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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I'm a year away from actually acting on my plans for some outdoor railroading (guess why I don't call it "Garden" Railroading). At this point, I'm leaning toward Aristocraft units, brass rail, battery power and CSS remote control. Not sure about sound at this point.

I've read comments about the distance that CSS is effective for. Since I plan to, at least eventually, have a mainline running most of the way around my 3/4 acre homestead with main operator station at the (rail)yard at the rear of the house, I expect I'll lose control of an engine that's passing by the front of the house.

Thus, my question: has anyone tried an external antenna to get extra range from the unit? As a licensed amateur radio operator (here come the HAM jokes) I have lots of experience installing antennas on rooftops. That sounds like a good solution to the problem, at least for me.

I realize that's a year or two down the road, but I'm trying to plan for the "big picture".

Comments would be appreciated. Guffaws accepted.

jack
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
Sorry I added to the confusion. I meant RCS, not CCS or CSS or whatever else I may have typed in.

Since my plan is for a long-distance railroad that circles the house, a roof antenna would eliminate the house as signal-blocker so I can maintain control of a train at the other end of the area. I also hope to install a color TV transmitter in the engineer's seat and I'll need a central receiving antenna because the transmitter is only good for about 300 feet of open space. My amateur radio license would allow me to add a power amp, but improving reception of the weak signal would be preferred.

I'm thinking that the 27 mHz R/C units could have their range extended by swapping the whip antenna with an antenna on the roof. I'd be willing to bet that a simple CB antenna on the roof would offer a fair increase (CB band is on 29mHz: close, but a bit inefficient). Presuming the whip antenna is removeable from the xmtr unit, you'd only need to wire a similar connector to the CB antenna strapped to your chimney. (Roof work is dangerous; do so at your own risk.) Easiest would be a simple wire dipole which could be strung horizontally between two trees, or chimney and a tree, etc.

Here's a link to instructions to build a simple wire dipole, courtesy of the ARRL (American Radio Relay League) website: http://www.arrl.org/tis/info/pdf/9304064.pdf

If you decide to look at it, notice the dimensions for the "10-meter band". That's 28 mHz, right between CB and your R/C! Close enough.

jack
 

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Discussion Starter · #12 ·
I take a drive for a few hours to visit a new G layout and have much mail to respond to. Hmmmm....

I didn't want to be too specific lest it be perceived that I'm trying to advertise a product I sell (a little sideline of mine). My TV camera/xmtr transmits on 434 mHz (cable channel 59). Its signal is normally good for 3-400 feet in an open area; picture starts to get snowy around 300 ft. 434 mHz is in the amateur 440 band, so I, as a licensed operator, am allowed to use a power amp if necessary to get the job done. For the non-licensed user the unboosted unit is in that grey area of "too weak for anyone to care". Power amp would NOT be a good idea.

Re: signal strength, different situations have different rules. Most transmitting devices, when outputting within their authorized limits (whether licensed amateurs or laymen), can use any type of antenna: beams, yagis, dipoles, etc. This is sometimes confused with broadcast stations who are licensed for very clearly defined power output and directionality in order to "protect" a neighboring station on the same or adjacent frequency. This is "ERP", effective radiated power. I happen to be the Chief Operator (not Chief Engineer) of a non-commercial station that uses an 11,000 watt transmitter and three-bay antenna to put out 5000 watts between SouthEast and South of our tower, and 15000 watts the rest of the compass. Be glad you don't have to deal with that stuff.

Beyond all that, I do apprecaite your comments since I have yet to invest anything except thought into Garden Railroading. I'm gradually learning about the hobby to the point that I may break ground next summer, although I may take the plunge this winter and buy an RDC and install TV in it and try it out on a friend's layout next Spring. Your comments help me avoid re-inventing the wheel.

jack
 

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Discussion Starter · #14 ·
An excellent and helpful summary, Paul; trualy, #3 should be plenty for most situations.

I made a rudimentary map of my lot today to get a better feel for the distances and obstacles involved. The back yard is easy, about 100 hundred feet from patio to farthest the mainline is likely to go. Good, so far. But the mainline running around to the front of the house could be, from the patio operating position, 75 feet as the crow flies (through the house!). For the sake of dependable communication, I suspect I'll be strapping a six-foot vertical to the chimney.

jack

Let's see....A square + B square = C square.
 

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Discussion Starter · #16 ·
Tony -

Maybe it's because I grew up in the days of AM radio. Your car goes under a bridge and you momentarily lose the radio station. I work in a one-story building where most cell phones can't connect with the outside world. I've been dealing with a Wi-Fi company that wants to put their antennas on our tower because it's the highest spot for miles.

But if you say I can expect to have good reception 75 to 100 feet away, with the house in between, I'll gladly accept your say so. I don't really NEED another lightning rod up there.

Regards,
jack
 

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Discussion Starter · #19 ·
I don't recall saying anything about a 100 ft. tower. It's a single-story house. And I did refer to the various angles involved (that little postscript "A square + B square = C square).

Nor did I mention "walkaround" at all. The goal in this case, at least occasionally, would be to control the train while seated with adult beverage in hand. The TV camera/transmitter would keep the engineer informed of what's going on from the 1:29 engineer's perspective. A picture leaning to one side would surely indicate a problem that needed attention.

Curvature of the earth is not the question, it's the walls of my house that might dimish the effective signal. (FYI - the Wi-Fi company I referred to does indeed want as much height as possible even though their signal will be nowhere near the 50 mile horizon.)

Anyway, I guess we've pretty well beaten this to death. When I get up and going next summer, I'll let everyone know if I make any unexpected discoveries. I do appreciate everyone's thoughts on the matter.

jack
 

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Discussion Starter · #23 ·
Tony, C.T., et al.,

Let's go back to my original post, which asked: "has anyone tried an external antenna to get extra range from the unit? As a licensed amateur radio operator....I have lots of experience installing antennas on rooftops. That sounds like a good solution to the problem, at least for me." I never said I wanted to put up a 100 ft. tower. However, for about ten years I manufactured and sold a line of outdoor antennas (PVC and CPVC encapsulated) for amateur radio.
All things being equal (that's the qualifier), I'll take a rooftop antenna to a rubber ducky any day. I raised the question because I plan to have my mainline get out pretty far, often without my personal supervision.

Actually, from my professional broadcast experience, when dealing with hundreds or thousands of watts, greater height beats the same signal from less height. I like rooftop antennas, so I'll slap one up there in a minute. I was asking if it'd be a good idea in this case.

At this point, I don't know the power output of ANY R/C system, so I don't know whether loss would be prohibitive thru 50 feet of RG-8, ladder line, or Heliax for that matter. If the antenna isn't attached to the handpiece via an "F" or other connector, I guess I'd have to open
'er up and see what's what. I'm handy with a soldering iron and printed circuit boards don't scare me (but LSIC does). As to having both R/C and TV xmtr in the same unit, I know how funky intermod can be. Maybe yes, maybe no. My color TV xmtr is about the size of half a stick of chewing gum with a lens stuck to it. For all I know, a piece of tin foil might be all I need to get the spurious emissions, motor noise, etc., out. If I can't get it right, I know the guy who designed it. He might be able to help me.

Slow down data transmission? That's something I never thought of. You might have me on that one.

Steve S's suggestion at the bottom of the first page of this thread seems like the best yet for my situation. Makes sense, easy to do, and I won't have to drag out the extension ladder.

jack

Funny - right below the box where I'm writing this is an ad that says: "Buy Hi-gain WiFi and Wlan antennas - Booster your internet signal." Doesn't everybody want a stronger signal?
 

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Discussion Starter · #26 ·
C.T. -
"putting the antenna on the chimney may be a good idea if it is in the middle of your layout... not the physical middle, but the point of "least-obstructions-between-transmitter-and-receiver" middle."
Agreed. I never indicated it was in an inadvantageous location.

"I have set the power level on my wireless router down a couple of notches....I specifically do NOT want "more power" to reach my neighbor kid's bedroom (so that he can chew up my bandwidth trying to break the secure wireless encryption scheme"

I did not indicate I wanted to boost my signal to run someone's train a mile away. You missed the irony of that ad popping up during this discussion.

"yes getting at least one of the antennas (transmitter or receiver) away from mother earth usually helps a bit by reducing the effect of ground reflections and signal absorbtion from vegetation (broad succulent leaves absorb RF wonderfully!). But at the usual low power levels of the typical consumer R/C system, much more than twice head height adds little to the usable distance they work at."

At last, the kind of information I was looking for!


Tony -
"I respectfully suggest you do some research before spending any money."
Maybe that's why I asked the original question.
 
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