DCC in the garden

Discussion of large gauge model railway specific products and related model railway topics (problems and solutions). (1 gauge, O gauge, S gauge etc)
davidarf
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DCC in the garden

Postby davidarf » Fri Nov 14, 2014 3:16 pm

I have been involved in garden railways for more than 15 years, starting with 1:19 to 1:22.5 scales on 45mm track using a mixture of live steam and electric locomotives. In the past 2 or 3 years I have also started running 1:32 scale, again both live steam and electric. I have converted all of my electric locomotives to battery power with 2.4GHz radio control of simple forward/reverse speed controllers. When I started in garden railways I very quickly found that track power was far too problematical and radio control gives the flexibility to take my stock to any of the many garden lines that I visit and run without any technical issues.

Recently I have looked into the possibility of more advanced control systems to allow for proper control of sound, programmable acceleration and deceleration and joint control of multiple locomotives (double heading etc). Clearly DCC seemed a technology to investigate, but to my dismay I could not find a solution in this area for large scale locomotives running on battery power with wireless control. A number of companies claim to offer wireless systems, but in reality they all seem to rely on wired track connections. I fail to see the logic for having a very expensive base station to feed digital command signals onto the track with a supply voltage, only to have the commands disappear at the first bad joint or patch of dirt (very common on garden lines). I would have thought that it is far simpler to transmit the digital commands via 2.4GHz radio to a receiver on the locomotive and then allow the locomotive to derive it's power from either on-board battery or from track pickup for those that want to keep with track power.

A concept similar to this has been developed in the USA by Ring with their Rail-Pro system. Whilst their technology looks an excellent solution, and in some respects far superior to DCC, it suffers from three major drawbacks. It is a one supplier proprietary system, it is not yet available for large scale locomotives and it has not been certified for use in the UK.

My question to this forum is therefore have I missed a potential supplier who has a truly wireless, non-proprietary, sophisticated control system for large scale model railways in the garden.

GWR_fan
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Re: DCC in the garden

Postby GWR_fan » Fri Nov 14, 2014 9:51 pm

David,
I am a confirmed track power/DCC fan, but have heard numerous positive reports on the American Air-wire system for 'DCC' wireless control. As regards power continuity on a garden rail then proper aftermarket rail clamps and wiring will almost certainly remove any continuity issues. Reliance on the stock manufacturer supplied rail joiners will mostly result in power failure unless track sections are bonded.

Rail clamps are expensive but worth the money in terms of reliability. Most of my wiring is duplicated so that if I should suffer a continuity issue then it would entail multiple failures. I also run with stainless steel rail as at the time there was a minimal cost increase over that of brass rail.


Tim

davidarf
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Re: DCC in the garden

Postby davidarf » Fri Nov 14, 2014 10:58 pm

Tim

Thankyou for your comments and suggestions. I have looked at the Airwire 900, but as far as I can find out, it is not certified for UK use and I am told that it would not comply.

When I started in the garden I bonded the first few sections of track with a view to using track power, but with the regular use of steam, the oil and dust make this a constant fight (even with just a few sections of track). In addition, many steam locomotives do not have insulated wheels which rules out track power. I quickly gave up on the track power and now have about 200 metres of track. Putting in rail clamps is no longer a practical option. The other factor is the need to take my stock to other gardens, none of which have track power. For me, radio control is the only practical solution that would allow me to run on any track that I go to.

My only experience with track powered DCC was on a school model railway club layout lhat I managed for about 3 or 4 years. This was an extensive OO layout and I spent weeks wiring dropper leads to bus wires to connect every section of track, ending up with more wires under the baseboards than had existed with DC section wiring. Even with that, I found DCC through the rails most unreliable. I had to go in an hour early every week to clean all the track, but I doubt that we had more than a handful of sessions without some DCC failures. I had got as far as researching possible receivers and speed controllers to look at converting to radio control, but left the organisation before reaching a practical result.

Most DCC manufacturers now have wireless control devices, but as far as I have been able to find out, none have added wireless receivers to their locomotive decoders. I think that this would be a simple and valuable addition to bring in many more potential users. I am not suggesting that manufacturers should abandon track power - I am just suggesting and additional operational mode.

David

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Lancastrian
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Re: DCC in the garden

Postby Lancastrian » Fri Nov 14, 2014 11:11 pm

I use LGB MTS wIth a Massoth remote control. This will control both analogue and digital, lights, steam, sound etc. and the number of locos you can run together is far more than I would ever need.
My Web Site Links: FGO & Boats and Canals (Forum)

GWR_fan
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Re: DCC in the garden

Postby GWR_fan » Fri Nov 14, 2014 11:25 pm

Lancastrian wrote:I use LGB MTS wIth a Massoth remote control. This will control both analogue and digital, lights, steam, sound etc. and the number of locos you can run together is far more than I would ever need.


David is after a true wireless DCC system with no reliance on track power (onboard batteries), not simply a wireless cab. I have heard of another manufacturer, 'G-wire', but have no knowledge of their system (UK compliance will always be an issue with any U.S. manufacturer).

Perhaps Tony Walsham may be of some assistance. Google 'Remote Control Systems' (RCS, do not confuse with an American company that uses a similar name). Tony has manufactured remote systems for battery powered largescale trains for around twenty years. He is based in Australia and has a worldwide reputation for quality products. I believe that he may have knowledge of an onboard DCC setup that a British manufacturer was pioneering.


Tim

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Re: DCC in the garden

Postby GWR_fan » Fri Nov 14, 2014 11:31 pm

davidarf wrote:Tim

Thankyou for your comments and suggestions. I have looked at the Airwire 900, but as far as I can find out, it is not certified for UK use and I am told that it would not comply.
...............................................................................
David



David,
I assume that the '900' in 'Airwire 900' refers to the 900mhz bandwith. As such, it definately does not comply with British regulations. As many Europeans are track power based then I feel it unlikely that any American manufacturer would tailor a product specifically for the European bandwidth. Fortunately, the 900 bandwidth is legal in Australia and I am able to access such products.


Tim

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Re: DCC in the garden

Postby GWR_fan » Sat Nov 15, 2014 1:38 am

David,
this link may be of some assistance.

http://www.tamvalleyrr.com/wirelessdcc.html


Tim

davidarf
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Re: DCC in the garden

Postby davidarf » Sat Nov 15, 2014 10:27 am

Tim

Thankyou for your helpful comments.

I had found the G-wire option, but ruled this out because it uses the 900MHz band that is not available in the UK. The Tam Valley ideas, again found in my research, are very interesting in that a European version at 869MHz is available. Some web pages express doubts about the future availability of this band because most of the 800-900MHz bands have been sold to the mobile phone companies and may become unavailable for general use. The other weakness of the Tam Valley idea is that it still relies on the base station - generally an expensive and (inconveniently) mains powered unit. I can see their logic for going down this route to get a system that will work with a very wide range of DCC systems in the indoor environment.

Another option I considered was the Crest Revolution system, but I was apprehensive about this because it is another one supplier proprietary system and seems to have a very limited range of sound available. As this manufacturer was formerly part of the, now, long gone Aristocraft organisation I had some doubts about future availability and development.

I think that any investment will have to be in a 2.4GKz system because this has proved itself to be the most reliable radio control in the model environment because of the ability to bind receivers to the transmitter to prevent other systems taking over and the reliability of the receivers working inside metal bodied locomotives.

The best elements I have found so far are the control technology offered by Ring in the Rail-Pro system (but subject to the limitations listed earlier), and the sound decoders by Zimo for which there seems to be a wide range of sound files available. Whilst Zimo also have a 2.4GHz cab, they still rely on an enormously expense and inconveniently mains powered base station which would rule this out even with the Tam Valley re-transmitter idea.

I have tried emailing Ring to see if they are likely to have UK approval and a large scale version, but have not had a reply. I have also emailed one of the UK suppliers Coastal DCC to see if they had any suggestions, but again with no reply.

I therefore posted this thread to seek further suggestions. My comments above may seem a bit negative, but I do appreciate all the suggestions received and every one will be considered or re-considered to try ensure that I have not overlooked something.

David

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Re: DCC in the garden

Postby GWR_fan » Sun Nov 16, 2014 1:14 am

David,
rail contamination is one reason that I never dabbled into live steam.


Tim


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