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I have MTH's RailKing Burlington Pioneer Zephyr passenger set with Proto-Sound (#30-2186-1).  I purchased it from a reputable dealer who described it as "New Old Stock" - as in, never removed from the box.  According to MTH's website, this set was cataloged in 2000.

Before I ever ran it (for the first time) I removed the (notorious?) MTH 'White' battery and replaced it with a new, fully charged, MTH 'Green' battery.  I have since replaced the green battery with a BCR from J and W Electronics.  I'm running conventionally, using the MRC AH501 transformer, which is supposed to provide a 'pure' sine wave (vs a chopped sine wave).  As far as I know, these should be favorable conditions for this particular train set.

The Zephyr has been sitting on the shelf for a couple of months.  Earlier today I put it on the track and it will not move - forward or reverse.  Upon advancing the throttle the lights come on and I get a 'Ding, Ding' (2 bells) out of it, along with engine noise (all of this is normal), but it seems to be stuck in neutral.  I can't get it to move either by advancing/retarding the throttle or by using the 'Direction' button on the transformer.

The documentation that came with the set describes a tedious process (advancing/retarding the throttle (18 times) and listening for the proper sequence/combination of diagnostic 'Clanking' and 'Clinking' sounds for achieving a state that represents a reset to initial factory conditions.  I went through all of that and got the train to run.  And it would cycle normally: Forward-Neutral-Reverse, using the 'Direction' button on the transformer.  But this only worked one time.  As soon as I slowed the train to a stop it would not run again.  So far, repeating the cumbersome (if you make a mistake anywhere during the process you have to start over again) 18-step throttle dance to get the right Clank/Clink combination does not result in success.  Also: Behavior is the same regardless of whether I attempt to run the entire train (locomotive + 2 coaches + observation car), the lead unit coupled to the observation car alone, or the lead unit by itself.

Can anyone share any insight, or offer suggestions? Thanks in any case.

Peace,

Sam

ps: I have searched the forum here and found some other references to problems getting the MTH Zephyr to move (as well as instances where the user gets movement but no sound).  So far, I can't see that the solution(s) offered there apply to my situation.  Interested to see if anyone can offer alternative ideas.

At least one user indicates that this locomotive will not cycle out of neutral if the battery is dead.  Is it possible I got a bad BCR?  I suppose I could put the green battery (fully charged) back in, in place of the BCR, and try that.

?

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Yes, perform the basic is the battery/BCR sub system working by powering the engine for at least 60 seconds, and then dropping power to listen for the sounds to contnue until you get the "fart" sound as the board finally powers down long after power was removed from the track.

With BCR, the charging circuit must work and charge the super capacitors up from 0V to near 9V and that takes time. At the same time, MTH engines start in neutral in conventional, they have to perform the full strartup (I believe that is 20 seconds or so) and then they are ready for the power drop cycle to switch to forward meanwhile during the power drop depending entirely upon the BCR or battery to keep that processor running and sounds and not reboot.

A bad or weak charging system can be masked by a charged battery still providing power- where when you put a BCR into that engine, if the charging circuit isn't working, the BCR never charges up, and thus cannot provide power properly during the power cycle commands.

So sure, you could have a bad BCR, but you also could have a bad charging circuit and because the BCR is not pre-charged like a battery, the systems won't run because of processor reset due to lack of backup power.

Thanks for a speedy reply.  My usual habit with locomotives in which I have a BCR installed is to turn on the transformer, advance the throttle a little over midway, and wait for a couple of minutes before I attempt to get things moving.  It was my understanding that a minute or so is sufficient to get a good charge on the BCR.

In my situation, the sounds do not decline gradually when I drop the throttle to zero.  Rather, the sounds just stop very abruptly - that is, the sounds do NOT continue after I power down the locomotive.  Is that consistent with a possible fault somewhere in the charging circuit?  Maybe I should charge up one of those green batteries and try with that.

Thanks.  I've got a green battery on the charger now; will swap it for the BCR later today.  Fingers crossed.

Aside: I don't recall actually running this set after I replaced the green battery with the BCR.  I swapped out three different green batteries that day (this was back in May) and failed to test all three immediately afterwards.  I just assumed all would be well and in fact congratulated myself for finally making the swap - feeling quite secure in the knowledge (?) that I would not have to worry ever again about a dead battery in any of those locomotives.  So it goes.

Last edited by CurlSnout
@CurlSnout posted:

Thanks for a speedy reply.  My usual habit with locomotives in which I have a BCR installed is to turn on the transformer, advance the throttle a little over midway, and wait for a couple of minutes before I attempt to get things moving.  It was my understanding that a minute or so is sufficient to get a good charge on the BCR.

In my situation, the sounds do not decline gradually when I drop the throttle to zero.  Rather, the sounds just stop very abruptly - that is, the sounds do NOT continue after I power down the locomotive.  Is that consistent with a possible fault somewhere in the charging circuit?  Maybe I should charge up one of those green batteries and try with that.

Edited for clarification and sorry for the typos:

Yes, that clearly sounds like failed charging. Is it the BCR or the 20 year old PS1 lower board not charging up the BCR? Obviously, that needs tested, but "something" isn't working.

This is why when I install a BCR, I bench test to see if it is charging up. The basic test is power up for at least 60 seconds and then check if the engine continues sound with power dropped. If that test fails, then the 9V battery snap connector also allows easy in parallel measuring the the BCR terminals while charging (because both the positive and negative posts can be accessed with meter probes from the sides). I'm looking for the DC voltage to rise when track power is applied. If I see no rise, or it stops at a low voltage (say like 4V) or some other value, then there is something wrong. So then test with no BCR or battery installed and the open 9V battery snap of the engine during power and see what the charging circuit of the PS1 lower board is putting out.

Because if a charged 9V works, we could be fooling ourselves into thinking charging is working, but in reality it's just the residual charge in the battery and eventually will go dead. Sure, you can "limp home mode" run one and manually charge the battery, but bottom line, that PS1 lower board may or may not be working.

Last edited by Vernon Barry

UPDATE: I swapped out the BCR for a fully charged green battery and now my Zephyr runs as intended.  It cycles normally; Neutral-Forward-Neutral-Reverse.  And, now when I reduce the throttle to zero, the engine sounds persist for a while and simulate a gradual shut-down.

So yes, it appears that I have either a faulty BCR or a faulty PS1 system preventing the BCR from charging.  Not sure what I will do, going forward.  For now I guess I'll run with the green battery.

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