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Discussion Starter #1
My name is Robert and I am a new trainaholic. I am building a 12x 8 L shaped HO layout and struggling with going DCC or dead rail. I bought the dead rail parts for a locomotive and realize the restrictions of not being able to run DCC units . What is your suggestion? Thanks! Looking forward to asking lots of questions.

Hi Robert,

I own a Deadrail layout. Layouts without wiring are sometimes referred to as BP/RC (battery powered/radio controlled)

Whatever questions you may have I will try to respond to, as will others here I am sure.

Although I have run my locomotives on other dcc layouts, no dcc modeller has ever commented that he was disappointed not being able to run his own personal locomotive on my layout.

Hope to hear from you. All the best

Rickie
 

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There was a long thread here about dead rail a few years back. I seem to remember that a popular viewpoint was that for HO, battery life was the major restriction. You would be spending an inordinate amount of time recharging locos instead of running them.
Given that some time has passed, is this issue resolved?
I personally think dead rail is a great idea. It makes track cleaning, polarity, power routing and a whole host of other issues moot. Others feel differently, and so we
have a discussion.

A couple quick points: Who is Robert? Never saw that Q&A format before. Was that pasted from another post?
And I have always had difficulty with adding ‘aholic’ onto any word except alcohol. To be a ‘trainaholic’, one would have to be addicted to a substance called ‘trainahol’.
But that’s just me. Trainiac perhaps?
 

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I'm with prrfan on this. I have not used deadrail locos but have used the Faller Car system - cars and trucks powered by their own self-contained rechargeable batteries in N or HO gauge that run autonomously on model roadways you built on the layout. It worked well but I spent so much time changing out rechargeable batteries, etc., and "managing" the chargers and all was an annoying distraction form running trains.
 

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Discussion Starter #4
Hi Everyone,

Yes, I cut and pasted this question from Rob's introduction post to the Forum because I wasn't sure how to reply to him where he might actually see it. Maybe he still won't but I hope he does.

For me personally, I will never return to dcc or a wired layout.

This is my second layout. My original was wired. When beginning this layout I purchased a Digitrax system and still have it, never having removed it from its box. I plan on selling it I suppose.

When I was getting started and after having framed in my benchwork, I picked up a copy of the 2016 Great Model Railroads published annually Model Railroader. On page 82 was a feature on Steve Sherrill's Shady Grove and Sherrill Rail Road.

In the article, Steve explained how he powered his locomotives using Del Tang transmitters and receivers powered by Lipo batteries. I was intrigued and went ahead and purchased the same equipment plus some small Lipo batteries. The result has been very successful in my view. You can also watch Steve in YouTube videos as he explains how his railroad works.

I would like to add here that the reaction by traditional model railroaders has often been negative. They have generally been quite critical of this form of propulsion and control.

For me though, my locomotives run like the real thing, they are independent and can go anywhere I want them to, with no polarity or dirty track issues and the slow speed operation is fantastic. I simply have nothing negative to add.

The first comment I hear from other traditional model railroaders usually relates to the probability of constantly having to re-charge batteries. My layout is not complete but is indeed 75% finished. I mention this because I am still spending time building rather than operating. This means I seldom run trains for long periods. But my experiment to see how long my 2 cell lipo battery would last between charges is a little over two hours of constant running with three cars and a caboose (van).

My battery is installed in the tender of my steam locomotives. I have wired them is such a way as to be able to easily remove them for recharging. I pop them out in about ten seconds and replace the tired battery with a charged one.

I charge them with a balancing charger while watching television. It takes between ten to fifteen minutes to charge a lipo battery.


In my particular case the reliability of the Del Tang transmitters and receivers have been excellent. HO equipment is plenty big enough. On my lone diesel (for my grandchildren) I have purchased an F class locomotive so that I could install the battery inside the dummy B unit as I've had difficulty getting a battery into a diesel casing without a lot of interior surgery.

Hope I haven't stepped on any toes. I appreciate this forum so much since I joined and love communicating with other model railroaders. We have a wonderful hobby.



Rick
 

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I doubt you've stepped on any toes, but you haven't sold me, for one. Polarity issues and power routing issues only need to be solved once, when setting up the track. And the time it takes me to clean all my track is less than you spend to charge one battery. I don't see an advantage that outweighs the hassle of changing batteries, and potentially having to retail your rolling stock if you knock it off the track.

While the overall concept isn't a bad idea, until someone perfect cordless charging so I don't have to touch anything,, and give me 3-4 hours duration between charges, I won't be in the fan club.
 

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There’s another problem with dead rail for people who have been in the hobby for a while. A lot of us have amassed various sized collections of track powered locomotives. Some of these collections are substantial. How easy is it to convert these to DR? Not very, I’m guessing.

I still think it’s an interesting concept, but maybe better suited to someone first starting out rather than people who already have a lot of traditional equipment.
 

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Dead Rail

Guys,
Thanks for the comments. Since I am at the optimum place to go either way, I just wanted confirm the experience of those who have spent time with this type setup. Part of research before I commit!

Has anyone used an isolated part of track that has power for recharging? I could invision a dead end siding that would be used for that function.
Thanks,
Robert
 

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In 10 years there will be induction charging where you roll the battery car over a charging station it charges in minutes. :)

I'm old school and will always run powered track, but I'll be dead in 30 years. Or sooner.

h59rob, I don't know anything about deadrail, but I'm certain there are ways to make the charging easier. Maybe roll it over a section that has a third rail or something?
 

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Long battery charge times are what's turned me off of electric cars.....but as was stated, 10 to 15 minutes of battery charge time for trains is totally liveable....
 

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There should be a simple electrical solution to charging batteries while in the locomotive and on the tracks. A simple slide switch hidden on the locomotive shell to turn on and off a circuit to charge the batteries from a charger hooked to the rails.

But I'm not sold on it either. Even if it were this easy.
 

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Discussion Starter #11
Hi Rob,

To respond to your last post Rob -

You asked: Has anyone used an isolated part of track that has power for recharging? I could envision a dead end siding that would be used for that function.
Thanks,
Robert


In regard to charging Lithium Polymer batteries (LIPO) the concept of charging from a powered track has not been perfected.
Lipo batteries need to be "balanced" as they are being charged.

One of the brighter modellers operating a deadrail layout recently stated:

The science of rechargeable batteries is complex. I am a retired EE with extensive work experience with battery powered electronic devices. LiPO batteries are new and somewhat unique compared with earlier types like NiCd and NiMH. For now, best bet is to remove the battery and charge it on a balanced charger. An important step is to monitor battery voltage. All of my battery powered locos have a jack which permits easy check of battery voltage.On-track charging needs to be carefully approached and is not by any means a simple project.
 

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Discussion Starter #12
Rob,

When the conversation turns to unwired layouts, the subject of recharging batteries often arises. But in my view, it isn't really as unwieldy an obstacle as people often perceive.

If a multi-cell Lipo battery is used, (for instance a two-cell Lipo or a three-cell)........ then you are looking at two hours of run time. Not many of us run a locomotive for a longer period of time.

When they are powered "on" but not actually running, they essentially don't use any power (they do use a tiny bit)...... so if you were running three locomotives, probably one or two would be stopped at times, waiting for another train etc..... so run - times are usually even longer.

When powered "off" they use no power whatsoever.

Lets face it, nobody would want to stop an operating session because a Lipo battery shut down due to a lack of sufficient power.... thereby requiring fifteen minutes of re-charging. Instead, a second, "fully charged" Lipo replaces it's discharged team-mate.

Regarding "charging," my balancing charger can charge three Lipo batteries at the same time and balance all three. I would never re-charge batteries during a time when we were using the lay-out. My habit is to charge them in off-hours while i'm downstairs watching TV. When batteries are fully charged the charger shuts itself off.

I wired my previous layout and understand first-hand what man-hours were involved with that task. As I got better at it, I ran a bus line and I was pretty happy with that layout which lasted twelve years. If I had been more experienced I would have actually wired it before I covered the benchwork with plywood, but unfortunately, I didn't and subsequently spent a lot of time underneath..... :)

Just some thoughts.
 

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Discussion Starter #13
Hi Rob, I believe you mentioned "I bought the dead rail parts for a locomotive."

May I ask what brand you purchased? What system you're interested in?

Here are some details you may or may not already know.

While I have been interested to read about other systems of train control, I have only developed first hand experience with the system that I have personally adopted.

All the various systems out there that have been developed for battery powered, radio controlled model trains are different from each other.

They are also different in the size of the Receiver they have developed that fits inside your locomotive.

What I did, is choose the smallest Receiver that I could find. Then I purchased the smallest 2 cell Lipo batteries that I could find.

The smaller the battery - the smaller the amount of power storage. This means in my case, a "power" storage capacity of 180mAh and 200mAh.

A 2 cell Lipo is smaller than a 3 cell Lipo and therefore fits inside HO equipment easier.

Any standard lipo battery puts out 3.7 volts of power.

Therefore a 2 cell Lipo battery (two batteries stacked on top of each other in a single package) puts out 7.4 volts of power.
Our DC equipped locomotives are quite happy to run on 7.4 volts of power. The only effect of not receiving 12 volts DC is on top speed. So my locomotives have a lower top speed. They have very good low speed capability and can creep slowly across you dining room table or your track. Top speed is very acceptable if your looking for realism.

Hope than info is of some help to you.

Cheers

Rick
 

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Rickie,
Thanks for the response. I got the parts from DeadRailInstalls about 3 years ago. I am curios as to what receiver you are using and what battery though. I assume that many of the current parts are more efficient and smaller than was available 3-4 years ago. If I follow you correctly by using the 7.4 voltage, there is no need for the up charge to 12 volt function built into the older boards? Can you send me a wiring diagram for your install as well as the source and model for the parts you are using? Does your setup have sound on the receiver board or how do you address the sound? I am trying to install in a 3 truck Shay. As to the track charging, can a section of isolated track be connected to a balancing charger and work successfully?
 

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Discussion Starter #15
Hi Rob,

Wish I could figure out how to post photos on this Forum. I appear to be so brain dead that no matter how much I try it doesn't work. Other people seem to breeze right through this stuff.

As I mentioned previously, my locomotives are powered by Del Tang receivers and transmitters. The Del Tang receiver is the smallest model train receiver a person can buy. It is well made and probably the best fit for the tight spaces we face with our HO scale equipment.

The Del Tang receivers and transmitters are actually purchased these days from a larger company called Micron Radio Control. This is a British company that I've received very good service from. We buy these products online and they are shipped to our door very well wrapped. These people are available to communicate with by email and can answer all of our questions (remember, they are five hours ahead of us) :) Micron provides radio controlled products for all applications but has made up a special section just for model trains. Here it is:


http://www.micronradiocontrol.co.uk/rc_model_rail.html


Here as well is a YouTube video concerned with Steve Sherrill's
conversion of his On30 guage model railroad to Del Tang products. It's worth looking at. Although he's running O scale size equipment you can get a pretty good feel for Del Tang products by watching this video.
Here it is:


I think that people should bear in mind that there is nothing complicated about deadrail but there is indeed a lot of information gathering to do. Once you understand it, it's pretty easy stuff. But there is a lot of new information to absorb.

In my case I wanted the simplest method available and I believe that Del Tang (Micron) plus their American competitor, Bluerail provide it.

But Bluerail for my purposes still sells a larger receiver than does Del Tang and that means everything to me. I believe I need the smallest receiver available plus I need a simple installation process.

Another personal preference is that in my case I do not need any special features. Therefore the fact that Del Tang does not offer sound is no problem for me.


But most people these days, yourself included would like to also have sound. What I wanted was simply "forward / reverse and speed control and that's what I get with Del Tang. That's all Del Tang provides although they do indeed have the "momentum" feature, but although it's provided on my transmitter, I don't use it.

This post is getting really long, but I would also like to add that the equipment for a DCC railroad is fairly expensive to buy. But similarly, Dead Rail receivers and transmitters are also fairly expensive too. So I don't think any real money is saved when a person chooses to build a deadrail layout.

Rob, you also asked in your last post: If I follow you correctly by using the 7.4 voltage, there is no need for the up charge to 12 volt function built into the older boards? answer: - Yes, you are correct. These DC motors run quite happily on 7.4 volts and the only impact is the fact that top speed is lowered.

Rick
 

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Discussion Starter #16
Rob, I forgot to include the details of the exact receiver I buy from Micron. They have several to choose from but many modellers are choosing this one. It comes included with with a built-in "reed" switch that allows me to turn the locomotive "on and off" by passing a magnet near the receiver even though the receiver itself is inside the tender and the magnet is outside the tender. Here is the url to that Micron page that describes this particular receiver ..... the Rx62

http://www.micronradiocontrol.co.uk/product/deltang/dt_rx62.html


Rick
 

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Rick,
Thanks so much for the info. I will study up and have you another set of questions shortly. Thanks again!
 

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Discussion Starter #19
Sourcing Lipo Batteries

Hi Rob,

Merry Christmas. Good to hear from you.

If you go to a hobby store that specializes in RC airplanes, boats and cars they will have the big lipo batteries that those hobbies utilize bit they will also have smaller lipo batteries as well. Available are single cell lipo's (one battery) plus 2 cell, 3 cell, 4 cell and on up.

For model railroading we do fine with a 2 cell lipo battery (the short form is written as 2S) which puts out 7.4 volts. (Every single lipo battery puts out 3.4 volts) A 2 cell battery is two 1 celled batteries piled on top of each other.

I've probably gone into too much detail here I realize. You will notice that "equal powered" rectangular shaped lipos can be longer and thinner than the square lipos which are then thicker. It all depends on what space you have available in your HO scale locomotive.

Cheers

Rick
 

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Rickie

Posting pics here on the forum is quite simple.

You write your post, then click on the paper clip next
to the white smiley face above. That will take you to YOUR
photo files. Click on the one you want to post, or
as many as you wish, then again click on the paper
clip, and the proper choice. That will place your
pics in your post.

Don
 
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