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I'm thinking of trying battery power in my LC+ Camelback.  I'd just put the battery in the tender as it only has the speaker.  I can just run a 2-wire tether to the locomotive to power it.  I'll probably stick a switch in to switch between track power and battery power.

Looking for a suitable battery pack to fit in the tender.  I'd probably consider NiMh for the first experiment.  I'd like to find a vendor that also has the charging capability.  Another idea is I might try charging with track power and just have it keep running if it runs out of track power.

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The final chapter has been written, so I am updating the first post with the end result.

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I crammed two of the 9.6V NiMh battery packs into the tender.  I didn't have room for the charging jack I had installed, so I moved it to the underside of the tender.  The locomotive and tender are connected using a 2-pin 2.54mm Molex connector set, and I used the same style connectors in the 3-pin format for the tender internal wiring.  The seemingly "extra" connector set was do I can separate the tender shell from the frame, I abhor installations where shells are hard-wired to the frame!  So, I present the "finished" product.  The odd hole in the frame is where my charging jack used to be, but there wasn't space for it with the two batteries.

Since there are two battery packs and only one charger, I just split the charging and will charge them one at a time when needed.  I wasn't 100% sure about charging the two in series, and I don't have a charger that would do it anyway.

To protect against shorts and/or over-current, I also added a 1.3A PTC in series with the battery outputs.

Tender configuration with batteries installed

LionChief Plus Battery Power Conversion N1

Relocated charging Jack

LionChief Plus Battery Power Conversion N2

Charger with dual head charging harness

LionChief Plus Battery Power Conversion N3

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  • LionChief Plus Battery Power Conversion N2
  • LionChief Plus Battery Power Conversion N3
Last edited by gunrunnerjohn
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I've been thinking about something similar but thought that I might make a generic boxcar full of batteries.  It could be tethered to any loco.

Want to use 18650's but they are a PITA to charge correctly in big series/parallel groups.

My other thought was to make a battery pack boxcar with track connection rollers, like on a lighted car.  Then, just let the batteries feed power to the track where the loco in front of it would pickup the power.  Thinking it might be good for my outdoor setup with the power only having to go a few feet instead of cleanly around the whole loop.

GRJ....This is a topic I have hands on experience with.My other hobby is building and flying R/C airplanes. (as if I needed two hobbies) For your Camelback project LiPo is likely your only choice. They are available in many sizes and shapes and have high energy density. These cells are safe when handled properly and charged with the right charger. Many fliers use these and remove and store them in a fireproof container. MUST be reduced to a storage charge for long term storage. A club member here burned his house down with these. Not the battery's fault but he still lost his house.

NiMh  is not suitable for high drain or fast charge. I use then in most of my transmitters.

Lilon safer version of LiPoly...built in a metal tube. Some can take a reasonably fast charge.

A123 now Lithiumwerks Nanophosphate....My personal  choice for aircraft radios and servos. Not a fire hazard, fast charge,store fully charged for years no problem. LiPo4 are a poor cousin do not have the fast charge or long life.

Difference between aircraft and model train use. NO PTC or fuses are used in aircraft packs. Failure mode is a fast moving object coming down right now. Don Sweet's packs appear to be protected and possibly use a controller on board to handle charge.

Chargers are important. I use and recommend CellPro Power Lab 6. US designed and sold/supported, Asian made.Supports almost all battery types. Many people start with a cheapo and end up with a good charger like this one.

Richard

 

One of the reasons for looking at NiMh was not having to deal with the varieties of Lithium batteries.  I have an area about 4.5" long, as wide as the tender, and probably over an inch high.  The only thing in the tender is the speaker.  The current one is a fairly tall one, I'd replace that with a low profile speaker for this configuration.  It doesn't have to run all day on the batteries, but it does have to be trouble-free and not run the risk of creating a fire.  I'm pretty sure I can get decent run-times out of NiMh for this first experiment.

As I mentioned in other threads, I actually have experience with several types of commercial (big) Lithium batteries, and when they get out of control, the results are spectacular and destructive!  I have no desire to see that in my house!  The one that exploded in a 10x10 test chamber and put the testing back a month to repair the damage was an eye-opener!

Looking at the charger, I also don't want to spend $175 for a one-off experiment in battery power, that's a non-starter.

I too would be hesitant to put together a (custom) battery setup setup for a model train using rechargable lithium batteries at this juncture.  If the nimh ones will suffice that's what I would go with.  Cost effective and good enough would suit me just fine.   I can't wait to see how GRJ's project on this turns out.  The idea of recharging the batteries on the fly is really innovative and a great advancement, imo.

John, most of my batteries are Tenergy brand, 9.6v, 2000mah, NiMh (3.9"x1.18"x1.18" sq).  I was getting them from Tenergy but they seem to have doubled in price.  Amazon still has them for $15.99 plus there are other brands. Tenergy has 2 9.6v, 2000mah, flat battery packs plus a charger for $37.99, the battery pack is 4.09"x2.32"x0.63".  Too wide but you could always put it in at a slant.

I've found 9.6 volts to be plenty to power my engines, they go just as fast as they did under 18vac.  11.1v 2200mah LiPo batteries, from what I found, have a lower starting voltage.  I think that is because LiPo batteries have a lower internal resistance so more power is supplied initially, but I only found that necessary on 1 or 2 engines.  LiPos take a different type of charger than NiMh.  Tenergy has a good website that will show you what they have, but like I said their prices are high.  I actually got a couple off Ebay from Tenergy for less than what they were charging thru their own store.

I normally get 2+ hours of run time and it takes equally as long to recharge at 1amp/hr.

Gentleman, I must reply and will end with this. The battery is under $59 and the charger is $39.  We have been selling batteries to G scalers for 20 years and now Lithium Ion ..not LIPO!! for the past 5 years with a perfect track record. The battery is our Train-44 a Sony Prismatic 14.8V 2amp. 2"x 1.75" x 1.5".

I understand the safety concerns of lithium or any battery pack if not properly handled.  Each pack has a PCM board to prevent overcharging, over discharging, short circuit and offers 12 month shelf life between charges. 
We slow charge not jam charge. Our batteries cost more for this safety reason. 

If you want to talk to our customers for their experience please contact me on my profile email.   

GRJ.....If you can get a NiMh in give it a try.Consider "forming" your cells by charging at low (1/10 C) and discharging at the same rate about 3 or so times. Without this most chargers will indicate fully charged at a partial charge. Don't fast (1.0C) this chemistry cell. https://www.rcuniverse.com/for...arge-nimh-packs.html

Don.....Sorry if you felt offended about my post. I did include your cell type as a safer option. I see that you are controlling charge/discharge in your packs. I concur that is a good option for plug and play use on this application. I've been at this a long time also. I've also used Li ion packs in 25 lb gas powered models. (radio/servos only) 

Richard

@Rppoind posted:

GRJ.....If you can get a NiMh in give it a try.Consider "forming" your cells by charging at low (1/10 C) and discharging at the same rate about 3 or so times. Without this most chargers will indicate fully charged at a partial charge. Don't fast (1.0C) this chemistry cell. https://www.rcuniverse.com/for...arge-nimh-packs.html

Don.....Sorry if you felt offended about my post. I did include your cell type as a safer option. I see that you are controlling charge/discharge in your packs. I concur that is a good option for plug and play use on this application. I've been at this a long time also. I've also used Li ion packs in 25 lb gas powered models. (radio/servos only) 

Richard

I bought this battery and charger on Amazon, pretty cheap to tinker with.  The charger says 400MA output.  I can easily use my bench power supply in constant current mode to taper charge at any current I like.  It appears it just fits into the tender side to side, I'll just have to replace the speaker with a lower profile one.  I have at least a hundred speakers, I think I can find one...

I'm not ready to spend hundreds of dollars getting started just yet.  This may end up being a flash-in-the-pan for me, you never know.

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As it has been stated, you can use NiMH if you can fit it in. I've used that NiMH that is pictured in a previous post and it works fine. Also, all of my LiPO's are working fine as well. Bob D. and myself probably have the most battery powered operating hours and have used both types. Remember to include an on-off switch and battery access jack in the installation.

Battery powered LionChief control should present no problem.

I figured the LC+ was a good place to start, hard to go wrong with it.   I know it runs well on DC, and there is no track signal to worry about.

Yes, it will have an on/off switch and a charging jack.  I'll be lopping off the stuff they put on the charger and battery for my own connectors.  While I'm at it, I might just include extra wire to allow me to have an operating backup light, I have to add a tether for the locomotive power anyway.

I’ve never tried a battery under 9.6v so I don’t know how it would perform.  The 9.6v pack uses 8 batteries to makeup the pack, a 7.8v pack would of course be smaller and may give you enough to get your engine up to a speed you would be happy with and small enough to fit in the engine you have in mind.

Also, amperage under 2000mah should be less costly, just make sure whatever charger you get is good for whatever range of batteries you choose, or you’ll end up buying multiple chargers.

The NiMh chargers I use have a LED that goes from red to green when the battery is fully charged. One has a switch to charge at .9mah/hr or 1.8mah/hr and the other is rated for 1.0mah/hr or 2.0mah/hr, depending on the switch setting. I never charge at the higher rate.

I am in agreement with the use of  a 9.6V or higher battery. I did one 3.8V/up-converter and it worked fine (see earlier tender install posting), but I prefer and recommend the higher voltage. One important step is to keep an eye on battery voltage and recharge before a specific lower voltage is measured. Most batteries will come with an instruction sheet which will call this cautionary step out. 

Well, the Camelback is done.  Actually, it was very easy, I repurposed the chuff on/off switch to switch between track and battery power.  Stuck the battery in the tender with a charging jack and used a 2-pin tether to bring battery power to the locomotive.   It fires right up and runs on dead rail.  Speed is reasonable and sound is fine.  On the test blocks, running at 10 volts DC, the locomotive only draws around .5-.6 amps when you put a load on the drive wheels.  Judging from that, it should have fairly long runtime on batteries.

The bad part is, 9.6 volts is probably marginal for this task, at least with the LC+.  The electrocoupler doesn't work, if I power the track with around 14 volts DC, the coupler starts working.

The other problem is smoke doesn't work at all with 9.6 volts, again it required around 17-18 volts to get smoke from this engine.

In case one wonders, I tested using a bench DC power supply to see what it takes to get full operation as well as to monitor current draw.

John,  I concur with Don.  Bob has one of the finest custom battery shops nearby who can make any battery shape in various levels of power.  Also their battery charger delivers a very sophisticated charge and it also has it's own circuit breaker built in.  I have seen Bob put R/C in some real unusual packages.

Now  I have 8 battery powered locos controlled with a simple key fob.  My observation is that for a small indoor layout just attach your two wires and have at it.  However I am building this basement pentapus (5 branch line octopus) and hit a wall with the final stage of wiring.

Anybody with a large layout REALLY needs to look closely at remote control battery power.  After going through thousands of feet of track  wire I threw in the towel.   Time is money and you only have a finite amount of time on this rock.

Last edited by Tom Tee

Tom, this was a $30 experiment to see how LC+ would do with battery power.  I can't say I'm disappointed, it was an hour of time and a small chunk of change to see how well it does.  I think 9.6V would be find for diesels with no smoke and if you don't care about couplers.  It appears that this locomotive would run for a long time on the battery, especially without smoke, so it's certainly a success in that regard.  However, I personally wouldn't be satisfied unless I could have smoke and couplers, so I may consider a higher voltage battery pack.

For what I'm considering a novelty item, I'm loath to spend a couple hundred on a charger and then $70-80 for a battery pack.  I guess I'm just not ready to make the big leap and give up many of the cool features that I love for my locomotives.

When I did my LC battery conversion, typical fully charged battery voltage for the LiPO I used measured out at 12.3V. This allowed all normal LC functions to work. After some run time, voltage would dip down to 11.7V, but all functions were still intact. I'm not surprised that some LC functions would not work at 9.6V. One of the things I have learned is that when space for a battery is at a real premium, stay with the higher voltage and go with a reduced capacity.

@BOB WALKER posted:

When I did my LC battery conversion, typical fully charged battery voltage for the LiPO I used measured out at 12.3V. This allowed all normal LC functions to work.

Bob, smoke on my LC+ Camelback does not work at 14VDC on the track.  I get zilch.  The couplers work at 14V, but not the smoke.  I consider that a "normal" LC function.

@Tom Tee posted:

John,  If you get a charger without the gold plating it is just a fraction of your rough number,

Tom, I do realize that, but I was just going by what was being pushed as the "solution".

Smoke, now that is another issue.  Not indoors for us.  We are seeing two pulmonary docs.  After I carefully described the non smoke nature of our locomotive smoke they each said that "if we smell it, it has an effect on our lungs".    So there is no loco smoking in our home.

I had a client for whom I built a large layout and he ran smokers.  However he had a very extensive series of ceiling registers that fed into a large blower which drew the smoke right out of the house very efficiently.  The smell never went up the steps and was barely evident in the basement.

Yep, the power came in at the rear on the main board.  I just added a little jumper set with a male and female connector to tap into the power.  I can restore the unit to the original configuration just by pulling my little harness out.

I did a little grinding on the ridges of the tender and now two of the battery packs appear to fit.  I'll have to arrange two charging jacks (not going to try to charge them in series), to charge the packs one at a time.  However, this should yield at least 2-3 hours of runtime at full voltage so every thing works.  I had to replace the huge speaker with a little flat one, surprisingly, it sounds just as good as the big one, obviously that one wasn't top shelf.

The final chapter has been written, at least for this little experiment.  I crammed two of the 9.6V NiMh battery packs into the tender.  I didn't have room for the charging jack I had installed, so I moved it to the underside of the tender.  The locomotive and tender are connected using a 2-pin 2.54mm Molex connector set, and I used the same style connectors in the 3-pin format for the tender internal wiring.  The seemingly "extra" connector set was do I can separate the tender shell from the frame, I abhor installations where shells are hard-wired to the frame!  So, I present the "finished" product.  The odd hole in the frame is where my charging jack used to be, but there wasn't space for it with the two batteries.

Since there are two battery packs and only one charger, I just split the charging and will charge them one at a time when needed.  I wasn't 100% sure about charging the two in series, and I don't have a charger that would do it anyway.

Tender configuration with batteries installed

LionChief Plus Battery Power Conversion N1

Relocated charging Jack

LionChief Plus Battery Power Conversion N2

Charger with dual head charging harness

LionChief Plus Battery Power Conversion N3LionChief Plus Battery Power Conversion Schematic

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Images (4)
  • LionChief Plus Battery Power Conversion N1
  • LionChief Plus Battery Power Conversion N2
  • LionChief Plus Battery Power Conversion N3
  • LionChief Plus Battery Power Conversion Schematic

Bob, the beauty of that was that the switch was already there, I just swiped it from the useless CHUFF on/off function!

With the two batteries in series, I have plenty of voltage for the couplers and smoke.  It draws around .6 amps running light, and around .8 amps with a pretty heavy load on the drivers.  I ran it on my DC bench supply at 19 volts and then put some real drag on the drivers, the current was up to around .8 amps.  I figured in normal running, it would be more like .6-.7 amps.  That's also with smoke active, so I think the battery life should easily make around three hours, not bad for $45 total for the batteries and charger.

On LC+ and later Legacy, the couplers are operated using DC power.  Obviously, they've licked the issue of them sticking.

FWIW, it's not that hard to run E-Units on DC, if they eventually start to stick, just jumper in AC on the coil for a few seconds, problem solved.   I've installed diodes in a number of locomotives for people to quiet the E-Unit, I never got any complaints of them sticking.

This topic got me moving, bought the same battery pack, ready for a final install in a rs 3, but need some clarifcation please.  I assume you splice the wires from the battery to the lionchief board, what is the best method? Did you include an on/off switch between the battery and the board?  Is this even necessary?  I know this is basic for some but would appreciate any help.  Thanks

I'm guessing you didn't look at my diagram.

You must CERTAINLY want a switch between the battery and the board and the track!!!  What happens without a switch if you put power on the track?  OOPS! Also, if you don't have a switch between the LC+ board and the battery, the locomotive is always on, that's probably not a great option either!  Look at the left hand side of the diagram, that's the wiring in the engine.  You only need to switch the center rail power, it's pretty clear which lead that is, it comes in on a separate connector with red & black wires.  The red is the center rail.

As I described, I though fairly clearly, I used an existing switch on the engine to switch the center rail power to the electronics between the battery and the track.  That gives me dual-power capability, I can run on battery or track power.  So I have a standard LC+ locomotive that will run on battery as an option.

If you don't have a spare switch (the chuff on/off switch seemed like a good choice to me), you'll have to install one.  It should be a SPDT switch if you want the dual-power option.

Last edited by gunrunnerjohn

Look yes, comprehend, not so much.  Loco being converted did not start life as a LC loco hence there is no switch in place.  Power pickups have been disconnected, I have no intention of this ever running on track power. 

All that being said I assume I need to splice into the wires on the battery to connect to the LC board.  It looks like I do need a way to turn off the power feed from the battery to the LC board.  I am always hesitant to cut any wire before I am certain I am not making things worse.  What connectors to you recommend in the spliced segment?  Are wire nuts sufficient or should I solder the connection?  Anyway thanks for the responses.

When you're doing something like this, pictures really make things clearer.

Since you don't intend to run on track power, just use a switch between the battery and the LC+ board.  I don't use wire nuts, but they will work.  I solder stuff as that's a connection I have confidence in.  I've found too many wire nuts rattling around in engines sent to me for repair...

Don't forget adding the ability to charge the battery pack.  Also, if you expect smoke and electrocouplers to work, you'll need two of these installed to get enough voltage for those functions.

Got it.  Charging adaptor will be under the frame similar to your install.  No need for smoke or elector couplers, this is going to be a utility loco that will pull a track cleaning car through all the hard to reach places. A single purpose tool if you will.  Solder it will be.  Sometimes a little reassurance is all that is needed.

@GGG posted:

You may want to consider a fuse also.  Batteries can source hi current and there is no protection.  Most G gauge work I have done with the battery crowd always have a switch, charge port, light indicator and a fuse.  G

An excellent point George, I may have to take it apart and add a PTC to limit current.  I have a switch and charging port, I figure the light is covered by the fact that the engine is running with it's lights on.  I don't really want a fuse, but a PTC would be a wise investment.

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