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What is the next big advance in ho trains?

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Posted by Tinplate Toddler on Monday, June 1, 2020 1:30 AM

selector
I wonder how something 'advanced' like DCC ever got started and then widely accepted.

Well, I happen to know the story behind the development of DCC. It all started with Märklin commissioning Bernd Lenz of Lenz Elektrnik to develop a system to control multiple trains on a single track. Strangely enough, Märklin finally decided against using his system, and went for a Motorola development instead. Bernd Lenz, a true-blooded model railroader himself, gave up his rights on his development, thus making it available for all. We owe it to him and the NMRA to have DCC now as a world-wide standard.

Personally, I think that dead rail would be high up on my list of future developments. Well, not as a development, but making it widely available as a factory option. There are basically only two things I don´t like about our hobby and they are wiring (incl. this dan finer-burning soldering) and cleaning the track. Dead rail does away with that!

Happy times!

Ulrich (aka The Tin Man)

"You´re never too old for a happy childhood!"

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Posted by rrebell on Monday, June 1, 2020 10:57 AM

The real reason we don't have RTR dead rail is liability as they would not be making their own batteries. The solution for this is to build what could be dead rail but not advertize it as such, just say the extra wires are for future items, modelers would soon fiqure it out.

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Posted by Paul3 on Monday, June 1, 2020 12:55 PM

Deadrail RTR just isn't going to happen in HO scale, at least not in any widespread fashion like DCC has.

Battery technology changes too rapidly.  How many of us have had to get rid of some electrical product because they don't make that battery anymore?  No company in this hobby can afford to make their own batteries, so they'll be entirely dependant on getting commercial batteries from someone else who could go out of business tomorrow.

Batteries don't last.  How many of us have had to get rid of some electrical product because the battery won't hold a charge anymore?  You might get 5 years out of a battery, but then you have to change it.  Multiply that for every engine you have for the rest of your life and that's going to get expensive.

Replacing batteries will be a pain.  Can you really see yourself opening all your engines over and over again to change the batteries?

Batteries can self destruct.  We've all seen the news where someone's cell phone catches fire in their pocket or some kid's "hoverboard" burns down a house.

Batteries take up too much space.  There's a practical limit to getting a large enough battery to actually last and modern loco models are already chock full.

Battery-equipped engines dying on the mainline.  Imagine you've got an open house or an operation planned, you start running your train with an A-B-B-A set, and the battery goes kaput on a B-unit.  There won't be any warning, it'll just stop.  And if you don't catch it, you'll have flat spots on the dead engine's wheels.


It would take a non-flammable battery that can be used for decades and still take a charge, run for hours yet fit in a switcher, and cost less than $20 for deadrail to become practical -- all so people don't have to clean track or wheels.  I don't see that ever happening in HO scale without some major scientific breakthroughs.

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Posted by Tinplate Toddler on Monday, June 1, 2020 1:38 PM

Paul, I am sorry to rain on your parade, but none of the points you mention are valid points in today´s world. Dead rail R/C controlled is available for engines down to N scale or even HOf, that´s HO scale running on 6.5mm rail. The batteries used are standard LiPo batteries, which have a long life.

Batteries are a well accepted form of energy in all our "devices", why shouldn´t they play the same role in model trains?

Happy times!

Ulrich (aka The Tin Man)

"You´re never too old for a happy childhood!"

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Posted by azrail on Monday, June 1, 2020 2:39 PM

You would think Athearn, which is owned by RC car seller Horizon, would offer radio-controlled trains.

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Posted by BRAKIE on Monday, June 1, 2020 3:54 PM

azrail

You would think Athearn, which is owned by RC car seller Horizon, would offer radio-controlled trains.

 

I suspect as soon as its perfected then they will invest in dead rail.  I also suspect a push by the model magazines Dead Rail will become popular.

Larry

Conductor.

Summerset Ry.


"Make Safety Your First Thought.. Not  Your Last" 

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Posted by NittanyLion on Monday, June 1, 2020 4:02 PM

"Battery can explode" is....sort of a red herring.  Yes, that can happen, but you can also receive a lethal shock from a DCC base station.  Both have pretty slim odds.

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Posted by FlyingScotaman on Monday, June 1, 2020 4:59 PM

Electric regenerative braking for dead rail locomotives.

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Posted by Paul3 on Monday, June 1, 2020 9:24 PM

Tinplate Toddler,
Ok, good.  How much money are these "standard" LiPo batteries?  How big are they?  Will they fit in a switcher?  How many charge cycles can they go through?  Can they be fully discharged, left idle for years, and then be recharged fully without issue?  Will they be available unchanged for the next 20+ years?  How long will they last?  And since "none" of my points are valid, I guess they'll never die on the mainline, either.

NittanyLion,
I didn't say "explode", I said "self destruct" and "catch fire".  Slight difference, perhaps, but I'm not trying to be an alarmist, just saying that battery technology has issues even with high end consumer products like cell phones made by billion dollar companies.

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Posted by OldEngineman on Monday, June 1, 2020 9:59 PM

Dead rail?

A dream for a few dabblers. I won't live to see it adapted on any significant scale for HO. Wouldn't want it anyway.

How's it gonna work out for N scale?

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Posted by Tinplate Toddler on Monday, June 1, 2020 10:58 PM

Paul3

Tinplate Toddler,
Ok, good.  How much money are these "standard" LiPo batteries?  How big are they?  Will they fit in a switcher?  How many charge cycles can they go through?  Can they be fully discharged, left idle for years, and then be recharged fully without issue?  Will they be available unchanged for the next 20+ years?  How long will they last?  And since "none" of my points are valid, I guess they'll never die on the mainline, either.

NittanyLion,
I didn't say "explode", I said "self destruct" and "catch fire".  Slight difference, perhaps, but I'm not trying to be an alarmist, just saying that battery technology has issues even with high end consumer products like cell phones made by billion dollar companies.

 

Sorry, but you are completely missing my point! Batterie powered tools and devices have long become a part of our daily lives and have proven their durability. There are batteries small enough to fit into tiny Minitrains 0-4-0 engines or even Busch light railway engines running on 6.5mm track and HO scale cars and trucks.

Putting them into a HO SG switcher shouldn´t be a problem at all. As to the point of dying on the mainline - why not install a circuit monitoring the battery and have the engine automatically go to a charging spot when the battery starts to run low? These things are already being done.

Just because something is beyond your imagination does not mean it won´t be possible or even already exists.

Happy times!

Ulrich (aka The Tin Man)

"You´re never too old for a happy childhood!"

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Posted by BRAKIE on Tuesday, June 2, 2020 6:02 AM

OldEngineman

Dead rail?

A dream for a few dabblers. I won't live to see it adapted on any significant scale for HO. Wouldn't want it anyway.

How's it gonna work out for N scale?

 

They said DCC or  sound would never be possible in  N Scale.. You can buy DCC or DCC/Sound equipt locomotives in  N today..

 

Larry

Conductor.

Summerset Ry.


"Make Safety Your First Thought.. Not  Your Last" 

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Posted by Eric White on Tuesday, June 2, 2020 4:28 PM

The problem with dead rail as a factroy option is the large number of variables. Theres no NMRA standard for it, so manufacturers don't want to take a chance on inventing Betamax instead of VHS. The market is too small for that kind of risk.

But, I think eventually someone will work out a standard for it. Battery powered locomotives can be done, as we've shown in the magazine, and at a very high level. (June 2016) Command control has been around since the early '60s when it was a clunky system offered by General Electric (Aztrak, anyone?). Batteries will continue to get smaller and more power dense. Once there are enought options for batteries to be sourced for HO models, that will make manufacturers more comfortable with offering the models.

One thing I think would be a neat offering is onboard cameras in every DCC-equipped locomotive. That little camera in your phone would probably fit into most any HO scale cab. Combine that with Bluetooth or WiFi control and a screen on your throttle (or use your phone) and you'd have a realistic view of your layout without a clunky camera car ruining the bird's eye view.

Eric

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Posted by IRONROOSTER on Tuesday, June 2, 2020 4:45 PM

Eric White
The problem with dead rail as a factroy option is the large number of variables. Theres no NMRA standard for it, so manufacturers don't want to take a chance on inventing Betamax instead of VHS.

I agree that's the key. 

Once that happens I think it will grow quite rapidly.  Because a key feature of dead rail is you can run it on your existing layout without converting anything.  So whether you're running dc, dcc, ac, dcs, 3 rail, etc.  you can also run a dead rail engine.

Paul

If you're having fun, you're doing it the right way.
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Posted by Deane Johnson on Tuesday, June 2, 2020 5:01 PM

Great discussion guys!  I'm wondering, how do the batteries get charged if the engine is operating on dead rail?

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Posted by Lazers on Tuesday, June 2, 2020 5:12 PM

Deane Johnson

Great discussion guys!  I'm wondering, how do the batteries get charged if the engine is operating on dead rail?

 

Deane, I think you need 'live, isolated' tracks, say at an Engine Terminal, a bit like a DCC test track.

I don't believe that Dead Rail will eliminate cleaning. Crud will always build-up on Track & Wheels. Paul

"It's the South Shore Line, Jim - but not as we know it".

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Posted by Deane Johnson on Tuesday, June 2, 2020 5:18 PM

@Lazers: I was thinking that would be the logical procedure.  That's basically how cars like the Telsa get it done.  I don't think that sort of approach can ever go away.

It could probably be done with a charging system from the rails that were DCC or DC, but I think that would be a serious mistake.  The design should be totally operational with "dead rail" and only be parked on the "charging siding" for the purpose of recharging.

How about control via Wi-Fi to make control interfaces less costly.

I'm sold.  Let's begin.

@Eric White: Maybe Kalmbach should take on the challenge of pushing dead rail.  You've already got a big industry voice.

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Posted by ATLANTIC CENTRAL on Tuesday, June 2, 2020 5:20 PM

One thing is for sure, the more complex these locomotives might become with all these features, built in cameras, built in dead rail options, smoke, sound, escaping steam, complex lighting, etc, the harder they become for anyone to work on. Be it the user or a repair tech.

Turning them into disposable electronic crap like cell phones and computers, and driving the hobby farther and farther into the "RTR only" mode.

That's not really a hobby I'm interested in.......

Sheldon

    

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Posted by Deane Johnson on Tuesday, June 2, 2020 5:39 PM

@Lazers -"I don't believe that Dead Rail will eliminate cleaning. Crud will always build-up on Track & Wheels. Paul"

That's an interesting point in that I've repeatedly heard that much of the "crude" is made from tiny arcing between the wheels and the rail.  I don't know the validity of that theory, but if true, Dead Rail would tend to eliminate much of it I would think.

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Posted by Paul3 on Tuesday, June 2, 2020 5:45 PM

Tinplate Toddler,
Yes, battery powered tools have many important uses in our daily lives.

Yes, there are batteries small enough to fit into very small spaces. 

Yes, batteries can even fit into HO scale switchers.

Now let's look at the negatives:
Tiny electric motors that pull almost no current spinning screw shafts to move extremely lightweight plastic articulated attachments to move small amounts of sand have almost no relationship to HO locomotive motors other than the fact that both are motors and use electricity.  HO locos can easily weigh a pound; HO trains of decent length can weigh several pounds or more (some brass passenger cars weigh a pound each).  This type of service doesn't lend itself well to small, tiny motors that are powered by small, tiny batteries like these HO construction vehicles.

There's no way a battery powered loco is going to automatically go to a charging spot unless you're talking about total layout automation.  The percentage of such layouts are extremely low, and the ones that are not used for public display (Minature Wonderland, Chicago's MSI, etc.) are orders of magnitude smaller than that.  And BTW, full layout automation requires block detection.  How do you do that with deadrail?  If the point of deadrail is to never clean your wheels or track again, but then you need to keep them clean to make the block detection work, then what's the point?

Just because something is possible doesn't make it practical or popular.  Every multi-story home could have an elevator; some homes already do.  But not every homeowner is going to install one.

BTW, why didn't you answer the rest of my questions?  How much money are these "standard" LiPo batteries?  How many charge cycles can they go through?  Can they be fully discharged, left idle for years, and then be recharged fully without issue?  Will they be available unchanged for the next 20+ years?  How long will they last? 

Brakie,
You, yourself, said back in 2004 that DCC would be replaced in 5 years by something better.  Big Smile

IRONROOSTER,
It's just not going to happen.  Batteries will not become an NMRA Standard because there's no way anyone in our hobby is going to be able to create and manufacture their own batteries.  The expense of setting up a battery factory is immense.  And say the NMRA comes up with a battery standard with size, connections, and power output as a Standard.  Who's going to make it to those standards?

Compare that to DCC.  Digitrax, TCS, Soundtraxx, NCE...all make their own decoders right here in the USA and conform to NMRA Standards.  Sure, they use foreign made components (diodes, resistors, etc.) but the PCB's are etched, the components are assembled, and the pieces soldered together right here.  That will not happen with batteries.  TCS decoders are literally made in the basement of the owner's house.  I'm thinking that's going to be impossible with a battery factory.

The reason why DCC became a part of our hobby (vs. Dynatrol) is that it became an NMRA Standard.  What made it popular was the sub-$20 decoder.  I don't think either one of those things is going to happen with a battery in HO scale.

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Posted by Tinplate Toddler on Tuesday, June 2, 2020 5:51 PM

Deane Johnson

@Lazers -"I don't believe that Dead Rail will eliminate cleaning. Crud will always build-up on Track & Wheels. Paul"

That's an interesting point in that I've repeatedly heard that much of the "crude" is made from tiny arcing between the wheels and the rail.  I don't know the validity of that theory, but if true, Dead Rail would tend to eliminate much of it I would think.

 

A dead rail equipped engine does not need any track to run, albeit "unguided", so it does not matter, whether the track is "clean" or "dirty".

Happy times!

Ulrich (aka The Tin Man)

"You´re never too old for a happy childhood!"

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Posted by BRAKIE on Tuesday, June 2, 2020 5:59 PM

Paul3
Brakie,You, yourself, said back in 2004 that DCC would be replaced in 5 years by something better.

Paul, True enough.. I also said a small ISL like a 1' x10' doesn't need DCC. Well that was before sound..I now fully believe a DCC/Sound equipt locomotive needs to be operated with a DCC system even if a ISL is only 1'x 8' in order to get all the sounds and to use the CV settings.

It seems dead rail might be next super duper control systen..

We shall see.

Larry

Conductor.

Summerset Ry.


"Make Safety Your First Thought.. Not  Your Last" 

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Posted by Deane Johnson on Tuesday, June 2, 2020 6:14 PM

If the dead rail engines were designed so that they could run on DC/DCC track as if the voltage was not there, the tranisition could be rather quick compared to most other new systems.  Having the wheels totally isolated from any current draw would be all it would take to do that.

A person could then get started with a single controller and 1 engine, not rewiring the layout or obsoleting their collection of engines.

If the engines were independent of any current draw from the track, they would somehow need to be switchable to track voltage to recharge on a "charging siding".  I would think that should be a simple task for the electronic minds that have created our complex DCC systems in use today.

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Posted by Tinplate Toddler on Tuesday, June 2, 2020 6:21 PM

Happy times!

Ulrich (aka The Tin Man)

"You´re never too old for a happy childhood!"

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Posted by riogrande5761 on Tuesday, June 2, 2020 6:42 PM

Dead rail keeps coming up as "the next big thing" but I'll believe it when I see it catch on and become standardized.  Otherwise, talk is cheap and dead rail is an anomaly.

 

a·nom·a·ly
/əˈnäməlē/
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noun
 
  1. 1.
    something that deviates from what is standard, normal, or expected.

Rio Grande.  The Action Road  - Focus 1977-1983

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Posted by BATMAN on Tuesday, June 2, 2020 7:12 PM

I just hope my dead rail loco can be charged from the rails while it is running around on the rails so I don't have to stop the fun.Whistling

Also how many charges would a battery pack get before that would need to be replaced?

Brent

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Posted by ATLANTIC CENTRAL on Tuesday, June 2, 2020 7:53 PM

Why not use a hybrid system, similar to a normal automotive charging circuit.

A small battery, able to run the loco for 5 minutes, constantly charged by the track power, except when there is no track power. 

In this case the "battery" is the battery, and the track power is the "alternator".

Control it by direct radio.

Reversing sections could be handled with simple dead spots longer than the locos, no short detecting auto reverser needed. 

Power supplies might need to be "clean" but otherwise very simple. Current levels could be kept low with multiple power districts just like DCC.

Much simpler layout infrastructure. Since polarity would not change detection could be done with a diode circuit or track relay circuit. Detecting that reverse dead spot might be tricky? Maybe a "powerless" circuit could detect the loco power being fed into that section?

Frogs could be left dead, complex interlocking trackage could be left dead with the right gaps.

Not saying track would never need cleaning, but not likely much of an issue overall.

That said, in 50 years at this hobby I have never had all these track cleaning problems I hear about.......

Sheldon

    

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Posted by SeeYou190 on Tuesday, June 2, 2020 10:58 PM

ATLANTIC CENTRAL
Why not use a hybrid system, similar to a normal automotive charging circuit. A small battery, able to run the loco for 5 minutes, constantly charged by the track power, except when there is no track power. In this case the "battery" is the battery, and the track power is the "alternator". Control it by direct radio.

That is exactly the way my friend Danny built his outdoor railroad.

The track has live sections that charge batteries in the locomotives. The locmotives are radio controlled with R/C airplane controllers. Track sections with turnouts, reverse loops, and his turntables are all isolated (dead).

He built this system over ten years ago.

-Kevin

Wink Happily modeling my STRATTON & GILLETTE RAILROAD. A Class A line located in a personal fantasy world of semi-plausible nonsense on Tuesday, August 3rd, 1954.

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Posted by Tinplate Toddler on Tuesday, June 2, 2020 11:15 PM

Ever heard of a real life engine that could run indefinitively without being refueled? Only electric engines can do that, as long as there is "power on the line".

Having to refuel your engines either on a track in a Diesel servicing facility or at a coaling station  adds a little relaism, doesn´t it?

Happy times!

Ulrich (aka The Tin Man)

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Posted by riogrande5761 on Wednesday, June 3, 2020 6:18 AM

BATMAN
I just hope my dead rail loco can be charged from the rails while it is running around on the rails so I don't have to stop the fun.

That's why "dead rail" makes no sense.  Might has well have rail that can keep a battery charged.

Anyway, if so called dead rail is "the next big thing", it seems we should be prepared to wait quite a while before it becomes a common "off the shelf" product that is affordable for a large fleet of engines.  Ring Engineering, last I checked, was not practical for my purposes, but better suited for a small fleet of engines cost wise and getting set up wise.

Those who are enamored with dead rail can blaze their own trails but IMO, it's "yet another" hobby within a hobby that I don't have time or money or desire to pursue.  I want to actually get a layout up and running and not be screwing around with a technology that is still non-standard and in early stages.

Rio Grande.  The Action Road  - Focus 1977-1983

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