Walk-around throttle?

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modelbob

Administrator
It's become obvious that I need some kind of a walk-around throttle for my layout. It's not huge, by any means, but at 20 feet long it's still way too big to see what's going on at the far corner of the layout, especially in areas where the benchwork ducks behind shelves or the workbench.

So, I need something that can control the throttle remotely. Ideally, I'd like to buy a system that could be upgraded to DCC at some point. (Only 2 or 3 of my locos are DCC equipped, and it will be a long time before I retrofit the others, even though it's a small fleet.)

So, I'm open to suggestions, comments and ideas.
 

JeffShultz

Stay off the tracks!
If you are going walk-around, simply make the jump to DCC... seriously. Trying to take it in stages is futile.
 

modelbob

Administrator
JeffShultz said:
If you are going walk-around, simply make the jump to DCC... seriously. Trying to take it in stages is futile.

That's not an option right now. I don't have the funds I'd need to spend to convert my entire fleet, if it's even possible. (for example, one of my favorite locos is an old Bowser K4 with the old open fram moter, can you even convert one of those to DCC?)

In any case, even if it can be done I'm not interested in doing it right now, since I don't want to spend that kind of cash right now. The throttle itself is going to be enough of a stretch.

You have to understand, this model railroad doesn't get used much. I spend much of my spare time online at some train website (guess which one) and usually when I talk about switching out some cars with the SW it's 12 inch to the foot stuff, not HO.

So my goal for now is simply to get the layout in operation for the occasional session. Patience is apparently my strong point when it comes to model railroading. I've owned this house for over 10 years. The shelving in the garage was designed to accomodate the mainline and storage tracks. Took me about 10 years to connect everything, and it's still not done right, the track so far is just a temporary setup to get continuous running.

So this is definitely a long term project...
 

CBCNSfan

Registered Member
Staff member
That's not an option right now. I don't have the funds I'd need to spend to convert my entire fleet, if it's even possible.
Hi Bob, well I guess I'm somewhat in a similar situation, not enough $$$ to switch to DCC imediately and 18ft down the opposite aisle I couldn't see, let alone operate a loco. I put together a simple walkaround, using the AC from an old Tyco throttle, a bridge rect. a couple transistors and an Atlas snap switch for reversing. I didn't expect much a performance from it but I'll be darnned if it wasn't just as good as the Tech II. I had a couple of midi cables and used them from 3 plugins located around the layout. One of the motor driven turnout stall switches might have been better but the snap switch works fine for me. The mainline still has the Tech II's which is ok since it is more ornamental than operational :D
Cheers Willis
 

modelbob

Administrator
mushroom2 said:
Are you looking for wired or wireless?
Wireless. Ideally, I'd like to buy one of the Digitrax systems, and have it work
both with DCC and conventional DC.

I seem to recall that somebody, someplace had a system where you could run both DCC and one conventional loco on the same layout. Is this possible or was there some trick involved?
 

lemscate

Member
Most (all?) DCC systems can operate one analog loco out of the box. It just operates as address 00. If you already have some block system in place for DC, you could hook up a DCC system to the blocks to control the analog locos, and have the decoder locomotives run wild.

I don't believe there's really any way to have a wireless DC throttle upgraded to DCC later. If it were wired, then you could use the throttle jacks of the desired DCC system, but that's the extent that throttles could be upgraded.
 

modelbob

Administrator
lemscate said:
Most (all?) DCC systems can operate one analog loco out of the box. It just operates as address 00.
OK, so if I go buy a DCC system from say Digitrax, I can switch it to address 00 and my conventional DC locos will run just fine, correct?

While I'm doing that, I can not run a DCC loco too, at least not in the same block, right?

Actually, that would still be OK for what I want to do. I'll create some blocks to store the DC stuff in when not in use (they can be simple toggles to cut the power...) and then I can use both systems.

For what I have in mind that will work great. I mostly want to do continuous running. When I want to do some prototypical style switching I'll switch to the bigger stuff. ;)
 

JeffShultz

Stay off the tracks!
You could even get the new Bachmann DCC system (retail price $99, $149 w/loco), and it reserves one of it's 10 address spaces for the "0" address.

Like with all DCC systems though, you don't want to leave a DC locomotive on the DCC tracks very long unless it is running. The AC power used by DCC can burn out the brushes.
 

JeffShultz

Stay off the tracks!
Of course, the Bachmann system doesn't have a walkaround throttle. For that you'll need a more advanced system - like a Prodigy Advanced, or a Digitrax Zephyr with an additional walkaround throttle.
 

modelbob

Administrator
JeffShultz said:
Of course, the Bachmann system doesn't have a walkaround throttle. For that you'll need a more advanced system - like a Prodigy Advanced, or a Digitrax Zephyr with an additional walkaround throttle.
I'll probably go with Digitrax, they seem to be the leader and so hopefully they'll be around as I slowly upgrade/convert.

As for the AC power, that won't be a problem, I'll just set put insulated joints on all my storage tracks. I'd still need them anyway with conventional DC, unless I want to have a drag race to the yard throat followed by a Gomez Adams style train wreck.

Since I'm currently using one Broadway Limited loco, and have got plans on acquiring another (the K4), I think I'll get a remote with a keypad that works well with the Broadway Sound System.

On the other hand, since I'm investing some $ in track and all, I may just go for a conventional DC "leashed" remote for now, if I can put one together at a reasonable cost.
 

grumpybob

Lake Shore Lines
Bob,

the Digitrax Zepher is probably your best bet. I don't see Digitrax, lenz, or NCE going out of the business any too soon. Bachmann and MRC are one shot systems. Meaning that once you buy it there really isn't any expansion capacity beyond what the system will handle. Mostly because of low amperage.

However, if you don't intend upon increasing your engine capacity for a couple of years. it might not be a bad bet. 2 or 3 engines will run on most any system. The whole issue will be that the system will be wired already for DCC.

i know that MRC makes a DC walk around system and plugs into a phone jack
which is pretty much what most of the others use.

I know, it is never an easy decision.
 

modelbob

Administrator
Well, I've arrived at a short term solution...

I bought, for $20, one of those walk around throttle boxes. 2 wires from the transformer to the box, and two from the box to the track. I'm sure it's the same idea as whoever mentioned putting a rheostat in a radio shack project box was talking about. I figured for $20 it was a worthwhile investment.

I bought 20 feet of 4 conductor wire, and I'm all set to go. It would be simple enough to convert to phone jack operation, but you won't be able to unplug it while you're running.

That's fine for now, as it does 2 things for me. First of all, it gives me time to research DCC and check out all the option and brands and capabilities and, and and... :)

Secondly, and just as important, it allows me to solve a short term problem (controlling the train while watching the trackwork where the problem is, not from 10 feet away) and not spending $300 to do that. Since I'm in the process of upgrading a portion of my mainline, including about 10 switches, to code 83, funds are really tight at the moment.
 




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