Thursday, August 23, 2012

Battery powered locomotives

I've been waiting for this development ever since editing Rick Mugele's BR Locomotives article in LDJ 37. He was using a radio control unit built for R/C cars and large cell batteries in an ingenious set up for larger locomotives in HO scale. But now there is a product from Tam Valley Depot that marries battery power and DCC control In a wireless system that does not require clean track or wiring.

I am completely ready for an alternative to track power for model railroads, and I see this as the last barrier to mainstreaming the hobby. The complications of completing a large amount infrastructure before using a toy have kept model railroading in the province of retired or people with large chunks of time available to devote to construction before recreation. This barrier was removed by the R/C industry years ago with cars and ARF (Almost Ready to Fly) airplanes and then helicopters. Foam construction made planes light and complete enough for quick wing attachment and charging of the batteries. Something similar needs to happen in model railroading, and battery powered locomotives are a key component. 

Imagine Christmas morning (or Haunikha or a birthday or other occasion) and a ten year old rips open a toy that requires about a year of nights and weekends of carpentry, artistry, electrical wiring, and fiddling to get a modest size layout to the point when they can play with it. That toy is a train set. Now imagine the second present is an ARF airplane or a completely ready to fly helicopter or car ready to drive. Which one is going to be more desirable?  

I'm interested in Tam Valley's offering, although it won't do me a lot of good for my switcher-heavy roster of 44 tonnes and box cabs in HO scale. I would need to use a boxcar or transfer caboose to store the extra equipment, but that is not possible with my pocket terminals. I'll get one to try out, but is impractical for usage for my pocket terminals at the moment. Miniaturization will need to be applied to this before it becomes a must have, but it is pretty darn close to that already. Let me know if anyone is trying this already. The tyranny of dirty track is about to come to an end!



  1. Riley,

    At one point I was 95% sure this was the route for me and I too was waiting for Duncan to release this system but.. I'm having trouble with space limitations in my locos small tenders. When you look at the size of the battery pack needed for 12v, that alone takes up most of the tender's space. Throw in the sound decoder, Tam Valley wireless hardware.. well, I'm having a hard time visualizing it happening, though my friend Ted Pamperin swears it can be done.

    The other thing that bothers me is the volatility of the batteries themselves. If not charged right.. POOF! In a real big way (maybe I shouldn't have watched all those exploding lipo battery videos on YouTube).

    I'm planning on having a heart to heart talk with Duncan before I either go with the battery or start dropping feeders.

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