Author Topic: Article for MRH  (Read 54313 times)

KPack

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Article for MRH
« on: December 09, 2022, 11:08:59 AM »
Joe Fugate reached out to me to see about writing an article in MRH about Railpro and battery power.  The battery powered HO-scale SD40-2 that I built a few years back is still working great: https://rpug.pdc.ca/index.php/topic,345.msg2512.html#msg2512

I'd like to get some input from the rest of the users, especially those with battery experience in large-scale.  Anything you think might be helpful to have in the article is great.  I'll look it all over and see if I can get it to work within the framework of the article.  This is slated to be coming out in January, so time is of the essence.

Thanks everyone!

-Kevin

G8B4Life

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Re: Article for MRH
« Reply #1 on: December 11, 2022, 12:27:55 AM »
Wow, talk about a deadline!  I wish I had RP and battery experience for you but I don't, and I don't believe I have much worthy to offer for any other aspect of RP either, well nothing that's magazine printable anyway! Good luck.

- Tim

William Brillinger

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Re: Article for MRH
« Reply #2 on: December 11, 2022, 06:49:41 AM »
Kevin, there are quite a few large scale battery guys over on the Facebook Group: https://www.facebook.com/groups/1528244063918510
- Bill Brillinger, RPUG Admin

Modeling the BNML in HO Scale, owner of Precision Design Co., and RailPro Dealer.


KB02

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Re: Article for MRH
« Reply #3 on: December 11, 2022, 06:51:06 AM »
I LOVE the ease of using RailPro vs. DCC. Granted I'm HO scale, not battery G, but still, if I were to go that route, I would totally use RailPro vs any other system.

JRad

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Re: Article for MRH
« Reply #4 on: December 12, 2022, 12:15:06 PM »
I run RailPro and battery in Fn3 (1.20.3) large scale locomotives.

There is nothing special about large scale that I have to share.  It works great and is much simpler to install than my previous multi-component system.

If you have any specific question - just shoot!

KPack

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Re: Article for MRH
« Reply #5 on: January 19, 2023, 06:33:37 PM »
Thanks everyone for your input.  I ended up not putting much in about large scale because I have zero experience with it.  I'll leave that for someone else to write and article on.

For better or worse the article is in the January MRH Magazine, but it's in the Running Extra section which means it has to be paid for to view it.  If you are a member give it a read and let me know what you think.  Always open to critique both positive and negative. 

-Kevin

G8B4Life

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Re: Article for MRH
« Reply #6 on: January 19, 2023, 07:35:45 PM »
Well, well done Kevin for writing the article and getting some positive light for RailPro out there, though I won't get to read it. Congratulations to the publisher for taking something that shows the readership an alternative in a practical way and sticking it in something that only a handful of people read.  :P I bet we wouldn't have seen it in Running Extra if it was DCC  ::)

- Tim

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Re: Article for MRH
« Reply #7 on: March 24, 2023, 09:15:26 AM »
As far as scale goes, be it HO, or G, I found most of my Rail Pro info from KPack's video's on YouTube. For myself I can adapt any scale to G Scale for my modeling needs. I think in this hobby you will find model railroaders with all levels of skills and I realize some can make it work and others need picture by picture and step by step instructions. I do understand writing an article for a magazine will not be easy to do so many can understand it, but some will, some won't. The biggest problem for many with Rail Pro, DCC, etc., is understand the electronics of the engine and how to go from the old system to the new system. Many modelers today just can't get past LED's and how they work and how to change them out. I think those who write the articles for the magazine will do a good job.

trainman

AlexW

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Re: Article for MRH
« Reply #8 on: April 02, 2023, 06:37:36 PM »
For better or worse the article is in the January MRH Magazine, but it's in the Running Extra section which means it has to be paid for to view it.  If you are a member give it a read and let me know what you think.  Always open to critique both positive and negative.

The idea of battery power in HO scale is quite intriguing, just not with the anti-DCC closed and proprietary RailPro system. I have seen it used with battery power in both HO and O scale independently of the DCC power on the rails.

The first part of the article reads a lot like a sales pitch for RailPro, without mentioning that it is an anti-DCC proprietary system. While there is CVP AirWire, and more recently Blunami, they still limit you to a specific throttle or app, unlike DCC, where you have many throttle options. The part about speed matching seems irrelevant, as DCC speed matching is easy and takes 5 minutes.

The part about the batteries and the step-up regulator is much more interesting, and could apply to standards-based approaches like AirWire or Blunami (which may not have been out when you wrote this article?). The voltage regulator is surprisingly small compared to the rest of the stuff involved, so that seems like a relatively minor issue to deal with compared to the battery.

One thing I'd be interested in reading is a built-in trickle charger that can take DCC track power and use it for battery charging, creating a self-charging locomotive that can operate on modular or club layouts when there are DCC issues or shorts.

Well, well done Kevin for writing the article and getting some positive light for RailPro out there, though I won't get to read it. Congratulations to the publisher for taking something that shows the readership an alternative in a practical way and sticking it in something that only a handful of people read.  :P I bet we wouldn't have seen it in Running Extra if it was DCC  ::)

MRH has given way more space to RailPro than it deserves. Of course a DCC article would have a much wider appeal.
« Last Edit: April 02, 2023, 06:41:01 PM by AlexW »

KPack

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Re: Article for MRH
« Reply #9 on: April 02, 2023, 07:56:43 PM »
Thanks for the response.  I'll address your comments below:

The idea of battery power in HO scale is quite intriguing, just not with the anti-DCC closed and proprietary RailPro system. I have seen it used with battery power in both HO and O scale independently of the DCC power on the rails. - Battery power has been used in many scales with many different systems.  Many of those have been proprietary.  This article was about Railpro and battery power.

The first part of the article reads a lot like a sales pitch for RailPro, without mentioning that it is an anti-DCC proprietary system.  - It's common knowledge that Railpro is not DCC, and for those who didn't know it was pretty clear that it was not DCC in the article.  Is it wrong to talk about the features I like about Railpro?  I don't feel so, especially since that information was important to share in order to explain why I attempted this experiment. 

While there is CVP AirWire, and more recently Blunami, they still limit you to a specific throttle or app, unlike DCC, where you have many throttle options. The part about speed matching seems irrelevant, as DCC speed matching is easy and takes 5 minutes. - CVP Airwire and Blunami are all throttle and control systems based within the DCC universe.  To get true wireless communication directly to the locomotives you will need a different controller than the current DCC standards.  To my knowledge none of the normal DCC controllers are capable of any sort of wireless signal directly to the locomotive.  Besides the aforementioned control systems, the other "wireless" DCC control systems I'm aware of essentially send a wireless signal from a controller to a command station, which then sends the signal to the locomotive via the track.  As far as speed matching, you may be okay with it but it is not something I enjoy.  To each their own.

The part about the batteries and the step-up regulator is much more interesting, and could apply to standards-based approaches like AirWire or Blunami (which may not have been out when you wrote this article?). The voltage regulator is surprisingly small compared to the rest of the stuff involved, so that seems like a relatively minor issue to deal with compared to the battery. -Those systems were out when I wrote this article.  The step-up regulator would work in any system as all it does it convert some of the battery power to voltage.  Unless you are using a 12V battery (large scale) then you will need to use a small LiPo and step it up.  They are very small, which is nice.  It's not a very efficient way of getting the voltage you need, but it does work.

One thing I'd be interested in reading is a built-in trickle charger that can take DCC track power and use it for battery charging, creating a self-charging locomotive that can operate on modular or club layouts when there are DCC issues or shorts. -One of the DCC wireless solutions (CVP maybe?) made a battery management board that allows charging from the track.  It was somewhat large if I remember correctly, and was another board that needed space to mount.  Working in HO scale hood units makes space a premium and I was looking at the simplest possible solution.  Railpro made that easy because it's just three components...battery -> voltage converter -> Railpro module.  And to be honest, if you are charging from the track you are essentially using a glorified keep-alive capacitor.  Granted, it would never run out of juice, but so far I just haven't seen the need to do that.  I'm not running trains for 6 hours straight.


MRH has given way more space to RailPro than it deserves. Of course a DCC article would have a much wider appeal.  - MRH publishes what they receive.  If you want a DCC/battery/wireless article then you are welcome to write one.


-Kevin


AlexW

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Re: Article for MRH
« Reply #10 on: April 02, 2023, 08:25:50 PM »
- Battery power has been used in many scales with many different systems.  Many of those have been proprietary.  This article was about Railpro and battery power.

I mean yes, that's what the article was about, RailPro itself just isn't interesting, but the battery part of it is.

Quote
It's common knowledge that Railpro is not DCC, and for those who didn't know it was pretty clear that it was not DCC in the article.  Is it wrong to talk about the features I like about Railpro?  I don't feel so, especially since that information was important to share in order to explain why I attempted this experiment. 

I often hear confusion about the differences between RailPro and DCC when people are talking about it. It's not that people literally think RailPro is DCC, but they don't understand how antithetical it is to the industry standard of DCC, and the benefits of an open standard. Of course, to be fair, half the people using DCC don't know what DCC is.

Quote
- CVP Airwire and Blunami are all throttle and control systems based within the DCC universe.  To get true wireless communication directly to the locomotives you will need a different controller than the current DCC standards.  To my knowledge none of the normal DCC controllers are capable of any sort of wireless signal directly to the locomotive.  Besides the aforementioned control systems, the other "wireless" DCC control systems I'm aware of essentially send a wireless signal from a controller to a command station, which then sends the signal to the locomotive via the track.  As far as speed matching, you may be okay with it but it is not something I enjoy.  To each their own.

CVP Airwire puts the command station on board the locomotive, so that it is fully compatible with any DCC decoder. Blunami has direct Bluetooth communication to the decoder/receiver, but unlike RailPro, it is a 100% fully functional DCC decoder with all the same features as when it is operated wirelessly, and can be ingested into Decoder Pro just like a regular Tsunami 2. These two approaches are superior to RailPro, as they are standards-based and build upon DCC by companies whose primary business is DCC instead of going against the open standard of DCC. Eventually, LCC will provide a truly open standard for direct wireless communication with locomotives in a way that is cross-compatible with LCC based DCC command stations.

Speed matching is commonly made out to be this complicated, time-consuming thing that people fear or hate. It's just not that hard. It takes 5 minutes, it's very simple to do, and the myths surrounding it need to be retired, just like a lot of the other myths surrounding DCC.

Quote
-Those systems were out when I wrote this article.  The step-up regulator would work in any system as all it does it convert some of the battery power to voltage.  Unless you are using a 12V battery (large scale) then you will need to use a small LiPo and step it up.  They are very small, which is nice.  It's not a very efficient way of getting the voltage you need, but it does work.

AirWire has been out for a long time. Blunami is pretty recent. It seems that the voltage regulator is much less of an issue that I would have thought, it really boils down to the battery and the size of the battery. Without the ability to mill out the fuel tank, it looks like most people would still be limited to larger locomotives (not that an SD40-2 is that small), or a married pair of smaller locomotives, with sound and the receiver in one, and the battery in the other, possibly with both powered (although that would reduce battery life).

Quote
-One of the DCC wireless solutions (CVP maybe?) made a battery management board that allows charging from the track.  It was somewhat large if I remember correctly, and was another board that needed space to mount.  Working in HO scale hood units makes space a premium and I was looking at the simplest possible solution.  Railpro made that easy because it's just three components...battery -> voltage converter -> Railpro module.  And to be honest, if you are charging from the track you are essentially using a glorified keep-alive capacitor.  Granted, it would never run out of juice, but so far I just haven't seen the need to do that.  I'm not running trains for 6 hours straight.

Sort of. You'd still have wireless control of the locomotive that would survive a DCC environment with a lot of shorts. It's a niche, but onboard power is a niche in indoor scales.

Quote
- MRH publishes what they receive.  If you want a DCC/battery/wireless article then you are welcome to write one.

That was just in response to G8B4Life's grousing about your article being in RE, and not in MRH, and previous grousing I've seen by RP fans about MRH not giving even more press to RP. They do a decent amount of DCC content, and give RP more than its fair share of space.

I actually have thought about doing some articles about some techniques that I've used, including 5 minute DCC speed matching, but it hasn't been a high priority. As I build some modules, I'm also going to be thinking about any particular construction techniques that might be interesting to the MRH/RE audience. I just recently learned about MDO as a plywood-like material that paints like masonite hardboard and is slightly lighter, so that might be a candidate. The problem is that I've already go too many irons in the fire.

ON28

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Re: Article for MRH
« Reply #11 on: April 02, 2023, 08:51:43 PM »
I experimented with battery in HO diesels and with present technnology found it to be a solution in search of a problem. There's a ton of new developments in DCC, RP not so much. I think Ring and his secretive ways is missing a bigger opportunity to get out in front in a time of change. Maybe that time has passed.
« Last Edit: April 02, 2023, 09:00:54 PM by ON28 »

KPack

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Re: Article for MRH
« Reply #12 on: April 02, 2023, 09:12:48 PM »
- Battery power has been used in many scales with many different systems.  Many of those have been proprietary.  This article was about Railpro and battery power.

I mean yes, that's what the article was about, RailPro itself just isn't interesting, but the battery part of it is. -Some would be interested in the Railpro part, some not.  i do wish there was more out there regarding battery power.  I think the general consensus about batteries in HO scale is "too complicated/not practical/doesn't make sense" etc.  Which I think is unfortunate.  I feel that if more people were experimenting with it then it would be a more viable solution.  It's much easier now that quadcopters and drones have become so easy to get, and by extension so are the batteries.  They are small and powerful which makes finding space for them easier.

Quote
It's common knowledge that Railpro is not DCC, and for those who didn't know it was pretty clear that it was not DCC in the article.  Is it wrong to talk about the features I like about Railpro?  I don't feel so, especially since that information was important to share in order to explain why I attempted this experiment. 

I often hear confusion about the differences between RailPro and DCC when people are talking about it. It's not that people literally think RailPro is DCC, but they don't understand how antithetical it is to the industry standard of DCC, and the benefits of an open standard. Of course, to be fair, half the people using DCC don't know what DCC is.  -True point there.  I'd say that about half the people I've interacted with had a handle on what DCC is and how to utilize it, while the other half is fairly clueless.  I'd put myself somewhere in the middle.  I'm definitely no expert, but I've been around it enough to know and understand the basics.

Quote
- CVP Airwire and Blunami are all throttle and control systems based within the DCC universe.  To get true wireless communication directly to the locomotives you will need a different controller than the current DCC standards.  To my knowledge none of the normal DCC controllers are capable of any sort of wireless signal directly to the locomotive.  Besides the aforementioned control systems, the other "wireless" DCC control systems I'm aware of essentially send a wireless signal from a controller to a command station, which then sends the signal to the locomotive via the track.  As far as speed matching, you may be okay with it but it is not something I enjoy.  To each their own.

CVP Airwire puts the command station on board the locomotive, so that it is fully compatible with any DCC decoder. Blunami has direct Bluetooth communication to the decoder/receiver, but unlike RailPro, it is a 100% fully functional DCC decoder with all the same features as when it is operated wirelessly, and can be ingested into Decoder Pro just like a regular Tsunami 2. These two approaches are superior to RailPro, as they are standards-based and build upon DCC by companies whose primary business is DCC instead of going against the open standard of DCC. Eventually, LCC will provide a truly open standard for direct wireless communication with locomotives in a way that is cross-compatible with LCC based DCC command stations. -The biggest issues I see with those two systems is additional hardware that needs to go in the locomotive, in addition to the decoder.  It really just comes down to the locomotive.  Some are easier to fit things in, some are not.  But good that those two systems make use of existing DCC decoders.  That does simplify the install for DCC users.  However, with those there is no two-way communication, correct?  That is one thing that Railpro does quite well.  Will LCC will be two-way communication in the future?  I hope so, as that really makes the whole control experience better.


Speed matching is commonly made out to be this complicated, time-consuming thing that people fear or hate. It's just not that hard. It takes 5 minutes, it's very simple to do, and the myths surrounding it need to be retired, just like a lot of the other myths surrounding DCC.

Quote
-Those systems were out when I wrote this article.  The step-up regulator would work in any system as all it does it convert some of the battery power to voltage.  Unless you are using a 12V battery (large scale) then you will need to use a small LiPo and step it up.  They are very small, which is nice.  It's not a very efficient way of getting the voltage you need, but it does work.

AirWire has been out for a long time. Blunami is pretty recent. It seems that the voltage regulator is much less of an issue that I would have thought, it really boils down to the battery and the size of the battery. Without the ability to mill out the fuel tank, it looks like most people would still be limited to larger locomotives (not that an SD40-2 is that small), or a married pair of smaller locomotives, with sound and the receiver in one, and the battery in the other, possibly with both powered (although that would reduce battery life). -I really didn't want to have a dedicated pair of locomotives, or dedicated boxcar to couple to.  The battery I chose is wide, hence the need to mill out the fuel tank.  However, there are narrow batteries that will fit in a hood unit.  I don't know if they are of a high enough voltage though, so you may have to connect two together to get a voltage high enough for the voltage converter to work.  There was another guy on here that used narrow batteries and was successful.  I believe they were a lower capacity than what I used.

Quote
-One of the DCC wireless solutions (CVP maybe?) made a battery management board that allows charging from the track.  It was somewhat large if I remember correctly, and was another board that needed space to mount.  Working in HO scale hood units makes space a premium and I was looking at the simplest possible solution.  Railpro made that easy because it's just three components...battery -> voltage converter -> Railpro module.  And to be honest, if you are charging from the track you are essentially using a glorified keep-alive capacitor.  Granted, it would never run out of juice, but so far I just haven't seen the need to do that.  I'm not running trains for 6 hours straight.

Sort of. You'd still have wireless control of the locomotive that would survive a DCC environment with a lot of shorts. It's a niche, but onboard power is a niche in indoor scales.  -Those are the types of layouts that I run on....lots of power drops and shorts.  The battery-powered locomotive is, of course, outstanding on these layouts.  But I've installed keep-alive capacitors in nearly all my other locomotives and that alone has taken care of 99% of any track power problems.  They are easier to install, so I've essentially settled on that route.  I do hope to build one more battery-operated locomotive but it's a pretty low priority.

Quote
- MRH publishes what they receive.  If you want a DCC/battery/wireless article then you are welcome to write one.

That was just in response to G8B4Life's grousing about your article being in RE, and not in MRH, and previous grousing I've seen by RP fans about MRH not giving even more press to RP. They do a decent amount of DCC content, and give RP more than its fair share of space.

I actually have thought about doing some articles about some techniques that I've used, including 5 minute DCC speed matching, but it hasn't been a high priority. As I build some modules, I'm also going to be thinking about any particular construction techniques that might be interesting to the MRH/RE audience. I just recently learned about MDO as a plywood-like material that paints like masonite hardboard and is slightly lighter, so that might be a candidate. The problem is that I've already go too many irons in the fire.  -You and me both.  Life is busy and writing articles and doing extra things like that are WAY down on the list of important things.  Between work, family, church, and other obligations there is hardly enough time to do any modeling, let alone write an article.  I haven't sat down at the bench to do any sort of modeling for 2 months.  I'm hoping to find some time to get back to it and get some projects done.  And somehow design a layout.

AlexW

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Re: Article for MRH
« Reply #13 on: April 02, 2023, 09:51:07 PM »
-Some would be interested in the Railpro part, some not.  i do wish there was more out there regarding battery power.  I think the general consensus about batteries in HO scale is "too complicated/not practical/doesn't make sense" etc.  Which I think is unfortunate.  I feel that if more people were experimenting with it then it would be a more viable solution.  It's much easier now that quadcopters and drones have become so easy to get, and by extension so are the batteries.  They are small and powerful which makes finding space for them easier.

There is a lot of confusion about direct radio control (using track power) versus dead rail, since they share some of the same radio control options. The reason that direct radio and even more so battery power in HO scale doesn't get more attention is not because it can't be done, but because there is little reason to do it. The niche use cases where it might be useful are really, really narrow niches. For the vast majority of indoor scales, DCC is the ideal power and control system. Where battery makes sense is outdoor large scale, where keeping the track clean becomes a major problem, and wiring a track bus becomes a major infrastructure project.

Quote
-True point there.  I'd say that about half the people I've interacted with had a handle on what DCC is and how to utilize it, while the other half is fairly clueless.  I'd put myself somewhere in the middle.  I'm definitely no expert, but I've been around it enough to know and understand the basics.

What I was getting at is even more fundamental- half the people using DCC don't understand what DCC actually is- a standard method of one-way communication between a command station and a decoder. They might think the throttle is itself is DCC or some other fundamental misunderstanding of what DCC is.

Quote
-The biggest issues I see with those two systems is additional hardware that needs to go in the locomotive, in addition to the decoder.  It really just comes down to the locomotive.  Some are easier to fit things in, some are not.  But good that those two systems make use of existing DCC decoders.  That does simplify the install for DCC users.  However, with those there is no two-way communication, correct?  That is one thing that Railpro does quite well.  Will LCC will be two-way communication in the future?  I hope so, as that really makes the whole control experience better.

AirWire is one-way as it is basically putting a tiny DCC command station inside the locomotive. They have both separate and combined receivers. Blunami is the entire receiver/decoder in one package, and it does two-way communication, as you can read back CVs on the app. They are stored as regular NMRA compliant CVs which can later be ingested into Decoder Pro.

Quote
-I really didn't want to have a dedicated pair of locomotives, or dedicated boxcar to couple to.  The battery I chose is wide, hence the need to mill out the fuel tank.  However, there are narrow batteries that will fit in a hood unit.  I don't know if they are of a high enough voltage though, so you may have to connect two together to get a voltage high enough for the voltage converter to work.  There was another guy on here that used narrow batteries and was successful.  I believe they were a lower capacity than what I used.

Interesting. It sounds like a wider locomotive would be easier, although generally hooded switchers are what you'd want battery power in. The challenge is that if you use space in the hood for the battery, you lose a lot of space for the decoder and speakers- yet another reason why battery power doesn't really make sense in HO scale for most purposes- any space that is available is valuable, and better used for better speakers, lighting, detail, or weight.

Quote
-Those are the types of layouts that I run on....lots of power drops and shorts.  The battery-powered locomotive is, of course, outstanding on these layouts.  But I've installed keep-alive capacitors in nearly all my other locomotives and that alone has taken care of 99% of any track power problems.  They are easier to install, so I've essentially settled on that route.  I do hope to build one more battery-operated locomotive but it's a pretty low priority.

I'm wondering if Blunami with a giant keep alive would be a better approach. Or some future product with an even bigger keep alive using radio control so that you don't lose control during a short. Ultimately, the club/group that runs the layout should put more power districts in and manage shorts better, but that's not always possible.

Quote
-You and me both.  Life is busy and writing articles and doing extra things like that are WAY down on the list of important things.  Between work, family, church, and other obligations there is hardly enough time to do any modeling, let alone write an article.  I haven't sat down at the bench to do any sort of modeling for 2 months.  I'm hoping to find some time to get back to it and get some projects done.  And somehow design a layout.

Yup. In my case it's modules, locomotives, my own layout, learning new modeling skills, and I love to attend model railroading events, so those take up a lot of time and energy. I really like to spend a few hours or more on one thing and really take a deep dive, and recently I haven't had the time to do that.

I actually thought about putting together a pair of battery powered locomotives with AirWire, but decided it wasn't worth it, as I'd much rather have a myriad of DCC throttles, and tolerate a few more shorts on some modular layouts. Blunami almost makes me reconsider, but I really don't like operating with a phone app.

KPack

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Re: Article for MRH
« Reply #14 on: April 03, 2023, 08:50:56 AM »
You mentioned large scale and batteries.  I feel that large scale might end up being Railpro's larger market, if it isn't already.  Their large-scale hardware seems to be very popular.  It works great in HO, but really shines in O and G scale.

One last point regarding space in HO locomotives.  Sound is important to me, and one of my requirements when building my battery locomotive was dual speakers.  That was my main reason for using the fuel tank for a battery.  Having it down there left the entire shell open to speakers, Railpro module and lighting.  It really made the rest of the install a breeze.  If I was going to do a smaller 4-axle hood unit then I would for sure mill out the fuel tank to leave the shell open. 

-Kevin