouri Western Railway
Official Historian; Bachmann Large Scale
Colorado RR Museum-Brakeman-Engineer-Motorman-Trainman
There are no dumb or stupid questions, just questions!

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« Reply #5 on: October 21, 2014, 09:43:31 PM »

I'd like to mention the systems from RCS-RC in Australia and Del Tang in England. These systems use the RC vehichle standard DSM2 on 2.4 GHz. One of the reasons I chose these brands is because they weren't proprietary and if they did go out of business, I would be able to get components to continue to make my models work. I've ordered directly from both of these companies and shipping has been easy and painless. The customer support that I've gotten from both of them has been outstanding, my emails with technical questions have been answered very quickly.

If you're looking for a plug and play system, checkout RCS-RC. Tony has specific instructions for many of the Bachmann locomotives. Del Tang is a little more for the tinkerer. David offers his transmitters  in kit form as well as built. Some of his receivers are very tiny and people are using them in smaller scales. My first experience with DSM2 was with an HO Plymouth locomotives I converted. I used a receiver from Del Tang and built one of his transmitters up. It worked so well, that I decided to use it on my 1:20.3 scale equipment.


Patrick Kramer
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