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RailPro => RailPro Discussion & Help => Topic started by: Terry on June 17, 2016, 09:55:39 PM

Title: RailPro on Battery Power
Post by: Terry on June 17, 2016, 09:55:39 PM
Rings all-in-one design makes it quite easy to come up with a fully battery powered locomotive.  This example uses an 850mah Lipo cell which produces 3.7 volts.  The little(!) circuit board under the tangle of wires boosts the voltage to 12 volts.  The unit is charged externally by a hobby LiPo charger.

This installation lasts about one hour of continuous running on a level circle of tracks.  The pay off, however, is in operation.  We get from two and a half hours up to an incredible four hours on the layouts we visit.  Why the difference?  Just like the prototype, it’s ‘hurry up and wait’ progress, although the ‘hurry up’ might be a misnomer.  Our five units (from Bachmann, Athearn, and Walthers) play nice with the DCC and DC folks, and unless we tell people, no one knows the difference.

NOTE!!!  LiPo cells can explode when heated, shorted, punctured or used with a non LiPo compliant charger!   Unless you can fit the connectors the cell comes with into your conversion, you will need to make some changes.  This is the only twitchy part of these projects.

Parts sources:
   LiPo batteries: from the internet, I searched by ‘850mah single cell LiPo’
   voltage converter: Pololu U3V12D12 from Litchfield Station hobbies
   Plugs/wire: Miniatronics 50-001-02

A note about that tangle of wires.  Originally we thought best to make the battery removable for charging.  This extra wire allowed us to lift the RailPro and slide out the battery.  In the end, we taped the battery to the floor.  This was easier to handle.



2.8.0 install photo.jpg
Title: Re: RailPro on Battery Power
Post by: William Brillinger on June 17, 2016, 10:13:48 PM
Very Nice Terry!  Do you have any diesel examples?

[Note: I inserted your image into the post for easier viewing.]
Title: Re: RailPro on Battery Power
Post by: G8B4Life on June 17, 2016, 10:14:22 PM
Welcome Terry.

Your post will certainly give a few here a renewed vigor in their quest for deadrail. I'm still yet to see anyone fit all this into a hood unit though. Have any of your group done that yet? It would be interesting to see them.

- Tim

Title: Re: RailPro on Battery Power
Post by: Terry on June 22, 2016, 12:40:00 AM
Hi Bill,

Funny thing; tonight I received the batteries to do a GP35 conversion.  I've had the chance to confirm the fit (rear end of long hood), the placement of the Ring module and the sugar cube speaker toward the cab.  There's many a slip twixt the cup and the lip. . . we'll see how the rest goes.

More later I'm sure -
Terry
Title: Re: RailPro on Battery Power
Post by: KPack on June 22, 2016, 04:04:24 PM
Terry - This is the first picture I can remember of someone actually using Railpro with a battery.  I'm sure people have done it before but I don't remember seeing it.  Good info on the converter from Litchfield Hobbies.  That is certainly a tiny circuit board, which is great considering all the other stuff that takes up room on an install like this. 

This particular install doesn't allow charging from the rails, does it?  So in order to charge you must disassemble the tender and manually plug in the battery.  I'm not opposed to do that, I would just need to find a way to easily access the plug; hopefully without having to remove the shell in order to do so.

I model only diesel (late era) and removing the shell on my models is a delicate procedure.  If I could find a way to make the plug easily accessible then I would be much more comfortable.  I know that people have talked about putting the battery in the fuel tank, but I have yet to see a model that will actually allow that, as the fuel tank is normally taken up with the mounting for the motor.  I'm looking around at other batteries and wonder if they will work.  Lower mah batteries are smaller, but how long would they last?  I'd love to get a good hour out of a locomotive with lights (LED) and sound. 

-Kevin
Title: Re: RailPro on Battery Power
Post by: Dean on June 22, 2016, 09:00:45 PM
Why can't the battery charger be connected to the tender wheels. Then you cold pull the locomotive on a dedicated track and charge the batteries.
Title: Re: RailPro on Battery Power
Post by: nodcc4me on June 22, 2016, 09:57:50 PM
I have read about that before, although it was done with DCC and box cars containing batteries. You would have to connect the cars to the locomotives electrically to run, then have a charging track siding. This would obviate the need to mount batteries in the engines. Unfortunately, you might still have to connect and disconnect the car from the locomotive at times. Of course, with steam engines the tender would make a perfect battery compartment, if there is enough room once the module and speaker are in place.
Title: Re: RailPro on Battery Power
Post by: Terry on June 24, 2016, 05:11:38 PM
Hi KPack, Tuscarora and nodcc4me,

The charging is actually extremely easy.  The tender body just sits on the frame.  The body and frame fit very well and are designed to keep themselves aligned.  Most models I have seen are the same.  I just lift off the body and plug the lead from the charger, which is about 18 inch lead of the same Miniatronics twin wire/connector.  Although I could keep the unit on the rails, I choose to have a central charging station.

BTW, the fact that charging is external makes these compact installs possible.  Any other charging system, rails, etc., requires additional stuff in the loco.  In any case, I always prefer external charging - it's the KISS principle.

On another note, the GP35 progresses, the battery, now assembled, is two 500mah LiPos that sit just under the shell at the rear where they are attached to the body rather than the frame.  This floats them over the gear tower of the rear truck.  More on all this later.

Terry
Title: Re: RailPro on Battery Power
Post by: Terry on June 25, 2016, 11:48:56 PM
Here goes, (if I can get this emall stuff to work), The first picture shows the subassemblies laid out.  The battery (two 500mah cells) were not included here as they were in process.  The main electrical structure holds the RailPro, the sugar cube speaker (below it), and the small narrow rectangle on the underside is double sided foam tape to connect the assembly to the top of the motor.
 
assembllies laid out.jpg

The ‘picture frame’ below this supports the structure from falling onto the front drive train, it is glued to the loco’s frame but not the electrical unit.  This makes for easier dis/assembly.  Also, you can now see the batteries stuck to the body. 

assembled.jpg

At this point the body literally drops onto the frame and the couplers hold the loco together.  It’s clear that this conversion has no lights.  It is a Mule, I try all kinds of stuff on this chassis, it deserves a purple heart.

Finally, the third picture shows the attachment to the charger.  The fourth picture shows the battery plugged in and the loco is running.  Doing this removes the need for a DPDT switch and some sort of socket for the charger.  In tight circumstances like this one it would be unduly complicated and bulky to go that route.

charging.jpg

running.jpg

Going back to the first picture, the dynamic brake casting serves as the hatch.  The idea for this conversion happened when I was looking at the underside of the body and noticed it was a separate piece.   When was able to break it out, I figured the conversion was a  real possibility.  Once the hatch is back in place it looks like just any other Athearn GP35.

Cheers, I have run this loco on the workbench circle for well over an hour and the battery has plenty left.  Tomorrow the loco, Jerry and I head for a friend’s layout.  It is an industrial scene with a ton of switching.  We’ll see how this one works.

Thanks,
Terry
Title: Re: RailPro on Battery Power
Post by: Josephbw on June 26, 2016, 10:04:58 AM
That really looks nice, good job Terry.  :)

Joe
Title: Re: RailPro on Battery Power
Post by: nodcc4me on June 26, 2016, 11:07:53 AM
Nice work Terry! Looks very promising.
Title: Re: RailPro on Battery Power
Post by: Jwin on June 26, 2016, 11:16:02 AM
Terry,
This is great, I will have to give it a try. Needs all the lights but this is a great start to becoming dead rail. Thanks for sharing

John
Title: Re: RailPro on Battery Power
Post by: Terry on June 26, 2016, 05:55:15 PM
Sunday afternoon - just got back from Jay's industrial layout.  Loco worked beautifully over the maze of switches and crossings - flawless.  The sound really drew us in; and when idling, I kept wondering if I'd run out of diesel fuel - I guess being on battery added to that too. The session lasted two and a half hours and the batteries are still raring to go.  It was fun.

Terry
Title: Re: RailPro on Battery Power
Post by: Alan on June 26, 2016, 06:54:33 PM
Terry,

I am curious why the allure of battery. Earlier today I was amusing myself after a module installation (and after break-in) by seeing how slow I could make my latest motive power addition craw with a 16 car train behind it. It traveled the whole railroad (about 150') at what had to be less than 1 scale MPH without a hiccup. Just for kicks I backed the train for the return trip at the same crawl. The trip included across many turnouts some curved and even a 3-way. It took a very long time.  ;D  While I was watching the train barely moving your battery thread came to mind. I even wrote myself a reminder note to ask you the question.

If an amateur like me can make conventional track electrical supply work this well what is about battery power that is so desirable?
Title: Re: RailPro on Battery Power
Post by: KPack on June 26, 2016, 08:20:14 PM
Alan, the answer to that question, for me at least, would be to have reliable running on other layouts.  I could probably build my own with trackwork that would pass under most circumstances, but to be able to take a locomotive and place it on anyone's track without thinking twice about their track quality would make it worth it. 

Kevin
Title: Re: RailPro on Battery Power
Post by: Alan on June 26, 2016, 09:17:37 PM
That implies the operators on those layouts live with poor running. That would be a buzz kill.
Title: Re: RailPro on Battery Power
Post by: G8B4Life on June 27, 2016, 06:18:30 AM
I believe the biggest draw to deadrail for most of those looking at it is not what Kevin was saying (though that is a bonus) but it eliminates all those supposedly costly bus wires and power supplies around a large layout and eliminates the perceived bad track/wheel interface electrical connection.

I guess in some cases it could be handy in that you wouldn't have to gap and power whole yards etc but I always say if your going to have train detection, and I'd say it's a fair call that the majority would be current based detection then your going to need power in them rails. May as well use that power to run the trains.

- Tim
Title: Re: RailPro on Battery Power
Post by: Terry on June 27, 2016, 10:05:20 PM
Alan and Kevin

It's a good question.  No one format is for everybody.  I started battery operation when I was in Garden Railroading and it has fascinated me ever since.  In any scale, generally, layouts with battery power tend to have fewer locomotives and more operation.  Saying that, it doesn't mean all locomotives need to be batteried - they play well with anything.

Kevin's point is well made; not all track work is excellent - but as far as track is concerned, it is probably dirt that most people cite when thinking of batteries.

Another point is initial layout construction.  Not having to wire a railroad at all, or not having to worry about reverse polarity is a bigger draw for some.

It also might be the ability to run on anyone's track.  Particularly for those without their own railroad.

It's a nice feeling of confidence to know your locomotive will perform the way you want - every time (and if not, you know who to blame).

For me, and this is personal (and unprovable), I think there is a difference in how our battery locomotives act, they seem a little closer to real (I've piloted a few prototype).  At best, it is subtle - but for me it just feels closer.

BTW, whoever (or whatever) resized my photos - Thank You!

Terry
Title: Re: RailPro on Battery Power
Post by: Alan on June 27, 2016, 10:27:31 PM
That all makes sense. Different strokes for different folks. Thanks for the reply.

Wiring doesn't scare me. I actually enjoy it. RailPro being plain DC makes it even easier. As Tim mentioned, I want functional signaling which means detection. The layout wiring makes integrating detection very easy.

I wrongly assumed the battery craze was driven by electrical pick-up problems. Seems like a lot of expense and trouble to go to just to replace what a little acetone and a good masonite car does for almost free.

I think I am about as far as one can be on the other end of the scale. For example here is a shot of the occupancy detectors on just one module:

(http://www.lkorailroad.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/05/DSC_0619.jpg)
Title: Re: RailPro on Battery Power
Post by: Terry on July 08, 2016, 01:10:55 AM
Kind of an update today - just got back from running the GP-35 again.  Last week we ran an operating session in which the loco spent two and a quarter hours hauling/switching.  The train(s) were short, the track level but with sharp curves.  I did not charge the unit when finished.

Today I took her to another layout, this time with almost constant grades, most quite steep (in the three percent neighborhood) and sharp curves.  The train was a constant 11 cars.  Without any recharging the loco went another hour and a half.  I think I can see some slowing, but at this point I know I can still operate without difficulty.  I won’t have a chance to run for a couple of weeks or more so tomorrow I will do a storage charge and put the workhorse away for now.

The two 500mah LiPos give a total of one amp hour at 3.7 volts.  The Ready to Run Athern GP-35 has a pretty good motor, as do most all locos nowadays, I suspect you could look forward to similar results.

On another note - I don’t think I did a very good job of answering Alan’s excellent post asking what the advantages of battery over track power were.  Thinking over some of the posts I have seen on Dead Rail, I was reminded while we always are striving for more realism in our modeling rolling stock, scenery, operations, sound, and so on, we are just beginning to look at how our motive power actually works.

Self contained motive power does make a difference - simply because it IS self contained.  Once you wrap your head around that, things change.  For instance, just like the prototype, you can strive for better traction, economy, smoothness, distance and so on in the same way the real guys do.  It’s another point of pride you can accomplish - and do so within the unit itself.  It’s another attachment to the real world, another goal toward railroad realism.

(Cue scraping sounds of me dragging my soap box off the page.)

Terry
Title: Re: RailPro on Battery Power
Post by: TwinStar on July 18, 2016, 05:31:17 PM
Terry,

I am curious why the allure of battery. Earlier today I was amusing myself after a module installation (and after break-in) by seeing how slow I could make my latest motive power addition craw with a 16 car train behind it. It traveled the whole railroad (about 150') at what had to be less than 1 scale MPH without a hiccup. Just for kicks I backed the train for the return trip at the same crawl. The trip included across many turnouts some curved and even a 3-way. It took a very long time.  ;D  While I was watching the train barely moving your battery thread came to mind. I even wrote myself a reminder note to ask you the question.

If an amateur like me can make conventional track electrical supply work this well what is about battery power that is so desirable?

Alan,

I operate on Free-mo layouts that are DCC powered. After a half day of running the rail is dirty and power is spotty at best. I'm waiting for the keep alive feature but can see why some would want batteries.

Jacob
Title: Re: RailPro on Battery Power
Post by: TwinStar on July 18, 2016, 05:33:09 PM
That all makes sense. Different strokes for different folks. Thanks for the reply.

Wiring doesn't scare me. I actually enjoy it. RailPro being plain DC makes it even easier. As Tim mentioned, I want functional signaling which means detection. The layout wiring makes integrating detection very easy.

I wrongly assumed the battery craze was driven by electrical pick-up problems. Seems like a lot of expense and trouble to go to just to replace what a little acetone and a good masonite car does for almost free.

I think I am about as far as one can be on the other end of the scale. For example here is a shot of the occupancy detectors on just one module:

(http://www.lkorailroad.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/05/DSC_0619.jpg)

Alan,

Whose detectors are those?

Jacob
Title: Re: RailPro on Battery Power
Post by: Alan on July 18, 2016, 05:46:38 PM
Quote
Whose detectors are those?

Mine. <not sarcasm> http://www.lkorailroad.com/circuit-breaker-and-block-detector-final-units/ (http://www.lkorailroad.com/circuit-breaker-and-block-detector-final-units/)
Title: Re: RailPro on Battery Power
Post by: Antoine L. on July 19, 2016, 09:12:54 AM
One day I'll have a layout like yours Alan. I just 30. I give myself time to learn and, while I currently work on my third layout, it is still very basic when I look at your wiring.

Good work. ((sorry I'm off topic))

Antoine
Title: Re: RailPro on Battery Power
Post by: roofintrash on July 30, 2016, 07:31:03 AM
The whole battery power thing for normal operations does not interest me, buuuutttttt, for a dedicated track cleaning train, why not. I also fly electric R/C planes and have a bunch of Lipo's laying around so I did a quick and dirty test. I dug an old blue box F45 out of the old crap pile and went to work. I basically just isolated the the motor and ran the wires to a car behind the loco. The first try was two,two cell 500mah in series for 16.8 volts. That was a no go for the LM2 as it gave me the track over voltage warning. That was a bummer because they fit in a gondola perfectly and I figured I'd just cover them and the LM2 with a coil cover. Went back out in the garage and grabbed a 3 cell 1300 pack which is 12.6 volts but too big to lay down in the gon. I just cobbled it together and stuck a Walthers abrasive box car and the CMX heavy ass brass tank car behind it and sent it on its way. My layout fills a 12 x24 room and most of the main is on a 2% grade up or down and I finally shut the loco down after 4hrs of running non stop thru every combo of yard tracks and such. The battery voltage was still in the acceptable range and I was quite pleased. I'm going to order a few 3cell 500mah batteries and do a permanent install in a gon all neat and tidy and park it on the MOW track. A few laps before an op session should do the trick.

Sorry about the never ending paragraph. I'm a truck driver,not an english teacher LOL

Couple crappy pics
DSCF0623.JPG
DSCF0622.JPG
Title: Re: RailPro on Battery Power
Post by: G8B4Life on July 30, 2016, 07:56:18 AM
Quote
The whole battery power thing for normal operations does not interest me, buuuutttttt, for a dedicated track cleaning train, why not

That's not a half bad idea for RailPro on battery power. I've seen a layout here and there where a normal track powered cleaning train just would not have gotten the power to run itself properly because the track was just a bit too dirty so the possibility is there. Now just build it it all into something that resembles a Loram rail grinder like I have long dreamed of doing and you have a prototype excuse to run it as well.

- Tim
Title: Re: RailPro on Battery Power
Post by: roofintrash on July 30, 2016, 08:07:59 AM
My biggest enemy for clean track is the hair from the fur kids. They don't get on the layout but it just seems to migrate right to the tracks. Mini car mounted rail vac is next on my list of projects.
Title: Re: RailPro on Battery Power
Post by: nodcc4me on July 30, 2016, 09:20:22 AM
Rick, 4 hours is a long run time for those old blue box locos that draw a lot of current. I'll bet you would get a lot more run time with a modern engine. Now you just need to set up a charging track and mount the battery pack in a box car or baggage car.
Title: Re: RailPro on Battery Power
Post by: roofintrash on July 30, 2016, 11:57:31 AM
I was blown away with the runtime for sure. Never expected it at all. The reason I chose that particular loco was pure pulling power. 25yrs ago, the club I belonged to had a pulling contest up the 3% grade for bragging rights. Between the grabby old sintered wheels and the fact that the shell is full of lead sheet down to the gear towers, this thing is a beast. Perfect for pulling that cmx boat anchor tank car!!  I ordered the permanent batteries this am that will sit nicely in a gon so I can do it up right. I may just re-motor the old girl because the rest of the drivetrain is silky smooth. Best old blue box I ever had.
Title: Re: RailPro on Battery Power
Post by: KPack on August 03, 2016, 10:02:33 PM
Terry - what discharge rating is on those batteries?  I'm looking at a few I want to try out, but they are all made for small R/C helicopters with a discharge of around 30C.  Is that an issue with what we are using them for? 

-Kevin
Title: Re: RailPro on Battery Power
Post by: Dean on August 04, 2016, 09:37:01 AM
The whole battery power thing for normal operations does not interest me, buuuutttttt, for a dedicated track cleaning train, why not. I also fly electric R/C planes and have a bunch of Lipo's laying around so I did a quick and dirty test. I dug an old blue box F45 out of the old crap pile and went to work. I basically just isolated the the motor and ran the wires to a car behind the loco. The first try was two,two cell 500mah in series for 16.8 volts. That was a no go for the LM2 as it gave me the track over voltage warning. That was a bummer because they fit in a gondola perfectly and I figured I'd just cover them and the LM2 with a coil cover. Went back out in the garage and grabbed a 3 cell 1300 pack which is 12.6 volts but too big to lay down in the gon. I just cobbled it together and stuck a Walthers abrasive box car and the CMX heavy ass brass tank car behind it and sent it on its way. My layout fills a 12 x24 room and most of the main is on a 2% grade up or down and I finally shut the loco down after 4hrs of running non stop thru every combo of yard tracks and such. The battery voltage was still in the acceptable range and I was quite pleased. I'm going to order a few 3cell 500mah batteries and do a permanent install in a gon all neat and tidy and park it on the MOW track. A few laps before an op session should do the trick.

Sorry about the never ending paragraph. I'm a truck driver,not an english teacher LOL

Couple crappy pics
DSCF0623.JPG
DSCF0622.JPG

  What a great idea! I have a bunch of old blue box Atherns that are collecting dust. I also have a CMX track cleaner car. I'll put on my list of things to do...near the top.
Title: Re: RailPro on Battery Power
Post by: roofintrash on August 07, 2016, 08:47:53 AM
Terry - what discharge rating is on those batteries?  I'm looking at a few I want to try out, but they are all made for small R/C helicopters with a discharge of around 30C.  Is that an issue with what we are using them for? 

-Kevin

As far as our applications go, we pretty much cant hurt most lipos. In my test mule, I was using an 1300mah 30C battery. Capacity times C rating = capability of delivering 39 amps. Not that you would ever want to use them right at that threshold, but they are capable of it. The biggest issue would be draining them to far. Most R/C speed controls have a lipo low voltage cut off to keep from over discharging but I usually just land as soon as as I see any performance drop. Once again, in our application I really cant see it being an issue.

I got my battery packs the other day and they slide right in a gondola or hopper car. I'm going to parallel a pair of 3 cell 800mah. If I go to a newer more efficient loco, I should be able to run it until I'm sick of watching it run laps. I'll post updated pics in the next few days.
Title: Re: RailPro on Battery Power
Post by: Terry on August 15, 2016, 05:57:02 PM
Kevin,

Sorry!  I haven't been online for considerable time, my apologies.  Our draw for railroading is VASTLY less than any flying model.  I'd be talking through my hat if I were to be specific, but I cannot imagine anything we run could come even close to the limit of these LiPos.  Of course a direct short is gonna fry any cell.  You can expect to be closer to full current range when you are charging - and this is something to be careful with. 

As you look at batteries online you should be able to find what the maximum rates are ('C' rating)  My charger (Hitec brand, model X1AC) has a whole menu of choices for LiPo, NiCad, and Pb [lead] at 1, 2 and 3 cell rates as well as amperage levels.  Fortunately it also has extensive instructions.  Be SURE your charger is made for LiPo batteries - otherwise it can get dangerous.

When running, a good seat-of-the-pants check is to put your finger on the battery while you are testing, it should be ambient temperature even when running for a considerable time.  If you want to be extra picky, after using your finger touch your lip to it.  While these batteries can get fairly warm in R/C flight use and be perfectly normal - I don't expect you'll ever get there.  Mine have not yet gotten above ambient.

Hope this helps
Terry