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Just before Christmas, I installed a Spektrum RC system in my recently-acquired Accucraft Mich-Cal #2 Shay. As in my 3-cylinder Shay RC install, I used single-servo control; the reverse lever ONLY is moved by a servo, doubling as a throttle by how far the servo moves it in either direction. The manual throttle is simply used as a "master steam on-off valve"; opened a good amount for normal running, closed prior to lubricator draining or boiler blowdown. Since Mich-Cal #2 came with a predrilled holes in the "oil fuel tank"
& upper end of the reverse lever for a servo linkage, this made it relatively easy to do a "stealth"
RC installation...





The charge jack for the RC system battery is visible between the the "fuel" & "water" tanks, directly above the blowdown / trycock valve:




Since I'm a "second-shift" guy
, I frequently run late at night (or "wee hours"
of the morning!
), so working headlights are a MUST!
- I added BRIGHT
LED head & back-up lights, powered off the RC system battery (they also double to show that the RC system is turned on). The headlight reflector center holes were drilled out to a larger size to accomodate the LED's with my drill press.






- The negative lead of each LED is grounded to the loco's brass body, so only a single wire is required for power to them. I used solid (unstranded) copper telephone wire (#22, I believe), with black insulation for the power feed to the + LED leads. The solid copper wire can be bent to "stay in place" relatively easily; I dressed it along the front headlight bracket, down around & alongside the left side of the frame, & up into the tender tank at the rear...




- Since I've been an RC airplane buff
for years as well, I have a "well-stocked" RC component "junk box"!
After a bit of "rummaging" through it, I was able to find a much smaller-than-usual on-off switch with wiring harness & charge jack - which fit VERY NEATLY
in the gap between the fuel & water tanks!



- For a transmitter, I'm using a Spektrum DX7
(which for this application, is GROSS OVERKILL!
); I bought the DX 7 primarily for RC airplane use (I don't anticipate trying snap rolls
or spins
with Mich-Cal #2!
).




I didn't take any photos of the receiver & servo installation inside the tanks while I was doing it
, but if there's sufficient interest, I could be "persuaded" to do so.
The Spectrum AR-6000 receiver & a standard-sized servo are mounted inside the "fuel" tank; the battery pack sits on the floor of the rear of the "water" tank. Each head / backup LED light has a 680-ohm dropping resistor in series with it, soldered to an old servo lead plug, & just plugs into one of the servo sockets on the receiver. The whole system is set up in a "modular" fashion" to allow for easy disassembly (just unbolt the fuel tank retaining straps, disconnect the servo clevis from the reverse lever, & lift off the fuel tank for access).



I will have some video of it in operation eventually, but seeing as the railroad's got @ 6 inches of snow on it (& current temp is 18 degrees F.
with wind chills running from 9 F. to -34 F.!
), I may have to wait a bit!


Tom
 

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Nice job Tom....this is on my to do list as well. I had been contemplating hiding the charge jack and on off switch in the water hatch, but your solution is much simpler. BTW - I did drag my Mich Cal #2 shay into the kitchen sink the other day and cleaned her off with simple green and water. After she dried off I masked the headlamps and pressure gauge and then sprayer her with Testers Dull Coat. I couldn't believe how much better she looked. The difference was amazing. The only down side is I haven't run her since because I want to complete the weathering job before getting oil over everything again.
 

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I was inspired by your lighting job and a similar installation on Eric Maschwitz's (sp?) Shay to install lighting on my own 2 cylinder Shay last night. I used a MagLite bulb and some 36 gauge wire rated for 400 degrees F - looking forward to running it at night when the weather clears up - raining now.
 

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The last locomotive (a beautifully weathered K-27) that I saw that had dullcoat applied, turned a nice green the first time heat was built up for steaming.
A better choice would be a paint designed for a high temp environment.

Good luck!
 

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Hi Tom,

I know it's been awhile since you started this topic but I just got a live steam Mich Cal #2 and I want to add R/C. Is it possible you could show your installation inside the Oil and Water bunkers? Also, what brand and model number servo and receiver did you use?

Thanks for any help.
Chuck Collins
 

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Nice job Tom. I look forward to installing my RC when I get my S-12 back. Did you get the info for the Nov 13 Steam up? PM sent
 

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Hi Again Tom,

Really could use some help in adding R/C to my new Mich Cal #2. Any possibility you will show you installation inside the bunkers and disclose what servo and receiver would work best? I have a Spektrum DX6i Transmitter.

Please help,
Chuck Collins
 

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Discussion Starter #8
Hi Chuck,

Didn't notice your request untill today; I did my install in the Mich-Cal #2 in a relative hurry at the time, so I don't have any internal photos
; also, some of the materials are used were items I 'just happened' to have on hand (having flown RC airplanes for over 15 years & being a ham radio operator & electronics tech for over 35, I have a huge RC & electronic parts "junk box"
on hand). But I can give you some basic hints: you can get access inside the tender space of the Mich-Cal #2 by removing the tiny nuts on the "hold-down" straps that attach the oil fuel bunker atop the tender water tank. The fuel bunker can then be lifted straight off, giving you easy access insdie both tanks. If I remember correctly, I first mounted the RC battery pack to the water tank floor with velcro, than mounted the Spektrum RC receiver board attop the battery likewise. Exactly how you mount your control servo will depend on the size of the servo itself; a large one is not necessary, but the one I happened to use was (actually, a "standard-sized" servo - a mini or perhaps even a micro- servo might suffice in this application). I fabricated a mount for the servo from some plastic blocks I happened to have on hand, mounting it to the fuel bunker. There is a hole in the front of the fuel bunker on the engineer's side of the Shay; this lines up perfectly with the top end of the reverse lever, which also has a hole in it from the factory; this makes it easy to mechanically connect the upper end of the reverse lever with the servo output arm, using a standard RC airplane 'U-link'. (How familiar are you with radio control components & technology in general
) You'll also want to at least "back-out" the screw futher down the servo arm that serves as the mechanical detent for the "Reverse-Neutral-Forward" positions; this will permit the servo to move the reverse lever freely. A huge bonus is that how far forward or reverse you move the reverse lever will permit it to also double as throttle as well!
- I use only a SINGLE servo in this manner for control on both my 2 & 3 - cylinder Shays
,
using the manual throttle as only a "master steam on / off valve".
The Accucraft Shays run slowly enough even at full throttle that this works very well; my Ruby #11 was a differnet animal entirely
-
after a couple of spectacular high-speed wrecks downgrade
,
I also modified it for RC, with separate throttle & reverse servos. It's now very controllable on my 3% mainline grade. Hope that helps!
Tom
 

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Thanks Tom, that information helps tremendously. This is my first live steam loco so I have no experience with R/C in live steamers. I do have battery powered R/C locos but that is a very different process; no servos and linkage (I use Airwire system). I also have no experience with R/C aircraft so this is all new to me. Sounds like mounts and links all are fabricated for the specific needs. When you say "back out the screw futher down the servo arm" do you mean the screw on the reverse lever? Is it necessary to limit the movement of the servo, thereby limiting the movement of the reverse arm forward and backward?

Chuck
 

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Discussion Starter #10
Hi Chuck.

Glad the info helped.
Whatever receiver & servo type that came with your Spektrum DX6i should work fine in this application; very high quality (translation: expensive, high-torque, or digital servos) aren't necessary here, low-cost servos will work fine.
I'm using a Spektrum DX7 transmitter for both my 2-cylinder Mich-cal #2 Shay & my Ruby #11 2-4-2; that radio is gross overkill
for live-steam loco use, but I do use it for RC aircraft as well
;
the DX7 has memories for multiple models (not sure if the DX6i does, without checking the Spektrum website), so 1 memory is set up for "Mich-Cal #2", another for "Ruby #11", & 2 others for RC aircraft.

Since you need to use only a single servo to control the Shay, you have a number of "options"
available to use in configuring how you use the DX6i transmitter. In model aircraft use, a transmitter like the DX6i is normally set up with the right control stick (which is spring-loaded on both axis to return to center when released) for roll (left-to right) & pitch (up-&-down); the left stick is spring loaded to return to center only on the horizontal axis (left-&-right rudder & ground steering) & throttle on the vertical axis (with NO center return) - the stick will remain wherever you set it on the throttle axis. If you use one of the spring-loaded axis on either stick, it will give you the effect of having a "deadman's throttle"
-
all you have to do is release the stick (it will center automatically), & stop the loco. (An excellent idea to consider if you let children run it!
).
The "downside" is that you otherwise have to constantly hold the stick to run. If you don't want to do that, use the "throttle" axis, setting up your servo mechanically so that the reverse lever neutral position when the stick is centered; you can then set a specific forward or reverse speed & even set the transmitter down if you want, the loco will remain at the forward or reverse speed you set. Only wiring change required if you want to experiment with this is what channel on the receiver board you plug the servo into - your DX6i instruction manual should specify what servo connector on the receiver corresponds to what channel. Hope that helps!
Tom
 

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Discussion Starter #11
Almost forgot to add in answer to your question on the reverse arm screw - there are 2 screws on the reverse lever arm; one is the lever pivot point (don't loosen that one!
),
& the other fits into the reverse lever "forward-neutral-reverse" detents. Back out or remove the detent screw so it does NOT engage the detents - it will prevent the servo from moving the reverse lever otherwise!
 

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This is a most helpful thread. I've got a Frank S which I think I read can be controlled by a single servo hooked to the Johnson bar like your shays. My question is would there be a way to control the lights to change with the direction? I'm somewhat puzzled to explain why in real life the forward headlight is ever turned off. The rear light I'd guess is turned off so the crew has night vision rearward. But directional lighting seems to be a biggie for sparky controls so it must be true.

George
 

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George, go to the " SOUND AND POWER" forum for the question on doing a reversing headlight/tail light with a single direction current flow electronically.

You will have to figure out how to change the polarity of the power from your battery pack, and to do it electronically will require more electronic knowlege than I have.

There is a mechanical solution however, and that is what I would use.

Attach a double-pole-double-throw [DPDT] micro switch attached to the same servo which operates the Johnson Bar. When the servo moves the Johnson Bar to change direction, it could also be set up to move the DPDT switch to change the polarity of the lighting power. You would still be able to use the chasis as a ground. The jumpers to one end would have to be crossed to change the polarity.

Please correct me if I'm wrong on this one.


Good luck.

Will
 

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There is no need for any polarity changing, you just need to supply power to one headlight and cut it to the other, and then swap that condition. All that takes is a SPDT switch linked to the Johnson bar. (Or if you want to keep the headlight on while illuminating the backup light, all that is needed is a SPST switch for the backup.) The mechanical trickery involved is dealing with the different throw (travel) of the switch and the Johnson bar.
The circuit for only one light on at a time is: BAT+ to a SPST on/off "master" switch to COM on the reversing switch, then from TERM1 of the reversing switch to front headlight and TERM2 to backup light, with both lights being "grounded" via the superstructure & frame.
 

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Thanks guys,

I'm not familiar with RC stuff yet. I was hoping that that was something the receiver could do on one of its channels. A mechanical switch seems pretty simple and fool proof once one gets the switch linkage sorted out. I'll visit the other forum.

George
 
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