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The Future of Model Railroading

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The Future of Model Railroading
Posted by BMMECNYC on Wednesday, March 01, 2017 6:19 AM

I read Lance Mindheim's article in this months MR, in the first section about barriers, he missed an important point: cost of implementation.  It seems that he has dismissed this as an issue for people.  Given his style of model railroading, its understandable.  He does not build large layout empires, or run more than one or two trains at once (from what I have read from his books and published articles). 

Individual unit cost of batteries and wireless decoders has been discussed ad nauseum on this forum.  Add in the suggested cost of a wireless headset for sounds.  I already find it a pain to have to charge by phone battery.  Now it is being suggested that in the future I have to charge my trains prior to an op session, and the length of said op session is dictated by battery life? 

A quick note about planned obsolescence.  Its not being discussed in the model railroad press, but it is something you see in every day life.  The components you use to make a battery powered train today may not be available in 10 years.   That rechargable battery pack starts to loose amp-hour rating as you use it.  Eventually it will not hold a charge sufficient to complete an operating session.  You may then find yourself searching for a "comparable replacement" since the original design battery is no longer availble.  Great, you'll probably end up with a better battery.  But what are the chances that you will have to modify how the battery is inserted into the locomotive, or the locomotives onboard charging circuitry will have to be replaced? 

I do not believe that batteries are the future of model railroading.   I base this on my past experiences with cell phone batteries, and my 9 years experience in the service, where I watched one the most advance battery designs be ruined permanenty by one discharge cycle.  <--That battery is why I am able to type these words today. 

Maybe Lance and MR are in the pocket of "big battery"?Whistling

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Posted by Doughless on Wednesday, March 01, 2017 7:54 AM

BMMECNYC

  Now it is being suggested that in the future I have to charge my trains prior to an op session, and the length of said op session is dictated by battery life? 

 

I'm not sure I follow the bolded.  Unless a person is compelled to keep up with new technology just for the sake of it, nothing about running DC current from a house/powerpack, to the rails, to the locomotive motor will ever be obsolete.  You will always have the ability to run trains for the rest of your life without ever having to consider battery power or any other change in MRR technology, IMO.

For his simple ops, Lance doesn't even have to run DCC, but he does.  So I'm still trying to figure out his previous step up in technology, let alone a move up to battery.

The future of model railroad technology, or technology in general, is not my concern since I only buy what makes sense for how I use it.  

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Posted by BMMECNYC on Wednesday, March 01, 2017 8:13 AM

Doughless
Unless a person is compelled to keep up with new technology just for the sake of it, nothing about running DC current from a house, to the rails, to the locomotive motor will ever be obsolete.

Manufacturers could conceivably start making locomotives with out track pickup, because they will be battery powered. 

So then your options for RTR become: DC, DCC, DCS, Blurail (track power), Blurail battery powered, wireless (other) battery powered.

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Posted by Water Level Route on Wednesday, March 01, 2017 8:19 AM

BMMECNYC
Manufacturers could conceivably start making locomotives with out track pickup, because they will be battery powered.

Possibly, but even if that were to become the norm, I have to believe someone would begin producing aftermarket pick-ups to be easily added on.

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Posted by slammin on Wednesday, March 01, 2017 8:33 AM

While I must thank the OP for starting a new thread when there has been a lack of new threads lately, this seems like a tempest in a teapot. Whatever the new technology is, no one is forced to adopt it. DCC was first discussed in the Oct 93 MR. Over two decades later most manufacturers are still offering DC locos and the secondary market is flooded with NOS engines. I would guess that over half the modelers are still running DC. Battery operated models may be the next "big thing" but if it doesn't interest you, ignore it.

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Posted by BMMECNYC on Wednesday, March 01, 2017 8:33 AM

Water Level Route
 
BMMECNYC
Manufacturers could conceivably start making locomotives with out track pickup, because they will be battery powered.

 

Possibly, but even if that were to become the norm, I have to believe someone would begin producing aftermarket pick-ups to be easily added on.

 

The point Im trying to make is that I dont want to have to buy locomotives equiped with electronics and batteries I dont need, then have to buy more parts to run a train with a simple power pack or a DCC system.  Maybe I am off base here, but I suspect that there is a majority of modelers who dont want the hassle that comes with battery powered electronics brought into their train room, when properly executed wiring (one time expense) and periodic track cleaning (yes it can be annoying, but running a quality cleaning car in a train allieviates that) solves most of the complaints about the current accepted and reliable practice of power through the rails.

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Posted by Doughless on Wednesday, March 01, 2017 8:35 AM

BMMECNYC

 

 
Doughless
Unless a person is compelled to keep up with new technology just for the sake of it, nothing about running DC current from a house, to the rails, to the locomotive motor will ever be obsolete.

 

Manufacturers could conceivably start making locomotives with out track pickup, because they will be battery powered. 

So then your options for RTR become: DC, DCC, DCS, Blurail (track power), Blurail battery powered, wireless (other) battery powered.

 

If the market drives the switch, that will take a long time.  If it were to happen overnight, there would seem to have to be some major collusion amongst the producers; or, that big factory in China that produces all of the trains would have to say nomas to truck pickup and force that decision on the producers/importers.

But I do understand the confusion about Lance talking about the switch over to battery.  He doesn't spend money on new locomotives just for the sake of it, and as far as I know, uses about three total.  The CSX GP38-2 that is often photographed is a Proto 2000 unit that Walthers stopped making about 15 years ago, not even DCC ready, so why Lance is speaking about evolving locomotive technology is a bit baffling to me.

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Posted by BMMECNYC on Wednesday, March 01, 2017 8:42 AM

slammin
Whatever the new technology is, no one is forced to adopt it.

Yet.

slammin
I would guess that over half the modelers are still running DC.

I dont disagree with that statement. 

slammin
Battery operated models may be the next "big thing" but if it doesn't interest you, ignore it.

When you dont express your opinions the vocal minority will carry the day.

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Posted by mlehman on Wednesday, March 01, 2017 8:54 AM

BMMECNYC
The point Im trying to make is that I dont want to have to buy locomotives equiped with electronics and batteries I dont need, then have to buy more parts to run a train with a simple power pack or a DCC system.

I really doubt that track pickup will ever go away. Far too much installed infrastructure/market share for mfgs to ignore and the technology -- a little brass strip and some wires -- is simply too cheap to not include.

On the same note, new technology like deadrail only becomes standard equipment when it's cheap enough that rolling it into the MSRP is hardly noticeable. We've barely arrived at that point with DCC after a 1/4 century.

The future will be here eventually. What always strikes me is how some of us who'll likely not be around in 20 years anyway seem to care about it most. I suspect that Ebay and used equipment dealers at train shows (course that opens up another line of things to worry about being gone...Whistling ) are  unlikely to run out of old school stuff to buy and use in any case, so I'm not too worried about the future, even if I was bound and determined to live in the past as much as possible. That ability to access, pick and choose whatever technology you wish is one of the great and persistent strengths of our hobby.

Mike Lehman

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Posted by BMMECNYC on Wednesday, March 01, 2017 9:43 AM

mlehman
What always strikes me is how some of us who'll likely not be around in 20 years anyway seem to care about it most.

I plan on being here in at least 45 years.

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Posted by DAVID FORTNEY on Wednesday, March 01, 2017 10:11 AM

This is a thread about nothing IMO. If batteries is what the future brings then so be it.  Besides it is one guys opinion. I run mostly DC but I do run dcc at a flip of a switch. 

I don't need to change just because something else is invented on how to run our trains. Don't worry about the small stuff you cannot change. 

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Posted by BRAKIE on Wednesday, March 01, 2017 10:12 AM

BMMECNYC
Maybe Lance and MR are in the pocket of "big battery"?

In the gaming world some wireless controllers uses AA batteries.. My Nikkon and Canon cameras uses double AAs.

A choice had to be made I could buy batteries by the case or buy rechargeable. I bought XTech rechargeable with charger and a extra 12 pack of batteries which gave me 16 batteries. 10 for my cameras  and 6 for my Xbox Controllers.. Yes,that was overkill but,it nice to know you have enough batteries while railfaning.

Two rechargeable AA's  could be used to power our locomotives.

Larry

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Posted by cuyama on Wednesday, March 01, 2017 10:21 AM

slammin
this seems like a tempest in a teapot. Whatever the new technology is, no one is forced to adopt it.

+1

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Posted by BMMECNYC on Wednesday, March 01, 2017 10:49 AM

BRAKIE
 
BMMECNYC
Maybe Lance and MR are in the pocket of "big battery"?

 

In the gaming world some wireless controllers uses AA batteries.. My Nikkon and Canon cameras uses double AAs.

A choice had to be made I could buy batteries by the case or buy rechargeable. I bought XTech rechargeable with charger and a extra 12 pack of batteries which gave me 16 batteries. 10 for my cameras  and 6 for my Xbox Controllers.. Yes,that was overkill but,it nice to know you have enough batteries while railfaning.

My comment was a joke.  The fact that you feel a need to keep extra batteries around lends credence to my point.   

BRAKIE
Two rechargeable AA's could be used to power our locomotives.

But why would you want to?  You still need to charge them, which means a charging circuit and a plug jack that would need to be hidden; or cyclic stress from handling the locomotive/removing the access plate to get to the battery. 

Also thats only 3V dc (2xAA).  Enough to turn on the LEDs.  You could also turn the motor slowly. 

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Posted by BMMECNYC on Wednesday, March 01, 2017 10:50 AM

cuyama
 
slammin
this seems like a tempest in a teapot. Whatever the new technology is, no one is forced to adopt it.

 

+1

 

How many of you are still running windows XP and are connected to the internet?

 On a model railroad, maybe not ever. 

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Posted by rrebell on Wednesday, March 01, 2017 11:28 AM

One note, batterys come into full vouge when you have a large layout with lots of ladders and sidings. Cleaning track on the mainline or a siding or two is no big deal, cleaning track on a large layout with 50 or more turnouts, some on setouts only a foot or two long can be a real chore along with maintaining electrical contacts needed at turnouts etc. 

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Posted by joe323 on Wednesday, March 01, 2017 11:33 AM

I know an entity still running Win 98 but not connected to net. Doubt thats possible.

 

IMHO

For Battery Power to take off there will need to be standards just as there are for DCC, track gauge, etc. Until that happens there will just too fragmentaion of the market for battery power market to foster adoption in the larger MRR comuny  

 

Joe Staten Island West 

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Posted by ATLANTIC CENTRAL on Wednesday, March 01, 2017 11:34 AM

Here is my prediction, the hobby will continue to become more diverse........

Lance seems to be amoug a group that would like to think they can reshape the hobby in their own image, example, the thread about his last article and structure selections.

Not unlike Mke Wolf or Bob Grubba who think they can turn HO into a smaller version of advanced highrail collecting........

It has taken 25 years for DCC to reach a 50% market penitration in HO & N. Direct radio and or dead rail has a pretty tough up hill battle.

Same goes for sound. If we grant that the modelers on this forum are likely more tech oriented than most, and we consider the conversations about sound that have been on here, sound too is only at a 50% use/popularity.

If Lance thinks most modelers are going to wear headphones to run trains, I think he is off the mark.....by a good distance.

But the biggest laugh for me is the small layout thing. I would sell it all and just put a few favorites on display rather than settle for some 12' long point to point shelf.

Of course my layout philosophy is large but simple, for long realistic trains..........

So here I am, Lance's worst nightmare, still DC, relay based signals, no sound, 1000 sq ft layout room, and no need to change a thing. BUT, I do have signals, CTC, ATC, working interlockings, radio throttles, solid state inductive detection, scale coupling distances and working diaphragms on passenger cars, broad curves, realistic 1950's train lengths, and last but not least......Victorian houses........

Sheldon 

    

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Posted by ATLANTIC CENTRAL on Wednesday, March 01, 2017 11:40 AM

rrebell

One note, batterys come into full vouge when you have a large layout with lots of ladders and sidings. Cleaning track on the mainline or a siding or two is no big deal, cleaning track on a large layout with 50 or more turnouts, some on setouts only a foot or two long can be a real chore along with maintaining electrical contacts needed at turnouts etc. 

 

Respectfully, I have been involved with a lot of large layouts in my 47 years at this hobby, track cleaning has never ben a big problem from what I have seen.

Sheldon

    

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Posted by Water Level Route on Wednesday, March 01, 2017 11:42 AM

BMMECNYC
You still need to charge them, which means a charging circuit and a plug jack that would need to be hidden; or cyclic stress from handling the locomotive/removing the access plate to get to the battery.

And here you present an opportunity to maintain electrical pickups and use track power to charge onboard batteries.  My personal take is if battery power is to really take off in the smaller scales, this is how recharging will need to be handled to protect the more delicate details of the smaller scales.  Should this situation become reality, I would think it would be relatively easy at that point to convert the locomotive from battery power with little effort.

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Posted by BMMECNYC on Wednesday, March 01, 2017 11:45 AM

rrebell
One note, batterys come into full vouge when you have a large layout with lots of ladders and sidings. Cleaning track on the mainline or a siding or two is no big deal, cleaning track on a large layout with 50 or more turnouts, some on setouts only a foot or two long can be a real chore along with maintaining electrical contacts needed at turnouts etc.

Not for me.  My previous layout had over 50 turnouts in various configurations.  Track cleaning took about 30 min with a track cleaning block.  I did not use a cleaning car, because I did not feel the need to purchase one for my own use. 

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Posted by Water Level Route on Wednesday, March 01, 2017 11:48 AM

ATLANTIC CENTRAL
But the biggest laugh for me is the small layout thing. I would sell it all and just put a few favorites on display rather than settle for some 12' long point to point shelf. Of course my layout philosophy is large but simple, for long realistic trains.......... So here I am, Lance's worst nightmare, still DC, relay based signals, no sound, 1000 sq ft layout room, and no need to change a thing. BUT, I do have signals, CTC, ATC, working interlockings, radio throttles, solid state inductive detection, scale coupling distances and working diaphragms on passenger cars, broad curves, realistic 1950's train lengths, and last but not least......Victorian houses........

Amen brother. 

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Posted by PRR8259 on Wednesday, March 01, 2017 12:01 PM

I might be Lance's worst nightmare.  My future is actually reverting back to plain DC.

I run one HO brass steam engine at a time over a modest 1.3 scale mile single track mainline.  There are 5 manual throw Peco turnouts on the whole layout, for 3 sidings.

Although I am able to operate DCC equipped engines using the MRC Sound Controller 2.0, none of my current brass models is equipped with DCC at all, and only two BLI brass hybrids are.  (One is brand new in box, untested, and may yet be sold to upgrade to a "better" brass steamer).

Even many of the post-2010 production brass steam locomotive models only come equipped with plain DC and lights.  Though the brass importers are now in the process of making the switch to DCC for the latest production models, most of the ones available in the current marketplace, brand new though perhaps 5 to 10 years old, are plain DC.

I'm not going to sell what I have and replace them with the latest technology when they perform wonderfully well in plain DC.  I'm also not going to tear into and modify engines that cost me plenty.

John

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Posted by Doughless on Wednesday, March 01, 2017 12:01 PM

rrebell

One note, batterys come into full vouge when you have a large layout with lots of ladders and sidings. Cleaning track on the mainline or a siding or two is no big deal, cleaning track on a large layout with 50 or more turnouts, some on setouts only a foot or two long can be a real chore along with maintaining electrical contacts needed at turnouts etc. 

 

And this is why I understand the OPs concern:

As a person who models only branch/short lines, ala Lance Mindheim, I find that many of the issues that are discussed about the hobby do not cater to my interests.

The hobby is dominated...at least from a discussion standpoint and seemingly a product development standpoint...by people who model a large railroad, with lots of locos, rolling stock, turnouts, track, wiring, power districts, etc.  Guys like me don't relate to the issues those guys have.  I suppose the same frustration can be found in people who model lesser Class 1s, like a Frisco, then an NYC.

Understandably, those hobbyists need more stuff, and buy more stuff.  So they tend to drive the product development.

Guys like me are left to buy what the other guys want produced.  So if the big railroaders want battery, I will likely have to buy battery, (if I live long enough and want to buy new stuff)

Slightly different take on the same issue, and I've said this before:  I'm looking for a company to produce a generic GP9, highly detailed, but with fore and aft operating ditchlights for modelers who model branch/shortlines post 1996.  But data must be showing Athearn that there are more modelers wanting to model the PRR in the 10 years from 1954 to 1964 then there are people wanting to model any freelanced shortline in the 20 years from 1996 to 2016.  I think otherwise, but what do I know, other than if I want to buy a new GP9 for a modern shortline, any new model produced by any one of the myriad of GP9 model producers will look like a 1954 version.  

Big railroaders with many needs tend to drive the market, so I can see the OPs concern if his interest lie outside the lines of what the high volume buyers want.

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Posted by SouthPenn on Wednesday, March 01, 2017 12:07 PM

I have a modest size layout. I have 50+ locomotives that are DCC. Maybe another 15 that will never be DCC. It took me 10-12 years to convert my locomotives to DCC. I run a few locomotives with RailPro.

I am retired, on a fixed income, and I will not be converting to any other control system, ever. Judging from the model railroaders I see at train shows, the majority of model railroaders are in the same position I am in.

Any control system start-up wll need to target younger model railroaders, but there is are very limited numbers of them, or so it seems.

Besides, with todays battery technology I don't want my favorite locomotives bursting into flames.  Whistling

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Posted by mbinsewi on Wednesday, March 01, 2017 12:20 PM

That's it, I'm going to "No Rail".  Maybe join one of those modular clubs. Laugh

Mike.

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Posted by BMMECNYC on Wednesday, March 01, 2017 12:28 PM

mbinsewi

That's it, I'm going to "No Rail".  Maybe join one of those modular clubs. Laugh

Mike.

 

We had a April fools day module standard for railtrail modeling.

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Posted by BMMECNYC on Wednesday, March 01, 2017 12:31 PM

SouthPenn
Any control system start-up wll need to target younger model railroaders, but there is are very limited numbers of them, or so it seems.

I am one of those (relatively) younger modelers.  DCC is adequate for my needs.  It costs between $20-40 to convert a DC locomotive to DCC. 

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Posted by Doughless on Wednesday, March 01, 2017 12:33 PM

ATLANTIC CENTRAL

Lance seems to be amoug a group that would like to think they can reshape the hobby in their own image, example, the thread about his last article and structure selections.

 

Sheldon 

 

Sheldon,

IMO, that thread about the last Mindheim article was off base in many ways.  The article was mainly about how to build a scene, not really even about trains.   He is known for his realistic representations of places that exist today, or in the near past.  And many people want to learn more about how to achieve more realism in their scenes.  I don't think he was telling people who may not care about it that much, that they should care about it more.

I think his article about using lots of white/off white paint for structures, building the boring and not the eleborate, cropping a scene instead of compressing a scene, etc. all help to make the total layout LOOK more realisitic.  I think that is a major goal for many in the hobby.

And as I said earlier, the photos of his layouts usually include a locomotive that is a nonDCC ready Proto 2000 CSX GP38-2 that Walthers stopped making 15 years ago, albeit updated for dcc ditchlights and possibly sound, which would be consistent with accurately representing a railroad scene.  He doesn't strike me as the type of modeler who is inherently concerned about manufacturers technological innovations in motivating a locomotive down the rails.  

It seems more likely that most contributors to MR need to tend to bend towards new products and new product development to keep the ads flowing...which I understand and have no problem with...and it was simply Lance's turn.

 

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Posted by ATLANTIC CENTRAL on Wednesday, March 01, 2017 12:42 PM

Doughless

 

 
ATLANTIC CENTRAL

Lance seems to be amoug a group that would like to think they can reshape the hobby in their own image, example, the thread about his last article and structure selections.

 

Sheldon 

 

 

 

Sheldon,

IMO, that thread about the last Mindheim article was off base in many ways.  The article was mainly about how to build a scene, not really even about trains.   He is known for his realistic representations of places that exist today, or in the near past.  And many people want to learn more about how to achieve more realism in their scenes.  I don't think he was telling people who may not care about it that much, that they should care about it more.

I think his article about using lots of white/off white paint for structures, building the boring and not the eleborate, cropping a scene instead of compressing a scene, etc. all help to make the total layout LOOK more realisitic.  I think that is a major goal for many in the hobby.

And as I said earlier, the photos of his layouts usually include a locomotive that is a nonDCC ready Proto 2000 CSX GP38-2 that Walthers stopped making 15 years ago, albeit updated for dcc ditchlights and possibly sound, which would be consistent with accurately representing a railroad scene.  He doesn't strike me as the type of modeler who is inherently concerned about manufacturers technological innovations in motivating a locomotive down the rails.  

It seems more likely that most contributors to MR need to tend to bend towards new products and new product development to keep the ads flowing...which I understand and have no problem with...and it was simply Lance's turn.

 

 

I read that article rather carefully. If you are correct, Lance FAILED to convey the point that he was refering to modeling "present day".

This hobby has a long rich history of modeling times past as well as present day, and there are still beautiful Victorian houses near train tracks today. I could send you a large photo album......again he failed to make his point effectively. It was a less than well thought out example, or Lance needs to get out more and come up here to northeastern Maryland.

Sheldon

    

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