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Garfield, I had the same question for them and got the same answer.  I think there may be a few more 3 railers out there interested in their product than they realize.  I really think they should consider sending out a loaner or two to some of the tech guys in the forum to enable to test them in the field.  Without a doubt I would be in the market for one or two.  Garfield if you decide to get one please keep us up to date on your findings.

The Proto throttles connect to the DCC system, not directly to the loco.  Unless you have a DCC system, ie Digitrax, NCE, etc, changing the switch on the loco won't do anything. Once you have a DCC system in place, it should work.  Please note that you would have to switch between the DCS and DCC system are they cannot run together.

Brendan

Last edited by Brendan
@Weener Dog posted:

Garfield, I had the same question for them and got the same answer.  I think there may be a few more 3 railers out there interested in their product than they realize.  I really think they should consider sending out a loaner or two to some of the tech guys in the forum to enable to test them in the field.  Without a doubt I would be in the market for one or two.  Garfield if you decide to get one please keep us up to date on your findings.

I'll certainly post back to this thread if I find out more, but for me to test is would require buying an MTH loco, set it to 3-rail DCC (I don't believe the new locos have both external switches any more so this requires opening up the loco and adding a switch), buy a DCC system (unless my older 1.3 AMP NCE system would work just for the test) and then buy the protothrottle. That's a big investment just to see if it works!

Last edited by Garfield Irwin
@Brendan posted:

The Proto throttles connect to the DCC system, not directly to the loco.  Unless you have a DCC system, ie Digitrax, NCE, etc, changing the switch on the loco won't do anything. Once you have a DCC system in place, it should work.  Please note that you would have to switch between the DCS and DCC system are they cannot run together.

Brendan

Thanks, yes, this is my understanding. Kind of surprised that nobody has actually tried this.

@Brendan posted:

The NCE powercab would work for one loco; I have done it.

Tried DCC or tried the Proto throttle?

I have tried the Proto throttle and found it cumbersome. The novelty wore off quickly.

Brendan

Interesting comment. I do wonder if the PT might get "old" but it's still something I'd like to try. Probably makes more sense using it on the main line vs. a switching layout like I have though.

UPDATE:

Well for better or worse I've decided to try Protothrottle on my 3-rail switching layout. Since my interests are leaning more towards slow paced diesel switching operations on a "detailed" layout rather than running long trains in loops (my modeling gurus are Boomer Dioramas and Serge Lebel) the Protothrottle fits that scenario. Fortunately I have only a couple of Lionel locos so buying into MTH to test 3-Rail DCC is entirely doable. If it works really well I'll just have a couple of Lionel locos to sell.

Since my old NCE Powercab was still running v1.1 I've ordered an upgrade chip which is on the way (necessary for Protothrottle to run). Today I picked up a gold Protothrottle and NCE Radio link from Otter Valley Railway here in Tillsonburg, Ontario. I also found a suitable MTH SW1 PS3 engine from The Public Delivery Track. It a Rail King without the external DCS/DCC switch so I'll have to pop the cab and pull a jumper in order to switch it from DCS to DCC but that's easy enough to do.

So in a few weeks we'll see how well this setup works -- wish me luck!

Last edited by Garfield Irwin

Garfield, happy to hear you're proceeding with Protothrottle.   Gentlemen such as Boomer and Thomas Klimoski have opened my eyes to a different type of operations (small switching layouts) which I personally think the Protothrottle would be a very valuable tool.  A chance to savor the operating experience and kick back and relax with your favorite beverage while operating prototypically.  Granted this isn't for everyone, but I for one enjoy the relaxed pace. Best of luck my friend.

Dwayne

@Weener Dog posted:

Garfield, happy to hear you're proceeding with Protothrottle.   Gentlemen such as Boomer and Thomas Klimoski have opened my eyes to a different type of operations (small switching layouts) which I personally think the Protothrottle would be a very valuable tool.  A chance to savor the operating experience and kick back and relax with your favorite beverage while operating prototypically.  Granted this isn't for everyone, but I for one enjoy the relaxed pace. Best of luck my friend.

Dwayne

Thanks Dwayne -- my thinking exactly, but it's all theory until put into practice!

I'd be interested to hear your feedback.  My go to throttle for switching is a NCE Cab06.  It reverses the engine if you go counterclockwise past midnight position and forward clockwise past midnight position (similar to Lionchief controllers but more ergonomic). In NCE terms, it is called yard mode.

Brendan

@Brendan posted:

I'd be interested to hear your feedback.  My go to throttle for switching is a NCE Cab06.  It reverses the engine if you go counterclockwise past midnight position and forward clockwise past midnight position (similar to Lionchief controllers but more ergonomic). In NCE terms, it is called yard mode.

Brendan

For sure. My Lionel universal remote is similar and is very easy to use, of course, but the idea of a more prototypical throttle for slower switching ops is appealing. That said, I'm a little concerned about the lack of programmable buttons on the PT and hope I don't mind menu diving too much.



Ok, so for those that may be interested here's a update on my foray into the MTH DCC world.

The new 3-rail MTH PS3 SW1 Railking arrived but unfortunately MTH no longer include an external DCS/DCC switch on Railking locos so I had to remove the body and cut(!) a grey wire to convert the loco to DCC. (It was no big deal but a suspicious person might begin to wondering if MTH is really that serious about supporting DCC. )

Anyway, I also upgraded my NCE Powercab with the latest chip (1.65B) which was required to run Protothrottle.

I hooked up the NCE to my small 3-rail layout (plenty of drops including one on each end of every switch), placed the DCC-ready SW1 switcher on the layout and powered everything up. To my relief the loco ran (well, sort of) with basic sounds. So then I attached the PT radio board to the NCE plug-board, turn on the PT and voila! I could control the loco via the PT right out of the box, including some basic functions like the bell and horn. The PT throttle, reverser and dynamic brake controls all functioned without issue. Whew!

BUT it quickly became clear that getting the SW1 to operate prototypically is going to take a LOT of fine tuning, and after my initial experience I'm not at all certain of being successful. This is my first MTH loco, and I'm no DCC expert and I've never used Protothrottle before, so the learning curve is greater than a 4% slope! There are many, many, many options and settings settings to learn and nothing is simple it seems. It took me a while just to figure out how to set momentum values (i.e. CV3 & CV4) which required setting CV52=1 and then rebooting the system. There's lots of quirky stuff going on.

Fortunately I'm able to program the MTH decoder using the NCE Powercab in either programming mode or on the main -- both worked equally well.

So the momentum variables are working, but the response is very "crude". I'll need to look at the speed curve options next, if I can figure them out. But it's already clear that the MTH decoder is no loksound 5, and that could be a serious hurdle to achieve success.

But my biggest concern is that the new Railking SW1 runs really rough at low speeds. It slows down on curves and over switches for some inexplicable reason and often jerks to a stop at slow speeds then lurches forward and it has a mind of it's own when it comes to momentum. I'm hoping this is just a break-in issue but my Lionel locos exhibited none of these issues right out of the box, so I'm not sure if is really the loco or something with the DCC system. But the rough running is is a really big problem because if I can't get the loco to settle down, there's no point in even thinking about trying to fine-tuning protothrottle operations -- if I can't get solve the rough slow running (I have a switching layout) that may end the idea of running Protothrottle on 3-rail for me.

Stay tuned...

Last edited by Garfield Irwin

When I get home today, I am going to revisit DCC with one of my MTH locos.  I think I have some older ones that have the switch.  If you did need more  power for some reason, NCE has the SB5 booster although there are other cheaper booster options such as Tam Valley DCC booster ($60) that you can power off an old computer laptop charger.  I have 8 of those for all the power districts at our HO club layout.

Brendan

Last edited by Brendan

2-Railer here.  If you are determined to try to get this work.  I would suggest removing the MTH electronics and installing an ESU Loksound V5 decoder and doing as another poster stated and wire the motors in series.  Wiring the motors in series will cut the top speed in half but will also give better resolution at  slow speed.  Us 2-railers often sell the old MTH electronics to 3-railers wanting to upgrade to PS3, so you can recoup some of the money you shell out for new ESU Loksound decoder by selling off the PS3 electronics.  Wiring up the new decoder to make it run and have sound is pretty easy but wiring up the lighting is usually the hardest part as you have to reverse engineer how the lighting is supposed to work on the PS3 electronics and hook it up to the new decoder functions, which may also require adding some dropping resistors for LEDs, if MTH PS3 decoders had them integrated into their decoder electronics and not included externally in the lighting circuit.

Yes, MTH DCC support in their PS3 locos is not that great when it comes to configurability or even running characteristics.  However, from the ESU Loksound aside from your "non-manual changing CVs" programming options, there is a free software tool called JMRI or you can purchase the ESU brand programmer.  The ESU programmer with included software runs around $150.  The free JMRI software that will allow you to do configurations of CVs from your PC but will not allow you to upload sound files.  Therefore, your decoder will have to be purchased with the correct sound file pre-installed, but vendors, such as Tony's Train Exchange, can do that for you.  The ESU programmer allows you to upload sound files and has a nice custom interface for setting all of the driving, functions, and sound characteristics.   All sound files can be downloaded off the ESU web site for free.

Lastly, another option for a great-running switching locomotive is to get a 3-Rail Atlas SW7, or SW9, SW1200 as these locomotives had a super smooth horizontal drive in them, even the 3-Rail version.  You will still need to rip out the old Atlas 3-Rail electronics and replace them with an ESU Loksound V5 size L decoder but running characteristics are fantastic out of the box, especially nice for a switching layout.   

In either case, if you go with installing a new ESU Loksound decoder, then a really nice sound upgrade is to install a Tang Band 1925S speaker in place of the stock MTH speaker.  The low-frequency (bass) sound quality goes up exponentially with this speaker.  Adding this speaker will most likely require making some custom bracketry inside the loco to mount the speaker as it will be a completely different form factor than the stock MTH speaker.  3D printing a custom bracket also comes in handy here, too.

There are options to make this work really nice but it is going take some more $$$ and spending some intimate time with your soldering iron.

Scott

Last edited by Scott Kay

Yes, I remember him saying that. If doing that improves running characteristics, why wouldn't the manufactures also be shipping them that way? Regardless, I'm hoping to avoid having to install my own sound decoder -- that shouldn't be necessary in a new loco this day and age.

Manufacturers, especially 3-Rail manufacturers, do not do this because it cuts the top speed in half since the same voltage is split between two motors.  For some reason, 3-Railers like to run their trains like jack rabbits around their layout.  It can also wreak havoc on the running characteristics on some electronics that have speed sensors on the flywheel, such as MTH does, so each motor/feedback loop assembly needs to be handled separately (in parallel) by the controlling electronics. 

Scott

@Scott Kay posted:

Manufacturers, especially 3-Rail manufacturers, do not do this because it cuts the top speed in half since the same voltage is split between two motors.  For some reason, 3-Railers like to run their trains like jack rabbits around their layout.  It can also wreak havoc on the running characteristics on some electronics that have speed sensors on the flywheel, such as MTH does, so each motor/feedback loop assembly needs to be handled separately (in parallel) by the controlling electronics.

Scott

Ok, that makes sense. I really don't like the idea of opening that can'o worms!

@Scott Kay posted:

2-Railer here.  If you are determined to try to get this work.  I would suggest removing the MTH electronics and installing an ESU Loksound V5 decoder and doing as another poster stated and wire the motors in series.  Wiring the motors in series will cut the top speed in half but will also give better resolution at  slow speed.  Us 2-railers often sell the old MTH electronics to 3-railers wanting to upgrade to PS3, so you can recoup some of the money you shell out for new ESU Loksound decoder by selling off the PS3 electronics.  Wiring up the new decoder to make it run and have sound is pretty easy but wiring up the lighting is usually the hardest part as you have to reverse engineer how the lighting is supposed to work on the PS3 electronics and hook it up to the new decoder functions, which may also require adding some dropping resistors for LEDs, if MTH PS3 decoders had them integrated into their decoder electronics and not included externally in the lighting circuit.

Yes, MTH DCC support in their PS3 locos is not that great when it comes to configurability or even running characteristics.  However, from the ESU Loksound aside from your "non-manual changing CVs" programming options, there is a free software tool called JMRI or you can purchase the ESU brand programmer.  The ESU programmer with included software runs around $150.  The free JMRI software that will allow you to do configurations of CVs from your PC but will not allow you to upload sound files.  Therefore, your decoder will have to be purchased with the correct sound file pre-installed, but vendors, such as Tony's Train Exchange, can do that for you.  The ESU programmer allows you to upload sound files and has a nice custom interface for setting all of the driving, functions, and sound characteristics.   All sound files can be downloaded off the ESU web site for free.

Lastly, another option for a great-running switching locomotive is to get a 3-Rail Atlas SW7, or SW9, SW1200 as these locomotives had a super smooth horizontal drive in them, even the 3-Rail version.  You will still need to rip out the old Atlas 3-Rail electronics and replace them with an ESU Loksound V5 size L decoder but running characteristics are fantastic out of the box, especially nice for a switching layout.   

In either case, if you go with installing a new ESU Loksound decoder, then a really nice sound upgrade is to install a Tang Band 1925S speaker in place of the stock MTH speaker.  The low-frequency (bass) sound quality goes up exponentially with this speaker.  Adding this speaker will most likely require making some custom bracketry inside the loco to mount the speaker as it will be a completely different form factor than the stock MTH speaker.  3D printing a custom bracket also comes in handy here, too.

There are options to make this work really nice but it is going take some more $$$ and spending some intimate time with your soldering iron.

Scott

Thanks for the comments Scott -- lots to think about. Not sure I want to go to this much work for my small 3-rail shelf layout but will consider going 2-rail DCC/Protothrottle with my future layout if I can't get this to work reasonably well as-is.

@Brendan posted:

When I get home today, I am going to revisit DCC with one of my MTH locos.  I think I have some older ones that have the switch.  If you did need more  power for some reason, NCE has the SB5 booster although there are other cheaper booster options such as Tam Valley DCC booster ($60) that you can power off an old computer laptop charger.  I have 8 of those for all the power districts at our HO club layout.

Brendan

I'll test the track voltage under load to see if lack of power is part of the problem.

Final(?) update:

Ok, so I've decided to park the idea of running Protothrottle on 3-rail for now. I think anyone who is interested in the Protothrottle naturally wants to runs trains prototypically, which requires an excellent running locomotive to start with, and the very best DCC technology to support the fine-tuning that is essential for prototypical operations. The MTH Railking SW1 I bought is running smoother after some lubrication but it's clear that it's not the best candidate for a Protothrottle.

So I'm going to stick with my two Lionel locos (an SW8 and GP30) which run beautifully on my 3-rail system with the simply Lionel universal remote. But for my future basement shelf layout I'm going to investigate using the Protothrottle on either a 2-rail setup w/LoKsound or an HO (gasp!) layout.

Thank you for all the input...at least I'm a little more knowledgable that when I started down this rabbit hole!

Cheers!





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