Dead Rail Systems

Discussion in 'Electrical/Electronics' started by trainchaser007, May 28, 2016.

  1. trainchaser007

    trainchaser007 Passed away September 22, 2017

    (My forum search for "dead rail" had no results so I'm assuming I'm not beating a dead horse with a new thread. If I'm wrong, please direct me to an existing dead rail thread.)

    As someone who still runs DC, I find dead rail systems intriguing. The thought of running trains that are powered by on-board batteries rather than current from track is interesting. As far as I know, dead rail systems don't have all of the bells and whistles of DCC systems yet (sound for one), but just the idea of not having to worry about dirty track alone was enough to get my attention. If anyone on this forum is using a dead rail system, please let me know. I have some questions I'd like to ask.
     
  2. klrwhizkid

    klrwhizkid Administrator Staff Member Administrator Frisco.org Supporter

    Brandon, take a look at this presentation by Duncan McRee as posted on the Pacific Coast Region NMRA site. I know the concept sounds enticing but it requires a good understanding of electronics and as much ingenuity as installing sound in DCC locomotives.
    http://www.pcrnmra.org/pcr/clinics/DeadRailOps-McRee.pdf

    Properly built HO layouts should not encounter many electrical issues; we have many operating layouts here in KC and I don't encounter many issues that would drive me to a dead rail system for an indoor layout. If I were to get into G gauge Garden Railroading, then I would consider a mix of live/dead rail technology for better overall operation.

    Anyone interested should also check out this site; http://www.deadrailsociety.com/

    There really shouldn't be much reason to discuss this further on this site as there is plenty more to be found on the internet re: pros and cons.
     
    Last edited: May 29, 2016
  3. Brad Slone

    Brad Slone Member Frisco.org Supporter

    Brandon,

    There are dead rail systems out there designed to fit inside HO scale engines. However there are still obviously some size limitations to still get past, over time technology might overcome some of these. It is much easier with steam engines since you have a tender to work with, if you are talking about diesels about your only option is a dummy willed with all the components. One issue that is worth mentioning is that the radio signals will not pass through metal, i.e. brass. There are several remedies for this, just something to keep in mind. I am a few years out from starting a layout, but I am giving it serious consideration and like everything else technology is always advancing. The two systems that I have looked at the most are S-CAB http://www.s-cab.com/ and a system offered by Tam Valley http://www.tamvalleydepot.com/deadrailsystem.html both have advantages and disadvantages from my view point. The big advantage of SCAB is that you can charge batteries from the rail, it utilizes existing DCC components so it will support sound, but you are limited on DCC functions. Tam Valley is used as an addition to a DCC system so you have all the DCC bells and whistles including sound, but as set there system can not charge from rails so you have to plug each engine in and charge the batteries between sessions.

    For my opinion, if you already have a sizeable layout up and going with most of your engines equipped to run on your system of choice it is probably not worth the hassle of changing over. But if you are starting new, particularly if you run steam which gives you the advantage of space I think there are a number of potential advantages. Limited wiring and not having to constantly clean rail are two big ones that come to mind. Miles Hale gave a great clinic on the subject at last years MCOR regional in Jefferson City and there are several links to dead rail articles on the Tam Valley site. Depending on how the hobby trends I believe it could be as big as when DCC itself came along, I can remember how great Dynatrol and CTC 80 was back in the day but are primitive by today's standards. But who knows, they are making great gains in the keep alive systems, it will be interesting to see how it plays out in the years to come.

    Brad Slone
     
  4. trainchaser007

    trainchaser007 Passed away September 22, 2017

    Imagine life without cleaning track/wheels/pickups, wiring buses and leads, soldering, etc. That's what's intriguing to me. However, I have a good reason for still preferring corded power tools over battery powered tools, no matter how many feet of extension cord I need and no matter how aggravating cords can be. Battery life and charging time are crucial to me. I haven't found a battery yet that can last I long as I want and charge as fast as I want. Like others, I believe the technology will progress. The question is, how long will that take? In my opinion, it would be more prototypical to have the source of a locomotive's power on board a locomotive rather than having power be picked up from the rails (excluding models of mass transit systems that might use a third rail), but I don't know how feasible that is. I've seen a few locomotives with jacks for chargers. The jacks are hidden by plugging a headlight in the jack. The jack actually powers the headlight. The headlight is removed and a cord is plugged in to recharge the locomotive's battery. That's a lot of down time though for a locomotive. I assume someone besides me has thought of interchangeable batteries like those on power tools... only much smaller. I'm not sure if it would be possible to put battery's inside an HO diesel locomotive's fuel tank, but that's the first place that popped into mind after considering the space limitations inside the shells of most diesels. Nevertheless, dead rail tech is something I'm going to keep a watch on. If dead rail tech ever catches up with all the features of DCC - AND - battery power continues to improve, I could see dead rail tech possibly surpassing DCC much the way that DCC surpassed DC. However, it's clearly not there yet from what I've read. I appreciate the feedback. Yes, there is a lot of information about dead rail already on the web, but quite frankly, this is the site (the people) I trust and value the most. After all, it's like they say in that commercial, "They can't put anything on the internet that isn't true!" :ROFLMAO:
     
  5. klrwhizkid

    klrwhizkid Administrator Staff Member Administrator Frisco.org Supporter

    There are advances on the way in control systems and communications, but like in the auto industry, the biggest hurdle is battery technology. For the foreseeable future, according to our best and brightest automotive engineers, there are not likely to be any major leaps in battery technology beyond what lithium-ion has done within my lifetime and that will, hopefully for me, be another 30 years.
    Of the systems out there, Duncan's (Tam Valley) system is the most appealing to me, but add rail charging.
     
  6. Sirfoldalot

    Sirfoldalot Frisco.org Supporter Frisco.org Supporter

    Thanks, Guys!
    Very interesting discussion and technical points.
    I think you just need to switch out the head end power just as the 1:1 guys do!
    And service the side lined power for the return trip.
     
    WindsorSpring and Karl like this.
  7. klrwhizkid

    klrwhizkid Administrator Staff Member Administrator Frisco.org Supporter

    I just received a board from BlueRailTrains yesterday. I decided to drop the cash and check out the system. Interesting concept; control a locomotive from your smart phone through Bluetooth connections and sound comes from the app on your phone. The power can come from DC or DCC on the rails or a battery pack on board. You can control multiple locomotives and give each of them unique names. The app offers multiple control skins and is where all the configuration takes place. The system support a generic diesel sound or steam sound. Documentation at this point is still a little weak.

    I quickly installed the board in a Proto 2000 Heritage 0-8-0 which tends to be a very smooth running locomotive on DCC. I spent about two hours trying to tweak the adjustments to get it to creep along or run along slowly and smoothly but the documentation is not yet there to explain all the adjustments variables. There are a number of sound adjustments available including a somewhat decent chuff rate adjustment.

    At any rate, I will not be purchasing more of these systems because of the limitations compared to SoundTraxx's newest offerings in the Econami and Tsunami 2 decoder lines, size being one of the limitations of this system.

    BlueHorse_datasheet_1800.jpg Settings_Screen-385x1024.jpg userguide_home-576x1024.jpg userguide_sounds.jpg userguide_traincontrol2.jpg
     

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