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I have a new Lionel B&O 5300 USRA 4-6-2 (6-85171) that periodically loses its bluetooth connection momentarily.  The locomotive will sometimes continue to operate for a short time before it goes into a holding pattern and I have to reconnect.  The layout is a bent oval around a corner, but line of sight does not correlate with the connectivity problem.  Any others have this problem and how did you fix it?

Thanks - returning to the hobby after some 40 years away from it.

Shaun

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I've pretty much abandoned BT for train control, I won't buy anything that doesn't have a real command option, Legacy/TMCC or DCS.  My layout is only 12 x 24 with a yard extension, but I can't reliably run a BT equipped engine using a phone or the universal remote around the whole layout if I stand at one end.  To me, that's absurd and detracts from the whole idea of command/control!

If I have to follow the engine around, why not just run a wire to it?

FWIW, I'm sure part of the issue is the location of the BT boards in diecast steamers, they're inside the diecast shell.  The antenna is part of the little BT board, so how do they expect decent range with that design?

@Richie C. posted:

1. Just curious as to whether there are devices on the market like repeaters or boosters that will amplify or boost the BT signal and effectively extend its range.

How To Increase Bluetooth Range

2. Also, will having a wi-fi signal present in the same area create interference with the BT signal ?

Yes, having WiFi at 2.4thz can affect the BT, as well as anything else in the 2.4ghz frequency band.  In theory, the frequency hopping design of BT will minimize that interference.  Also, some newer BT devices actually identify problem frequencies in their operating band and block them out to minimize the issue.

@Richie C. posted:

1. Just curious as to whether there are devices on the market like repeaters or boosters that will amplify or boost the BT signal and effectively extend its range.

2. Also, will having a wi-fi signal present in the same area create interference with the BT signal ?

Richie,

1.) You're likely to have the same problem with a repeater.  (Follow me with this one; my analysis is odd).  When in the process of moving around the layout, if you get too far away from it you'll lose your connection with it, hence your connection to the locomotive through it. The problem is movement.  The repeater would have to follow you around the room, or follow the train around the layout, always keeping a point midway between you and the loco in order to get maximum range.

Now, you could use a repeater whose output signal is much larger than the one put out by your remote, but Bluetooth isn't meant to work this way.  Most often the problem is fixed by improving the sensitivity of the receiver, which in this case as @gunrunnerjohn has pointed out, is inside a die-cast locomotive shell shielding its transmission.

2.) WiFi and Bluetooth are used simultaneously very, very, very frequently with most smartphones.  Not a problem, or we would be hearing of billions of people (literally) complaining about it.

Mike

@Dave Olson posted:

Our engines have had BLE4.0, which has been limited to 20 - 30 ft range. Legacy engines in 2021C2 and beyond, we've upgraded to BLE5.0, which will have 100+ ft range.

Any estimate for the fix for the Andorid App?  Version 2.6.25 dated Dec 1, 2021 finds and initially connects just fine but as soon as you get back to the main page and try to do anything it drops, over and over again.  Apple app & Orange remote works fine.  I personally tried 2 different phones, and 1 Android tablet - all exact same issue.

I'm a service center and multiple engines have came in for repair, but I end up explaining its the LionChief App not the engine that is the issue.

Jim

I see Dave Olson was typing at the same time.   It'll be interesting to see how much better the new engine do.  I wonder if there'll be a new Universal Remote with the newer BT as well.

Hopefully there is a definite improvement.   My legacy Rutland 4-6-0 won't stay connected sitting 3 feet away from me for longer than 2 minutes.....usually more like 30 seconds lol

My two LC+ 2.0 0-6-0T Docksiders have about a 6-8 foot range from the Universal remote and not much better from my new Galaxy S21 G5 phone.  The Reading T1 range sucks and sometimes won't even connect!  The two new 10-wheelers I can control all over if I stand in the center, so it that's a range of about 15 feet or so.

None of this is really satisfactory performance, so I have abandoned BT for the foreseeable future.

The latest version of bluetooth is supposed to have better range and higher data capacity. Not sure what version Lionel is using. I have tested aftermarket bluetooth systems and found good range, in some cases over 75 feet. Bluetooth setups I have tested include printed circuit board antennas and external antennas which provide greater range.  The Wi-Fi based systems I have tested perform virtually identical to the bluetooth systems.

@BOB WALKER posted:

The latest version of bluetooth is supposed to have better range and higher data capacity. Not sure what version Lionel is using. I have tested aftermarket bluetooth systems and found good range, in some cases over 75 feet. Bluetooth setups I have tested include printed circuit board antennas and external antennas which provide greater range.  The Wi-Fi based systems I have tested perform virtually identical to the bluetooth systems.

The version doesn't matter, it's the class of power output of the device.

For Example:

A Bluetooth 2.1 device with Class 1 power output will easily reach 100 feet in line of sight conditions
A Bluetooth 5.0 device with Class 3 power will connect to something about 5 to 10 feet away at best.

Data throughput doesn't matter either, the amount data that is being transmitted over this Bluetooth connection doesn't exceed the throughput of 1990's computer modem. I'd sacrifice throughput for range in heartbeat.

As for WiFi vs Bluetooth Range, Bluetooth was never designed nor wants to compete with WiFi when it comes to "going the distance".  My home router with stock internal antennas easily makes 300 feet through walls with excellent signal quality, I've never achieved that range with Bluetooth even in Line of Sight conditions. I have literally run my trains from my neighbors house and watched them on my camera system, no way am I pulling that off with Bluetooth.

Lionel filed a bunch of changes with the FCC the past couple of years and it looks like some of these are due to parts obsolescence on some devices and "Better Performance" upgrades to others.  I suspect they are upping the power output on future Bluetooth products for better range but unfortunately for any of our older Bluetooth equipped engines up to now, we are stuck with less than favorable range.  I suspect another version of the Universal Remote will have to be designed to accommodate the upgraded power that Lionel wants to achieve.

I have a new legacy with whistle steam. Since there are no legacy  controllers available I figured I would just use the LC App. Well that was a bust unless I kept within about three to four feet from the loco. I bought a universal remote and it works fine from anywhere. I'm pretty sure my tablet and phone use low power Bluetooth to conserve battery. They all try to get bragging rights for using the least amount of battery per day.

@JackO posted:

We see a much more robust connection between the locomotives and the remotes/universal remote than with our phones/app. LC Polar Express and LC+ Switcher. All I mean is the remotes never lose connection and the phones will lose connection if you walk to the other side of the house. It's never really been an issue for us.

While we hear such stories here from time to time how great Bluetooth locomotives work for specific people, that's really not the point.  If the performance is so poor for so many, it's a product fail IMO.  Weather reporting is the only job where you can be wrong half the time and still be a success.

My Universal Remote has less range than my cellphone as far as controlling any of the BT equipped locomotives I have.  All of mine are either Legacy or LC+ 2.0 models.  I have four Legacy locomotives with BT and two LC+ 2.0 locomotives.  None of them are reliable if I'm standing at one end of my layout and the locomotive more than 12-15 feet away from me, barely half the way down the layout.  Forget it if I try to drive one into the yard!   Some of them will drop out in even less distance.

While we hear such stories here from time to time how great Bluetooth locomotives work for specific people, that's really not the point.  If the performance is so poor for so many, it's a product fail IMO.  Weather reporting is the only job where you can be wrong half the time and still be a success.

My Universal Remote has less range than my cellphone as far as controlling any of the BT equipped locomotives I have.  All of mine are either Legacy or LC+ 2.0 models.  I have four Legacy locomotives with BT and two LC+ 2.0 locomotives.  None of them are reliable if I'm standing at one end of my layout and the locomotive more than 12-15 feet away from me, barely half the way down the layout.  Forget it if I try to drive one into the yard!   Some of them will drop out in even less distance.

Wow. Amazing difference from one user to another. I'd sure be upset if I was getting those results... it would be too frustrating for the kids to use.

@JackO posted:

Wow. Amazing difference from one user to another. I'd sure be upset if I was getting those results... it would be too frustrating for the kids to use.

Which is exactly why all my Bluetooth equipped locomotives also have standard Legacy or TMCC command control, and that's the way they get run.  My layout is fully wired for Legacy/TMCC and DCS, so no need for the stinkin' unreliable Bluetooth link.  It would be nice if it were more reliable, I can see situations where it would be handy to have.  However, I've adjusted to the fact that the current Lionel Bluetooth is simply not ready for prime time.

IMO, in order to be reasonably useful, the Bluetooth link should have a reliable range of at least 25 feet or more.  Oddly, the older LC and LC+ stuff that wasn't using Bluetooth had a much better range using their dedicated remotes or the Universal Remote.  I never looked into exactly what radio technology they were using, but when they shifted to Bluetooth, they should have at least tried to match that range and reliability!

I was experiencing a lost Bluetooth connection while running one of my engines.  I turned off the fluorescent light fixture that was over the area that I was operating the layout from and the problem went away.  Can anyone tell me what the reason for this might be?

Electrical interference, Bluetooth is a very low power signal and almost any electrical interference can nuke it.

I'ld rather not have to, as John joked, have to chase the train around to grab my phone to toot the horn or use the app to do anything other than let it run.  As a consumer, I was not worried about the shortage of Legacy command sets in time for the Holidays due to Bluetooth.  I am now instead significantly disappointed and frustrated as I search for ways to set up a Bluetooth relay so that I can control my Bluetooth locomotive without running around the room while waiting for command sets to appear again. If the Bluetooth relay works, I'll post the solution.

YJohn, while the short range is annoying, I cannot discount the improvement in my cardiovascular health from the additional steps I took to follow my engine......

Seriously, it is annoying. Why hadn’t I noticed it till now? I probably have never pushed its range like I did on my evening with the Trackers.......

I mainly have used blue tooth on my former home layout (6x16) and the two smaller club layouts (6x11 and 12x15). I probably have never used blue tooth on our 21x43 club layout since with have a Cab1L and a Cab2.

Peter

Last edited by Putnam Division

Peter, even my 24x12 layout has issues with BT, I can't imagine how annoying it would be on a large layout!  Given that fact, I simply can't say it's ready for prime time.  I've only tried it on new engines as a test, I dislike running my trains with my phone anyway.  I would like to have it functional as a backup method of operation since I have the capability to run it.  Besides, if someone comes over that is in love with that mode of operation, who am I to say it's wrong.

Jeff, the original LC units as well as the earlier LC+ units didn't use BlueTooth, they had a dedicated RF link frequency.  I'm not sure exactly what frequency they operated on, but it did seem to have longer range than the BlueTooth in later locomotives.

I understand and that is what I could not remember late last night. With that in mind I still think using the Universal LionChief remote as a repeater using the bluetooth app gives more range than the bluetooth app alone.

@Captaincog posted:

I understand and that is what I could not remember late last night. With that in mind I still think using the Universal LionChief remote as a repeater using the bluetooth app gives more range than the bluetooth app alone.

Probably so, the Universal remote is communicating with those locomotives with the original RF channel, not BT.  The BT link is from the app to the Universal remote.

Following the previous discussion on LC bluetooth operating range, I rechecked my earlier universal controller range check with a LC2.0 engine and again found it to be 40-45 feet. This compares with the bluetooth LC app range to be around 25 feet. The obvious conclusion is that if you are running LC on a large layout, the universal controller is the best choice, although the app may also work well. One other point of interest is that only one controller can be connected to a LC engine at the same time. This limited app based operating range should not generally rule out bluetooth as there are other bluetooth systems I have tested with substantial operating ranges close to 100 feet.

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