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I hope this is the proper category.  Since this is a BlueRail command and control topic I picked this one because of "...other R/C Systems.

I've been following the BlueRail guys for a few years.  I was given the opportunity to purchase their new board as an "Early Adopter" over the summer.  

Since my AtlasO engine could not be upgraded to PS3 (Space) and ERR only had sounds for a GG-1/EP-5 I decided to try the BlueRail Board with a Soundtraxx Sound Decoder.

This setup can run on DCC, Battery or AC track power.  I set mine up to run on AC using my Z4000.  I can run BlueRail, Legacy and DCS all on the same track at the same time.

Thanks to Bob Walker and Bob Delbridge for the encouragement.  Also thanks to BlueRail, DeadRail Installs and Soundtraxx for the technical assistance.

Have Fun!

Ron

 

 

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Someday soon, I want to convert at least one G scale engine to run on battery outside during the winter. I haven't decided on which one and how to do it (which brands to go with). So I just keep watching you guys!

Joe, I have a Bachmann G scale 4-6-0 Annie that has one of the first BlueRail boards installed and uses a 12v 2000Mah NiMh battery and runs great. The 1st board was only rated for 1amp I believe (BobW correct me if I’m wrong) but have not had any issues with it making the engine go but I only have 2 cars and a caboose to pull.

BlueRailTrains first board (BlueHorse) did have a 1 amp spec limit, but was able to go somewhat higher. I have several OGauge engines running with this board (track & battery powered) and have not had a failure. However, I would be cautious with G scale due to the typically  higher motor current draws. One of the newer BlueRail boards has a 5 amp rating which is better suited to G scale and includes DCC capability.

BTW, my very first battery powered engine project used that same 12V 2000mah NiMH battery and is still running fine today.

Good evening Ron and Bob:

I have been lurking on this thread for quite a while, and now I have a dead MTH AEM7 that I'd like to try this system out on.  I also have at least one Atlas AEM7 that might be ripe for an upgrade as well, but that will depend on how well this works.  However, as a proto/3RS modeller, I am rather underwhelmed by the Soundtraxx audio.  The ESU LokSound 5x decoders have a specific AEM7 sound file, and the overall sounds are considerably better, (minus the horn, which, while clear, still sounds off).  Of course they also have a number of functions for lighting effects as well.  MTH AEM7s have lots of LEDs, and I'd like be able to use them as I do with DCS.

After reading the documentation, my understanding is that the BlueRail board will work with any DCC decoder.  Can I assume this would be the case with the LokSound decoders?  Has anyone tried that yet?  Also, I figured the 2A board will be sufficient for an MTH AEM7; I'm not sure I ever drew more than 1A with them.  Would you also be able to control several lighting functions with BlueRail, or would an actual DCC system be required for that?  I know you (Ron) control a few LEDs with your Atlas install, but there would be closer to a dozen LEDs in an MTH AEM7.

Please forgive me if any of these questions seem obvious.  Given the potential investment, (with the possibility of a control system down the road), I'd appreciate some reassurance that this will work before I set out to do any conversions.  Thanks.

@Pantenary posted:

After reading the documentation, my understanding is that the BlueRail board will work with any DCC decoder.  Can I assume this would be the case with the LokSound decoders?  Has anyone tried that yet?

Yes, people have used Loksound.  In the BlueRail app you would just select that option so the functions would map properly.

Also, I figured the 2A board will be sufficient for an MTH AEM7; I'm not sure I ever drew more than 1A with them.

You could do that and maybe it would work.  I myself would not.  I would spend the extra $40 and ensure my engine and sound decoder are protected and operate as expected.  You have plenty of room in O gauge for a 5amp board.

Would you also be able to control several lighting functions with BlueRail, or would an actual DCC system be required for that?  I know you (Ron) control a few LEDs with your Atlas install, but there would be closer to a dozen LEDs in an MTH AEM7.

Your DCC sound decoder controls the lights though the BlueRail app.  I am not familiar with Loksound.  But on the Soundtraxx decoder I have Fwd light, Rev light and then FX3 through FX6 available to control different ights.  I tried to simplify my 12 lights on the AEM7.  The headlight and three rear red marker lights are all on Fwd control and the opposite rear headlight and front three marker lights are on Rev control.  Then I control front strobes and rear strobes separate.  I have two controls left over.  No separate DCC system is required.

Given the potential investment, (with the possibility of a control system down the road), I'd appreciate some reassurance that this will work before I set out to do any conversions.  Thanks.

Reason enough for me to get the 5 amp board.

I trust the above response will help.  If not, feel free to reach out.  Happy to help where I can.

Ron

Ron -- Thank you for your responses; that is very helpful.

Alan -- I wasn't aware DCC was on it's deathbed.  I was rather soured to it from my HO days, but there appears to be some very good systems these days at all power levels.

I am more than happy with DCS for the moment; it has worked well and I enjoy it.  There are no plans to rip out perfectly good PS2/PS3 boards or ditch DCS.  I am also aware that DCS is apparently becoming its own 'brand' so to speak, though it remains to be seen exactly what that will look like.  However, I now have two MTH motors with bad PS3 boards, and three 'original' PS2 motors that are probably living on borrowed time.  Their replacement or upgrade represents a significant investment into a proprietary system with a somewhat iffy future, which does not seem to me a wise or forward-thinking move.

While I am not presently making any changes, I am leaning towards transitioning away from propriety protocols in favor of something more universally supported as the current boards fail.  DCC fits that requirement, and there is plenty of quality hardware to choose from, (with the added benefit of using the current PS3 boards as long as they last).

How does the Blue Rail app handle programming the sound decoder? I’ve done a lot of programming first gen Tsunami decoders with an NCE system. A programming booster was also needed. I haven’t worked with any Tsunami 2’s yet and I’ve been curious about how intuitive programming is with Blue Rail, especially how it handles the presence of 2 decoders. I did a number of G and O scale DCC and sound installs using a dual decoder setup and had to install a pair of DPDT toggle switches to isolate the decoders for programming. A little odd but it worked well enough.

Running a Tsunami decoder through a 4” speaker in an Accucraft Rio Grande K-37 sounded unbelievably cool!

@AlanRail posted:

There are many more features of DCS, most of which admittedly i never use, but still cannot be activated or controlled with DCC.

One such is the doppler effect. Can DCC activated that or any of the many other unique DCS features?

LoL... Doppler effect?  That's the best you got?  Doppler doesn't even work in DCS.

Oh... By the way.  My DCC has Doppler.  And it works better than DCS.

Doppler

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@Ron045 posted:

I don't understand what you mean by two decoders.  Unless you are calling the BlueRail board the decoder.

The Tsunami sound decoder will work right out of the box.  But if you want to customize it you program it right inside the BlueRail app.

Ron

So is the Blue Rail product not a DCC decoder that responds to bluetooth? I was under the impression it was similar to a straight DCC decoder that has motor and lighting functions but instead of using a DCC system, you use a phone. Is this not correct?

It is separate from the DCC board.  The app uses Bluetooth to talk to the Bluerail board which controls the DCC board which controls the motor and lights.  You can change the DCC CV values from the app.  You can also use the Bluerail board without a DCC board as it can control the motor and lights itself but then, no sound.  I have several HO locos that I put the original boards in for battery power.   Works great.  I have a couple of the new boards but haven't had time to install, yet.  I use the Loksound decoders these days for the sound upload capabilities.  Visit the Bluerail site for more info.

The sound on the newer DCC boards is incredible.  They go to great lengths to get correct sounds if possible.  That is their stock in trade so I expect them to be better than Lionel or MTH.

Has anyone tried using the boards to control MTH PS3 DCC?

Brendan

@Ron045,  I've enjoyed your posts and YouTube vids on BlueRail, thank you for sharing these.  

Question if I may, now that you have been implementing/experimenting with BlueRail with battery power vs track power,  where do you see this could go?   Do you see yourself (or others) now switching to 2 rail O scale track? I mean if ya are going dead rail, then...why 3 rail tracks?  Could ya, in theory, replace your layout with 2 rail and dead rail, would ya have to give up anything?  

Just thinking out loud here for a sec, I guess what would be lost or needed to overcome would be accessories that are track activated, lights in passenger cars or cabooses, electro-couplers, smoke units (I assume they would chew up battery time).  You would still need to power the switches, (would you lose the non-derailing feature if the track isn't powered?) How would you handle uncoupler tracks? I guess they would need to powered separately

Just curious to see what your thoughts are

Thanks in advance

@Casey_Jones posted:

@Ron045,  I've enjoyed your posts and YouTube vids on BlueRail, thank you for sharing these.  

Question if I may, now that you have been implementing/experimenting with BlueRail with battery power vs track power,  where do you see this could go?   Do you see yourself (or others) now switching to 2 rail O scale track? I mean if ya are going dead rail, then...why 3 rail tracks?  Could ya, in theory, replace your layout with 2 rail and dead rail, would ya have to give up anything?  

Just thinking out loud here for a sec, I guess what would be lost or needed to overcome would be accessories that are track activated, lights in passenger cars or cabooses, electro-couplers, smoke units (I assume they would chew up battery time).  You would still need to power the switches, (would you lose the non-derailing feature if the track isn't powered?) How would you handle uncoupler tracks? I guess they would need to powered separately

Just curious to see what your thoughts are

Thanks in advance

Casey,

I'm hooked and "all in" on battery.  My personal user experience and satisfaction has increased tremendously.  All of my personal train engines (present and future) will be battery.

But my son and daughter still have track powered trains and are not ready to give that up.

My current layout as is would not be a strong 2 rail candidate.  I don't know much about two rail, but I understand your track work needs to be pretty good.  Not sure those big three rail wheel flanges will like two rail track either.

I've been playing with the idea of a new layout after they leave the house for college/work, which could be later this year or next.

But then they will want to run trains when they visit.  I have a brother in-law who has o gauge trains and enjoys running them on my layout too. 

So... I will most likely keep my wiring and third rail on this layout and quite possibly the next.  If I don't, my fear is I'll be running trains all alone.  That's not fun.

Hope that answers your questions.  Thanks for asking.

Ron

@Casey_Jones posted:

@Ron045,  approximately, how long does a battery last? I realize it will vary from loco to loco based on the number of motors, lights, and how long/heavy a load it's pulling etc. And what is the recharge time?

My F7's each run on a 14.8V 3800mah LiIon battery.  I have those two engines, two dummy B's and 7 heavyweight passenger cars that can run for over 3 hours, continuous or stop and go.  Charging time is near equivalent.  So if I run for an hour, it takes about an hour to charge.   

So far, I have not had an instance where I wanted to run those engines and the battery was not charged.  They don't have a memory, so I do not have to run them all the way down before charging.  I can put them on the charger any time.

I use magnets to hold the shell on the battery car.  So if I really wanted to swap out a fresh battery I could very easily.  But I have not had to do that at all.

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Ron,

The magnet idea to attach the shells is brilliant.  What kind of magnets do you use and where do you get them?  

I bought magnets that look like yours at a craft store but they aren't strong enough to hold the shell to the frame so that the entire unit can be lifted from the track.  Do you glue the magnets to the frame?  If you do glue them, what type of glue do you use?

Also, what kind of electrical connectors do you use so that the wires between the A and B units can be easily disconnected?

Thanks in advance,  NH Joe

Ron,

The magnet idea to attach the shells is brilliant.  What kind of magnets do you use and where do you get them?  

I bought magnets that look like yours at a craft store but they aren't strong enough to hold the shell to the frame so that the entire unit can be lifted from the track.  Do you glue the magnets to the frame?  If you do glue them, what type of glue do you use?

Also, what kind of electrical connectors do you use so that the wires between the A and B units can be easily disconnected?

Thanks in advance,  NH Joe

Thanks NH Joe,

This video is my final battery install and shows the connections.

This video from 1:30 - 2:40 shows the magnet process.  These are rare earth magnets and can be purchased at any hobby store.  Typically one that sells RC stuff.

But a word of warning.  In the video you see how strong these are and me picking up the car by the shell.  Once you get a battery and electronics in the car, you don't want to pick it up by the shell. 

Have Fun!

Ron

Ron -- you've done some great stuff with bluerail and there are certainly some attractive features.  I would think having to remove the shell and then the battery each time you want to charge it up would eventually risk bending/breaking something on the shell, etc. -- or just become a PITA.  In any event, have you thought about setting up some sort of 'charging track' where you could park the B unit.  I don't know whether the blue rail board has the ability to control a relay as a way of hooking the battery up to a charging circuit.

BTW, a good source for good rare earth magnets are woodworking stores like Rockler - dunno whether some of the big box places have them as well.  I've used them for door 'latches' on cabinets

Last edited by richs09
@Ron045 posted:

Yes.  Fairly easy.  Just need to run power to BR board first (track or battery).  Then to the wire nuts where power enters the engine.

Flip the DCC switch and have fun.

Permanent Battery Install

Well this pretty much answers a question I asked in another thread.  Someone on that thread mentioned that the MTH DCC on the PS3 card is "backwards"...did you have any challenges hooking up the BR board to the PS3 card?

Also, does the MTHDCC decoder show all of the features on the BR app like other decoder would?  (i.e. the features aren't "proprietary", and they follow normal DCC protocol)?  Can the sound files be updated / programmed like other DCC decoders, or do you still need to use the MTH (chain?) sound files for that loco?

I'm days away from taking a stab once I figure out if I want to swap my PS3 board into the loco, or if I should buy an expensive dedicated DCC decoder.

This stuff is so cool, Ron.

Well this pretty much answers a question I asked in another thread.  Someone on that thread mentioned that the MTH DCC on the PS3 card is "backwards"...did you have any challenges hooking up the BR board to the PS3 card?

Also, does the MTHDCC decoder show all of the features on the BR app like other decoder would?  (i.e. the features aren't "proprietary", and they follow normal DCC protocol)?  Can the sound files be updated / programmed like other DCC decoders, or do you still need to use the MTH (chain?) sound files for that loco?

I'm days away from taking a stab once I figure out if I want to swap my PS3 board into the loco, or if I should buy an expensive dedicated DCC decoder.

This stuff is so cool, Ron.

Jeff,

Do NOT swap out a PS3 board for another decoder.  MTH works great in DCC mode with BlueRail.  There are 28 easily accessible functions just like you would see in DCS and further customization by adjusting CV's.

The only annoying thing I ran into is the Startup Shutdown sequence was the same as the short horn button in the App.  But this video shows you how to swap it around so it works properly.

The only time I might recommend replacing the PS3 stuff in favor of a Soundtrax board is if you are trying to fit the BR board, ST board and battery all in the same diesel.  You will have to remove the large PS3 board to make that happen.

Ron

Last edited by Ron045

Hey @Ron045 and @Jeff_the_Coaster_Guy, I'm going to try and stick with this post for my line of questions, as I have the same unit that I'll be making pretty much the same mods.

I see that the Tsunami2 2200 and 4400 electric sound decoders both have the sounds I'd like for my Atlas AEM-7, as the locomotive operating instructions have answered my questions as to internal equipment. Including the Nathan K5LA (CV120 / value 6), rotary compressor (CV124 / value 2) and Graham White electronic bell (CV122 / value 36), as well as light 4 light outputs for different strobes and the emergency red strobe light above the windshield. (this comes on either manually when the strobe selector is set to red, or the brake PSI drops below 50; locomotive details and operating instructions can be found here: EMD AEM-7 Operating Manual 1979.

Can you change these CV's on the Bluerail app?  This will mean the difference between installing a Bluerail or biting the bullet and purchasing an NCE system for the club.

Thanks,

- Mario

Hey @Ron045 and @Jeff_the_Coaster_Guy,

Can you change these CV's on the Bluerail app?  This will mean the difference between installing a Bluerail or biting the bullet and purchasing an NCE system for the club.

Thanks,

- Mario

Mario,

As you saw in the last video, CVs can be changed in the BR app.  I had to change CVs to get the strobe effect for the AEM 7.  The manual describes the process.

Have fun.

Ron

Last edited by Ron045

@Jeff_the_Coaster_Guy  - As Ron is pointing out, BlueRail will let you run your MTH loco, trigger functions, and edit CVs. The BlueRail app has a "preset" that lets you select MTH as your decoder type, at which point everything should be pretty intuitive.

The app does not give you any ability to upload sound files into your decoder. That is a proprietary thing that MTH doesn't share with outside developers.

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