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Discussion Starter #1
My son has started bugging me again about buying a live steam loco. I told him I would look into it, if he took care of the remote control aspect.

Other than the throttle, what if anything needs to be controlled by a servo on one of these beasts?


Where should I tell him to start looking for the RC components?
 

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Actually, you could get away with only the reverser. Most of the time the throttle can be set manually and the speed can be varied some with the reverser. That is exacly how I have my newest engine setup to run at Diamondhead this weekend. My Regner Sächsishe IVK is an articulated 0-4-4-0 that has two servos for reversing, two servos for drain cocks (both have one on each driver assembly) and one for compound / simple mode. I ran out of time or I would have added one for throttle and one for whistle. This engine is on the far end of extreme when it come to R/C, don't be scared off. My ruby I run with only one servo - reverser. On my geared engines and my Frank S, I do not use R/C at all.
P.S. I use the spektrum radio and have set up the Futaba Spread Spectrum on a friends Loco and the both work equally well. Some people prefer the name brand of th Futaba which has been around a LONG time, but many use the Spektrum.
 

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Hi Dan,

You might also consider running manual control. It's a matter of preference. I always insist on installing radio control for the throttle and johnson bar (Spektrum) and wouldn't do run any other way. On the other hand, my friend Larry Green has tried radio control and decided that he has much more fun running using manual control. Why not buy a loco and run it manually initially in order to get to know it? You can add the radio control any time.
Llyn
 

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As a newbie with only 4 real runs under my belt, I would advise you that it depends on the layout you are running on. My friend and neighbor Chris has a nice layout, but it isn't elevated and parts of it are awkward to get to. Running at Marks offered the same issues in that there were a lot of people crowding the track from the neighbor hood. On both those layouts I wished I had installed RC, but I ran on an elevated track in Woodside this weekend, and really enjoyed manual control.
 

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One thing to remember if you are installing RC on an engine, this will not eliminate the need to stay close by your engine. Unless you are at a track that is VERY stable, things can change and if you are on the other side of the track when a truck derails it can cause a lot more problems than if you were close at hand. That said, RC does a lot to reduce the burned fingers and can be very helpful for slow operations on track with slight grades.
 

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Discussion Starter #8
My layout has some grades, though not severe. It would seem that RC of the throttle would faciltate operation, especially on any sort of down grade.
 

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If you have grades I would most certainly install RC on BOTH the throttle and the reverser. You might also consider a geared engine. Non geared live steam engines tend to be very sensitive to grades. The other issue you will find is most servos won't completely close the throttle (depends on the throttle tapper and servo torque, but generally I find this to be true). It isn't an issue if the train is pulling a heavy load and on a flat track. However, with a light load or facing down hill, you might find that "closed" isn't quite closed enough and the train continues to go despite your command to stop. This is where the reverser comes in - by simply moving the reverser to neutral, the steam is completely cut off, even if the throttle isn't 100% closed, and the train stops.

How steep (and long) are your grades? What engine are you considering?
 

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Discussion Starter #11
Posted By Mark Scrivener on 01/14/2009 1:35 AM
If you have grades I would most certainly install RC on BOTH the throttle and the reverser. You might also consider a geared engine. Non geared live steam engines tend to be very sensitive to grades. The other issue you will find is most servos won't completely close the throttle (depends on the throttle tapper and servo torque, but generally I find this to be true). It isn't an issue if the train is pulling a heavy load and on a flat track. However, with a light load or facing down hill, you might find that "closed" isn't quite closed enough and the train continues to go despite your command to stop. This is where the reverser comes in - by simply moving the reverser to neutral, the steam is completely cut off, even if the throttle isn't 100% closed, and the train stops.

How steep (and long) are your grades? What engine are you considering?

My grades are 1-2%. I'm not sure which loco should be my first foray into live steam. I had asked that question here quite some time ago, when I was considering a Mamod. There were other suggestions such as Roundhouse. I would like it to be something simple but reliable. Also one that I can easily fit RC gear into.
 

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Dan, Mark pretty much says it , if you have grades especially with a small engine like the Ruby you need throttle and J-bar. I have 3 1/2% grades on my layout and find that on the down grades it works best to close the throttle as much as it will go and the controll the speed with the J-bar. I use the Spectrum radio but use heavy duty servos not the ones that come with it.
 

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Dan, STRONGLY recommend a geared loco such as the Accucraft Shay's if you're dealing with grades. They WILL run satisfactorily "out-of-the-box" without RC if you so desire, will NOT run away down grades.


Unfortunately, I can't say the same for the "Ruby" series
- if you plan on running a Ruby on a line with grades (mine is 3%), RC is an absolute MUST. I just converted my own Ruby (#11, one of the 2-4-2 tender versions) to RC a couple of months ago. A couple of attempts previously at running it here WITHOUT RC resulted in spectacular wrecks!
(Such as flying off curves at around 150 scale MPH!
- followed by a 2-foot drop to the ground!
). I've got to order a replacement smokebox door from Accucraft (unless I can manage to repair a hinge damaged from one of those wrecks
). Under RC control now, she can now be SAFELY controlled (slowed & stopped
) when going downdgrade. I used a Spektrum DX-7 aircraft style radio for the conversion, controlling BOTH the throttle & reverser on the Ruby (haven't gotten around to taking pictures of the install yet). Also, DON'T expect a Ruby to be able handle much of a train on grades; mine can barely manage to haul it's 4-wheel tender & either ONE 8-wheel car or 2 4-wheel cars (Bachmann side-dump cars).

The Shays (I have both 2 & 3 cylinder versions), by contrast, will handle a train of 6 ~ 8 8-wheel cars without difficulty as long as steam pressure is up.
Even though not a necessity, I have RC control in both; I ONLY control the reverse lever on the Shays, as by varying the amount it is moved, it will also double as a throttle.
(I use the manual throttle only as a "master steam on-off" valve in that case). The 3-cylinder Shay was my first live steamer, & converted using a 75 MHz. RC-car style radio (this was about a year or so before the Spektrum digital spread-spectrum RC radios became available). Here's a couple of close-ups of the RC install in the 3-cylinder Shay-


Because of cab space limitations, I removed the manual reverse lever on the floor, & made a small aluminum bracket to hold an RC servo in it's place, directly connected to the reverse linkage (the switch directly above is the RC system on/off switch):




The 75 MHz. FM receiver is mounted to the rear wall of the cab, just below the roof using velcro; it sits partially on the throttle body, insulated by some wood blocks fastened to the receiver body with double-sided foam tape. There being no other easy place to hide the battery pack
, I made up a WATER-PROOFED
battery pack, & glued it INSIDE
the tender water tank! (It's been sitting in the water for over 4 years now!
)...




I just recently bought a Mich-Cal #2 (2-cylinder Shay); since Accucraft designed this engine from the outset to be RC-convertible, it was MUCH easier to do a "stealth"
RC installation...







...including LED head & back-up lights (powered off the RC system battery)...






In the case of the 3-cylinder Shay, I set up the RC car transmitter so that the "steering wheel" functioned as a "center-off" throttle, similar to some of LGB's power packs. (Turn the wheel right & the Shay ran "forward"; turn it left & it ran in "reverse"). How far the wheel was turned in either direction determined how fast the engine ran. This made it so simple & intuitive to control that I became a hit at a local train show with it - handing the RC controller off to the kids to let them (very safely!) run the train!
...






For comparison in the same video - the Ruby was running under MANUAL control only (I had to chase it!
), note the speed difference! (On LEVEL track, Ruby will handle a decent train!
). Tom
 

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Agreed - two cylinder Accucraft shay would be an excellent choice - not to expensive (as live steamers go) and will give you satisfactory performance on your layout out of the box. It will also be an easy RC install should you desire.
 
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