Skip to main content

I'm looking at the MTH Operating Box Car with Signal Man, 30-7564, PRR "Road of the Turbine" livery.  The MTH product page (https://mthtrains.com/search/30-7465) has a video that says it operates anywhere on the layout with any transformer with a bell button, and also has instructions that say it works on an operating track section.  Can anyone tell me which (or both?) of these is correct?  The car has both slide shoes and a center pickup roller, I'd like to use it with a conventional layout, with a UCS track section powered by 14V accessory terminals, in other words the center rail won't necessarily have any voltage when the "unload" function of the UCS track is operated.  I'd like to understand how it will work before I buy one.  Thanks!

Original Post

Replies sorted oldest to newest

Very nice, thank you!  So, the mention of the bell button in the video is just nonsense I guess?  And what is the center rail pickup roller for?  Will it operate without power to the center rail?  I was thinking of this for a Christmas gift for one of my kids which is why I want to understand how it will work ahead of time.

I do not have one of these boxcars but I do have several of the operating signalman cabooses.  The cabooses come with the sliding shoes on each truck to  be used with the five rail control track BUT it operates beautifully any where on the tracks using just the bell button.

It is a really fun car to operate while the train is in motion wherever you want. 

I actually had to glue the pick up shoes in the up position to keep the caboose from derailing on some of my Atlas and Ross switches.

So, I suspect the boxcar you are looking at would most likely operate the same way.

Happy railroading,

Don

Last edited by DGJONES

Odd, the video sure seems to illustrate it working on a plain section of track.  However, I was looking at the video and it appears they have non-stop operating tracks on that stretch, look at the left track in this clip.  I see five rails and the uncoupling buttons strung out in a constant string.

Short answer is, no way of knowing from the conflicting information there what the capabilities are.

Attachments

Images (1)
  • mceclip0
bajinnova posted:

Very nice, thank you!  So, the mention of the bell button in the video is just nonsense I guess?  And what is the center rail pickup roller for?  Will it operate without power to the center rail?  I was thinking of this for a Christmas gift for one of my kids which is why I want to understand how it will work ahead of time.

You always need power to the center rail.  That is your +.  The outside rails are your -.

On the operating track you have a magnet in the middle and two inside rails.  When the magnet is energized, you can uncouple cars.  When the inside rails are energized, those shoes will make the car operate with the man coming out.

Ron

OK, this is confusing enough to make me want to get one to see how it works.  There shouldn't (in principle) be a need for center rail power, as the left and right control rails will have the same voltages as center to outside rail in original UCS wiring (where coil and and control rail voltage just comes from track power) -- I think at least some post-war operating cars had shoes but no roller.  But I was also curious about the claim that you only have to hold the unload button down until the car starts to operate -- that would make sense if it's using the control rails as a trigger but getting power from the center rail.

Thanks, Don, for your comment about the bell button on the cabooses.  Hopefully the box cars work the same way.

Ron045 posted:

Don.  What is the bell combination?  I am in conventional mode and can only operate the engine bell and not the signalman car.  In DCS mode, the transformer bell does nothing.

I operate my layout using a Lionel ZW-C.  I run TMCC/Legacy and DCS.  I can operate the signalman caboose using either the CAB 1 or 2 by addressing the TR number that is controlling the ZW output for the track the caboose is on and pressing the bell button or by pressing the bell button on the transformer.  Either one works and you only have to hold the button down until the man begins its cycle.  Once started the lantern lights and the man extends out the side stops for a few seconds and the returns to his default position and the light goes  out.

I have not tried using the DCS remote but I think it might only work if you had the track the car is on set up as VARIABLE so that when you address the TIU channel controlling the track your car is on and depress the bell button (just like you would do if using the TIU to control conventional engines).

I can see no reason why MTH would not use the same technology for the operating signalman boxcar.  I can however see why the unloading boxcar might only operated using the five track section.

I have always felt these cars and they way to control them is one of MTH's best kept secrets.

Don

Last edited by DGJONES

I'm still trying to figure out the finer points of how to wire the operating track to make it work!

But, here's my conclusion so far:

The center rail power the motor that moves the guy inside & opens the door

The special rails start the process.. there's a circuit board inside that has a microswitch that will stop the action once it has gone thru a complete cycle.  There's a sliding arm that opens the door and is attached to an internal slide that pushes against the microswitch when the door is closed all the way.

So, it seems to me that the operating track section starts the process, but the train can move off that track and the sequence will continue (powered by the center rail) until the guy goes back in and the door closes.

I think...

bajinnova posted:

... But I was also curious about the claim that you only have to hold the unload button down until the car starts to operate -- that would make sense if it's using the control rails as a trigger but getting power from the center rail.

For the operating cars I've seen, the instructions say you must activate the car for about 2-seconds to start the self-completing cycle.  During the startup 2-seconds, the 4th & 5th operating rails supply power to a DC gearmotor which slides the door over a lever microswitch.  Once it passes the switch the power to the gearmotor is then supplied by the center rail.  The center rail continues to provide power to the gearmotor until the door returns over the lever microswitch and the cycle is complete. 

So it takes more than a momentary "trigger" to start the cycle.  In the middle of the video you can see/hear some "false starts" where the trigger was too short and the door did not slide over the microswitch.

As mentioned by others, the sliding-shoe pickups can present clearance issues with certain track systems.  In such a case a bell-detector circuit could be used to sense the DC offset voltage on the center rail and enable the gearmotor for ~2 seconds until the track voltage takes over to complete the cycle.  DIY DC-offset detector circuits are only $1-2 in parts and have been discussed in many OGR threads though usually for detecting Whistle/Horn.  But this does get you operation anywhere on the layout rather than just over a UCS or Operating Track section.

For that matter, for about $5 in parts, I've posted a DIY to use a wireless remote to provide the 2-seconds of startup trigger to activate the operating car anywhere on the layout.  The wireless remote has the advantage (over the bell method) in that you can uniquely address a specific operating car rather than all responding to a global bell command which would trigger all operating cars so equipped.  As I recall there was muted interest since it requires component-level assembly and soldering.  I dug up this photo of the components and a short video.  No 4th/5th rail operating shoes required.  All power comes from the center rail with only 3 wires patched in to the existing MTH circuitry.

reefer remote components

The video again demonstrates the ~2-second trigger needed to move the door over the lever microswitch which starts the self-completing animation.

Attachments

Images (1)
  • reefer remote components
Rigatoni Express Railroad posted:

... Are the three wires (White, yellow, Red) already in the car?

yellow-white connections

red connection

Not the physical wire itself - you have to supply 3 wires of several inches each and of course they don't have to be the color indicated.  I chose those colors to match the terminals where they attach to...which just happened to be solderable terminals (2 on the DC gearmotor, 1 on the microswitch) so you don't have to solder the wires directly to the MTH electronic circuit board.

gunrunnerjohn posted:

The only problem I see with the bell circuit is you also get the bell on the locomotive.

Right.  I figure this was back-in-the-day when getting a horn sound was a "luxury" option.  So I figure the horn was more popular than the bell so the bell detector would be a logical choice?  Of course in most cases when driving a local DC load, you simply reverse the 2 wires of the offset detector and a horn-detector becomes a bell-detector. 

Attachments

Images (2)
  • yellow-white connections
  • red connection

Very much appreciate everyone's post on the MTH 2091636 Operating Santa.  I bought him last year for Christmas with no instructions in the box and very disappointed he did not activate.  Who knew you had to hold the button down for about 5-10 seconds?  Also found out pretty quick he really leans out far almost touching the ground before returning.

Lionel's 36729 Animated (signalman) Caboose, which is much smaller in size, operates without prompt periodically activating and returning.   

I'd be interested in hearing from anyone interested in a DIY modification to the operating signalman caboose.  The MTH 20-91636 operating Santa caboose apparently simply replaces the signalman figure with a Santa figure as the online manual is for the "generic" N6b Operating Caboose.

You'd have to be willing to poke around the internal wiring, take photos, etc.  From the manual:

n6b operating caboose

I believe the PCB on the right near the signalman is the bell-detector.  There is a 2nd PCB on the left near the fingers with all the connectors.

The first step would be to make a wiring diagram accounting for all the connections from track/UCS power pickups, from the mode selector switch (bell trigger vs. UCS trigger), lamps, gearmotor, cycle limit switch.

Next step would be a discussion about what would options make sense or that there is interest in.  Earlier in thread I showed how to modify the operating boxcar to make it wireless.  I believe the same can be done for the operating caboose.  Or, as noted above, the Lionel operating car apparently activates the signalman periodically.  That could be an option.  There was another OGR project where the UCS sliding shoe pickups in an operating car (I think it was a dumping coal car) interfered with the track system; so the shoes were removed and the car was modified to activate from a small lamp in the track bed; in that case the coal cars obviously don't need to be activated "anywhere" on the track or else you'd have a mess!

This would be a collaborative project for the common good.  I do not have one of these cars myself.

P.S. I asked this on OGR last Christmas too with a chirping crickets response ... but folks may have more stay-at-home time this holiday season.  

Attachments

Images (1)
  • n6b operating caboose
Last edited by stan2004

I have the RF solution waiting for me to get it back from the Chinese assembly house.

The black rectangle on the top is the 433mhz receiver, I didn't have a 3D representation of it.  The remote has at least a 100 foot range, they are 1527 learning code superhet receivers and matching transmitters.

The board has a 1" x 1" footprint and is about .6" tall at the tallest component.

 

The companion key fob will independently control four of these.  Each button can toggle the relay on and off, so one remote handles four receivers.  The only thing the board needs is track power, the 3-pin connector is the relay contacts.

I also have a smaller design that uses a FET to switch power, if suitable, it's even smaller at .7" x 1".

 

Attachments

Images (4)
  • mceclip0
  • mceclip0
  • mceclip1
  • mceclip1
Last edited by gunrunnerjohn

Very cool!  I like the FET version as that would tidily replace my operating-boxcar circuit.

Would still like to see if this could drop-in to the MTH N6b operating caboose.  The rub is the UCS method applies track voltage via 2 inputs - i.e., it's a double-pole controller switch.  If the receiver only has a single-pole relay then if switching track AC into the receiver board, one side of track power must be pre-connected.  This may or may not fly depending on the circuit design of the operating car. 

The trick would be to see if the caboose can be activated by a FET output with common ground.

Is the plan to sell kits, just the link to OshPark bare PCBs, assembled/tested?

Stan, I'm having real difficulty with the concept of a car that would have a problem only switching one side of the power.  I can't imagine the need for it, and I don't recall ever seeing one that would require that.

As for the remote controls, I want to get some assembled, I'm trying to get a "prototype" quantity at a reasonable price, like 25 of each.  I don't want to order 100's of these and have a ton of money tied up that I never get back.  I may also just offer kits, though many people will find it a real challenge to do the SMT assembly.

As far as the FET version, it does only deal with DC for obvious reasons, I have stuck a diode in series with the FET to insure it doesn't see excess reverse voltage.  I also added a small PTC to further protect the board against abuse.

Stan, I'm having real difficulty with the concept of a car that would have a problem only switching one side of the power.  I can't imagine the need for it, and I don't recall ever seeing one that would require that.



...

Right.  This is one of those ask me how I know.

In some MTH operating cars, power can be provided using the normal truck roller-wheels (i.e., center-outer rails)...OR by the 4th/5th rails of the UCS.  Of course the 4th/5th rails are only active when the UNLOAD button is pressed.  The UNLOAD is a double-pole switch that applies track power to the 4th and 5th rails.  The rub is an operating car can be facing either direction on the UCS.  So it's a coin toss as to whether the 4th rail sliding shoe receives hot or common.  Hence you cannot pre-wire one side and use only a single-pole switch (relay) to apply AC such cars.

I know the FET version will work on the MTH operating boxcars.  It remains to be seen if the caboose's conventional bell DC offset detector (which the boxcar does not have) precludes a simple 3-wire connection of the FET version.

Last edited by stan2004

Gunrunnerjohn, I'd be interested in one of your remote control solutions.  I have an MTH Christmas operating box car (Santa pops out of the door when activated) and I don't want to use an operating track.  I'd like to signal the car to operate when its anywhere on the layout.  When do you anticipate having the remote contol system available?

@stan2004 posted:

Right.  This is one of those ask me how I know.

In some MTH operating cars, power can be provided using the normal truck roller-wheels (i.e., center-outer rails)...OR by the 4th/5th rails of the UCS.  Of course the 4th/5th rails are only active when the UNLOAD button is pressed.  The UNLOAD is a double-pole switch that applies track power to the 4th and 5th rails.  The rub is an operating car can be facing either direction on the UCS.  So it's a coin toss as to whether the 4th rail sliding shoe receives hot or common.  Hence you cannot pre-wire one side and use only a single-pole switch (relay) to apply AC such cars.

I know the FET version will work on the MTH operating boxcars.  It remains to be seen if the caboose's conventional bell DC offset detector (which the boxcar does not have) precludes a simple 3-wire connection of the FET version.

You're rewiring the car, just remove the UCS wires and just switch the center rail power.  For a bell DC offset detector I have a solution.

Add in the string of diodes just like a whistle/bell button and use the remote to short most of the diodes in one direction.  This exactly simulates what the transformer bell button would be doing and should solve the problem.  I'm assuming you're running in command in this scenario since you'd have the actual bell button if you're running in conventional.

OK - I'm getting ahead of myself so I'll stand by.  I like the idea of simply removing the slide shoe connectors.  Need to insure there are no oddball cars that "prefer" external 14V or 16V Accessory Power from the 4th/5th rails on the UCS rather than straight track power (via the UCS jumper).  But this is tomorrow's problem!  I anxiously await further progress reports.

@stan2004 posted:

I'd be interested in hearing from anyone interested in a DIY modification to the operating signalman caboose.  The MTH 20-91636 operating Santa caboose apparently simply replaces the signalman figure with a Santa figure as the online manual is for the "generic" N6b Operating Caboose.



If you're interested, I describe a solution using an Arduino with a 900 MHz radio module to achieve TMCC control of the signalman caboose in this thread.

Add Reply

Post
OGR Publishing, Inc., 1310 Eastside Centre Ct, Suite 6, Mountain Home, AR 72653
330-757-3020

www.ogaugerr.com
×
×
×
×
Link copied to your clipboard.
×
×