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Discussion Starter #1
Hi all,


Please be gentle, this is my first post.
I've just bought a second-hand-but-never-run MTH Challenger, and want to convert it to battery power.
It is lovely, especially when I got the sound to work, the main connector inside had come loose inside.
My question is - some of you have already done this type of conversion, so what type of power controller do you use from the battery?
The reason I ask is that the loco seems to have its own on-board controller with presumabably some form of PWM.
It runs perfectly well from my LGB 51070 controller, first the lights and sound come on fully, then a bit more power and it actually starts to move.
However, is it just expecting to see a smooth DC voltage, and set its speed from the voltage?
This would mean a 'simple' voltage controller could be used, rather than a PWM type.
 

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There are other here who know more but I'll take a crack at it.

MTH has its own proprietary control system, which it calls "DCS." It's designed to run by sending command sgnals along the track, like with DCC. It's got a bunch of really sophisticated features, but to make the most of it you need the MTH DCS track interface and throttle.




Some people have managed to get MTH trains to run on battery by taking the track interface out of its case and mounting it in a boxcar. I know I've seen a couple threads on that. The track interface unit is pretty big and won't fit in a loco--it's a tight fit 1n a 1:29 boxcar, as I recall.

I think--and I may be wrong about this-- that to run it on batteries without the track interface unit you'd need to gut it and take the sound out. I'd be really hesitant to do that, becasue the built in sound and control features are a major part of the attraction of MTH



If you just want the basic sound, without the bell and whistles, it ought to be possible to use a simple DC controller, as you suggested
 

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I would consider it a shame to waste high end DCS technology like that. Consider options and think outside the box. There are people on this site that can help you out here.


gg
 

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There is another way.

I know of a couple of conversions where the DCS was ripped out and sold to people who wanted to add DCS to non MTH locos.
Then a decent battery R/C system was installed along with Phoenix sound.
 

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Discussion Starter #5
Thanks all!

I'm going to pursue lownote's suggestion a bit further.
It seems like you feed the TIU (Track Interface Unit) a steady DV voltage, such as from an on-board battery set.
Then feed the TIU's output to the loco through a changeover switch, to isolate the track pickups.
Thanks to Stan Cedarleaf for his tutorial on a now archived thread, and Rayman4449 for his copious MTH/DCS pages.
 

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First off, welcome to MLS!

Phil (Fil) can help you get this converted to battery power with no problems as he's put a TIU in a box car and now runs his DCS equipped engines under battery with full digital control.

You do not have to gut the engine to run it on battery power without the TIU. You can use your other battery based controller to control the voltage to the engine as you would with a normal engine and the engine will run and sound will work. You will not however be able to trigger the bell or whistle or access the other features. DCS equipped engines can run on straight DC or AC power (without a TIU) just like any other track power based engine and can be converted to battery power in the same way by tapping the track power pickup leads (just like you said).

As a note do not use a PWC (pulse width control) power supply with DCS. I assume since you are running battery power this would never be an issue.

To summarize, you can run a DCS engine:

- With the TIU under full digital control by applying a fixed voltage to the track(or from a battery) (AC or DC power) 18-24v (I would run as close to 24v as I could)
- without the TIU with either AC or DC power by using a throttle type power supply to vary the track power to the engine OR under battery + other battery control system to apply variable power to the engine.

Let us know if you need any more help. Phil has the battery implementation side down and we can both help with other functionality or operational questions.

In case you haven't priced them, the TIU and remote can be had for ~$250.


Good luck!


Raymond
 

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I converted several MTH to battery and remote control about 2 years ago, when I was modeling in a different scale (now modeling 7/8). I contacted MTH to ask about their DCS system and they never responded to my email. So the short of it was I had to shelf the DCS system and all its perks.
 

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Hamish,

Just adding some additional information for others (based on our offline email)...

The TIU can be run in an unlimited amperage mode which means you could run as many DCS equipped engines as you want in a lash-up. You only need one TIU (in a box car) to run an unlimited number of engines. The TIU is used to allow the remote to communicate with the engine(s) and vice versa. By removing the TIU electronics from the the TIU case and installing in a box car you end up with a setup similar to other battery tailored control systems. (TIUs by themselves cost about $150 if not purchased with a remote)

Another positive is the DCS upgrade kits can be had for $150 (if you are a club member -$25/year) which includes both sound and control and come with all the lights for your headlights, reverse/tender lights, marker LED lights, numberboard lights, mars lights(front and back) (if you want them), and more. The kit also comes with a 2" speaker which you will want to ditch in favor of a 3". The included protocouplers are for O gauge and you won't be able to use them in an engine you wanted to convert but the G scales are available. The system does require you to have a flywheel in the engine or have one installed in order to work. That is the main consideration with DCS in non-MTH engines.

There is an overview video series on my website that steps you through the bulk of the DCS features and how they function.


Raymond
 

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Posted By SE18 on 02/24/2009 6:01 AM
I converted several MTH to battery and remote control about 2 years ago, when I was modeling in a different scale (now modeling 7/8). I contacted MTH to ask about their DCS system and they never responded to my email. So the short of it was I had to shelf the DCS system and all its perks.


The same holds true for MTH as Aristocraft or any other mfg or situation. If you don't get a response to your email, call them at the number on their website and talk to a tech support person directly.

MTH also has an extensive nationwide dealer network that you can look to for support as well so there is plenty of help out there. One thing MTH is careful to do and that is to not sell to the major retailers at a lower price than their smaller local hobby shops. This protects the knowledge base and support by allowing local retailers to be competitive and profitable.


Raymond
 

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Westcott, there are a number of items posted a few years ago about DCS battery conversions... I did two of them and they worked just fine. The only issue I had at that time was range. My layout is 80 feet long and the effective range with the on board installation was about 25 feet.

Some links to the archived posts.

http://archive.mylargescale.com/forum/topic.asp?TOPIC_ID=47101

http://archive.mylargescale.com/forum/topic.asp?TOPIC_ID=47642

http://archive.mylargescale.com/forum/topic.asp?TOPIC_ID=47566
 

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I did two things to help range: added a longer wire antenna to the TIU in the car (once round the cars circumference) also, I changed my handheld's antenna from the flat splatch thing to a rubber ducky salvaged from a Train Engineer: Get over 70ft range now. Probably more but it's hard to test as the house gets in the way!

 

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I may not have had my info available on how to extend the range like Phil did when Stan was working on his. Sorry Stan. But I've done what Phil has and that is to add about 14-15" of wire to the existing TIU antenna. That alone should probably fix you up if you have problems. One key thing I did was to take that wire and coil it around a screw driver. (see the photos on my website) If you leave it straight I found you don't get as much improvement. Phil, give that a shot when you have time and let me know if it helps any. I have also modified the remote antennas but in the end for most I think the TIU antenna add is all you will probably need. Save you from having to open up the remote.



Raymond
 

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Yes I found once I added antenna wire to the TIU I still had bad range - on opening the remote (which is nerve racking!) I discovered the wire had broken off the splatch, hence no range. As I was in there I thought what the heck, I'll test the two antennas - the rubber ducky helped a bit, but no where near as much as the receiver antenna does as Raymond attests. Do the receiver antenna first - it will probably be enough improvement, if not a remote antenna mod (ducky or even better telescopic) will help a bit more.
 

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Why not buy a commercial 900 MHz antenna from a ham radio store, like a long ducky, should be better than an arbitrary coil of wire?

Regards, Greg
 

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I think Raymond gets 200ft with his coiled wire so I guess there's no real need.
I've done enough to be able to control trains anywhere on my layout from anywhere I can see them (!) so that's where I stopped spending money!
 

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yep, if you get 200 feet from a coil of wire (for everyone that trys it) I agree wholeheartly.

My concern would be repeatability for everyone that tries this. Well, maybe a few more people will experiment and give us their responses.

Regards, Greg
 

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Phil is correct.

I've tried using a 900mhz antenna on one and both as the theory and logic would say that would make the most sense and didn't get as good a range as the coiled wire.

The simple coiled wire on the TIU only with the TIU located inside my basement my range was about 200ft. With the TIU moved outside it was 300ft+.

Folks are welcome to spend the time and money to experiement further if they like and I would welcome the information, but for probably 99% of the users the quick TIU antenna wire extension will take care of what you need.

As far as repeatability, the results have been the same on every TIU I've done this to.


Raymond
 
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