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Converting Engines To Battery Power For RF

David has this question for readers:

“I had to dismantle my DCC powered HO scale railroad when we moved and am considering RF when I rebuild.  Does anyone have any pro and/or con comments about running on RF?  I’m also told I have to convert my engines to battery power.”

7 Responses to Converting Engines To Battery Power For RF

  • Newman Atkinsonsays:

    David, Why not stay with DCC. even if you add what you are talking about it would run on that layout at the same time. That would be battery and everything else would be powered by DCC. I was at a model railroading clinic about a year ago and they gave a demonstration using what you are talking about on an operating DCC system. If the DCC system had a derailment or just a short those guys were stuck where they were. But the one using Battery and Radio Control was able to keep running which blew the DCC guys minds. One thing you will find is that each engine you radio control it will have to have it’s own frequency and throttle to match and if there were more than one with the same frequency visiting someone would have to wait till that engine was shut down to run theirs. Where DCC has power to everything and you just dial up which one you want you want to run. I can see something like that working very well on a outdoor garden Railway where running lots of wire can get very expensive.. Another thing on the battery operation they were limited to the battery and then they had to go to the engine shed and get put on charge. The ones I witnessed did not change out batteries they had to stop and plug in to chargers and were down while the charge was happening. I would say stay in DCC but add the new system and run both if you want. If you don’t your railroad friends may not have the same thing and would be unable to run on your layout when visiting although the battery RF would work on theirs while they are running…
    That RF system had some good potential but it also has it’s drawbacks those are my thought and my experience with the demos I seen from Newman Atkinson

    • Tom. Pearsonsays:

      Hi David I have investigated radio control in N gauge only to find that all present systems only work on OO/HO. By far the best is ProtoCab who are working on an N gauge variant. For full details check out http://www.prottocab.com.


  • Jaysays:

    I feel that one of the biggest obstacles of Radio Control Locomotives Especially in HO is where to put the batteries. Many locomotives (with DCC & Sound) are packed with many components and don’t leave much room for batteries. Steam would most likely have room in the tender. Another issue is how to charge the batteries. If done right, you could probably set up the locomotive to charge from track power through an on board battery charging circuit. I do like the idea of not having to worry about dirty wheels and track and dead spots in turnouts etc. Just how much run time will you get with batteries? I guess that depends upon how heavy a train you are pulling etc. If you can deal with down time for charging etc, then it might be right for you. As for me, I prefer to just stay with DCC cause I have too many locomotives that would have to be modified for R/C.

    • Newman Atkinsonsays:

      Hi Jay, The run time for this system will vary depending on what you are doing but they said at the clinic that with continual running they last about 45 minutes, Of coarse where do you put more Batteries to extend that. The system sounds ideal for outdoor G scale or even Live Steam G scale where wires and power are the issue. The Live steam clubs usually have to stay close to their trains to make adjustments and such. Also Live steam needs some controls to be able to switch and and what not. This sounds ideal for that.
      from Newman Atkinson

      • Jaysays:

        Yes, for larger scales it is the way to go, especially for garden railways where track will be hard to keep clean. I used to run live steam in my yard in G scale. I did use radio control to control the fire level, throttle, speed and direction. I also made an RC battery powered loco just to experience how it would run. I had years of experience with RC planes and cars, so for me to adapt it to trains was easier for me. I like using the later 2.4Ghz systems because they didn’t have to have a large antenna sticking out. There was plenty of room for the electronics and batteries inside G scale equipment. I did build one car that contained the RC electronics and batteries that could connect to several different locomotives.

  • J. Minnssays:

    Check out BlueRail Trains and the new flexibility to run DCC or Battery or Bluetooth. There is a free throttle and controller (downloaded to your cell phone) for your Apple or Android powered phone. Your search engine will also show you RF alternatives with the same free controller, and supply links to $9.00 to $20.00 replacement chips, separating the power and the signal to your engines, and Bluetooth sound for under $10.00. Happy Railing.

    • Jaysays:

      I checked Blue Rail out. For me, since I already use DCC, and if I used it with my JMRI,through my computer, I can control my trains with the Engine Throttle app on my smart phone. I can even control my turnouts from the phone app. The costs of the Blue Rail decoders are more expensive than many DCC decoders in my opinion. The Blue Rail System would be better for those who don’t want to invest in a DCC system, or would like to use on board battery power to run trains. It does have it’s merits, though for me I prefer DCC & Sound with the sound coming from my locomotives.

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