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I had been out of the hobby for several years. I got discouraged after I built my outdoor layout than had to tear it out because I was a little over ambitious. I just recently got back into the hobby and I need to battery power two Bachmann Shays and a Bachmann Climax. I have my three truck Shay powered by Locolinc and a two truck Shay powered by RCS, albeit older systems. The question I have is, what are most people using these days for battery power?
 

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Welcome back to the hobby!

Some common battery systems being used right now are RailPro (radio control with touchscreen throttle), Bluerail (Bluetooth controlled via smartphone app), AirWire (radio control with some easy to install drop-in PCBs been made for some locomotives), and RCS.

I personally found RailPro to be the most appealing. I'm a visual person so the color touchscreen throttle with menus and being able to store a profile for each loco in your roster with a photo is neat.

Best,
Mike
 

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More and more people are using systems that can incorporate any DCC decoder, which gives them all the bells and whistles (literally). The motor control, lighting features, and the sounds are most developed in DCC decoders.

Greg
 

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More and more people are using systems that can incorporate any DCC decoder, which gives them all the bells and whistles (literally). The motor control, lighting features, and the sounds are most developed in DCC decoders.

Greg
Air Wire and the Revolution developed products that receive radio command and put out DCC information to any DCC decoder. These give you a lot of options. DCC is universal and used by many manufacturers, so you have many brands of decoders that will work. Rail Pro is pretty neat, but you are limited to there products.
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
Air Wire and the Revolution developed products that receive radio command and put out DCC information to any DCC decoder. These give you a lot of options. DCC is universal and used by many manufacturers, so you have many brands of decoders that will work. Rail Pro is pretty neat, but you are limited to there products.
I know absolutely zip about DCC. Does the layout need to be set up to use DCC or are you just using the decoder?
 

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the wireless receiver drives the DCC decoder directly. This allows use of any stock DCC decoder, with all the features.

This is the way AirWire works with the CONVRTR and the way the original DeadRail concept works.. (since then deadrail has been abused to mean any battery power)

Greg
 

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Does the layout need to be set up to use DCC or are you just using the decoder?
I believe you have to set up the layout for DCC, by providing constant/fixed power to the track. Each DCC decoder has a full bridge rectifier so the polarity doesn't matter.
Usually each loco has a decoder and they pick up the power and direct it to the motor, speakers, etc., after processing it into variable speed, chuffs, etc. I think - I've never dabbled in it but I have read the directions.
 

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Sigh!

there is a receiver with an antenna... it is hooked to your battery.

It has 2 outputs, that connect to the DCC decoder....

motor, lights, speaker all connect to the DCC decoder

Could not be simpler....

Now you send DCC commands over the air..

Airwire does this and so do many other systems. Lots of options.

My point was that it is a simple interface to something that has a lot of functions. IF you want lots of bells and whistles, go with a system that uses a DCC decoder. Even the Phoenix is a DCC decoder.

Now you have a wide range of sounds and functions and hardware to choose from.... lots of flexibility for you.

Then you can select a system that sends DCC commands, and there are several of them.

With more and more people wanting quality sound and more functions, this is the future, not getting locked into a proprietary system and then finding some limitation.

Greg
 

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A bit late to the party, but I've been away from the forums for a while.

You have lots of options today for battery power--from the ridiculously simple to the robustly complex. Which system is right for you depends 100% on what you're looking to do with your trains. If you just want the basic "push button to go forward" kind of system, then Piko's R/C system or G Scale Graphics' system will meet your needs. Both can be integrated with standalone sound systems from Phoenix and MyLocoSound.

RCS of Australia is still selling systems, though their web site shows the business itself is currently for sale. Like the Piko and G Scale Graphics systems, this can be integrated with a standalone sound system. The advantage of this system over the others is that RCS uses a knob for speed, so you're not guessing where your speed is set as you do with the pushbutton systems. (Personal preference showing through.)

LocoLinc is still in business and has a new generation of control boards, called LocoLinc Series 200. From their web site, it appears that they have the capability for built-in sound with their boards. I know nothing of their stuff beyond what their web site says (which is not terribly detailed).

The Train Engineer Revolution (now made by "Precision RC" after being originally sold by Aristo-Craft, then Crest Electronics) is a fairly full-featured standalone system that also includes sound in their receivers. The receivers are "plug-and-play" into any Aristo or Bachmann locomotive that has the 23-pin standard "socket" installed, but easily interfaced with other locomotives as well. This system ups the ante on complexity side, and allows a fair amount of customization to get the best performance out of your locos. I used this system for about 10 years with little reason to complain. The Revolution system offers sounds built into their receivers. It's been a while since I looked at their sound library, and I can't find a link to their current library on their web site to know how broad it is. You can easily pair this system with a Phoenix or MyLocoSound standalone board if the stock sounds are not to your liking.

Probably next on the evolutionary food chain is the RailPro system. This--like the others above--is a proprietary system, but is very full-featured. It offers good motor, light, and sound control, and has an extensive sound library, particularly for diesels. I have only played with this system as a guest engineer, but liked what I saw. I have not had a chance to play with programming of any kind with it.

Lastly, there are the DCC-based systems. These systems allow you to take advantage of all the functionality in terms of sounds, lights, and motor control which the latest generation of DCC decoders offers. This is arguably the high-end on the complexity scale, but that's because the DCC decoders are that complex. To get the most out of them, you really owe it to yourself to invest the time to learn how to program them. Which specific DCC decoder you might want to use is a topic unto itself, and in all likelihood you'll find yourself going with a specific decoder for a specific installation as opposed to a blanket of using the same brand decoder for your entire fleet.

Airwire, Tam Valley, Revolution DCC (different from the standard Revolution mentioned above), and BlueRail Trains. Airwire has two product lines. Their primary line is motor/light decoders, many designed as a direct plug-in to many locomotives. These will control the motor and lights (obviously) as well as smoke units and remote uncouplers. You can also control Phoenix sound systems with these boards, giving you a solid combination of motor, light, and sound control. They offer two controllers, one that you can use to program the boards, and another "OPS" version which is a simplified controller used simply to run the trains. You cannot program the boards with this transmitter. I personally prefer this controller for everyday operation as it fits my hand better. But I digress. Airwire has 17 distinct frequencies for when you have multiple operators in the same area.

The second line of products from Airwire is their "Convertr" line of receivers. These boards take the signal from the Airwire transmitter and send it to any generic DCC decoder. They're available in three different current capacities, though only the 2.5 and 6 amp versions are going to be reliably suitable for large scale. Tam Valley Depot also makes an Airwire-compatible receiver, though it's limited only to Airwire's channel 16.

Revolution DCC likewise sends a standard DCC command signal from its receiver to any generic DCC decoder. It's important to note that while the Revolution DCC transmitter looks identical to the Revolution Train Engineer throttle, it is not the same, and you cannot cross-control the two different receivers from the same transmitter. Sorry 'bout that. I've not had a chance to play with this system, but I hear from those who have that it is very similar in nature to the Train Engineer system. I'm not sure how that translates to programming the decoders. The company web site does not have manuals online to unregistered users. (personal pet peeve.)

Blue Rail Trains makes a bluetooth receiver which links your iPhone with a DCC decoder. For the moment, the system is limited to iOS only. Fortunately, iPhones can be had on the used market for prices less than the transmitters for some of these other systems, so even if you have to buy an iPhone just for this, it can be a cost savings. There are critics of the iPhone (or any smart device) as a controller, especially outdoors in the sunlight), but that's an individual subjective call. I use it and have no troubles. I also use the Airwire controllers with a mixture of Convertr and Tam Valley Depot receivers.

There's an article in this year's Garden Trains Annual which goes into a bit more depth on some of these systems, written by folks who personally use them. Also, it's worth asking at your local club (if there's one local) to see what folks are using. When at all possible, wrap your hands around a transmitter and run the trains yourself to see which features you like and don't like. There's no law saying you have to choose just one system, but at the same time, you don't want to toss money into a system that's not going to meet your needs or be confusing to operate one way or the other.

Later,

K
 

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Hmm... might update things a bit...

Tony is not doing so well, so I would not say "churning out" product.
Loco-Linc has had sound for years and years, so it's not new. I have used the system, and been exposed to the hardware a number of times. Nice to be fair to a long standing vendor, but not recommended at all.

I would put in the caveat, this has been a source of confusion many times lately,

just because you use an R/C system that ALLOWS use of DCC decoders in the loco, it does not FORCE you to learn DCC, or for that matter, you are not normally actually RUNNING DCC. True, to "tweak" the features in the loco, you MAY have to understand the CV settings in the decoder, but not necessarily.

Many people are "scared off" from using a DCC decoder in their R/C system because they feel they may be forced to "run DCC" which is not necessarily so, the R/C system itself is the "front end" / "user interface" that you work with.

Using a system that allows you to choose from the many different DCC decoders for the features you want is a boon, since the selection is so wide.

Greg
 

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Greg, thanks for the update on Tony. I amended my post, and certainly wish him the best.

You're correct, you don't "need" to learn anything about DCC to use a DCC decoder, but where's the fun in that??? :cool: One can buy a Jeep or a Ferrari and only drive it to the supermarket. That's not why one buys a Jeep or Ferrari. Modern DCC decoders are incredibly complex and customizable. That's their charm. It's why both you and I devote hours (days?) to customizing an installation to get the most out of a decoder in a given locomotive.

The good news for readers of this thread is that some of the new wireless control platforms make programming them relatively simple. For example, when you link a BlueRail receiver to the transmitter, you select which specific decoder you have attached to it. You can then go to the programming pages and see all the CVs specific to that decoder listed in "plain English" with sliders or numerical values where you can very easily make adjustments. You don't need to "know" which CV controls the master volume. You scroll down until you see "master volume" and adjust the slider to suit. It's a level of transparency that's been a long time coming to DCC decoders. (For those familiar with using JMRI to program DCC decoders via their PC, it's very similar in nature.) That's why I'm anxious to take a look at the Revolution DCC interface, to see how they handle programming. I think the days of "step 1: enter CV, step 2: enter value" with a long series of numeric entries on a keypad are soon to be extinct. And that's a VERY good thing.

Later,

K
 

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Tony is not doing well, but he is still making products. I just bought three more of his Txs that he made up. He’s trying to sell his business but still has product and continues to build components. I love my RCS stuff.
 
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