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I've gotten several requests to upgrade the sound of steamers from the Lionel RS4 boards to one of the ERR RS Commanders.  In the past, I wired it up and it didn't recognize the serial data stream.  I decided to take one more look, in theory it should be pretty easy, I have all the signals required right at the RS4 sound card connector!

I wired it all up, and sure enough, it worked great in conventional, but the command serial data wasn't recognized.  Now I know that the RS4 board takes the same serial data as the ERR RS Commander, so there was something else in play.  I fired up my 'scope and verified that there was a nice looking serial data stream on the proper connector pin, and I could even see the whistle command when I pressed the whistle on the remote.  So, I connected the ERR board to the RS4 connector and monitored the serial data.

WOW, now the serial data went from a 0-5 volt signal to a 0-2 volt signal!  Mystery solved, the AD-20 board doesn't have the drive to power the opto-isolator on the ERR RS Commander.

Gosh, I've just recently designed a little board to solve this problem, might as well apply my fix.  Enter the serial port buffer that I recently posted about in these very pages.

Added that to boost the serial data stream and like magic, the command operation works!  The good news is, there is a way to use the ERR RailSounds Commander with the wireless IR link for upgrades.  I'm picking up some of the Lionel AD-20A boards for times when I'm starting from scratch.

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Correct, it appears that if the TMCC stuff can reside in the locomotive, you can upgrade the tender with the IR tether.  This would probably really come into play with older stuff that has RailSounds 2.5 and wireless tethers, you can pretty much drop-in the ERR RS Commander by just adding the serial data buffer into the mix.  I do hasten to add, for the upgrade above I had a source of 5VDC available for the serial port buffer.  I believe the AD-20A (stand-alone) that is used with RS 2.5 also has a 5VDC output, still looking at that.

Yeah, that is why I said I'd be happy either way. I don't know the full guts of what it means on the above, but suspect that since it is an older TMCC, that it will be wired most likely. I passed along this topic since this is one great topic that shouldn't be missed by those doing upgrades.

I know I'd never be able to connect the right wires to anything, and every engine would smoke even if it wasn't supposed to. Best keep that to the experts. Leave me to demo.

It's too bad that the ERR board couldn't be re-engineered to include the buffer.  While I think what GRJ does here is awesome and I love his products, less parts and pieces that have to be installed the better in my mind.  But since that ship has sailed a long time ago, I'd use the GRJ buffer if I ever come across the need. Will this be added to the family of products John?

I see on another thread you said they wouldn't be sold or maybe kit form.

Last edited by MartyE

Sadly, I don't think Lionel is interested in improving the ERR line, what you see is what we have I suspect.  I have tons of ideas for new features, but I don't see them happening.   Since I can't influence the static design of the ERR stuff, I stick band-aids wherever I can.

Marty, I'm going to offer some kits of parts for the serial data buffer, it's easy to build as I made it a mostly thru-hole design for that reason.  I just have to wait until the boards show up from China and I'll have all the pieces.  I've also posted the .  I'd have to have hundreds assembled if I were going to have them manufactured, I don't see it ever being that much in demand.  There's only five parts, and the only surface mount is the op-amp, I used one with reasonable lead spacing so it's pretty easy to solder.  I posted all the details in the thread Improved R2LC/R4LC Serial Port Buffer

This would probably really come into play with older stuff that has RailSounds 2.5 and wireless tethers, you can pretty much drop-in the ERR RS Commander by just adding the serial data buffer into the mix.  I do hasten to add, for the upgrade above I had a source of 5VDC available for the serial port buffer.  I believe the AD-20A (stand-alone) that is used with RS 2.5 also has a 5VDC output, still looking at that.

If I understand what you're doing correctly, I have two comments to add to the discussion.

1) Your use case of RailSounds 2.5 plus wireless tether is exactly two locomotives. Not exactly a big market to target, I wouldn't think.

2) The stand-alone AD20 receives its +5VDC from the RS2.5, so you'll need to add a source for it when you remove the RS2.5 board.

TRW

Last edited by PaperTRW

I wondered about the 5V, not a big problem, a simple DC supply fixes that.    I was just looking at the AD-20 and realized that it probably didn't have it's own 5V, no components to supply it.  I looked at the AD-20 as a quick way to receive the serial data and provide the decoded backup light and coupler outputs.

I perceive the greater desirability to use the IR tether to be ERR TMCC upgrades, that's what I'd like to address.    I have a board design in progress that will do the whole job with one board, handle the IR receiver, decode the serial data, and buffer the serial data to the ERR RS Commander board.

The buffer is usually needed on engines with a two wire IR LED. Not needed on the engines with a three wire LED as they come with a built in buffer. Replacing the two wire LED with a three wire will also solve this issue. To make the swap you would also need a two part housing to accomodate the PC board the LED is mounted to. The 5v supplied by the R2LC is more than adequate and doesn't affect performance of the radio board. 

Pete

 

Last edited by Norton

J.A.,

These have been made in the past.  Not that easy to find now but they do still exist.  If my old notes are correct here are the options:

1.) ERR Sound Converter -- Interfaces to and operates Railsounds 1 and non-TMCC Railsounds 2 (as well as many other traditional whistle/horn/bell systems.  I bought two of them from ERR when it was shutting down, just before the transfer to Sunset/3rd Rail.  Out of production since the transfer.

2.) TAS 1308 Whistle Controller -- Similar to above.  Long out of production but can be found if you look hard enough.

2.) Digital Dynamics Equalizer -- Interfaces to and operates PS1 Sounds via TMCC, similar to above.  Also out of production but can be found with a little searching.

Do you need more than what these offer?

Mike

 

I actually have all I need to recreate the Sound Converter.  The software was released under the GNU license.

//    OFST is free software: you can redistribute it and/or modify
//    it under the terms of the GNU General Public License as published by
//    the Free Software Foundation, either version 3 of the License, or
//    (at your option) any later version.

I have actually modified it somewhat to fix some issues with the ditch light capability, they didn't work right in all circumstances.  I used a couple of these to add ditch lights to diesel upgrades.

The board layout and schematic is also available, but the board would have to be recreated in a PCB layout package, not a huge deal.

I still have a couple of the Sound Converters that I'm saving for a rainy day.   I also wanted to be able to tinker with the software and needed one to experiment with.


I still have a couple of the Sound Converters that I'm saving for a rainy day.   I also wanted to be able to tinker with the software and needed one to experiment with.

I have one left and need four.  I can't pull the trigger on which loco to put it in.  Thus a mother board with this feature would be a great solution.   Save wire and space also.          j

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