Like a lot of guys, I'm sure, I sometimes pick up an item at a train show or eBay primarily because it seemed like a really good deal. And so it was years ago when I acquired an MTH Alaska F-3 ABA set with Proto-Sound 1.0. I wasn't all that well versed on the "peculiarities" of Proto 1 engines. All I knew was that I thought these F-3s looked sharp, and after seeing a set being run by one club at an Edison, NJ Greenberg Show, I knew I wanted a set.
Once I unwrapped these and placed them on the layout I quickly grew frustrated as the engines would not budge. At least not without repeated attempts, throwing and retracting the throttle over and over. Of course, Embarrassing Disclaimer #1, I was attempting to run them "on the cheap" using a Lionel CW-80 transformer that had come with a set I recently sold. When I mentioned this to a couple of "train buddies" this was pretty much the reaction I got...
Okay, so that wasn't the smartest way to approach the problem. Fine, I figured, I'll keep it in the MTH family, and I subsequently paired up the reluctant engines with an MTH Z-1000 transformer. Same thing. Most of the time the Alaskans just sat there. Occasionally they would spring into action and head down the tracks, but only after I went through the powering up/down sequence what seemed like 15-20 times. Their pattern of running or not running seemed totally random. There's a branch line of the NYS&W about 1/4 mile or so from my house, and I swear I would be more likely to hear one of their "real" engines passing by as I would seeing my Proto 1 F-3s running around the ovals. (The Susquehanna usually runs a freight through the neighborhood once a day,around 7 p.m.!!) Previously, I had never really appreciated the agony of everyone on the Forum who talked about the "three clangs of death"....now I did. (Incidentally, Disclaimer #2, I had installed a BCR in the lead engine and had always waited the requisite amount of time to let the circuits charge up completely before attempting to run it. I wouldn't think this would have anything to do with it but then again who knows?)
My next step was to head to a LHS that knew its MTH stuff to see what the probelm was. I was informed that there's a certain procedure you have to follow with Proto 1 engines...something about powering up a little...then going to full throttle...then pulling back down til you hear the whoosh of what I presumed were air brake sounds...then back up to full, or was it down to zero?..then up to 10 and hit directional? Burn a cauldron of Megasteam smoke fluid while reciting the F-3 manual backwards? Wearing my engineer's cap upside down/inside out, rally-cap style?
My effort to replicate these steps once I got back to my garage were futile. What would it take to get these engines to run????? Finally, not having any other options and being at the "what-can-it-hurt" stage, I yanked the Z-1000 and wired up an MRC Pure Power Dual transformer. Unbelievably, when I pushed that orange handle forward I was stunned...stunned!....to see the Alaska F-3s lurch into action.
I couldn't believe my eyes! Thank you, THANK YOU Model Rectifier Corp. I don't know how. I don't know why. Something about pure sine wave? Cut sine wave? I have no idea. I probably know as much about electricity as this guy.
I'm just very very happy to be able to run these cool-looking F-3s on my layout. Has anyone else had a similar experience with MRC transformers? Does anyone out there know why they would run Proto 1 engines when other transformers failed miserably? I'd love to know.
Mike actually no miracle but because of the original design criteria.
The early PS-1/QSI systems were designed based on using Lionel pure sine wave transformers. My first MTH diesels are a SD45 and AS616 1995/96 era. Work perfectly with the KW but no go with new MRC Dual270. Reconnect the KW they would run. In fact these engine would/will not run with the new Z4Ks. QSI ran ads in the train magazines offering the "repair" service at as I recall $45.00 each for the upgrade. After the upgrade both would run with any of my power supplies.
Very interesting. I run Proto 1 stuff on my Z1000's all the time with no issue whatsoever.
And I have to confess, Ron, that I did have occasional success with other Proto 1 engines before I made the switch over to MRC. (I still have the Z-1000s, but they now power the two smaller elevated loops on my layout. I use the MRC for the 2 8x12 ovals on the "ground level.") So maybe not all Proto 1's are created equal? I suspect there might be something wrong with the circuitry of the Alaska F-3.
Hi Mike Love the Alaska too. Mine didn't run right till I sent it to Scaled Tin Rail. Ran great after that , I guess they did the upgrade no problem any more. My L&N PS/ 1 never had any trouble. Both have BCR's Last year at Trainstock.
As mentioned above early boards needed pure AC, later versions did not. The reason is the circuit design uses analog measurements of voltage, coupled with DC offsets to offer a multitude of command options from a basic transformer with bell and whistle buttons.
QSI and MTH evolved the boards overtime to account for the newer transformers with changes to components and processing on the board.
Did the set come with instructions? Usually it explains some of this in the troubleshooting section:-) G
I have a set of Proto-1 Pennsy F3's I'm currently running. They run OK using the z1000 but I get intermittent/random blaring of the horn. However, when using my PW ZW, they seem to run smoother without the random horn blasts.
That's why we designed the purepower line of power packs...i could not get my early MTH locos to run on the transistorized MRC A.C. packs, nor the Z-1000, but they ran on my buddies ZW. Problem Solved!!!
Are you talking about the DCRU? They were different and used some basic microchips to create a Reverse unit. Once you added the Top board with a microprocessor to control the bottom board, the compatibility issues showed up. G
Long ago when the PS1 issue first reared it's head, I heard that one work-around was to hold down the reverse button, advance the throttle to near full power, then release it. The theory was that the chopped waves are nearly nonexistent at top voltage, and holding down the reverse button allows you to send just that to power up the system. Once past the start-up checks, you could run the unit normally--at least till it was allowed to shut down.
I didn't get a chance to try this out as I already had a postwar 1032 to run my stuff till I started to run out of power for longer trains and then went to a Z-1000. I can't be sure that I've tested all my early PS-1 units with it though. (eyes his Seaboard SD45 suspiciously)